Look Out NFC: Kyler Murray is Back

Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray
Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 13 - Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins returned from injuries for the Arizona Cardinals in their 33-22 victory over the Chicago Bears. Murray and Nuk connected on a 20-yard first-quarter touchdown pass on fourth-and-2 that gave the Cardinals a lead they would never relinquish. Murray finished the game with two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.

But the returns of Murray and Hopkins are not precisely what this opening Walkthrough segment is about.

The Cardinals defense intercepted Andy Dalton four times on Sunday. Jalen Thompson hauled in a deflected pass on the third play from scrimmage. Budda Baker squashed an early Bears drive by intercepting a short pass over the middle and returning it 77 yards. When the Bears refused to surrender and a roughing-the-kicker foul on a punt gave them a fresh possession early in the fourth quarter, Byron Murphy's interception crushed a potential rally. With the Bears still clinging to life on the next possession, lineman Zach Allen one-handed a floating screen pass and returned it to the 12-yard line, setting up Murray's second touchdown run.

But the Cardinals defense is not precisely what this opening Walkthrough segment is about.

This segment is about complementary paths to victory. A Super Bowl contender should have several of them, and the Cardinals do: Murray/Hopkins heroics; sacks and turnovers; the YAC game they relied upon with Colt McCoy at quarterback for three weeks; and a balanced combination of all the above.

Murray was actually somewhat rusty on a rainy December afternoon in Chicago. He fumbled backwards when he cocked his arm on his very first throw, then bobbled a snap near the end zone on his next possession. Several drives stalled as the Cardinals went 5-of-11 on third downs (with penalties turning third-and-short into third-and-medium a few times) and struggled with the still-formidable Bears pass rush.

The Cardinals defense also allowed too many extended drives against a team with a hapless offense. The Bears were 4-for-4 on fourth downs, with most of the conversions coming while the game was still in range. The Bears rushed for 112 yards. The turnovers erased plenty of mistakes, but there were still too many mistakes.

So neither the Cardinals offense nor their defense had an outstanding game, but they played well enough to transform turnovers into points and a lead into more turnovers against a weak-but-not-pitiful opponent.

The great New England Patriots teams of the past always had multiple paths to victory: Tom Brady heroics, defensive turnovers, those mucky field position battles that Bill Belichick appears to really love, and so forth. The current Buccaneers (we'll get to them in a bit) are the same in many ways. A team such as the Chiefs can rely on one simple path to victory like "score a million points with Patrick Mahomes," but the Packers and Seahawks spent the latter part of the 2010s trying to win one-dimensionally, with little success. (The truly great Seahawks teams of the early 2010s were great at lots of things, of course

The Cardinals are now in pole position for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Their late schedule features the Rams, Cowboys, and a Seahawks team it would be foolish to look past, so they shouldn't pencil that first-round bye in just yet. But Murray and Hopkins are back, and the Cardinals just won a weather game on the road by 11 points. Imagine what they will be able to do when performing at peak capacity.

In a conference full of flawed powerhouses, the Cardinals cannot simply be written off as the new "happy to be there" playoff team, because they are trending in the right direction and can beat you in lots and lots of different ways.

Around the NFC

Like the Cardinals, many of the NFC's top contenders faced relatively easy opponents in Week 13. Let's see how they did.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30, Falcons 17
The Buccaneers were like an older brother teasing their much younger sibling by dangling the football just out of reach. "Want an upset? Look, our defense is playing poorly! This is your chance. Yoink! Look, Tom Brady threw a pick-six to a defensive lineman before halftime. You are still in the game. Yoink! Oopsie, our drives keep stalling. Whatsamatter? Too small and weak to take a win from us?"

If you listened carefully, you could hear the Falcons crying to mom when Pierre Desir peanut-punched an apparent third-and-long conversion away from Russell Gage in the third quarter.

(Note; "Pierre" may be Mr. Peanut's first name—dude looks like a Pierre—so maybe "Pierre punched" is more appropriate.)

(Note: Mr. Peanut's full name is canonically Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe and I have never wanted so badly to punch a peanut in its smug aristocratic face.)

There's not much to be learned from watching Tom Brady use the Falcons as his lint brush for the umpteenth time except that the Buccaneers are unlikely to trip over any of their creampuff opponents down the stretch. Even if we pencil in a Bills win, the Buccaneers will finish 13-4 at worst. The other NFC heavyweights, including the Cardinals, have zero margin for error.

Los Angeles Rams 37, Jacksonville Jaguars 7
This was a fan service game for weary Rams supporters. Matthew Stafford hooked up with Cooper Kupp for eight catches and 129 yards, though it could have been 18 catches for 329 yards the way the Jaguars defense played. Odell Beckham got involved with an early 21-yard catch and a garbage-time touchdown, demonstrating the kind of value he can add as a supplemental receiver. Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey collaborated on an early game piledriver forced fumble and recovery. In short, the Rams played their greatest hits, and while they did everything they could to silence their skeptics, there's only so much a team can do against the Jaguars to silence skeptics.

The good news on the upcoming schedule for the Rams is that the Vikings and Ravens aren't playing all that well right now, while the Seahawks and 49ers battled to a virtual draw. Also, the top wild-card berth essentially belongs to them. The bad news is that this is a Super Bowl-or-bust year for the Rams, so getting slotted as a No. 5 seed that may have to travel to places such as Dallas, Green Bay, or the House of Brady isn't what they were hoping for. A blowout's a blowout, but the Rams still have many questions to answer.

Dallas Cowboys 27, New Orleans Saints 17 (Thursday Night)
The Cowboys have appeared in prime time four times this season and in national late-afternoon spotlight broadcasts at least four other times, including Thanksgiving. Lots of national exposure can magnify a team's strengths and weaknesses, particularly its weaknesses: the Cowboys' losses to the Buccaneers and Raiders were among the most-watched telecasts of the year. What we perceive as an inconsistent/unreliable Cowboys team may really be a team that lost a pair of games due to injuries/penalties/bad bounces and a pair of games to the defending conference champions.

The Cowboys shouldn't be tested again until Week 17 against the Cardinals. Like the Buccaneers, they must concentrate on not tripping over beatable opponents. Really, really concentrate, in their case.

As for the Saints, they get the Jets, Dolphins, Falcons, and Panthers down the stretch (plus the Buccaneers). They should also get Alvin Kamara and 20% to 60% of their offensive line back soon. If they can beat the Jets, Falcons, and Panthers, they can reach 8-9 and still tumblesault into the final wild-card berth. The No. 2 seed in the NFC is going to be very appealing if that's the case

Green Bay Packers: Bye
The Packers "lost" the bye in the sense that the Cardinals, Buccaneers, and Cowboys all won, preventing them from moving up in the playoff seedings. But the Packers did secure almost complete control of the NFC North title, thanks to…

Detroit Lions 29, Minnesota Vikings 27
Once you reach middle age, you notice that your peers don't flame out the way they used to. In your 20s and 30s, it's common to see friends damage themselves spectacularly with bad life decisions, bottom out quickly, then (ideally, hopefully) pull themselves together. As dramatic and tumultuous as the personal crashes could be, they could also be the catalysts for major life changes. But at 50, your peers start hanging on in Pink Floyd's quiet desperation: the drinking gets a little worse, the marriage more distressed, the bills pile up, but everyone keeps up appearances for years without, say, getting into a switchblade duel behind a nightclub or some other undeniable plea for help.

The Vikings are your quietly miserable middle-aged friends, still clinging to the habits which are slowly destroying them. Sunday's loss was the closest thing we're going to hear to a plea for help. Let's hope it provides them a little clarity.

Seattle Seahawks 30, San Francisco 49ers 23
The 49ers remain better than the Vikings and Saints but not as good as folks talked themselves into believing they could be during their winning streak. They still rely too heavily on Jimmy Garoppolo and long drives built out of immaculately executed 7-yard misdirection plays. The 49ers spent most of the second half of Sunday's loss pinned near their own goal line thanks to punts and Seahawks turnovers. The results? A safety, an interception, and a game-ending 115-yard drive (with -20 penalty yards) for zero points that sounds like an exaggerated gag but is not.

Wins over the Falcons, Texans, and either the Titans or Bengals will get the 49ers to nine wins before they deal with the Rams in the season finale. But they need to watch their six: Washington and the Eagles play twice in the next month, are both have somehow climbed to the back of the chase group.

Speaking of the Eagles, on to the next segment!

Phony MinshewMania Won't Bite the Dust

Gardner Minshew played undeniably well in the Eagles' 33-18 win over the Jets: 20-of-25 passing, 242 yards, two touchdowns. That said, he also filled out the entire Contrived Quarterback Controversy Checklist:

  • Win by a backup quarterback with buzz? Gardner Minshew is a backup quarterback who always looks like he's buzzed. Check.
  • With the starting quarterback on shaky ground? Jalen Hurts remains a scrambling enigma. Check.
  • With predictable/unfortunate/implicit racial semiotics in play? Folks, quarterback controversies with predictable/unfortunate/implicit racial semiotics have driven the Philly sports-talk radio industry for about 35 years. We pioneered the genre! Check.
  • Did the backup get lots of mileage out of screens? Yes, particularly on early drives. Check.
  • And get gobs of support from his running game? 185 rushing yards. Check.
  • Plus some penalty help? An underthrown-ball pass interference penalty and a facemask call on a sack to extend a scoring drive. Check.
  • Against a terrible opponent? The Jets were fiercely competitive in the first half, especially on offense and in their return and coverage game. But Eagles receivers were wide open all afternoon. Check.

Minshew won a game that Hurts would have won and Trevor Siemian could have won. Rest assured that won't matter when it's time to select talk show topics.

The Eagles fans at my local taproom were chuckling "oh boy, here comes the controversy" early in the game. But by the third quarter, they switched unironically to: "You see, that's a throw Jalen Hurts doesn't read the defense well enough to make." The human brain is a fascinating organ: we can know instinctively that we are getting bamboozled yet still allow ourselves to be bamboozled, especially when recency bias, confirmation bias, and other fallacies get to work.

Stay tuned for further developments in MinshewMania II: Nick Foles With a Mullet as the unpredictable and inexperienced Nick Sirianni tries to guess his way through the weeks to come. Walkthrough remains pessimistic that Hurts is the long-term Eagles answer at quarterback because he underthrows far too many deep passes. But we're 100% certain that Minshew is not any team's long-term answer at quarterback, no matter how groovy his stats and wardrobe were on Sunday.

Epic Rivalry Spotlight: Pittsburgh Steelers 20, Baltimore Ravens 19

What Happened: The Zombie Steelers refuse to die, while the Ravens keep playing the same miserable game over and over again and losing far too many of them.

The Ravens offense glitched out for the fourth consecutive game: an early Lamar Jackson interception, too many sacks and penalties, lots of stalled drives. Their defense blew just enough tackles and coverages to spot the Steelers a 20-13 lead with 1:48 to play. Jackson received his fourth-quarter wakeup call and marched the Ravens to a touchdown, but with injuries mounting on defense, John Harbaugh opted for a two-point conversion to try to win the game instead of forcing overtime with an extra point. Jackson's play-action pass into the flat was just off Mark Andrews' fingertips.

What it Means: The Ravens are allowing far too much pass pressure, especially against marquee edge rushers such as T.J. Watt and Khalil Mack. They get little from their running backs and not much from their option game. Jackson lapses into bad habits when hurrying his reads and throws. The Ravens defense has benefited from playing some weak opponents lately but misses too many tackles and gives up too many easy yards. Not only couldn't the Ravens get a stop while nursing a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Steelers kept gouging them for 5- and 10-yard runs between the tackles. And with injuries to cornerback Marlon Humphrey and right tackle Patrick Mekari on Sunday, things could end up getting worse for the Ravens

Yet the Ravens may still be the fourth-best team in the AFC right now, behind the Patriots, Bills, and Chiefs. Who do you like better? The Titans? C'mon. The Chargers? We'll get to them in a minute. The Colts? Simmer down, please. We'll take the Ravens playing their worst football of the last three years over a bunch of teams playing their best football in several years, especially since we have seen Harbaugh's Ravens manage injury catastrophes in the past.

That said, there's no "Fourth Place in the Conference in a Weird Year" trophy, so the Ravens have to figure a lot of things out, starting with Jackson's increasingly frequent blooper balls.

The Steelers are still in the playoff race and that's an absolute travesty, because they are basically T.J. Watt, one or two 50-50 bombs per game, and a reputation at this point.

What's Next: Ravens-Browns again, because last Sunday night wasn't awkwardly hilarious enough.

The Vikings host the Steelers on Thursday night, then the Steelers visit what's left of the Titans, and … oh brother, they are going to make a ridiculous little run, aren't they?

Variance Bowl Spotlight: Los Angeles Chargers 41, Cincinnati Bengals 22

What Happened: The Bad Bengals opened the game with turnovers on their first two possessions, including a ball that bounced out of the hands of Ja'Marr Chase and into the arms of defender Michael Davis, allowing the Chargers to take a 24-0 lead.

Then the Good Bengals showed up midway through the second quarter and forced turnovers on three consecutive Chargers possessions, converting all three into touchdowns. Joe Burrow hurt his finger so badly during this stretch that he was spotted on the sideline before halftime yelping in pain like he had just stuck his hand in a murder hornet hive while throwing a warm-up pass. He remained in the game.

The Bad Bengals returned when Christian Covington forced a Joe Mixon fumble in the backfield just as Cincinnati appeared poised to take the lead. Tevaughn Campbell returned the fumble for a touchdown that sucked the life out of the Bengals.

The Chargers also attended this game and did Chargers stuff: awesome Justin Herbert highlights, red zone miscues, missed extra points, general almost-impressiveness.

What it Means: The Chargers are the true wild-card contenders and the Bengals are pretenders? Maybe? Who knows?

Either or both of these teams could earn wild-card berths and snipe any AFC home favorite on their best days or lose by 40 at their worst. Walkthrough knows less about these teams than we did before the game. By the time we're done watching teams such as the Ravens, Chargers, and Bengals all season, we may forget how to spell foobtall.

Oh no, the brain cells are already decaying.

At least the Raiders lost. Oh, but the Dolphins are back in the race. Maybe we can just turn the AFC into a 16-team single-elimination tournament. Please?

What's Next: The Chargers host the Giants next week, the Bengals host the 49ers.

After that, dear Lord, it's almost nothing but fellow AFC wild-card goofballs for both teams the rest of the way. So get ready for more kiddie-coaster games such as this one, with lots of gentle oohs and ahhs as everyone goes around and around in a circle.

Week 13 Awards

You get an award! And you get an award! And…

Defensive Player of the Week
T.J. Watt took over the Steelers victory against the Ravens with 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and about a trillion pressures. And yes, that's an unblocked Watt forcing Lamar Jackson to step up and rush his throw during the fateful game-deciding two-point conversion:

Offensive Line of the Week
The Indianapolis Colts offensive line made a few mistakes in pass protection. And they weren't facing the toughest foe in the league. But Jonathan Taylor racked up 143 more yards and two more touchdowns, so Walkthrough is giving another trophy to Eric Fisher, Quenton Nelson, fill-in center Danny Pinter (Ryan Kelly is on the COVID list), Mark Glowinski, and Braden Smith for spearheading a 31-0 rout of the Houston Texans.

Special Teamer of the Week
Jake Elliott's four field goals allowed the Eagles to pull away from the Jets, even though their drives kept stalling from the middle of the second quarter onward.

Seahawks punter Michael Dickson gets honorable mention for pinning the 49ers at their own 8-yard line twice in the fourth quarter while the Seahawks nursed their 30-23 lead.

Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else's Highlight
Let's celebrate Adrian Peterson tying Jim Brown for 10th on the all-time list with 126 career touchdowns by giving this award to fullback Nick Bellore, who plowed Josh Norman (that most physical of defenders) 5 yards into the end zone on a lead block, then joined AP in a chest-bump celebration.

Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk, Cris Carter, and Marvin Harrison are now ahead of Peterson on the touchdown list. Peterson needs 30 more touchdowns to catch Owens and climb into fifth place. Maybe if the NFL expands to 40 teams, he'll be able to do it at his current two-rosters-per-season pace.

Honorable mention goes to poor 49ers right tackle Tom Compton (66) for his near-death experience on Carlos Dunlap's safety.

Burn This Game Plan!
In the New York Giants' 20-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Joe Judge…

  • punted on fourth-and-3 from the Dolphins 47-yard line early in the game;
  • punted on fourth-and-4 from the Dolphins 48-yard line late in the second quarter;
  • punted on fourth-and-2 from the Dolphins 46-yard line while trailing by four points in the third quarter; and
  • settled for a 51-yard field goal to cut the score to 17-9 with 5:04 to play.

Judge also ordered a 56-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds because ... toughness? Accountability? Guttering incompetence? Yeah, that last one.

Yes, Mike Glennon was the Giants' starting quarterback on Sunday, and he lofted so many passes out of bounds that they may have been scripted into the game plan. Whatever: everyone from the Eagles to the Jets have won games with their backup quarterbacks this season. Judge's conservative thought process was the sign of a coach who made up his mind long before kickoff to blame a loss on Glennon instead of figuring out a way to win with Glennon. And with third-stringer Jake Fromm slated to start next week due to Glennon's late-game concussion, Judge might just start punting on second down like the Staten Island Stapletons.

Judge shouldn't even be allowed in the Giants facility on Monday after the way he coached on Sunday. But he'll probably be welcomed into the owner's office and invited to offer his general managerial and coordinator suggestions for 2022 because he's keeping the Giants competitive despite so many setbacks. The Giants have been gaslighting themselves since late in the Tom Coughlin era and aren't likely to stop anytime soon.

Around the League

News and notes, mostly from off the field.

Antonio Brown…
F**k that poopweasel.

Taysom Hill is suffering from Mallet Finger.
Mallet Finger contributed to Russell Wilson's transformation into an ordinary-at-best quarterback for a month. It could turn Taysom Hill into a rutabaga.

Mac Jones seeks trademark protection for the phrase "MJ10."
Nah, the Already Proven He's The Next Brady meme isn't going to go to his head. Everything's just fine. (Before you rip me in the comments, Patriots fans: imagine how you would perceive this if it was happening anywhere else in the league.)

Ben Roethlisberger privately tells teammates this is his last season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Carolina Panthers, here he comes!

Salary cap for 2022 tentatively set at $208 million.
Sean Payton begins driving extra DoorDash shifts to make ends meet.

Seahawks owner Jody Allen is "very involved" and "not happy" with her team's performance, per NFL.com's Mike Garofalo.

When Jody comes home
So good
She's the pride of the neighborhood
She's the raw flame
The live wire
She prays like a Roman
With her eyes on fire!

(Yes, it's "Josie." You smiled at the reference if you got it. Though you probably didn't.)

Monday Night Sportsbook: New England Patriots (+3) at Buffalo Bills

The forecast as of Sunday afternoon called for temperatures around freezing and winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour, though precipitation could end before kickoff. Rain or no rain, that's perfect weather for a running-and-screens team and terrible weather for a bombs-away team (whispers) with an erratic quarterback.

The over-under plunged to 41.5 thanks to the weather forecast. That's safely within points-off-turnovers territory for a rookie quarterback and a great defense facing (whispers) an erratic quarterback, even if a lake effect bomb cyclone detonates.

Walkthrough jumped on the Patriots +2.5 (for parlay purposes) and Over at a whopping +300 before early game Sunday kickoffs. Go, Mac Jones Narrative, Go!


42 comments, Last at 08 Dec 2021, 2:50am

1 Proofreading nits

Mike, the colts OL features Eric Fisher and Braden Smith at tackles, not Erik and Kaden. Since this was posted at like 4 am eastern time, all is forgiven. We appreciate the late nights you put in.

2 Casey Hampton

To say the Steelers are TJ Watt and some deep throws fails to mention Casey Hampton who is having a great year.

Also, the Steelers have a very young offense, even with an old-guy QB. This is basically the rebuild year for the offense. IF BB does retire at the end of the year, they will have a young, solid foundation on offense to plug in Bestquaterbackavailable. If the defense doesn't implode, they should continue to be contenders. If Bestquarterbackavailable is a stud, they and Cincy should be the top of the division. Balt and Clev have serious (team) personality issues which will continue to limit them. The division will be fun to watch for years.

3 Harris is experiencing 2 plus seasons

In reply to by JMM

of hits in 2021 with the way that line blocks (or doesn't depending on your perspective).  His shelf life is going to be less than what even a typical rb would be in the NFL.  Time after time he gets the ball starting at multiple defenders already in the backfield and he takes them on without consideration of his well being.  It's admirable.  But come 2023ish one wonders what his occupation will be unless that line improves dramatically.

5 Big Snack

In reply to by JMM

Casey is hopefully having a great year. And hopefully slimmed down a bit from his playing weight. But pretty sure you mean Cam Heyward, who might be the best steelers D lineman since ol mean joe was taking snaps, no offense to Big Snack, who was at times capable of absorbing 3 blockers on a single play and gave the steelers consistently the best run defense in the league. But yeah, I think Tanier was trying to give a compliment to TJ, not diss on 97, who would be the best defender for most teams in the league.

As for the Steelers young offense, not sure if the O-line has the makings of developing into a top tier unit. Even with Johnson, Claypool, Muth, and Harris, unless that O-line gets better, Best QB available is not going to have the success, as halting as it is, that Big Ben is having. But here's hoping! I think they will be drafting O-line guys on day 2, if not day 1. 

And jeez, Mike, I was all in a good mood until reading that Vikings paragraph, wondering if that's how my middle-aged friends see ME!

8 Thanks.

In reply to by NYChem

Thanks for the correction on Cam. That was posted BF (before coffee.) Shouldn't do that.

Yes, the O-line is sub par. But it shows signs of promise and it should improve with coaching and epxerience. I just find it remarkable that they have rookies at: center, left tackle, tight end, running back and except for QB and 1 guard (the other when healthy is a 2nd year player) the rest of the offense is under 25.

And, yes, Harris is getting a lot of touches. Tomlin's history is running them till the wheels fall off. I don't expect Harris to get a 2nd contract, but he should be a solid contributor through his rookie deal.

12 The main reason to be…

In reply to by JMM

The main reason to be bullish on the Steelers long term is they just haven't been making bad investments. At all. After Roethlisberger comes off the books next year, everyone making $10M+ is under 30 and is totally worth keeping around. I mean, OK, Watt's not worth $30M, but he's closer to being worth that than like, half of the 30+ year old vets making $15M are to their value.

Now, I mean, they've got plenty of room to screw that up still, but as of now, pretty healthy.

9 As for the Steelers young…

In reply to by NYChem

As for the Steelers young offense, not sure if the O-line has the makings of developing into a top tier unit.

It'd be a miracle if they did, considering the Steelers are spending less at OL than any other team in the league.

That being said, the fact that there's a fourth-round rookie at LT is actually pretty promising. I mean, he's been bad, yes, I get it, but a rookie even making it through a year at tackle should be considered a success. It's easy to get injured at OL when you don't know what you're doing. Honestly, the line's young enough that it might be worth not tinkering with it too much to see how they improve.

It's funny because if you read Word of Muth on the Steelers, Ben's consistently like "they're... actually not bad." It's hard to fault a 4th round rookie for "getting his doors blown off by Myles Garrett," as Ben put it, and his advice was just "get faster and stronger," which is exactly what you expect rookies to be able to do in their first real NFL offseason.

10 Uh...

In reply to by JMM

I think you mean Cameron Heyward.

Hamptons been retired for almost a decade.

11 Cam Heyward is having a great year

In reply to by JMM

Cam Heyward is having a great year; not sure what Casey Hampton is up to since his retirement after the 2012 season, but I hope he's having a great year, too.  Just not in a Steelers uniform.  To your other point, the Steelers are playing like a decent, young, rebuilding team.  Erratic and inconsistent, but very good at their best and dreadful at their worst. 

4 But we're 100% certain that…

But we're 100% certain that Minshew is not any team's long-term answer at quarterback

So, I mean, I agree intuitively, but... Jalen Hurts isn't either? Hurts's games have basically been straight options, RPOs, deep bombs when the defense craps itself, and buckets of screens, too. Hurts is bobbling around ~replacement level for the year, which is... straight-up what Minshew is, historically, as well  (yes, Hurts's rushing value is buckets higher, sure, but that ain't helpful in situations where running ain't gonna get you what you need).

The "QB controversy" at least makes sense this time, because both of the options are particularly mediocre. Heck, if they wanted to cut Hurts and go with Minshew next year I'd be fine with it, since Minshew'd be cheaper. Just don't extend the guy (only problem with that is that you really want a cheap QB through 2023, since things don't start opening up till '24 at the earliest - so if it were me, I wouldn't switch). 

14 Heck, if they wanted to cut…

Heck, if they wanted to cut Hurts and go with Minshew next year I'd be fine with it, since Minshew'd be cheaper

The thing is, if you cut Hurts, you only save $400k more in cash for 2022 than you'd save from cutting Minshew, and your 2022 cap savings on Hurts isn't enough to pay a veteran minimum salary to fill the roster spot you open, and it's not like they're going to find a better value at backup qb than Hurts provides with the $2.5m over two years left to pay him. And if you think you can find an actual solution this offseason or next, you've gotta like Hurt's 2 cost-controlled years for a backup better than Minshew's 1 year. Even then, I probably wouldn't cut either of them...between them you'd paying $2.5m for 2 replacement-level quarterbacks to man your qb2/qb3 roster spots.

15 Yeah, that's what my caveat…

Yeah, that's what my caveat at the end was supposed to imply. If I was going full "3D chess" mode and could pretend players were robots, the best thing would probably be to switch to Minshew and hope he plays well enough to land a high comp pick (not crazy) after you let him walk in '22 and switch back to Hurts for '23 with a high-pick rookie that you switch to later in the season.

Even then, I probably wouldn't cut either of them...

Yeah, I wouldn't either. I mean, I actually do think it's a bit early to declare that neither of them will develop into a long-term starter anyway. If the Eagles suddenly did make a switch to Minshew (I'm not saying they should) I wouldn't be out there going "OMG this is god-awful," I'd just hope that they've been seeing improvement in practice and they think Minshew's a better option than Hurts. I mean, jeez, two years of replacement-level QB play with the Jaguars is practically a badge of honor.

I'd still think they were wrong, sure, but if Minshew actually did develop into like a mid-level starter it wouldn't be the biggest surprise in history or anything, I think.

6 thank you

. . . for the reference to the Clash — a nice easy fastball down the middle. Not that Billy Joel slider s%$t

EDIT: p.s. "some penalty help? " — yeah, nice use of understatement. At least four calls with the game in the balance. I mean the center leaned forward for crying out loud. OK, no single one of the calls was as bad as the "blindside block" that helped my team win on Thursday, but the overall effect was pretty awful and made the game unwatchable for someone who didn't really have a horse in the race.

7 Remember when they killed…

Remember when they killed off Mr. Peanut, along with Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh? And then the ads got pulled because of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash.  This doesn't have anything to do with football, except there was that super bowl ad. 

16 It looks like TJ Watt went unblocked by design.

Lamar had to know that Watt would be in his face and just couldn't deliver. This to me sums up Jackson's career to this point: talented and super fun to watch, but not able to make the big plays consistently enough to carry his team deep into the playoffs. And to be fair, there may not be a single QB out there this year who can do this.

17 Watt absolutely went…

Watt absolutely went unblocked by design - that's an RPO. If Watt had stayed home, Jackson was supposed to take off running and Andrews would level him coming across the play. Instead, Watt crashed down, and Jackson threw the ball to right where Watt just vacated.

Jackson's eyes are on Watt the entire time (so was one of the receivers, who had to know if he could block or not) . The play fake wasn't great and didn't freeze Watt at all, and Jackson puts himself a bit off-balance because he was worried he'd have to dance to avoid Watt. He shouldn't've - as soon as Watt crossed Andrews's route, Jackson should've been prepping to throw - you can see Andrews turns to Lamar right as soon as that happens.

Can't say I'm super-fond of a play design that reads a guy like Watt, he's athletic enough to complicate everything.

24 They're not trying to fool…

In reply to by reddwarf

They're not trying to fool him. It's an option - whatever choice Watt makes is supposed to be wrong. He ends up messing up the play because Jackson gets himself off-balance when dropping back and has to reset, and by then Andrews is far too wide and the angle's all wrong.

Reading Watt's plenty questionable, though, just because he's got enough athleticism that he could either shed Andrews's block (if he hadn't rushed) or knock the ball down. And Watt's almost exclusively a left-side player so they should've known that he would've been the read defender. That exact play mirrored left-to-right might've been a lot better.

28 really good analysis

made me wanna go back and watch the play.. Which I did about 20 times in a row. I don't want to make too much of it, but the choreography of Watt's moves and Jackson's response, as well as Watt possible seeing Andrews coming across behind the LOS in his peripheral vision on his way to the QB makes it seem that he knew the play call. He closes out any chance a backpedaling Jackson can squirt outside first, on an almost full sprint to Jackson's right hip. Jackson doesn't look unbalanced to me, but more like he just knows he's not going to be able to make the easy throw, and that he can't take the sack. To get the angle he moves up, which was a quarter beat slow because it wasn't his first choice. Because Watt's NOT in an all out sprint, just close to it, he still recovers enough to deny an easy throw but forces Jackson to unload it from an uncomfortable angle. It all looks incredibly instinctive to Watt, and it is, but it also unveils a high football IQ. If he runs straight at Jackson at full speed I think that's a completion and Steeler's fan are all incredibly disappointed in Devin Bush today. Watt did everything perfectly on that play to disrupt that specific throw. Amazing. 

Also, if they run that to the other side, if Lamar has to roll out, he's running left and it's a harder throw than if he had gotten the opportunity to roll right.. And dare I say it, Shoebert is more like to pick up Andrews than Bush. In my reading/viewing Harbaugh dared Watt to beat him and possibly his two best offensive players, and he did...

35 makes it seem that he knew…

makes it seem that he knew the play call.

Watt's the read, so I certainly hope he recognizes the playcall! He's got the QB staring at him the entire time, there's only one thing that can be.

Jackson doesn't look unbalanced to me, but more like

After the fake he shouldn't be dropping back much at all - it's more of a pop pass (as in, the QB pops up and kinda lofts it over, not 'pop' as in the play type), so really just resetting your feet to toss over Watt's head. His reset puts him really off balance (his back foot is super deep) and so he can't make the pass with Watt on top of him. Hence the reason he has to do that weird side-step thingy. That pass isn't a quarter beat slow - it's very slow, which is why it's such an awkward pass. It's just supposed to be mostly forward, not highly-angled like he had it (which you can see from Andrews's hands). 

If the play's done right, barring a superhuman play from Watt (which, OK, isn't out of the question, but that's not what happened), there's nothing he can do to affect it. Even a full on charge from Watt shouldn't be able to get to Jackson in time, and a tight end coming in motion would easily have been able to block him. That's the whole point of an option play.

If anything I'd actually say that it was the fear of Watt that screwed up that play - Jackson was likely thinking too hard like "he's gonna reach me first" or "he's gonna bat it down" and that probably screwed up his footwork.

Also, if they run that to the other side, if Lamar has to roll out, he's running left 

He shouldn't be rolling out. Actually, a roll-out (to the right) built into that play might've worked, but the roll-out would've likely given other defenders time to close on Andrews.


18 Giants refused to run

I don't understand with 2 back averaging over 5 ypc, the Giants refusal to run at Miami. They acted like it was a blowout instead of a close game. This is the worse Miami run game I've seen. Worse than anything during the Marino years.

19 Minshew Mania (tm) has been…

Minshew Mania (tm) has been trademarked since partway through his rookie season. You should add the trademark symbol to your article.

Oh, and cue the nationwide outrage.

34 Yeah...I will say I don't…

Yeah...I will say I don't know what the problem is with any player filing for trademark protection.  Some enterprising folks are going to be making MJ10 t-shirts and selling them online and in the parking lots....why shouldn't Mac (or Minshew, or Brady) try to stop people making money off his name without being compensated?

40 We literally can imagine

What’s funny/ironic is that Tanier asked us to

imagine how you would perceive this if it was happening anywhere else in the league

when we know exactly what we would perceive, because it has happened with Mayfield, Tagovailoa, Minshew, and (I’m guessing, but I don’t really notice when it happens), almost every rookie QB who has started more than a handful of games.

We perceived… nothing.

It’s a non-issue. It’s just Tanier showcasing his biased agenda again.

What a dweeb.


21 In your 20s and 30s, it's…

In your 20s and 30s, it's common to see friends damage themselves spectacularly with bad life decisions, bottom out quickly, then (ideally, hopefully) pull themselves together. As dramatic and tumultuous as the personal crashes could be, they could also be the catalysts for major life changes. But at 50, your peers start hanging on in Pink Floyd's quiet desperation: the drinking gets a little worse, the marriage more distressed, the bills pile up, but everyone keeps up appearances for years without, say, getting into a switchblade duel behind a nightclub or some other undeniable plea for help.

Who the hell is in Mike's peer group?

22 Quiet Desperation

Pink Floyd stole that line from Throreau, so I guess quiet desperation is really the American way, not English, which probably makes it very fitting for America's quietly desperate team: Minnesota.

38 I am 98.3% sure that Tanier…

I am 98.3% sure that Tanier is trolling pedants like me by pretending not to know this fact or the real origin of "Peanut Punch."

Also: "MinshewMania II: Nick Foles With a Mullet" is gold. Even scans perfectly (if your mind went to "18 with a bullet" as mine did).

23 Regarding the NFC contenders.

Cards - Yes, I wasn't too happy with the Bears scoring 22 points on the Cardinals defense.  It was too many points from a very ordinary, basic offense that seemed content to run the ball, even when down multiple scores.  Essentially, the game was over at 33-14 so the final score is misleading but I found it troublesome that the defense couldn't get off the field on any of the Bears three scoring drives.  

Bucs -  The offense doesn't look in-sync, probably due to AB being out and Gronk just now getting in to the groove.  Their secondary is good at punching the ball out, but not great at covering WR's.  That's a big problem against the better offenses in the league.  

Packers - They're still injured and I'm skeptical as to whether they can keep winning ugly without their best players.  They don't have the best roster when compared to the other contenders, which is a problem.

Cowpokes - Is Dallas still a contender?   They escaped against a limited Saints team.  Can they hold off the WFT?  I guess we see this coming week.

25 Eagles QB history plot twist

Plot twist, the QB controversy in Philly 35 years ago stemmed from the fans [correctly] wanting to replace the white starting QB with the black backup QB!

26 Geez Tanier

You really hate Roethlisberger don't you? You take potshots at him every week and then don't even mention his name when he has a great 4th comeback against his arch-nemesis. All the more special as he likely has only 4 games left in his career. Oh right, it was just bad D by Baltimore. People can always skew the story the way they want, either the D was really bad or they give the credit to the offense, depending on which way their loyalties lie.

27 By the way

Ben's DYAR over his last 6 games is better than guys like Mahomes. He's really not the worst QB in the league as you'd like everyone to believe.

29 Minshew can be a starter

100% sure he's a backup you say....64% comp, 39 TD vs 11 INTs while playing for a mostly terrible JAX team. 

Those stats are better than most NFL starters. There's no way he's worse than the 25th best NFL starter, sorry. 

32 Ravens didnt play against Mack

What it Means: The Ravens are allowing far too much pass pressure, especially against marquee edge rushers such as T.J. Watt and Khalil Mack

Mack was out for the Ravens game, although Robert Quinn and company sacked Tyler Huntley 6 times if that counts for anything.


Ravens have won 3 extra games due to a Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumble, 2 late misses by an injured Colts kicker, and a Tucker 66 yard miracle doink off the crossbar.  Maybe they just are not that good?

41 perhaps

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

i did not see the end vs LV, so may be the case they had some bad luck there.  obviously the preaseason RB injuries were unfortunate as well.

would say they had opportunities after the Watkins fumble and only dug into the loss deeper, but sure anytime an offense gives up points it will influence outcomes.

perhaps the old Parcells wisdom applies: they are what their record says they are.  8-4 is pretty good.  we'll see how the last 5 go...

42 The Ravens are what their DVOA says that they are

In reply to by cbywayofj

The Ravens are a mediocre team with much luck this year that has them at 8-4.  According to DVOA, MIN, CLE and CHI had better DVOA in Ravens wins. An apology letter from the league for not calling a delay of game, keeping the game winning FG at a mere 66 yards against DET, and you wonder why Dan Campbell cries?  Pittsburgh destroyed the Ravens by DVOA.  Their luck simply ran out on Sunday when they failed at a two point conversion.  They are the anti-Vikings this year.

DVOA has them as mediocre as can be with an estimated win total of exactly 6, so 6-6 sounds correct. 

The Ravens run defense is excellent, so maybe CLE will decide to throw the ball with a hobbled Mayfield instead of running 17 times for 40 yards like they did previously.  PIT was also full of gifts with many useless Harris runs.  Even Big Old Ben and Andy Dalton the Great had big DVOA games against this team. Wentz was Johnny Unitas and Tua played worthy of a top draft pick.  Lets not forget Carr in game 1.

The Ravens in their past 6 games have negative DVOA in 5 of them including 3 worse than -30%.  This team is a mirage, and may win the division as they have the lead and no one is really better in the AFC North.

Having your only strengths being your  QB's running ability, FG kicker, kickoff and punt returner, run stopping defense and the in game decision making of the head coach is a difficult formula for winning in the regular season, let alone in the playoffs.  The Ravens do nothing else above average. However it is good enough to keep them in virtually every game and play for the heroic victory.

They will likely hang on to get a playoff spot and look for a Joe Flacco like run in the playoffs with an offensive line that on occasion makes some blocks and a secondary that is toast.

Unless something changes dramatically, for the Ravens to win in the playoffs they will have to make a highlight film reel Run Lamar Run to Run Forrest Run from the Forrest Gump movie.


36 My take on MinshewMania is…

My take on MinshewMania is that he played a nearly flawless game and threw for under 250 yards with 2 TDs. The game he played didn't require him to do more than he did, and he perfectly met those expectations. I think he does some things better in a small sample than Hurts does, some of which is Basic 2021 Quarterbacking Shit, but this is near his ceiling not his floor.