Football Outsiders
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Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Week 16 brings us a pair of Saturday games -- Colts at Ravens and Vikings at Packers. Major Sunday games include Bills at Patriots, Falcons at Saints, and Seahawks at Cowboys, all with major playoff ramifications, plus Browns at Bears as Cleveland is running out of chances to avoid 0-16. And then we get a pair of games on Christmas Day: Steelers at Texans and Raiders at Eagles. God bless us, everyone.


89 comments, Last at 26 Dec 2017, 3:23pm

4 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

He's looked good when they've had talent like in 09, 10, and 14. The CBs suck. (And I see Hawkins give up an interference penalty right after I write about it.) They've sucked since Shields went down. CM3 hasn't been above average the last few years. The middle LBs have mostly been a revolving door of trash until this year. Until recently, the line has usually been steadily mediocre. It's as much, if not more, on TT than Capers.

5 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Both teams are playing like this is a meaningless late season game where the main objective is to avoid injury. It resembles a pre-season game, only with frozen breath.

6 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Packers DBs so thin, they're playing some guy named Pipkins who must be something like #10 CB on the depth chart

7 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

I wonder if McCarthy will end this season with getting shut out twice at home. Of course, he’ll get a pass because of a SB 7 years ago and no Rodgers.

9 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

picks are in

Looins 23, Bengals 3
Dolphiosm 17, Chiefs 15
Pates 30, Bills 10
Bears 19, Browns 12
Panthers 34, Buccaneers 20
Saimts 31, Falcosn 30
Squirrels 23, Broncos 13
Rams 30, Tirtans 20
Jets 23, Chargers 20
Jaguars 20, 49ers 16
Cowboys 33, Seajhawks 24
Giants 20, Cardinals 13
Steeelrs 26, Texans 17
Raiders 31, Eagsles 17

11 Re: Week 16 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. Or, because we're getting lazy at this point in the season, just follow for an invite

16 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Keenan Allen just picked off Bryce Petty's end of half Hail Mary. I've seen WR's play Hail Mary defense before, but can anyone remember one actually picking off a pass before?

23 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Keyshawn Johnson in a playoff game against the Jaguars had a rushing TD, receiving TD, INT and another takeaway on a fumble recovery when the Jaguars forced a Curtis Martin fumble.

I am pretty sure Moss had at least one (I think with the Pats, but I remember him being in for the Vikings on a Hail Mary late in I think a week 17 game one season).

18 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Another inexplicable NFL review decision at the end of the half in the Bills game. Happened way too many times this season.

20 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

I'm a bigtime Pats fan, and I'm completely at a loss about the end of half calls. On the first one, okay, the ball popped out. It still feels dirty having that not be a touchdown, because the guy clearly caught the ball and crossed the plane, but the ground really knocked the ball loose. The second one though?? It was beautiful. The receiver looked to me to be interfered with and should probably have gotten a call for that, and then he hauled in an absolutely breathtaking touchdown and double tapped while securing the ball. If the zebras had initially ruled it incomplete, I understand that there might not have been irrefutable evidence to overturn the ruling, but having called it a TD on the field, that's a bloody TD!!! Something has to be done, because this is ridiculous.

27 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

I also thought that was a terrible call. 100% agree. But those kinds of calls get screwed up all the time, and often in both directions. The Pats get victimized by that kind of call plenty, and Gronk gets a ton of really tickytacky OPI calls... What makes the TD call stand out is how egregious is was and how weird. There is just no way there was enough evidence to overturn the call on the field.

55 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Let's be honest. He looked for the ball. He was going for the ball. He had to go through the defender to try to get the ball. That's what happened.
The defender was hurt b/c he had no idea where the ball was. It's really not uncommon to see that called as DPI. The WR wants to change his route to catch the ball but the defender is in the way. Even if the WR "creates the contact" he gets the benefit of the call because he's trying to make a catch. I've seen the Pats called for DPI in very similar circumstances.

The best grounds for not calling that DPI is to say the ball was uncatchable by Cooks.

21 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

The league is becoming a joke at everyone’s expense except for “Mr Kraft and his son Jonathan”

71 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

I really don't get it either. Al Riveron has been employing a standard this whole season that I haven't seen before. People only seem to remember the Patriots ones, but there were others where similar questions existed: What exactly did they see that was 'clear and obvious'???

See this:

26 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Would indeed be a Christmas miracle if the Bills overcome the refs and Tyrod Taylor to win this.

28 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

I know this isn't exactly about the games, but does anyone have thoughts about the Rodgers to IR controversy? Seems like a really overt circumvention of the rules that ought to be enforced. Rodgers should be released from his contract...

43 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

The issue is that you're not allowed to activate someone from IR, play them, then put them back on IR without a new injury recurring. After you activate them, you have to keep them on the roster or release them. Under the rules, the Packers should have to release Rodgers and multiple teams have complained to the national office about the rule infraction.

49 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Without any partisanship here, it's just an absolutely flagrant rules violation. Admittedly, the league is very uneven in enforcement of all sorts of rules, but GB should essentially be forced to release Rodgers according to the rules. It's no more or less a means of competitive cheating than many of the things that get penalized, as GB is essentially cheesing an extra player on their roster.

57 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

I know if the Patriots tried to do this, the NFL would treat the issue as a slap in the face, immediately declare Brady's contract null and void, and probably dock the franchise another 1st round pick for general cheekiness.

But since it's the Packers, the NFL is simply referring any inquiries about the situation to Green Bay. Seriously! That's literally what Adam Schefter says the NFL is doing.

And there are still people who think the NFL wants to see the Patriots win.

64 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

My prediction - either the team doctor will suddenly come up with a new phantom injury, or the NFL will allow the Packers to retroactively take Rodgers off IR and simply have him inactive, using up a roster spot.

Absolutely this is a violation and it’s ridiculous that the NFL is literally saying “Talk to the Packers” (who aren’t commenting), but there’s also no way they’re going to enforce the penalty and have him released.

31 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Passing up that fourth and one for a 50-yard FG attempt, down by 7 in the fourth quarter, was not a good decision for the Bills. Your odds of converting that fourth down might even be better than your odds of hitting that kick.

32 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

McDermott should be fired for deciding to try a 50 yard FG instead of going for it on 4th and 1.

33 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Agree completely, that was utterly pathetic and it’s not the first time he’s made some mind numbing in game decision this year —and that’s not even talking about the moronic decisions to have mike Tolbert on the roster and starting j. Peterman. We’re screwed for another couple years until this clown is fired

45 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

They said the same thing about Rex...and we still gave up 37 points today so I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not. The defensive improvement this year (which was only a slight boost) was probably more of a result of switching back to a natural 4-3 front instead of any other coaching brilliance

47 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

No sarcasm. The Buffalo defensive front collapsed against the run. 13 first downs on the ground and 193 yards. The Dareus trade probably doesn't help in that department. Apart from that though, Brady was pretty well bottled up in this game. Atrocious pick-6, only 218 through the air, plenty of miscues. I agree with Romo; better defensive line stoutness against the run+ pass rush and together with the scheming and the current man-coverage, I think this Bills' defense would cause NE fits.

60 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

The Dareus trade and the decision to start Peterman for a game do not look good. Quite frankly I don't think the Bills know exactly what to do, either at the coaching or GM level. Their best offensive player is Shady McCoy, yet they killed several drives today by ignoring him. They had a huge mismatch with Kelvin Benjamin on pretty much anybody, but somehow that wasn't exploited. Oh, and BTW, Tyrod Taylor isn't very accurate. But we all know that.

The Bills seem to be stuck in the Redskins-land of having a lot of good parts but also missing too many parts.

83 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

I'm not sure I can criticize Brady only passing for 218 yards - after all, the offense went over four hundred total, why force the ball when you can just run it down the opponent's throat?

The pick six was terrible, indeed, and Brady's clearly getting tired as the season goes on - but I'm not about to cite low passing yardage in this game as a problem.

34 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Cleveland's better chance to avoid 0-16 going down the pan.

That said, Steelers fans say they play down to the opposition so perhaps next week is the better chance.

61 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Unfortunately there's no way next week's game will be meaningless for the Steelers. If they win today, they'll still have a shot at the #1 seed next week. If they lose today, they'll either be tied with or 1-game ahead the Jags, who own the tiebreaker for the #2 seed.

35 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Only watching still for the faint hope there’s a revenge shot to gronks ACL coming or not

40 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

I wonder what the coaching staff told the players about that during the game?

There's obviously some good motivation to play hard defense but it would be wrong to encourage injuring opponents.

53 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

So, the NFL sets up central replay in New York to be run by Blandino. Inexplicably, Blandino 'retires' after getting the job he has worked for his entire life. His replacement is Riveron who issues an unending stream of controversial 'interpretations' in which the team that benefits seems to matter a whole lot more than what the rules say.
Rabid football fans aside, this is what has been costing the NFL fans over the past decade. It's time for a new league.

54 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

I wish the networks would be more willing to switch games (or that the NFL would allow them too, if that is the issue). The Saints-Falcons game was clearly over with four or five minutes left, but Fox wouldn't move over to Bucs-Panthers, a close game with playoff implications. Even when the Saints were literally kneeling it out they wouldn't switch. By the time they finally did, all the drama was over and the Panthers had just made the clinching play.

80 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

He came through for the Patriots! All those people who laughed and thought he was going to flame out as some of the other Brady back ups. The niners got him for nothing! BB knew what he had. I wonder if even there was a 5% chance he thought about getting rid of Brady. Looking forward to my two favorite teams meeting next year Or two in the Super Bowl. Brady vs. Jimmy G. Here’s hoping the niners use the draft and cap room wisely to build around him.

82 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Belichick has long ago sold off his soul for unlimited coaching power, so yes, he'd have eventually sought to get rid of Brady. The entire reason he held onto Jimmy for so long was trying to convince him to sign a contract and remain as a backup for a few more years, and then take over.

69 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

One thing that really stuck with me from the Colts game yesterday: at one point Pagano accepted a penalty and as a result his team had a 2nd and 8 instead of taking the result of the play, which would have been 3rd and 2 (6 yards further downfield).

I tried to think of some kind of mathematical model that would justify this thinking. This is what I came up with:

if you think your 'yards gained per play' variable has a huge variance, and has a reasonably high probability of gaining more than 8 yards, but also a reasonably high probability of gaining less than 2 yards, then the call is defensible. If you gain 0 yards with 50% probability and 8 yards with 50% probability, then by accepting the penalty, you've changed your probability of a first down from 0.5 to 0.25.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this kind of model is exceptionally unrealistic. I have to think the odds of converting 3rd and 2 are much better than those of converting 2nd and 8. You only have one play, but you only have 1/4 the distance!

And to illustrate the unsoundness of Pagano's choice, the Colts immediately gained 5 yards on a Frank Gore run, leading to 3rd and 3. One yard short of where they would have been if they hadn't accepted the penalty. And I'm pretty sure a 5-yard run on 2nd and 8 would be considered a success.

The Colts need better coaching than this to win close games against good teams. I think that one decision killed that particular drive. Given that they only lost by 7 points, every single decision is important.

Bad decision detracted from what was otherwise a fun game to watch.

73 Riveron Benjamin overturn explanation

FWIW, here's how Riveron explains the overturn:

74 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

The NFL desperately needs some fresh, young refereeing crews. The current crop are mostly decrepit and not up to the job. So much time being wasted with crappy calls having to be challenged and reviewed. Speed the damned game up.

79 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

The last two weeks the Pats have had 3 penalties called against them and 2 opposing TDs wiped out via replay reversal. Does Al Riveron count against their salary cap number?

86 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

The Patriots have 11 less penalty calls than their opponents this year. The Saints have 8 less.

Are both teams paying the refs or do you only pay to go from 8 less to 11 less.

Can you qualify this plan?

Does the weekly opponent have to be part of this plan and agree to spin the ball on the ground while trying to make a catch? Did New England pay extra for the Atlanta DB Premiere Leg Plan to keep Edelman's ball off the ground?

I want to know more about this Conspiracy.

87 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Carolina has 16 less penalties than their opponent. They won the Patriots game on a hands to the face call on a failed 3rd down conversion. Their MNF game vs Philly was one mother of a horrifically officiated game. (10 penalties 126 yards to 1 penalty 1 yard)

Does Carolina pay the refs more than the Patriots?

How deep does this go?

89 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

The Patriots have 11 more presnap penalties than the Saints.
The Patriots have received 44 First Downs by Penalty and given up 21 FDP.
The Saints have received 20 FDP and given up 42 FDP.

Sure looks like they are paying the refs equally.

I think net 45 first downs by penalty is a large difference.

Bless your heart.

84 Re: Week 16 Open Game Discussion

Steelers slot corner Mike Hilton knocked TJ Yates out for a couple of series, then knocked the backup out not too long after that. Hide your quarterbacks, #31 is coming for them.
Houston is seriously unprepared for the slot blitz even though it's Pittsburgh's favorite play this year. Not sure how you could watch film on Pittsburgh all week without accounting for that. I think I even saw Hopkins signal to the QB that he thought Hilton was going to blitz, and the QB just ignored him and took the sack.

Couple other random thoughts from this game:
Pittsburgh is flipping their corners, which I've never seen them do in the Tomlin Era. Gay and Haden had been rigidly playing RCB and LCB respectively but I've seen both guys play both sides today. Not sure what matchup they were looking for with that.
Yates was a pretty late pickup for Houston, and I don't think they trust him to do much at the line of scrimmage yet. They ended up in the wrong protection or play a lot. There were third- and fourth-and-1 plays on the goal line in the first half where it looked like Pittsburgh had a pretty weak run front lined up, but Houston passed to no avail..