Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Walkthrough: Nightmare Week
Walkthrough: Nightmare Week
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Mike Tanier

Sometime between the Saints’ sixth and seventh touchdown on Sunday night, I came up with an exciting new challenge: devise the worst possible week of scheduled NFL games.

It would be hard to top last week’s slate: a 6-3 Browns-Seahawks game is something special, almost epoch-defining. A 12-7 Jaguars-Ravens game is one heck of a capper. You would have to try to come up with a less interesting permutation of 32 teams. I spent Monday morning trying to create a special Nightmare Week, just in time for Halloween.

For Nightmare Week, we assume that all 32 teams are in their present state, so Peyton Manning is injured, Christian Ponder is the Vikings starter, and so on. Therefore, all current storylines are in play. The Broncos must be considered an "interesting" team because of Tim Tebow, for example.

We are also allowed to give four teams a bye week. That is part of what made Week 7 so special: the Patriots, Eagles, Giants, 49ers, Bills, and Bengals were on bye. So there go the mighty Patriots, the troubled Eagles, and the fast-starting Bills and 49ers, two teams we might like to watch just to see if they can sustain their success. You may think the easiest way to create a Nightmare Schedule is to give four great teams like the Packers bye weeks, but we must choose more judiciously. Forcing the Packers to play a team like the Rams results in a 24-3 snoozer that largely neutralizes the Packers’ entertainment value. It is better to eliminate a loose cannon team capable of generating headlines while only scoring 18 points. So bye-bye Broncos, you are on bye again.

The Jets are also on bye for Nightmare Week, because they can conjure up a rivalry out of nothing or just generate interest with their teammate-on-teammate sniping. The Cowboys also get a bye: no Tony Romo "will he or won’t he," no Jerry Jones postgame quotes, no national fanbase. The Steelers also have a huge national following, but the Steelers are great at beating bad teams 17-13 and not having much fun in the process, so we need them. Instead, let’s give the Eagles another bye, eliminating Dream Team speculation and Michael Vick highlights.

There can be no divisional matchups during Nightmare Week. Where possible, teams must cross conferences and maybe the country. Patriots-Dolphins has too much juice for this schedule. It’s better to send the Patriots to Seattle to face the Seahawks while the Dolphins battle the Saints. The likely results are a couple of 35-10 wins between teams with almost no mutual history. The Saints, by the way, must play on Sunday or Monday night: in the event that they score 62 points again, it must be late at night, when we are too drowsy to get excited about it.

The mutual history thing is tricky: for Nightmare Week, there can be no evocation of great games of the past, or stories of how free agent X moved between the two teams and created bad blood. Bills-Redskins sounds like a dull matchup, but it is a rematch of an old Super Bowl (albeit a blowout from 20 years ago). Plus, those two teams square off on Sunday anyway, and we do not want to be too repetitive. There is always some history between franchises, of course, but you know you have found the perfect pairing when the color commentator is forced to mention that the weakside linebacker was cut by the opponent in 2007, or when the producers create a montage showing one team’s head coach when he was the other team’s wide receivers coach.

So let’s assemble the Nightmare Week schedule. It is not perfect, so I will need your help.

Morning Games

Buccaneers at Bills: Two teams with very medium-wattage star power. Playing in Buffalo adds to the malaise; this time of year, there is little chance of snow to liven things up.

Giants at Titans: The Giants are solid but not particularly fun. Their defensive line is good enough to make sure any Jake Locker starting debut is spoiled. The enormous New York television market gets to see Chris Johnson run 15 times for 14 yards.

Packers at Rams: The final score was 24-3 two weeks ago. The Rams want a rematch!

Ravens at Colts: Ouch! No-no-no we cannot have this matchup. Mayflower moving vans! Angry old Baltimorians in Unitas jerseys, though moving the game to Indy takes some of the bite out of that story. Plus, there were recent playoff battles between these teams. I leave it to readers to come up with a better plan. Really, this game would be horrible, and if you are forced to talk about stuff that happened in the mid-1980s to add drama to the matchup, you know that what’s happening on the field is not worth discussing. This is the CBS "A-game."

Chiefs at Panthers: The Panthers are a lot of fun to watch right now, but many people have not caught on yet. So burying them against a dull opponent from halfway across the country will take them off the radar. You cannot pair them against the Steelers, or else you get a "Cam Newton faces his toughest test" angle.

Bears at Jaguars: The Jaguars had to be deployed strategically, because they turn any game they play into something excruciating. Matching them against a great opponent would be a waste of a precious resource; any bad team can suck the interest value out of the Packers or Patriots. Here, the Patriots neutralize the Jets of the Midwest, a team that can invent its own interior drama and foster a lot of "Can they get their act together?" storylines. As a bonus, the final score of this game would probably be 12-7, either way.

Chargers at Browns: We cannot have the Chargers in a shootout. We need them to score 20 points and start Norv noodling. That is what will happen here.

Raiders at Falcons: This is the FOX "A-game," except in New York. The Raiders might need a bye, because they bring a lot of story with them right now. If we flip-flop them with the Broncos, though, you get Broncos-Falcons: an old Super Bowl. Sending the Raiders to Atlanta takes them away from their costume-wearing fans, away from any team with an Al Davis-AFL connection, and away from any Carson Palmer connotations. The Falcons, like the Giants, can win without generating a lot of buzz.

Steelers at Vikings: The Steelers keep Ponder from looking good and getting us excited about a new guy. Yes, this is an old Super Bowl, but from about a trillion years ago.

Afternoon Games

Lions at Texans: A few weeks ago, this matchup looked a lot better. Of all the games in Nightmare Week, this may be the most watchable. It still pits two teams who have not seen the playoffs in over a decade against each other. By the way, FOX opted out of the double header in Nightmare Week to show a little NASCAR.

Bengals at Niners: Oops, two old Super Bowls, and two pretty good teams in the first half of this year. This is hard. People might find this game interesting.

Patriots at Seahawks: But here is the beauty of the Nightmare Week schedule: this game is the CBS "A-game," with Bengals-Niners only televised in the home markets. CBS wants Tom Brady, and the network doesn’t care what it does to bring him to you.

Sunday Night Football

Saints at Dolphins: Time to catch up on The Simpsons or The Amazing Race. Tune in before midnight to see if the Saints are done yet.

Monday Night Football

Redskins at Cardinals: The Colts-Ravens and Bengals-Niners matchups may have been too good for this list, but I cannot think of a better ending to Nightmare Week than forcing Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden to talk seriously about Kevin Kolb and John Beck for three hours.

There it is: the worst schedule I could devise with about an hour of thought. Would love to see some alternatives. For extra zaniness, you are allowed to play one of your games in a neutral site, and you are allowed to suspend one player for a week. Move that Colts-Ravens game to Australia! Take Newton or Matt Forte out of the equation. Have a blast, and create a schedule that all of us parents can safely skip so we can go trick or treating with the kids!

A Sunday Drive

After a week that featured some sublimely awful games, Walkthrough would like to celebrate one great drive: a well-played sequence of creative, entertaining, and successful offensive football.

The Panthers had just taken a 23-13 lead late in the third quarter. After forcing a Redskins punt, they got the ball on their own 35-yard line with 1:39 left to play in the third quarter.

In the old days, teams would sit on the ball with a ten-point lead late in the third quarter. Recently, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, and it seems that teams are almost over-aggressive in situations like this: I can picture the Eagles throwing a bomb and kicking a field goal, gaining three points when a team with their defensive problems could probably use a nice seven-minute break instead. The best thing a team can do in this situation is score a touchdown on a time-consuming drive. To do that, the coach or coordinator must call a series of plays that chew clock and keep the chains moving. It is an incredibly tricky balance: throttle down a bit, but not too much.

The Panthers start out with an I-formation DeAngelo Williams run for nine yards. Unfortunately, Byron Bell holds Adam Carriker on the play, setting the Panthers back to first-and-20. A three-yard run by Johnathan Stewart on the next play suggests that Ron Rivera and Rob Chudzinski have gone to the Jason Garrett School of Pass Abandonment and are willing to play punt and pray.

Figure 1: Esquire Cross

But Chudzinski has not abandoned the passing game. As shown in Figure 1, he sends Greg Olsen (88) in motion from wide receiver to fullback, with Steve Smith (89) hidden in the flex position, inside of Olsen before the motion. Chudzinski then sends both the flanker on the left of the formation and Jeremy Shockey (80) on deep routes, with Smith running a cross at 15 yards and the backs running bench routes underneath. Smith runs an excellent route, first bending inside like he is running a deep seamer, then flattening out hard to get away from man coverage. Newton has time to throw, and delivers a strike to Smith for 18 yards, setting up an easy to convert third-and-short.

Notice that Josh Wilson was in man coverage against Smith, as he was all afternoon. I cannot explain the rationale behind this decision, because I am not Jim Haslett.

The fourth quarter starts, and the Panthers gain eight yards on a rollout pass to Shockey. The play-action rollout is a standard-issue "safe" pass play when leading in the fourth quarter, and this is a good time to bring it out: on first down, after some offensive success has the defense a little off balance. Williams plows ahead from the two-tight end I formation for a first down.

Now at the 43-yard line, Stewart takes two straight handoffs for three yards each, one from the two-tight end I-formation, one from a power "ace" set that Chudzinski likes, with Olsen, Shockey, and big receiver Legedu Naanee to the left side. On third down, it’s time for another episode of Defensive Coordinators Shocked by Quarterback Draws. Check out the defensive formation in Figure 2. I mean, you are anticipating the Newton draw, right? So why exactly is the middle of the field utterly devoid of linebackers? (On the plus side, Haslett does give Wilson a break from Smith, and the safety on Smith’s side is lined up 22 yards downfield). Newton gains seven yards and a first down, but he might still be running if London Fletcher (59) didn’t chase this play down from the other side of the field. Fletcher should be promoted to Redskins defensive coordinator immediately after the season. On second thought, he deserves better.

Figure 2: Will Allen Likes This Defense

Newton hits Shockey for a little four-yard smash route on the next play. The yardage is not great, but it is another chance to work a pass play in, generate some yardage, and eat clock. Newton throws an ugly play-action incompletion on second down, and a holding penalty threatens to take the Panthers out of field goal range. It is second-and-16, so of course it is time for Josh Wilson to draw man coverage on Smith, and get beat up the left sideline for a pass that gives the Panthers the ball at the goal line. Newton throws a teardrop on the play. This is the second time that a downfield shot has been taken on second-and-long, and I think the Redskins anticipated a more conservative strategy on these downs.

The Panthers have been a great goal line team this year because Chudzinski has been unapologetic about sticking Newton in shotgun with one of the backs and calling either a Newton run or some kind of choice-option handoff. The Redskins are at least ready for these tactics by now, and they stuff Stewart on first down. As Stewart fights for an extra inch, the game clock ticks below ten minutes. Even if the Panthers come away with a field goal at this point, they have significantly shortened the game. They are facing a Redskins opponent that wanted to play ball control football. This long drive has taken ball control tactics and thrown them out the window for the Redskins.

Of course, the Panthers cannot afford to fumble. Stewart does just that on the next play, but Walkthrough favorite Ben Hartsock drops his Christian rock tambourine and lands on it. Rivera challenges the fumble, claiming Stewart reached out with the ball and crossed the plane before losing possession. The announcers criticize the challenge, but I think of it as a challenge lottery at that point in the game. The Panthers should not need a timeout later in the game. The replay does not look plausible, but crazier plays have been called touchdowns. The challenge fails, but the Redskins’ goalline stand has become a mixed blessing, because now there is only 8:17 to play.

On third down, Newton is again in shotgun. And Smith is again one-on-one with Wilson. Are you thinking draw? Handoff option? Fade? If you answered "flat route to Brandon LaFell from the slot," you are correct. It is a simple read and throw for Newton: the Redskins are in man coverage, and it is hard to stop a two-yard pass into the flat. Twelve plays, 65 yards, eight minutes and 26 seconds.

What do I like about this drive? I love the way the weapons were used. Both backs got to grind out some carries. Smith got the bulk of the yards, but Shockey was highly involved, and LaFell did exactly what a slot receiver must do, making the most of one opportunity. Olsen was all over the formation, disguising the Panthers’ intentions. Newton looked very sharp, and his running ability was used in just the right dosage. The Panthers stayed out of third-and-long by being aggressive on second-and-long, so Haslett couldn’t attack with funky blitzes. They overcame penalties. They got a lucky break on the fumble, but these things happen. It was a controlled drive that made outstanding use of both personnel and clock.

Best of all, it showed once again how remarkably Newton is developing. He never strayed from the pocket in this drive, except for the designed run. Part of Newton’s success is how programmed the offense appears to be: Newton does not have to check down a lot. Newton’s comfort level in this low-gimmick offense is also stunning, and credit for that must go to the coordinator who is bringing him along.

When we give our awards at the end of the season, remember Coach Chud for Coordinator of the Year. I think he is the best candidate right now, by far.

Marty Like a Rock Star

Marty Schottenheimer held up a football championship trophy on Friday night. He held it high in the crisp autumn air, stadium and television lights playing along its reflective silver surface. He smiled broadly as fans chanted "Marty, Marty, Marty!"

The prize was the William Hambrecht Trophy, the league, the UFL. The season, a truncated four-game slate of games that was delayed at the start and curtailed suddenly at the end. But it was a championship, won by a great coach and relished by thousands of fans.

It almost didn’t happen. Schottenheimer’s Virginia Destroyers took a 17-3 lead into halftime and tried to nurse it for the final 30 minutes. It was classic Marty Ball, and some in the press box rolled their eyes as Dominic Rhodes took handoffs and Chris Greisen opted for safe, short throws on third down. Even in the minors, this conservative approach elicits some groans. The Las Vegas Locomotives could not do anything offensively; they didn’t complete a pass until the second quarter or pick up a first down until the third. But Greisen threw a second half interception, Rhodes fumbled, and veteran Marty watchers knew the Destroyers were one bad play from allowing the Locos back in the game.

Then a miracle happened. Late in the game, after Aaron Rouse’s third interception ended a Locos drive, the Detroyers opened up their offense. Coordinator Terry Shea (best known, perhaps, as an Al Saunders assistant with the Chiefs a decade ago) called a series of passes. Nothing too crazy, just some play-action, and one weak side hitch route. Greisen, looking as good or better than two or three of the quarterbacks I saw Sunday, delivered a few strikes, and the Destroyers ate clock and flipped field position. They punted, but the Locos were pinned in their own territory with only about three minutes left. Schottenheimer and his staff had done it. A little wrinkle –- a handful of passes on first downs when the defense expected the Destroyers to run -– made all the difference.

After the game, Schottenheimer said that winning the UFL championship was among the "top-five" experiences in his coaching career. The remark put the win, and the UFL, in its proper perspective. Schottenheimer won five NFL playoff games. Maybe winning the UFL championship is really sixth in his mind, below those games. Maybe it ranks ahead of one of them, like the 1987 divisional round win against the Colts. Coaching the 1987 replacement games must have been a lot like coaching in the UFL. It does not really matter how low Friday’s game ranks on his list of accomplishments. What matters is that it made the list at all.

Schottenheimer is treated like a king at the UFL level. He is the league’s biggest star and the first person the league investors mention when trying to assert the league’s legitimacy. Destroyers promotional materials feature pictures of an intense Schottenheimer barking orders. His face glowers from the team busses. Watching the on-field product, I thought the UFL could stand to use some exciting young offensive minds to tinker with spread-option or five-receiver offenses: the tactics in the championship game were strictly old-fashioned. Jerry Glanville was supposed to bring the run-and-shoot to the UFL, but his Hartford team suspended operations, so he serves as a broadcaster/ambassador. A little more offensive openness might help the UFL, but the league needs Marty more than it needs some Josh McDaniels-type. It needs a teacher and an organizer, someone who can get fringe players up to speed and incorporate them into his system quickly. He would probably make a great commissioner if the UFL really does survive until next year, as everyone from the investors to the lady who operated the stadium elevator swears it will.

This could all be played for laughs, of course. The coach who never won finally got a championship in the league that cannot complete a season. We could point and giggle. The problem with the joke, though, is that everyone gets it. UFL officials I spoke to know where they stand. Schottenheimer knows what level he is coaching it. The 14,000 fans knew they were not at a Redskins game. But Redskins games are far away for the 1.6 million people who live in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area, and they are expensive.

These fans got to drive 15 minutes, break out the tailgate supplies, toss the kids the football on a crisp October evening, and watch the home team win a championship. A fan who spent over $100 for the whole event, kids included, had to be trying. After the game, they got to walk on the field and meet some of the players. So who is laughing: the Destroyers fans who got to shake hands with Schottenheimer, or the guys sitting at home, calling the sports talk station to complain about the Redskins quarterback situation?

Destroyers owner Bill Mayer told me that he thinks there is no reason the UFL cannot provide a product 80 percent as good as the NFL for a fraction of the cost. It may be possible to do that, in regions like Hampton Roads and Omaha and on local Comcast channels. If we laugh that off as a pipe dream, we laugh off chances to spend inexpensive nights at small stadiums watching pretty-good football, and the chance to be treated as a customer by the team, not a necessary evil who provides background images for the television broadcast. It is fun to "big time" the little leagues, to make fun of their financial woes and goofy mascots and the has-beens who find their way onto small-league rosters. I do it, too. But after a while, we are cutting off the nose to spite the face, as sportswriters and as fans. More sports options mean more choices. Cheaper sports options mean more money.

The UFL can be a lot of fun, if you give it a chance. But don’t take my word for it. Trust Marty Schottenheimer. He knows fun. Er, well, he knows well-played, competitive football. And that is something all of us want.


67 comments, Last at 31 Oct 2011, 10:42pm

1 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Well, Niners/Bengals was pretty ugly in Week 3, so I am okay with the assumption that it would be ugly here.

2 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

I think the Nightmare Week schedule needs a re-rack, insofar as you have NFC teams from the same division playing AFC teams from different divisions and vice versa (e.g., Bucs-Bills and Raiders-Falcons), which isn't possible in the current NFL schedule in the same year let alone the same week.

Of course, if this is just an intellectual exercise, who cares...

4 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

I think you swap the Ravens-Colts and Bengals-49ers games, and use the suspension on Alex Smith. Ravens-49ers sounds interesting until you are watching Frank Gore slam into the line for zero yards all day long. Bonus points if the suspension is for something sexual that can't quite be discussed on TV by the announcers.

Bengals-Colts probably has some history, but you couldn't pay me to watch that game.

27 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

You nailed it. Even without the Smith suspension, those games would suck. The Ravens are like the Steelers, they're boring unless they play a good team.

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

6 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

It's actually really hard to devise a completely uninteresting schedule. Here's my quick effort:

1:00 PM Games
Jets at Jaguars
Steelers at Dolphins
Raiders at Browns
Bills at Falcons
Lions at Colts
Giants at Panthers

4:00 PM Games
Patriots at Chiefs
Redskins at Broncos
49ers at Texans
Seahawks at Chargers
Packers at Titans
Ravens at Vikings

Bengals at Buccaneers (SNF)
Cardinals at Rams (MNF)

Bye: Eagles, Bears, Cowboys, Saints

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

17 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Pats/Chiefs probably can't happen with the Pioli/Cassel tie-ins. Honestly, as much as one tinkers, it will be very hard to beat the reality of last weekend. Why couldn't the annual game I miss for a wedding/business travel/child event have happened last Sunday?

16 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

49ers at texans uninteresting? one of, if not the, best run d's in the league against arian foster? carlos rogers + dashon goldson on andre johnson? patrick willis on owen daniels? aldon smith running down matt schaub? i'd dvr it.

7 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Mike, Mike, Mike: It should be Falcons at Raiders because Raiders at Falcons would be a CBS air (interconference game with the NFC team as host gets aired by the AFC network).

Other than that, the usual great column.

8 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

As a Giants fan, I'd actually take real interest in a Giants/Titans game because the last two Giants/Titans meetings were two of the most frustrating games I can remember. Eli getting picked off in the red zone while trying to throw a left-handed pass? Giants blowing a 21-point lead in the 4th quarter? Kiwanuka having Vince Young in the grasp on 4th-and-10, then letting go and watching VY scramble for a 1st down? My formative memories as a Giants fan are from the Dave Brown era, so I'm conditioned to expect the team to find new and interesting ways to screw things up - the Giants-Titans games just feed into that.

I think I'd have the Giants play the Chiefs and let the Titans play the Fightin' Cam Newtons.

9 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Can I make it Ravens @ Colts, and pretend to move it to Baltimore, but then move it to Indy at the last minute? Or just have it in Cleveland, so there's no good guys.

Admittedly, that would make things interesting.

I'm not splitting into early or late, but here we go:

Broncos @ Ravens (to neutralise Tebow)
Seahawks @ Packers
Lions @ Browns
Jets @ Rams
Patriots @ Cardinals
Giants @ Chiefs
Redskins @ Titans
Raiders @ Bills
Bengals @ Vikings
Bears @ Bills
Falcons @ Colts
Saints @ Jaguars (the most interesting storyline I can see is that this is a rerun of the Music City Miracle game)
Dolphins @ Panthers

Bye: Cowboys, Eagles, Texans, 49ers

I've found that you need to ration the NFC West, but the 49ers are kind of intrinsically interesting.

11 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Of those, I'd probably put Saints-Jaguars on MNF, because then they can't really build up by doing anything other than showing that one play over and over again, and Seahawks-Packers on SNF.

Also, just realised I've missed a game. Steelers and Chargers, which actually seems an interesting game. So we'll have:

Texans @ 49ers. Hopefully this will be as much of a blowout as San Francisco can manage (i.e. about 24-10).

Steelers and Chargers go to the bye.

20 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

"Saints @ Jaguars (the most interesting storyline I can see is that this is a rerun of the Music City Miracle game)"

I'm going to need an explanation to get this one. I'm only aware of one Music City Miracle, and this ain't it.

21 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

I'm betting this is what the poster meant, though I've honestly never heard the name (the video says "River City Relay") before: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Od9C2dKiCI

13 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Raiders @ Bills
Bengals @ Vikings
Bears @ Bills

Raiders and Bears vs Bills concurrently or consecutively? ;)

23 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Ravens/Colts can be eliminated by switching the Colts with the Cards. Ravens/Colts + Redskins/Cards becomes Ravens/Cards + Redskins/Colts. That seems like a worse combo to me.

24 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

I can’t believe how much time I spent thinking about this, but here are my Halloween horror matchups. We’ll have 6 teams on bye: Pittsburgh, Detroit, Dallas, Giants, Jets, and my Broncos because 1) I plan on playing golf on this day, and 2) I need a week off from stories how Tebow recovered the onside kick against Miami, got the strip sack in OT, and heroically drove the Broncos bus to the airport, keeping it above 50 mph until he could figure out how to diffuse the bomb.

Games and notes:

10:00 Tennessee @ Philly (The Vince Young revenge game gets a solid 1.2 on the revenge meter.)
10:00 New England @ Tampa Bay in London (Wait, this was a London game a couple years ago? And it was terrible? I can’t wait till the EPL starts holding regular season games here and sends Stoke City vs. Wolverhampton out of spite.)*
10:00 Carolina @ Buffalo (Newton vs Fitzpatrick… sounds cooler than it really is.)
10:00 Miami @ Jacksonville (I’ll see your Cle @ Sea and raise you this Suck for Luck Bowl)
10:00 Kansas City @ New Orleans (After NO wins 45-10, Haley self combusts in the press conference when someone points out he just got routed by a coach with one leg tied behind his back.)
10:00 Washington @ Cincinnati (You won’t watch this, and neither will anyone in Cincy.)
10:00 Minnesota @ Baltimore (Siragusa gets to talk about the Ravens. You’re not listening to that.)
1:00 Atlanta @ Oakland (Whatever.)
1:00 Arizona @ San Francisco (Just because it’s a division matchup doesn’t mean it’s watchable.)
1:15 Chicago @ Houston (OK, this is watchable; it’s hard to find 13 matchups that wouldn’t be entertaining)
1:15 Cleveland @ San Diego (Yes. This is the one. Name a game more boring than this. The kind of game where Phil Rivers fantasy owners would talk themselves into this being his game, only SD wins 27-10 and Phil has 1 TD and 2 turnovers.)
Sunday Night: Green Bay @ Indianapolis (As long as I’m making the schedule, I’m putting my fantasy MVP Aaron Rodgers in a game where he stands to get at least 5 TDs.)
Monday Night: St. Louis @ Seattle (Actual Monday Night game on the schedule.)

*Before Patriots fans accuse me of comparing their team to Stoke, I'm actually comparing the matchup to all the crummy London matchups the NFL has set up so far.

30 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Cleveland at San Diego actually might not be boring because you have the potential of Josh Cribbs going off and scoring 2 TDs on kick returns against the Chargers' comically inept coverage units. That could lead to a fluky late-game lead for the Browns and require Philip Rivers to run a 2-minute drill to tie or win the game. Based on the Chargers' 2-minute drill against the Jets last week, that could be hilarious, particularly if you imagine Benny Hill music playing while you are watching it unfold.

44 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

"10:00 New England @ Tampa Bay in London (Wait, this was a London game a couple years ago? And it was terrible? I can’t wait till the EPL starts holding regular season games here and sends Stoke City vs. Wolverhampton out of spite.)*"

That one made me laugh. I can totally see this happening.

25 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Terry Shea should be best known for being the worst head coach in Rutgers history - taking the program from generally mediocre to downright pathetic. There's a reason it took Schiano years to turn things around.

36 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

I remember him for being the worst offensive coordinator I have ever seen. He created the travesty that is the 2004 Bears offense. He also thought Quasim Mitchell could play left tackle.

46 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

And don't forget his hand-picked QB: Jonathan Quinn.

I've only attended two regular-season Bears games in the last 10 years, and one of them was the Quinn-Brunell matchup that several people have cited as the worst QB-ed game in the 21st century.

(The other was last year's game where Cutler hooked up with DeAngelo Hall 4 times. I've told my Skins fan college buddy he is no longer welcome in the city, much less Soldier Field.)

64 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

And who are you? The guy coached over 25 years at D-1 level and then eight in the NFL. Just keep sitting in front of your computer, eating your lunch and ragging on people who work 20 hour days and actually know football. I guess being a Big East coach of the year makes him a horrible coach.

29 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

I think some of the "jokes at the expense of the non-NFL pro leagues" is because the NFL's minor league has a huge following in itself: the NCAA. Non-NFL pro leagues (AFL, UFL, etc) suffer from being viewed as some sort of pretender. The players are no where near as good as their pro or college counterparts.

Minor league baseball teams "benefit" from being affiliated with a pro team and getting a steady stream of future stars and MLB-quality talent. Even the independent leagues will have players transition into the MLB on a frequent-enough basis.

32 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Im not sure about the AFL/UFL, but any CFL team would be a large favourite over any NCAA team. The NFL takes what, maybe the top 1% of NCAA players, and these other leagues get to pick from the rest, and get them with more experience and more phyiscally mature than NCAA teams. So, to me, it is clearly a large myth that NCAA is better than these other leagues.

33 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

I agree with the sentiment. However, you could be right, but I'm not so sure on the any. The talent in the NCAA is not even close to distributed uniformly. It is conceivable to me that one of the top NCAA teams, say one that sends 10 players to the NFL each year, is more talented overall than a team comprised entirely of players who did not make it into the NFL.

Another thought. There are 8 teams in the CFL. Consider the top 8 teams in the NCAA. Which set sends more players to the NFL in a given season? While players making the NFL isn't the end-all-be-all measurement, it should tell us something.

52 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Coaching is the difference. Coaches in the college game create teams with identity and coaches in the CFL try gimmicks because they don't create discipline and their players can't execute.

I'm from Winnipeg, home of the league leading Bombers and having watched a few games this year, I think any of the top 15 or so schools would kill them, let alone the drubbing that Alabama or LSU would lay on them.

31 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Just curious, if it's first and 20, and Stewart gains three yards exactly, how does an 18 yard pass fail to gain a first down?

Or was that shorthand for he didn't get squat?

37 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

I think you are using the eagles the wrong way. Instead of giving them a bye week, have them play at Baltimore and use your suspension on Vick. VY against the Ravens is a recipe for a blowout.

38 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

I like the idea for the Nightmare schedule but propose a change to your suggestion of:

Buccaneers at Bills

Ravens at Colts

Bucs@Bills is too potentially interesting since both are seen as 2 of the league's on the rise teams. I would change it to:

Bucs@Ravens-This game could be epically boring with TB's questionable Offense getting crushed by Balt's Defense

Colts@Bills-Bills would esily score 35+ and Indy would be out of the game quickly

39 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

My nightmare scenario is this weekend. For the early games, I get a choice of watching the Cardinals get curb-stomped by the Ravens, or the Giants look like world beaters against the Dolphins.

For the late game, I get to watch the Patriots once again slowly grind the Steelers into submission.

I can't even hope for Fairy Deion to come and wave his magic cheeto so I can watch the Packers, as they are on a bye this week.

66 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

I just find it hilarious that the Ravens had to come from behind to win on a last-second FG, the Giants had to come from down 14-0 to win by a FG, and the Patriots failed their comeback-bid after the Steelers started the game by schooling them.

Of course, I had Saints-Rams as one of my three options and for the first time ever I didn't even flip through one of the three NFl games shown here because of the magnitude of blowout it surely was... until I saw a replay of the Brees pick-six near the end...

Goes to show you that Any Given Sunday... which is why the NFL is the greatest league in the world!

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

40 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Congratulations, Marty! I have been a fan of coach MS since his Cleveland days in the 80's. His lack of post-season success is an undeniable fact, although sample size may distort it somewhat, but he is unfairly maligned for his conservative approach (so-called Martyball). When he had a QB whom he trusted (Kosar, Montana), he threw the ball plenty, and his philosophy ultimately led to 200 wins. Every team he took over improved on his watch, and he was a class act who balanced old-school toughness and integrity with perspective, compassion, and even humor. He deserves serious appreciation from serious football fans.

41 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

This brings back memories of 2007 Dolphins at Steelers in knee-deep mud. That's the kind of game that redefined bad--59 1/2 minutes of scoreless futility that was preceded by a lightning delay. Hemingway couldn't have written it better.

67 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

My wife, the Dolphins fan, and I watched that game on our honeymoon at the resort's sports bar... so I will never forget it either...

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

42 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Raiders at Falcons: This is the FOX "A-game,"

This is a CBS game, not a FOX game. Visiting team determines.

47 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Here's my best attempt at a nightmare week lineup without using an extra injury:

Early Games on CBS:
Colts @ 49ers
Browns @ Chargers
Raiders @ Falcons
Titans @ Bills
Broncos @ Packers

Early Games on Fox:
Vikings @ Patriots
Lions @ Steelers (Since Stafford is hurt. Otherwise, this might be a good game)
Redskins @ Saints
Panthers @ Jets

Afternoon Game on CBS:
Dolphins @ Bengals

Afternoon Games on Fox:
Cardinals @ Texans
Rams @ Giants

Sunday Night: Jaguars @ Chiefs

Monday Night: Seahawks @ Ravens

BYE: Bears, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Eagles

58 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

They're both pretty bad, which means a good chance at a close game. To me that's better than a good team beating up on a bad one.

Oooh, I'm inspired to be mathy.

watchability(x, y) ∝ (talent(x)*talent(y))/(|talent(x) - talent(y)|)

57 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Raiders at Falcons might have been decent with Campbell, but I think it would be a blowout with the current rosters.

Jags at Chiefs would be utterly unwatchable. I can't see how that would be an enjoyable game.

Browns Chargers would probably be one of the more watchable matchups, but the small fanbases would probably ensure that it was only broadcast in the local markets.

55 Nightmares of Week 8

You know, it just occurred to me, has anyone gotten a good look at the dreck that's on this Sunday? If you throw out NE-Pit and Dal-Philly, there's a whole lot of terrible going on. I mean, Washington at Buffalo in Toronto is the Fox A-Game!

56 Re: Nightmares of Week 8

Yeah, I noticed that too. I think a lot of it is because, just like last week, there are 6 teams with a bye, all of which are very much alive in the playoff hunt. Not just that, but this week's bye teams include the league's best team (Packers), two teams from huge media markets with large followings (Bears and Jets), two teams with interesting young QB's (Falcons and Bucs) and the Raiders, with their new QB Carson Palmer and their loyal fanbase.

59 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

With the Bears-Jaguars, the storyline of "MJD questioned Cutler's toughness on Twitter during the NFC Championship last year" would make that game even more excruciating. Nonstop sideline and reaction shots of Cutler and MJD + repeated commentary about how the Bears' D is really giving it to MJD as payback. I think the game would have to be moved to Chicago so that Dierdorf could do the blathering color commentary for CBS. Maybe Theismann could be lured back to add a little of his own special sauce to the mix...

60 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

You can't have the Jets on bye! No one cares about their internal team drama outside of New York and watching their offense sputter 3 and outs constantly is unbearable.

This is what I came up with in about 20 minutes:

1:00 block:
Tennessee @ Green Bay (Tennessee is a good, boring opponent for the Packers)
Houston @ Kansas City (meh, two middling AFC teams without big fanbases)
Denver @ Atlanta (Atlanta is also a good team to negate Tebow excitement as Denver has TOP of about 15 minutes and Turner approaches 40 carries)
Oakland @ Jacksonville (9-3 Jacksonville victory)

4:15 block:
Pittsburgh @ Washington (GAME OF THE WEEK) (two high profile teams, but with no history and final score would undoubtedly be something like 16-13)
Cincinnati @ Tampa Bay (two small market teams no one really cares about even if they have good records)

1:00 block:
Arizona @ Dallas (would be very similar to the St. Louis – Dallas game last week, which was very unwatchable)
Chicago @ Cleveland
Detroit @ Miami (ugh)
Carolina @ Baltimore (Excitement of Killer Cam is negated by the Ravens who make any game boring)
San Francisco @ St. Louis (As a Niner fan, this particular game hasn't been watchable in about 5 years)

4:05 block:
Minnesota @ San Diego (I believe we had this game earlier this year, it stunk)

Seattle @ NY Jets (Might be the worst game on this list )

Indianapolis @ New Orleans (kinda cheating but oh well who wants a rematch?)

65 Re: Walkthrough: Nightmare Week

Mike - Top form as always.

After all of this great discussion, the process for creating this Nightmare Week could use some optimization, as schedules seem to be determined a little willy nilly so far.

1. Determine requirements for Nightmare week. Mike seems to set down some good rules in the opening, but the overall definition of Nightmare Week is a little up in the air, because "worst possible week" is obviously based on opinion. i.e. Having to watch any Steelers game is the worst for me as a Cowboys fan, but I guess we should use general FO consensus, not my opinion.

2. Determine teams that would be good games no matter who they play, and give them a bye. You might be forced to give more than 4 a bye.

3. Next is eliminating the games that are good only because of matchups. This is where the willy nilly has been coming in because with 28 teams playing this week, that's a lot of potential matchups to be comprehensive about it. Rank matchups based on history, recent transactions, on-field-matchups, other random storylines.

4. Choose the games based on what will give you the lowest ranked games overall.

This game is more for my own head because I'm not sure many more people will read this and I'm bored during game 7