Ravens and Chiefs Restore AFC Order

Baltimore Ravens QB Tyler Huntley
Baltimore Ravens QB Tyler Huntley
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 11 - Tyler Huntley not only saved the Baltimore Ravens season on Sunday, he also saved the Chicago Bears from themselves.

Huntley was pressed into service because Lamar Jackson is suffering from one of the non-COVID illnesses that are making the rounds and terrifying families whenever Junior develops a cough. (Ask me how October went). Huntley is more like the scout team version of Trace McSorley than a scout team version of Jackson. He was awful for three quarters, enduring six sacks and rarely delivering an accurate throw downfield. The Ravens clung to a 6-0 lead at halftime.

Then Justin Fields suffered a rib injury at the end of a scramble. Andy Dalton entered the game and tossed a screen pass to Darnell Mooney that turned into a 60-yard touchdown run. A few series and another Justin Tucker field goal later, Dalton saw Marquise Goodwin slip past Chris Westry on fourth-and-11 and delivered a 49-yard touchdown strike to the wide-open receiver to give the Bears a 14-9 lead.

Fate hung in the balance at that moment for the Chicago Bears. A Dalton victory would have repercussions across the space-time continuum. The Bears face the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. Back-to-back Dalton-led Bears victories would have the potential to validate Matt Nagy in a cataclysmic way. The Bears could reach the playoffs. Nagy could save his job. The malpractice against Fields could continue into next season.

Fortunately, Huntley found Devin Duvernay along the sideline for a 21-yard gain on the Ravens final drive, then Sammy Watkins for 29 yards on third-and-12. That set up a Devonta Freeman touchdown with 22 seconds left on the clock. Dalton had just enough time after that to get sacked twice on the final drive. Multiversal crisis averted.

It's easier to imagine Nagy getting fired by the time you read Walkthrough than salvaging his Bears tenure at this point. After all, Sunday's loss also featured a silly sideline sequence in which Nagy's headset malfunctioned on fourth-and-1 and he panicked as though he was on a nuclear submarine and couldn't hear the instructions from the president. When a team can't seal a win against a glorified third-string quarterback, when half its points come from one screen pass, when its once-great defense buckles at the worst moment, and when the coach can't even figure out how to call a play if the gizmo on his head cuts out, it's beyond time for a change.

As for the Ravens: scratch wins by backup quarterbacks are turning into the story of the 2021 season for many teams. The Cardinals, for example, have gone 2-1 with a pair of divisional victories with Colt McCoy at quarterback; now they get their bye week and should have Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins for the long stretch run. Similarly, the Ravens can now hope to have Jackson and Marquise Brown back for the Browns-Steelers-Browns gauntlet they face over the next three weeks.

The key to reaching this year's Super Bowl will be securing the lone first-round playoff bye in each conference, making Week 18 meaningless if at all possible, and getting close to full strength and health in mid-January. That's often the case, of course, but fewer playoff byes and a 17-game season only make the race for a chance to heal and regroup even more urgent.

The Ravens defense, special teams, playmakers, and Huntley did just enough on an afternoon when many of the other AFC frontrunners came up short. It's a win that's likely to matter at the end of the season. And it's a reminder not to sleep on the Ravens, a perennial contender that knows a thing or two about manufacturing wins.

As for the Bears, let's sleep on them until they finally do what must be done.

Walkthrough Presents: WTF Week 11

Another Sunday, another set of upsets and confusing results around the NFL. As always, Walkthrough is here to make as much sense as possible of all the mayhem.

WTF Happened to the Buffalo Bills?
They were dominated in the trenches on both offense and defense, couldn't tackle, couldn't hold onto Josh Allen's passes, couldn't get off the field on third-and-long due to penalties and other dumb mistakes, and couldn't kick field goals in their 41-15 demolition at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts.

Other than that, the Bills totally looked like Super Bowl favorites, and Allen like an MVP frontrunner.

  • What it Means for the Bills: The fact that the Bills got beaten up at the line of scrimmage, particularly on offense, bodes ill for a team whose primary regular season task is preventing the hard-hitting New England Patriots from overtaking them in the AFC East. The Patriots now lead the Bills in the standings, which felt impossible about a month ago.
     
    Further, the Bills don't have many wins over quality opponents on their resume, while losses to the Steelers, Titans. and now the Colts demonstrate how vulnerable they will be in the playoffs. IF they make the playoffs.
     
  • What it Means for the Colts: They're the Patriots without the hosannas that the Patriots get every time they beat a bad team: formidable offensive line, solid overall defense, clever coaching, some creamy stretches of schedule, and a quarterback who won't get you beat if you don't ask much of him. The Patriots may be a little bit better than the Colts, but they are similar enough to make their Week 15 matchup in Indy intriguing.
     

WTF Happened to the Dallas Cowboys?
Amari Cooper was out with COVID. CeeDee Lamb and Ezekiel Elliott were knocked out with injuries. The resurgent Chiefs are not a team you want to face with a shortage of playmakers. Dak Prescott had a miserable afternoon throwing to Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown while Chris Jones collapsed the pocket in front of him. The Chiefs offense did some fumble-bumble stuff, but they mixed in just enough brilliance to come away with a 19-9 win.

  • What it Means for the Cowboys: The good news for the Cowboys is that they face a Raiders team in freefall on Thanksgiving; the Cowboys should be able to manufacture a win without Cooper/Lamb/Zeke if necessary. The bad news for the Cowboys is that the rest of the NFC East refuses to roll over and play dead, so they cannot get too complacent.
     
    For now, chalk Sunday's loss up to a tough opponent and the inevitable result of Prescott climbing to the front of the cursed MVP race. But keep an eye on the injuries, and on the Cowboys' recent Bills-like habit of falling into a funk if they suffer some early setbacks.
     
  • What it Means for the Chiefs: They may not be all the way back to 2019 or 2020 form, but they are as back as they need to be right now.

WTF Happened to the Green Bay Packers?
The Packers have no one who can cover Justin Jefferson (8-169-2 on Sunday). Darnell Savage had one would-be interception negated by a roughing the passer and a second one late in the fourth quarter that might have handed the Packers the game overturned on review. Kirk Cousins also recovered his own fumble after a sack, while Dede Westbrook retrieved his own muffed punt. Throw in a missed Mason Crosby field goal and eight Packers penalties for 92 yards and you have the perfect formula for a 34-31 Vikings upset.

  • What it Means for the Packers: Eh, not much. They traditionally have a few games per year like this, including one in the playoffs.
     
  • What it Means for the Vikings: Losses by the Saints, Panthers, Seahawks, and Bears plant them firmly in the race for the final wild-card berth, which always has their name engraved on it anyway. The Vikings could also make some noise in the postseason so long as they keep having four would-be turnovers per game overturned.

WTF Happened to the Tennessee Titans?
All of the unsustainable, unrepeatable events which led to their victories over the Rams and Saints proved to be neither sustainable nor repeatable. The Titans have no offensive philosophy without Derrick Henry, just a loose association of plays aimed at a random assortment of unknown or over-the-hill rushers and receivers.

The Texans tried really hard to give this game away by going three-and-out on four consecutive drives in the second half, punting on fourth-and-inches from their own 34-yard line with a six-point lead on the last of them. The Titans just kept driving down the field until Ryan Tannehill threw another of his four interceptions. Sunday's loss provided a neat contrast with the Patriots' victory over the Texans in Week 5: both favorites fell behind early, both launched comebacks when the Texans began flailing, but the Patriots were able to finish the job while the Titans suffered their second dopey upset (Jets, Week 4) of the season.

  • What it Means for the Titans: Like the Bills, the Titans run the risk of getting steamrolled by the Runaway Mac Jones Narrative (and also the rugged, fundamentally airtight Patriots) when they visit Foxborough next week. Luckily for the Titans, their late-season schedule is such a cupcakery that a few losses won't matter much. But come the playoffs, they'll need Julio Jones back and/or a functional running game, and probably more.
     
  • What it Means for the Texans: Next Sunday's Texans-Jets game is going to have some serious implications for the first overall pick in the 2022 draft!

WTF Happened to the Carolina Panthers?
Naming Cam Newton the starter 10 days after he returned to the team worked out exactly as well as anyone could hope for. The problem is that no one could really hope for much from Newton's return, because handing him the job after about four practices was a desperately silly tactic.

Cam delivered some highlights with his arm and legs and (with the help of 119 scrimmage yards from Christian McCaffery) kept the Panthers offense semi-functional. But Panthers drives kept stalling because they had no downfield attack whatsoever, and Washington used the extra possessions to control the clock and win the field position battle, kicking a pair of fourth-quarter field goals for a 27-21 victory.

  • What it Means for the Panthers: Maybe Matt Rhule can throw some Tepper Bucks at Philip Rivers next! Maybe the Panthers can just build a bonfire of money and resources and see how many seasons they can sacrifice to the Wild Card Also-Ran Elder Gods!
     
  • What it Means for Washington: Back-to-back wins place Washington in the old Bears niche in the NFC wild-card ecosystem: the smoke-and-mirrors team that does just enough to sneak into the final playoff spot if some team (read: The Vikings) misses too many field goals in close games down the stretch.

WTF Happened to the New Orleans Saints?
Sunday's 40-29 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was a more extreme version of their Falcons and Titans losses: the Saints offense played like a sinking garbage scow for three quarters, then came alive when the opposing defense went into prevent mode too prematurely. The Saints dug themselves too deep a hole to make the final score look close this time, in part because of three turnovers, in part because their run defense is finally starting to buckle under the weight of carrying the whole team.

  • What it Means for the Saints: They have no way of sustaining offense in non-prevent situations. The Saints will likely sink to the bottom of the wild-card picture after their upcoming homestand against the Bills and Cowboys.
     
  • What it Means for the Eagles: It's OK to not be impressed by the fact that the Eagles are now in the thick of the wild-card quagmire (complete with helpful tiebreaker advantages!). It's OK to be pessimistic about Jalen Hurts becoming anything more than a low-rung NFL starter. It's OK to keep worrying about Nick Sirianni's ever-changing game plans and philosophies. But please, oh Philly Phaithful, can we please stop pretending that the Eagles are some putrid team assembled by idiots who should all be fired? Can we acknowledge that a lot of positives are coming out of this season? Please folks: just deprogram 94.1 from your car radio and enjoy the fact that the Eagles sometimes play very well and have a chance to get a whole lot better in a hurry next year.

WTF Happened in the Late Game?
Too much to contextualize! But the Steelers are coming off back-to-back "almost wins" and don't have an easy opponent left on their schedule. They also played well enough to get hammered for all but about 13 minutes on Sunday night. And the Chargers survived Week 11. Not every wannabe Super Bowl contender can say that.

Week 11 Awards

No week is complete until Walkthrough hands out some hardware.

Defensive Player of the Week
Chris Jones, Chiefs: 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one tackle for a loss. Jones' return to the interior defensive line after spending the first half of the season as an ersatz edge rusher may have been the turning point of the Chiefs season.

Honorable mention goes to Texans defensive back Desmond King for a pair of interceptions against the Titans.

Offensive Line of the Week
The Colts offensive line of Eric Fisher, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, and Braden Smith absolutely manhandled the Bills defense, helping Jonathan Taylor to rush for 185 yards and four touchdowns and allowing Carson Wentz to enjoy a sack-free afternoon.

Special-Teamer of the Week
Bengals rookie kicker Evan McPherson booted 54-, 53-, 51-, and 47-yard field goals in a 32-13 victory over the Raiders.

Fun fact: no one ever says that a kicker "booted a field goal" out loud; the phrase only exists because writers don't like following "kicker" with "kicked." We could have solved that problem by just writing "Bengals rookie Evan McPherson kicked…" since his on-field position is obvious in context, but it's far too late for that now that you have already read this.

Honorable mention goes to Miles Killebrew for his fourth-quarter blocked punt that helped the Steelers briefly claw back into the game in their loss to the Chargers.

Honorable mention also goes to Saints punter Blake Gillikan, who booted (arrrrrrgh!!!!) two punts that forced the Eagles to start a pair of drives at their own 4-yard line. A fumble after one of those punts set up the first Saints touchdown, and Eagles running back Miles Sanders nearly fumbled after the second one.

Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else's Highlight
Titans running back Dontrell Hilliard earns this week's award by chasing down Kamu Grugier-Hill at the end of what looked like it might have been a pick-six.

Ryan Tannehill earns honorable mention on the same highlight for nearly chasing Grugier-Hill down from behind. Did you know Tannehill started his college career as a wide receiver? It's true, and also rarely mentioned! Heck, he might be the second-best wide receiver on the Titans right now!

Also, Hilliard was identified as "Dalton Hilliard" until the final draft of Walkthrough. That's not because we're old and sometimes mix up current running backs with Saints running backs of the late 1980s. It's because we assumed the Titans are so desperate at running back that they would sign someone who played for the Saints in the 1980s.

Honorable mention also goes to all of Matt Nagy's assistants in this sideline reenactment of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Punt.

Finally, this woman's reaction to a Saints first down while the Eagles held a 14-point fourth-quarter lead is an accurate representation of the attitudes of 75% of the people I encounter in my daily life.

Burn This Play!
Not long after Mare of Easttown cussed into the camera in that last segment, the Saints reached the Eagles' 13-yard line trailing by 14 points with 8:43 to play. Here is what Sean Payton called:

  • A handoff straight up the middle to Mark Ingram for 1 yard.
  • A pass on which no one got open, forcing Trevor Siemian to roll to his left and throw the ball away.
  • A slip screen to Deonte Harris on the left side of the formation, with four receivers (including motioning Lil'Jordan Humphrey) on the right side. Harris was swallowed by multiple defenders after a short gain.
  • A field goal to cut the Eagles lead to 11 points with 7:17 to play.

The second-down call was fine: sometimes receivers don't get open, especially Saints receivers. The first-down handoff put the Saints behind the sticks while chewing up the clock; it was a vanilla play (under-center, single-back, slot left, no misdirection) that was unlikely to succeed. The screen pass was over-engineered and not really designed for third-and-9, when defenders are likely to be in off coverage, allowing them to fly to a receiver who has no one in good position to block for him. And the kick was just inexcusable.

Payton has now settled for short field goals while trailing by multiple scores in the fourth quarter in back-to-back weeks. Yes, he's stuck coaching a team with no quarterback and no weapons, but his offense keeps playing well enough in fourth quarters to get back into games and into scoring position. Payton's arch-conservative approach is erasing what little chance of victory the Saints have each week.

Monday Night Action: New York Giants +10.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antonio Brown is out. Vita Vea is doubtful. Rob Gronkowski is likely to be a game-time decision. And Saquon Barkley might be making one of his bi-monthly triumphant returns from injury. It all adds up to a shaky double-digit play for the Buccaneers. Walkthrough plans to wait until kickoff and wager on a Giants "moral victory" (if not an actual victory) if Vea and Gronk are out and the line is still in the +10 range.

DraftKings is also offering a special for the "root for mayhem" crowd: Total Interceptions Over 2.5 at +300. It's hardly a great percentage play, especially because Daniel Jones' drug of choice is the strip-sack, not the interception. But Walkthrough scored a big win with the Patriots defense as anytime scorers at +425 on Thursday night and we're feeling frisky. We're gonna put some "house money" on the interceptions and root for a Jones meltdown and/or a continuation of Brady's mini-slump.

Walkthrough Sportsbook: Early Thanksgiving Lines

We used to be squeamish about betting on Thanksgiving games. But sports gambling is now legal in much of the country, socially acceptable in most of it, and arguably a more prosocial use of your time and money than, say, rushing off to some doorbuster event that forces retail workers to eat their holiday dinners at 10 a.m. So we now apply a sliding scale to Thanksgiving wagers:

  • Early game: Are you sure there's nothing more life-affirming you can do with your time than bet on a Lions game?
  • Afternoon game: The dishes are done and your cousins have whisked tipsy Aunt Ethel home by halftime: perfect timing for a second-half prop.
  • Evening game: What better way to give thanks for all of life's bounty than to squander a little of it on a same-game parlay while working on your second kilogram of carbohydrates?

With that in mind, here are some notes on the look-ahead Thanksgiving lines:

Chicago Bears (-3.5) at Detroit Lions
The Lions have lost four straight Thanksgiving games and failed to cover three of the last four. Their last cover was the David Blough game against the Bears in 2019: the Bears laid 5.5 points against a third-string quarterback but only won 24-20. Thursday's game feels like that game, especially if Tim Boyle gets another start, except that the spread is unlikely to drift too far past Bears -4.

Lions games have also gone over on three of the last four Thanksgivings, and the number dipped to 42. Taking the over and rooting for points off turnovers could be fun. Saving your money and heartburn for the late games will probably be more fun.

Las Vegas Raiders (+7) at Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are 1-9 ATS on Thanksgiving dating back to 2011. That's the kind of "trend" you can go broke chasing, but this game has many of the earmarks of a cover by a road dog, especially with the Cowboys nursing multiple injuries at the offensive skill positions.

The Raiders backdoor covered in a 31-24 loss against an eight-point spread way back in 2013, and we can easily picture something similar happening on Thursday. At the very least, wait for news on CeeDee Lamb and Ezekiel Elliott before laying a touchdown with the Cowboys.

Buffalo Bills (-4.5) at New Orleans Saints
Take the Bills and enjoy watching them do to Trevor Siemian more or less what they did to Mike White when they were in a foul mood after the Jaguars upset two weeks ago. When same-game parlays unlock, we're also going to have an eye on that Under of 47.5, perhaps with the Bills straight-up so we don't have to worry about a 24-20 final score.

Comments

37 comments, Last at 23 Nov 2021, 6:17pm

1 Evening game: What better…

  • Evening game: What better way to give thanks for all of life's bounty than to squander a little of it on a same-game parlay while working on your second kilogram of carbohydrates?

Brilliant use of alliteration, going with kilograms instead of pounds. Well done. I mean, this whole section was probably pre-written well before Sunday, but nonetheless, nice.

2 The Bills getting whipped on…

The Bills getting whipped on both lines is basically the story of all of our losses. And if we doing pull out of this tailspin, the epitaph of the season will be our poor talent evaluation on the lines and our unwillingness to change. I hammered on Cody Ford and Daryl Williams enough in the game thread, so I'll leave them alone here. But McDermottt's loyalty to ex Panthers like Addison and Butler on the Dline is costing us badly.

 

Further, we never, ever, ever come out of nickel. I love our nickel, Taron Johnson, he's a dude. But he's <200 lbs and asking him to shed like the  linebackers and take down top backs like Taylor and Henry is too big as ask. He played 61 snaps (61!) in a game we were losing since the opening drive. 

3 They might well had come out…

They might well had come out of nickel if Edmunds wasn't hurt. I did find Mike's analysis of the Cowboys vs. the Bills to be a tad disingenuous - yes, Dallas was missing their top two wideouts. Buffalo was missing their right tackle, nose tackle and middle linebacker, all of which the Colts were able to exploit, and and any two of which may be more critical to the team than Diggs and Sanders. Yes, everyone deals with injuries...

What I don't understand is the personal foul penalties, which handed the Colts a score early when a stop could have made the difference. McDermott prides himself on treating his players like adults, but someone needs to instill some discipline here.

I knew this team wasn't gong to be as good as last year, but the lack of depth despite the numbers on the D-line is telling. I'm also not even going to bring up the COVID issues, except to say that his stance seems like an overreaction to getting in the trouble with the league.

4 They might well had come out…

They might well had come out of nickel if Edmunds wasn't hurt.

From what I can tell, we only pulled Johnson off the field for 3 snaps against Tennessee, too. Now Tennessee had Jones and Brown for that game, but still. It does seem like a schematic choice rather than a personnel necessity. 

5 They might well had come out…

They might well had come out of nickel if Edmunds wasn't hurt.

From what I can tell, we only pulled Johnson off the field for 3 snaps against Tennessee, too. Now Tennessee had Jones and Brown for that game, but still. It does seem like a schematic choice rather than a personnel necessity.

 

McDermott prides himself on treating his players like adults, but someone needs to instill some discipline here.

McDermott does have a problem with stacking mistakes. It's plagued us since his first year. In one sequence, we gave them the personal foul you mentioned, then failed to recover an Indy fumble, then whiffed on a 3rd down sack. Indy managed a field goal, and then we respond with an untouched fumble on the kickoff. 

9 Maybe they're saying the…

Maybe they're saying the other LB's are trash? That certainly backs up what I've seen. It doesn't seem to matter, though - if Star's in, they can stop the run. If he isn't, they can't. You would think Beane might have realized that and looked for a similar player?

 

Also, don't remind me about McKenzie and the fumble. This team, overall, has a problem with ball security that the coaching staff is doing nothing to address.

 

11 Maybe they're saying the…

Maybe they're saying the other LB's are trash? That certainly backs up what I've seen. It doesn't seem to matter, though - if Star's in, they can stop the run. If he isn't, they can't. You would think Beane might have realized that and looked for a similar player?

They clearly think​​ the other linebackers are bad, but I am not sure McDermott and Beane have earned the benefit of the doubt on personnel in the trenches. They have thrown a LOT on money at both lines and they fall apart that badly over three injuries? 

21 I did find Mike's analysis…

I did find Mike's analysis of the Cowboys vs. the Bills to be a tad disingenuous - yes, Dallas was missing their top two wideouts

 

They were, and have been, missing a few more players than just WR1 & WR2. The Cowboys also didn't have their starting LT, either starting DE, or their starting DT for this one, amongst other injuries. 

Yes, everyone deals with injuries, but some are dealing with more than others. 

27 I mean, the Bills were…

I mean, the Bills were missing our LG, our RT, our best run stuff DT, our second best run stuff DT, and our MLB, and our slot receiver is on a very limited snap count because of his ribs. The best teams this time of year are usually the healthiest ones. That said, our coaches needed to do a much better job accounting for them. 

6 Chicago was so dead set on…

Chicago was so dead set on blowing that game that the Ravens would have somehow scored even if they knelt the ball every snap of their final drive.  

The Chiefs have found their identity and they'll probably win 12 games now.  I struggle to figure out why their opponents seem perplexed by simple, predictable blitzes, but it's working.  

32 Chiefs offense did not play…

Chiefs offense did not play well and it is not clear how much their defense would have been successful had Dallas receivers not been entirely inept.

They are playing better than before, which is not saying much given that how terrible their defense was, but I would wait a little bit more before giving them 5 more wins out of six remaining game. Especially considering they are  4 games against division rivals and two against playoff chasing teams. 

7 "can we please stop…

"can we please stop pretending that the Eagles are some putrid team assembled by idiots who should all be fired? "

It's a question of degree.

Philly's got plenty of talent: Cox, Slay, Graham, Johnson, Brooks, and Kelce are all Pro Bowl talent (and Cox and Kelce are Hall-level talent).

The problem is that they won't be much longer, and they've got a ludicrous amount of money sunk into them.

Mike, you've criticized the Vikings for being some sort of Frankenstein's Monster constantly revived with future dollars to build a wild-card team, but that's what the Eagles are *aspiring* to be.

Best thing to come out of this season is Hurts is short term viable, they unloaded Ertz, and the Wentz first round pick. Literally nothing else has impressed me this year (I've seen flash-in-the-pan undersized receivers before).

In fact the longer they stay contenders the more likely they'll be to continue to dump money to vets, so, that's not promising.

18 Are you actually watching the team?

I'm not sure you've seen the team this year

Of your "good vets" list, Graham and Brooks haven't played all year, and Cox has been mediocre. Only 3 of your list have played at an above average level. The OL is the team's #1 strength and 3 of the starters most of the year are under 25. 

Also not sure how you could call someone with Devonta Smith's pedigree or has watched him all a "flash in the pan" - guy just gets open and catches the ball.

20  Of your "good vets" list,…

Of your "good vets" list, Graham and Brooks haven't played all year, and Cox has been mediocre.

Yeah, I should've expected this response. This isn't what I was trying to say. I'm talking about looking forward. Not this year. They're a wild-card contender this year, but that's their ceiling. They're not taking the division, and they're certainly not making it to the Super Bowl from a wild-card. The fact that they're getting very little production out of the vets is exactly what I mean. They have a ludicrous amount of money dedicated to Johnson, Cox, Graham, and Brooks. Like, ~$150M ludicrous.

Did you notice the Vikings comp? That's my point. It's hard to get excited about a team that can't make a serious playoff run this year and won't be able to make a serious playoff run in the near future either.

Also not sure how you could call someone with Devonta Smith's pedigree or has watched him all a "flash in the pan"

Because I also watched DeSean Jackson, and that's what I would've called him. Undersized receivers scare me because I doubt their long-term usefulness. I don't care about how Smith's doing this year because this year's pointless (see above) - I care about how Smith will do in 2-3 years, when the Eagles can actually get out from under this wacko reload/rebuild/whatever they're doing.

and 3 of the starters most of the year are under 25.

Oh, I did forget to put Mailata as a list of positive things this year. That's definitely true, and that's a big plus. Not impressed by Dickerson and everyone looks good between Kelce and Johnson.

22 94.1

if you deprogrammed that, you couldn't have heard her call in from after the game: Mary Kate from Delco, I mean you can't make this stuff up, it's too good. 

Jalen Hurts still can't throw the ball well, sadly.

37 There you are!

In reply to by horn

Weird how you weren't in the open thread when Hurts ran 3 for TDs and had no turnovers on an above .500 team. 

Tsk tsk, I'm gonna have to ask you to keep the slander to a min Mr.Wentz.

12 Shylo

The offensive coordinator for Tennessee had a hell of a game. He was calling plays like the Titans needed to create variance instead of avoiding it. He did the old Whisenhunt of taking a RB out when he got some momentum. Hilliard needs to be our pretender until the return of the King. Hilliard and Foreman, Peterson was a pipe dream (although I was rooting for him to be the oldest 100 yard rusher.)

 

The 50/50s didn't go in our favor, and the game put on the back of Tannehill who has regressed. I don't want to say I'm off Tannehill yet and we need him to get right for the stretch run and playoffs, but he's clearly regressed, throwing at least one WTF pick each game, making us play from behind when that's not what we do, if there's a QB they like, they should pick him with the view of using Tannehill as a bridge until we can cut him.

13 Saints

The screen pass was over-engineered

To me that just underscores my long held feeling that Sean Payton's biggest weakness is his habit of {over-engineering/getting too cute/whatever you prefer to call it} in his playcalling.

14 Screen Pass

In reply to by serutan

Yeah that play call didn't make sense. That kind of screen is designed for over-pursuing, blitzing defenses. There's not much of a reason for a defense to throw a huge blitz or overpursue on 3rd and long where even a sack doesn't push them out of field goal range. 

15 Blitzing on third down is…

In reply to by oconnk11

Blitzing on third down is very common, though, especially against a QB who's struggling to deal with pressure.  Maybe there was something in PHI's tendencies that game that led Peyton to think they might be blitzing and this play could catch them?

Anyway, kicking the FG was shake your head stuff and calls all other decision-making into question, but I struggle with questioning specific play calls given the cat-and-mouse nature of football.  A bone-head call against one defensive strategy can look like coaching genius against another.

16 Raiders have clearly (to me…

Raiders have clearly (to me at least) given up on the season, I'll put my money on the cowboys,  injuries or no injuries.

17 The World Order Has Spun Out of Control

Patriots are now the favorites to win the Super Bowl-- deservedly so, IMHO. But a bigger transformation may be occurring in the NFC-- in the first 8 weeks, the six teams everyone just pencilled in for playoffs and potential SB berth-- ARIZ, LAR, GB, TB, NO, and DALL-- were 38-8. Yep. An extraordinary W/L % of 826.

In the three weeks since, with TB yet to play tonight, those same six teams are 4-11. Three more losses in three weeks than the previous 8. What do those losses tell us?

SAINTS-- Losses home to Atlanta, away to Tennessee and away to Philadelphia. None were blowouts. One was to a truly terrible team. The other two to a league leader that isn;t viewed as very good by DVOA and a ;500 team seemingly finding its form (as have both MINN and SF). The QB situation is not good. Wit their next two games-- both at home-- Against Buffalo and Dallas, we may learn if NO is even going to make the playoffs, let alone be any kind of serious contender in January. Verdict:  Telling Defeats.

RAMS-- Bye week to lick their wounds, after being beaten badly home to the Titans and away to the Niners. Road games at GB and ARIZ in next three weeks are their only chance to still win the division, else McVay's Super team will have to be Super Road Warriors to get to the Super Bowl. But they also have to play away at MINN and BALT, and still have the resurgent 49ers on the final weekend. This team looks as likely to stumble in at 10-7 or 11-6 as they are to make a serious run. Verdict: Verging on Wait 'Til Next Year

COWBOYS--Inexplicably bad loss at home to the Broncos, followed by a pasting of the Falcons, then a frustrating loss yesterday at KC with offensive injury woes mounting. The schedule is the easiest of all these six, though they do have to play away at all their division rivals. #1 seed seems more doubtful now, but I still think this is a talented roster with the ability to go deep. Verdict: Maddeningly inconsistent but don't rule them out.

PACKERS-- two strange losses. KC because Rodgers missed the game to COVID-- a shutout of the Seahawks where the packer offense sputtered, which continued in the first half yesterday until Rodgers and Co. revved it up and lost ultimately because of defensive mistakes and a barely dropped pick by Darnell Savage. The home field implications demand a win against the Rams Sunday before the bye-- injuries may be the bigger story. Rodgers has a nagging and painful toe, Aaron Jones is out for another few weeks. David Bakhtiari has yet to play, and his replacement, Elton Jenkins, is now out for the year. Their two best pass rushers and best cover guy did not play yesterday-- only one of the three, Rashan Gary, is sure to return. Verdict: Too many band-aids necessary. This seems like another NFC title loss brewing, perhaps to their former coach.

BUCS-- have only played once in this stretch, a loss to Washington after licking their wounds to yet another loss to the Saints. Brady' reciever corps is banged up and the defense seems to be on holiday. They had a similar lull last year-- and things worked out. Verdict: No real reason for worry. the schedule other than a game in Indy and one home to the staggering Bills is Cupcake City. Probably a #2 seed. Watch out come January.

CARDS-- they don;t get no respect. They have gone 2-1 without their MVP caliber QB-- wins away to two divisional rivals bracketing a loss at home to the Panthers. Bye week and Murray will return for a home stretch which features desert games v Rams and Colts, and a tough away game in Dallas. Verdict: Still the favorite for the #1 seed. No need to panic whatsoever. Skeptics gonna doubt until they win in January.

24 well, gee

Please look at the current playoff odds on this site.  #1 for winning the SB-- the New England Patriots. Who are playing better than any team in the AFC and now are the likeliest to get the #1 seed.

If you want to argue Vegas, fine-- people making a lot of money betting on the Pats (and I am decidedly NOT a Patriots fan) these days. i suspect the futures odds will be dropping dramatically soon...

31 Well, that was short-lived…

Well, that was short-lived. That's what I expected, though - the Patriots were getting a boost because the Bucs were still carrying the (very unlikely) possibility of losing to the Giants since they hadn't played. Also ahead of the Bills for the same reason (because of the bye week) but the Patriots/Bills game in a few weeks will make the bye week mostly moot anyway.

26 The AFC has much less depth…

The AFC has much less depth than the NFC, and the Patriots have a very reasonable shot at the #1 seed - they now control their destiny to the #2 seed and just need the Ravens to drop a game to nab the #1.  The Bills just got obliterated by a Colts team with similar strengths to the Patriots.

 

While not the best team in the league - DVOA aside and taking into account injuries, that's pretty clearly the Cardinals - but they have an easier path than the top NFC contenders and thus better odds.

28 Ode to the Oakster!

SAINTS - The Saints are done, playoff-wise at least.  They don't have QB and their defense is on the field too much.

RAMS - They went "all in" this year and they have to win the SB for all their sacrifice to pay off.  They won't and it won't.  They are clearly the second best team in the NFC West and are very thin at all positions but especially RB and WR.  Matt Stafford looks like a middle-class version of Jared Goff.  Their defense has regressed from last year.  There's not one area of their team where you can say they are better than the Cardinals and that includes HC.  They will get a WC and lose at Green Bay or Dallas.

COWBOYS - Dallas finally feeling what injuries can do to a team.  Dak can't carry them, not that I thought he was good enough to.  They will be fine until they play playoff caliber teams.  The only "difficult" game left is at home against the Cardinals.  By that time, the #1 seed might still be in play.

PACKERS - You can only get by with no depth for so long.  Now Rodgers has a toe injury.  They were fortunate to beat the Cardinals and their fortune ran out against the Chiefs and Vikings.  It's still a good team, though definitely not as good as people thought they were.  

BUCS - Interested to see if their secondary ever gets healthy.  They aren't beating any of the NFC contenders with their defense getting gashed through the air.  Also, Brady hasn't looked sharp for weeks.  Time will tell.

CARDS - Cards play better as underdogs, so not sweating it.  As long as Kyler Murray is healthy, they will be fine.  Defense is playing at a high level, despite the loss of JJ Watt.  The team has great depth and even Colt McCoy looks great in spurts. The bye is here at a perfect time with the Cards leading the NFL at 9-2.

29 Cowboys Woes

Regarding yours and oakster's responses, I fear the Cowboys' struggles are more problematic than injuries. A script to stop them seems to have been established: if the defense can load the box against the run and play tight man coverage, Dak holds the ball long enough for the pass blocking to collapse, which honestly hasn't been all that great this year (certainly doesn't help that their all pro LT was out, they experimented at LG this game, and their RT has barley played any games since 2019, including missing all of 2020 and most of 2021).

The pressure makes Dak throw inaccurate passes that should be easy completions, and he keeps trying to make up ground all at once through low percentage deep balls on third down that are also badly inaccurate. One of Dak's best traits used to be playing smart and taking the safe play, but he seems to be suffering from the same impatience Mahomes was suffering from at the beginning of the year and pressing downfield because he's used to imposing his will. The receivers for their part become soft and start dropping passes due to tight coverage. Teams are also starting to figure out they can sit on the short passes Dak throws that are supposed to be an extension of the run game when they can't get that working.

The Cardinals definitely have the defense to create these same problems, so I doubt the Cowboys will be winning that game and getting a 1st round bye.

Aside from health, the Cowboys need to figure out how to reestablish the run and Dak needs to stop panicking when things don't immediately go his way if they don't want to meet their usual divisional fate. 

30 You keep saying the Packers…

You keep saying the Packers have no depth. You do realize they have NEVER had their preferred starting offensive line this year right? Their most common combination by depth chart has been LT2, LG3, C2, RG2, RT1.  It looks like they will be once again playing with LT3, LG3, C2, RG2, RT1 like they did in week 5 (the 25-22 OT win over the Bengals).That is very definition of depth at the position to go 3 deep at 2 positions and still be able to have a solid line. The may get LT 1 back after the bye (so for week 14-18) but they lost LG 1 and LT 2 when Jenkins went down. So they will NEVER get to have their preferred starting OL.

QB 1 missed a game
WR 1 missed a game, WR2 (MVS) missed 5 games. WR 4 (Lazard) mised 2 games. (and 1, 3, 4 were all at the same time against your Cardinals)
RB 1 has missed a game, RB 3 is gone for the season.
TE 1 has missed 3 games.

But wait there's more the defense is not immune either! They got 18 snaps this season from EDGE 1 (Z. Smith). EDGE 2 and EDGE 3 have both missed a game and a half (P. Smith and R. Gary). EDGE 4 got to play 2.5 games (Mercilus).
CB1 missed 7.5 games (J Alexander). CB 3/4 (King) has missed 5 games. CB 2 (Stokes) has missed a game.
DE 2 missed 2.5 games.
 

You know what I'm going to stop, there is more with the DE/DL stuff but it doesn't matter.

Every team deals with injuries, the Cards have done well dealing with missing an excellent QB1. They are missing EDGE 1 for most of the season, they have other injuries etc. 

But stop saying a team that is ROUTINELY going to their 3rd and 4th options at key positions and is still 8-3 has no depth. Just stop. If anything that points to their top players perhaps not being as good as I think they are, which is kinda the opposite, they don't have enough top end talent and rely on average NFL quality depth too much. I can certainly agree with that assessment of the WR position as I've felt that way for years.

 

I'm not claiming they are a better team than Arizona (I actually think Zona is the best team in the NFC). I'm not even trying to claim they have dealt with more injuries than other teams. I am claiming that by NFL standards they have depth because they have had to use it, and the only game the whole team was crap was the first game of the year and evidence points to that game basically being preseason game 4 for the team. I will fully accept that they may have lost it because they managed the preseason wrong. But no team can sustain forever on options 3 and 4. Having to use those doesn't mean they don't have depth. NFL rules mean you can't really go any deeper than that (hence the Packers having to sign a CB mid season who has worked his way up to CB 3 (Alexander and Stokes are still ahead of Douglas).

I will also agree they can't sustain the bad injury luck, and that is what it is. Even if injury avoidance is a skill for a player the Packers have evidence over the last couple of seasons that they have this skill and this year luck has overwhelmed it. Clearly they can beat anyone on a given day, they beat what I feel is the best team in the NFC without their top 3 receivers and playing 1 preferred staring OL.

I just get tired of your basic "Arizona has no flaws they can adapt to anything, every other team is just bad. It's more impressive if Zone beats teams that are actually good because they are just a bit better. But you're the drunk guy at the bar "Cardinals Wooohooooo! <Insert name here> sucks because <insert trite reason here>!"

19 Need the stat for my fantasy team

Tannehill deserves an assist on the Hilliard tackle. Lead blocker has to peel off to level him, otherwise the blocker was in position to block Hilliard instead.

34 Tannehill also deserves

A large ice pack, because that block slammed him down onto this throwing shoulder IIRC.  Fantastic effort, but could have been really costly. Glad it was not.

I mean, it was not as impressive as Phil Rivers trying and failing to prevent a pick six early last season (IIRC he kind of swatted half-heartedly toward the DB and fell on his rump), but it was impressive by Tannehill.

33 Love the Philly fan reaction

Mike Tanier, national treasure.

For this:  Fun fact: no one ever says that a kicker "booted a field goal" out loud; the phrase only exists because writers don't like following "kicker" with "kicked." ... but it's far too late for that now that you have already read this.

As someone who writes for a living, yup.  Business writing is different than retail writing, but we still end up incircles thinking, "I can't use the same freaking noun three times in one sentence, even if it is correct, it sounds like I just gave up caring..."

And for the Philly fan clip. Beyond awesome.