Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Let's be honest: we have reached the point in the season where a lot of games are pretty pointless. But the games that are relevant have a lot on the line. To wit:

  • Thursday night: New Orleans (9-3) at Atlanta (7-5)
  • Sunday, early: Minnesota (10-2) at Carolina (8-4)
  • Sunday, early: Oakland (6-6) at Kansas City (6-6) with first place in the AFC West on the line
  • Sunday, late: Seattle (8-4) at Jacksonville (8-4)
  • Sunday, late: Philadelphia (10-2) at L.A. Rams (9-3)
  • Sunday night: Baltimore (7-5) at Pittsburgh (10-2)

Use this thread to discuss all that action, as well as New England's visit to Miami on Monday night.


110 comments, Last at 16 Mar 2018, 8:50am

4 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

What a weird ending. Sean Payton wraps it up for the Falcons because he can't get the timeout called quickly after the fumble was recovered.

Tons of Saints hurt in the game, but hard to say it's a Thursday Night effect as the Falcons were relatively untouched. Think the biggest injury was Kamara early on; certainly changed the Saints offense away from throwing to the RBs.

Not looking forward to the rematch in two Sundays in New Orleans.

NFC South; the Lake Wobegon of the NFL, where everyone is above-average. Even the Bucs are an above-average last-place team.

5 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

A lot of games are pretty pointless? What nonsense. There's the games you listed plus:

-Green Bay fighting to stay in the playoff chase until our Lord and Savior Aaron Rodgers returns
-Buffalo and Detroit fighting (two different games) to keep their heads above water
-The Chargers face off against a good Redskins team, attempting to keep pace with the winner of the KC/Oakland game.

9 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

I get where this comment is coming from - There seem to be a ton of teams right now that are technically alive, but when I look at the required scenario I roll my eyes a bit (e.g. Bills, Bengals, Cowboys & Detroit). I know that from a statistics point of view, one of these teams probably makes the playoffs, but I just can't bring myself to believe their games are meaningful at this point. Sunday night is going to be great though.

10 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

All depends on what you mean "technically", I suppose.

Personally, I'd consider Dallas, Washington, Arizona, Tampa Bay, NY Jets, Cincinnati, Miami, Houston, Indianapolis and Denver all essentially dead, even if there are mathematical ways for them to get in. Add that to Cleveland, Chicago, NY Giants and San Francisco being ~actually~ out, and that just leaves 18 teams.

In addition, Philadelphia, Minnesota, LA Rams, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, New England and Jacksonville are all essentially in, just jockeying for position and seeding. So those games still absolutely matter, but maybe a little less dramatically than those for the remaining 11 teams that are neither realistically in or realistically out at this point in time:

Seattle, Carolina, Atlanta, Detroit and Green Bay in the NFC
Tennessee, Kansas City, Baltimore, LA Chargers, Buffalo and Oakland in the AFC.

12 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Oh, it's absolutely important -- but secondary to the goal of making the playoffs in the first place.

It's a reason the LA-Philly game is so huge, though. For the sake of argument, let's assume the Eagles lose, but otherwise win out to get to 13-3:

*They'd lose a tiebreaker with Minnesota, based on either common games, conference record or strength of victory (depending on which game Minnesota lost)
*They'd lose a tiebreaker with Los Angeles based on head-to-head

The Saints loss really helps, because the Eagles would have lost a tiebreaker at 13-3 to New Orleans, as well, due to the strength of victory tiebreaker -- and still would if they fell to 12-4.

A win, on the other hand, not only makes it that much harder for anyone else to catch them atop the conference, but also gives them the tiebreaker over at least LA (Minnesota probably still would win by strength of victory, but at least it would require a road win against Carolina to do so).

I haven't run the FO numbers, but we're probably talking a 60-65% chance of winning home field advantage if they beat LA -- irrespective of whatever else happens Sunday -- versus a 10-15% chance if they lose. A win would essentially lock up a bye week (~99%ish compared to 55-60% if they lose).

So yeah. That one matters a little bit.

13 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

No games are poiintlezs unless you are trying to say only concern is Super Bowl. Even Gsjnfa playing Squirrels and Cowboys importNf. Or 49drs playing Cadrindla because another look at Garoppolo and draft position gets affected and platers put plays on film and it all impacts rroster building for 2018 and free agency and some practice squad plauers may get called to active rpster Week 17 and play
. then you also have fantasy football where two also-rans may face off but you start a guy from one team. Now you are heavily invested in that game.
Officials still gst graded in crappier matchup games and thsi can help decide whihc officials gwt used in playoff games

So all the games are importantin soem way

15 Re: Week 14 picks

picks are in-

Bils 23, clots 16
Cowbits 33, Gusmts 25
Buccaneers 24, Loisn 20
Raiders 41, Chiefs 16
Jafurs 17, Seahakws 16
49ers 24, Texnas 17
Packers 20, Browns 19
Bengals 30, Bera s 10
Panmtehers 26, Vikigns 24
Squirrels 31, Chargers 20
Jets 28, Brocnos 23
Totnas 22, Cardinals 13
Eagles 27, Rams 24
Ravens 12, Steelers 10
Patriotns 44, Dolphsin 24

56 Re: Week 14 picks

Well, all the AFC West games went the other way :)

You guys need to come to L.A. and win your second home game of the year against the Chargers...

67 Re: Week 14 picks

Overall 7-7 . luckilh only done here. Was in no pick 'em pools this year.

Rotten fsntsys experience today as opponent in key game bolted from league. didn't bother pullingj. MIxon and J. Smith-Schuster from his lineup giving easy win to playoff hopeful. Very Bad for league. Tainted now.

Real team lost too which alresdg had me grumpy but am much more used to that. Can get over that much easier.

The fantasy thing is so rotten that ahave decided not playing traditional anymore. Will do points onlg or best ball

57 Re: Week 14 picks

Well, all the AFC West games went the other way :)

You guys need to come to L.A. and win your second home game of the year against the Chargers...

17 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Time for another season of FO slack gameday chat! For people who are already in, just go to For anyone that wants to join a star-studded cast of their favorite FO posters for gameday chat, just email me at and you will receive an invite

18 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

I've a sneaking suspicion that the themes of this week's Any Given Sunday are going to be:
1) Josh Gordon – playmaker
2) Packers still vulnerable to rushing QBs
3) Brett Hundley is crap
4) McCarthy punting or kicking field goals on 4th-&-1.

21 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Atrocious officiating in the Vikings Panthers game. Nothing annoys me more than a receiver, Treadwell, pushing off the entire route and then getting a defensive pass interference call. Second bad defensive interference call so far in the first half.

24 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Wow are the refs out for MIN in this game. A couple of fairly week face mask calls in the first five CAR a TD. Then MIN loses a TD on one of those silly "bobble"calls where the WR didn't coke close to losing it (at least the are being consistent with this idiocy).

Then a fumble call on a 15 yard forward pass that is upheld.

That said MIN has a couple of real bad mistakes, the Dan totally blew his assignment on the first 60yd rushing TD and abandoned his gap. Rudolph dropped a big reception right after the announcers mentioned he had no drops this year, and then Hendricks gave up a TD when cheating a bit in coverage.

On the second face mask on Newton I kind of looked like Newton turned his head himself.

Anyway, MIN actually looks pretty good despite alll this and I thuonk if you play this 10 times they win 7 of them.

40 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Those two 'weak' face mask calls on the first drive? Only penalties called on Minnesota the entire game. Yeah. They went 55 minutes without a penalty.
The fumble was absolutely a fumble. No question about it.
The non-TD catch. I disagree with the rule, but the rule clearly states that if the ball comes out of both hands while going to the ground out of bounds it's an incomplete pass. That one wasn't controversial.
Both of those of course were decided at the head office.
How is it that Zimmer gets away with being on the field at the goal line on that last touchdown? That is no where near the coaches box.
Or yelling, and I will paraphrase, 'FU' at the ref?
I would prefer that there are no penalties called during a game. But if the refs aren't calling them, then don't call defensive pas interference when the receiver has a stiff arm on the defender the entire run down the field. If he hadn't been so busy man-handling the defender, he could have made a play on the ball.

71 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Those face masks were the right calls. The first one, on 3rd and 14, was the worse of the two. Just a DUMB mistake to make.

Thielen didn't "complete the catch." You can argue the rule, but the application was correct. Although it would be a catch under Lombardi's "If 50 guys in a bar all think it's a catch, then it is a catch" rule. He dropped one two plays before, so ... karma, I guess?

Last, don't f*ck with Zimmer.

26 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Packers fail to convert 3rd and 4th and 1 runs out of heavy formations with the Browns stacking the box and flying downfield. Ensuing Browns drive, in a 3rd and 1, they spread out the defense and go zone read for a huge gain. Could not be a more neat summation in my mind of how utterly predictable, uncreative, and ill-suited to the strengths of his personnel McCarthy's offense has become.

27 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Joe Webb now in at QB for Buffalo. I won’t be surprised if the Bills don’t attemp another pass for the rest of the game (Colts didn’t attempt a pass until the second quarter).

34 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Nice play by Brissett on the two-point conversion. Glad the Colts went for two in a game like this.

Edit: Whoops. Penalty on the Colts.

35 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Wow, Colts have a ten-minute drive with a two-point conversion to likely win the game against the Bills. I believe they had at least two fourth-down conversions along the way too.

EDIT: NVM, there was a penalty. If Indy can get the XP now we are highly likely to finally see the first tie under the new ten-minute OT rules.

37 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Thiugh MIN has looked the better team generally I am surprised CAR couldn't put this away considering how many times MIN shot themselves in the foot.

36 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Somewhere out there BB is laughing at the Colts for not trying to get any more yard before trying a long field goal and missing. Now their going to OT.

38 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

This was set up by the Bills trying to pass with Joe Webb as QB, on their own side of the field with less than a minute remaining, resulting in an interception. I don't think being aggressive there was the right decision.

46 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

got the ball back with 52 seconds left and only managed to run the ball once. I really have to believe they could have run the ball twice there to try to get the some yards (preserving the 3rd down spike before the FG try). with how warn down the Bills defense was, there was every chance of getting 5-10 more yards. 5-10 more yards in that situation might add 15% to winning percentage; you don't get too many chances too add to your winning percentage like that by just going more quickly and running from the I between the takles.

39 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

With about four minutes left in OT, the Bills opt to punt on fourth-and-one from the Colts 41. Just based on their record I'm guessing a tie doesn't help the Bills much in trying to get to the playoffs, so that's a bad call I think.

92 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

I don't know, Da Bears looked awfully good on the road against Cincy.

They might have just as good a bet hoping Baltimore has one of its flatlining-on-offense days, or the Steelers resting their starters - the Pats laying an egg tonight threw a wrench into the probability of the latter, depending on what happens this coming week.

48 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

That Colts-Bills game in deep snow was something else. Later on in the game, it looked like both coaches figured out that the way to win was to dig deep in the playbook for college-style plays with multiple layers of misdirection. Slow developing plays are fine when the defense is slowed down by the snow, and once you get the defense leaning the wrong way it's very hard for them to recover in the bad footing in the snow.

50 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Jacksonville defender stumbles and leaves Tyler Lockette open for the game winner so in desperation he reaches out and pulls Lockett down. No DPI called though a ref was standing right there.

68 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

A shocking call. If the refs had called a better game that would have probably led to a TD. Just like the even more egregious missed PI call against the Seahawks earlier in the game. While it's painful to have the last bad call go against you, there was plenty to go around in that game...

96 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

That game was all about Russell again. In the first half he was a bust missing his receivers deep and the ensuing interceptions. Some of them were effectively arm punts, but he had to much air under a couple to Baldwin that would have been large gains. Then the Jags getting caught with their pants down in the 4th quarter. The non call on that play hurt, but the drop/errant throw to Graham hurt more. They got off schedule and things went downhill from there.

51 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Possibly a Pyrrhic victory for the Eagles. NFL Network said Rapoport is reporting Wentz is out for year with ACL injury.

60 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Nobody would have been too surprised if the Eagles played in the Super Bowl either prior to this injury. I agree all the top teams are fairly equal. Most people would be surprised if the Eagles made it now because almost nobody expects a return of 2013 Nick Foles, which could thwart Darth Belichick.

59 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

There really ought to be a scramble award named in honor of Flacco for drawing marginal PI calls in high leverage situations. That one Mike Wallace just drew was a pretty incredible result for a ball that really should have been picked.

61 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Can Flacco just throw the ball deep and get a DPI every time? I turned this game on late but some of these interference penalties are ridiculous.

62 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Why did Brown just run out of bounds after the big catch without being force? He had a step on the guy and if he breaks that tackle he scores a TD. Very weird to give up field position like that at the 30 on Heinz Field, where it's not exactly an easy kick.

65 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Bad defensive fail by the Ravens. Gotta lock that game down at the end. They cannot expect to score 38 points very often.

69 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

I can't get over Cam Newton's TD pass to Funchess. He was falling backwards with his shoulders all the way open and he still fired a dart. His arm strength is just unreal, and it lets him throw fastballs from totally impossible body positions on a regular basis.

70 Tom Savage

Oh my god. I had seen the footage yesterday of Savage's apparent seizure on the field yesterday. I hadn't realized until this morning that Houston SENT HIM BACK IN after that. It was only after he looked bad on the field that they decided it was time for the concussion protocol to actually work. And Bill O'Brien had the gall after the game to claim that it isn't his responsibility to ensure that his quarterback has a functioning brain when he's on the field. I agree with Tanier's take this morning that the NFL needs to start suspending coaches who send players back on the field after obvious concussion level blows. When a player is in bad enough shape that the entire audience can diagnose a concussion from their couch, there's no excuse for the team to miss it.

EDIT: it's come to my attention that Savage's arm position is known as the "fencing response" and it is one of the classical symptoms of a concussion. If the NFL concussion monitors aren't pulling players after seeing that, they are literally not doing anything at all.

76 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Bill Barnwell, the people running the ESPN Playoff Machine, and who knows who else keep pretending the Vikings are in better position than they are for the #1 seed.

Philly has a 100% chance at the #1 seed at 3-0 or any 2-1 scenario.
-No head to head
-Philly is 9-1 in conference and Minnesota is 8-2
-Philly is a lock for tiebreaker 3, common games at 5-0 vs Minnesota at 3-1 with Chicago left to play.
(the Panthers win and the Eagles win locked this for the Eagles)

New Orleans and the LA Rams can't catch either team if they finish 13-3 so there are no 3 or 4 way ties to consider.

77 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

What a strange Barnwell article on ESPN.

He also makes a leap in logic that the #1 seed Eagles will face the #4 seed.

The NFC Wildcard home teams are 17-13 since realignment.
That's something like a 67% chance that they don't play the #4 seed based on 2 rolls at 57% each. In practice 7 #1 seeds played the #4 seed in the NFC playoffs since 2002 (15 seasons).

78 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

There's the Patriot TD giveaway. DPI on the Miami defender for using his facemask to interfere with Cook's stiff arm. Let's see how many more TD's the refs will gift the Patriots.

81 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

I can just about understand the Miami offense having success against a Patriots D starting several players of whom I have never heard. The pass rush and shutdown corner play they are producing is something of a surprise, however.

88 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

The Dolphins have a good pass rush. (Checks stats). OK, Cameron Wake is good. Though it certainly helped that he got to tee off on the Pats' 3rd string right tackle.

Xavien Howard did a good job on Cooks. What baffles me is how the Pats never managed to get anybody else open. I know they missed Gronk, but Hogan was back, so they had Amendola and Hogan as well as Cooks running routes (+ any RBs). It's inexcusable that they could not produce more in the air. They had the people they needed. So what happened?

Also: enough with the screen passes for 1-yard gains!

82 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

We are squarely in that portion of a losing game in which McDaniel thinks continuing to swing his magic hammer will allow him to impose his will/intellect on the other team, despite it being clear that shit just isn’t working...

86 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

You know, you are allowed to make other kinds of comments.

The "ticky-tack" call was a hit to Brady's helmet after he released the ball.
That always gets called. Pass rushers are not allowed to hit the QB's helmet after he throws a pass.

87 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Just a bad game by Brady, bad game by the O-line, and bad game by McDaniels.

Case in point: late in the game the Pats had a 1st and 20 deep in their own territory. McD dials up two long passes on first and second down. Neither worked, which really shouldn't be a shocker since deep passing is not Brady's game nor is it the bread-and-butter of the Pats' offense. And then on 3rd and 20 they do a short pass for 10 yards. Which is what they should have done on first or second down!

Brady certainly takes a lot of the blame for missing receivers much of the night. Clearly not 100% physically. Both interceptions were 100% his fault.

McD never seemed to figure out what to do with the offense. When you have a top 3 offense and you're facing a bottom tier defense, an outing like this is inexcusable, even with Gronk out.

Aside, because it was really bothering me. How many plays did Brady deal with some edge defender getting a lot of pressure, have to step forward and run into Suh, who was basically stationary? How many times did Gruden heap praise on Suh for basically standing still while the edge rushers did the hard work? Just awful! (Gruden, not Suh.)

The Patriots apparently fell into the trap of overlooking the team they clobbered two weeks ago in anticipation of the big game in Pittsburgh. They simply did not look ready to play in the first half. Got some traction in the 2nd quarter, and then the 3rd quarter was even worse. Why is Elandon Roberts in coverage, ever? When Gruden looks at the screen and says "There's a mismatch with Elandon Roberts covering Kenyan Drake that the Dolphins are going to try to exploit" and the ball is snapped and Drake simply runs past Roberts for a 47-yard reception - how does that happen? _Somebody_ has to call a time out there and fix the defense before they give up half the length of the field because they have the wrong guy in coverage.

Certainly a game the Dolphins deserved to win. I don't know why they're so inconsistent - that was a completely different team than the one that was clobbered in New England two weeks ago.

89 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Watching Belichick doing the interview here, mumbling, surly, petulant, explain to me again why Cam Newton was skewered for his interview after the Super Bowl loss.

93 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

You can't be seriously asking that, can you? I mean, he smiles too much. And finding kids wearing his jersey to give them the football after he scores a touchdown, what a phony move! We need more guys like Richie Incognito or Gronk who just have fun out there!

94 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Said it in Audibles, if the Pats blow the bye, they're fucked (and if Gronk has his semi-annual injury, they're fucked then too). I'm sure it's happened before, but I can't remember the last time the two Super Bowl frontrunners went to longshots in 48 hours (if Brady keeps playing through the regular beatings he's been taking, a Peyton-esque nosedive gets more and more plausible every week; Peyton was taking his lumps and performing as usual until the Rams game in 2014, and then he was gone, forever; ask Richard Sherman how smart it is playing through a gimpy Achilles). if this lousy Pats team somehow manages to steal another ring (like they did against the Seahawks and Falcons). I'll be closer than ever to washing my hands of the sport (while, to be honest, i've enjoyed the last couple of years of watching vintage Brady, it'll take a lot of the enjoyment out of the sport for me if all it takes is a quarterback to turn a garbage team into the prohibitive favorite- what would be the point of all the team-building maneuvers if all it takes is one move to wrap up a championship?)

97 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

I disagree that allowing more defensive contact would make the sport less QB-centric. That would make passing windows even smaller, which would make a very accurate quarterback like Rodgers or Brady even more valuable since they would be the only passers who could reliably fit balls into the tighter windows.

98 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

That wasn't the case prior to 1978. When passing becomes more difficult, running the ball becomes more valuable. Do we want to go back to the dead ball era? No, of course not, so we certainly want to not make pass blocking harder.

101 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

Running the ball would be more important, but making passing harder for everyone makes it even more valuable to be able to pass effectively. I think that making it harder for receivers to get open puts even more value on QB's who can either throw their man open or buy lots of time for guys to get separation. Plus, the law of unintended consequences is always at play, and I think it could even make it harder to run the ball. If your corners are allowed to maul WR's down the field, then you can trust them to play 1-on-1 more and you can put more defenders in the box to stop the run.
If you want to make running more valuable, I think you have to actually do something that makes it easier to run rather than harder to pass. Perhaps allowing a bit more holding on run plays?

99 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

The Patriots, aside from Brady, are a much better team than they showed last night. I wouldn’t overreact to one bad game (one off my pet peeves is people making definitive pronouncements about the quality teams or players based on a sample size of one game). We have 12 other games from which to judge them.

Also, the Dolphins apparently have the same voodoo curse over the Patriots that Jeff Fisher’s Rams had over the Seahawks. The ‘Hawks put forth some stinkers against them, but they seemed to be otherwise fine.

105 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

", but I can't remember the last time the two Super Bowl frontrunners went to longshots in 48 hours"

You're reading way too much into that game.

As they pointed out about 45 times during the broadcast, Brady is now 7-9 in Miami (.438). He's 186-45 (.805) everywhere else.

Its clearly not something scheme specific (because its over too long), and probably entirely mental, but he's clearly got an issue playing in Miami.

And yeah, Brady looked absolutely terrible - when he wasn't getting heavily pressured, he was missing open guys on relatively easy throws - which has to be the achilles. Strangely, he seemed to be able to move around fine.

107 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

I didn't realize immediately how easy it would be for the Pats to drop to the #3 seed. The Jags have to win three winnable games, and the Steelers have to beat the Pats. That's it.

I have a feeling the Jags slip up somewhere, so the Pats should have some wiggle room.

I know correlation isn't causation and whatever, but it is interesting the Patriots have never gone to the Super Bowl in a year where they didn't have the bye.

Of course, it helps to not have a bye just three times (2005, 2006, 2009)

102 Re: Week 14 Open Game Discussion

It would go a long way if they would just start calling offensive pass interference regularly. Running into the defender, stiff arming the corner, and pushing off should be flagged.
DPI should be 10 yards and a first. Perhaps another class of penalty for deliberate cynical DPI.
The defense doesn't need an advantage. They just need the same rules they have to follow applied to the receivers, just as it states in the rule book.
Also there should be a serious penalty for teams that roll out 3rd tier JV quarterbacks while Kaep is unemployed.

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