AROUND THE NFL

Vic Fangio with a radical proposal.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Every few years when a division is won by a team with a less-than-sterling record, eating up a playoff spot while a better team sits at home during the postseason, reconstruction comes to the forefront of the NFL.

 

The year is particularly noteworthy with the TV-magnet NFC East, once the league’s crown jewel, cratering like a lump of coal tossed into a pit of sadness. The gloomy division has a current combined record of 17-35. Dallas and Philadelphia sit at 6-7 atop the division. The best either could do is 9-7.

 

Either Philly or Dallas will host a team that will have a far better record come January, likely either San Francisco or Seattle, both of which already have 10 wins with three weeks to play.

 

The nature of the NFC East’s putrid play being on display had led to questions about whether there is a better way to decide who will play in the tournament for the Lombardi Trophy.

 

Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio, whose first NFL coaching gig came in 1984, is stumping for the “No Divisions” crowd.

 

“Since the league went to 32 teams, which was when the Texans came in in 2002, my ideal suggestion — which has never been put forth in front of anybody important — I don’t think there should be divisions,” Fangio said Wednesday, via 9News Denver. “I think you’ve got 16 in each conference. Everybody should play each other once. That’s 15 games. Then if you want a 16th game, you play a natural rival from the other conference-Jets and Giants play every year. Eagles-Steelers, Texans-Cowboys, etcetera, play every year. Then keep it at 16 games, but you’ll avoid the problem that’s going to happen this year where probably an 8-8 team is hosting a 12-4 team.”

 

The solution would certainly solve the problem of division winners with weak records getting into the playoffs.

 

“You’re going to get the six best teams in each conference,” Fangio said. “The divisions always float. There are some that are easy some years, some that have a bunch of good teams, that switches back and forth every couple years.

 

“I just think that’d be a good way to avoid it, but I’m not for 17 games. I think it should stay at 16.”

 

No solution is perfect. In Fangio’s system, there would be fewer cross-conference opportunities each year, which would wipe out chances for, say, the Packers to play the Steelers or Drew Brees’ Saints to take on Tom Brady’s Patriots ever few years.

 

While some fans might gnash their teeth at the prospect of Philly or Dallas getting into the playoffs while a better team sits home, the league doesn’t sound ready to even broach the topic.

 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked Wednesday whether there was any conversation about re-seeding the playoffs during the owners’ meeting this week, and he summarily shot it down.

 

“This is not the first time this conversation has occurred or this situation’s occurred,” he said. “Teams go into the season with the first objective is to win the division. That’s what they work on — we win the division and get into the playoffs. That is something we’ve considered over the years. I have not heard that this year and I don’t anticipate hearing it again. It’s been discussed in the past but I don’t see that as an issue. If it comes up we’ll certainly have a conversation. I don’t anticipate it.”

 

Sorry, Vic, it looks like your No Divisions idea won’t happen, and you could also see your anti-17 games take ignored as well, depending on the outcome of CBA negotiations this offseason. I doubt an 0-2 record is getting Fangio into the Suggestion Box Playoffs.

 

How to say this?

 

Take 16 teams.  Pick four at random.  What are the chances that none of the four teams you pick would end up in the best six of those 16 teams.

 

We think that would be 10/16 x 9/15 x 8/14 x 7/13.  We get that as about 11%.  So that means that randomly 11% of four-team divisions would not have a playoff-worthy team.

 

If you had five-team divisions, as we had before, you would add a time 6/12 at the end and the chance of a division without a top six team goes down to around 5%.

 

What we are trying to say, is that when the NFL cut the divisions from five teams to four, we had about twice as great a chance of having a “bad” division.

 

So if the divisions are smaller, the chances of a cluster of bad teams, like we have this year in the NFC East, is greater.

 

On the other hand, the Fangio plan doesn’t give us the variety of scheduling we are accustomed to.  Playing the teams in the other conference about once every four years seems normal.  Playing them once every eight to 16 years, or not at all, as the Fangio Plan floats seems wrong. 

 

So if you go to larger groups, but do it like college and only play teams in your conference once a year?

 

So, how about, one expansion team, call it London.

 

Three 11-team conferences, we’ll do it geographically

 

West                Central            East

 

Seattle             Buffalo                        London

Las Vegas       Cleveland        New England

San Francisco Cincinnati        Jets

Rams              Pittsburgh        Giants

Chargers         Atlanta             Philadelphia

Arizona            New Orleans   Baltimore

Denver                        Indianapolis     Washington

Kansas City     Detroit             Carolina

Houston           Chicago           Jacksonville

Dallas              Green Bay      Miami

Tennessee      Minnesota       Tampa Bay

                       

We’re not happy with Tennessee as the 11th team in the West, but we can’t see breaking up the four teams in the NFC North or splitting New Orleans from Atlanta.

           

Each team plays a team in its own conference once per year – 10 games, 6 or 7 games with the other 22 teams by formula.  Top two in each conference make the playoffs, next six teams with the best records.

 

Would four eight-team super divisions make more sense? Dallas non-sensically insisting on being in same division with New York

 

West

Central

South

East

Seattle

Cleveland

Carolina

New England

Las Vegas

Cincinnati

Jacksonville

Jets

San Francisco

Pittsburgh

Miami

Giants

Rams

Indianapolis

Tampa Bay

Philadelphia

Chargers

Detroit

Atlanta

Baltimore

Arizona

Chicago

New Orleans

Washington

Denver

Green Bay

Houston

Buffalo

Kansas City

Minnesota

Tennessee

Dallas

 

Seven games with your division each year.  One game with each of the other three divisions on a rotating basis every three years.  That’s 15 games.  Plus one or two random games based on positioning.  Top two in each conference make playoffs, plus four Wild Cards?

 

Advantages – more geographical games – i.e. the Florida teams are not in three different divisions, the Texas and New York teams play every year, many traditional division rivalries preserved but only on a once a year basis such as in college.  And less chance of bad playoff teams.

 

Bad?  No more conferences as we know it, Super Bowl could be two teams now in the same division.

 

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

The Vikings expect to have WR ADAM THIELEN available at the Chargers on Sunday per ESPN.com:

 

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen is expected to return to the lineup Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, barring a setback in practice this week, a league source tells ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

Thielen has missed the Vikings’ past four games due to a hamstring injury but still is tied for the team lead with six touchdown receptions this season.

 

He has 27 receptions for 391 yards in his eight games this season.

 

Last season, he led the Vikings with 113 receptions and 1,373 receiving yards and tied for the team lead with nine touchdown receptions.

 

The Vikings are currently in second place in the NFC North standings with a 9-4 record.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Ryan Honey of EliteSportsNY.com on the sighting of Abby Manning in the City of Brotherly Love:

 

On Monday night, Eli Manning started at the quarterback position for the New York Giants for the first time since Week 2. Rookie Daniel Jones has been the starter for much of this season. However, the first-year player suffered a high ankle sprain and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks.

 

Thus, Manning took on the starting duties in Philadelphia with his wife Abby watching from the booth. Why is this unusual?

 

Apparently, Abby stopped coming to games in Philly earlier in Eli’s career. But due to the situation, she broke their cardinal rule and sat in the booth with Olivia, Archie and Peyton Manning.

 

“She came early on in my career. She kind of said she would never come back to a Philly game. Fans can be kind of rough in there,” Manning said. “But, she thought she had to break her rule and come to this one.”

 

Reporters then asked Manning why this game was different than the other ones at Lincoln Financial Field.

 

“I hadn’t played in three months, and you don’t know if I’m going to play again,” he said. “I think it’s pretty obvious why it was important.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

Coach Doug Marrone knows what could happen as he prepares to deal with the wrath of Shad Khan and Jaguars fans after a failed season.  John Reid of the Florida Times-Union:

 

The Jaguars are down, unable to win a game in six weeks or beat a team with a winning record all season.

 

They have discouraged their fans and Coach Doug Marrone’s future with the franchise appears to be jeopardy, along with top football executive Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell, when the season mercilessly ends.

 

Despite trying to stay spirited, the Jaguars (4-9) are on pace to close out the season with their worst final two-month stretch in franchise history.

 

In their 25-year history, no Jaguars team has closed out a season losing six or more consecutive games.

 

″We’re all fighting for our jobs,″ Coach Doug Marrone said. ″ Everybody’s fighting to maintain, to try to stay in the league. Whether it’s players by doing a good job being able to perform so they can keep a job, or whether it be coaches doing a good job with their position group, or whether it be me trying to win football games. It’s a constant evaluation in this league. But I think it even gets more of a microscope when you’re not winning football games.”

 

We think Reid should have written when the season “mercifully” ends.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com on a new addition to the Patriots practice squad:

 

In a season in which they’ve employed four kickers on the active roster, the New England Patriots added an unusual layer of insurance at the position Wednesday by signing Josh Gable — who never played college football — to their practice squad.

 

Gable, 29, played professional soccer in Italy and Belgium before returning to the United States in 2016 to kick for the Nebraska Danger, Iowa Barnstormers and Tucson Sugar Skulls in the Indoor Football League. But Gable is probably best known for the trick-shot kicks he has posted on social media.

 

The Patriots have kept close tabs on Gable for three years, having first invited him to their rookie minicamp in 2017. He was also among a group of kickers the Patriots worked out in early October this year after Stephen Gostkowski was placed on injured reserve due to his left hip injury.

 

The team ultimately signed 37-year-old veteran Mike Nugent out of that group, and he lasted four games. Nick Folk was signed to replace Nugent, and when the 32-year-old Folk required surgery on his appendix in late November, Kai Forbath replaced him for one game.

 

Folk was re-signed on Saturday, and in four games with the Patriots, he’s 8-of-11 on field goal attempts and 4-of-4 on point-after attempts.

 

It’s unlikely the Patriots would turn the job over to Gable, particularly given what is almost certainly ahead — high-stakes playoff games. But with open spots on the practice squad, and Gable’s versatility to help handle kickoffs, punts and field goals in practice, his addition could take some strain off Folk and punter Jake Bailey (who handles kickoffs).

 

It also gives the Patriots the chance to work with Gable and evaluate whether he might be a legitimate option for the top job in the 2020 season.

 

In 2019 with the Sugar Skulls of the Indoor Football League, Gable was 6-of-16 on field goals and 50-of-57 on point-after attempts. Goalposts in the IFL are 9 feet wide, and the crossbar is 15 feet high, while the goalposts in the NFL are 18 feet, 6 inches wide, and the crossbar is 10 feet high.

 

Gable’s specialty, which you can see here, is having long kicks hit a light pole – rather than pas through a pair of goalposts.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS

The Ravens still lead the Aikman Efficiency Rankings, both in Aikman Combined and Aikman Offense – but they did fall under the 100 mark on offense in last week’s win at Buffalo.  Baltimore is bidding to become the first ever team to finish the year above 100 in Aikman Offense.

 

The Patriots continue in first place in both Aikman Defense and in the NFL’s Yards Only ranking.

 

While the Aikmans continue to generally follow the NFL’s won-loss ranking, we do note that the Cowboys have not backed up their success on Aikman Offense and Defense with victory.  Dallas is also having great success in the NFL’s Yards Only rankings with the third-best combined total led by the NFL’s top offense in terms of gaining yards.

 

The NFL’s “third-best” offense belongs to the Buccaneers who have piled up 392 yards per game.  Tampa Bay is also 3rd in the NFL in points per game at 29.1.  But with their league-high 32 turnovers coming into play in the Aikman’s the Bucs are only 14th in Aikman Offense.

 

Conversely, the Saints are 12th in yards per the NFL, but when their league-best 8 turnovers are factored in, they rise to 5th in Aikman Offense.

 

                                                                —-         Aikman —–                        —-         NFL        ——

Rank      Record  Team                     Comb    Off         Def                         Off         Def         Comb

  1            11-2       Ravens                 172.5     98.8        73.7                          2              6              8

  2            11-2       49ers                     169.5     87.8        81.6                          4              2              6

  3            10-3       Patriots                  168.6     80.6        88.0                        15             1            16

  4              9-4        Vikings                  164.2     90.9        73.3                        11           14           25

  5              6-7        Cowboys             161.6     91.5        70.1                          1              9            10

  6              9-4        Bills                        158.6     83.3        75.2                        20             3            23

  7              9-4        Chiefs                   157.7     89.1        68.6                          6            20           26

  8            10-3       Saints                    157.7     89.2        68.5                        12           13           25

  9            10-3       Seahawks            157.3     87.8        69.5                          5            26           31

10           10-3       Packers                  157.0     87.3        69.6                        23           22           45

11             8-5        Titans                    154.8     85.9        69.0                        18           19           37

12             6-7        Eagles                   153.3     84.4        68.9                        17           11           28

13             6-7        Colts                      152.9     85.4        67.4                        22           15           37

14             6-7        Buccaneers         152.5     82.9        69.6                          3            17           20

15             8-5        Rams                     151.7     81.2        70.5                          8              8            16

16             8-5        Texans                  150.3     90.5        59.7                          9            25           34

17             5-8        Chargers              150.2     81.4        68.8                        10             4            14

18             8-5        Steelers                 149.6     71.0        78.7                        28             5            33

19             7-6        Bears                     149.0     76.0        73.0                        29           10           39

20             5-8        Broncos                148.6     75.4        73.2                        27           12           39

21             6-7        Browns                 148.4     79.5        68.9                        19           16           35

22             4-9        Falcons                 144.2     82.2        62.1                          7            21           28

23             3-9-1    Lions                      143.2     81.8        61.4                        13           29           42

24             5-8        Panthers              140.2     78.7        61.4                        21           24           45

25             6-7        Raiders                 139.7     82.3        57.4                        14           27           41

26             5-8        Jets                        138.6     68.2        70.4                        31             7            38

27             3-9-1    Cardinals              137.8     78.4        59.4                        24           32           56

28             2-11     Giants                   137.8     72.3        65.5                        26           28           54

29             4-9        Jaguars                 136.5     75.0        61.5                        16           23           39

30             3-10     Redskins              133.7     67.9        65.8                        32           18           50

31             1-12     Bengals                 132.2     68.2        64.1                        25           31           56

32             3-10     Dolphins              127.6     71.2        56.4                        30           30           60

                                                                                                                                                               

                                NFL Average:     149.9     81.4        68.5