The Daily Briefing Tuesday, November 21, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
If The Season Ended Today in the NFC:
Overall Division Conference
Philadelphia Eagles NCE 9-1 4-0 7-0
Minnesota Vikings NCN 8-2 2-1 6-1
New Orleans Saints NCS 8-2 2-0 6-1
Los Angeles Rams NCW 7-3 2-1 4-3
Carolina Panthers WC 7-3 2-1 4-3
Atlanta Falcons WC 6-4 0-1 5-1
Seattle Seahawks 6-4 3-0 4-3
Detroit Lions 6-4 3-0 5-3
Green Bay Packers 5-5 2-2 4-4
Dallas Cowboys 5-5 2-1 4-4
As one of the few NFC teams that have had trouble with the AFC this year, the Falcons are actually in good shape with the conference record tiebreaker. And not that they need it at the moment because they have head-to-head wins (albeit both by the narrowest of margins, but to their credit both on the road) over Seattle and Detroit.
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Jerry Jones had some more things to say this morning.
Mike Florio notes that things have evolved to where as it stands now six owners are planning on giving Goodell a huge contract. Jones thinks the other 26 owners should be concerned that Goodell will remember who his friends are down the road.
The NFL’s Compensation Committee has told Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (once again) to abandon his effort to delay or derail the contract extension for Commissioner Roger Goodell. Jones clearly isn’t planning to do that.
In his latest appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Jones made it clear that he’s not backing down, and he remains confident that his efforts will be successful.
“I think that ultimately we will influence what I want to influence,” Jones said.
So what does he hope to influence? Apparently, he’s hoping to influence the process of holding the Commissioner accountable, by expanding the pool of owners who have power over his pay from six to 32.
“[T]he bottom line is he’s very powerful and you want to influence the Commissioner,” Jones said. “There’s a big debate as to one of the biggest things a Commissioner does is resolve disputes. He resolves them between everybody. So there’s an argument that he should be autonomous from being accountable. That’s legitimate. . . . Well, the Commissioner covers the whole league, the business aspect of it, the basically discipline aspect of it, the rules, the officials. And, so, no one — no one — would like it if you had three or four owners that were paying the officials. No one would like that because it should be all the owners that pay the officials. But yet you want them to be independent. Well, all owners should be holding the Commissioner accountable in my view. That’s the gist of this thing.”
In other words, Jones doesn’t want Goodell to feel beholden to only a few owners. Goodell should be, in Jones’ opinion, beholden to all of them.
That’s not how it will ever work, with or without a Compensation Committee. In any group of 32 that moves in unison from time to time, some will have more influence than others. And the Commissioner will know which owners have that influence, and the Commissioner will (if smart) focus on keeping the influential owners happy.
The presence of a Compensation Committee simply makes it easier to spot the owners who hold the knife that butters the Commissioner’s bread. Taking away the Compensation Committee, however, won’t take away the dynamic of some owners having the ability to rally support for anything and everything relating to the Commissioner.
If that’s what Jones is hoping to do, it’s the first time he has clearly articulated it that way. Whether it’s a tactic for persuading undecided owners to see things his way or the first phase of an effort to stake our territory where he eventually may be able to declare victory remains to be seen.
Regardless, the issue isn’t over. And it apparently won’t be over, even after the Commissioner’s extension has been finalized. In many respects, the execution of the Commissioner’s contract may be not the end of the dispute but only the beginning.
TE ZACH MILLER, who nearly lost his leg, has finally left the hospital after 23 days. Colleen Kane in the Chicago Tribune:
Bears tight end Zach Miller was released from a Chicago-area hospital Monday, 23 days after he was hospitalized in New Orleans for a dislocated left knee that caused severe arterial damage.
Miller tweeted the latest milestone in his recovery Monday evening.
Freedom!!!! Guess who’s home!?!? #DayByDay
7:04 PM – Nov 20, 2017
Miller required urgent vascular surgery on Oct. 29 to ensure the viability of his left leg. On Nov. 6, he was transported via private airplane to the Chicago area, where he had been hospitalized since.
While recovering, he has been keeping up with fans and teammates on Twitter and Instagram.
Last week, Miller thanked fans for the ovation the Soldier Field crowd gave to him during the Nov. 12 game against the Packers.
Wow! Can’t thank you all enough for your support! All love over here!!
He also let everyone know that Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks used FaceTime to contact him from the locker room during a break in practice.
Just got a FaceTime call from my guy @The_Dream99 and half the squad from the locker room! Man I love my brothers!
Hicks explained Friday he needed Miller to weigh in on a discussion among the Bears defensive players.
“We had a competition with one another, and he had to be the settler,” Hicks said. “He settled it for us. It’s me and (Leonard) Floyd versus (Pernell McPhee and Eddie Goldman) in any sport imaginable. I’m talking about table hockey, ping pong, basketball. Who would win? So Zach settled it.”
When the Bears asked Miller on Twitter who would win, he didn’t reveal his answer.“Hahaha tough call on that one!” he wrote. “Enormous freak athletes across the board! I wanna see some water polo!”
The Packers profess to still think QB BRETT HUNDLEY can play in the National Football League. Three writers combined for this in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
It’s a head coach’s job to make sure there aren’t any negative vibes coming from the locker room during a stretch like the one the Green Bay Packers are going through.
Coach Mike McCarthy said it’s natural for players to question whether the quarterback is holding up his end of the bargain, but he said he has not witnessed or sensed any loss of confidence in Brett Hundley.
“It happens in life,” he said. “You wish it didn’t. People may be whispering over here and you’re aware of what the whispers are. I don’t see any of that. I’m not aware of it.
“Everybody knows what each man puts into this, what these guys do professionally, what they put into particularly with their bodies, and Brett is definitely, he’s probably one of the top guys at doing that. Everybody respects him, so I don’t see any issue with that.”
NEW YORK GIANTS
Words that haven’t often been used in the same sentence – “fiery” and “Eli.” Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
With seemingly the entire country outside of the Giants’ locker room looking for avenues to end Eli Manning’s career in New York, the team rallied around their quarterback for Sunday’s upset overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The usually quiet Manning lit a fire under his squad on Sunday.
“In pregame he gave a fiery speech that got everybody riled up,” running back Orleans Darkwa said on a Monday conference call, via Newsday’s Tom Rock. “To have a guy like that who has been through so much, who has those two Super Bowl rings, we follow his footsteps in everything. To have him come up there, it shows the weight that he carries on this team. He’s definitely up for it, and everybody tries to follow in his footsteps because he’s been there, he’s done that, as far as reaching the Promised Land.”
The Giants certainly played with more purpose and vigor Sunday than they had in previous blowouts. The effort was evident on the field and flowed from Manning’s pregame speech.
“Eli is the heartbeat of our team,” Darkwa said.
Manning generally plays the quiet leader. He’s the little brother who speaks more through actions than words. He’s not usually the fire-up-the-troops guy and isn’t one to get in the face of a teammate or call someone out publicly. Eli is Eli.
When the man speaks with a purpose, however, his teammates fall in line.
“He talks to us a lot,” Darkwa said. “The difference yesterday was just you could sense the fire in his voice. But at the end of the day, Eli is going to be Eli. He shouldn’t change the way he commands a room, he shouldn’t change the way he talks to us. That’s just how he is. That’s how he leads us.”
Unfortunately for the 2-8 Giants, those fiery words came too late to save a lost season. Now Manning and his teammates are simply trying to save their jobs.
With a couple of wins under their belt, the Buccaneers are going to start RYAN FITZPATRICK at QB in the big game in Atlanta on Sunday. Jenna Laine of ESPN.com:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will continue resting his injured shoulder instead of returning after two weeks. That bodes fine for the Bucs, who shouldn’t be in any kind of hurry to get their franchise signal-caller back.
Veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick has gone 2-0 the past two weeks, including leading the game-winning drive in their 30-20 win against the Miami Dolphins. As an offense they should have been able to score more than 17 points off four Miami turnovers, but Fitzpatrick completed almost 60 percent of his passes and didn’t throw any interceptions.
“Ryan made really good decisions,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “We didn’t turn the ball over. We say every week in our meetings [if] we don’t turn it over, we’ve got a great chance to win. Not only did we not turn it over, we were plus-5 [in turnover margin]. It starts with that. He made really good decisions.”
He not only made good decisions, but quick ones. He spread the ball around to several targets. He was throwing into tight windows. He escaped pressure, rolled out and delivered a touchdown pass to tight end O.J. Howard on the move. He also knew when to throw the ball away — four times, by Koetter’s estimate — and when to use his legs.
“No matter how much of a veteran quarterback you are, throwing the ball away when the play is not there is still, to this day, one of the hardest things to get a quarterback to do and Ryan did a good job of that,” Koetter said. “He also scrambled a couple of times. One time he scrambled and got a first down running it. That very last drive [he had] that one to [Chris] Godwin right in front of our sideline, he scrambled — maybe before he really needed to, but still that was a nice play to get that drive going.”
Despite seeing the second-most blitzes of any team the Bucs have faced this season — 42.5 percent of dropbacks — Fitzpatrick’s 117.3 passer rating against it was the third-highest of the season for the Bucs, behind only Winston’s performances against the New York Giants (129.9) and Buffalo Bills (125.2). Both of Fitzpatrick’s touchdown throws Sunday came against the blitz. Fitzpatrick was also 8-of-12 on passes traveling at least 15 yards downfield, with 2-of-3 coming on the Bucs’ game-winning drive, according to ESPN Stats & Info. His eight deep completions are his second-most in the past 10 seasons.
In 2 1/2 games, Fitzpatrick has thrown seven touchdown passes and three interceptions (2.33), better than Winston’s 10 touchdowns and six interceptions (1.67) in eight games (two of those games he did not finish).
That’s not to say that Fitzpatrick should start once Winston gets healthy. In fact, when Koetter was asked Monday if, theoretically, a quarterback could lose his job because of injury he said, “No, not usually. [It’s] hard to do.”
But if the defense continues to force turnovers and Fitzpatrick is doing just enough to win, then what’s the hurry to get Winston back? The Bucs, who were 2-6 two weeks ago, are four games behind the first-place New Orleans Saints in the NFC South and three behind the second-place Carolina Panthers. Any wins from here are a bonus.
Coach Bruce Arians is not a happy camper. Bob McManaman in the Arizona Republic:
Outside of a couple of players here and there, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was still angry Monday at his entire team for the way it performed during Sunday’s 31-21 loss to the Houston Texans.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and a pair of rookies, strong safety Budda Baker and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, were outstanding, Arians said.
He also liked what he saw out of Blaine Gabbert, who played so well that Arians said the quarterback would start again this Sunday against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars. Drew Stanton is still recovering from a sprained right knee and the future starter beyond this week will be determined later, the coach said.
“Drew is going to be healthier; he’s still not as healthy as he was before,” Arians said, “but we’ll stick with Blaine and watch Drew get healthy and then make a decision as we move forward. But we’ll stick with the way it is right now.”
As for the rest of the position units, Arians said it’s time for each group to pick up its play and start making a difference. He wasn’t happy with any of them, overall, and said there needs to be far greater accountability.
Both Arians and General Manager Steve Keim lamented the missed opportunities from what they described were a handful of drops. Keim said he planned to bring in several wide receivers for tryouts and will continue to look at possible replacements.
“We have some other receivers that have done a lot of things for us in the past and for one reason or another, those guys aren’t stepping up and answering the bell,” Keim said during his weekly appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7-FM. “That’s what’s disappointing to me and we’ll continue to try and put the best players out there that we can.”
Arians pointed out costly drops by J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown and John Brown, the latter of whom suffered a turf toe injury and likely will miss Sunday’s game.
“It’s hard to describe because there’s so much talent in that room,” Arians said. “The way they went through OTAs (organized team activities) and all of camp, I really thought it was a strength of our team, and it’s now become our weakness.”
Arians said rookie receiver Chad Williams, the team’s third-round draft pick who has been inactive most game days, will now become a more integral part of the game plan.
“Chad Williams is going to get his shot,” he said. “He’s been practicing really, really well, just like Ricky (Seals-Jones). Those guys have been practicing really well, and it’s time for them to get a look.”
Speaking of looks, Arians said he’s seen enough to know what he needs to know about Gabbert, who until recently, had spent the majority of his time working with the scout team in practices. And on that front, at least the news sounds encouraging.
“I think I’ve known that all along,” Arians said. “I don’t think I have to find anything else out.”
And no, Arians said he doesn’t need to see more of Gabbert in game situations to know if Gabbert can be a decent starting NFL quarterback, perhaps even for the Cardinals after this season.
“What I saw is exactly what I thought I’d see,” he said, “and I just think it’ll get better the more he throws to Larry – he’s rarely ever thrown to Larry and those starting guys. So if he gets a little more timing with them, I think he’ll just get better.”
One player who has responded well to the new regime in San Francisco is RB CARLOS HYDE. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
The 49ers made a big trade this season when they acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots, but there was also some talk about possible interest in sending one of their players elsewhere before the deadline.
Running back Carlos Hyde was the player in question, but it was just chatter and coach Kyle Shanahan was happy the team held onto him after Hyde got ejected for fighting with Cardinals players in response to a late hit on quarterback C.J. Beathard. General Manager John Lynch was also “proud” of Hyde for showing that support for a teammate and he told Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area that he’s been happy with everything Hyde has brought to the team this year.
“Carlos has been fun to watch this year,” Lynch said. “He’s made a big-time commitment to the way we’re asking him to do things — the way [running backs coach] Bobby Turner and Kyle are asking him to do things. He’s walking around the building with a smile. He’s enjoying playing football. You have to if you’re going to have success in this game. We’re really pleased with the way Carlos is both behaving and playing.”
Hyde has run 141 times for 592 yards and four touchdowns to go with a career-high 42 receptions for 274 yards, which looks pretty good for a player who will be in the market for a new contract once the season comes to an end. Lynch’s comments suggest that the contract could come from the 49ers, although there’s a lot of time for things to work themselves out on that front.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams will be dealing with at least one key injury in the near future. Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com:
The Los Angeles Rams, relatively healthy throughout the course of their upstart season, will now be without their most productive receiver for at least the next two games.
Robert Woods sprained his left shoulder late in Sunday’s 24-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday that he is “probably going to be out a couple weeks.”
The Rams hope it’s no more than that, but McVay called the two-week timeline an “optimistic approach.” McVay added “there was a chance” Woods’ shoulder injury could’ve required surgery and jeopardized his season, “but I think we got good, positive news back on that.”
Woods leads the Rams in targets (70), receptions (47) and receiving yards (703), and is tied with Sammy Watkins for the team lead among receivers in touchdowns (four).
McVay called it “a big loss.”
“Clearly from a production standpoint the last couple of weeks, you’re losing a significant player,” McVay said of Woods, who has compiled 16 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games. “But I think what he represents, week in and week out, just by the way that he goes about his business, as well. He contributes; he plays like a complete receiver — underneath, intermediate, down the field. That’s a significant loss for us. But there are guys that we do have confidence to step up and fill that void.”
The Rams will have to make up for Woods’ absence “by committee,” McVay said. Watkins and rookie slot receiver Cooper Kupp will probably draw more targets, but the likes of Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds and Mike Thomas could factor in, as well.
After PK BLAIR WALSH, who once had an enormous leg, came up inches short from 52 yards on Monday night, Danny Heifetz of The Ringer took note of another failed field goal opportunity:
The Seattle crowd was apparently so loud on Monday night that Pete Carroll couldn’t listen to reason—and it may have cost his team a win.
The Falcons jumped out to an early lead on Monday Night Football, but the Seahawks clawed back with great play on kick returns. That superb special teams play didn’t last long.
Down 24-17 in the second quarter, Seattle ran a one-minute drill that, by the grace of God and Russell Wilson, got to the Falcons’ 17-yard line with seven seconds left in the half. Kicking a field goal and entering halftime down four would have been a major win for Seattle, but Pete Carroll had other ideas.
Seahawks second-string tight end Luke Willson took a shovel pass from holder Jon Ryan and was immediately swallowed by Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. This had to be the worst fake since the Colts ran this travesty against New England in October 2015. The play itself isn’t bad on fourth-and-1—but it’s an incomprehensible call with seven seconds left on the clock. Running this play means you think you can reach the end zone. That’s a tall order for any player in the league. That Seattle chose Willson as the man to sprint 20 yards to the end zone was … optimistic. (To be fair, he had decent blocking around the edge.)
Seattle, which trailed all night despite a herculean effort from quarterback Russell Wilson, would ultimately lose 34-31 when kicker Blair Walsh missed a 52-yard field goal attempt as the clock ticked to zero.
Wilson did everything he could have to pull out the win. He completed 26 of 42 passes for 258 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, but that does not come close to capturing his performance. Wilson rushed seven times, picking up six first downs and one touchdown. He had 86 yards on the ground, while the rest of the team rushed 16 times for 50 yards.
The Seahawks’ offense always depends on Wilson pulling off the miraculous—not just to win games, but merely to sustain drives—and he routinely delivers. Wilson entered Monday night accounting for over 82 percent of the Seahawks’ yards from scrimmage, which would be the most for any player in the Super Bowl era, according to NFL research.
The Seahawks were already at a disadvantage on Monday, missing both Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, and things got dicey for Seattle immediately when the next man up, cornerback Shaquill Griffin, went out with a possible concussion 30 seconds into the game. When the Seahawks needed Wilson more than ever, he delivered an eye-test MVP-candidate performance. And yet despite Wilson’s heroics, Carroll’s boneheaded antics blew the game for Seattle. Wilson is used to winning without any help from his offensive line, but he can’t overcome terrible decisions from Seattle’s coaching staff (insert Super Bowl joke).
At halftime, ESPN’s Lisa Salters asked both coaches about the failed fake. Falcons head coach and former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said he told his defense to be on alert for a fake. As for Carroll, Salters said, “He just kinda shrugged and said, ‘Look we were trying to score; we were trying to take a shot.’”
After that shot, Seattle could have used a chaser.
Carroll also could have used a second half timeout at the end of the game, when he was deciding whether or not to try to advance a few more yards with 7 seconds left, that he had wasted on a foolhardy challenge of an incomplete pass.
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Matt Harmon of NFL.com with other things the Seahawks have to worry about besides Carroll’s decision-making:
Seattle inflicted a handful of self-induced wounds Monday night. Strange timeouts, challenges and field-goal bungles — both the missed potential game-tying attempt and the decision to call a fake at an inopportune time — hindered the team. Yet, their MVP-caliber quarterback fought like hell to give them a chance of winning. Needing Russell Wilson to play the hero isn’t new for the 2017 version of the Seahawks, and it was apparent after their prime-time game last week that’s what they’d need to survive as a playoff contender going forward. The story that unfolded Monday feels familiar and expected, in some respects.
Nevertheless, Seattle leaves Week 11 probably wondering where it stands now. After the defense lost two pivotal pieces in Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, we knew this wouldn’t be the same unit. It didn’t make what we saw any less worrisome for this team going forward. Former NFL general manager Michael Lombardi described the Seahawks’ defense Monday as “a former boxing champion that knows how to fight but does not have any fight left in them.”
What seemed to spark Lombardi’s comments was a fourth-quarter drive where the Falcons called five run plays after Julio Jones burned Jeremy Lane for a 29-yard gain on third down. Seattle didn’t seem to have the punch needed to slow down Tevin Coleman and Terron Ward as Atlanta marched down to the 1-yard line before settling for a field goal.
Defenders were in advantageous position for the Seahawks during the game, and the line held firm in run defense. Seattle allowed the Atlanta running backs to gain an average of minus 0.61 yards before they closed to within a yard, the lowest average allowed by the team in any game this season. However, as seen on several of Ward’s late runs, tackling was more of an issue than normal. The Falcons’ backs averaged 3.51 yards after close on the night, which is still under the league average, but it was Seattle’s third-worst performance of the season.
The run defense got the Falcons off the field on their final drive, giving Wilson and company a chance to seal the comeback. The far bigger issue for Seattle was what happened in the injury-ravaged secondary.
With Richard Sherman out of the mix at left corner and impressive rookie Shaquill Griffin leaving the game early with an injury, Matt Ryan and the Falcons went to town on Seattle’s outside coverage.
The Falcons’ passing game moved with ease in this contest, looking like shades of the historic 2016 version of itself against the depleted Seahawks. This was all while the team still got more than enough pressure on Ryan. The pass rush held up its end of the bargain, posting a 35.7 percent pressure rate, the fourth-highest of any team in Week 11. Newcomer Sheldon Richardson bullied his way to Ryan on a gorgeous sack to send Atlanta off the field on its final drive.
Seattle came into Week 11 with a 32.1 percent pressure rate as a team, good for seventh-best in the NFL. It hasn’t been quite the same ferocious defensive line of years past, that’s for certain, but it appears this is still one area of its stop unit Seattle can depend on.
The performance as a pass rush unit, while positive, also only serves to emphasize what a disaster the Seahawks currently sport in the secondary. The replacement players at the cornerback position simply can’t hold up in coverage. Outside of Byron Maxwell, now on his second go-round with the team, the Seahawks’ corners allowed ghastly numbers.
Seahawks cornerbacks’ passer rating allowed
Byron Maxwell – 62.5
Jeremy Lane – 111.6
Justin Coleman – 129.2
The group particularly struggled at the catch point, an area where Sherman has been notoriously difficult on opposing quarterbacks throughout his career. The lengthy cornerback always made it difficult for passers to fit the ball to their receivers in his coverage, as he’d either find a way to extend and knock the ball down, or simply pick it off himself.
Seattle came into Week 11 allowing a mere 40.9 passer rating on tight-window throws (less than one yard of separation), a top-six mark in the league. The group that squared off against Ryan allowed a 105.8 passer rating on such attempts. Not only did Ryan throw more tight-window passes in Week 11 than in any other game this season, but he posted his second-best passer rating.
It’s clear after watching their Monday night defeat that the Seahawks will now play out the rest of the 2017 season with an all but unrecognizable defense. With that unit in tow, the team will have to rely on Wilson to save their postseason chances. It’ll be a different approach for Seattle, one with a razor thin margin for error.
LaVar Ball isn’t the only parent of an athlete made at Donald Trump for his interaction with their son. Jared Dubin of CBSSports.com:
The Oakland Raiders played the New England Patriots in Mexico last Sunday. As he has before every game this season, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch remained seated for the national anthem. Because the game was in Mexico, the Mexican national anthem was also played, and Lynch stood up during that one.
He was getting some equipment fixed so it may have been a coincidence, but the visual was Lynch sitting during the Star Spangled Banner and standing during its Mexican counterpart.
Naturally, the President of the United States tweeted about it at 6:25 a.m. EST on Monday morning. He falsely claimed in a tweet that Lynch was booed for sitting during the anthem, and also stated that Lynch should be suspended for the rest of the season.
Marshawn Lynch of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders stands for the Mexican Anthem and sits down to boos for our National Anthem. Great disrespect! Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down.
A few hours later, Lynch’s mother, Delisa Lynch, caught wind of the tweet, and came through with a pretty epic comeback.
what NFL team do Trump own ? oh yeah they wouldnt let him have one ,!! LMAO
The president, as many know, previously tried to purchase the Buffalo Bills when they were for sale in 2014, but his offer fell short of the $1.4 billion price Terry and Kim Pegula paid for the team. He has previously stated that he would not have run for president if he’d won the bid for the Bills. Going after the business magnate president for a failed business deal? Whatever your politics, that’s just a good burn.
The Steelers will be dealing with an NFL suspension of their starting right tackle T MARCUS GILBERT. Jared Dubin of CBSSports.com:
Gilbert has been suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, according to several reports.
As Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette noted, he’s not the first Steeler to get suspended for an extended period of time. Of course, those other players (Martavis Bryant, Le’Veon Bell) were suspended for violating the substance abuse policy, reportedly for marijuana and missed drug tests.
Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star says all signs point to QB JACOBY BRISSETT getting the start Sunday against Tennessee:
The bye week figures to have given Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett ample time to recover from the concussion-like symptoms he developed after the team’s 20-17 loss to the Steelers last Sunday.
Brissett took “the lion’s share” of the snaps during the Colts’ workout Monday and is expected to be under center when the team hosts the Titans on Sunday.
“He should be OK,” coach Chuck Pagano said, noting that Brissett “looked good” during a four-period practice session Monday morning. “We should be OK.”
Still in the concussion protocol, Brissett will have to be cleared by both a team physician and an independent neurological consultant after practicing this week, and cannot exhibit any recurring signs of the concussion.
After a day off Tuesday, the Colts will practice Wednesday through Friday before holding their customary walkthrough on Saturday morning.
The additional fact that the Colts did not sign a third quarterback to the active roster during the bye week further indicates Brissett is expected to return to action.
Brissett took a shot to the helmet from Steelers defensive end Stephon Truitt in last Sunday’s loss and passed four separate concussion evaluations during and after the game. The concussion-like symptoms that developed later caused Brissett to enter the concussion protocol.
Rookie QB NATHAN PETERMAN was a disaster in the eyes of nearly everyone. Veteran QB TYROD TAYLOR is okay, not great. Coach Sean McDermott says he doesn’t know who is going to start on Sunday. An incredulous Jay Skurski in the Buffalo News:
The evidence would seem to suggest an open-and-shut case when it comes to who should start at quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.
Judge Sean McDermott, however, sees it differently.
“Still evaluating right now,” the first-year head coach said Monday when asked whether Nathan Peterman or Tyrod Taylor would start in Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs. “Still evaluating, and we’ll take it one day at a time right now.”
That McDermott is leaving the door open for Peterman will come as a shock to most observers. The rookie played one of the worst games in franchise history Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, becoming the first quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to throw five interceptions in the first half.
“Let me start off here with Nathan: One game is not going to define Nathan or Nathan’s career,” McDermott said. “Young players go through it. And you saw some of it yesterday. And I put that back on myself. I own the decision. And still, as I said yesterday, I don’t regret the decision. I regret the result. And there’s other hands, also, so it’s never about one player. I’m confident in Nathan and his mental toughness and you know, we move forward, we learn, we grow from it and we get better.”
After evaluating the film of Buffalo’s 54-24 loss, McDermott said he found some silver linings in Peterman’s play, despite how gruesome the box score looks.
“I remain confident in Nathan. There’s some plays yesterday I know he wants back,” he said. “There was also some plays from him, where you look at it and say, ‘that was pretty darn good.’ Hard to see on the surface, you know the 10,000-foot view, hard to see that with the result being what it was. You take it one play at a time, and you really look at it and say, we were moving the ball. You sometimes you’ve got to throw and you’ve gotta catch. … But again, I own the decision and that’s on me.”
McDermott, however, stopped short of saying his call at quarterback backfired.
“Sometimes you make decisions in leadership roles like this that work out, and sometimes they don’t work out,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is you try to make every decision with the right agenda, the right decision-making process in mind and that leads you to the decision that you feel is right. And that’s what I felt like in this case. And I stand by that decision. Obviously it didn’t work out. And so, you go back, you learn from it. I learn from it as a head coach, and I expect us all to learn from it. We grow and we move forward as we continue to build.”
Needless to say, there are those in the media reacting with amazement. Here’s Tony Kornheiser for one:
Tony Kornheiser, most known for co-hosting ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” with Michael Wilbon, said on his podcast Monday that Bills coach Sean McDermott should be fired after his decision to bench Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman blew up in his face during Sunday’s 54-24 loss.
“He should be fired! This is a catastrophic mistake,” Kornheiser said on “The Tony Kornheiser Show.” “Then he says he will re-evaluate the starter. Re-evaluate? What are you talking about?”
This from Sam Monson of ProFootballFocus.com:
The decision the Buffalo Bills made to bench starting QB Tyrod Taylor after a couple of sub-par performances ultimately went array, quickly. In fact, Taylor found himself back in the lineup after half time of the Bills game against the Chargers this week, and in a 30-point hole.
Rookie fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman had managed to throw five interceptions in just 25 snaps, only 15 of which were passing plays. Not all of those interceptions were Peterman’s fault, but anytime you’re splitting hairs over how many of the five interceptions were actually on the quarterback or not, things have not gone well.
Peterman ended that game with an overall PFF grade of just 32.0, eight points lower than the worst game Taylor has posted in 39 games starting for Buffalo.
That brings us to the Tyrod Taylor question. In her fantastic piece on the subject, ESPN’s Mina Kimes dives headlong into the enigma that is Tyrod Taylor the quarterback. Despite playing well pretty much since he stumbled into a starting opportunity, Taylor has always had a target on his back from a large section of Bills fans, because he isn’t a conventional NFL quarterback.
In three years of starting for the Bills, Taylor has topped 300 passing yards just once, but he has 16 games with a passer rating of 100.0 or more in the same span, or 41 percent of his games.
Those headline box score numbers encapsulate Tyrod Taylor in a nutshell. He’s not a prolific passer, but he is efficient, and that dynamic simply doesn’t sit well with some people in this era of endless passing and cheap yardage.
On the season, Taylor has a turnover worthy play percentage of just 1.07 percent, second-best in the league. He has put the ball in harm’s way less often than Tom Brady has this year. Obviously Brady has made more big plays to offset that, but it’s important to appreciate just how reliable and careful Taylor is with the football, and there was no greater reminder of that than this Sunday.
On 25 plays, Peterman had a TWP percentage of 12.5, and actually has the same number of total TWPs as Taylor has all season in just one half of football.
In effect, Taylor is the ultimate game manager at the quarterback position, but unlike most of those players, he has an extra dimension to his game, the ability to make plays with his legs. Since becoming starter in Buffalo, Taylor has 1,416 rushing yards, but 999 of them have been on passing plays, taking off from the pocket and scrambling for positive yardage.
This trait is a delicate balance, because any time a quarterback abandons the pocket he is potentially leaving a big passing play on the table, but Taylor accounts for an additional thousand yards as a starter than he gets credit for as a passer in most people’s eyes. He has scrambled for positive yardage 127 times over the past two and a half years, breaking 40 tackles on those plays.
This is part of the reason that Taylor grades significantly higher than he appears in box score numbers at PFF, where his play is broken down play by play compared with the rest of the league.
Taylor has graded in the top 15 in each of the past three seasons, never posting a grade lower than 83.2 over a season. To put that into some context, Ben Roethlisberger, and an Alex Smith in the midst of a career-year are two quarterbacks currently with an overall PFF grade of 83.0.
He definitely has limitations as a passer, and isn’t as accurate or as aggressive as you would like to see, but not being a great quarterback doesn’t mean you aren’t a good one. Despite holding the ball longer than any other quarterback on average (Taylor averaged 3.11 seconds per play this season, one of just three passers over three seconds), he has a passer rating of 90.0 on plays that take 2.6 seconds or longer, and has thrown six touchdowns on those plays compared to just two picks.
This season, Taylor also showed that he could succeed in an offense that wasn’t built around his unique skillset. The Bills under their current regime haven’t run the exotic option looks or run/pass options (RPOs) they did over the past couple of years, and yet Taylor continued to grade well and be efficient.
When the defense was playing well, the team was winning games. As soon as that defense began to get gashed, Taylor isn’t the quarterback that can overcome opposing offenses in a shootout, but that’s like replacing your air conditioning unit because it can’t keep your house cool when the back wall collapses – not really addressing the root cause of the problem.
As for Peterman, as disastrous as this outing was, his preseason performances were strong and his college grades solid. He was a fifth-round pick that has some tools, but wasn’t the answer to a team struggling to find its best play. Peterman may have more to offer down the line, but he was badly exposed in this debut outing.
Nick Veronica, also in the Buffalo News, notices a statistical quirk for the two Buffalo QBs:
Bills rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman threw 14 passes Sunday in his first career start, completing six to Bills players and five to Chargers players. Adding in his 7-for-10 performance last week against the Saints, five of his 24 career passes have been intercepted, or 20.83 percent.
Tyrod Taylor replaced Peterman at halftime and completed 15 of 25 passes with no interceptions. That improved his career mark to 17 interceptions on 1,130 attempts, or 1.50 percent.
Coach Sean McDermott said after the game that he hadn’t made a decision on who his quarterback would be going forward. Here are the options: The player with the best career interception percentage in NFL history*, or the one with the worst**.
Taylor leads all players with at least 1,000 pass attempts in career interception percentage. Aaron Rodgers is second (1.55 percent), Colin Kaepernick is third (1.77) and Tom Brady is fourth (1.79). Taylor gets an asterisk, though, because to qualify for most career records, a passer needs 1,500 attempts.
Peterman obviously has a small sample size, which is where his asterisks come in. But of any player in NFL history with at least 20 pass attempts, no one has thrown a higher percentage of interceptions than him. Former Jets quarterback Bill Demory (1973-74) is the only other player since the AFL-NFL merger to top a 20-percent interception rate for his career on at least 20 passes, but his 20.51 is less than Peterman’s 20.83.
And apropos of nothing, we give Veronica credit for noticing that with the implosion of the Georgia Dome, three of the four stadiums in which the Bills lost Super Bowls are gone. Tampa Stadium and the Metrodome have also vanished, while the Rose Bowl remains.
It’s a long way from the glory days of Miko Grimes, but JAY CUTLER’s wife has some things to say on social media. Jay Busbee at Shutdown Corner:
So here’s one for the gossipy/celeb types among you: Kristin Cavallari, wife of Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler, isn’t happy about football, and she doesn’t much care who knows it.
In an Instagram story, she had this to say (language warning):
“Sometimes I wish I could just say how I really feel about this football [business],” she wrote. “And give commentary about what I’m realllllly thinking. How great would that be.”
Cutler was headed for a cushy job behind a Fox Sports microphone when the Miami Dolphins came calling, waving a $10 million check. And that was enough to get Cutler to lace up the cleats one more time … and get himself concussed and cracked up in the process.
So is Cavallari upset with the game of football? Her husband for going back? The legions of fans who never miss an opportunity to pile grief on Cutler? All of the above? Who knows, but it’s clear that Cavallari is one of the ever-growing ranks of fans disenchanted with the NFL. Speculate away, folks.
Divergent views on the Mexico City experience from Coach Bill Belichick and QB TOM BRADY. Belichick is not a fan, but in a thoughtful, pragmatic way. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said after Sunday’s victory over the Oakland Raiders at Estadio Azteca that he plans on visiting again.
For coach Bill Belichick, there isn’t the same strong desire to return.
“Personally, I wouldn’t be in any big rush to do it again,” Belichick said Monday during his weekly appearance on sports radio WEEI when asked whether he’d like to play in Mexico again. “It’s a long way to go for a game. There’s a lot in terms of all the logistics of it. They are not used to having an NFL team, so you have to go in there and handle a lot of the logistics. It took a lot of manpower, a lot of hours, a lot of energy out of our organization to do that. We are exhausted from the trip.”
The Patriots, who thumped the Raiders 33-8, arrived home early Monday morning.
“It was a good trip but it took a lot out of us,” Belichick said on WEEI’s “Dale & Holley” Show with Rich Keefe. “It’s a lot. We spent a lot of time talking about altitude, about hydration, about food, water, training elements — much more so than, say, Denver. Pick another city that has some similarities, but it is quite a bit different.
“We dealt with it. Players did a great job dealing with all the challenges we had to deal with. I think we’re fortunate there was no volcano eruptions or earthquakes, or anything else while we were down there. You have two NFL franchises in an area that I don’t know how stable the geological plates that were below us [were], but nothing happened, so that was good.”
The NFL announced Sunday that a game will be played in Mexico each season through 2021.
After Sunday’s game, Brady talked about how much he enjoyed the experience, as fans chanted his name throughout the game.
“To be here and play in a different country and to have everyone cheer for our team, cheer for me and cheer for my teammates is incredible. Hopefully there’s many more games here,” he said. “It’s a great experience. I’ve never been to Mexico City, but I’m definitely coming back. We stayed in a beautiful hotel, I had a beautiful view in my room. Just a very historic stadium. I know there’s been some really important sporting events here.
“It’s really a privilege for us to be here to play in front of all of the fans of Mexico and all the people watching on TV.”
THIS AND THAT
GOODELL AND HIS LAWYERS
Paul Haagan, a law professor at Duke, offers some reasons for Roger Goodell’s propensity for running up NFL legal bills – as recounted by Sean Cunningham of RealClearLife.com:
How is this happening?
“The Commissioner believes that he has both the responsibility and the authority to act in what he regards as the best interest of the league,” Haagen said. Indeed, Goodell seems convinced the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement grants him authority “completely without limits, without any kind of controls.” (It’s not just Goodell who feels this way: Haagen noted that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately agreed with this interpretation in the Brady case.)
Yet Goodell still has wound up in court more often than Matlock. Why?
There are three primary reasons:
A Problem with Process. You may have noticed that in recent years the NBA has not engaged in epic legal tussles with LeBron nor has MLB with Clayton Kershaw nor the NHL with Sidney Crosby. One reason why: “I think it’s probably not coincidental that all of the commissioners of the major sports league except for one are lawyers.” Yep, Goodell is the non-attorney. The result is a leader who does not “appear to have a really high degree of interest in fidelity to process.” In fact, Goodell often seems to be…
Making It Up As He Goes Along. Haagen has found that Goodell views himself as “not constrained by laws, by rules, and by his past behavior.” The result is leadership that is occasionally “unpredictable,” so that former Giant kicker Josh Brown could be suspended one game for domestic abuse, only to have that suspension abruptly extended by six games. Finally, there’s…
General Sloppiness. The Bountygate incident found Goodell looking to strike a blow for player safety by severely punishing the New Orleans Saints for taking out bounties on opponents. Then former commissioner Paul Tagliabue reviewed it and vacated the player suspensions. Similarly, the Ray Rice domestic abuse investigation displayed a shocking amount of ineptitude. TMZ cracked the case by getting video of the incident while the NFL literally couldn’t be bothered to make a phone call.
The result is that even though U.S. law offers “very, very limited” grounds for challenging the arbitral process, the NFL still conducted itself in such a way that “the players’ union can make a quite credible case, even given how narrow the grounds are.” (At a minimum, Goodell leaves himself open to constant second guessing.)
“You say fans are confused—I think the judges who are looking at it are confused,” Haagen mused.
It should be noted that the NFL Commissioner (and the NFL owners) are in a uniquely powerful position. “The players, they got beaten down this last collective bargaining agreement,” Haagen said. In general, athletes in the other three major sports are better off: “Those players have longer careers. You don’t have quite the culture of disposability that you have in football.” (In particular, the NFL is notorious for non-guaranteed contracts.)
Yet there’s a strong argument the NFL’s need to dominate its players is shortsighted. Compare it to the NBA. “When Adam Silver became commissioner, he was faced with an enormous potential problem in the Donald Sterling case.” After racist recorded remarks by the longtime Clipper owner were revealed, his players were “threatening to boycott playoff games.”
It never came to that, as Silver successfully forced Sterling out as an owner in just four months. (Or about as long as the NFL spent initially investigating Deflategate.)
While quick to note he didn’t want to suggest some kind of “Kumbaya relationship,” Haagen said the players were willing to “back their commissioner in part because their commissioner had a better relationship with them and treats them as partners in the general activity.” This is something that “comes harder to the NFL.”
AIKMAN RATINGS thru Week 11
The Eagles have widened their lead in the Aikman Combined Ratings compiled by STATS to 8.4 points, doubling the advantage they held over the Jaguars after Week 10.
With their big win over the Rams, the Vikings have closed to a close third.
Things are unchanged in Aikman Offense and Aikman Defense. The Eagles are first on the offensive side for the third straight week, but the Patriots have closed to within a point. The Jaguars hold the lead in Aikman Defense for the fifth straight week, with the Steelers their closest pursuer.
At the bottom of the Aikman Combined, the winless Browns have been identified as the worst team by a substantial margin. Cleveland is last in Aikman Offense and 28th in Aikman Defense.
Aikman Combined Ratings Through Week 11, 2017
——— Aikman ——– —— NFL ——–
Rank Record Team Combined Off Def Off Def Combined
1 9-1 Eagles 176.2 94.8 81.4 3 7 10
2 7-3 Jaguars 167.8 82.6 85.2 8 1 9
3 8-2 Vikings 167.3 88.0 79.3 5 5 10
4 8-2 Saints 162.5 92.3 70.1 1 13 14
5 8-2 Patriots 161.3 94.0 67.3 2 32 34
6 7-3 Rams 160.1 86.2 73.9 4 16 20
7 8-2 Steelers 159.0 79.2 79.8 11 4 15
8 6-4 Falcons 155.4 85.0 70.4 10 10 20
9 6-4 Seahawks 155.3 80.7 74.6 7 9 16
10 5-5 Ravens 155.2 72.9 82.3 31 6 37
11 4-6 Chargers 153.7 80.0 73.6 15 22 37
12 7-3 Panthers 153.3 82.0 71.3 17 2 19
13 6-4 Chiefs 151.5 87.0 64.5 6 28 34
14 6-4 Titans 150.4 80.1 70.3 20 14 34
15 5-5 Cowboys 150.2 84.8 65.4 14 15 29
16 6-4 Lions 149.6 79.0 70.6 16 23 39
17 4-6 Texans 148.9 79.4 69.5 12 20 32
18 5-5 Packers 148.3 82.2 66.2 23 18 41
19 3-7 Bears 147.7 74.7 73.0 26 11 37
20 4-6 Jets 146.8 77.3 69.6 25 21 46
21 5-5 Bills 146.4 79.7 66.7 27 25 52
22 4-6 Redskins 145.3 82.1 63.2 9 24 33
23 4-6 Buccaneers 145.1 76.7 68.4 13 29 42
24 4-6 Raiders 144.2 81.6 62.6 21 26 47
25 3-7 Broncos 141.7 71.4 70.3 18 3 21
26 3-7 Colts 140.7 73.0 67.8 28 30 58
27 4-6 Bengals 139.6 67.7 71.9 32 12 44
28 2-8 Giants 139.5 74.1 65.3 24 31 55
29 1-9 49ers 137.2 73.4 63.8 22 27 49
30 4-6 Cardinals 136.8 71.4 65.4 19 19 38
31 4-6 Dolphins 135.5 73.9 61.6 30 17 47
32 0-10 Browns 127.4 62.6 64.8 29 8 37
Aikman Offense Ratings Through Week 11, 2017
Aik NFL Team AER
1 3 Eagles 94.8
2 2 Patriots 94.0
3 1 Saints 92.3
4 5 Vikings 88.0
5 6 Chiefs 87.0
6 4 Rams 86.2
7 10 Falcons 85.0
8 14 Cowboys 84.8
9 8 Jaguars 82.6
10 23 Packers 82.2
11 9 Redskins 82.1
12 17 Panthers 82.0
13 21 Raiders 81.6
14 7 Seahawks 80.7
15 20 Titans 80.1
16 15 Chargers 80.0
17 27 Bills 79.7
18 12 Texans 79.4
19 11 Steelers 79.2
20 16 Lions 79.0
21 25 Jets 77.3
22 13 Buccaneers 76.7
23 26 Bears 74.7
24 24 Giants 74.1
25 30 Dolphins 73.9
26 22 49ers 73.4
27 28 Colts 73.0
28 31 Ravens 72.9
29 19 Cardinals 71.4
30 18 Broncos 71.4
31 32 Bengals 67.7
32 29 Browns 62.6
NFL Average 79.7
Aikman Defense Ratings Through Week 11, 2017
Aik NFL Team AER
1 1 Jaguars 85.2
2 6 Ravens 82.3
3 7 Eagles 81.4
4 4 Steelers 79.8
5 5 Vikings 79.3
6 9 Seahawks 74.6
7 16 Rams 73.9
8 22 Chargers 73.6
9 11 Bears 73.0
10 12 Bengals 71.9
11 2 Panthers 71.3
12 23 Lions 70.6
13 10 Falcons 70.4
14 3 Broncos 70.3
15 14 Titans 70.3
16 13 Saints 70.1
17 21 Jets 69.6
18 20 Texans 69.5
19 29 Buccaneers 68.4
20 30 Colts 67.8
21 32 Patriots 67.3
22 25 Bills 66.7
23 18 Packers 66.2
24 19 Cardinals 65.4
25 15 Cowboys 65.4
26 31 Giants 65.3
27 8 Browns 64.8
28 28 Chiefs 64.5
29 27 49ers 63.8
30 24 Redskins 63.2
31 26 Raiders 62.6
32 17 Dolphins 61.6
NFL Average 70.3
Ratings Courtesy of STATS