Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Your weekend viewing plans (all times Eastern): SATURDAY: Indianapolis at Kansas City, 4:35 p.m.; Dallas at L.A. Rams, 8:15 p.m. SUNDAY: L.A. Chargers at New England, 1:05 p.m.; Philadelphia at New Orleans, 4:40 p.m. Win or go home. Use this thread to discuss them all.


192 comments, Last at 15 Jan 2019, 5:18am

120 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Well, that's hardly fair. The Chargers had a better record than the Patriots, but were unfortunate enough to play in the same division as the Chiefs.

I'm fully on board with the idea that the AFC East has been nothing like as weak as is regularly perceived during the Patriots long period of domination. But this season it undoubtedly has, and the Patriots have been lucky to benefit from it.

109 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Chargers looking like paper tigers once again. Rivers already crying for flags and their coaches look completely overmatched.

113 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Charger's still can't get the snap off in time in the late 2nd.

And yet another playoff game that looks to be determined by dominant line play. Sensing a theme here...

117 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Patriots almost have more points in a single half than they have had in an entire game this season. Now I wish the Ravens had won last week because their excellent defense would obviously do much better than this.

122 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Shouldn't the Chargers have gone for 2? 31 points is not necessarily a 5 score lead, unless you keep kicking the XP. I mean the odds of it becoming relevant are extremely slim, but still,how do you not go for 2?

124 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

I haven't watched that many games this year, I confess. For those who have watched this LA team, were the Chargers legitimately overrated? Their defense was a zone scheme in the regular season and poorly suited in a matchup with NE, but is this seriously the best they can do? This game has been a joke, and I know NE is not this good...

142 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

You'd have about a nickel. The Patriots have been consistently great throughout the season for many years now. This was the first time in a long time they looked shaky enough in the regular season that there was serious doubt as to whether they were one of the strongest teams in the league.

149 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

I'd give Rick more than that. Maybe after the 2011 romp over Denver... the 2003 Championship game against Indy, perhaps the 2004 Divisional round win over Indy... even the 2001 Super Bowl. He might have a pocket with about 25 cents.

Maybe DVOA will feel that the Chargers' comeback in the second half shows Pats' shakiness, but otherwise, this felt like one of the most complete dismantlings the Patriots have ever inflicted on a postseason opponent. It was like the 2004 game against the Colts except with a lot more offense. It was far less close than the 2003 Championship game romp... maybe a bit like the 2004 championship game against the Steelers? It felt like a game between a championship caliber NE team and a puffed up phony of a Los Angeles team, and what makes that so surprising is this has felt all season to me like the weakest NE team since 2008. Meanwhile, I was under the impression that this was one of the finest Chargers squads since 2010 or so.

181 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

And no one though the Pats "weren't that good" afterwards. I was trying to think of wins after which people were muddled or felt that the Pats performed a lot better than expectations.

In the 2003 AFC Championship game, the Pats dominated the Colts' offense but kicked a bunch of field goals and were meh on offense. I recall folks feeling that the offense would struggle in the Super Bowl, getting eaten alive by the Carolina defensive line, and that scheme had elevated defensive performance beyond their actual strength. There were similar feelings after the 2001 Super Bowl.

The 2011 Denver Game was a Madden-like offensive explosion, and I recall most people feeling that Denver was just playing over its head and NE wasn't nearly as good as they looked in that game. Might have been true--they squeaked over Baltimore the following week and then lost the Super Bowl.


182 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

They lost in the 2012 SB largely because Gronk could barely walk, Welker had a knee injury and Vollmer was very limited. That's football, of course, but when healthy the two TE offense was terrifying (and not just because one of the TE's was Hernandez).
In 2002, the Pats were, understandably, dismissed by pretty much everyone.
Few expected them to get past the 15-1 Steelers either in 2004 (?). I've never seen a 14-2 team more dismissed.

190 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Hi Paddy, Charger fan here. Sorry for the late reply.

I made a post in the AFC Preview thread, last one I believe, that explained why we should expect a NE victory. Knowledgeable LAC fans I spoke to forsaw the same issues. I didn't expect it to get ugly, but said it could, wasn't surprised. (And I didn't see any way we could expect to pull it out.)

As to the defensive collapse, last week they were flying to the ball but the D was sleep walking today - that wasn't the same unit that dropped BAL's Edwards on contact the week before. They've been running on guts and nerves for the last four weeks against bruising opponents. Mental and physical fatigue, not helped by early Offensve outs.

I need to re-watch the game. We were stopping the run well enough early but not the short passes. That Seahawks-style defense limited KC and PIT screen/short game well enough for us to win, but NE and esp. Edelman killed us. We should have adjusted maybe, but coming up aggressively and tackling was missing. Missed tackles, penalties on 3rd, offensive 3 and outs then it just snowballed and the guys were gassed.

Btw, I mentioned NE would probably win 7-8 of 10 with current conditions but would expect it to flip with both teams rested and healthy on a neutral field, and I still think so.

127 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Wild-ass theory: Gus Bradley stuck with the 7 DB defense because he expected that the Pates expected him to come up with something new, so he tried to fool them by not doing anything new!

130 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Other than the 11-5 Cassel campaign, and the two seasons where the Sanchise making the postseason coincided with a semi-functional Gailey offense flirting with 7-9, the AFC east has pretty much been a turnstile to a first round bye for the only competent team. But also more important has been the pollination of ineptitude from the Belichick coaching tree throughout the league, which has increased NE's competetive advantage at the conference level. The lower football IQ owners have done themselves a disservice with the tree-plucking and it doesn't appear to be slowing down. If only they could have figured out a way to lure Ernie Adams ...

135 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Yep. A perfect example would be the Dolphins, who over the last ten (I think that was it) years have finished every year between 6 and 10 wins. Of course, that means they haven't had any great teams in that span, but they've also never been really terrible either. That's been the state of the AFC East for basically the entirety of this long Patriots run.

150 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

The Parcells era in Miami was a rare well-conceived attempt to break the hegemony (as were direct hires from the Parcells tree instead of the Belichick, e.g Payton, Coughlin, other conference though). But how a Casserly-Wolf consultancy could have turned up Maccagnan has hamstrung the Jets for five more years. Just when it appeared that Woody Johnson wasn't completely stabbing in the dark and listening to competent football minds ...

The jury may still be out on Beane in Buffalo but Ross appears to have little clue in Miami, so a divisional reset could be a long time coming.

162 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Occasionally the other offenses in the AFC east have been content to hitchhike on the outerskirts of Erhardt-Perkins hell, but most of the time it's not even that creative. If Gase ever figures out how to handle a locker room his hybrid approach could make some waves, but it's doubtful. It may be a few more years until the Reid-Nagy-Pederson trees produce some more candidates with competent game management skills that the AFC east can import (not that they would necessarily or anything).

131 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Both Melvins on the field distracted the Pats defense long enough for the Chargers to get a TD. Now you need 3 more TDs.

133 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Ok, Brady being on the field confuses me. The Panthers did this, leaving Cam on the field during a blowout (Yes, they were losing, but still there was no reason to have Cam there) and he got pummeled play after play in a game that eventually broke the Panthers. Why is Brady, who is going to come out as a winner of this game, still on the field risking a hit? I mean, he's not going to get hit too much, because the Chargers don't blitz as much as the Steelers did against Cam, but why risk the old man?

138 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Anytime you're on a football field you can get hit. In fact, a defensive player deliberately going after a star opponent in the late stages of a blowout loss doesn't sound too far fetched of a scenario at all.
Not everything Belichick does is right. For example, he's not aggressive enough on fourth down decisions. This seems like one of those times.

141 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

It's OK to let go of the anti-Belichick animus and notice that all Brady is doing is handing off the ball.

If you're going to be afraid of opponents making dead ball cheap shots, you might as well be afraid of walking across the parking lot.

"Not everything Belichick does is right."

Weird day to make that argument. But I guess the haters had to find something that Belichick was doing wrong.

A few years ago Belichick put in Matt Cassell with a large lead and he immediately threw a pick six.

Since then he's taken the attitude that he doesn't care about people second-guessing his QB choices at the end of the game. Brady has been in the NFL for 19 seasons and is exceptionally good at avoiding injury, especially if we remove passing plays from consideration.

143 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

LOL. Now, saying that Belichick is anything short of a perfect, omniscient being who's decision making can never be criticized means you have anti-Belichick bias. "Not everything Belichick does is right," isn't an argument, it's a fact, because, ya know, Belichick is a fallible human being, not the football coaching version of Jesus.
Leaving your star player in a game that has long been decided is dumb no matter who does is, because it is a decision that has no upside at all, but a potentially terrible downside.

177 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

No, I'm saying that, on a day when the Patriots clearly dominated a team that was supposed to beat them, that it's pretty pathetic to search so desperately for something to criticize that you have to settle on "doesn't bench his QB late in the game in a rout." This argument is advanced as manifestly true, even though there is neither any support for it, nor is any similar demand ever made of any other coach.

You repeatedly build straw men and try to ascribe them to me. I will thank you to only accuse me of saying things that I have actually said. This thing you do, where you construct an easily defeated straw man argument that I've never made - well, it's a childish way to discuss things.

I have not said Belichick is perfect, and now you've accused me of saying exactly that, twice. I can think Belichick isn't perfect without thinking that any criticism you make is accurate.

You may think that handing off a football in a late game situation is too risky for Tom Brady. Clearly everybody in the decision-making process disagrees with you. In my ~5 decades of watching the NFL, I have never seen a QB injured handing off the football. But hey, you think it's risky.

167 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

I get that this is an analytics site, and from a numbers point of view it's not especially rational to have Brady in there in the second half of a game your up by 4 scores in - but lets not forget that there are actual human beings on the field and that leadership over the long term does actually matter. Your star, first ballot HOF QB on the field with the rest of team is a dramatic way of emphasizing that everyone in the organization is subordinate to winning the game in front of you, and it's a powerful message. Lots of people around football marvel at how the Patriots cobble together a roster without high draft picks year after year out of cast offs - stuff like this is part of how that's done. Hard to say whether it's a net benefit, the benefit and cost are both pretty marginal, but it's disingenuous to ignore the case BB would make for his choice.

170 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

What are the chances Bill Belichick has read Ender's Game? Somewhere north of 99%?

I was thinking about how every year at the beginning of training camp, he chews out Brady in front of everyone ("I could get a kid from Foxboro High who can make that throw" and etc.) and it always impresses the rookies who think "oh shit, anybody can be called out here." But I bet Belichick is deliberately getting double mileage out of the stunt: he's endearing Brady to the team, in a subtle way, the opposite of what Graff does to Ender.

I wonder if any of the "Belichick tree" guys do something similar.

179 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Not sure about the leadership argument, sounds a little nebulous to me. My (speculative) explanation would be that somewhere along the line Belichick has gotten bored of having to decide when to pull Brady in blowouts, and having people second guessing and questioning him about it. So, together, they've simply decided Brady is staying in whatever. Even if it is occasionally sub-optimal, it means there is one less thing to worry about.

147 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Drew freaking Brees. Is this going to be like the Chargers-Ravens game where Rivers threw a pick on the first play then nothing went right for San Die.... LA?

155 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

This is starting to look like last year's Steelers-Jaguars, except you could say the Saints are even more unprepared. Additionally, how you eat a delay of game penalty like that?

156 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

HAHAHA! All right, so Drew Brees fumbles, and I think Brandon Graham picks up the ball, but the official THINK he fumbled again (It doesn't look like he even got control) and the Saints recovered. If that stands, it's 1st and 10 for New Orleans.

158 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Wait, when does the bye week end?
Foles has been incredible, but the Philly line dominance is unexpected, especially running the ball.

160 Pats-Chargers

I had to work and missed the entire first half. What the #!*^¢! happened?

164 Re: Pats-Chargers

In reply to by RobotBoy

Brees connected with an Eagles defender on the first play from scrimmage, then everything went to hell after that. Seemed like the Saints were on bye week still.

165 Re: Pats-Chargers

In reply to by RobotBoy

Sorry, didn't read. Pats-Chargers. Well, Patriots were nearly unopposed through the whole game in offense. The Chargers couldn't get consistency, Rivers ate 2 delay of game penalties because he changed the protection scheme with 3 seconds on the play clock and he was hit on nearly every play. He was mad.

166 Re: Pats-Chargers

That Miami Miracle L could prove to be the difference maker. Hard to believe a team that flawed was only one win away from homefield throughout.

163 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

The Saints did the same thing the Steelers nearly did to them. Fake Punt Run. Difference is that it was 4th and inches instead of 4th and 5, and Taysum Hill (Hilariously athletic QB) is faster than Roosevelt Nix (Not nearly as athletic FB)

171 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

All right, didn't knew that you can pull down a defensive back that is going for the ball if you are falling down and don't get called for OPI.

176 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Definitely the Rams. If New Orleans has another cold start and Rams get out to an early lead I can't see the New Orleans defense slowing them down in the same way they did Philadelphia. Also New England has looked beatable all year and I can't see them slowing down Mahomes on the road.

174 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Ross just hires expat scout Marvin Hamlisch blah blah blah

I didn't realize that this was a "thing" .. a certain fanbase jumping through hoops to deny that their division has been a dysfunctional joke for two decades comprised of owners with next-to- zero football IQ. Smarter move would be to humbly accept the free first round bye that is gifted each year. A certain amount of intradivisional losses are unavoidable due to familiarity, boredom, lack of effort/ambition, incidental factors, etc but there is only one division in football on systematic failure mode.

175 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

I must say it's been a good year for the preseason projections. 8/12 teams predicted made the playoffs. Correct division winners for 4/8 divisions and 3/4 of the conference championship teams were picked correctly. I recall that New England and New Orleans had the highest preseason odds of making the Super bowl so it's still possible that FO has predicted the Super bowl matchup correctly.

178 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

If it isn't a NO/NE superbowl, we will be spared the high comedy of Payton's special ops machinations trying to mess with the Patriots' hotel reservations, like they did with the Colts, but this time in rival city Atlanta. Expect pictures of Ornstein to circulate around Foxborough ... "If you see this man around hotel or practices ..."

192 Re: Divisional Round Open Game Discussion

Most times we don't fully comprehend the times we live in.
We are living in a window of greatness yet emotions close
most eyes to it. Thats right, I'm talking NE.

Love 'em or hate 'em....8 straight AFC championship games.

Question is, was it the coach or the QB? Perhaps a part of
both but even though its tiring to see the same team up
there (NE) for so long, its got to be respected.

Not bad for a 7th rd 2nd string Michigan QB eh? Most
amazing run I've seen (and I'm almost 70 yrs old).

Haters hate, but real true fans appreciate.