Archive for December, 2017

Patrick Mahomes’ performance against an angry Broncos defense – The Chiefs don’t want QB Alex Smith around long term. But if Mahomes isn’t ready to take the reigns for 2018 they certainly don’t want to be without a starting QB. Smith’s had a career year but Mahomes will be starting against the Broncos in week seventeen so Elway can see what to expect if Mahomes becomes the starter in 2018.

Josh Gordon in a Browns uniform Josh Gordon‘s final performance before the offseason – Josh Gordon has exceeded MY expectations for what he should be able to do after three years away from football. He’s an unrestricted free agent after this season and John Dorsey might want younger blood at wide receiver. Gordon could join a receiver needy offense like Atlanta or Chicago make an enormous impact with his impressive skillset still seemingly intact.

The competitive spirit of the Houston Texans – Bill O’Brien’s future with the Texans is reportedly on the line. This is his first losing season as an NFL head coach, also coincidentally a season where he lost his starting QB and two core players on defense (J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus). O’Brien should be a highly sought after head coach candidate if he is released.

The Arizona Cardinals team – Head coach Bruce Arians addressed reports that he might not be with the team next season. Carson Palmer is thirty-eight and hasn’t looked like himself lately. Larry Fitzgerald is “only” thirty-four but plays an arguably more punishing position than ageless Tom Brady and Palmer and could ask for a trade or hang up the cleats.

The entire NFC South – The Saints have the tiebreaker over Carolina for the NFC South. But if the Saints lose and the Panthers win they could still claim the NFC South. The third place team, the Falcons are still competing for a wild card spot with only Seattle who could take their spot. I almost feel sorry for Tampa HC Dirk Koetter and QB Jameis Winston trying to get ahead in such a stout division. There are even whispers that Tampa Bay could release Dirk Koetter and bring in the legendary Jon Gruden.

Dez Bryant is a stellar wide receiver in the National Football league. He had great chemistry with former QB Tony Romo. With Dak Prescott under center however, Bryant’s turned into a solid but unspectacular wide receiver for Dallas.  If Prescott and Bryant aren’t going to form more of a rapport out of thin air, twenty-five games into their “startership,” Dallas should look for more valuable ways to spend that fourteen million a year.

Bryant is averaging 57.4 yards per game and scores a touchdown in fifty two percent of games they (Dez Bryant and Dak Prescott) play together. Bryant was catching for seventy two yards per game with a 74.6% chance to catch a touchdown from 2010 through the 2014 season where Tony Romo was passing to him the overwhelming majority of the time.

Dak is here to stay in Dallas. He’s not going anywhere. The cowboys have evolved into a run first team with their all star offensive line and drafting of Ezekiel Elliott. They also have quality depth with Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley to step up in Bryant’s absence and can look in the middle of the draft for some value replacements like Boise State’s Cedrick Wilson or Indiana’s Simmie Cobbs.

Now the trade deadline has passed, so they would have to workout a deal this off-season. The 49ers could potentially be interested in a big, fast target like Bryant to help their newest QB Jimmy Garoppolo make waves in the NFC West. The Chicago Bears could look to add wide receivers to help their young passer, Trubisky, as well.

“We’ve had a lot of good nights this year and this was a bad night.” Brady looked somber as he fielded questions from reporters after their Monday night loss to Miami. All of the analysts on ESPN’s pregame show picked New England to win. New England was also heavily favored in the season opener against Kansas City, their other widely televised game of the season when they were upset.

Upsets bring life to football because they knock me off my pedestal and remind me I actually know very little about how and why teams play well and win or lose. I’m going to pretend that I can look at what happened in the game to cause a ten win AFC heavyweight lose to a struggling, undermanned five win Dolphins team.

  1. Xavien Howard intercepts Tom Brady. Twice.
    1. If you have a paid subscription to (which I do) and look at the position rankings, you’ll find at the number one (out of thirty-eight) position for QBs is not Russell Wilson, not Carson Wentz, but forty year old man Tom Brady. If you check the cornerback rankings, you’ll find Xavien Howard is ranked at number eighty-eight (out of a possible 118). So Howard’s performance was puzzling for me, a big stats guy. The twenty-four year old second year defensive back has four interceptions on the season, two from last week’s contest against the Broncos (Trevor Siemian at QB), and two more from Tom Brady. What does this mean? It probably means that A. Miami’s pass rush was too much for New England’s Tackles to handle and Brady threw some poor passes to avoid getting sacked by T-Rex/Human hybrid Ndamukong Suh. It could also mean that B. Xavien Howard is an ascending player who is getting a hang of this cornerback thing and playing better as the season progresses. Or it could mean C. something is going on that PFF isn’t able to tell me right now. Or probably D. All of the Above. (Hover over the photos or they wont make sense)
  2. Miami pass rush overwhelms Patriots blocking scheme/offensive line – It turns out Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake are still effective pass rushers and  with all of the fervor that a great player on a bad team plays pressured Brady enough to force several incompletions, short/ineffective passes and two turnovers. The Patriots offensive tackles on the other hand haven’t played GREAT this season.
  3. Jarvis Landry scores twice – Jarvis Landry had eight catches for forty-six yards and two touchdowns. New England seemed like they didn’t know who to cover in the end zone this game.
  4. Kenyon Drake has his best game of the season – Drake totaled 193 yards of total offense, 114 rushing and seventy-nine receiving. One could point to injuries to Kyle Van Noy and Trey Flowers, two starters out for this contest as a possible reason for Drake’s success. Like Howard, Drake may be a budding star who finally has had a chance to prove himself this season.
  5. Rob Gronkowski suspension suddenly matters – The Patriots only scored twenty points when they’ve been averaging about thirty points a game. The Rob Gronkowski suspension from the Bills game suddenly seems much more impactful when the Patriots struggled with Miami’s coverage all game long.

In conclusion: Examining this upset has forced me to look at the past performance of some impact players (Howard, Drake) as improving players and not just average/low impact players. Or maybe the Dolphins were just more motivated than the Patriots. As usual, I find more questions and guesses than concrete answers when examining unexpected outcomes. But that’s what makes Football fun, right?

Attribution for photos: (Ndamukong Suh Picture) By Keith Allison – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Tyrannosaurus Rex picture: By Marcin Polak from Warszawa / Warsaw, Polska / Poland (Tyranozaur Rex  Uploaded by FunkMonk) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Vitruvian man: Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

They beat the Superbowl champion New England Patriots in Foxboro Stadium. The next week, they beat Doug Pederson’s NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles. They even beat the DeShaun Watson-led Texans in Houston. After week five, Kansas City looked like the best team in the NFL. Game manager Alex Smith totaled twelve touchdowns in five games (20 total touchdowns in all of 2016).

Since week five, the Chiefs have gone 1-6. What happened? Is it because rookie breakout star Kareem Hunt hasn’t broken through the end zone after week three? Is it their uncharacteristically poor 30th ranked defense?

Losses to the Steelers by one score and a healthy Dallas team in JerryLand are acceptable. Those are tough places to win. Losses to the 2-10 New York Giants and identity-less Bills are mystifying at best for a club with so much talent on both sides of the ball.

The Chiefs at 6-6 sit in a three way tie to claim the AFC West with the Chargers and Raiders. Their remaining schedule has a combined record of 20-28, with competitive games against the Raiders and Chargers and then bouts against the defective 5-7 Dolphins and broken 3-9 Broncos to finish out the regular season. On paper, Andy Reid’s team looks like it should be able to finish with at least eight wins. Whether they can handle a motivated Raiders team and angry Chargers team will decide whether these Chiefs go to the playoffs for the third time in three years or are forced to regroup in the off-season.

The NFL Draft is in one hundred and forty one days. Which of course means I may as well write up a mock draft for the top ten teams. I’ll be rating positions as they are right now. There’s a lot of improbable things going on here. Like Baker Mayfield going in the top 25 picks. Or a guard being drafted in the top ten.

  1. Cleveland Browns – Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma – If the Browns are really all about analytics then they should love Mayfield. Sure he’s “too short” to play Quarterback. But so was Russell Wilson. And Drew Brees. And Michael Vick. I really can’t say if the Browns are going to draft yet another quarterback. But if they do. Mayfield is the best passer of the football in this draft. Not best tall guy, or best fast guy, or best looks good on tv guy (Sam Darnold).
  2. San Francisco 49ers – Roquan Smith, ILB Georgia – Smith’s played at a high level in the college football playoffs. The Butkus award winner would fill a position of need as the 49ers now have Reuben Foster and part time players at linebacker now.
  3. New York Giants – Lamar Jackson, Louisville QB – Jackson’s improved from his Heisman season though his supporting cast hasn’t been there. He’s got a lot of measurables that coaches value (height, improving stats year over year, size). The Giants may look to replicate the kind of production Houston got from DeShaun Watson in his rookie season.
  4. Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb, DE NC State – The Colts need help. Jacoby Brissett has improved as a passer as the seasons’ progressed, but he doesn’t play defense. His former teammate, Bradley Chubb does though. Chubb was a big part of why NC State was relevant this season finishing 8-4 ahead of Louisville and Florida State in the ACC Atlantic. The Colts’ awful pass rush will benefit greatly from Chubb’s impact.
  5. Chicago Bears – Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS Alabama – Amos has been playing at a high level for the Bears this season. Fitzpatrick has been a technician and John Fox likes to build a beast on defense. The Bears could also go with a wide receiver here.
  6. Denver Broncos – Sam Darnold, QB USC – The Broncos have to get a quarterback. If Alex Smith or Case Keenum are available, they may go after a free agent. Darnold has arguably the highest ceiling of all the passers in the draft but will need a couple years to adjust. If Darnold did start year one, he would have DeMaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to throw to.
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame OT – The Bucs offensive line play has been atrocious. They would like to take hometown guy Derwin James here. But Winston’s health is too important. McGlinchey played well against major competition this season and was a big part of Notre Dame’s success in the ground game.
  8. Cleveland (through Houston) – Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB – The Browns should probably draft an eventual replacement for Joe Thomas here. But they need to get as much talent on the field as possible. Barkley has so much potential as a runner and pass catcher.
  9. Arizona Cardinals – Josh Rosen, UCLA QB – The time was last year to draft a QB for Arizona. Palmer may retire, and even if he doesn’t the Cardinals desperately need to groom a replacement. Rosen’s been described as the most ‘pro-ready’ of the quarterbacks in the draft and plays in a west coast offense like the Cardinals run.
  10. New York Jets – Quenton Nelson, OG Notre Dame – If there is a run on Quarterbacks the Jets may draft a standout at a position of need. The Jets of old thrived on a stingy defense and a suffocating ground game. The defense has improved with last years’ draft class. Nelson would mark a major step towards New York reestablishing themselves as a running team.

Philadelphia is down three to seventeen against Seattle as I am writing this. I’ve been hard on Seattle all year. Losing to the Redskins. Barely beating the 49ers by a field goal when their defense was healthy. Russell Wilson’s had that 5’11”, ‘they never believed in me magic’ keeping the Seahawks in games all season.

Todd Bowles would get my vote for coach of the year if I had one. But they don’t give coach of the year awards for coaches that have losing teams (5-7). The New York Jets, a team that looks like they were designed to go 0-16, beat the Kansas City Chiefs today, 38-31. Five of the seven Jets’ losses this season have been by one possession. That includes close losses to both participants of last years’ Superbowl, Matt Ryan’s’ Falcons and Tom Brady’s Patriots. When you are a person at your job, and your coworkers like you; the Robby Andersons and Bilal Powells of your office will put their proverbial butts on the line for you, because they like you. So whatever charisma Todd Bowles has to propel a roster of burned out veterans and backups to the level of play he has, has extracted five more wins out of the Jets than otherwise should be naturally possible.

I genuinely can’t make sense of what the Vikings are supposed to do with Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater on their roster right now. Letting Teddy Bridgewater go seems like a mistake. He’s younger and may have more upside than Keenum (Bridgewater was offensive rookie of the year). But letting Keenum go, who has won very real games against teams that used to humiliate Minnesota also feels like a bad move. They COULD franchise Keenum and attempt to trade him to, say, the Giants or Broncos. Or if they see Bridgewater as an injury concern they could attempt to trade him to a team like Cleveland.

I watched clips of the Bills/Patriots game from today and it reminded me what I like so much about football. No matter what is going on with these two teams, they will play each other aggressively hard. There was so much violence, and anger, and hitting on the TV screen. I watched Rob Gronkowski get repeatedly pushed by Bills corner Tre’Davious White past the five yard limit and then after White intercepts Brady’s pass, Gronkowski body slams White’s horizontal and stationary body. This drew a lot of ire from spectators as well as a penalty flag from the referees. The Patriots fan in me loved it. If you persistently mess with a guy twice your size, he will eventually mess with you back.

There is one more week thirteen event that demands attention. I shouldn’t write this because the post will be too long and no one will read this far. But it’s important. Former Baylor wide receiver and recovering alcoholic Josh Gordon participated in an NFL game for the first time since December of 2014. He caught four passes for eighty-five yards. Gordon might instantly be the Browns’ best skill position player. And more importantly he’s doing something positive in his life.

Now go in peace, and don’t let your children play football.