Russell Wilson

Scramble for the Ball: 47.3%-Season Awards

By Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter

Andrew: Hello and welcome to Scramble for the Ball, where this week your humble Scramblaestros are faced with a dilemma. The midway point of the NFL season is game 128, which technically occurs in the middle of Week 9. Do we therefore consider midseason to be the space between Week 8 and 9, which is this week, or between Week 9 and 10, which is next week? These are the sort of trivialities we spend far too much time debating -- see our "which quarterback would make the best left tackle?" article -- so this topic elicited some strong opinions in our ongoing planning thread. (Yes, we plan this drivel. Who knew?)

Bryan: In the end, it's better to be first than last, so Scramble for the Ball is proud to present our 47.3%-Season Awards; the most prestigious of its kind by a wide margin.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Andrew: This season has been very interesting so far, in that there really hasn't been a single dominant and obvious MVP candidate. Patrick Mahomes looked like that guy in September, but ankle and knee injuries have reduced his effectiveness in the second quarter of the season. Unusually, both of our undefeated teams are quarterbacked by guys who really don't belong in the MVP conversation. The second-best team in each conference is the aforementioned Mahomes' Chiefs, and the Saints -- who were also without their star quarterback for most of the first half of the season.

Bryan: Fun fact: in our preseason awards prediction article, I listed three different quarterbacks for the favorite, best bet, and longshot categories: Mahomes, Drew Brees, and Ben Roethlisberger. Each has missed time with injuries, some more significant than others. So, uh, scratch my picks there, for sure.

Really, I think it's your longshot who would win the award today -- Russell Wilson. The Seahawks are basically a quarterback fighting against his coach and coordinator in a desperate attempt to remain competitive, and it's a credit to Wilson's insane level of talent that it's pretty much working to this point. Wilson is third in DYAR, fourth in DVOA, and second in QBR at the 47.3% mark, not to mention fourth in both quarterback rushing DYAR and DVOA. If you prefer traditional stats, Wilson is the third quarterback ever to open up a season with 17 touchdown passes and just one interception, and it's not like he's throwing terrible balls and getting bailed out, either. He has just been as close to perfect as you can reasonably get throughout September and October.

Andrew: While I think you're probably right, and I would gladly take the plaudits for that pick, a strong case can be made for several others. Deshaun Watson has Houston looking good in the AFC South despite receiver and offensive line problems, Aaron Rodgers looks to be returning to form after some early uncertainty under Matt LaFleur, and even Kirk Cousins is putting up a case to join the conversation if his October numbers continue through the winter months. There's also a legitimately viable running back argument this year: Christian McCaffrey has been incredible as the feature back in Carolina. The decline of Brady and injuries to Roethlisberger, Brees, and Mahomes have given us a shockingly open field. I'd give it to Wilson right now, but this could be a very interesting back half of the schedule.

Bryan: Rodgers is a very interesting case, as his on-field results clash with some of his advanced statistics -- Ben Baldwin wrote a very convincing article about Rodgers' decline, to which Rodgers responded with his two best games of the season. I tend to still side with the "Aaron Rodgers is very, very good" people, and our quarterback stats tend to agree; it's just not quite as cut and dried as it was a few years back.

Andrew: We'll hand our midseason award to Wilson by consensus, but this is well worth watching as the season progresses.

Bryan: Heck, we didn't even mention Lamar Jackson, or Dak Prescott! It's a great race here, one of the most competitive we've seen in a long time. Plenty of room for someone to make a November and December move.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Andrew: We didn't get odds for this, but we did make picks. If we just go with the simple "non-quarterback" methodology we generally espouse, do we have any advance on McCaffrey? What he has been doing behind an injured Newton and his backups over the past 16 games is nothing short of incredible.

Bryan: I think McCaffrey's MVP chances are a little overrated -- there are too many solid quarterbacks out there for him to really be a thing -- but he's having a hell of a year. He's in the top three in both rushing and receiving value and is taking just so much of the load for Carolina. He has played 100% of the snaps in three of Carolina's games and taken the lion's share of the work in the rest of them. He has 80% of his team's carries and 20% of his team's passing targets. The dude is a workhorse and a half. There have been others who have been as impressive as CMC when they're on the field, but no running back is on the field as much as McCaffrey is.

Andrew: Other running back candidates are Dalvin Cook, who has been everything Minnesota wanted him to be this year, and Nick Chubb, who has been the one Browns player to live up to his offseason hype. I don't think either steps ahead of McCaffrey, but they're both having terrific years -- Chubb's first two carries against the Patriots excepted.

At receiver, even accounting for my biases I only see one candidate. I thought too much of Michael Thomas' early production was due to Drew Brees; not to dismiss or even diminish Thomas' incredible achievements, but a Hall of Fame quarterback couldn't hurt, right? Turns out, not even losing Brees could slow him: Thomas still has an 82% catch rate, almost 900 yards in eight games, and ranks second in DYAR despite being basically the only real threat at receiver on the team, and five of those games coming with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. He's averaging 10 yards per game more than the next leading receiver, Cooper Kupp, but ranks second in DYAR to Kupp's 18th. With Brees, that would be outstanding. With Bridgewater, it's barely believable.

Bryan: Your eternal crush, Chris Godwin, is worth mentioning too when it comes to receivers -- look at that 58.4% DVOA! -- but you need eye-popping traditional stats to sniff this award on a losing team, and the Buccaneers do not produce eye-popping traditional stats. I think anyone other than Christian McCaffrey here is being contrary for the sake of being contrary. That can be fun in and of itself, but everyone else we've mentioned here are front-runners for Pro Bowl and All-Pro slots. CMC is a different beast.

Andrew: Agreed. McCaffrey all the way. I think only injury can prevent him from being the clear consensus best non-quarterback on offense.

Bryan: Eh, if the Panthers absolutely collapse over the back half of the season, ending up with double-digit losses or something, I can see the attention of the voters being drawn elsewhere. That being said, CMC has had enough early-season hype that I think he'll stick in people's minds even if Carolina doesn't win another game.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Andrew: This is also interesting, it seems to me, because a down year for the Rams seems to have slightly diminished the hype for Aaron Donald. Am I misjudging that? Seems like I've heard Nick Bosa's name more than Donald's this year.

Bryan: The fact that Donald "only" has five sacks and is being double-teamed pretty much constantly might have something to do with that. He's still tied for the league lead with 11 tackles for a loss and has 21 pass pressures. He remains the top interior defender in the league, both in terms of pass rush and, you know, generally. I'd agree that his hype has gone down because the Rams aren't destroying people, but it's not like he's having a down season.

Bosa is really interesting for me, in part because I'm trying not to be a massive homer about this. He is not, yet, a complete player. He does occasionally still run himself out of plays -- a problem which was bigger earlier in the year when he was still recovering from a bum ankle, but still. He benefits from playing with four other first-round picks on San Francisco's defensive line. And yet, he's tied with Donald in tackles for a loss, and he has four sacks in the last two games alone. His athleticism jumps off the charts -- his interception last week was a heck of a play, and he has been sliding even stellar tackles like Andrew Whitworth backwards like it's nobody's business. He's getting compared to Lawrence Taylor, the only other rookie to ever win the DPOY award. I mean, that's some hefty praise.

If this was the "Defensive Player of the Last Two Weeks," I'd give Bosa the award, and he's certainly trending in the right direction with plenty of momentum behind him. I just think there may be other candidates who have looked better through the full first half.

Andrew: I'm not sure who those other candidates are. The joint league leaders in sacks play on the 2-5 Browns (Myles Garrett) and the 2-5 Buccaneers (Shaq Barrett) -- sure, a guy on a losing team CAN win DPOY, but will either of those guys be the one? Even third place in that headline category plays for a losing team, the Cardinals.

Bryan: A lot of the top candidates for this award aren't on winning teams, not just Garrett. Calais Campbell is having his usual terrific season in Jacksonville. The OTHER Bosa is looking really good in Los Angeles. Both Watt brothers are looking sharp, too -- J.J. leads the league in pass pressures, though obviously his injury will prevent him from winning the season-long award.

Andrew: Our league leader in interceptions plays for the Patriots, but again does anybody see Devin McCourty winning? The Patriots look like the classic "whole is greater than the sum of the parts" team defense. If we had to pick one player then I'm fairly sure Stephon Gilmore, who adds three interceptions to his still-growing reputation as the best cover corner in the league, would be their top candidate.

Bryan: Jamie Collins is another great shout for the Patriots (three interceptions, four passes deflected, two forced fumbles, and six sacks in an all-around stellar season) but the fact that we're giving them multiple shoutouts kind of proves your point. At the end of the day, I think you have to give the award to a player on one of the two all-time great defenses we're seeing. And you may be right -- Nick Bosa is more of an individual standout than anyone on the Patriots' mass of quality players. It takes a lot for me to not give the award to Aaron Donald just out of reflex, and I'd still give him the award if it wasn't for the historic level of domination the 49ers and Patriots are putting up. But while that's happening, I think we have to acknowledge Bosa.

Andrew: I expect the Rams to round into form over the next two months. I expect Donald to dominate again. I still think he's most likely to win the season-long award. For midseason though, given the condition of the rest of the field, it's probably Bosa.

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Andrew: This is the year of the Minshew. Even if he shouldn't be the guy, I don't care. This is simply his time.

Bryan: Does an excellent mustache game garner you extra votes? I mean, it might well.

Andrew: It takes more than a mustache to make a Minshew.

Bryan: I think Minshew has done more than enough to Wally Pipp Nick Foles, but this is a three-horse race for me at the moment, and Minshew's just one of them. Kyler Murray is looking very solid in Arizona -- it's a heck of a gamble to replace a first-round quarterback with a different first-round quarterback, but it appears to have paid off. Minshew is outdoing Murray through the air (11.9% DVOA to -13.7% -- it's not even particularly close), but Murray has been the third-most productive rushing quarterback in the league. It also feels like Murray is trending upwards; he had some growing pains during Arizona's 0-3-1 start, but has impressed more and more throughout October.

Andrew: That's a great reason to think he'll win the season-long award, and you're probably right if you do think that, but I think the suddenness of Minshew's impact still has him ahead at the halfway-ish point.

Bryan: The other guy I want to mention is Josh Jacobs. He has been helped by a soft schedule, but he's eighth in rushing DYAR and sixth in rushing yards this season -- he's averaging 5.0 yards per carry, which is pretty damn good. There were questions about his durability and if he could be a workhorse, but those seem like a thing of the past. He's the focal point of a good Raiders offense, which was not a sentence I was expecting to write.

Andrew: Jacobs is another player who, it seems, is gaining steam on our fearless leader, but I don't think he has taken the lead yet. Still, yes, he has been very impressive, and this is one of those awards a running back can still win. I don't think he'll outduel the quarterbacks though. Right now, I give it to Minshew. By December, I expect it'll be Murray in a landslide.

Bryan: We're going to have to agree to disagree here, as I'm taking Jacobs as my guy through eight weeks. If Jacksonville or Arizona recover to have a winning record, their quarterback will probably win the award, but what Jacobs is doing on the ground can't really be ignored.

Sorry, Terry McLaurin and/or Marquise Brown fans.

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Bryan: Allow me to quote from our predictions article, shall I?

Andrew: If the 49ers defense is good this year, Nick Bosa has a great chance. They won't be, but it's a nice thought."

Andrew: He does indeed have a great chance. See? I'm not just a psychic, I'm a future psychic.

Bryan: And the 49ers' defense isn't good -- it's great! So we must all bow to Andrew's prognostication prowess.

Andrew: We've kinda' already covered this too. If Bosa's our frontrunner for overall DPOY, then he absolutely has to be the rookies-only guy.

Bryan: Devin Bush deserves a shout, too, but no, we don't need to drag this one out.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Bryan: Kyle Shanahan has already driven the 49ers to a 7-0 record, more wins than they've had in any year since 2014. He has showcased some of the most creative and innovative play calling we've seen in some time -- it's not just Sean McVay coming out of that coaching tree, after all. The offense is still spinning despite being short five offensive starters, the defense is shattering records, and it's feeling like the '90s all over again in the Bay Area. And he's not even my first runner-up.

Andrew: This is another one we don't need to overthink, isn't it? Shanahan has taken rumors of a potential firing if the 49ers didn't improve -- as I also referred to in the predictions article -- and turned them into the best team in the NFC, which remains the stronger of the two conferences. Bill Belichick has done a great job too, but that's taken for granted these days. Shanahan is more surprising, and surprise is definitely a factor in this award.

Bryan: But here's the thing -- Shanahan has been crazy-impressive with a relatively moderate level of difficulty. If they were shattering offensive records, maybe he holds on here, but you have to give credit to the Robert Saleh for some of that defensive production. And, of course, he has had his quarterback.

Sean Payton's Saints could have taken the Drew Brees injury as an excuse for a slow first-half start, and then ignited over the second half of the season to win the NFC South and make a playoff run. Instead, the Saints have just as many wins as the 49ers do, as Teddy Bridgewater came in and kept them undefeated during his run. Bridgewater deserves to be a starting quarterback, true, but the drop-off from Brees to him is enormous. Payton cannot get enough credit for the job he has done keeping the Saints not only competitive, but dominant -- the 49ers-Saints matchup in Week 14 might well be for the conference, because Payton has kept his team going every step of the way. And still, he's not my winner.

Andrew: The other guy I want to mention is Frank Reich, who I listed as the one guy I thought had a chance even if his team didn't make the playoffs. Unless the 49ers go at least 14-2, I think a playoff Colts squad is still enough to catapult Reich ahead of Shanahan as the best coaching job of the year. Sure, Shanahan put together an excellent team. Sure, Payton lost his starting quarterback for a month. Reich lost his starting quarterback for forever a week before the start of the season and lost his best defensive player for a month to a severe concussion, and still has the Colts not only in the playoff race, but actually leading their division.

Bryan: The Colts are not nearly as good a team as either the 49ers or Saints. If the Colts stumble some and miss the playoffs, it's possible Reich doesn't win the season-long version of this award. I might still call Shanahan the overall favorite when these things get passed out at the end of the year. But the Colts are 5-2 after nearly everyone left them for dead after Andrew Luck's retirement. If that's not worthy of a 47.3%-Season award, I don't know what is. I'm taking Frank Reich.

Andrew: I think an undefeated half-season still trumps it, but it's a narrow race. Give me Kyle Shanahan for now, but Reich is doing a phenomenal job there. Also, a shoutout to Chris Ballard, who featured in this Athletic article yesterday that you need to read if you haven't already.

MISCELLANEOUS

Andrew: There are a few other awards we haven't looked at yet. Comeback Player of the Year is one: do we have a player we especially like for that? I'm not sure any of the real top guys are coming back from anything this year.

Bryan: Yeah, I'd agree that the top of the statistical leaderboards aren't really loaded with candidates. Maybe this is where Jimmy Garoppolo gets some shine; he has led his team to an undefeated record and is ninth in QBR coming back from his Week 3 ACL tear a season ago. Or Cooper Kupp, without whom the Rams' offense looks, well, basic.

Andrew: Kupp is a good shout, actually.

Bryan: Everson Griffen won't win the award, but I kind of wish he would. He missed five games last season dealing with mental health issues and is back and playing at a high level. As someone who has struggled with some of this stuff myself, it would be a nice moment for the NFL to acknowledge that people can come back from more than just physical ailments.

Andrew: On the defensive side, maybe Jamie Collins? We mentioned him before; he has come a long way since being released by the Browns. Kwon Alexander is another 49ers player who returned from a torn ACL, and he might have a better case than Garoppolo.

Bryan: Heck, give it to Teddy Bridgewater and call it a day after his perfect month.

Andrew: Bridgewater's the midseason winner, I think. I mentioned in his player comment in FOA 2019 that just getting back on the field was an achievement for him; to perform as well as he has after basically three lost seasons is tremendous. He'll lose out on the season-long award after returning to the bench, but right now he's my choice.

What about coordinator? That has to be Robert Saleh, right? No arguments here.

Bryan: Robert Saleh, full stop. Switching from the traditional Seattle scheme to a Wide 9 has really rejuvenated the 49ers' defense, and I look forward to him trying to do the same in Atlanta next season.

Andrew: One more: Executive of the Year. We don't usually discuss this, but I think it's worth a look this year -- and not only because I've been reading about Chris Ballard today.

Bryan: I should also note that the award is cursed. Seven of the last ten winners have since been fired, five of them within three seasons of winning the award -- an average of 1,122 days, per FiveThirtyEight. An eighth is Jerry Jones, who can't be fired. So, beware, general managers around the league.

Andrew: Ballard is the clear choice for me here for the same reason as Reich was mentioned above. He has done such a good job building a Colts side that could barely win a game without Luck heroics into a team that can survive losing Luck for the full year and still lead the division.

Bryan: The one thing possibly working against Ballard is that he just won this award last season, but I don't have a superior candidate in mind.

Andrew: How much do you credit John Lynch for the 49ers? That situation is a little strange to me, because there was a lot of criticism of Lynch after the past couple of years, and it has gone silent rather than turning into plaudits this term. Heck, John Dorsey is getting more praise, and the Browns are barely a more interesting shade of brown on his watch.

Bryan: I still think Lynch's definition of player value is somewhat skewed -- they spend more money on running backs than any other team and while I can't deny that it's working, it's not working because of Jerrick McKinnon's massive contract or anything. I still think Kwon Alexander is being paid too much, despite you pointing at him as a potential comeback player nod. I think he has done a better job than he has generally been given credit for, but exec of the year? No, I don't think so.

Andrew: Are there any other guys though? Belichick is really more of a coach than an executive. Brandon Beane built a great defense, but he also drafted Josh Allen. John Schneider's Seahawks haven't quite retooled the way he would hope. Les Snead's Rams are underachieving. Bill O'Brien is flipping draft picks like he's playing Ultimate Team. The Ravens are still figuring out their defense after losing a lot of talent. Mickey Loomis didn't do much to the Saints this year. Very few of the real top teams have made significant GM-led changes.

Bryan: OK, here's a Hot Take-worthy candidate I don't really believe in: Chris Grier. In next year's draft, Miami has 12 selections overall, including three first-round picks and two second-rounders. They have two first-round picks and two second-rounders in 2021 as well. Grier and the Dolphins have correctly diagnosed their team as terrible,and have moved heaven and earth for a massive rebuilding project, starting next year. Do they get credit for realizing this team wasn't going anywhere last March, rather than waiting until the trade deadline like Washington and being unable to move any significant pieces?

No, not really, but it's fun to think about.

Andrew: If Grier gets even a single vote, it's time to retire the award.

Bryan: Well, we wouldn't want the NFL's awards to approach the gravitas and importance of Scramble's own weekly section, now would we?

Andrew: If only the NFL could come up with awards half as meaningful as our own.

Bryan: Or, at least, 47.3% as meaningful.


Weekly Awards

Keep Choppin' Wood

HOW IS THIS STILL HAPPENING?!?

Yes, that was yet ANOTHER obvious fumble blown dead by the officials, costing yet another team crucial points in yet another critical situation. We would single out the refereeing crew responsible, but really, this is way beyond being a single-crew issue. Given how many teams are being affected now, Alberto Riveron needs to take the blame. And the NFL itself. It is unacceptable that this is still happening.

John Fox Award for Conservatism

How does the expression go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice ... Chicago's entire offseason narrative was dominated by the fallout from a conservative decision to settle for a long field goal while trailing by a single point at the end of a close contest. When the Bears found themselves in a similar situation against the Chargers this past Sunday, head coach Matt Nagy saw the chance to exorcise those demons by ... settling for a long field goal while trailing by a single point at the end of a close contest. The kick, predictably, missed, and Nagy's postgame media conference was a masterclass in saying exactly the wrong things about a situation Nagy brought upon himself. Maybe next time he'll learn, but we wouldn't bet on it. If there even is a next time.

Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game

Facing a fourth-and-1 from the Vikings 34-yard line, holding on to a 16-9 lead, Mike Zimmer decided to keep his offense on the field, attempting a quarterback sneak to hold on to the ball. This is, unquestionably, the right decision. An average NFL team converts these fourth-and-1s 70% of the time, and the Vikings have an above-average rushing offense this year. It was also a very, very short fourth-and-1, so that 70% number is likely an underestimate. The sneak was not successful, and Zimmer, after the fact, called it the "dumbest decision I've made since I've been here." No, no, Mike. There have been plenty of dumber decisions you've made since you've been in Minnesota. Don't sell yourself short.

Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching

Two things we often praise coaches for doing: going for it on fourth down, and taking penalties rather than wasting timeouts. These are both, generally, solid moves that will improve your chances of winning. Doing them at the same time, however, may not be the world's wisest decision, Freddie Kitchens. Trailing 27-10 with six minutes left in the game, the Browns faced a fourth-and-11 from their own 24, and Kitchens sent out the punting unit. This is not a good time to punt; you need three scores and your time is very limited. Kitchens seem to realize this halfway through the play and decided to send his offense back out instead. Did he use Cleveland's final time-out? No! He instructed KhaDarel Hodge to intentionally false start instead. That set up fourth-and-16, which is, uh, even less ideal. Teams are converting 16.5% of their third- or fourth-and-11-plus situations this season; Cleveland is doing even better at a 19.2% rate. The league drops to 9.7% when you bump that up to 16 yards to go, and Cleveland falls to 15.4%. In what was pretty much a must-convert situation, using the timeout was probably more than worth the 4% to 7% increase in conversion probability. Of course, if Kitchens hadn't wasted a challenge on an offensive pass interference call earlier in the quarter, or had been more decisive immediately, all of this could have been avoided.

'National Tight Ends Day' Fantasy Player of the Week

I know the Jets' offense is just too good to pass up, but even then, I doubt anyone had Ryan Griffin rostered. Heck, more people might have had both Robert Griffin and Tampa Bay's Ryan Griffin on their teams, backup quarterbacks being more likely to be valuable than a player who was averaging 1.5 receptions for 7.7 yards, even with Chris Herndon both injured and suspended. New York's Griffin hadn't found the end zone since 2017, so of course he found it three times against the Jaguars -- two touchdowns and a two-point conversion, part of a four-reception, 66-yard day that is easily the highlight of his career.

Garbage-Time Performer of the Week

The Panthers might have penciled in their L before halftime, but fantasy owners who have been relying on Christian McCaffrey ended up doing just fine; he actually scored more points against the ferocious 49ers defense than he did in both games against Tampa Bay combined. Even with the Panthers down three or more scores for most of the way, they couldn't abandon the run game and McCaffrey entirely; 108 of his 117 yards came with the game well in hand, including this 40-yard touchdown which ever-so-briefly made the game interesting in the third quarter.

Comfort in Sadness Stat of the Week

Even in a disappointing 2018 season that finished with a 6-10 record, the Panthers never experienced a beatdown quite as bad as this past weekend's 51-13 demolition in Santa Clara. Second-year quarterback Kyle Allen crashed back to Earth with an almighty thud, and the lauded Panthers front seven is still trying to find Tevin Coleman three days later. One consistent bright spot throughout both of the past two seasons has been Christian McCaffrey, who yet again rushed for over 100 yards and a score -- taking him already to 735 yards and a career-high eight rushing touchdowns in only seven games. McCaffrey is likely to set a career high in rushing yardage too -- he only needs 363 yards in the remaining nine contests -- and though his receiving pace is slightly behind last year's, he remains the favorite to lead the league in yards from scrimmage. Bright spots on 4-3 teams are not usually difficult to find, but McCaffrey burns far, far brighter than most.

Game-Changing Play of the Week

The Chiefs were giving the Packers everything they could handle, and then some. Despite all-everything quarterback Patrick Mahomes and half a dozen defensive starters sidelined, Andy Reid had his backups fighting hard; they had just tied it at 24 midway through the second quarter. It looked like they might pull off the upset … and then, Aaron Rodgers found Aaron Jones.

Note to future teams playing the Packers: do not cover Aaron Jones with a linebacker, especially not when he lines up outside. The Packers scoring so quickly hurt the Chiefs in another way, too -- had they taken a couple extra minutes before finding the end zone, maybe Andy Reid would have gone for it on the ensuing fourth-and-3 from his own 40, rather than punting and never seeing the ball again.

The Chiefs' loss means they're currently looking up at both the Colts and Ravens, half a game behind each. I'd expect them to make the ground back up once Mahomes returns, but it was a missed opportunity; teams such as the Colts and Saints have racked up wins with their backups, but the Chiefs couldn't pull it off. In the long run, however, the win was probably bigger for Green Bay than the loss was for Kansas City. With the Saints and 49ers rolling, the Packers need to try to keep pace. There are only two bye weeks to go around for all three teams, and 12 wins might not be enough to secure one. Every win Green Bay can scrape out helps keep them in the race.


Weekly Predictions

Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week

All picks are made without reference to FO's Premium picks, while all lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing.

Records to Date
Andrew: 6-2
Bryan: 4-4

Bryan: It looks like Kyle Allen will get another start against Tennessee, perhaps explaining why Carolina (-4) are such small favorites. After all, we all saw they myth of Kyle Allen, interception-free quarterback punctured against the 49ers. Well, a lot of quarterbacks have looked terrible against the 49ers, and I'm not going to hold it against Allen. There's a wee bit of a dropoff between San Francisco's -67.5% pass DVOA and Tennessee's 11.0%, so I think we'll see the Allen we saw over the first few weeks -- an average performer, able to utilize Carolina's superior weapons better than Ryan Tannehill can use Tennessee's. Add in Carolina's superior defense -- I don't think the Titans can copy what the 49ers did on offense, either -- and the Panthers could win this by a couple of scores.

Andrew: Carolina is a great shout, and I'm fully on board with that pick -- it would have been mine, too, if you hadn't beaten me to it. Looking elsewhere, I'll grab Seattle (-6.5) over Tampa Bay. This isn't the great Seahawks team of old, but it's still plenty good enough to dispose of a turnover-prone Buccaneers outfit in its noisy home stadium.

Double Survival League

Bryan: What do you know; a week where we both got both our picks right. First time it has happened all year, I believe. We are not even consistent in our inconsistency.

Halfway through, Andrew still holds a one-win lead, 11-10. I do, however, have a slight advantage in teams remaining; my last 16 have a .521 winning percentage, as opposed to Andrew's .488. It's not exactly a huge advantage, but then again, it's not exactly a huge gap. Andrew still has to find wins for Cincinnati, Denver, and Tampa Bay. I still have Baltimore and Houston left in my picks. We'll see if my strategy of hammering on the losers early at the expense of, you know, actually getting wins, ends up paying off.

Andrew: One of the difficulties of picking games out in advance is how much injuries and other circumstances can change the landscape for any given team. When I pegged this week for Denver, I did not anticipate them being in quite this bad a situation. The problem is that doesn't look like it's getting better any time soon, and this is still the team's most favorable remaining game. Former Jaguars sixth-round pick Brandon Allen versus the 2-5 Browns is probably not what most people anticipated for this game this past offseason, but here we are.

My other pick is more straightforward: the dominant 49ers against the improving but still worst-in-the-division Cardinals. A road game on Thursday Night Football adds a small amount of concern, but even on a short week San Francisco should handle their business with room to spare.

Bryan: I really hate my picks this week, but I was left with them pretty much by process of elimination. I've already used San Francisco, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Dallas, Denver, Pittsburgh, and New England, all of whom I'd rather take than any of my actual picks. Kansas City and Carolina remain iffy as we await news on the health of their starting quarterbacks. I could take the Jets over the Dolphins, but why on Earth would I do that on the road when I could do that at home in a few weeks? Oakland still has a game against Cincinnati. For some reason, the buzzer in the back of my head is warning me about a Seattle trap game with San Francisco looming on the schedule. What's a guy to do?

The answer is to pick the two winners I'm least confident in this week, and do a lot of finger-crossing. That means Green Bay on the road against the Chargers. The Chargers do not have a home-field advantage and just fired their offensive coordinator so, you know, things are going really well down there. That also means Jacksonville, in London, over Houston, which makes my stomach turn. But Houston is missing J.J. Watt, and Will Fuller, Bradley Roby, Jonathan Joseph, Tashaun Gipson, and both starting tackles are questionable, at best. The injuries, the long travel, and the fact that Houston barely beat the Jags last time they met leads me to take Jacksonville here, though I hate, hate, hate this pick.

Bryan takes Jacksonville and Green Bay; Andrew selects Denver and San Francisco

 


Elimination Scenarios

Bryan: As we enter Week 9, every single team can still earn every single playoff slot. Yes, the Bengals and Dolphins could technically be battling for home-field advantage in the AFC, Washington could storm back to take the NFC East, the Patriots and 49ers could stay home -- chaos is still technically, mathematically, just barely possible.

That ends now. Let other sites and other articles wax poetic about teams about to clinch the playoffs. We want to talk about how teams can be knocked out of their playoff positioning!

The reaper could be coming for four of the worst teams in football. While no one can be fully eliminated from contention this week, some of the seeding can become a little clearer. The Dolphins and Jets even have a matchup where the loser could get kicked out of the AFC East race! All the things listed here are longshots, but a longshot is better than a no-shot, right?

  • N.Y. Jets can be eliminated from the AFC East IF Miami d. N.Y. Jets AND New England d. Baltimore

  • Miami can be eliminated from the AFC East IF N.Y. Jets d. Miami OR New England d. Baltimore

  • Cincinnati can be eliminated from Home-Field Advantage IF New England d. Baltimore

  • Washington can be eliminated from Home-Field Advantage IF Buffalo d. Washington

Comments

21 comments, Last at 01 Nov 2019, 1:56pm

1 There's still a chance…

There's still a chance Washington or Cincinnati could get a home playoff game??? I can't image what combination of game results would be needed for either of those to happen.

Even more fascinating to me is that Cincy's "chances" are dependent on divisional rival Baltimore winning. Somehow it's another Ravens loss / Pats win that ruins the voodoo-scenario for the Bengals?

3 home-field advantage

I think they're talking about getting the #1 seed.  Not just a home game.  Clearly a Pats win would eliminate the Bengals from getting the #1 seed.  

Though I have to admit I'm curious as to just what would need to happen for an 8-8 Bengals team  to get the #1 seed.  

5 For the 8-8 Bengals to get…

For the 8-8 Bengals to get the #1 seed, they'd have to win out (obviously) and have the Patriots lose out (obviously).  That's step one.

The 8-8 Bengals would have an 8-4 conference record; they've already played all their NFC games.  That's a heck of a tiebreaker; it knocks out anyone they don't have a direct head-to-head loss against (i.e. Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Jacksonville).  Their 4-2 divisional record would take care of Ravens or Steelers by themselves, so we'd just have to worry about the Bills and Jaguars.  The Bills can't beat the Bengals in the sort of multi-team pileup that would be required for an 8-8 team to win the whole AFC, but the Jags CAN; they can get to 8-4 in the conference and still finish at just 8-8.  They're the one team that the Bengals would NEED to finish below 8-8; they could handle any other team in multi-team tiebreak scenario.  If you're going to lose, do it in the other conference!

4 Ah, slight misunderstanding…

Ah, slight misunderstanding here.  The elimination scenarios for Cincinnati and Washington are for the #1 seed in each conference -- not just hosting a home playoff game, but hosting ALL their playoff games at home.  It's actually still fairly possible for them to win their divisions, regardless of what happens this week -- Washington's only 3.5 games back of Dallas!  Cincinnati's a more, uh, robust 5.5 games behind Baltimore, but they still have eight to play.  No matter what happens this weekend, both teams will keep those division title hopes alive, baby!

It's just the Jets and Dolphins who could get run out of divisional contention; neither can win any tiebreaker with the Patriots.  The Patriots have already swept the Jets, so they're out of luck.  An 8-8 Patriots team would be 4-2 in the division; the Dolphins with a loss to the Jets could max out at 3-3, so no tiebreaker love there.

The Bengals' elimination scenario for the #1 seed is straightforward; it would get the Patriots to nine wins while the Bengals have eight losses, which, you know, doesn't work mathematically. 

I do have to issue a slight errata for Washington, however.  If Washington loses to Buffalo this week, they CAN still take the #1 seed, but only if you allow for ties -- I generally don't consider ties this early in the season, because it adds a significant chunk to the workload without being particularly likely OR adding significant extra precision, but here we are.

Washington could still finish 8-8 with a loss this week, while the 49ers, Saints and Packers only have seven wins to their name.  The problem there is that the 49ers play both the Saints and Packers.  If they tie both games, they'll get to "eight" wins (with each tie counting as half).  If they lose either of them, then the Packers or Saints would get to 8 wins.  In addition, if the 49ers do lose out, then Seattle gets to 8 wins as well; they play the 49ers twice.  And to stay at exactly eight wins, Seattle would have to lose to the Panthers and Vikings, and which would get THEM to eight wins if the Packers and Saints lose out...

There is a very, very fine set of scenarios where Washington could be 8-8, atop the conference, and still win out on tiebreakers.  They can't win a tiebreaker against San Francisco (head-to-head) or New Orleans (common games are DAL, CHI, CAR and SF; Washington already has three losses there).  Multi-team ties don't help them there, so they need both the 49ers and Saints to lose their divisions.  But they CAN beat the Packers in a 8-8 tiebreak because of their Week 14 matchup, so that opens the door a tiny, tiny crack.

Washington also can't beat the Cardinals at 7-2-2 (common games are NYG, SF, DET and CAR; Cardinals would be at at least 3.5 wins in any scenario where they win the division), while the Rams can't win the division at 8-8 (they'd have at least two divisional losses; the Seahawks would have at least four divisional wins) so they need the Seahawks to win the West at 8-8 (by beating the 49ers and literally no one else).  They have a little more wriggle room in the NFC South, where they can top either an 8-8 Bucs or 8-8 Panthers team (but not the 8-8 Falcons, who would get to at least a 7-5 conference record), but it's very, very specific what needs to happen.

SO.  We have the Packers top the Viking atop the NFC North at 8-8 thanks to a superior divisional record (3-3 to 2-4), thereby getting that Week 8 loss to Minnesota out of Washington's hair.  We have the Panthers top the Saints atop the NFC South by having the Saints fall to 7-8-1.  We also have Washington finish at 8-8 atop the division; they can beat the Eagles in an 8-8 tie but everyone else must be 7-9 or worse.

Washington, Carolina, Green Bay and Seattle win their divisions at 8-8.  Green Bay and Seattle are eliminated from the tie, as they'd have 5-7 conference records compared to Washington and Carolina's 6-6.   Washington then beats Carolina on tiebreakers thanks to the presumed Week 13 win over Carolina, and Bob's your uncle.

Technically, then, Washington's elimination should require losing to Buffalo and a win by the Vikings, Panthers, Lions, Packers, 49ers, Seahawks or Cowboys.    I am not going to edit that in, because good lord, that took six paragraphs and is likely going to be taken care of as of Thursday night, but technically, TECHNICALLY, there's a path to victory.

https://playoffpredictors.com/Football/CustomLeague/SchedulePicker/0e700630-e7fc-43db-92ea-9e71507c57c9/?L=EwRmoy2kduLzKJVItAZnuZ5+Ky5EnFFk7J4JI7AAMlKeG5zqHNtuB35VcJnwLMeMUR1aYJo+nPpA&c=cgm:1|tnptlw:true

9 Thanks for the extended…

Thanks for the extended explanation! 

I was mind-boggled enough at the prospect of Cincy or Washington having a shot at getting one playoff game at home.  It never occurred to me it was still possible for them to get the #1 seed in their conference!

2 just curious

We go through this every year, but what does Bill Belichick have to do to get into the conversation for Coach of the Year?

Well, at least you guys brought him up, but only to immediately dismiss him.

It's not easy to go 8-0 without 3/5 of the offensive line or the fullback or tight end from last year's team. And the improvement of the defense over 18 months from the matadors of Super Bowl LII to the current group, which gets featured every week in the DVOA column as historically great, must reflect well on the coaching, right? I mean, this isn't just "replug in what worked last year" - the defense is much better than it was.

6 I follow barbershop quartet…

In reply to by RickD

I follow barbershop quartet contests, because that is the sort of hip and happening lifestyle I lead.  In the international quartet convention, you can win the gold medal exactly one time -- once you've won it, you graduate to the Association of International Champions and are acknowledged forever, but can't compete with the same people again, in order to give other people a chance.

What I'm saying is that Belichick is considered, by the voters, to be a sort of Coach of the Year Emeritus, and therefore want to spread the love around a bit.  Only Don Shula (4) has won more times than Belichick has, and he did it with two different teams.  The other three-time winner, Chuck Knox, did it with three different teams (the Rams, Bills and Seahawks).  Belichick won't win the award again unless he goes to coach another team or if the's so undeniably, unmistakingly the undisputed coach of the year that even acknowledging someone else would diminish the award.

15 But the awards are given…

But the awards are given before the Super Bowl and IIRC the votes are casted before the PO.

The COTY has been "Coach who get a playoff spot with a team that was out the year before, and possibly he is a new name" for many years now.

16-0 would overrule that, of course.

 

As of today, my guess (not my selections, but who I suppose will be chosen, if the season ends today).

MVP: Rodgers or Wilson

OPOY: CMC

DPOY: Garrett, because he is leading in sacks. But could be Donald by default. 

OROY:  Minshew

DROY: Bosa 

CPOTY: Garoppolo

COTY: Shanahan easily

 

 

19 Back when I was in the…

Back when I was in the Barbershop Quartet Society, one or two members of a winning quartet could later compete as part of a different quartet.  Might not apply to BB's situation.

21 Sure it does!  If he joined…

Sure it does!  If he joined a new "group" -- i.e., went over and coached a different team, or found himself a new quarterback -- he'd totally be eligable again.  It'd be his Main Street to his Keepsake or whatever other comparison you'd like to make.

12 Bill Belichick's 16-0…

Bill Belichick's 16-0 Patriots -- perfection, from one expected to craft perfection.

Kyle Shanahan's 12-4 49ers -- an eight-game flip from last season.

Frank Reich's 9-7 AFC South winning Colts -- a division title after being written off before the year start.

Who wins the award?  That's a race I'd like to see.

16 Bump it up a bit.

In this scenario, both the 49ers and Colts would have lost half their games in the second half of the season. I think that sort of dropoff would give Belichick a clear run and possibly introduce somebody else (Harbaugh? Payton? Even LaFleur?) into the discussion.

Make it 16-0, 14-2, and something like 11-5 though, and we really do have a conversation.

14 T

In reply to by RickD

This is just a silly, fun exercise, so you aren’t seriously going to consider dishing awards out to Belichick for beating up on the Jets, Dolphins, Redskins, etc. 

And there is another team that, out of nowhere, is undefeated and playing in an historically dominant manner, so it’s hardly a travesty anyway.

Gilmore will deserve DPOY if his current level of play continues, but it is probably going to depend on at least another couple of interceptions landing in his lap. 

17 just want him to be in the discussion

In reply to by BJR

and to point out that he actually is doing a lot of coaching this year.  

so you aren’t seriously going to consider dishing awards out to Belichick for beating up on the Jets, Dolphins, Redskins, etc. 

I'd say beating the Redskins soundly  is more impressive than being held scoreless for a half on the way to winning 9-0 without any TDs.  

Clearly, a lot of this will resolve itself in the second half.  

 

18 In the Discussion

Yeah... I think at this point the Pats might go 16-0 and have BB not win coach of the year - and I really don't know what to make of that. If the voters/NFL media are going to behave this way they really just should rename it the BB trophy and drop him from the eligibility list. At the moment in articles like this it kind of feels like how for years in Madden he was just "NE Head Coach" with a blank portrait (because of some kind of contractual issue). This is an especially weird discussion since for the last two years NE has bizarrely not had a DC and it appears that this year BB has assumed the self-triumvirate of GM, HC, & DC after the Dolphins decided that Flores was clearly worthy of a HC job? I feel like if NE wasn't 8-0 people would be describing this as a browns-esque train wreck because it defies all the logic that appears to apply to the rest of the NFL concerning how an organization can/should operate successfully.

20 I don't think he'll win, but…

I don't think he'll win, but another name to consider for GM of the Year is Brian Gutekunst. The Smith brothers and Amos have absolutely revitalized the culture in Green Bay - it feels like a different team. He also appeared to have a solid draft - Gary is raw, but FS Savage and LG Elgton Jenkins are both already solid starters with high ceilings.