Walkthrough
A look at the upcoming week in the NFL, from the players on the field to the fans in the stands

Walkthrough: Father Timeless

Los Angeles Rams OT Andrew Whitworth
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Is Andrew Whitworth a Hall of Famer?

Whitworth suffered a Grade 3 MCL/PCL sprain to his left knee and will likely be out six to eight weeks. Whitworth was fortunate to not tear his ACL, and he could return for the playoffs. But he turns 39 in a few weeks, so this is as good a time as any to examine his Hall of Fame credentials.

Here are the basics:

  • Two All-Pro selections (2015 with the Bengals, 2017 for the Rams)
  • Four total Pro Bowl berths.
  • 15 seasons as a starter.
  • Three appearances on the NFL Top 100 list. It's unclear what impact those lists will have on future voters. Probably none. But it is about as likely to hold sway for voters as, say, charting stats.
  • Eight playoff appearances, possibly nine if the Rams reach the playoffs this season.
  • One Super Bowl appearance.

If we award Whitworth an All-Pro selection and Pro Bowl berth for this season (the latter is reasonable; the former would be somewhat honorary for someone about to miss seven games), he still ranks a notch below the Hall of Fame left tackles of the last generation:

  • Walter Jones: four All-Pro selections, nine Pro Bowl berths.
  • Jonathan Ogden: four All-Pro selections, 11 Pro Bowl berths.
  • Orlando Pace: four All-Pro selections, seven Pro Bowl berths.
  • Willie Roaf: four All-Pro selections, 11 Pro Bowl berths
  • Let's throw Joe Thomas into this bunch: six All-Pro selections, 10 Pro Bowl berths.

Hall of Fame voters don't sit around counting asterisks on Pro Football Reference, and comparing players across eras (even 15- to 20-year spans) can lead to some erroneous Hall of Fame thinking. Whitworth does not have to compete with Odgen or even Thomas (a likely first-ballot selection in two years) to reach the Hall of Fame. He needs to be one of the five best candidates in any given class.

Assuming Whitworth retires this year or next, he will enter classes flooded with the ranks of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, and many others who can safely be classified as "first ballot Hall of Famers." That won't impact Whitworth directly, as he will be one of dozens of non-legends competing for three or four spots per draft class. The two names Whitworth must worry about are Jason Peters and Marshal Yanda.

Peters, who is almost certain to retire at the end of this season, has two All-Pro selections and nine Pro Bowl berths in his portfolio. He played for teams which were more successful than Whitworth's teams. Yanda was a guard for the vast majority of his career, but his portfolio includes two All-Pro selections, eight Pro Bowl berths, a Super Bowl ring, and a season blocking for the league MVP. We can debate among them, and that's precisely what Hall of Fame voters are likely to do if two or three of them are finalists in any given year. The fact remains that the three of them will probably be competing with about a dozen other highly qualified candidates for one spot in every given year.

(To clarify: Trent Williams and Joe Staley do not have serious Hall of Fame credentials at this point, though both will make some semifinalist lists in the future. Tyron Smith won't retire for a while, nor will David Bakhtiari, who is quietly compiling a resume.)

Whitworth's candidacy, at least in his first few years of eligibility, will probably come down to the quality of his campaign. You may not like the sound of that, but what's the alternative? Twitter polls? Dozens of tape grinders comparing the 2013 Bengals and Eagles and trying to form a consensus? There's no good way to compare two 2010s left tackles to a 2000s safety and some leftover 1990s linebackers. At least the whole sponsorship/campaign process involves real research and face-to-face debate among folks who have spoken to these players and their coaches, teammates, and opponents.

It's impossible to predict how someone's Hall of Fame campaign will look five to eight years down the road, but I've learned enough about the process to take a few guesses:

Whitworth will be the sole priority for the Cincinnati selector. That will work in his favor. The delegates from some cities are forced to choose who they present or pound the table for in any given year. The Cincinnati voter (I'm not using names, because I know about half of these folks rather well but don't know the other half at all) can focus on Whitworth as the sole representative of a franchise that reached the playoffs six times. The Los Angeles delegation also has little else to do over the next few years except endorse Whitworth.

Whitworth played for many respected/influential coaches. Marv Lewis, Sean McVay, Jay Gruden, Hue Jackson (well-regarded in some media circles), as well as position-coach lifers such as Bob Bratkowski, Aaron Kromer, and Ken Zampese are all likely to heartily endorse Whitworth when interviewed by voters; again, many of them don't have any other offensive linemen and few other players to stan for. It's also possible that Andy Dalton becomes a media personality in four or five years and provides a ringing endorsement.

Of course, Peters may have the Andy Reid coaching tree at his back, and Yanda has ever-so-slightly influential folks such as Ozzie Newsome and his lieutenants in his corner. But it's possible that one of the candidates will get some less-than-glowing recommendations due to, say, lots of late-career injuries or contract squabbles or such.

In my mind, Whitworth's Hall of Fame candidacy comes down to whether he should have earned All-Pro/Pro Bowl berths for the 2009-2014 Bengals but was stuck behind Thomas in the AFC on a small-market team with a woebegone history. That's the head-canon argument for Whitworth right now, anyway: he's thought of as a 15-year Pro Bowler even though recognition didn't really come to him until the Bengals were already fading.

My gut tells me that Whitworth, Peters, and Yanda will all cluster-clog each other in their first year or two in the ballot, then all squeeze into the Hall of Fame in no particular order. But there's a chance that Whitworth ends up waiting over a decade like Alan Faneca, or even falls by the wayside like Joe Jacoby if too many coaches whisper that he was a good/popular player, but not an outstanding one. I don't think that will happen, but it does happen.

With that, let's turn to Whitworth's more immediate 2020 impact.

Rams at Buccaneers, Monday, 8:15 p.m.

Here are Jared Goff's statistics when pressured, per Sports Info Solutions: 112 dropbacks, 97 attempts, 39 completions, 388 yards, three touchdowns, four interceptions, 13 sacks. His 40.2% completion rate is fourth-worst among quarterbacks with 25 or more dropbacks under pressure. His 4.0 yards per attempt rank second-worst, ahead of only (sigh) Carson Wentz. His efficiency rating is fifth-worst.

Goff's awful pressure stats should not shock anyone who has watched the Rams over the last two years, but they are worth mentioning with Whitworth hurt and the Buccaneers ranked second to only the Steelers (again, per Sports Info Solutions) in total pass pressures.

The Rams will also be without kicker Kai Forbath for a few weeks; Austin MacGinnis and Matt Gay were competing for the job at press time. I would run through their biographies, but you know the deal when a team is auditioning their third and fourth kickers in mid-November. The Rams rank 30th in special teams DVOA, thanks not just to kicker woes but getting zilch from their return game while allowing several long returns. Bad special teams are not an inevitable result of an extremely top-heavy payroll that forces a team to pinch pennies at the bottom of the depth chart, but they are a likely result.

The Buccaneers are currently remarkably healthy and also appear to have diplomatic immunity. Cool cool cool. I have something special planned for them next week; tune in on Thanksgiving morning for the most obscure homage in Walkthrough history. Until then, enjoy Brady's latest "grudge match" against a team or players he once faced in the Super Bowl. Nick Foles will be nowhere to be seen, so Brady should be safe.

Prediction: Buccaneers 34, Rams 20

Patriots at Texans, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Rome did not suddenly collapse in the middle of the fifth century C.E. and immediately throw Europe into every-village-for-itself turmoil, despite what some of us were taught in high school. Rome fell gradually over the course of decades/centuries, leaving kingdoms of Visigoths, Franks, Vandals, and others in their wake which were "barbarian" in name only, often with Roman infrastructure and a Romanized aristocracy carrying on in a manner that did not change much during the course of everyday lives at the time.

Bill Belichick is still conducting on the business of empire behind the walls of Constantinople, where he could still enjoy modest success as the ruler of a depleted empire for a long time. The Texans are in the process of establishing a theocracy in the wake of last month's military coup; the result is likely to be a long, pious Dark Age. Meanwhile, the Lions still rely heavily on trade goods from what's left of Rome to prop up their polity and may soon disappear like the Sossians. Tom Brady still marches at the front of a mercenary army like Belisarius. And Brian Flores? He has eyes on becoming Charlemagne.

Past Patriots/Texans showdowns were as important as the Punic Wars, and usually as decisive as the third. This will be more like a forgettable border skirmish over a muddy patch of farmland in Germainia.

Prediction: Patriots 22, Texans 17

Cardinals at Seahawks, Thursday, 8:20 p.m.

How this game will go …

  • The pregame show will gush over last week's "Hail Murray" touchdown as if it was the greatest thing to happen to America in 2020, when really it's [checks vaccine news] barely in the top three.
     
  • Jamal Adams will blitz 10 times. Kyler Murray will throw 10 screen passes, five of which will net 20-plus yards each and five of which will be stuffed at the line because the rest of the Seahawks defense figured out what was coming when DeAndre Hopkins lined up in a triple stack behind two tight ends.
     
  • Adams will drop into coverage 20 times. Murray will have a combined six minutes to throw on those plays, completing 75% of his attempts.
     
  • Adams will whiff on one tackle after getting knocked off balance by a blocker. This will be the only play midday sports hosts talk about.
     
  • Troy Aikman will wonder aloud why Russell Wilson is suddenly in a slump while Wilson hands off to Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas on first and second down, then waits for Freddie Swain and Will Dissly to get open on third down.
     
  • A slight drizzle prompts Aikman to talk about nothing but wet footballs for a half-hour while the two teams combine to score five touchdowns.
     
  • DK Metcalf will fail to chase down Budda Baker from behind on an interception return, sparking multiple voter fraud lawsuits.
     
  • The Seahawks will try to draw the Cardinals offsides on fourth-and-inches by ordering Wilson to stand perfectly motionless behind center with his hand on his temple like Jean Grey and attempt to telekinetically drag defenders across the neutral zone. When that fails, Pete Carroll will punt from midfield. The Cardinals will then drive 80 yards for a touchdown.
     
  • Something something something Wilson Miracle Touchdown something something.
     
  • The game will be decided at 11:57 p.m. Eastern time on a last-second overtime 56-yard field goal. You will be either too tired or desensitized to process which team actually won.

Prediction: Seahawks 37, Cardinals 34

Chiefs at Raiders, Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

What if the Raiders really are Super Bowl contenders?

What if Jon Gruden's coaching style really does resonate with young players? What if his game plans have really struck the perfect balance between old ideas and new? What if Mike Mayock is doing more than just drafting out of the Clemson media guide in early rounds and then grabbing whatever high-risk/reward talent slips through the cracks in later rounds? Or, alternately, what if that's the proper way to approach the draft? What if Tom Cable truly is a great offensive line coach? What if Derek Carr has quietly transformed into the guy he looked like he might become in 2016?

It's hard for me to wrap my brain around most of those possibilities. Gruden still comes across like a self-impressed celebrity coasting on his name recognition and scoffing at any suggestions that what worked in 2002 might not work in 2020. Mayock's top draft picks have been OK, but not as great as top draft picks should be. The time when that wide receiver made both Gruden and Mayock look like absolute dupes last year is still relatively fresh in my mind. At his best, Carr looks like Single Barrel Kirk Cousins on film. Cable is the human representation of everything that's wrong with the NFL, if not society.

And yet the Raiders have beaten both the Saints and the Chiefs; one upset is an "any given Sunday" situation, but two could be a trend. They just spanked the Broncos, and the 37-12 score could have been more like 47-12 if not for some dropped touchdown passes and penalties on punt returns. Blowing out a bad team is often a sign of a great team.

Mayock's late-round flyers such as Maurice Hurst and Maxx Crosby are playing well, as are Dabo's Heroes such as Clelin Ferrell (overdrafted, but still a stout defender, though currently on the COVID list) and Hunter Renfrow. Cable's makeshift offensive line is playing well though injuries and COVID isolations. And there are a lot of teams that would be thrilled to have a reliable veteran field general such as Carr right now. The Raiders have all the makings of a well-run, disciplined organization: young players are developing, coaches are adapting scheme to personnel, weak opponents are easily dispatched, stronger ones are in for a fight.

I'm scared.

The Raiders were 6-4 and on the precipice of competence last year when they got hammered 34-3 by the Jets; the Chiefs then climbed through the ropes with a folding chair for a 40-9 knockout blow. I'm 90% convinced the Chiefs will deliver an emphatic revenge victory on Sunday night -- as you well know, Andy Reid is a Legendary Pokemon when coming off a bye week -- but I'm bracing for the possibility that they don't. Even a narrow Chiefs victory will force me to keep re-examining the Raiders as they move on to face the Falcons and Jets over the next two weeks. It's hard to imagine that Gruden, Mayock, Carr, and (ugh) Cable really have things figured out. But there's mounting evidence that they do.

Prediction: Chiefs 37, Raiders 27

Titans at Ravens, Sunday, 1 p.m.

The Titans and Colts appeared more or less evenly matched last Thursday night until the Titans suffered a shanked punt, a blocked punt, and a missed field goal on three consecutive series, which led to 21 Colts points.

Stephen Gostkowski is now 2-of-7 from 40 to 49 yards and has missed twice inside of 40 yards; he's 6-of-7 from 50-plus yards because kicker stats, amirite? The Titans punt coverage unit gave up a 57-yard return which led to a touchdown in the loss to the Steelers and a 49-yard kickoff return which helped the Bengals pull away in Week 8.

A team trying to win by controlling the ball and out-executing opponents can't afford miserable special teams. (Miserable special teams are, after all, a sign that you are not out-executing opponents). To their credit, the Titans traded for Desmond King, a quality all-purpose special teamer as well as a versatile dime defender, before the deadline. But they are stuck with Gostkowski, because there aren't any kickers hanging around the waiver wire who are better options for a likely playoff team than a 15-year veteran who has kicked in six Super Bowls, no matter how washed he often looks.

The Ravens, on the other hand, have fielded a top-10 special teams every year since 2012, finishing first three times, and currently rank second to the Dolphins (whose special teams have gone gonzo this season). Kicker Justin Tucker is a huge part of the reason, but the Ravens are getting another fine year from Sam Koch and the punt coverage units, and Devin Duvernay has been an asset in the return game.

This matchup will probably not come down to special teams. But the Titans will be in big trouble if it does.

Prediction: Ravens 26, Titans 21

Dolphins at Broncos, Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

November, 2017: The Broncos start the season with a 3-6 record. Opening day starter Trevor Siemian gets benched in favor of prodigal pocket statue Brock Osweiler. Osweiler gives way after four losses to former first-round pick Paxton Lynch, who gets injured in his first start. Siemian returns to finish the season, with Lynch making a non-promising cameo in Week 17. The Broncos finish 5-11.

November, 2018: The Broncos start the season with a 3-6 record. The team wins three straight games after their bye week thanks to stout defense and the emergence of running back Phillip Lindsay, then scores just 53 points in four straight losses to end the season 6-10. The losing streak is a blessing in disguise, as it prevents team president John Elway from fooling himself into thinking Case Keenum is the long-term answer at quarterback.

November, 2019. The Broncos start the season with a 3-6 record. Opening day starter Joe Flacco is placed on injured reserve. Brandon Allen leads the team to victory against the self-destructive Browns, then flatlines, paving the way for rookie Drew Lock to lead a victory over the self-destructive Texans, as well as three other wins thanks to stout defense.

November, 2020. The Broncos are 3-6. Drew Lock ranks 31st in the NFL in DYAR and is about to miss time with his second injury of the season. Backups Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel have already started games, and Broncos fans must be wary that a winning streak based on stout defense might fool Elway (who is infatuated with both custodial Siemian/Keenum types and nephews) into believing Rypien is the long-term answer at quarterback.

As we chuckle at the Broncos quarterback situation, keep in mind that Tua Tagovailoa is currently on a three-game winning streak with the help of a stout defense. Tua, of course, is a much better prospect than Lynch or Lock. But a healthy reminder of how hard it is for an organization to break a futility cycle never hurts.

Prediction: Dolphins 23, Broncos 13

Packers at Colts, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

The Colts were 3-of-5 on fourth-down conversions in Thursday night's win over the Titans and are now 11-of-18 on fourth downs this season. There are a few late-game no-choice conversion attempts in the Jaguars and Ravens losses in that data, but by my count at least a dozen of the Colts fourth down conversion attempts were "discretionary." Frank Reich now chooses to go for it about three times per two games, which would have made him the most daring rebel in the NFL about a decade ago.

I could now deliver a sermon to the choir about the wisdom of fourth-down conversions. Instead, I will point out that too many fourth-down conversion attempts can be a sign that an offense often gains 9 yards or less on three consecutive plays. If a team has to go for it on three fourth-and-shorts in one drive, as the Colts did on one Thursday possession, it's a sign that they are not moving the ball as efficiently as they should.

The Packers spend a lot of time these days looking for ways to get upset: terrible run defense, long offensive brownouts, turnovers, special teams miscues, etc. They got away with it against the Jaguars and what's left of the 49ers. They won't get away with it this week.

Prediction: Colts 27, Packers 24

Eagles at Browns, Sunday, 1 p.m.

The Browns have responded to Baker Mayfield's obvious struggles and limitations by childproofing their offense, emphasizing the run and building their passing game on play-action rollouts that create easy reads and throws. As a result, the Browns rarely trip over beatable opponents and have positioned themselves to win nine or 10 games and reach the playoffs, despite playing in one of the NFL's toughest decisions.

The Eagles have responded to Carson Wentz's obvious struggles and limitations by lapsing into deep denial, treating the running game like an afterthought, expecting Wentz to take shot after shot downfield and being hyper-aggressive on fourth downs and two-point conversions despite their low success rate (the Eagles are 5-of-17 on fourth downs and 6-of-13 on two-point conversions this season). As a result, the Eagles keep tripping over beatable opponents such as the Giants and Washington and have positioned themselves to lose nine or 10 games and only have a chance to reach the playoffs because they play in the worst division in American professional sports.

And remember, the team that's running the ball and being relatively conservative is the one that's run by analytics dudes.

Prediction: Browns 24, Eagles 20

Falcons at Saints, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Here are Jameis Winston's statistics versus the Falcons in his career: nine games, 277.7 yards per game, 25 touchdowns, nine interceptions, a 66.0% completion rate, 8.7 yards per attempt, 11 sacks, 35 rushes for 166 yards and two touchdowns, an efficiency rating of 109.1.

Those are Winston's best numbers against any opponent he has regularly faced. He threw just nine touchdowns but 14 interceptions in nine games against the Panthers, with 32 sacks. He completed just 57.5% of his passes with 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and 24 sacks in nine games against the Saints. Keep in mind that the Falcons were a Super Bowl team in one of those years and a playoff team in another, so while their defense was never spectacular, Winston consistently put up solid numbers against a competitive opponent.

Winston will face the Falcons twice in the next three weeks and should be able to parlay that into a chance to compete for a starting job somewhere like Denver, Chicago, or New England next season. Nothing I see over the next few weeks is likely to convince me that he'll ever be more than a lower-tier starter with a too-high turnover rate. But after watching Nick Foles on Monday night and guys such as Garrett Gilbert and Jake Luton in recent weeks, I'm eager to watch Winston get a second chance.

And if Taysom Hill is named the Saints starter, ignore this segment and picture me slamming my head into my office wall for 20 solid minutes.

Prediction: Saints 26, Falcons 22

Lions at Panthers, Sunday, 1 p.m.

The Lions could reach .500 by beating the Panthers with P.J. Walker or a very limited Teddy Bridgewater (knee) at quarterback on Sunday, one week after needing a 59-yard field goal to fend off a comeback by Washington last week. They could then rise to 6-5 by beating the Texans in the Fake Patriots Dysfunctionality Bowl on Thanksgiving. The schedule gets tougher after that, but it's not difficult to imagine a scenario where they finish .500, saving Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn's jobs so we can do all of this again next year, except with Jason McCourty in the secondary and Rex Burkhead as the third-down back.

In other words, you should root for the Panthers if you care about this game at all, unless you are a Packers, Vikings, or Bears fan.

Prediction: Lions 26, Panthers 20 with Bridgewater; Lions 31, Panthers 13 without him

Steelers at Jaguars, Sunday, 1 p.m.

The Steelers have faced Garrett Gilbert, Joe Burrow, and now Jake Luton over the last three weeks, which may prompt some observers to place an asterisk next to their 9-0 start. Let the record show that the 2007 Patriots faced such quarterbacks as Cleo Lemon (twice), J.P. Losman, A.J. Feeley, and Kyle Boller. Looking up the quarterbacks the 1972 Dolphins faced is left to the class as an exercise.

Prediction: Steelers 33, Jaguars 13

Bengals at Washington, Sunday, 1 p.m.

The last Bengals-Washington game ended in a 27-27 tie in October, 2016. It was a Kirk Cousins-Andy Dalton showdown, and it lived precisely up to that billing.

I got a little unearned attention by calling the Eagles-Bengals tie earlier in the season. Can lightning strike twice? Almost certainly not. But it's not like you are breathlessly waiting for my opinions on this game, anyway.

Prediction: Washington 26, Bengals 26

Cowboys at Vikings, Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

Speaking of Kirk Cousins-Andy Dalton showdowns, Dalton returned to practice this week and is likely to start for the Cowboys. Hooray!?

The Vikings could claw their way into the playoff conversation. They've posted positive DVOA in their three consecutive victories, which all came against divisional foes. They face the 25th-ranked remaining schedule, per DVOA. Justin Jefferson has adequately filled the void left by Stefon Diggs, and the rookie cornerbacks are no worse than last year's big-name burn unit. If the Vikings finish 9-7, they may need to win a common-foe tiebreaker to slip past an NFC West team with the same record. This game will be critical if that's the case, because all three NFC West contenders have beaten the Cowboys.

The fact that the Cowboys could also make the playoffs is too obvious to mention and too depressing to dwell upon.

Prediction: Vikings 24, Cowboys 17

Jets at Chargers, Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

Melvin Ingram has zero sacks this season. Ingram missed several games with a knee injury, but he has been back since Week 7, and there are no indications that he is playing through an injury. Ingram played 49 snaps last week against the Miami Dolphins but did not appear on the stat sheet at all. Ingram is now 31 years old and in the final season of his contract.

The Chargers never really "rebuilt" during the Philip Rivers epoch. They typically added a quality player or two in each draft class while losing an important veteran or two to age or free agency each year while Rivers kept the team competitive and a frugal front office avoided any "all-in" splurges. The Chargers have therefore never really established a "young nucleus." The current roster consists of veterans about to hit the downside of their careers (Ingram, Casey Hayward, Bryan Bulaga, injured center Mike Pouncey), a few stars at or approaching their expensive prime (Keenan Allen, Joey Bosa, Hunter Henry), and lots of "jury's out" younger players such as Nasir Adderley, Forrest Lamp, Jerry Tillery, and the ever-injured Derwin James. The veteran-heavy roster, particularly on offense, has worked in Justin Herbert's favor from a development standpoint, but it could slow the franchise's progress as the Chargers spend the next season or two rebuilding a defense and offensive line that looked pretty good not too long ago.

The Jets never have to worry about such matters because they have had neither a nucleus of young talent nor a coherent roster management plan since approximately 2009.

Prediction: Chargers 27, Jets 16

Comments

66 comments, Last at 21 Nov 2020, 4:24pm

1 Nucs over Rams?

Will be thinking about that a lot next few days. Rams defense very good . Can prrssuee Soft Balls Brady from interior. On other side we have J. Goff who struggles againdt tough teams and Bucca defense us tough. Also can blitz good. When you can hassel the Goff, you can win.

2 In my mind, Whitworth's Hall…

In my mind, Whitworth's Hall of Fame candidacy comes down to whether he should have earned All-Pro/Pro Bowl berths for the 2009-2014 Bengals but was stuck behind Thomas in the AFC on a small-market team with a woebegone history.

Joe Thomas was in as small of a market on an even crappier team!

For all Hall voters don't formally review black ink numbers, black ink numbers sure do predict HOF linemen pretty well.

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/hof/hofm_T.htm

Whitworth's case is worse than Peters, who is sort of Boselli without the short career. Whitworth is more like Lomas Brown, and if the NFL's best RB retiring because the team wouldn't resign you isn't good enough of a Hall case, Whitworth isn't going to make it.

I spent this section of the article thinking it was Ben Muth's column. Frankly, I'm really curious about Ben's take on it.

\what's Jim Tyrer's story? Was he snubbed for all the AFL seasons?

5 Lomas Brown is a good…

Lomas Brown is a good comparison. Tony Boselli with a normal career is a Hall of Famer. His candidacy is sidelined by the fact that he is always on a list with 3-4 linemen with longer careers and more accomplishments.

Joe Thomas, of course, was not only an unquestioned all-time great but had "only decent player on the team" angle for years, which brought an extra measure of fame and made him popular in award balloting (vote for Thomas, erase Browns from thought process).

Tyrer's Chiefs are very well represented in the Hall. In general. Without delving too deeply into the particulars of his career, I feel voters needed more from the AFL than a lot of Pro Bowl berths due to the relative volatility of competitiveness in that league. That said, if the Seniors waived him in at some point I would not blink.

 

 

 

6 Jim Tyrer

Jim Tyrer (who retired after the 1974 season) murdered his wife in 1980 before turning the gun on himself; while the Hall of Fame doesn't necessarily consider off-the-field actions, I doubt they were looking to honor him after that.

63 Inappropriately flip remark

In reply to by Travis

I would feel slightly more sympathetic toward all those murder-suicide people, if they just did it the other way around.  Suicide first.

8 In my mind, Whitworth's Hall…

More hall of 'very good' than Hall of Fame. I feel like considering him lock would be an ultimate prisoner of the moment move, but since you need 5 years of retirement before eligibility, I'm confident it won't happen.

3 With the Pats sending in…

With the Pats sending in former staffers to rot the Texans from the inside out, is the long-term plan for Kraft to merge the teams and form the Umayyads?

27 What?

How do you get the Umayyads from Houston and New England? 

I know who the Umayyads are and appreciate the history namedrop, just not sure if I'm missing a reference or something. 

34 The Ottomans might have been…

In reply to by KaosTheory

The Ottomans might have been funnier for byzantine reasons.

But the Umayyads were basically the southern part of what was left of the Byzantine Empire, and encompassed a more theocratic form of Carthage (Tunisia). And as there are no young turks on the horizon here, I went with the Umayyads.

4 Gruden has always been…

Gruden has always been pretty good when he's been able to settle on a QB. He has that in Carr.

Paxton Lynch's pedigree isn't that much worse than Tua's, really. Both were 1st rounders; Paxton was third QB drafted, Tua was 2nd. Paxton's pedigree is about that of Drew Brees.

Cleveland *has* childproofed their offense, but the last two weeks are weather-related, not strategy-related. For all Cleveland's lack of passing, they had 6 fewer passing yards than their opponents, because sustained 25 mph winds are a bitch.

Detroit needs to lose this week. Not that the Fords will fire either of them, but because fuck Matt Patricia. That said, I want them to beat the Texans. Both because I'm tired of spending ever Thanksgiving watching them fuck the day up, but also because I'm still salty about the NFL screwing the Lions over in 2012 with the only time they actually enforced the no-review-if-a-coach-challenges-a-turnover rule. The one the ref stared at McCarthy and handed his flag back to him after *he* did it in week 17. Because they kiss the Packers' asses about as much as they do the Patriots'.

\honestly, fliers plus choosing the best remaining from Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson isn't a bad strategy
\\Add Wisconsin if you need LBs or OLs.

13 My worst fear is Patricia…

My worst fear is Patricia riding luck an a favorable schedule to 8-8, and allowing him to point to the fact that his team was "playing meaningful games in December", leading to the Fords deciding to retain him, despite no appreciable overall improvement in the team.

I totally agree with your last sentence regarding the draft.  It's mostly a crapshoot anyway, so you may as well try to raid the schools with the most talent in the early rounds, and hope you luck into some "steals" in the later rounds.

47 There were lots and lots of…

There were lots and lots of yellow flags around Lynch as both a QB (too methodical system guy) and individual (he took VERY WELL to the role of a backup) both before the draft and at the start of his career. Leaving the off-field stuff aside, Tua's release, mobility and processing quickness are all indicators that he is a better prospect than Lynch was. 

10 In other words, you should…

In other words, you should root for the Panthers if you care about this game at all, unless you are a Packers, Vikings, or Bears fan.

The most devastating thing about this almost blanket statement? It doesn't include the Lions fans. Outside shot of Stafford muscling/lucking his way into the playoffs (possible even extra expanded field with 9ers/Bears/Vikes as their competitors for NFC spot 8 + remember when joe Flacco did it) versus Patricia coming back stronger with a 500 season on his resume... Quite the conundrum.

16 Stafford isn't enough to…

Stafford isn't enough to carry a 7-seed Lions against Tampa or NO, which is who they will inevitably get.

The last time Stafford faced the Saints in the playoffs, Brees generated the greatest DVOA game in playoff history. And that was against a vastly better defense than this.

18 A)Stafford is good, but not…

A)Stafford is good, but not good enough to carry this terrible defense (and he's banged up now, too).  Panthers and Texans are the only cupcakes left on the schedule (even then, Matt Patricia has proven capable of losing to literally anybody).

B)I have no interest in watching the Lions get obliterated in the early Saturday Wildcard window by the Packers or Buccaneers, and then have this current coaching staff continue bumbling their way through the next few seasons.

22 well thank you resident FO…

well thank you resident FO Lions fans. i like to think that there is a relatively intelligent and analytically and forward thinking subset of fans here; i wonder if the non-FO type Lions fans agree. I mean, is Patricia largely disfavored by Lions fanbase as much as you guys? 

I am a fairly disinterested largely AFC centered fan myself, and I will be rooting for Rhule since I like the idea of having some young non NFCWest NFC coaches worth being excited about for the future, and obvsly pencil ear ain't that, and of course Flacco had a really good, albeit not all-time great, defense, but I don't know, I think Stafford would have a punchers chance of getting hot for a few weeks and causing some damage, particularly in this underwhelming NFC year. I don't suffer from Lions PTSD though, so you'd probably both vehemently disagree. which you already have. But the raiders beat the saints, and the giants and jags arguably could have beat the bucs and the pack, respectively, if they'd had a healthy Matt Stafford. And if memory serves me correct, the lions have already beaten the NFC west division leaders this year. (tbf, i do have a bit of flacco ptsd contributing to these counter arguments)

24 Stafford can get on a roll…

Stafford can get on a roll with the best of them.

But he's fighting uphill against a franchise every bit as cursed as the Chargers. The only Lions playoff win of the Ford era involved a blood sacrifice. Unless he can play defense, and probably ref, too, it won't be enough.

32 "....is Patricia largely…

"....is Patricia largely disfavored by Lions fanbase as much as you guys?"

Definitely yes.  A large portion of the fanbase has been howling for Patricia's immediate firing since week 4 (if the Twitter comments to the beat writers are to believed).  In fact, some fans with a revisionist history bent now speak of Jim Caldwell as if he were Vince Lombardi.

Your point about the Lions owning a road victory over the Cardinals is noted, but I think that is more due to the high-variance nature of the Cardinals (keep in mind they lost to the Panthers, too, in a game that wasn't particularly close).  The Lions have been easily dispatched by every other good team they've faced.

61 I never really understood…

After last season, I was definitely on board for firing Patricia and making Bevell head coach.

I never really understood why Caldwell was let go. He brought calm and discipline to the franchise, and regularly produced competitive teams, even if they didn't always bring playoff appearances. I'm still adamant that the refs screwed the Lions over in that last playoff game against Dallas. The image of Suh being held in a chokehold by a Dallas lineman on the last drive is still burnt into my memory. Just imagine if Caldwell had managed to secure the first Lions playoff win in 25 years.

Patricia is only coaching this team because Pat Quinn has a Patriots pedigree. The incestuous nature of management decisions is a primary factor in explaining why so many franchise fail to improve.

11 "Let the record show that…

"Let the record show that the 2007 Patriots faced such quarterbacks as Cleo Lemon (twice), J.P. Losman, A.J. Feeley, and Kyle Boller. Looking up the quarterbacks the 1972 Dolphins faced is left to the class as an exercise."

I had totally forgotten the name "Kyle Boller".  Career 69.5 passer rating...yet Baltimore was almost .500 (20-22) with him as a starter.  How does that happen? 

44 You're missing Mike Tomczak

You want the best argument that the 80's Bears were the best D of all time?

In 1986 Mike Tomczak started 7 games, threw 2 touchdowns and 10 picks and completed 49% of his passes. He went 7-0.

52 It is rather remarkable that…

It is rather remarkable that on the whole, Chicago's QBs out-performed their opponent's QBs.

That said, they ran 60% of the time, and Tomczak threw the same number of passes as McMahon, but in twice the number of appearances. McMahon's fewest passes in an appearance was 19. Tomczak broke that 4 times in 13.

But the NFC Central was a bloodbath in 1986. Only GB didn't start at least two QBs. Only TB didn't use at least three. Only Minnesota passed well.

31 They had some ridiculously…

In reply to by KaosTheory

They had some ridiculously good players on defense on top of Lewis.  Ed Reed, Adalius Thomas, Boulware, McCalister, Scott, Suggs, etc. 

What a waste of a defense. 

65 They even had some talent on offense

Not enough offensive talent, and not enough speed.  But Boller played with:

Jamal Lewis
Todd Heap
late-career Derrick Mason
Jon Ogden
Edwin Mulitalo
Casey Rabach
Jason Brown
Orlando Brown senior

Some of the role-players were better than you'd expect.  Fullbacks and whatnot.  5th-rd pick Tony Pashos bounced around the league for 9 years, playing RT for the Brownies, Jags, Raiders & Niners.  In '07 Ozzie added Willis McGahee, Le'Ron McClain, Ben Grubbs & Marshall Yanda.

They just couldn't find a QB to save their lives.  In 2005 the Ravens drafted WR Mark Clayton two picks before Aaron Rodgers was taken.  They didn't need a QB because they had Boller from 2 drafts before.

I'll just go kill myself now.

66 Kyle Boller

My handle actually references the Cal Bears, for whom Boller quarterbacked from 1999-2002.

I admired Boller for putting up with 3 years of some of the most inept offenses you’ll ever see, with no discernible surrounding talent other than a WR who got suspended in a cheating scandal leading to forfeits of some games they somehow won. They changed coordinators every year to no avail and he regularly took a beating. Despite this as far as I can tell he never complained. 

Then he got one year of Tedford’s QB magic and a winning record, and had some workouts where he threw the ball a zillion yards from his knees. I laughed because I knew he wasn’t an NFL QB, but I’m glad he got some money for his trouble and at least one high profile hot girlfriend.

And he may be one of the reasons Rodgers fell in the draft a couple of years later.

12 Love the Rome References

“It's hard to imagine that Gruden, Mayock, Carr, and (ugh) Cable really have things figured out.”. For Eagles fans, maybe.

”As a result, the Browns rarely trip over beatable opponents and have positioned themselves to win nine or 10 games and reach the playoffs, despite playing in one of the NFL's toughest decisions.” What decisions are those? Maybe you meant to write divisions?

19 "Looking up the quarterbacks…

"Looking up the quarterbacks the 1972 Dolphins faced is left to the class as an exercise."

On the one hand, Len Dawson, Dan Pastorini, Fran Tarkenton, Joe Namath, Jim Hart, Norm Snead, and Jim Plunkett.

On the other hand, Mike Taliaferro, Dennis Shaw, Marty Domres, Brian Dowling, and Gary Cuozzo.

23 and for the 2007 Pats,…

and for the 2007 Pats, Tanier could have definitely added in 'regular season eli manning" as a mark against them, who had one of his best regular season games of his life against the vaunted about to be 16-0 pats.  Regular season Eli went down swinging like Garrett Gilbert! 

Unfortunately they also faced off against 4th quarter SB Eli Manning in the SB. Regular Season Eli was, on a good day, Steve Deberg (for whom the term journeyman quarterback may have been invented); 4th quarter SB Eli Manning was Joe Montana!

25 DeBerg was the prototype for…

DeBerg was the prototype for Ryan Fitzpatrick -- a break glass in case of emergency QB.

He could really save your ass when things went bad, but in no way shape or form did you trust him as a full-time starter.

26 Tom Brady as Belisarius

Ave, Tanier. Well played, indeed.

So glad to have you back at FO. Just can't get this stuff anywhere else.

30 "6-of-13 on two-point…

"6-of-13 on two-point conversions" is pretty close to the expected points from 13 EP kicks. Thanks for all the ancient history references (and a great read). I spent an hour diving into the internet and learned Belisarius's troops were nicknamed the Biscuit Eaters, a potential replacement name for DC?

39 Seahawks Cardinals

  • The game will be decided at 11:57 p.m. Eastern time on a last-second overtime 56-yard field goal. You will be either too tired or desensitized to process which team actually won.

Based on the quote above, we already know the winner.  The team whose kicker has a range of greater than 49 yards.

41 Online learning

I come to this site already understanding that I have to brush up on my math.  But now I have to know my history references as well?!

What is it next week, a deep dive on Geology?!

Great read as always, Mike.

Question that is relevant because of the Patricia/Lions discussion.  What happens if the Cowboys run the table with Dalton?  Really, only the Ravens are a 'tough' matchup left on the schedule.  Its possible.. anyhow, I was very disappointed (but not surprised) Jerry hired a retread like McCarthy.  If this reversal happens, will McCarthy be kept?   I can see Jerry keeping him given his previous loyalty to Garrett despite all evidence he should have been let go 3 years earlier. An 8-8 season and 1st round playoff loss ensuring year 2 of the McCarthy era would be my nightmare scenario.  The only good thing about this wasted season is the possibility that MM is one & done. 

I am very jealous of teams like the Panthers and Dolphins for taking a chance on 'unknown' commodities like Flores, Rhule, Stefanski et al.  I wish them all luck.  Well, except Joe Judge.  May the stink of Jason Garrett envelop him!

 

 

42 For what it's worth,…

In reply to by edholiday

For what it's worth, Belichick and Reid are retreads. 

16 of the last 23 SB winners have been coached by retreads, and another three were coached by GB or Pittsburgh, who hold onto coaches for forever. The similar Ravens account for another two.

So you basically have two flavor of the week winner HCs -- Peyton and Pederson.

45 HCs

I would argue that Belichek’s 6 should not be on the retread pile given how things ended in Cleveland. Same with Gruden. I think if one organization feels compelled To give up compensation to hire a coach from another organization, that coach has value. Let’s say they have reduced treads. And Tomlin & Harbaugh had 1 season of major coordinator experience between them when they were hired - making them risky hires. Which was the point I was trying to make. 
 

Perhaps I was a bit harsh on MM and 2nd (or more) time HCs. In his case,I just don’t see a team that’s prepared to start games. They lack intensity (other than maybe Pitt).  Adjustments are rare.  That’s coaching. 
 

Hope he can prove me wrong.

 

53 Why not? Belichick was fired…

In reply to by edholiday

Why not? Belichick was fired. By Ozzie Newsome. The same administration and the same roster won a title 5 years later under Billick. All that changed was the jersey.

Gruden was weird, granted, but Oakland was willing to let him leave.

Reid was absolutely fired.

58 lame duck

Belichek endured a lame duck season and was fired.  Not sure the team performance is entirely on him.

 

Same roster? - didn't realize BB coached HoFers Lewis and Ogden among others (spoiler alert - he didn't).  5 years is a lot of time for roster turnover.  That was not his 1995 team that won in 2000.

 

Good thing Modell had Newsome; apparently he wanted Louis Phillips over Ogden and Ozzie said 'No'.  According to Wikipedia, anyway!

43 Interchangeable analysis

"The Eagles have responded to Carson Wentz's obvious struggles and limitations by lapsing into deep denial, treating the running game like an afterthought, expecting Wentz to take shot after shot downfield"

Replace Eagles with Broncos and Wentz with Lock, and you have a pretty much identical situation.  It never ceases to amaze me how many coaches pay lip service to fitting the system to the players they have instead of what they wish they had, but then seem utterly incapable of actually doing so.

56 Hill vs. Winston

In reply to by Chuckc

Reasons for naming Hill the starter: He knows the offense better. He is the better running QB. The Falcons have to game plan differently. 

Reasons for having Winston as the starter: He is the better passer/QB. He played reasonably well against SF when pressed into duty. He allows Hill to still run all the gadget plays & play special teams.

My opinion as a fan: Both play QB, and the team still relies on Kamara, Thomas, and the defense. I would love to see a series or two where both are in the huddle for the whole set of downs and it is successful, and not just because Kamara breaks 3 tackles and picks up 40 yards on a short pass. You know 7-8 plays, 75 yards, ends with a TD-type drive.

If Hill plays enough, he might set career highs in all passing stats, rushing yards, and even receiving yards. Can he get the passing/rushing/receiving TD trifecta? 

57 Great stuff as always. One…

Great stuff as always. One nitpick (which seems especially uncharitable given the Saints' QB decision): 

and being hyper-aggressive on fourth downs and two-point conversions despite their low success rate (the Eagles are 5-of-17 on fourth downs and 6-of-13 on two-point conversions this season).

According to your stats, the Eagles have scored 12 points on 13 two-point conversion attempts. The league average for PATs this year is 93.9%. 93.9% of 13 is 12.2. I take this to mean that, if your aim is maximizing expectation value of total points, you should always go for two, and in the worst case scenario in which you are as bad at it as the Eagles, it will be a wash.

 

59 2 point conversions

I think that his point is that in 9 games, they have attempted 13 two-pointers--they might be a little more selective on when they attempt them. A football analogy might be Newton running "QB power" too much. Seattle couldn't stop it on SNF in week 2--until they did on the last play of the game. IIRC, Newton had converted the first 4-5 times he ran it in that game. But, by the time they ran it in the most high-leverage situation possible, Seattle's defense was expecting it, were prepared for it, and stopped it. Another one would be how the Panthers' fake punts have worked before, but last week, even the announcers were calling it, and it didn't work.

So, for the Eagles, it isn't about maximizing points over the course of the season--it's about maximizing points EVERY GAME. Last game against NYG, they scored a TD in the 3rd Q to close the gap to 21-17--and then went for 2 points. Had they gone for 1, they almost assuredly make it, and narrow the gap to 21-18. If after scoring the TD, they would have been behind 21-12, then sure, go for two. This has been discussed on this and other sites--going for 2 earlier (late 3rd Q in this case) lets you know whether you need 1 score or 2 scores. But, when there is more than one quarter to go, being behind by 3 or by 2 makes almost no difference. 

Now, if Pederson wants to make the decision to go for 2 points after every TD (barring some scenario where they score a TD to go up by 8 late in the game), then fine. You plan for that, you draw up extra plays for it during the offseason, you practice these plays as part of your weekly game plan, etc. IMO, since they have run 13 two-point plays, they have probably duplicated a couple, and now they are on film so that teams can prepare for them. I think we all agree the NFL defenses, if they have an idea of what the play is going to be, have a good chance of stopping it from being successful. They aren't maximizing points by implementing analytics--they don't have a clue of how to implement good strategy.

 

To add a point about 4th down plays, obviously there are sometimes where because of game situation, you are forced to go for it when that would not be the choice if you were ahead or if it was still early in the game. But as Mike mentions in the Colts section, "I could now deliver a sermon to the choir about the wisdom of fourth-down conversions. Instead, I will point out that too many fourth-down conversion attempts can be a sign that an offense often gains 9 yards or less on three consecutive plays. If a team has to go for it on three fourth-and-shorts in one drive, as the Colts did on one Thursday possession, it's a sign that they are not moving the ball as efficiently as they should." That describes the Eagles offense this year to a T. The fact that they are 5-17 on these attempts means that they are probably not 4th and short, but 4th and medium--even worse. They are in 11th place in the NFC, and would be in 11th in the AFC as well--yet they may end up hosting a playoff game because everyone else in their division is even WORSE. I almost wish that Prescott had not gotten injured so that there would be a real playoff team in the NFCE--but I hate the Cowboys. (I'm not glad Prescott is injured, but I am glad they are losing.)