Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

Week 6 Open Discussion Thread

Deshaun Watson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Week 6 kicks off with a snoozer, as Daniel Jones leads the injury-riddled Giants into Foxborough to face the undefeated Patriots. The rest of the weekend, however, looks stacked.

  • The 3-2 Panthers face the 2-3 Buccaneers in a divisional matchup.
  • The 3-2 Eagles face the 3-2 Vikings.
  • The Texans face the Chiefs. The two teams have a combined record of 7-3, but it's Deshaun Watson vs. Patrick Mahomes and that should be enough for anyone.
  • New Orleans travels to Jacksonville as Teddy Bridgewater duels Gardner Minshew in a battle of surprising backups.
  • At 3-2, the defending NFC champion L.A. Rams might be in must-win mode when they host the undefeated San Francisco 49ers.
  • Monday night, we get a critical NFC North contest as 2-1-1 Detroit travels to 3-1 Green Bay.
  • And the game with the most long-term impact might be winless Washington and interim coach Bill Callahan traveling to winless Miami in a game that could determine who gets the first pick in the 2020 draft.

Use this thread to discuss them all.

Comments

222 comments, Last at 15 Oct 2019, 11:52am

2 What a crazy start to this…

What a crazy start to this game. I've been cooking and not really watching, has it all been down to sloppiness, or are guys making great plays left and right?

3 Summary

Sloppy INT by Brady; The Giants offense is going nowhere - the OL is getting beat up. Then theres punting it off your linemens helmet... that's not going to work.

55 re: sbond101

In reply to by sbond101

Haha, that last line made me laugh very hard.  Not sure why.  Well played, Mr Bond!

5 Daniel Jones’ numbers only…

Daniel Jones’ numbers on the road with no weapons against “the #1 defense” only slightly worse than Brady’s numbers

6 It would be the final insult…

It would be the final insult to the rest of the league if Tom Brady is finally in real decline, but the Patriots have produced an historically great defense to carry him..

8 That already pretty much…

That already pretty much happened in the Super Bowl. No offense all day but the defense just completely dominated. Of course, that's just one game. Keeping it up for the entire season a la the Broncos a few years ago would be much more difficult.

13 I remember when Antonio…

I remember when Antonio Brown got cut some people said the Patriots didn't even need him anyway. The fact that at the moment the only WRs they have are Edelman and two undrafted guys shows why that's not true. You always want as much talent as you possible, especially in a sport with as many injuries as football.

15 Brown

Seconded; The Pat's don't need AB to win the AFC east, but given that he's gone it's going to be a much bigger hill to climb come playoff time, especially if injuries continue to mount. To bad such a great player couldn't be a better man, for his own sake and for the sake of the Pats.

17 Odds are if he were, he'd…

In reply to by sbond101

Odds are if he were, he'd have been somewhere else, not in NE.  The Pats just gave him an extra chance.

25 The other option was cutting…

The other option was cutting him. You can only keep so many guys on the roster. 

 

 

I'm not sure AB helps them much at this point - when there's any time, there's guys open everywhere - the problem is the offensive line is awful (mostly due to injuries), the TEs can't block, and Devlin is hurt. Unless AB wants to block.

62 If that ankle injury keeps…

If that ankle injury keeps Gordon off the field for a few weeks, it may be a new test for him.  Hope he makes it.

Not sure it impacts NE too much.  Gordon and Brady haven't seemed to be clicking, in the games I've seen.  Dorsett being out appears to be a bigger factor for Brady, as he and Dorsett seemed to be on the same before Dorsett's injury.

18 Seeing Rupert Murdoch and…

Seeing Rupert Murdoch and Robert Kraft schmoozing in the owner's booth... makes me want to vomit. In the "Harold and Maude" sense.

20 It's strange how few…

It's strange how few companies seem to want to advertise on streaming sports. On the Amazon stream, I swear they've run that spot for "Doctor Sleep" literally every single break.

Anyway, this game mostly stinks but it's had a few really awesome plays: that "blocked" punt, the fumble return, Golden Tate's catch and run, actually the Giants' guy made a nice catch of a ball the defender got a hand on just now, and who doesn't love a fieldgoal doink. But everything else has been incomplete, stuff, punt. There are boom-or-bust players but this is a boom-or-bust game.

24 Pathological Conservatism

For some reason I've always hated the Giants. As a Rams fan, I have every right in the book to hate the Pats, but it's impossible for me to cheer for the Giants over them, due to Pat Shermur's absolutely idiotic conservatism. First half, 4th and 1 from your own 30, already down 7, and you decide to punt. Okay, it's Foxborough and you're a 2-3 team, so the calculus probably says go for it, but I'll give that a mulligan. Then he decides to punt the ball on the NE 35 on 4th and 5. Okay, that one really irritated me.

Second half, this idiot just decided to punt the ball down by two scores on 4th and 2 from his 30 yard line. Punts into the wind. Net 30 yards. I wish he got net 20 just so I could enjoy more what a fucking idiot he is. You're down by 14 with 6:30 to go, but you think you have a better chance of winning giving the Patriots an extra possession 30 yards further downfield from where they'd be if you turned the ball over on downs? Unbelievable cowardice.

26 It'll be a feature on "why…

It'll be a feature on "why the other team was stupid this week".  That's a weekly segment on the Patriots home radio station the day after the game. 

Now shurmur throws a challenge.  And loses it.  Eff him.

35 It's even worse seeing the…

It's even worse seeing the balls that Belichick has to go for it while up at the OPP 35 on 4th and 7. Then he wheelbarrows his giant balls over to let everybody know that they are going for it on 4th and 2. 

In reality, it's Belichicks giant brain combined with absolute contempt for the media that lets him do this. Either way, I love it.

44 Whether he makes good…

Whether he makes good decisions or bad decisions, Belichick's actions seem more likely than other coaches' to be influenced exclusively by what he thinks gives him the best chance to win. 

Other coaches want to make decisions on that basis, too, but whether they believe they're doing so or not, football is a social sport (team game), with a hierarchy (owners-GMs) and critics (media).  And that affects how we act and think.

Belichick is smart, but so are a lot of other coaches.  Belichick works hard, but so do others.  Belichick has a ton of experience, and that's an edge over most.  But his main advantage may be that he seems to genuinely not give an f* about the things that can prevent other coaches from being singularly focussed on results.  This probably shows up in player recruitment and dismissal even more than during in game decisions.

80 Except that if I recall…

Except that if I recall correctly Belichick isn't particularly aggressive on fourth down. He used to be but has become less aggressive over the years. That's not an area of the game where he outperforms other coaches.

81 Being more aggressive is not…

Being more aggressive is not the same thing as outperforming.  Even maximizing the expected result isn't always the right decision.  If you have the better team, lower variance plays may be the right decision, even if the expected result is lower.  With a good team, a 75% shot at 3 points might give you a better chance to win than a 50% shot at 7 points, and minimizing the chance of giving the opposition a short field may take priority over retaining possession, regardless of what standard win percentages may say.

In recent years, Belichick's more frequently been coaching superior teams than was the case earlier in his career.  That may be behind his perceived shift to conservatism.  

84 Yeah, this. I feel that if…

Yeah, this. I feel that if Belichick had been coaching the Giants on Thursday, they would have gone for it all the times I mentioned. Football is very interesting in that there are a lot of discrete decisions that can be made by a team to make the result of the game higher variance. My old sport, hockey, doesn't have this nearly as much. For Belichick, maximizing the Patriots winning chance is different from maximizing the 2-4 Giants winning chances.

88 I *really* wish football…

I *really* wish football analytics understood this more. The problem is that most "go/no go" decisions focus on 'game winning chance' as if it's completely universal, but it's obviously not, because as the strength differential between the team increases, GWC can't go above 100%. That's what you mean by "reduce the variance": scoring a touchdown might increase an evenly-matched team's chance to win from 50% to 75%, but it can't increase a stronger team's chance to win from 90% to 115%, obviously. So a *ton* of what goes into those "go/no go" decisions is really "how good do I think my team is compared to the other team."

It's even more straightforward using EPA to think about play choices: kicking an easy field goal is a low-variance play. It typically results in 3 points followed by a safe kickoff, and consumes *less clock* (better teams want longer games). Going for it has a pretty wide range in results, some of which include very bad options (including pick-sixes).

89 Focus on average

Yeah - this is a subset of a huge group of "focus on average" positions held by the analytics community. Score & relative team quality are probably the two biggest convoluting factors in a typical 4th down decision, so large that they generally drown the typical EPA approach out completely. Equally differing quality special teams are a thing, and for the last 5 years the Pats have had a good kicker and one of the better punting units (especially goal-line punting) in football. 

I think it's worth realizing this is actually part of a broad category of statistical misunderstanding that has resulted in a lot of sub-optimal play through the years (e.g. the nonsense opinion originally held by the baseball analytics community that stolen bases at less than 85% are useless). Kickoff returns are another one where teams are often miss-labeled stupid for returning kicks when the team sucks - honestly if your a Miami returner you should give it a shot every time because it's the highest odds of scoring your team is going to have that drive.

28 PI Review

2:52 left down 35-14 on your own side of the field - Giants challenge looking for DPI. I get that it's DPI, but we really need to stop the game for this?

30 I'm more concerned with the…

In reply to by sbond101

I'm more concerned with the fact that it was super obvious PI - and that the referees seem to be even less consistent with review.

You can always turn off the tv when you're no longer interested in the game.

60 From what I've seen they've…

From what I've seen they've been very consistent when reviewing PI.  If it's not indisputably egregious they don't overturn it.  I think that's the right standard.

While that particular play is probably PI more often than not, it's no where close to meeting that standard.

68 The rules aren't specific,…

The rules aren't specific, though. They say stuff like "significantly impact or hindered" and things like that, and those things can be opinions of the specific officials. So if the replay doesn't show that the official is clearly wrong, then you just go with the official's call.

The real problem here is that the league shouldn't *need* any of this. I mean, it's like if you had a baseball umpire who just out of the blue inexplicably called a ball that bounces off the ground a strike. They don't have replay to fix that, because they don't *make* mistakes that bad. But NFL referees occasionally do.

I really just think the correct solution is they need to fix the *referee system*, not the replay system. And I'm not necessarily suggesting the refs themselves are bad. But they need to push them more to work together ("hey, did you see if he hit that guy before the ball got there?") and figure things out, and let them go and rewatch a play if they think they didn't notice something, but 1) only at real-time speed and 2) only the on-field officials, not New York. Stuff like fumbling, whether a catch was complete, ball placement, etc.: *that* stuff can still be reviewed, but you shouldn't use replay to fix things like a ref's eyes got distracted by something. You want a separate system for that.

73 not for PI review

Basically, the NFL has decided "we'll change this rule so PI is reviewable, but we are never going to overturn the ruling on the field."  

34 It also wasn't a challenge…

In reply to by sbond101

It also wasn't a challenge with any reasonable chance of success.  Yeah, there was some contact, but it was judgement call territory, and the league has been consistent (in the game's I've watched) that they're not going to award penalties unless it's egregious.

Not sure that's the standard they should be using, but it seems to be the practice.  Unless you have something nearing a Rams-Saints NFC championship level missed call, keep your challenge flag in your pocket.

33 The double standard for…

The double standard for different types of replay reviews is ridiculous. For example, on the James White TD that was overturned, they went back over it with a fine-toothed comb, looking at numerous angles and piecing them together, spending probably at least two full minutes, apparently for the express purpose of overturning a call that, to the naked eye, appeared to be correct. But then, on the DPI non-call at the end of the game, after no more than ten seconds, they announced that the call stood, even though it was pretty obvious to the naked eye, and extremely obvious on replay, that the call was wrong.

Furthermore, Mike Pereira basically admitted that there's a double standard for PI, which has to be not only "clear and indisputable" but also "blatant and egregious" (or something to that effect). That really makes no sense. If they wanted to use a heavy burden of proof for overturning the call on the field, I'd be fine with that. But that's clearly not what they're doing. If it was, they would have looked at the White TD for ten seconds, and announced that the replay was inconclusive, so the call stands. But instead, they seem to have decided that on some calls, they're going to be very reluctant to overturn the call on the field, but at other times, they're not going to be at all reluctant to overturn the call on the field. Such a double standard is confusing and frustrating, for coaches, players, and certainly for fans.

36 Whether it’s the NFL in…

Whether it’s the NFL in general or Riveron in particular it is very clear that the PI review rule is to be killed dead, dead, dead. 

Looks like they only put it in for PR reasons after the NFCCG but don’t really want it and want to operate as if it doesn’t exist.

42 I'm starting to think that…

I'm starting to think that if the challenge isn't, for lack of a better word, important enough to the result of the game, that the call on the field is going to stand.  

The Patriots have reached a critical mass of injuries.  Yeesh...down to 3 WRs, 1 TE, 0 FBs, and 60% of an NFL-caliber starting offensive line.  Marshall Newhouse shouldn't be in the league, let alone starting for a Super Bowl contender.  They should just line up six offensive linemen and run it every play, with the occasional play-action pass.

I feel they let Watson go to free agency to save 2 million against the cap.  Let's see what they do with it.  Hopefully those guys on long term IR can help out in the second half of the season.

46 I'm still convinced the refs…

I'm still convinced the refs mistook perspective for distance on the overturned TD.  White's right arm was elevated relative to his left, so the camera angle showed green between the ball and the goal line.  But every time you continued the video the ball magically transported a yard into the EZ once that perspective effect was gone.  Same for the sideline shot, where the ball disappears from view when the elbow comes down, but is immediately a yard deep into the EZ once it reappears. 

Regarding PI, I don't mind the double standard.  They've been clear from the start the level of contact required to overturn and, from what I've seen, the rule has been consistently applied. 

61 There should be a different…

There should be a different standard for PI reviews.  There is no judgement involved in whether the ball crossed the goal line before the runner was down.  It's objectively either true or not.  If you can piece it together from various photographic evidence that you have, then you should.

PI on the other hand is inherently a judgement call, that's why it was never reviewable before.  If you are going to reverse a judgement call, it needs to be egregiously wrong. 

64 PI should also be reviewed…

PI should also be reviewed in real time, unlike crossing the goal line or getting two feet down in bounds.

If it's not obviously pass interference in real time, it's not pass interference, it's good defence

 

79 I don't buy the "judgment…

I don't buy the "judgment call" argument.  PI is no more of a "judgment call" than spotting the ball, or determining if/when the receiver had possession on a catch/fumble call, and those things have always been considered reviewable, and they have always been subject to the same standard of evidence that applies to all other reviewable plays.  There's no reason why PI should be treated any differently.

Furthermore, if you look at the NFL rulebook, the section on PI includes a list of prohibited actions.  One of them is hooking the arm of the player attempting to catch the ball*.  That clearly happened on the play in question last night.  Again, as I said before, it was pretty obvious in real time, and "blatantly/egregiously/clearly/indisputably" obvious on the very first replay.  It took literally five seconds to see that an action explicitly defined in the rulebook as PI took place.  How is that in any way subjective?

*The exact wording is: "Grabbing an opponent’s arm(s) in such a manner that restricts his opportunity to catch a pass..."

Source:   https://operations.nfl.com/the-rules/2019-nfl-rulebook/#section-5-pass-interference

82 The issue's right there in…

The issue's right there in the section you quoted.

"Grabbing an opponent's arm(s)" is an objective standard that's cut and dried. 

"Grabbing an opponent's arm(s) in such a manner that restricts his opportunity to catch a pass" is a judgment call.

There's no need for the second part of that rule other than to make it clear that grabbing an opponent's arm is not always pass interference.  The ref has to decide whether the grab warrants a penalty or not.

 

83 And in this case, it clearly…

And in this case, it clearly did warrant a penalty, as it clearly restricted his ability to catch the ball.  If you are going to be pedantic enough to argue that someone could sincerely "judge" that pinning Tate's arm to his body did not restrict his ability to catch the ball, then literally every play could be seen as a judgment call.  For example, on the Brady QB sneak, the official could idiotically "judge" that Brady somehow didn't break the plane of the end zone.  But that wouldn't make it a true "judgment" call; it would just make it a case of disingenuous officiating, just as it was disingenuous for Riveron to claim that the replay didn't show sufficient evidence of PI.

Also, I notice you conveniently ignored my other examples of "judgment calls" that are reviewable, like when the official has to decide whether a receiver has control of the ball, or whether he has had an opportunity to make a "football move" (or whatever they changed that term to), or to give another example, whether a QB's arm was moving forward before the ball comes out on a fumble call.  All those examples involve far more guesswork/speculation/subjectivity/judgment than "deciding" whether hooking Tate's arm restricted his ability to catch the pass.  Yet all those are reviewed on a regular basis, using the same standard of evidence as any other review.  Why can't PI be treated the same way?

37 Thursday Night Follies

It seems premature to speak of Brady's decline from tonight's game - after Edelman, his WR's consisted of two undrafted rookie free agents. Edelman had some nice catches but 15 targets - Brady is obviously forcing it to him. The defense seemed to start rolling coverage toward Edelman, who isn’t a true number 1, and daring the other guys to get open 1v1. Plus Brady had two seconds or less to throw before the elephants trampled him. Throw in a no-range kicker, so-so run blocking and it was pretty ugly out there.
Still and all, a Thursday game in poor conditions is inevitably going to be sloppy. The plus is that the Pats now have a mini-bye to get healthy and the truly rancid Jets waiting at the end of the tunnel (even with Darnold that team is turrible, just turrible). Having Dorsett and Gordon back will be an improvement and the jury-rigged line will probably improve.
After that comes what appears to be better competition in the Browns and the Ravens. Even though both teams have serious flaws you have to think that with all that talent, Cleveland is going to get better while the Ravens D can’t get any worse (and there’s talent there as well). Pats also get players back from IR before the Ravens game: select two of three between an all-pro FB, and former first-rounders at receiver and OL. With lineman and receiver positions of great need, and as decently as Johnson has played, I think Devlin gets the rest of the year off. 9-0 at that point would not be a surprise.
The Pats bye is conveniently timed: an extra week for Belichick to gameplan a tough four-game stretch. It’s dubious to project so far ahead but all four opponents look legit, with Houston better than expected and the Cowboys worse. The Eagles and Texans game are both away – Belichick has owned O’Brien but this looks to be his most talented squad. At Philly should really be interesting.

50 He's looked like this pretty…

He's looked like this pretty much the whole season. Even when the wr corps was Brown Edelman Gordon etc - he's been making lots of poor decisions. This game isn't any kind of outlier. 

 

It's tough to separate how much of that is line issues and how much is actual decline though. 

 

 

 

52 Brady had Gordon for the…

Brady had Gordon for the first half of this game, and that's when he was at his worst. The biggest problem seemed to be that his decision-making was very slow, although they obviously made adjustments at halftime.

Remember, this Giants defense is bad - 23rd in DVOA, 25th in points allowed heading into last night. In terms of allowing points, this was the Giant defense's best game of the year except for when they got to face Dwayne Haskins and the Redskins.

56 Brady also is having the…

Brady also is having the same problems on passes to the flat that he had last year.  A significant number of them are forcing the receiver to stretch, jump, etc. (reducing YAC) whereas in the past they were almost always on the numbers.  I think that's arm strength issues.

Completion percentage alone doesn't tell the whole story.

As for the bad decision making (and it's been bad), I agree with you -- impossible yet to tell how much of that is decline and how much of that is hearing (legitimate or not) footsteps because the line play is horrible.

63 Just from watching the games…

Just from watching the games, it seems like Brady is making a few more bad decisions than usual, and throwing a little less accurately than usual.  Would love to see some actual analysis to see if that is true.

This may be what it looks like if a QB "coasts downhill" rather than "falls off a cliff".  Bear in mind, he still threw for 334 yards at 8.1 yards/attempt, on 3 days rest, in the swirling wind, with a depleted receiving corps and a leaky offensive line.  It's not like this performance was horrible.

74 mental errors

Brady's three picks in the last three games are all a result of mental errors.  And the fumble was because he was blindsided.

His difficulties this season seem more due to weak blocking and having few receiving options than anything else.  If he had Brown and Gordon out there, or even Dorsett and Gordon, he would look a lot better than he looks having the two rookies.  And Newhouse is doing him no favors at LT.  

In terms of IR return, I see no way that Wynn isn't one of the returnees.  They need him a lot more than either Develin or Harry.  

38 My takeaways from the game…

My takeaways from the game. Giants are not good. Patriots are good but not great, they may have lost playing at that level to competent team

39 Of Course

The Pats were down so many skill players on offense that they were forced to 11 the entire second half, which is about on par to fighting with one hand tied behind your back. Given that along with the makeshift o-line, the sloppy weather and all the horror of Thursday night football, sure they could have lost to a good team. Still, stuck as they were in 11, the offense managed to rack up 199 yards of offense in that second half. All four offensive possessions made it inside the Giant 35.

I do think the Pats D is more than just good though. The DBs are suffocating receivers. Even on the TD pass, the CB was playing great coverage and actually deflected the ball into the receiver's arms.

The defensive strategy seemed to be rush mostly three and then wait for Jones to make mistakes. Mistakes he did make.

40 Agree regarding the Patriots…

In reply to by RobotBoy

Agree regarding the Patriots offense. Brady, at 42, clearly can't overcome an injury hit offensive line and lack of receiving talent on his own, but if they get healthy this is still going to be a good offense again. 

Again though, what can we learn about the defense from facing those Giants? Yes the receivers were suffocated, but other than Golden Tate (a league average sort of guy), we are talking about a bunch of practice squad players, being thrown to by a rookie making his 4th start. Any functioning NFL defense should be expected to completely shut that down. 

47 High-Variance Strategies

I'm not sure what the best way to look at this game is individually. The Pats took on an absurdly high-variance strategy in going for it on 4th twice because of their lousy kicking game (and conditions) - and lost both gambles. They also suffered a strip-sack returned for a TD (another bad outcome of a high-variance play). On the positive side of that strategy they only had the blocked-punt TD, and got less then expected returns on their 4 takeaways (with the giants getting a great return on their INT). If you simply put these plays through a hypothetical RNG again the typical result is a much more lopsided Pats victory. All that said their offensive concerns are definitely genuine (even if they had a decisive victory anyways) and the poor kicking game is going to be a big problem if the offensive injuries continue to mount and they have to win with defense and lots of FG's.

51 "Any functioning NFL defense…

"Any functioning NFL defense should be expected to completely shut that down. "

 

And yet that offense has scored an average of 20 points against other defenses, and scored 7 last night. 

They were averaging 20ish first Downs and close to 400 yards of offense - and had 10 this week and 210. 

 

They were averaging 5.8 yards per play and got 4.4 last night. 

 

DVOA is designed to figure out these sort of differential differences, and they absolutely are meaningful. 

 

Yes, the Giants offense is bad, but their output was significantly worse last night than it usually is. This is meaningful. 

Imperfect data isn't useless. 

65 "Yes, the Giants offense is…

"Yes, the Giants offense is bad, but their output was significantly worse last night than it usually is. This is meaningful."

Except we *expected* their offense to be worse, regardless of their opponent, because the players responsible for the majority of their offensive output were not in the game.

I hate making caveats on the performance of every single game, too, but you can't explain New England's offensive performance by saying "well, injuries" and then ignore the Giants injuries, too.

54 The Giants were 5-11 last…

In reply to by RobotBoy

The Giants were 5-11 last year with their starters.

Their top 6 starters, relative to that, were not playing in this game. You were playing what was functionally a college team.

 

45 The Patriots are a game…

The Patriots are a game planning team, and Thursday affairs don't lend themselves to much strategizing.  This is especially problematic for an OL that isn't remotely capable of just lining up and beating people.  Add in the weather and a sloppy performance was pretty much inexorable.  

77 <i>" Add in the weather ..."…

" Add in the weather ..."

The weather was fine.  It was windy, occasionally gusty windy.  There wasn't a single drop of rain that fell during the game.  The field is turf, and it was completely dry.  There was very little "weather" impact on that game.  It was a fine night for football...

41 You have to say, the whole…

You have to say, the whole Sony Michel thing in New England has been odd. A questionable pick at the time, it has become clear he adds nothing above replacement as a runner, yet obvious carries are still being funneled his way, whilst barely being used in the passing game. Belichick should not be regarded as infallible, but it is still very surprising to see him indulge such an obvious affront to (most) analytical thinking, along with the resulting inefficiency.

48 I don't think people realIze…

I don't think people realIze just how bad this line is - NE is doing a lot to scheme around it in the passing game, but with no real TE, no FB, etc, there's not a lot to be done on the running side. 

 

The guards are good.  Everyone else is either playing injured, or terrible.  

75 yeah

yeah, I'm not seeing what people are complaining about.  Michel runs forward with authority and hits holes well when they are there.  He's not easy to bring down.  And, compared to last season, he's starting to become a bigger part of the passing game, too.

Looks like a reasonable pick, IMO.  

85 Agree

In reply to by RickD

Might not have been the best use of a first-round pick (albeit one at the end of the round) but Michel has been good to very good. I don't think he'll ever regularly dazzle but Belichick seems to place greater value than most GMs on things like ball security, pass blocking and not making mental errors - he knows exactly what to expect from Michel on every snap, a necessity in moving the chess pieces around. In the playoffs, Michel gave excellent value. Michel also seems to be developing from last season: on Thursday, along with his use in the passing game, I noticed that he showed better timing on when to hit his holes. Last season, defenses didn't have to worry about Michel doing anything but run.

86 All fine, but 3.5 yards per…

All fine, but 3.5 yards per carry at -15.6% DVOA is inefficient football, no matter how you slice it. If the belief its that Michel is running well in spite of his line then, good grief, the line must be blocking badly. Either that, or RB ability doesn't matter.

 

In truth it's really just a surprise to see any aspect of the Patriots' offence performing so poorly. 

96 Yes, the line is performing…

Yes, the line is performing badly. Very badly. 

 

Newhouse isn't a professional football player, and he's playing LT. Cannon, the starting RT is playing injured. Karras is basically a replacement level guard and is playing center because the starter is on IR. The guards are fine. 

 

In addition, they went from having probably the best blocking TE in the league last year, and a great FB to having basically no NFL level TEs and a European development league FB. 

They have one of the worst lines in the league right now. 

158 Michel Isn't the (Main) Problem

As Hoodie notes, you have a career backup playing a new position and a guy who shouldn't be in the league (and wasn't until the Pats plucked him off the couch). Subtract Gronk and a recent all-pro at FB, and his replacement, and you are in a world of shit.

Michel's strength is reading his blocks and hitting the holes in rhythm. Unfortunately, there aren't any holes. Do I wish that he was prime Adrian Peterson? Of course. But his terrible numbers aren't indicative of his quality. It's why Belichick keeps sending him out there despite the minimal production. One bright spot for Michel this year is that he's finally being incorporated into the passing game which will add some value.

For the same reason, I don't hold Brady too accountable. He's not MVP level anymore but he's still top 10. I think any QB would struggle with turnstiles in front of him. 

Reps and familiarity should at least raise line play to 'mediocre'.s They're really depending a lot on Wynn's return after the bye. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Belichick swings a trade with a bottom feeder.

49 If you're suggesting NE…

If you're suggesting NE shouldn't have taken an RB in the first round, that may well be true.

If you're suggesting Belichick is playing Michel because he's a first round draft pick, I disagree.  He's playing Michel because he's a healthy body, does a good job in pass protection, and doesn't fumble often.

If you're suggesting NE could have scored more points by throwing more and using White more often instead of Michel, that's also probably true.  I'm pretty sure that Belichick doesn't care about that, though. NE seemed to be doing a good job of ball control and sustaining drives last night (I only saw the second half of the game).  They ran over 70 plays for heavens sake!  Brady dropped back to throw 42 times, NE ran the ball 34 times.  Pretty balanced, and I doubt Belichick wanted his 42 year old QB throwing more than 40 times on four days rest. 

 

87 I'm not saying he's being…

I'm not saying he's being fed carries because he's a first round pick. I'm looking at his usage and seeing that he is barely being used in the pass game, and when he is carrying the ball he is doing so very inefficiently. It's just surprising to see a team as obviously well run as the Patriots perpetuate this. But, as several above have suggested, perhaps there are so many injuries that there is no other choice. 

Against the Giants the game was still within one score going into the 4th quarter. Had the Patriots achieved better earlier efficiency on offense they could have been out of sight by halftime, then done as they pleased thereafter. That would be the best way to look after Brady's workload. 

91 I think the nickname…

I think the nickname Analytics Ron has been used for years now already, actually. As I recall 'Riverboat Ron' was being used but Rivera himself said he preferred Analytics Ron.

92 I like that perhaps the NFL…

I like that perhaps the NFL's most obscure rule of all gets to be played out in a game in London. Good luck to anyone who has to explain what just happened to someone new to the sport.

98 This fair catch kick rule is…

This fair catch kick rule is even weirder than I thought. Apparently you can even attempt the kick if there is no time left on the clock. That's according to this site Aaron Schatz linked to on Twitter: http://www.quirkyresearch.com/football-lists/nfl-fair-catch-kick-attempts/

 

I think my new dream scenario for an absurd, amusing ending to a Super Bowl is for a team down by four to get a safety with a few seconds left, then win the game after the ensuing punt on a fair catch kick with 0:00 left in the game. That would cause incredible confusion all over the country. Most people watching the Super Bowl probably don't even know about the safety rule, much less that teams usually punt afterwards, much less that you can kick a FG after a fair catch, much less that you can attempt that kick with no time left.

140 Super Bowl LI

That actually almost happened at the end of Super Bowl LI. Atlanta was punting, and New England was prepared to call for a fair catch and a free kick.

https://www.boston.com/sports/new-england-patriots/2017/02/06/bill-belichick-passed-up-an-opportunity-to-end-super-bowl-51-in-the-weirdest-possible-way

99 Only caught the last drive…

Only caught the last drive of the TB-CAR game. Winston made a series of fantastic throws to march the team down the field, then threw it straight to the CB in the endzone to seal the loss. I don't even watch TB much and I swear I've seen that exact series of events a half-dozen times. I'm guessing someone is going to give him at least a Bortles-type contract this offseason and I'm already annoyed.

LMAO announcer just said "Jameis Winston did the opposite of eating a W today." Let's face it, the man's legacy is sealed, regardless of what happens this offseason and in any years to come.

Didn't get to see Kyle Allen play but his stats look good and he didn't fumble once, which is the biggest thing. Not ready to give him the reins over Newton, but from what I saw earlier, I think he's got the talent to be someone's starting QB next year.

100 Baker Mayfield has a pretty…

Baker Mayfield has a pretty impressive top speed, it just takes him awhile to accelerate up to it.

Browns went for a 4th and 7 on the drive from the Seahawks 40 or so, and they converted it. Baker caps off the drive with a run that echoes the one Russell Wilson scored on a few minutes earlier.

101 Both Wilson and Mayfield…

Both Wilson and Mayfield have had 10ish yard TD runs through wiiiiiide open fields in the early going. Mayfield looks good - he's almost always been in shotgun, and he's had a pretty clean pocket so far - but receivers dropped some pretty good throws (including one that hit Beckham right in the hands at chest height. There is something wrong with him this year). If you want something done right you've got to do it yourself, it seems.

Apparently that was his first rushing TD in the NFL? That seems almost impossible in more than a year of starting.

103 They are just getting…

They are just getting dominated up front, Chubb (and Mayfield) is destroying them on the ground too. They aren't the Legion of Boom anymore, but when I've seen the Seattle defense this year they seemed to be at least not-get-totally-dominated-by-the-frickin-BROWNS'-o-line-level competent...

104 Hey look, it's almost like…

Hey look, it's almost like the Eagles aren't a good pass defense.

I'm shocked, I tell you. Their amazing performance against Falk and the New York Jets had me totally convinced that they were solid. It's utterly inconceivable that a game against a quarterback who shouldn't be on the field for an NFL team leads to outlier results.

110 The Jets offense is only 2…

The Jets offense is only 2 percentage points better than Miami's right now, according to DVOA.  They were bad week 1 against Buffalo as well, I would not throw all of this season's terribleness on Falk.  I blame Adam Gase for the entirety of this season's debacle; the defense and special teams rank 10th and 11th in DVOA right now. 

Apologies to deceiving you about the possible improvement of the Eagles' pass defense.  I think this will be occurring all season long and not disappear just because a quarterback with an enlarged spleen returns to the field.  I can only hope Darnold doesn't get killed by his linemen who all think they are playing in alternate dimensions, and that the right people get fired for this at the season's end.

105 The Vikings offense was…

The Vikings offense was supposed to be in a terrible crisis two weeks ago. Now they have 24 points 6 minutes into the second quarter. Admittedly, on this latest long TD by Stefon Diggs the Eagles are making it pretty easy. There's not one, but two receivers wide open down field past the entire defense.

107 In the kc -houston game,…

In the kc -houston game, mahomes had a pick negated by pass interference, and upon replay, the refs overturned it because the ball was in the air and the contact was far enough away from the safety picking off the pass that they overturned the interference on that basis

108 Beckham tried some cheesy …

Beckham tried some cheesy "gamesmanship" on a Mayfield interception: the DB picks it and goes to the ground, cradles the ball and curls up fetally at Beckham's feet, but Beckham never actually touches him. DB lays there for a few seconds then stands, and as he does Beckham bats the ball out of his hands and "recovers" the "fumble." Refs correctly ruled the DB gave himself up, although I don't remember hearing a whistle before he stood.

111 Eagles run a fake FG on 4th…

Eagles run a fake FG on 4th and 4 from the 21 with 20 seconds left. I don't think that makes much sense. Even if you convert (they didn't) you have very little time left to try and get a TD. You will likely have to end up taking the FG anyway.

112 Mayfield throws his second…

Mayfield throws his second pick, trying to hit Landry in double-coverage. Bad throw, not sure what he saw there. The first pick he probably shouldn't have thrown either, but it looked like a busted timing route; this one was just a bad decision. He's otherwise looked quite good - light-years better than the previous couple of games - but these last couple of drives have been Winstonesque.

113 Wow, Wilson just threw a…

Wow, Wilson just threw a picture perfect fade with Schobert about to clobber him. Both teams have 3 TDs, yet the score is 20-18: a missed extra point for each team, and Seattle failed the 2pt conversion on that last TD.

 

EDIT: Whoops, just remembered Seattle had 2 FGs not a 3rd TD in the 1st half.

114 The Texans would be fun to…

The Texans would be fun to root for, if Bill O'Brien wasn't their coach. Why wouldn't you go for two, when you're down two, or up five? Didn't O'Brien learn anything about strategy from Belichick?

115 Uh oh, Mayfield apparently…

Uh oh, Mayfield apparently has a hip injury. There didn't seem to be any big hit or anything to obviously cause it, but he did slide somewhat awkwardly on a scramble. Stayed in for a few more plays, culminating in a Chubb fumble on a screen, and now he's in the locker room. Seattle is driving off the TO, but it looks like Gilbert will be in for the Browns next possession.

 

UPDATE: Well, he's back in. He really doesn't look right though.

Also, the refs called a "blindside block" on Landry for an absolutely textbook clean downfield block, negating a pretty good play. Utterly baffling what they could've seen there.

116 Washington 17- Miami 3 after…

Washington 17- Miami 3 after three quarters. As the results stand, I think that would be a slight underperformance by Washington according to DVOA or SRS, but Miami is also at its weakest in the fourth quarter.

120 Fitzmagic rallies the…

Fitzmagic rallies the Dolphins back. If they really want to win they should not go for two, since they seem like the superior team without Rosen in.

121 Darryl Johnston on Run Pass Balance

Johnston describes that some coaches will pass often early in a game and then decide to run heavy in the second half to achieve balance (not giving examples, but sort of speculating). I'm not sure if he is making this up, or if NFL coaches follow this form of flawed reasoning.

127 Deep in their own territory,…

Deep in their own territory, Mayfield throws a bit behind his guy, who gets both hands on it but lets it go right into the arms of the Seattle defender. That probably seals it, barring a miracle for the Browns (miracles do not happen for the Browns).

130 The Jets just made it into…

The Jets just made it into the redzone for only the fourth time in the season. Meanwhile the Dolphins didn't score in the second half before today. It really does seem like the bad teams are much worse than usual this year.

133 First play of the second…

First play of the second half, Rams' running back biffs a pitch and the 49ers recover. Just brutal. 49ers waste no time punching it in, although now it's under review.

134 I think the Cowboys are…

I think the Cowboys are overrated. They've now allowed the Jets to score more offensive TDs in the first half than they had in the previous four games combined. Dak Prescott should take whatever the Cowboys are offering, because if this season heads south there's a chance the team wakes up and realizes paying him like he's a top QB is crazy.

135 Falcons down 27-10 to the…

Falcons down 27-10 to the Cardinals and Kyler Murray has 274 yards early in the third?? Atlanta must be the biggest disappointment in the NFL this year.

137 Man, the Rams just haven't…

Man, the Rams just haven't been able to do anything, then finally catch a break when a poorly played punt gets touched by the 49ers and recovered by the Rams at midfield... except, illegal motion, rekick. Except before that we have to sit through a truly interminable review, over what amounts to 7 yards of field position when all is said and done. I had no strong opinions of Kyle Shanahan before, but now he is my enemy.

138 I swear I've seen more…

I swear I've seen more receivers let passes go straight through both hands today than in the last few years combined. One for each team on their most recent possessions, forcing the 49ers to kick the FG and the Rams to punt.

147 Mariota stinking is possibly…

Mariota stinking is possibly the best case for the Titans in the long term. They can now safely put to bed any notion of extending him, and spend a little time evaluating Tannehill to see if there is any future there. But more likely look to move on in the off-season. 

141 There are obviously…

There are obviously countless examples throughout NFL history of players being missed by scouts. But man, George Kittle going in the 5th round? The dude just flat out dominates every week.

146 "The Jets did not run the…

"The Jets did not run the ball once on that drive." Probably because they aren't used to having a lead. That said, you have two starting level running backs, maybe using them in the fourth quarter would be a good idea.

148 Rams finally get a break…

Rams finally get a break recovering a fumble, they need to make something happen, first returner is about to be tackled so he turns 180 degrees around and pitches backward toward a trailing player, who catches it and returns it quite a bit farther. Upon review he stepped out of bounds earlier than marked, whatever.

Except the booth people, including Pereira, are convinced that was actually a froward pass, because due to Newton's 3rd Law, the ball was released at the 49 and caught at the 48. Again, he turned literally all the way around to throw the ball in the direction opposite the goal line. Velocity relative to players was upfield, but relative to ground was downfield.

That cannot possibly be a "forward pass," right? The point is to not advance the ball down the field by air, and it's not really "advancing" since its velocity relative to the players in motion is negative. But if the rule is written based on yard lines, it would be...

149 Matt Ryan has 356 yards, 4…

Matt Ryan has 356 yards, 4 TD, and only six incompletions on the game. The Falcons are probably still going to lose because their defense is terrible and they just missed an XP that should've tied it with a few minutes left.