Packers, Patriots Positioned for Playoff Stretch

Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams
Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 12 - The Green Bay Packers made a statement with their victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots continued on their Super Bowl collision course. The Pittsburgh Steelers may finally have bowed out of the playoff race for good. And the New York Giants may finally be parting ways with Dave Gettleman, for better or (somehow) worse.

But let's not get too lost in the weeds of who did what to whom on Sunday. The start of the holiday season marks the start of the extended NFL playoff stretch run. It's a great time to use Week 12's results as a lens through which to examine the bigger picture. Where is each team heading as the season enters its final third? What are the biggest games on the horizon? Who are the true contenders? The spoilers? Who is about to crash and burn, besides the New Orleans Saints?

It's time for a late-season reset. We'll cover all 32 teams, starting in the NFC, with the Week 12 Awards wedged in the middle so you don't have to wait too long. Teams are listed in order of where Walkthrough thinks they currently rank based on DVOA, Sunday's results, and gut instincts/dead reckoning.

Green Bay Packers
The Packers demonstrated in their 36-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams that they are a well-coached and well-run organization that also happens to have a Hall of Famer at quarterback. It's easy to overlook or take the Packers for granted, however, because:

  • Their Hall of Fame quarterback thinks that he can do a better job than the coach and organization; and
  • The Packers lose so entertainingly in the playoffs each year that it's easier to just pencil them in and wait for the fireworks than scrutinize their weekly ups and downs.

But c'mon: the Packers just won another game with someone named Yosh Nijman at left tackle. Eagles and Panthers castoff Rasul Douglas had a pick-six and four passes defensed against the Rams. Other teams—OK, the Cowboys—would have curled up into a ball if they lost as many top players to injuries as the Packers have lost this year.

The Packers face the Bears, Ravens, Browns, Vikings, and Lions down the stretch. They may need to run that table to earn a first-round bye, especially since the Buccaneers have a Conference USA late-season schedule. But bye or no bye, the Packers could get some combination of David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander, and Za'Darius Smith back by mid-January. So don't chalk up that NFC Championship Game loss just yet.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers look a little like the 2018 Patriots right now. The Tom Brady wizardry is waning a bit again, but Rob Gronkowski is available to go ham when Brady needs a big play, the offensive and defensive fronts remain stacked, and opponents have a habit of muffing punts and making other silly mistakes in His Divine Presence. The 2018 Patriots had an awesome secondary and glorified practice squad wide receivers, the 2021 Buccaneers the exact opposite, and Leonard Fournette is the fully evolved form of Sony Michel.

The Buccaneers' late-season stretch is basically a Roman triumph for Brady. Even the Jets are showing up to pay homage. It's actually a little gross.

In the event of a Buccaneers-Patriots Super Bowl, there's a nonzero chance that I retire from football coverage and return to teaching.

Arizona Cardinals
Kliff Kingsbury may deserve Coach of the Year for navigating the Colt McCoy-led Cardinals to a 2-1 record. Vance Joseph definitely deserves a second chance at a head coaching gig for the work he has done with the Cardinals defense. With Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins expected to return, the Cardinals are in much better position for a Super Bowl run than the Cowboys or Rams right now.

Los Angeles Rams
The Rams look more and more like overhyped, overcompensated 2014 Lions cosplayers every time Matthew Stafford goes on a turnover jag. Their future schedule also offers few respites after they take their frustrations out on the Jaguars next week. In terms of paper talent, the Rams should easily snap out of their losing streak, remain buoyed atop the wild-card race, and make a very frightening playoff road team. They're about where the Chiefs were in October, which means it's far too early to count them out of the Super Bowl conversation.

Dallas Cowboys
It's tempting to write off the Thanksgiving loss as the result of the absences of Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, plus Shawn Hochuli's attempt to win a Daytime Emmy. It's also worth noting that Mike McCarthy made some drippy decisions (the 59-yard field goal attempt, the rotating offensive linemen) and the Cowboys have been a little too eager to surrender in the face of adversity over the last month.

Walkthrough thinks the Cowboys will rebound when their receiver corps returns and their schedule fills up with NFC East pretenders down the stretch. But there's a chance that they are doomed to another December and January that feels like a script written by a vindictive Eagles fan.

San Francisco 49ers
Another week, another 15-play, 87-yard, 8-plus-minute prog rock drive, this time in a convincing 34-26 victory over the Vikings. The 49ers are the Patriots of the NFC: a YAC-and-defense team that was easy to scoff when they were losing games early in the season. The biggest difference between the 49ers and Patriots at this point may be that the Patriots have faced one of the easiest schedules in the NFL so far this season, while the 49ers have faced one of the toughest.

The 49ers are clearly superior to the Saints/Vikings/Whoever tier of NFC wild-card hopefuls now that they are healthier on both sides of the ball. They need to avenge their early-season loss to the Seahawks in Week 13 and defeat the flailing Titans in 16—and take care of their business against the Falcons and Texans, of course—to position themselves as the road team that's built to throw a playoff scare into the Cowboys or (given their postseason history) Packers.

Minnesota Vikings
Remember last week when the Vikings upset the Packers and we had our annual "Gosh, Kirk Cousins' stats look great, maybe we should cut him some slack" conversation? Welp, Walkthrough has been listening to that conversation since Cousins played for Washington, and it's always followed up by a loss to a beatable opponent. Every day is Groundhog Day for Cousins.

Cousins and the Vikings continue to exist and soak up energy and resources. They'll climb back to .500 with a victory over the Lions next week, then probably take advantage of the Saints freefall by reaching the playoffs with the help of a Bears sweep in the final four weeks. Whatever. The 49ers are significantly better and far more interesting.

Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles may be on the path to going 13-4 in 2023. They may be on the path to going 4-13 in 2023. It's a credit to the organization that the good path is even feasible right now, though Sunday's loss illustrated how quickly they could find themselves on the crooked path. Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts don't need to scratch their way into the playoffs to earn a second "evaluation year," but they must avoid catastrophes such as the Giants loss at all costs.

Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are a self-caricature at this point: they wait around for 60-yard touchdowns on offense and dole out 12-yard completions like boardwalk fudge samples on defense. There aren't enough Texans and Lions on the Seahawks future schedule for them to climb back to respectability at this point. No franchise faces tougher offseason decisions in 2022.

Washington Football Team
Taylor Heinicke is the type of quarterback you talk yourself into if you see a touchdown pass threaded through three defenders on a highlight reel and think "that's a sustainable skill!" instead of "that's an interception in three trillion parallel universes and only a completion in this one." Monday night will tell us whether Washington's 2021 season will be a rerun of 2020, with a second-half surge pushing them into the bottom of the playoff field. Whether that happens or not, Washington really needs to start moving forward instead of sideways in 2022.

New Orleans Saints
An imploding skyscraper that may take five years to rebuild.

Atlanta Falcons
Just good enough to beat the league's most pathetic teams and no one else, as Sunday's 21-14 snoozer over the Jaguars illustrated. The Falcons will beat the Lions in Week 16; lose to the Buccaneers and Bills; decide the final NFC wild card when they face the 49ers, Saints, and Panthers; and ultimately position themselves perfectly to not be able to select a blue-chip starter at a high-leverage position (don't even dream about a quarterback) in the first round of the 2022 draft.

Carolina Panthers
A bad team run by a bunch of overmatched goofballs who have run out of ways to distract us from the fact that they have no long-range plan whatsoever. In the wake of Sunday's 5-for-21 meltdown in a 30-10 loss to the Dolphins, creaky/unprepared Cam Newton will probably return to Wildcat duties. P.J. Walker will helm the offense until Matt Rhule trades for Mike White or Marcus Mariota next year.

The Panthers' sole purpose down the stretch will be as schedule-fluffers for the Buccaneers and Bills.

Chicago Bears
The fear coming out of this half-assed Bears season is that Matt Nagy has already managed to break Justin Fields: 31 sacks in just 10 games, a rib injury, a year of shamelessly negligent coaching. No one except the surliest Packers fans want Fields to fail, of course, but the Magnificent McCaskeys should at least consider the possibility that Nagy will inflict further damage on the team's future instead of circling wagons around him the next time a firing rumor pops up.

The Bears are still a fringe wild-card team, but their upcoming Cardinals-Packers-Vikings slate should take care of that.

New York Giants
Based on Ian Rapoport of NFL.com's report on Dave Gettleman's likely end-of-season retirement, the Giants plan to either replace Gettleman from within or raid the Patriots scouting department for someone "more in-line with [Joe] Judge's thinking."

Hiring from within the greater Giants "family" is how they ended up with Gettleman. The success of Patriots Tribute Bands over the last 20 years speaks for itself. And giving Joe Judge more power is a terrible idea, because Judge is horrendous at every single element of head coaching. But golly, it sure looks like Judge somehow won a boardroom power coup over the last eight days, and now he has a silly little victory over the Eagles that he can sell as the latest Giants "statement" win.

At least Bill O'Brien led the Texans to the playoffs a few times while turning into Colonel Kurtz. John Mara better look long and hard into that abyss before he hands the keys over to someone he should be locking out of the building.

Detroit Lions
0-10-1 in the standings. 7-4 against the spread. Number one in our hearts.

Week 12 Awards

Before we switch conferences, let's dish out some trophies for Sunday's best performances:

Offensive Line of the Week
As expected, the storied Bengals offensive line, whom Walkthrough frequently compares to the 1980s Hogs and the Seven Blocks of Granite, manhandled T.J. Watt and the Steelers defense all afternoon. So let's once again call attention to the greatness of Jonah Williams, Quinton Spain, Trey Hopkins, Hakeem Adeniji, and Riley Reiff, even though you are undoubtedly sick of hearing us endlessly extol their virtues.

Defender of the Week
Patrick Surtain intercepted two Justin Herbert passes: one in the end zone and a second off a deflection that he returned for a pick-six.

Defensive Rookie of the Year props were off the board as of Sunday night, but Surtain could sneak into the picture. Then again, Micah Parsons has 6.5 sacks in the last month, so Surtain may need a few more picks.

Early-morning edit: John Franklin-Myers of the Jets earns honorable mention for his two-sack, one-interception takeover of the Texans offense. 

Special Teamer of the Week
Duke Riley blocked a punt near the goal line at the end of the opening Panthers series, Justin Coleman retrieved it and pushed his way into the end zone, and a Dolphins rout was underway.

Vikings kickoff returner Kene Ngwangwu earns honorable mention for his 99-yard kickoff return. Check out the blocks by Myles Dorn, Blake Lynch, Troy Dye, and others.

Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else's Highlight
There's a lot of love to go around for Kendrick Bourne's 41-yard touchdown catch:

Let's dole out awards to:

  • Perennial Pro Bowl safety Kevin Byard, who got duct taped to Hunter Henry even though he's clearly supposed to be sitting in a hook zone and waiting for crossers.
  • Jackrabbit Jenkins, for taking one of his signature "I don't really wanna make a tackle" angles, then slipping.
  • Amani Hooker and Jayon Brown for failing to knock one of the NFL's slowest wide receivers out of bounds while tiptoeing up the sidelines.

Honorable mention goes to Matt Vrabel and coordinator Shane Bowen for calling Tampa-2 on third-and-8 when their front four was incapable of getting within 5 yards of Mac Jones all afternoon (while a handful of blitzes resulted in sacks).

Here, check the dots to enjoy the elegance of a simple defense, horrendously executed:

Burn This Play!
Here, in all its glory, is the Jarvis Landry Wildcat pass strip-sack from the late game:

The problems with this design start with the fact that Landry lines up in shotgun with Baker Mayfield at running back: there is no subterfuge to make defenders drift away from their coverage assignments. Also, when Landry is the quarterback, it leaves the Browns with no receivers capable of getting open against man coverage. Finally, the Browns ran a Landry option play against the Lions last week: no one was open, so Landry scrambled for a touchdown. Did the Browns think the Ravens would overlook that play when studying film? Did they realize that the Ravens defense was less likely than the Lions defense to allow Landry to weave through traffic?

This is the sort of desperate nonsense the Browns weren't supposed to rely upon this year to generate big plays.

Burn This Game Plan!
The Eagles targeted Jalen Reagor seven times on Sunday, including twice in the end zone on the final drive of their 13-7 loss. Let's see how that went:

The following interception wasn't Reagor's fault, but this is Burn This Game Plan, not Rip This Player. Though we are totally about to rip this player:

The Eagles also targeted Reagor on fourth-and-2; he failed to haul in a low-but-catchable pass.

Reagor is a first-round bust who is now 25-201-2 on 45 targets for the year. Yes, that's just over 8.0 yards per reception, which gives you a sense of how many of them were screens. No matter who is covering him, Reagor should never be the focal point of a passing game, because he has the contested-catch capability of a toddler chasing a beach ball and turns 50-50 balls into .05-99.95 balls.

Mystery Touchdown of the Week
We haven't used this category all year, but Chris Myarick's crotch touchdown had to go somewhere in Walkthrough:

Yep, that was a real statement win for the Giants, who can beat any team in the NFL as long as their fourth-string tight ends keep catching touchdown passes between their ankles.

AFC Late-Season Reset

And now, back to this other thing that we are doing.

Buffalo Bills
As Super Bowl contenders, the Bills lack something: if not the max-buffed 2021 version of Josh Allen, then a Nick Chubb at running back, a steamroller on the interior line, a take-over-the-game edge rusher, or anyone else who can step up when a game is going sideways.

The loss of Tre'Davious White on Thanksgiving night is a major worry for a team that doesn't have a lot of blue chips to spare and faces the Patriots twice in the next four weeks and the Buccaneers in Week 14. It's time for the Bills to prove they're the team they claim to be.

New England Patriots
The Patriots will go as far as 11-yard screen passes on third-and-10, missed opponent field goals, peanut-punch fumbles, and a creamy schedule can take them. In the 2021 AFC, that's pretty far.

The Patriots are a solid overall team that's not nearly as good as its recent box scores would suggest. The same can be said of the September version of the Buffalo Bills. A pair of December matchups with the Bills—starting next Monday night in Buffalo—will either validate the Patriots or expose them as something less than an Eternal Dynasty with the next Chosen One at quarterback. Walkthrough is leaning toward the latter scenario, despite our lack of faith in the Bills.

Kansas City Chiefs
The final six Chiefs games are against AFC playoff hopefuls, four of them from the AFC West, none of them from the de-facto Bills/Patriots/Ravens ruling tier. It sure feels like Andy Reid is a pool shark who set everything up just right so he could run the table.

Cincinnati Bengals
Now quietly 7-4 with a sweep of the Steelers and quality wins over the Ravens and Raiders in their playoff portfolio. Still, it's impossible to tell which Bengals will show up on either side of the ball each week. The Bengals can do just about everything well when they are hot but can't do anything right when they are cold, and their offensive and defensive peaks and slumps don't sync up perfectly. They're like Bills Lite.

Every damn game on the Bengals schedule also feels like a wild-card game, making them that much harder to analyze. The team that trounced the Steelers on Sunday should cruise to the playoffs by beating the Chargers in Week 13 and the 49ers and Broncos down the stretch. The team that lost to the Jets and Browns before their bye could cough up any or all of those games.

The Bengals look to Walkthrough like potential 2022 Super Bowl contenders if they handle their offseason business properly. (A huge "if" for a front office that consists of three interns and a card table full of season-ticket brochures.) They're going to peak this season as fun-to-watch playoff randomizers.

Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens and Browns both rank below the Bengals in this little exercise by virtue of Sunday night's blooperfest. Lamar Jackson has been glitching out regularly over the last few weeks, and the Ravens defense doesn't play at a consistently high enough level to inspire any trust.

The Ravens face the Steelers twice in the final stretch, as well as the Bengals and Browns again, plus (yikes!) the Packers and Rams. That's a brutal stretch, especially if the Steelers have any life left in them (and they're sure to find some when they face the Ravens). John Harbaugh has a knack for manufacturing wins that only Bill Belichick and Andy Reid can match, but scratch victories like Sunday night's 16-10 slog can only get the Ravens to the playoffs. They need a Lamar Jackson who completes passes to Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown instead of the defenders covering Andrews and Brown to get through the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield was reportedly healthier than he has been in weeks entering Sunday night. He then came away from some early-game hits looking gimpy and looked a little panicky in the pocket at times (see: his fumble before halftime). Even if Mayfield is close to 100% after next week's bye, the Browns and their fans may just have to make peace with the fact that he has peaked as a lower-tier starter on a team with no passing-game playmakers. The Browns are the AFC's Vikings, with a high floor and a low ceiling, less likely to fade from the playoff chase than the mercurial Bengals or Raiders but nearly guaranteed to go one-and-done once they arrive.

The Browns get the Ravens again after their bye, followed by the Raiders and Packers. A likely 1-2 record during that stretch won't be disastrous, but it will confirm what we already suspect.

Indianapolis Colts
We saw in the loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday what will happen if/when the Colts face a true powerhouse in the postseason. Even on his best day, Carson Wentz will commit too many turnovers against a capable defense. Jonathan Taylor rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown, but a great running game only gets a team so far. The Colts defense is stout but not extraordinary. There's no margin for error in the Colts' style of football, which is a real problem for a team that probably needs to beat the Patriots in Week 15 to reach the playoffs.

Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers drives of 60, 61, and 52 yards ended on downs, a missed field goal, and an interception in Sunday's 28-14 loss to the Broncos. The Chargers are doomed to either get knocked out of the playoff chase or the playoffs themselves by red zone gaffes and special teams blunders. (The Chargers didn't quite reach the red zone on their long drives against the Broncos, but you get the general idea.) Their Week 13 matchup with the Bengals should tell us more about each team's postseason worthiness, but we have said that almost every week about every Chargers and Bengals game, and both teams stay huddled in the middle of the pack.

Tennessee Titans
Ryan Tannehill has no one at all to throw to; at one point on Sunday, he dropped to set up a screen pass, but the running back had drifted away and was nowhere to be found. The fact that the Titans stayed with the Patriots through most of three quarters was a minor miracle and a testament to their offensive and defensive fronts. But with A.J. Brown on injured reserve, there's no skill-position cavalry coming for the Titans anytime soon.

Late-season wins over the Jaguars, Texans, and either the Steelers, Dolphins, or 49ers will sew up a playoff berth for the Titans. Perhaps Brown, Julio Jones, and even Derrick Henry will return by then. But it's unlikely to matter if the road to the Super Bowl rolls through Buffalo, Foxborough, or even Kansas City.

Denver Broncos
A spoilerrific team that refuses to bow out of the playoff race. The Broncos' mode of victory—pick-sixes, fourth-down stops, station-to-station offense—isn't all that sustainable, but that hasn't deterred any other AFC teams from making a playoff push this season.

Poetic justice would find the Broncos earning the seventh playoff berth as an afterthought and upsetting the Patriots in Foxborough during a telecast in which the announcers don't even say the words "Broncos" or "Teddy Bridgewater" until the middle of the third quarter.

Las Vegas Raiders
It's hard to take Shawn Hochuli's Thanksgiving officiating drum solo seriously as some sort of Raiders rebound: they won because the iffy flags hit the Cowboys considerably harder than the Raiders. The Raiders' late-season schedule is full of opponents such as the Browns, Colts, and Broncos, however, so they remain a viable seventh wild-card team, especially with another 1970s powerhouse in the process of plunging off a cliff.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Bye, guys. It was fun. Enjoy the quarterback search.

Miami Dolphins
Has the negging of Tua Tagovailoa ceased after two-and-a-half straight productive games? Wins over the Jets and Panthers after a surprising save against the Ravens won't convince Tua's biggest skeptics (his coaches), but the Dolphins have found their true level: one healthy notch above the league's true bottom-feeders.

Upcoming meetings with the Giants, Jets, and flailing Saints and Titans should make the Dolphins' record respectable and stabilize Tua's reputation by the time the Dolphins play spoiler against the Patriots in Week 18. Whether a late-season, schedule-assisted hot streak is enough to prevent Steven Ross from having dinner at St. Elmo's with Deshaun Watson's agent at the combine is anyone's guess. For now, Brian Flores has saved his job, allowing him to either put the first half of 2021 behind him or morph into Matt Nagy next year.

New York Jets
Both the Jets and Zach Wilson needed Sunday's win over the Texans to avoid being swallowed up by the tabloid monster. The team's goal down the stretch should be good health, player development, and enough respectable play to keep the city's attention on the Giants.

Jacksonville Jaguars
The three things I found most depressing while watching the Jaguars' 21-14 loss to the Falcons on Sunday:

  • Two early-game special teams penalties which handed the Falcons first downs illustrated how poorly coached the Jaguars are in every aspect of the game.
  • All the passes targeted to Laquon Treadwell and Tavon Austin made the Jaguars look like a cross between an XFL team and the Matt Patricia Lions, who loved to clutter their bench with replacement-level (at best) veterans, not all of whom were former Patriots.
  • Trevor Lawrence suddenly has the mechanics of a high school baseball pitcher, especially when his feet aren't set, which means that coaching neglect and poor receiver play may be leading to bad habits.

The Jets and Texans are the only beatable opponents on the remaining Jaguars schedule. The Jaguars only remain interesting because Urban Meyer could bolt at any moment, and because they could help the Titans and/or Colts reach the playoffs by being easy outs.

Houston Texans
Friend of Walkthrough Stephanie Stradley posted a photo of a nearly-empty Texans parking lot not too long before kickoff:

This is what happens when a team that lacks a generational fanbase stops trying to field a competitive team. Eventually, even a hyper-privileged failson like Cal McNair figures out that the concession and apparel revenues have gone down the tubes. Ignoring the Texans is the best thing their fans can do to make the franchise better, and McNair and Jack Easterby have made ignoring the Texans easy.

Monday Night Action: Seattle Seahawks (-1) at Washington Football Team

Beware the FedEx Field playing surface, my children: a muddy, neglected briar patch that gets worse as the season wears on. The FedEx gravel quarry slows speedy offenses and causes injuries that can bring opponents down to Washington's level. But most of all, beware the fact that the effects of the East Coast's most notorious patch of lonesome prairie are priced into the spread and the over-under: Washington is 1-5 ATS (0-6 straight up) in December home games since 2018, and the games are 3-3 against a number that usually hovers in the low 40s.

Walkthrough likes going Under 46.5 in a game that's likely to end in the 23-20 range, but we don't trust either team to win. We're leaning toward Washington, however: they should be able to plod along on drives while Russell Wilson watches Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf spin their wheels in the sand. Washington straight-up AND the under is a low-confidence play, but the +270 DraftKings is offering for the same-game parlay makes it palatable.

Comments

82 comments, Last at 30 Nov 2021, 10:00pm

1 Browns not Ravens?

In the 'Burn This Play!' section you mention:

Also, when Landry is the quarterback, it leaves the Ravens with no receivers capable of getting open against man coverage. 

Think this is meant to be the Browns not Ravens who have no man beating receivers left (unlike the Chiefs who have the best man beating receiver in the league).

3 Packers

The Packer offense is creeping more towards the 2020 squad's efficiency. Still, too many FGs (and missed FGs) are ending drives. Despite tough slogging yesterday, the Packers ran the ball 30 times. Dillon picked up every 3rd and short that I recall. For only the 2nd time this season, the Packers topped 30 points in consecutive games.

The biggest improvement on the defensive side is the tackling. 

Lafleur made a mistake following the pick six near the end of the third quarter putting the Packers up by 19 by electing to go for the 2 point conversion. The Packers have been poor inside the five at getting the ball in the end zone. A 50 / 50 chance for a 21 point lead was less important than a 95% chance for a kicked 20 point lead. At 20, the Rams would have entered the 4th quarter needing three TDs. By missing the 2 point conversion, Lafleur gave the Rams an out with a FG on a stalled drive rather than having to play for a TD. Faced with a 4th and 1, the Rams did kick a FG, stayed alive, and had a slim chance for an onside kick and a Hail Mary. Had the Packers kicked the XP for a 20 point lead, the Rams would have forgone the FG attempt and the clock would likely have expired with the Rams trying to get a 2nd TD. 

 

5 Packer defense

In reply to by PackerPete

The tackling aspect is something that needs more attention especially since previous coaches put it on the players to fix themselves and you heard folks around the team claim you cannot teach tackling which of course is beyond absurd.

 

Yes you need to have players willing to tackle which is why the change from Kevin King to Douglas is so noticeable as Douglas is willing to mix it up with anyone while King finds tackling something of an inconvenience.  But SB has clearly set an expectation.  You cannot have this degree of change without it being somewhat the result of the coach and staff making a difference

54 Yes! Been enjoying watching…

In reply to by big10freak

Yes!

Been enjoying watching this defense and getting proven wrong about my thoughts about the Barry hire after I initially heard about it.  I think it was an si.com interview where he talked in some detail about how over the years he's had to come up with new drills because teams don't live tackle in practice anymore. He felt you could still teach it and he's worked to find ways to do so that keeps players safer and healthier in practice. He also mentioned that he felt the key to tackling drills was to make players tackle things in motion. You can work on some of the fundamentals against a bag or sled, but in a game you are tackling something moving so you need to try and simulate that.

While the team has used tackling donuts before, I recall hearing about them in 2017, Barry has introduced some new drills with them. So there is one in motion drill for something they can tackle. I've also seen video of coaches running alongside a mat dragging or carrying smaller tackling dummies. The defensive players tackle the moving dummy away from the coach and bring it down landing on the mat. You can see the players getting rotation on the tackle in the video. I've noted a couple times in the past that I've been noticing a lot more twisting on the tackles this year, so that could be some of where that is being trained. I've not seen them running that drill in prior years, though obviously I don't see much of their practices living like 650 miles away from Green Bay.

The players mentioning that Barry "tackled the air" because he got so worked up discussing something. The articles talking about how Barry brings up tackling every practice and meeting are out there too. So yeah the better tackling does seem to be an effect of the coaching and instilling a different mentality about it as well as providing methods to practice that. Even King who like you pointed out tending to view tackling as tertiary to his job at best in the past has actually been putting in more effort and been in better positions. He's still clearly reluctant about it, but it seems that the changes have at least leaked into him and while his effort is not on the level of Douglas it's at least better technique and yields better results. That to me is all about coaching, just more evidence to support your point.

It's great.

6 So you've listed the Titans…

So you've listed the Titans ninth in the late-season reset. I can't argue too much with that, given they've lost to the Texans and are dead men walking at the moment. What I can argue with is what makes the Ravens part of the A tier of the AFC? You even listed the Ravens fifth in the reset. I'd argue the Bills aren't even part of the A tier. I'd go Patriots (begrudgingly), Chiefs (When Mahomes is on his game, he can cover a ton of deficiencies), Bills at least a half-tier below (if they hadn't lost to the Jaguars and Colts they'd have a more solid argument for the higher tier), and then everyone else. I'm hopeful the Titans can recover enough bodies to make a playoff push. One seed is likely beyond reach, but I think they can be a contender if they can get enough of their star players back.

8 I'm starting to think the…

I'm starting to think the Chiefs will take the AFC.  The defense has turned it around, and Mahomes is always dangerous.  The Patriots are playing better than anyone, but Mac Jones is still a rookie, and no rookie quarterback has ever made it to the Super Bowl.  It would be a historic accomplishment for Belichick if the Patriots just got to the Super Bowl with Jones starting.

23 There was a stretch where…

There was a stretch where each of the contenders were playing "better than anyone". Whoever comes out of the AFC may well get clobbered by the NFC team, or might dominate them. I don't think we're ever gonna know which.

55 well... eventually...

Eventually we'll know, right?

Please tell me you don't have some inside knowledge that the season will terminate early. That aliens or a disease will put a stop to NFL shenanigans, say, the first week of January....

7 That video of the Texans…

That video of the Texans parking lot is sad.  I went with my Father and Brother to the last Jets game in the failed 1989 season, against Buffalo in freezing temperatures.  The Jets were 4-11, and Buffalo was 8-7 (they needed the win to take the division).  We left midway in the fourth quarter while the Bills were leading 30-0.  There were more cars in the parking lot when we were leaving than in that video.

11 FWIW

My tailgating experiences are mostly limited to Lambeau field but for a noon game the parking areas would be mostly full. (Lots open 4 hours before game time)  And I suspect 2 hours before game time at most stadiums where there is a healthy tailgate culture would be similar.

 

 

13 Oh, Houston is Central time!…

In reply to by big10freak

Oh, Houston is Central time! So that was 2 hours before game time, not three. My East Coast bias showing there. OK, that makes more sense. 

65 New Orleans Tailgate totally different from Lambeau

In reply to by big10freak

...and everywhere else, just as the food is different from everywhere else, just as the culture is different from everywhere else, there IS NO outdoor parkinglot, its under the Superdome...so the Boil (shrimp, crawfish, crab, andouille, and watcha got? )and Grill scene is everywhere it can be set up, and it starts just after dawn and goes on all day such as along the Poydras exit ramp, around the corner between the Smoothie King stadium and the Dome, 

Superdome=Best NFL experience

9 "In the event of a…

"In the event of a Buccaneers-Patriots Super Bowl, there's a nonzero chance that I retire from football coverage and return to teaching."

I still hope this Superbowl happens, even if it cost me my most entertaining sports writer

 

17 It would be a shame to lose…

It would be a shame to lose a good writer. 

But if he values his petty, shrill biases more than sports writing - which is essentially what he says here - then, perhaps, we would be better off. We can always hope that concern for the FO brand will convince him to turn towards unbiased analysis.

If he does switch to teaching math, I’d worry that he will develop an irrational hatred for the value ‘e’ and ruin a bunch of high schoolers for life. 

29 Nothing wrong with dreading…

Nothing wrong with dreading it as a fan

But it is a problem for a sports writer at FO, if it prevents him from writing well, performing good analysis, and especially if he threatens to quit his job over it.

And even for a fan, it would be petty and shrill to overdo it to this extent.

67 It is getting old

Mike still seems to hope the Patriots get "exposed", elevating the Bills above them in spite of any dispassionate consideration of recent play level.

That the Patriots might be playing at a higher level than the 2-4 team that started the season seems to be an idea that he's actively refusing to consider. 

 

70 Mike still seems to hope the…

Mike still seems to hope the Patriots get "exposed"

There are levels between "best team in the AFC" and "total fraud." 

By full-season DVOA, the Patriots and Bills might as well be tied. Since the Patriots are playing better recently, obviously that means the Bills played better earlier in the season. So in some sense, it's almost a coin flip who you consider better: do you trust the early-season info on the Bills or the late-season info on the Patriots? (Weighted DVOA isn't particularly more predictive than full-season DVOA, so it's not a "obviously the recent stuff.")

Personally I'd pick the Patriots because Belichick's teams seemingly always early-season swoon, but it's not completely insane to go with the Bills considering their early-season performance.

74 Oh, the Bills are for real…

Oh, the Bills are for real. I would not be surprised by any result from the two Patriots-Bills games coming up, with a split being more likely than either of the sweeps.

And, yes, Mike’s totally committed to the “frauds!” position on the Patriots. Which seems divorced from the FO brand, considering what DVOA etc say about them.

A nuanced, DVOA-driven look would say to favor the home team in the Patriots-Bills games, and to give the Patriots a very slight edge to overcome the Colt’s home field advantage when that game comes around. All of those games are close enough to want to dig into specific match ups.

75  And, yes, Mike’s totally…

And, yes, Mike’s totally committed to the “frauds!” position on the Patriots. Which seems divorced from the FO brand, considering what DVOA etc say about them.

He's got them listed second in the AFC! Jeez, sign me up for being called a fraud.

Mike's saying they're not the "Eternal Dynasty with the next Chosen One at quarterback." Which is what they have looked like in terms of the box scores. And it's also what DVOA says about them, too - their full season DVOA's well below their weighted. By weighted DVOA the Patriots are 11.2% higher than the Bills! That's like the gap between the Bills and Minnesota. It's huge. Saying "they're probably not a shelf above the rest of the league" is not calling the same thing as calling them frauds.

The whole thing just reminds me of 2019 when the Patriots defense looked like the greatest defense in the history of the NFL - anytime anyone said "well, yeah, they're super-good but probably not that epically good because of the offenses they faced" it was like "stop calling them frauds." 

12 Thoughts on Eagles-Giants:…

Thoughts on Eagles-Giants:

My goodness, Jalen Hurts was awful. Three INTs--all his fault and terrible decisions--and several more awful throws into double-coverage, across his body while on the run, etc. As bad as his stats were, they could have been worse.

Relatedly, whoever is calling the plays for the Eagles should get his ass handed to him in meetings today. Their run game was equally as good as their pass game was bad; their 1 TD drive featured 1 incompletion followed by 9 consecutive runs. And yet, on a subsequent drive, facing a third and two after three straight successful runs, they go pass, pass, turning it over on downs. And again on another drive: After three straight successful runs for a first down, they go pass, pass, pass, punt. Every pass was a gift to Giants.

As for the other side of the ball, you'll be shocked to learn that firing Jason Garrett didn't magically fix everything for the Giants' offense. After all, regardless of play call/play design, all plays require some form of blocking, which just ain't happening. Frankly, I'm surprised that D Jones wasn't spotted on the sideline in tears after watching Brady stand in the pocket for as long as wanted over and over again last Monday.

 

20 The one from the second…

The one from the second video is clearly a terrible decision, but the one from the first? One-on-one on the outside, the WR has half a step and the ball hits him right in the hands.Worst case that should be an incompletion. But it really should have been a TD.

25 FYI, the pass in that first…

FYI, the pass in that first video was in fact incomplete (it hit the ground before Julian Love scooped it up) but I agree that it was a perfectly fine decision and throw. His three INTs were all terrible, though.

64 I mean, let's be clear, that…

I mean, let's be clear, that first video's obviously uncalled pass interference and it's not even particularly close. The guy's flat out tackling him while the ball's still like 8 feet in the air. Right in front of an official, too (although he may have been too close to get a good perspective).

I'm totally on the "Reagor's a total bust" train but I have no idea why people are holding up that play as an example. 

42 You forgot to mention...

You forgot to mention that on the rare passes when Jalen Hurts didn't make a terrible decision, he actually made some pretty good throws...but about half of those were dropped by his receivers.  The Eagles must have had at least 6-8 drops during the game, including three on their final possession (two by Jalen "much worse than Nelson Agholor" Reagor and one by Dallas Goedert).

52 Yes, Reagor in particular…

Yes, Reagor in particular was terrible and Hurts' stats would look better if he had caught at least three catchable passes. Nonetheless, your statement, "...on the rare passes where passes where Hurts didn't make a terrible decision..." doesn't give much solace to Eagles fans.

53 Yes, Reagor in particular…

Yes, Reagor in particular was terrible and Hurts' stats would look better if he had caught at least three catchable passes. Nonetheless, your statement, "...on the rare passes where passes where Hurts didn't make a terrible decision..." doesn't give much solace to Eagles fans.

Sorry, double post.

63 I dunno - I kinda doubt a…

I dunno - I kinda doubt a lot of those passes were actually supposed to be for Reagor, for instance. The last pass attempt to Reagor was a god-awful decision by Hurts. That ended up being a scramble-drill type situation: Reagor wasn't a read on that play (or was pretty far down).

Watch the replay : Hurts hits his drop point and just sits there, with acres of space in front of him in the pocket. Hurts can't hit Smith's route until he turns upfield, so he just sits on his butt and, I dunno, thinks about all the things he's screwed up or something. Then the pressure hits him and it's a scramble drill.

He needed to climb the miles and miles of pocket he had there, and then he could've taken the shot for the touchdown. Or if he had seen Mailata was beat and knew he didn't have time, the next read should've been Goedert who was also open.

 

62 This is simplistic - the…

This is simplistic - the most successful part of the Eagles offense were the option plays, and Hurts was making the right decisions on those for the most part. Including the ones where he was supposed to pass based on what the read defender did. Lots of those read out as "run" so it's not like those "9 consecutive runs" were actually all runs.

It's not a "run" versus "pass" issue. Every time something went wrong on a play after the snap (and it happened a bunch) he just froze. The interception before the half I'm pretty sure was supposed to be a rub/pick/etc. type route to spring the TE and the pick receiver just effing blocked the defender (I mean, flat out blocked - threw his shoulder at the guy's knees. It was nuts). Hurts is staring right at Goedert, but I'm guessing he knows he can't possibly throw that ball, it'd be a brain-dead flag. He should've turned and chucked the ball to the sideline at that point, just to hope nothing gets called, but he just... holds on.

and several more awful throws into double-coverage

Most of those were just slow decision making or slow delivery. It's like, the receiver flashed open, but by the time Hurts could wind up and throw it, the safety had already closed on the ball.

It's not really anything we haven't seen from Hurts before - limited arm strength, limited accuracy. Just got aggravated a ton more due to the fact that the Giants confused the hell out of him. Didn't really change my opinion much of him (low ceiling, but Philly's screwed enough in the short term that they should just stick with him).

You could practically tell when something bad was going to happen just by Hurts's body language. Hitch steps with his eyes locked on a receiver downfield, and I'm thinking "no, no, come off it, you're already wrong." Or you see him just settle in a spot watching a receiver and I'm like "no, damnit, check the pressure, you can't wait two freaking seconds for a guy to come open." Just total lack of confidence.

14 "The Patriots are a solid…

"The Patriots are a solid overall team that's not nearly as good as its recent box scores would suggest"

You've been saying some form of this for what, 6 weeks now?

 

They're #3 in overall DVOA, and #2 in weighted. Have you looked at your own stats?

32 The Bills were #1 in overall…

The Bills were #1 in overall DVOA and people were discounting them in the commenting each week. DVOA is a useful metric, but it only tells us how well a team *has been* playing, not how well they *will* play. There's some predictive value, but you can't predict Matt Stafford throwing the Titans two pick sixes or Buffalo staying on the bus against the Colts.

44 Well...

...that's probably because Rich Stadium (or whatever the Bills' stadium is called now; it was called Rich Stadium for nearly the first 20 years I was an NFL fan so I'm calling it Rich Stadium damnit) isn't near anything except some nearby residential development.

58 It used to be the only safe…

In reply to by CHIP72

It used to be the only safe way through that neighborhood, but that's improved a lot, I hear. I haven't been to a game there since the 1992 Divisional, the "KC Revenge" game. I should rectify that before Daboll gets Allen killed.

It's Highmark Stadium, now, but it's still Rich Stadium in my mind, too.

15 In the event of a Buccaneers…

In the event of a Buccaneers-Patriots Super Bowl, there's a nonzero chance that I retire from football coverage and return to teaching.

No need for that.  You could justifiably cite blunt instrument head trauma for blanking out those two weeks, 'cuz that's what the buildup will be.  And anyone who actually {watched/read/listened to} it would doubtless make it the physical version from beating their head on a wall.

16 It's pretty clear that there…

It's pretty clear that there are only 3 legitimate contenders in each conference. For the AFC, those are NE, KC and maybe BUF. For the NFC, that's ARI, TB and GB. DAL and LAR are in a tailspin, TEN has been exposed, and BAL is waiting to get exposed.

19 Seems right. NFC = Tom Brady…

Seems right. NFC = Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and random great team stacked with talent enabled by a rookie contract for the year. AFC = Pat Mahomes, Bill Belichick, and (maybe) Josh Allen. By separating Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (and with Belichick at least getting some competent QB play), the NFL now has one extra annual contender, but otherwise the situation is unchanged from past years. We'll see if any of the young QBs develops to the Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Pat Mahomes tier of always has a team in contention (possibly to include Josh Allen) as Big Ben and Drew Brees have declined / retired with BB again being the one coach that is regularly capable of pushing a team to that tier.

21 We'll see if any of the…

We'll see if any of the young QBs develops to the Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Pat Mahomes tier

Mahomes is only 26; this is his 4th year as a starter. I think Herbert & Murray both look like the real deal in their 2nd and 3rd years respectively. 

28 No doubting his talent, but…

No doubting his talent, but I worry about Murray's ability to stay healthy. He's of slight build, runs a lot, and has picked up injuries in each of the last two years. You never know with injuries, but if I were a Cardinals fan I'd be making sacrifices to the football gods.

30 The true real deals need more time

I agree that Murray and Burrow look like the real deal.  However, I do not want to jump to any conclusions as we are in a strange era of young QB’s finding their stride in years two or three and then dropping off.

Wentz and Goff are the clear leaders of tailing off, Jackson and Allen seem to be less dramatic members of this club.   Mayfield appears to be in a decline from a less lofty perch.

33 Pretty simple analysis here …

Pretty simple analysis here - as the teams become better, they're more dependent on their QBs, and their limitations become the defensive focus. It becomes less about beating the scheme the QB is in and more about attacking the faults of the QB.

37 There's also the matter of…

There's also the matter of what happens once they're off their rookie contracts, and the team needs to clear cap space. At that point, the team's success depends on the QB playing up to their contract and carrying a weaker roster, or winning the draft lottery with a lot of other key contributors on their rookie deals. 

18 The fact that the Titans…

The fact that the Titans stayed with the Patriots through most of three quarters was a minor miracle and a testament to their offensive and defensive fronts.

Very true.  A hat tip to Vrabel as well.  He gets those guys ready to play and it's no accident they win more than the stats say they should.

The Patriots will go as far as 11-yard screen passes on third-and-10, missed opponent field goals, peanut-punch fumbles, and a creamy schedule can take them. In the 2021 AFC, that's pretty far.

This, not so much.  This game actually evidenced that NE's passing game is becoming more dynamic and "creamy" is a strange descriptor of their schedule.  The next three games are against Buffalo (x2) and Indy, with two on the road.  Sure, they've gotten a lot of injury luck lately, but they also faced Miami before the wheels came and will face them again now that they've righted the ship.  They also ran into Dallas, TB and NO when they were all at the height of their seasons so far.  

And what does that say for the schedules in the AFCW and AFCN, which combined only has one team - KC at #10 - in DVOA's top 10?

The Patriots are a solid overall team that's not nearly as good as its recent box scores would suggest.

This is hard to disagree with, but in a season like this they are pleasantly close to SB caliber.  I'll take it.

22 I think the entire Top-8…

I think the entire Top-8 this season can be described as "a solid overall team that's not nearly as its [recent] box scores would suggest.". I'm impressed by the Patriots because of their turnaround, but I'm not ready to anoint them because I'm always skeptical of a defense that relies on turnovers. Turnovers can disappear for long stretches, particularly against the elite teams - except there really don't seem to be any elite teams this year. While I don't see anybody but Tennessee effortlessly piling up 200 rushing yards, that still has to concern them as a possible playoff matchup (especially if Henry & Julio are back).

68 I'd disagree

The Patriots are a solid overall team that's not nearly as good as its recent box scores would suggest.

This is hard to disagree with, but in a season like this they are pleasantly close to SB caliber.  I'll take it.

When a writer suggests we ignore box scores, it's a sign that the data doesn't support him.

The Pats' defense in particular has been excellent in recent weeks. It's #1 in weighted DVOA.  It's a bit unfair to claim that they don't deserve to be winning games by large margins.  They only allowed 26 points in the month of November, despite playing four times.  And that includes zero second half points.

 

73  The Pats' defense in…

In reply to by RickD

The Pats' defense in particular has been excellent in recent weeks. It's #1 in weighted DVOA.

The fact that it's #1 in weighted DVOA but #2 in total DVOA could literally mean exactly what Mike said - that they're not as good as their recent box scores would suggest. For the team as a whole, the gap between weighted DVOA and regular DVOA is pretty dang big, so the "not nearly" isn't really a stretch, in my opinion. And in general, weighted DVOA isn't more predictive.

The better argument is that Belichick's teams have traditionally ramped up over the season (which isn't normal behavior), so there's strong reason to believe the more recent stuff is accurate.

24 Not the most appropriate…

Not the most appropriate analysis for this site, but it does feel like the Pats* and Cards are the only two fanbases who don't have a loud "We actually suck and we're going to get exposed any game now" contingent among their own fans right now. Maybe the Packers join them this week. But I don't know that I've ever seen so many "We suck!" "No, WE suck!" arguments as I have this year.

 

*Sports radio hosts don't count for this analysis.

56 For just a second there...

For just a second there... I thought you were going to quote President Merkin Muffley from Dr. Strangelove (Gentlemen, please, you can't fight in here, this is the war room.)  But your line was just as good.

40 3 easy ways to read about a team sucking

As a contributor that states that my team is a sorry excuse of a number 1 seed in the conference this late in the season, I propose to you three different ways of reading about teams sucking:

1.  Continue to read posts on FO from people such as myself that have an allegiance to a specific team

2.  Read DIVISION posts, this will cover 31 teams

3.  Join the following website, "Why your team sucks 2021."  You get coverage of all 32 teams.

I wish we had a fan contributor from every team.  We could all write about why our own team sucks, add in some DIVISION comments for 31 teams, and then 31 of us could combine to write about why ARIZONA sucks.

I assume that I can find 31 of you on here that are willing to contribute to the why ARIZONA sucks retribution article.  Do I need to offer a sign up web link for this project?

 

77 How many Cards fans do you know?

We are basically nomadic creatures who don't even live in Arizona, necessarily.

I have lived in Texas now for about 8 years, but suffered through all those poor seasons when I lived in Phoenix.

I have no tied to Texas, so naturally, I'll continue to root for the Cardinals.

As long as Murray is healthy, they will likely go undefeated or lose one game at most the rest of the year.  The Packers and Bucs have injuries all over the place and no guarantee of getting their players back.  The Cards will survive JJ Watt going down.

Also, as Cards fans we don't care much about the national media.  They don't give the Cardinals respect even when they are winning, so it doesn't matter what they think.

Even the analysts on PFF have been fading the Cardinals this whole year.

 

48 Why the Jets SUCK opinions…

Why the Jets SUCK

opinions provided by a bunch of imaginary posters.

Jets fan: We suck.  We Sucked in the past, We suck in the present, we will always suck in the future.

Pats fan who started rooting for them after 2001: The Jets suck, they've stunk since Joe Namath sold their soul for Super Bowl III, they've never made the playoffs since then except for one fluke year with Rex Ryan where they lucked into a win against Brady.  But the Steelers restored order to the universe before blowing it as they usually do.

Long time Miami Fan: Mud Bowl, ha, Ken O'Brien, ha ha ha.

Newer Miami Fan: Why are we having this conversation.  At least Tua is looking better now.

Bills fan; we're trying to win a Super Bowl, first one ever, can you guys keep it down.

New around here, now that I'm puttting words in his/her mouth: the Jets suck because they traded a pick for Joe Flacco, they don't know what they're doing.  The Jets because they took Zach Wilson over Justin Fields and Mac- no, nothing to see here.

MehlLageman56: the Jets stink because they botched the 2018 hiring, wasting a couple of years on a hack named Adam Gase and wasting Joe Douglas' first year.  They're accumulating picks (thank you Seattle, for finally losing tonight, and thank you Carolina for believing in Sam Darnold) which is the only way the Jets have become contenders in the past.  The early 2000s teams were set up by the 4 first round picks in the 2000 draft, the Rex Ryan years were set up by 2 first rounders in 2006 with Mangold and Ferguson and Revis in 2007, the playoff teams of the 80s were set up by the Jets having 17 picks in the 1979 draft and 15 in the 1980 draft.  Then again, they passed on Anthony Munoz in 1980 because their team doctor wouldn't clear him.  Of course they already had Marvin Powell from the 1977 draft (which also got them Wesley Walker, Joe Klecko, guard Dan Alexander, and some guy named Bob Grupp who went to the Pro Bowl as a Kansas City Chief.  So they suck because they pick the wrong guys, like Zach Wilson who I wanted them to pick, just as I wanted them to take Geno Smith.  So Douglas better start picking the right guys.

49 Post about Arizona  Not…

Post about Arizona 

Not about them sucking, but why they'll blow it in the playoffs; first time playoff teams usually don't win the conference in their first year.  1981 and 1999 are exceptions that prove the rule, with both Super Bowl teams coming out of nowhere to become contenders.  Tampa Bay is also an exception, except that they added Brady, and Arians and Bowles had playoff experience.  The 2020 Niners are a real exception to this rule, even though they couldn't complete the deal.  So yeah, the Cardinals will blow it this year and pull it off next year.  Except that doesn't always happen.

78 It's about reps.

It's unlikely the Cardinals would blow through everyone in the playoffs and win the SB this year.

It could happen but I wouldn't bet on it.

I like the foundation that Kingsbury has with Murray.  That's the key.  I just hope they continue to fine tune the roster so the Cards don't fall off a cliff like Seattle has this year.

It's over for the Seahawks.  Rebuild time.

50 Post about New England No,…

Post about New England

No, they won't win it all this year, no rookie QB has ever gone to the Super Bowl.  You really think Mac Jones is better than Marino and Rothlisberger?  If the Pats do win it all this year, Dennis Green needs to award Belichick and Co. the trophy while reciting his famous Crown Their ___ speech.  Belichick might even love that.

61 In fairness, it's not as if…

In fairness, it's not as if a rookie QB making the SB is wildly beyond possibility.  Big Ben likely would have if NE's 2004 team hadn't been one of the best squads in the past couple decades.  Wilson was inches from making the NFCCG in 2012 and there's no reason to think they couldn't have beaten SF or Baltimore.  Speaking of SF, Kaepernick, like Brady, made it to the SB in his first year starting.  In both cases they needed an extra year of seasoning more than Mac did coming into the league.  

On top of that, the sample is biased by most QBs who are capable of making the SB in their first year don't end up on teams good enough to do so.  

Sorry for the pedantry. I know you were probably joshing, but I just thought it was worth digging into a little.  :)

82 It's worth digging into a…

It's worth digging into a little, but Ben should have lost against the Jets (2 missed field goals, one set up by an int) the week before the championship game.  You really can make an argument that Wilson should have gone to the Super Bowl his rookie year.  Sanchez also made it to the AFC championship game his rookie year, and they even had a lead at halftime.  Maybe it's that I keep discounting Jones because of my opinions on him going into the draft, even arguing that the Bills will fit him into the wood chipper next to Mike White, but given everything that's happened since then I'm doubting that.  I just find it hard to believe the Pats got Pennington 2.0 after almost 20 years of Brady, and that Jones will be their golden boy for 10 years or more.

71 I wish he could

 If the Pats do win it all this year, Dennis Green needs to award Belichick and Co. the trophy while reciting his famous Crown Their ___ speech.  Belichick might even love that.

One of the classic speeches in recent NFL history, along with "We play. To win. The game" by Herm Edwards and "Playoffs? You're talking about playoffs?"  by Jim Mora.

Belichick's best remains the understated "We're on to Cincinnati". 

80 Belichick's best remains the…

In reply to by RickD

Belichick's best remains the understated "We're on to Cincinnati". 

I'm gonna cast a vote for his through-gritted-teeth explanation of the Ideal Gas Law to the NFL reporters during the Deflate Gate scandal

51 Washington over Seattle.

That was easy money.

A few precarious moments at the end of the game, but Seattle's offensive ineptitude came through.

76 Iggles QBs

Everyone who thought last year's [pick your worst Wentz game] was the nadir of recent PHL QB play can probably agree that Hurts this week was miles worse.

79 "Miles" is a bit much. Wentz…

In reply to by horn

"Miles" is a bit much. Wentz versus Dallas last year was godawful. And while Hurts was definitely a worse passer, by total DYAR it's a bit muddled because Hurts had quite a bit more opportunities: Hurts racked up -138 DYAR on 40* touches (pass+run attempts+sacks less kneels) whereas Wentz racked up -123 on 35 (same). Sooo... pretty much equally craptastic.

(*: FO has Hurts as 30 pass attempts vs 31 official. Dunno what's going on there.)

 

81 Ah there you are

In reply to by horn

Still ugly posting for Wentz, who, now that they've played 12 games, is worse at EVERYTHING last year than Hurts this year. Forgive the 28 yo in his 5th season but not the 23 yo in his 2nd.

Seriously why is this your schtick? You're either legit Wentz or...worse. Because hurts has multiple better games than Wentz best last year.