Patriots, Steelers Enter the AFC Free-for-All
NFL Week 8 - The entire AFC must have attended a pre-Halloween booze cruise on Saturday night, and they were still a little tipsy when Sunday arrived.
That's as logical an explanation as any for the Pittsburgh Steelers' upset over the Cleveland Browns, the New England Patriots' upset of the Los Angeles Chargers, the New York Jets' upset of the Cincinnati Bengals, and whatever the heck the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts did to each other in Week 8.
It feels as though every darn team in the AFC is either 4-4 and rising or 5-3 and falling right now. If the season ended today, there wouldn't be a Super Bowl, because every team in the conference is either too flawed to make the playoffs or was on bye this week.
Yes, Walkthrough is aware that it does not work that way. Mike White is going to be the AFC Player of the Week, folks. We're through the ever-lovin' looking glass.
Anyway, Walkthrough is paid to make sense of this stuff, so we'll do our best. It's currently impossible to untie the knot of AFC teams hovering at or above .500, in part because more than one team that looked clueless on Sunday is likely to make the playoffs. But Week 8 did teach us several lessons. Here they are:
Don't mistake the caricature of the Steelers offense for the real thing.
Yes, Ben Roethlisberger is creaky. Heck, he got away with a flutterball that caromed off two Browns defenders at the start of the third quarter. And yes, the Steelers offensive line remains a danger to itself and Roethlisberger. But the Steelers aren't relying exclusively on wide receiver screens and flare passes to Najee Harris on fourth-and-long the way they were a month ago. The Steelers have created a stable, semi-functional running and short passing game that complements their defense and will keep them in a lot of games in the second half of the season.
The Steelers could easily be 6-3 after they host the Bears and Lions over the next two weeks. It's past time to abandon the Pappy Roethlisberger jokes and acknowledge that they're as much of a contender as teams such as the Browns, Bengals, Titans, or Chargers.
Bill Belichick might just push the Patriots into the playoffs through sheer force of will.
If you want to see how sound coaching and big-play experience help a team such as the Patriots win games, check out their seven-minute fourth-quarter field goal drive to ice away what ended as a 27-24 victory over the Chargers. Jakobi Meyers and Damien Harris each stayed in bounds at the end of productive plays that ended along the sideline, allowing the Patriots to munch the clock and keep the ball out of Justin Herbert's hands until it was too late.
The Patriots leveraged other little advantages on Sunday, including a two-point conversion and several long punt returns. They keep finding ways to play ahead of the sticks on offense. They were hardly flawless—their goal-to-go offense is a mess—but the Patriots did enough "put themselves in position to win" stuff to put themselves … you get it. They also remain very strong in the trenches, which of course is a big deal.
Don't-lose-the-game tactics are no way to reach the Super Bowl, but they are fine for protecting and developing Mac Jones and for bobbing along in the wild-card race. The Patriots face the Panthers, Browns, and Falcons over the next three weeks. A 3-0 run is possible over that stretch, especially with the Browns looking so vulnerable on Sunday.
Speaking of which...
Baker Mayfield's performance is a becoming a problem for the Browns.
Mayfield (20-of-21, 244 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) is basically Mac Jones right now: the screen passes are awesome, the soft tosses between the numbers to wide-open tight ends are fine, and everything else is an issue. Mayfield suffered a few drops and a critical late-game Jarvis Landry fumble, but drops are often a quarterback stat: many of them came on low- to moderate-degree-of-difficulty throws that Browns receivers had to reach back or over their heads for.
Feel free to discuss the future contract ramifications of Mayfield's performance, the impact of his lingering shoulder injury, and other Mayfield-related matters in the comment thread; we'll be circling back to all of that stuff every few weeks anyway. For now, the Browns just aren't good enough to be anything but bottom-of-the-playoff-seedings seat-fillers until they develop a downfield passing attack.
The Chargers are too flawed in too many ways to be taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders.
The Chargers demonstrated once again on Sunday that their run defense is weak and that their special teams remain a sinkhole: the Patriots ran for 141 yards, while Gunner Olszewski looked like Devin Hester against them on multiple punt returns.
The Chargers' biggest issue, however, appears to be their reliance on Justin Herbert to bail them out on third downs. The Chargers entered their loss to the Patriots ranked 23rd in first down offense but a respectable ninth on second downs, but it felt like they spent the entire second half trying to convert third-and-8.
There's plenty of room in an AFC playoff field for one more flawed team. The Chargers visit the Eagles next week and have a few potential gimmes on their long-range schedule (Giants, Texans). But the Vikings could hammer out a win against them in Week 10 by following the Patriots formula, and fellow middleweights such as the Steelers and Bengals could cause trouble for a team that simply lacks fit 'n' finish right now.
The Titans are variance monsters.
The Titans won the Liberty Bowl and clinched the automatic playoff berth from the Sun Belt Conference with Sunday's chaotic neutral 34-31 overtime win over the Prisoners of Wentz. That said, it's hard to tell what Titans team we are getting from week to week or quarter to quarter. Or even from the start of a play until the end. The signature play of Sunday's game—and perhaps of the entire AFC South experience—was when Ryan Tannehill tossed an ugly third-and-long interception to Tyquan Lewis, who fumbled the ball back to the Titans on the return. That set up a 55-yard A.J. Brown touchdown pass on the next play. Lewis was injured on his interception, as were all of the Internet's win probability calculators.
Here's a working template on how to make sense of the Titans moving forward:
- The Titans will clobber teams with bad run defenses but are vulnerable to teams with strong run defenses.
- If the Titans avoid early turnovers and a high penalty total, they can beat almost any opponent.
- When Ryan Tannehill goes on one of his rare-but-noticeable turnover sprees and/or the Titans defense hands the opponent multiple first downs on penalties, the Titans are just the Falcons with a great running back.
- The turnover and penalty sprees always appear and disappear without warning.
Hope that helps. (It does not help.) Again: the good news is that we can all just pencil the Titans into the fourth playoff seeding and ignore them until January.
The Bills need to play better situational football.
The Bills looked nothing like the AFC's best team through three quarters against the Miami Dolphins. Or perhaps they did, since Sunday's biggest takeaway may have been that our expectations for the entire AFC are too high.
Anyway, the Bills' biggest issues came on third and fourth downs. Josh Allen ran quarterback power and got stuffed on third-and-9 early in the game. Zach Moss got stuffed on third-and-1, then the Bills punted on fourth-and-2 near midfield. Allen ended up running for his life on a failed fourth-and-4 conversion attempt. Isaiah McKenzie also muffed a punt which nearly resulted in a safety, adding to the general sense that the Bills thought they could phone in a victory.
Fortunately, the Dolphins coughed up a boneheaded fumble in the red zone just before halftime and more-or-less surrendered against the run late in the game, allowing the Bills to come away with a 26-11 victory that was much closer than the score suggests.
Super Bowl contenders sometimes have to scratch out divisional wins. But Sunday's moderate scare looked a lot like the Bills' opening day loss to the Steelers, and it may have exposed the Bills' greatest weakness: their situational play calling and execution can be really wonky, and it gets them into trouble in close games.
Also, Josh Allen isn't exactly running away with the MVP award everyone tried to gift-wrap for him this summer, but that's a topic for another time.
The Bengals coaching staff could still spoil their party.
Every time Walkthrough checked in on the 34-31 Jets upset of the Bengals, Mike White (or Josh Johnson) was tossing a short pass underneath for a productive gain against a four-man pass rush applying minimal pressure. Lou Anarumo's defensive game plan appeared to be "eh, we got this one in the bag." And the Bengals' coverage went from "soft" to "taffeta" when they had a 11-point lead, setting them up for disaster when Joe Burrow threw a fourth-quarter interception.
Anarumo and Zac Taylor did not become coaching geniuses just because the team acquired Ja'Marr Chase and some defensive free agents. They must be careful of not outsmarting themselves or getting exposed against an upcoming schedule loaded with fellow middleweights.
Browns at Bengals next week will be both entertaining and informative.
A Wentz is a Wentz is a Wentz.
Carson Wentz didn't just take an inexcusable mental vacation while standing in his own end zone late in the fourth quarter of a tie game. He didn't just force an interception in overtime. He spent most of the final three quarters and overtime of Sunday's game doing his best to make a critical mistake. But Wentz's second-quarter red zone fumble bounced into his teammates' hands, several Titans third-down sacks or stops were nullified by penalties, Michael Pittman outjumped three defenders on a yolo ball, the Titans committed pass interference, etc.
Wentz is a B-minus quarterback at his best and an unplayable F at his worst, and it's a coin flip which guy you get. (He's rarely anywhere in between).
The Colts run the football very well and stop the run well. That made them a danger to the Titans and could make them a tough out for opponents such as the Browns or Ravens if they reach the playoffs. But if Walkthrough's Wentz Whisperer powers still work, Sunday was the beginning of the end for the Colts, and we're going to see a lot more of Bad Wentz in the weeks to come.
The Raiders are still lurking in the grass out there somewhere.
Don't worry, we have not forgotten the Raiders. We'll cover them in Walkthrough on Wednesday or Thursday. The Ravens were very happy to take this weekend off.
We haven't forgotten about the Broncos either. But we soon will.
Trade Deadline Preview
Let's put the ol' Walkthrough spin on the typical trade deadline preview: plenty of speculation ahead of Tuesday afternoon's deadline, a little rumor-mongering, some "Team X could use Player Y" wish-casting, minimal actual news, but 750% more self-awareness than you will get from any other column or outlet.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
We're all just watching and waiting to learn how the Phantom of the Opera saga ends. Or, more accurately, how Act Two begins.
DeVante Parker, WR, and Xavien Howard, CB, Miami Dolphins
Some trades make good practical sense but poor political sense. A Parker and/or Howard liquidation sale would replenish any draft picks lost in a Watson deal—Howard could spark a bidding war among contenders—but their departure would also signal the end of Rebuild One and the start of Rebuild Two under Brian Flores and Chris Grier: a tough sell both in the locker room and at the ownership level.
Walkthrough estimates about a 25% chance that Parker moves on, perhaps as a brokerage chip in a Watson deal, with the Howard odds closer to 5%.
Evan Engram, TE, and Darius Slayton, WR, New York Giants
More moves that make poor political sense: unless Dave Gettleman snares something like a second-round pick for Engram (not happening), dealing the Giants' skill-position playmakers will be writing his own pink slip. Moving Slayton, in particular, would mark the de facto end of the Daniel Jones era, as Slayton has been Jones' favorite deep target when healthy for three years.
In the wake of Robert Tonyan's injury, Engram to the Packers would make a lot of sense, if only so we could all enjoy this likely sequence:
- Aaron Rodgers targets a wide-open Engram up the seam;
- ball bounces off Engram's chest and both his hands;
- Rodgers' pupils turn milky white. Skies darken, dogs whimper timidly, the Dow Jones drops 800 points, happy couples across Wisconsin suddenly contemplate bitter divorces, Brian Gutekunst's face melts.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Jackson wants to move. The Rams won't mind moving him. And Jackson's one skill remains highly marketable. Both the Chargers and Titans would benefit from one 40-yard touchdown per month and lots and lots of deep clear-out routes. Also a fun (if not brilliant) idea: the Browns can pair Jackson with Odell Beckham and start whichever one is healthy and somewhat tethered to planet Earth each week.
Von Miller, ER, Denver Broncos
Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports quoted a few anonymous general managers musing about Miller late last week. Again, a Miller trade makes good football sense but terrible political sense: George Paton may want to put his stamp on the Broncos, but trading their heart-and-soul legend for a mid-round pick (Miller's likely street value) would end the Vic Fangio era and place Paton in the crosshairs of fans, other veterans, and (probably) the still-formidable Angry Storm God Elway. Walkthrough gives a Miller trade less than a 5% chance of happening.
Andre Dillard, OT, Philadelphia Eagles
Howie Roseman won't trade Dillard for chump change if he thinks thinning out the Eagles' offensive line will result in a false late-season read on Jalen Hurts. Also, few contenders would consider Dillard, a backup on a bad team, a feasible trading-deadline quick fix.
Dillard makes sense as a brokerage chip if the Eagles play middle-man on a Watson deal. If not, Roseman—who knows how to work the phones, despite his other shortcomings—will wait and see what the offseason market for a still-young, non-terrible left tackle looks like. Let's give Dillard about a 25% chance of changing uniforms this week.
N'Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick may be discovering that he no longer has many triple-A affiliates that he can snooker when he wants to move on from a mistake. Last year, he could have easily gotten a high Day 3 pick from the Lions for Harry. This year, both the Texans and Dolphins are deadline sellers whose GMs aren't in a position to make vanity moves.
The Titans could nibble on an extra body and reclamation project at wide receiver. Otherwise, the Patriots will dump Harry on a starving rebuilding team such as the Jaguars or the Lions (but for a seventh-round pick, not the keys to Matt Patricia's truck).
Marcus Maye, S, and Denzel Mims, WR, New York Jets
Any team interested in Harry will likely call the Jets first: Mims is faster and more likely to be the victim of bad quarterbacking and general mismanagement than Harry. Maye will move somewhere, and once it happens the Jets press pool will report on nothing but mock drafts until next April.
L.J. Collier, ER, Seattle Seahawks
Collier is the type of player Belichick used to grab off bargain-bin free agency, turn into a star for two years, then allow one of his padawan to sign away for eight figures so the Patriots could net a compensatory pick.
Collier is also one of those players Seahawks fans think the rest of the football world cares about that most of us can barely recognize, like Rashaad Penny and Poona Ford. (We're all just watching Russell Wilson and that big wide receiver, you grungepuppies). Collier is just another guy, but the Seahawks appear eager to move on from him. Collier is the type of big defensive end who could be useful in the Chargers' scheme.
Clelin Ferrell, ER, Las Vegas Raiders
Cross Collier with N'Keal Harry and you get Ferrell: a sturdy defensive end with minimal pass-rush juice whose own franchise has been eager to cut bait on since 30 minutes after the 2019 draft. Ferrell is a solid run defender who could benefit from lower expectations and a change of scenery. Don't be surprised if Ferrell fetches a third- or fourth-round pick from a team such as the Cowboys looking for a combination of immediate help and leftover upside. And while the Raiders aren't really "sellers" at the deadline, Ferrell is not really in their future plans.
Houston Texans Non-Phantoms
Last week's trade of Mark Ingram for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2024 tells us all we need to know about the current state of the Texans front office. Cal McNair just figured out that the television money flows in whether or not the team is competitive. He also learned that he can be as execrable a human as he wants and still get upstaged by Dan Snyder. So any Texans sheriff's auction is more likely to be pathetic than beneficial to a future rebuild.
Week 8 Awards
Let's skip the intro and get straight to the good stuff.
Defensive Player of the Week
Adrian Phillips' tip-drill interception before halftime set up a field goal when the Patriots offense was struggling to move the ball. His pick-six in the fourth quarter gave the Patriots the lead and ripped the Chargers' heart out.
Phillips played six seasons for the Chargers as a nickel defender and special teams ace. He even earned All-Pro notice as the designated special teamer. NFL.com's highlight clips were sure to mention that Phillips had a big game against his former team. That's swell. But … do folks really keep track of Chargers role players from three years ago and eagerly await their potential "revenge" games? If so, Walkthrough has been doing things wrong for over a decade.
Special-Teamer of the Week
Dre'Mont Jones and Shelby Harris each blocked field goals for the Denver Broncos. At least, that's what the official Gamebook says. According to the captions on the NFL.com highlights, Baron Browning and Caden Sterns blocked the kicks. Walkthrough can never tell whose hand a blocked kick bounces off. We're inclined to go with the Gamebook because the NFL's Highlight Caption Guy may have been too invested in the Adrian Phillips REVENGE storyline to identify players properly.
Gunner Olszewski of the Patriots earns honorable mention for 80 yards on four punt returns against the Chargers.
Offensive Line of the Week
Walkthrough can't remember the last time we gave our hometown Iggles an Offensive Line of the Week trophy. Well, they're getting one this week for helping Jalen Hurts, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Kenneth Gainwell, and receiver Jalen Reagor combine for 236 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Let's hear it for Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Travis Kelce, Jack Driscoll and Lane Johnson! And let's also hear it for Nick Sirianni, who decided to run the ball against a weak, vulnerable opponent instead of calling 40 screen passes that might have helped the Lions stay in the game!
Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else's Highlight
Mike White. Philly Special for a two-point conversion. Jets upset. And Greg Van Roten with the greatest end zone slide-hug in NFL history. It doesn't get much better than that.
THE JETS (+380 ML) TAKE THE LEAD! ✈️
MIKE WHITE PHILLY SPECIAL TWO-POINT CONVERSION! 🤩pic.twitter.com/sVhLQx6AZ8
— FOX Bet Sportsbook (@FOXBet) October 31, 2021
Burn This Play!
Let's examine the fake field goal that got Steelers kicker Chris Boswell knocked out of the game:
This might go down as the worst fake field goal in NFL history. Not only did it fail miserably for the Steelers, but their kicker got hurt #Steelers #Browns pic.twitter.com/34yorWZri6
— John Breech (@johnbreech) October 31, 2021
The two eligible receivers are Pat Freiermuth and third-string tight end Zach Gentry. That's not unusual: most fake field goals only feature one or two possible targets, and they must be guys who are typically on the field goal unit. Freiermuth is open on the play, but: A) he's in front of the sticks on fourth-and-9; and B) Boswell isn't exactly Joe Montana when it comes to reading the field.
The play design itself isn't terrible, but the Browns weren't exactly fooled, and Boswell should have been coached to chuck the ball away and escape out of bounds instead of throwing up a prayer and getting leveled. It's never a good sign when the opponent appears far more prepared for a trick play than the team actually executing it.
Honorable mention goes to a moment of pre-snap-motion madness by the Dolphins before halftime against the Bills. Click here for the official replay, but the following Tweet gives a better look at the underlying problem (though it's taken from a video of multiple television screens at once).
Mike Gesicki spent 10 seconds directing traffic pre-snap and then it unsurprisingly led to a fumble and a turnover. Brutal from the Dolphins pic.twitter.com/EWo2sOH1Zx
— Joe Fann (@Joe_Fann) October 31, 2021
Presnap motion is excellent for an offense, except when that offense has multiple coordinators that end up clunking their heads together like coconuts, leaving the tight end to direct traffic before the snap, because the quarterback isn't a team captain and therefore probably isn't authorized to make adjustments at the line.
Burn This Decision!
Trailing 10-9 in the third quarter, the Browns tried to draw the Steelers offsides on fourth-and-1 at their own 49-yard line, took a delay of game penalty, then punted. Per EdjSports, that decision cost them six percentage points of win probability, but Walkthrough's back-of-envelope calculations (read: utter guesswork) suggest that it cost them even more. The Browns were running the ball well, after all, and the Steelers were without their kicker, reducing the risk that they would score if they got the ball back.
The Browns, you may recall, are Team Analytics, with game plans that are reviewed by a team of data researchers and much-ballyhooed "Guardrails" which were brought down from Mount Ararstat by St. DePodesta himself.
Yes, yes, Walkthrough knows who signs the checks, but we just love stirring up trouble. For a team that is supposed to be built on the best practices Football Outsiders helped craft, the Browns spend an awful lot of time establishing the run, paying running backs large contracts, punting, etc.
It only goes to show you that it's easy to talk about risk-reward ratios when we're not the ones taking the risks.
Walkthrough Sportsbook Same-Game Parlay and Prop-a-Palooza
This week's edition of Sportsbook starts out perfectly normal and then descends into utter chaos.
Detroit Lions Moneyline +155
Rationale: The Lions were one of the best 0-7 teams we have ever seen, and they faced a beatable opponent at home!
Result: Oops. It turns out that all of those onside kicks and fake punts against the Rams in Week 7 were the Lions' death throes. LOSS
Damien Harris AND Austin Ekeler Combined 1.5 Touchdowns at +175.
Rationale: We placed this wager during Thursday's Schatz and Tanier podcast on the advice of Aaron Schatz, who doesn't live in a paradise like New Jersey where everything is legal from gambling to dueling with Aaron Burr. Then Ekeler popped onto the injury report. We considered cashing out on Sunday morning, but instead said, "Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!" In other words, the book wouldn't allow us to cash out.
Result: Ekeler ended up playing and scoring, as did Harris. Thank heavens for this WIN, which kept Sunday from being an absolute catastrophe.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Moneyline AND Total Score Under 50.5 at +150.
Rationale: We believed the Saints were due to crater. We don't believe in losing money by betting against Tom Brady. But we were wary of a defensive duel.
Result: We'd like to apologize for not featuring much about the Saints upset of the Buccaneers this week: we focused on the Patriots-Chargers game for thematic purposes. Also, it will probably take us three or four days to figure out how the Saints beat the Buccaneers with Trevor Siemian at quarterback.
Anyway, this "under" part of this parlay meant it was FUBAR the moment the Saints reached 26 points. Somehow. With Siemian. LOSS
Houston Texans First Half +9.5 at -105.
Rationale: The Texans had only been outscored 80-70 in first halves entering this game, while the Rams are slow starters. Also, Walkthrough sometimes places a bet thinking "this may be the only thing I have to say about this particular game in Monday's recap."
Result: This play made sense for a hot second when the Texans got an early stop against the Rams offense at the goal line and nearly got a second one in the second quarter (a holding penalty negated a fourth-and-3 Matthew Stafford interception). The problem was that the Texans offense didn't cross midfield until the final drive before halftime, then missed a field goal which would not have mattered anyway.
We gotta lay off the early-game Texans props.
(Tune in on Friday when we talk ourselves into another early-game Texans prop.) LOSS
San Francisco 49ers RB Elijah Mitchell Over 6.5 Receiving Yards at -115.
Rationale: We discussed Mitchell on Scott Spratt's fantasy podcast on Friday. He looked like a lock to get a lot of playing time against the Bears, and while Mitchell has just four receptions this season, one swing pass could be all we needed to win this wager.
Result: Mitchell rushed 18 times but was not targeted once. Fate was just trolling us at this point. LOSS.
Ben Roethlisberger Over 0.5 Rushing Yards at +210.
Rationale: +210 on Big Ben falling forward once in a game? Who could resist? Roethlisberger did have 5- and 8-yard runs this season entering Sunday, and he's not one to scramble for negative yardage (as opposed to just getting sacked) these days. But this was also a stealth bet on the Browns to win, as a Roethlisberger kneel or two could ruin everything.
Result: Roethlisberger ran for a two-point conversion, but it was nullified by a holding penalty. He finished with one official carry for zero yards. Seriously, fate: what did Walkthrough do wrong in a past life? Did we kill a king? Set fire to a homing pigeon and send it back to burn its village to the ground? LOSS
Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields Over 300 Passing Yards and 1+ Rushing/Receiving Touchdown +2500.
Rationale: The wagering equivalent of a hero ball. While 300 yards appeared unattainable for Fields, maybe Matt Nagy's absence would make a difference. You know, like when a Little Leaguer performs much better when dad isn't picking fights with the umpire from the stands.
But seriously: we had seven total units out, insulating us a bit against risk, and a 25-to-1 payout would not only make our whole month but make us feel like part of the story if Fields had his first breakout game. This is experiential wagering at work: winning is most important, but making Sunday's action feel meaningful and vibrant is a close second, cuz nobody's getting rich off this stuff.
Result: As doomed as this silly prop looked on paper, Walkthrough cheered like a madman when Fields' 22-yard touchdown scramble flashed across game break.
As putrid as this shutout Sunday was, it also brought moments of elation. At the end of the day, that's what matters. And also the money we lost. That also matters. But we'll live on to wager again next week. LOSS
Monday Night Action: New York Giants +10.5 at Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs beat their last two NFC East opponents by a combined score of 73-43. Still, double-digits feel high for a struggling preseason contender against an opponent that often puts up a fight, and the EdjSports app sees the fair market value of this game closer to Chiefs +7. Walkthrough won't be playing this one, but if we did we would take the Giants, insulating ourselves against both a further Chiefs meltdown and late moral-victory Giants touchdown drives.
The Giants have outscored opponents 13-6 in the first quarter—note how low those numbers are—while the Chiefs have been outscored 34-49. So we whipped up a fun little first-quarter parlay: Giants +4.5 AND total score Under 11.5 in the first quarter for +145.
Finally, DraftKings is offering Patrick Mahomes AND Daniel Jones Over 549.5 Passing Yards AND 0 Interceptions at +450. It's crazypants, but feel free to throw a few bucks at it if you have a hunch that this game will become a shootout and both quarterbacks will opt for fumbles instead of interceptions. After the Sunday we just had, Walkthrough shall wisely abstain.
41 comments, Last at 02 Nov 2021, 8:04am
#1 by theTDC // Nov 01, 2021 - 3:10am
If you believe in DVOA, which I mostly do, the Patriots beating the chargers was just sort of expected. They were a slightly better team by DVOA, 5.3% to 1.3%, and won a 3 point game on the road.
Same for colts and titans having a close game. Colts lose in OT on the road. Not that weird. And the Steelers pulling one from the Browns with an injured QB, well that's not that weird.
The Jets beating the Bengals on the other hand...
#12 by Pat // Nov 01, 2021 - 11:19am
"Significantly"'s stretching it - the game preview literally had Chargers 22, Patriots 20, and it was 17-16 Chargers early in the 4th.
That being said I actually thought this game was going to be more in favor of the Patriots because, um, the Patriots destroyed Herbert last year. You don't go from -200 DYAR in a game to super-awesome in a year.
#34 by Pat // Nov 01, 2021 - 3:41pm
Yeah, and you said that he thought they were significantly worse than their DVOA.
I think that's a stretch from that statement. I think he thinks they're worse, but not a ton worse. They're essentially tied in DVOA (and I think Mike's higher on the Chargers than DVOA is, also based on his prior statements) and he went in on a close loss.
Then again, this could be overthinking to death, considering the Chargers were Vegas favorites by 4.5 points: so it's an upset pretty much by definition.
#3 by Ben // Nov 01, 2021 - 7:26am
While I haven’t been quite as down on Wentz as Walkthrough has (I don’t have that Philly era PTSD), yesterday’s game is exactly why I hated the Colts giving up a 1st round pick for him. I understand that the Colts didn’t have anyone to put under center after Old Man Rivers retired. I wouldn’t even have hated taking a flier on Wentz at a bargain basement price. However a 1st round pick (which looks like it will be high at this point) to get exactly what everyone predicted from Wentz (stretches of cromulence with bouts of awfulness) will have the Colts treading water in the .500 doldrums for years.
#4 by PackerPete // Nov 01, 2021 - 7:41am
The Steelers fake field goal should have been called off pre-snap as the Browns had two players back, one on each end of the line of scrimmage, to drop into coverage. At the snap, the Browns edge rusher on the Steelers right side didn't rush, instead following the wing into the flat while the deeper defender was all over the Steelers end who released up field. Tomlin should have had his kicker call off the fake after seeing the Browns line up with defenders back in space.
#9 by young curmudgeon // Nov 01, 2021 - 9:50am
This is the first critique I have read (had a look at some Steelers boards and local coverage) that actually analyzes what went wrong with the fake field goal and what should have happened instead. Your observations are astute and helpful. Most of the commentary is of the "What a stupid play...take the three points...the kicker got hurt...blah, blah, blah" variety, basically boiling down to "it didn't work, hence it was a bad play." Your comment looks at what actually happened and discusses it. Thank you.
And, yes, the kicker did get injured. In football, injuries happen (sadly and often deplorably.) A few weeks ago TJ Watt was injured making a tackle. Shall we decline to have Watt make tackles for fear that he might get injured?
#14 by BigRichie // Nov 01, 2021 - 11:52am
I suspect that would've been the first time in NFL history that the kicker was entrusted with making a pre-snap read.
Better having the special teams coach make that call from the sideline, either via a hand-signal to the holder, or perhaps for most certainty using up a timeout.
#21 by Pat // Nov 01, 2021 - 12:56pm
It's fairly common with punting in terms of going for it: if the defense forgets to cover a gunner there's usually a quick hand signal from the gunner so the punter can recognize they've got a free first down. I doubt it could come from the sidelines, the punter's probably not looking there.
But the reverse is a ton harder, because the entire team has to shift. Which means everyone has to see it, not just the kicker. Or he has to communicate to all of them, which is dangerous anyway.
#7 by johonny // Nov 01, 2021 - 9:32am
I think trading Parker is an easy sale right now in Miami. Fans are beyond tired with his non-contact related annual injury that forces him out of multiple games. They're already used to seeing the offense without him. Howard is a tougher sale. I doubt the fan base would allow that to happen, but it makes sense. They have a 1# pick sitting around, plus two decent nickel backs. It's not like Miami is using a lot of their flex defense or any defense this year anyway. If they don't beat the Texans this week, and their is a lot of doubt that they can, then they're looking at 1-16 and at least Flores being sacrificed to save Grier's job. As for the pre-snap mess up. That came after a game stoppage. They literally came out of a time out, huddle, and still half the players didn't know the play being run. That's terrible coaching. Flores built a terrible staff in three years. His staff is worse than the roster.
#13 by NoraDaddy // Nov 01, 2021 - 11:44am
Again: the good news is that we can all just pencil the Titans into the fourth playoff seeding and ignore them until January.
There's early reports that Henry has a possible season ending foot inury. AFC South may be back in play
#20 by fynsta // Nov 01, 2021 - 12:50pm
Why does everyone think that the Titans can't compete without Henry? I get that they are rushing him more than any other team, but he has 4.3 yards per carry, and is only #17 in DVOA (still only #3 in DYAR after all these carries). He's had some good runs, but apart from that I'm really not that sure that the Titans will be so much worse.
Well, I guess we'll find out.
#26 by serutan // Nov 01, 2021 - 1:48pm
Strangely, I think Steven A. got it right - Titans make the playoffs without Henry, but are one and done once they get there.
Saw that Jay Glazier is reporting the 5th metatarsal in Henry's foot is broken.
#28 by jheidelberg // Nov 01, 2021 - 2:13pm
If I am reading the article below correctly, Derrick Henry's WAR a few years ago was 0.2 so he is worth 1 win every 5 seasons. Tannehill is by far the most important player on the Titans, and A. J. Brown second.
You replace Henry's huge volume with a smaller volume of runs with replacement RB's and by throwing more passes.
I think that the popularity of fantasy football makes RB's popular. Their value is highly questionable.
#29 by Ben // Nov 01, 2021 - 2:26pm
I think it’s a matter of how defenses play them. The Colts yesterday were clearly all in on stopping Henry. While I’m generally aboard the “RBs are fungible” train, I think the Titans offense is designed around Henry’s skill set. To me it’s more akin to the drop off between a star QB and the backup rather than the difference between the starting and backup RB would be for most teams.
I guess we’ll see.
#37 by IlluminatusUIUC // Nov 01, 2021 - 4:27pm
I think one example is the Bills game two weeks ago. In the second half, all Tannehill had to do was loosely wave the ball at Henry and the Buffalo defense crashed in to leave Brown all alone in the middle. And then, given a chance to tie the game with a chip shot, we opted to try to convert a 4th and inches from the 2 rather than risk facing Henry in OT.
I don't think either of those play out if McNichols or Peterson is the back.
#27 by reddwarf // Nov 01, 2021 - 2:11pm
Immediate reactions from a lifelong Bronco fan:
1) Noooooooooooooooo! Sigh. I know it's increasingly rare, but I really wanted Miller to be a 1 team guy.
2) Dang--if the return is correct (two day 2 picks, without other sweeteners from Denver except salary)...that's really good for where Miller is at right now.
3) Miller lining up with Aaron Donald has been my dream for years. Was hoping for it the other way though.
What a shitty season. I actually had some hope going into this year.
#35 by jheidelberg // Nov 01, 2021 - 3:55pm
The Rams have put all of the chips on the table. I do not recall a good team other than Washington from decades ago, trading away so many draft picks. The only pick that the Rams have in the first four rounds of 2022 is a 3rd round compensatory pick due to the Lions signing of GM Brad Holmes. Am I missing some good team that emptied the vault for an all in now attack?
Why would the Rams do this anyway? They are in a virtual 5 way tie with Dallas, GB, TB, and AZ.
Coming into this week DVOA agrees with the virtual 5 way tie except for GB, who I expect to rise with their win over AZ. DVOA does think that GB is good.
Prescott, Rodgers, Brady, Murray, Stafford, I just do not see the Rams advantage at QB at all, let alone the entire team. DYAR has these 5 as the top QB's in league, and DVOA has them as the top 4 with Rodgers 7th. Yes, Stafford is number 1, in both metrics but I will take the track record of this crew and say that there is no advantage here.
I know that the Rams were on the other side of the RG III trade, their philosophy has certainly changed now.
#30 by BiscuitsNGravy // Nov 01, 2021 - 2:29pm
I love it when FO writers ignore their own site and base weekly awards on units beating up on hapless opponents. Great job in singling out the Iggles OL, who blocked the hapless Lions while taking a nap.
#33 by muscle417 // Nov 01, 2021 - 3:17pm
Gesicki also had an Illegal Shift penalty when he was lined up wide right and was gesticulating and yelling wildly at the rest of the offense pre-snap, and didn't get set for the full second. Miami's offense is a mess.