Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Here's the open thread for pregame and live discussion of Sunday's two conference championship games: Jacksonville at New England (CBS, 3:05 pm EST) and Minnesota at Philadelphia (FOX, 6:40 pm EST).

Comments

224 comments, Last at 22 Jan 2018, 6:25pm

1 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

I will draw some very slight assurance from the fact that NE hasn't added a 3rd QB to the roster. Yet. Otherwise, pretty worrisome. Wonder if Vegas knows something or is just reacting to changes in the money flows.

13 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

A) I'm not a Pats fan
B) I don't think Brady is so injured for it to matter
C) I don't think it matters if he goes through the mechanic part of practice week (he can watch tape even with an injured hand)

and D) I'm not sure it would matter even if he were hurt

The corpse of Manning won a SB while more injured, practicing less, and facing more difficult opponents.

Wasn't Brady hurt in the run-up to his first SB?

21 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Yeah, I've always thought Brady was more injured in that game than people realize, and that said injury played a big part in the outcome. Sure, the Giants had a great pass rush, but they had played the Patriots the last week of the season, and they had allowed 38 points, only sacking Brady 1 time. Then, barely over a month later, they allowed just 14 points, and sacked Brady 5 times. Something changed.

(And for the record, no, I'm not a Brady fan, and I'm not trying to make excuses for him. Injuries are part of the game, and no matter how injured Brady was, the Giants still fully deserved to win.)

17 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

DING! DING! DING! DING!

"Able to start" is pretty meaningless if he's ineffective. Remember, they told us Gronk would play in SB46.

Though again, given that NE has not brought in another QB leads me to believe they think Brady will be able to be at least as good as Hoyer (low bar, I know). I can't imagine Belichick going into the AFCCG with only one functioning quarterback. So there's that.

Now, if they add one to the roster by the 4pm deadline today, then I'm heading for the fallout shelter.

20 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Right. A playing-but-ineffective Brady is probably not a good thing.

Regarding the active QB situation, it could be that Belichick feels that even an injured Brady will be as effective as anyone he could bring in off the street to backup Hoyer, so he'd rather keep the rest of his roster as-is.

To me, that sounds like a valid choice. If Brady can't play at his normal level, the Patriots will need to win this game with the rest of their roster, the same way the Jaguars would. Belichick might be reasoning that, if Hoyer gets hurt, no matter what, they will get bad enough QB play that it doesn't matter, and he'd rather stick bad-hand Brady back there to at least make the correct pre-snap reads and be threatening enough that the Jaguars don't put ten men in the box.

19 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

And from beat writer Tom Curran, who generally has good sources:

Brady’s right thumb bent back badly when he was smashed into by a running back. Somehow, the ball got jammed back into the webbing between his thumb and index finger and it caused a cut. Might have been the laces. There may be stitches. He’s not taking snaps under center. He can take them in shotgun. He’s trying not to aggravate the thumb between now and kickoff so the reps are at a minimum. He can throw. I have no idea how hard, how far or how accurately.

http://www.nbcsports.com/boston/patriots/what-were-hearing-new-england-patriots-tom-brady-has-painful-thumb-injury

26 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

If the Jags offensive line plays as well as they did against the Steelers, I like their chances, but the Jags defense has never played against anything like the tempo stuff New England's going to play with, and most teams blow some coverages when they play against it the first time, so communication is going to be the key. In terms of physical talent, New England hasn't blown me away since 2014, yet the machine rolls on (otoh, this is a better, more opportunistic defense than Brady has faced since 2015 in Denver, and they don't just cause turnovers; they look to score- they had about 1/2 a touchdown a game, plus four or five that got taken away by incorrect, inadvertent whistles, which theoretically won't be an issue with the "best officials") Guess we'll see

32 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Pats' run D has been way too soft. Van Noy was in the right place on the 2nd TD and Fournette just pushed him into the end zone.

Don't know how that's a problem that can be solved by the coaches today.

On offense, I'm baffled at the choice to pass on three consecutive plays there. They have to run the ball to win today. Doesn't matter if they're down 11 points.

40 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

I hate the officials. WTF? I'm trying so hard to watch a playoff game. Why can't the refs not make so many terrible calls to the benefit of the Patriots? I mean, seriously?

55 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Actually they are. But in any case. The refs haven't managed to call a single thing against the Patriots all day.

It's just another typical BS Patriots game. They call a couple of non-impacting special teams penalties on the Patriots, and then 10 penalties against their opponents, including at least one touchdown that is exclusively a gift.

45 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

"So many terrible calls"?

The last four accepted penalties:

an illegal formation on a quick snap
a delay-of-game penalty
the obvious helmet-to-helmet that knocked Gronk out of the game
the DPI.

I won't argue the DPI, but that is at most the only debatable call.

Also, one of the Jaguars did a body throw on James White when he was five yards into the end zone. That could have been called a personal foul.

50 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

There was helmet to helmet, the tackler was hitting not wrapping, and the receiver was falling so unable to defend himself. That will be called pretty much every time, and correctly so.

The DPI seemed a fairly home-field call to me - both the WR let himself get run out of bounds, and both players were doing a bit of arm wrestling along the sideline, also the pass seemed far enough away to be considered uncatchable.

43 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Looking back, that delay of game was a huge killer. Instead of a first down and probably more points, the Jags have to punt and then give up a last-minute TD. And such a stupid penalty! The clock wasn't running at all so there was no advantage to trying to bring the play clock down to zero.

46 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

55 seconds to go, two timeouts, and you KNEEL? It’s not like an extra 3 or 7 points might be useful against the Patriots or anything. The Jaguars deserve to lose.

(I know you don’t want to throw three incompletions and give it back to NE, but maybe call a running play on first down and use one of those timeouts if it’s successful? Or do literally anything besides give up?)

47 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

It bespeaks insecurity when you're so afraid of punting with 30 seconds left in the half that you won't even try to run your offense.

Elite teams try to score there. That's what the Seahawks did in the Super Bowl three years ago. I understand the Jags aren't built for fast drives, but you have to be really paranoid to not even try. The Pats didn't have any time outs left! Try two offensive plays and then if it's third and long, burn the clock then. Bortles has looked good passing to the sideline. Why not try?

49 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Actually, I just realized it’s even worse than that. NE was down to one timeout, right? The Jaguars could’ve thrown a pass on first down and even if it was incomplete and they ran on 2nd down and NE burned their timeout, they could still run on 3rd down and run down the clock if they failed to convert. The only way NE scores again in the half is a turnover, and if you’re that scared, may as well just forfeit the game now.

I kind of hope the Patriots come back and win by 1-2 points now. I hate gutless coaching.

192 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

I still can’t get over this decision. You’re a road underdog against Brady/Belichick and you’re satisfied to go into the half with a 4-point lead. With the correct playcalling, the only disaster is a turnover, and you’ve got a very reasonable chance at a field goal at least. I hate kneeling before the half in general, but with 20 seconds I get it. 55 seconds and two timeouts? Inexplicable.

I wouldn’t have predicted that the Jaguars would lose this game if Bortles never turned the ball over, and wouldn’t have predicted he could go three straight playoff games without a single turnover. I feel bad that his defense couldn’t stop the Patriots on their last drive, because I’d have really liked to have seen him try to lead them to the winning score. He played well and I think the conservative playcalling was more the reason they lost than anything he did or didn’t do.

196 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

I was surprised Lewis got free for that last conversion. Everybody watching knew it was going to be a run. It's not like the D had been on the field all that long, as the Jags had ten minutes more of possession (although the Pats had started to control possession in the 4th as their D clamped down and the Jags froze a bit).
Lewis is a very underrated inside runner though. Being that short and having that burst he really can disappear behind blockers and then zip through small holes. I don't think Lewis is all the way back to what he was before the ACL - at times he moved like Barry Sanders - but he is a top lead back in the league, amazing considering that Belichick picked him up off the trash heap.

206 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

The coaching decision to kneel makes more sense based on the Jaguar's likely drive of handoff, handoff, RPO, screen, gain 15 yards, end of half.

The Jags are in there with a grind it out game plan, rather than anything looking to have Bortles make multiple quick strikes. Asking Bortles to come up with a 1 minute drill based drive, not turn it over, and advance a bunch without anything risky, is a bit much.

You're correct that elite teams would have a suite of options for the 1 minute offense. But those teams aren't the narrowly focused, run first 2017 Jags employing a David strategy.

51 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

We're told Gronkowski is not concussed. He's just still in the locker room in the second half nursing a head injury. The NFL shouldn't even pretend they care about head injuries if they're just going to feed us halfhearted bullshit like that every time a star takes a headshot in an important game.

62 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Ha, I love how the Patriots mystique is working against them for once. Like Romo pointed out, this drive is where you need your hometown fans standing and cheering the defense. Instead, down by 7 at the end of the third, they've given up until and unless Brady can tie it later

71 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Jacksonville looks like a well coached team today. I love the misdirection on that punt to try and force an offsides or timeout, without taking the delay of game. Pats didn't bite though because they're pretty well coached themselves.

When's the last big game Belichick was equalled?

75 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

So..with all the camera panning around the stadium instead of showing the snap when the Jaguars have the ball, I can't help but notice there are no black people in the stadium.
Do they not allow black people into Gillette Stadium?

79 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

That's hardly unique to New England.

Did you know that middle and upper class white America made most of their wealth from appreciation of their homes/real estate? The problem was the post-WWII laws preventing black people from being allowed to take loans to buy houses. And then all the other legislation supporting racial discrimination

96 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Please. Everyone was talking about how that was the rule in the Pats vs Steelers game and suddenly it's no longer the rule in this game when it benefits the Pats? I thought it should have been a catch in the Steelers game and was a catch here but if you're going to have a stupid rule you need to at least enforce it consistently.

101 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

So you're saying it's been enforced differently against Jacksonville today? I'm sure you have specific examples?

I don't know what you're talking about from last week, but was that the same crew? Different ref teams call things differently, what's important is they don't favor one team over another, and I don't see any unequal standards here

104 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

The Pats vs Steelers game I meant, where the receiver extended the ball towards the end zone but it was ruled incomplete because it hit the ground and moved in his hands and the Steelers lost the game as a result

The pass to Amendola hit the ground and moved in his hands. To be consistent it should have been incomplete but they didn't even bother spending the time to review it.

102 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Another game given to the Patriots by the refs. I shouldn't have watched it. I knew it was going to be exactly like this. No penalties on the Patriots. Two touchdowns given to the Patriots by the refs.
And next year there is going to be another drop in NFL viewership. I loved football all my life. But the NFL is just a sick, and boring, joke at this point.
The Patriots were clearly the second best team on the field. They in no way deserved to win. Oh well. Same old. Same old.

106 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Lesson for the Jags is the same as the lesson for the Falcons: gotta play 60 minutes. Gotta stay aggressive on offense. With 15 min left I was convinced Pats would lose. 0 points in 3rd quarter and they looked flat. Run D was terrible.

And then the 4th Q happened.

108 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

You mean RUN O? Since Pats barely ran at all.

Anyway.

@MikePereira

From what I could see from here in Philly, looked like the crew led by Clete Blakeman did a good job. Believe me, there is no such thing as a perfect game, but their errors were minimal. 7 total fouls in the game. I hope our game here goes as well. It is loud already.

113 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

predictably brutal loss, with some predictable shady pi calls, made and not made, that really bailed NE out (3rd down jags 2nd last drive, almost all of the calls against jags secondary on several uncatchable balls, but NEs the league's cash cow, so what do you expect), but jags still need a better qb so they arent predictable on 1st and 2nd down. your website going out at this point isnt a good look. hope gronk misses sb and thinks about retirement

208 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

New England might have been able to overcome penalties properly and fairly called but as it stands, it's clear they were helped by markedly uneven officiating. I will admit that I tend to be flatly incredulous that the NFL has failed so miserably in figuring the Patriots out that I can't help but think there's a dozen little ways they're cheating that part-time officials aren't capable of noticing.

115 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

I ran some numbers on how overly conservative the Jags were on first down but a server error ate my post. Wasn't the website supposed to be redone like two years ago? It's only like eight years overdue at this point.

Anyways, the Jags largely lost the game because they tried to turtle on a fairly small lead against an all time great QB. A big part of why NE wins so many games is that they seem to be the only team that's immune to having games where they just shut down once they're up two scores.

116 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

I ran some numbers on how overly conservative the Jags were on first down but a server error ate my post. Wasn't the website supposed to be redone like two years ago? It's only like eight years overdue at this point.

Anyways, the Jags largely lost the game because they tried to turtle on a fairly small lead against an all time great QB. A big part of why NE wins so many games is that they seem to be the only team that's immune to having games where they just shut down once they're up two scores.

118 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Jags are a good team, totally legit. I'm glad the conspiracy theory tinfoil hat crowd continues to salt it up around here, and I'm glad the Pats are going back to the super bowl. That pass defense by Gilmore was friggen awesome!

122 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

No 4th quarter pass rush will nearly always lose to a great qb. To all the moon-howlers, go ahead and supply the video evidence of the blatant holds that went uncalled.

123 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

I'd like to recommend a website:'Butthurt Nation' 'where all the fanboys that the Patriots were mean to can cry on each others shoulders.' They also have local chapters that provide coffee, plenty of hugs, and Kleenex for all your salty tears.

124 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Well, it's not exactly a surprise to see refs be biased in favor of the big market, legendary team against the small market upstarts. Just like star players get special treatment too. I guess it's probably just human nature to be overawed by one of the most accomplished franchises in sports, maybe expecting fair reffing in such circumstances is simply unreasonable. Reminds me of the NBA playoff series between the Lakers and Sacramento in 2002, where something similar seemed to occur.

135 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

To all the people complaining about the reffing, I suggest you replay the game for people who don't have a rooting interest. People who aren't football and see with Patriots hate. See what they say.

The camera doesn't lie and you're all looking at ghosts through your own perceived biases.

In regards to the calls; the DPI for Cooks deep: Cooks looked for the ball early and tried to work back into the field and Ramsey just ran him straight to the sideline. That's the correct call. Yes, Ramsey looked for the ball but he didn't locate it. If he located it, then he may actually picked it because he was way closer to the ball.

The drive before, where NE had to punt, the jags defender was hanging all over Hogan on the 3rd down pass attempt before the pass arrived. Chungs later coverage was much cleaner. It just was. Chung wasn't drapped on his WR.

The Gronk hit, there may have been shoulder contact but it would've been simultaneous with the helmet to helmet, against a defenseless receiver. That's clearly a foul.

The Amendola catch, before the TD, his hand was under the nose of the ball. The James Steelers catch his hand was on the side of the ball and the nose of the ball hit and the ball moved. All different acts. Look at the film.

Finally, the reason why the Pats weren't called is they were mostly playing softer coverage, hence why the Pats gave up yards and yards to short outs and middle curls.

And why no calls on the NE O-line? That was very biased. For the jags. The jags were basically holding and dragging NE linemen to the ground, and then blocking them in the back into the ground if they got through. The refs mostly swallowed their whistles on the line play, except for one call against the Jags. The Jags were blessed to not have 4 or 5 holding calls against them. I think I recall maybe one arm bar lock to shoulder/elbow that was semi-callable for the NE line.

I won't be responding to any replies since anyone who's complaining about the reffing has no ability to evenly judge reffing.

However, if you want to talk about bracket coverage on Gronk, presnap motion, jags run D, and play efficiency then I'm interested in talking about those things.

136 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

As a Packers fan who was hoping the Jags would win, I didn't have a problem with the refereeing. Jacks' incredible strip/fumble of the RB was also a close call; the call was "The play stands" meaning it could have gone either way. The early DPI on the sideline was close but I've seen that called more often than not. I also thought Amendola kept his black-gloved hand under the ball.

Bortles and the Jags offense had the chance to show they deserved to get to the Super Bowl. They didn't. The defense played good enough for them to win the game with a decent offense. That unit deserved better.

145 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

Neither one of the DPIs was "close".

On the first one, Ramsey grabbed cooks by the neck and pulled him down. You can't do that when the ball is in the air.

On the second one, the DB pushed the WR out of bounds while the ball was in the air. You can't redirect a WR while the ball is in the air.

Both were textbook calls that get called every single time.

The refs let a lot of stuff go uncalled - but both those plays were stuff that absolultey gets called even with loose refereeing.

157 Re: 2018 Conference Championship Open Thread

The first DPI was the one down the sidelines early in the game. It was the play immediately after the one that knocked out Gronk. I agree with you on the other PI calls, and if you check earlier I also stated that.

Your pro-Pats boosterism is almost as bad and annoying as morganja's anti-Pats bias. Note: Nothing is worse than an ungracious winner and it's all the Pats fans whining in shadow of winning that makes Pats fans easily the most annoying fan base right now. You can't win without picking fights with anyone who doesn't worship at the feet of Belichick and Brady. Get over yourselves.