AROUND THE NFL

Limted Briefing this week with travel and connectivity issue.  Hope to be back with you next on Friday morning

 

– – –

 

If the Season Ended Today in the AFC:

 

                     

                                                                 Div            Conf

Kansas City                 West  10-2           4-0             8-1

New England               East     9-3           3-0             6-2

Houston                       South   9-3           3-1             7-2

Pittsburgh                    North    7-4-1        3-1-1          4-4-1

LA Chargers                WC       9-3           2-2             6-2

Baltimore                     WC       7-5            2-3            6-3

Miami                                       6-6            3-1             5-4

Indianapolis                              6-6            2-2            5-5

Denver                                     6-6           2-2             4-5

Tennessee                               6-6           2-2             4-6

 

Could the Steelers fall all the way out of the playoffs?  At Raiders, New England, at New Orleans, Cincinnati.  9-6-1 looks likely. 

 

If Baltimore gets to 10-6, the Pittsburgh is in the pool for the 2nd Wild Card spot.  Baltimore has at KC, Tampa Bay, at LA Chargers, Cleveland. 

 

Can any of the 6-6 teams run the table?

 

Miami – New England, at Minnesota, Jacksonville, at Buffalo

Indianapolis – at Houston, Dallas, resurgent Giants, at Tennessee

Denver – at San Francisco, Cleveland, at Oakland, LA Chargers (resting?)

Tennessee – Jacksonville, at NY Giants, Washington, Indianapolis

 

And remember, Cinicinnati earned the gratitude of Buffalo fans last year with a road win in Week 17 at Baltimore.

 

So going into Week 17 could be

 

Pittsburgh 8-6-1         Bengals

Baltimore  8-7            Cleveland

 

Denver        9-6          LA Chargers (11-4)

Tennessee  8-7          Indianapollis

Indianapolis 8-7          at Tennessee

Miami           8-7          at Buffalo

 

Quite the mess.

 

Turning to the NFC, the Rams, Cowboys and Seahawks were the big winners.  So too the Eagles.

 

NFC                                                       Div             Conf

Los Angeles Rams      West   11-1        4-0               7-1                                                   

New Orleans               South   10-2        2-1              7-2

Chicago                       North     8-4        3-1              6-2       

Dallas                          East      7-5         3-1             6-3

Seattle                         WC       7-5         2-2            6-3

Minnesota                    WC       6-5-1     2-1-1          5-3-1

Carolina                                    6-6        1-2             4-5                                                   

Philadelphia                              6-6        3-1             4-5     

Washington                              6-6         2-2             6-4                  

Tampa Bay                               5-7        2-2             4-5   

 

– – –

 

Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com with the news that the NFL thinks it has fixed and saved the kickoff – and that now it is turning its attention to the punt.

 

The NFL plans to make material changes to its punt play, possibly as early as the 2019 season, league officials confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday. The exercise includes a twist: the NFL will crowdsource ideas from the analytics community.

 

The effort will be part of the 1st and Future project, an innovation competition that culminates in a Feb. 2 presentation in Atlanta, site of Super Bowl LIII. It will continue an ongoing initiative to modernize special teams, most recently through a redesigned kickoff.

 

Before this season, concussions were five times as likely to occur on kickoffs than the average run or pass play, making it the most dangerous play in the game. Punts are next on that list, causing twice as many concussions, according to Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of health and safety initiatives.

 

ESPN reported last month that league officials were confident enough in the kickoff changes — which were driven by internal data study — that they were ready to move on to punts.

 

Rich McKay, the Atlanta Falcons’ CEO who also chairs the NFL competition committee, did not commit to adopting any of the public submissions. But he said the punt has long frustrated the league because of not only injuries but also its penalty rate.

 

Annually, it is the most penalized play in football.

 

“We know our fans are not big fans of every play ending in a penalty,” McKay said, “and that’s one thing we definitely want to look at.”

 

The league will provide data from every punt play during the 2016-17 seasons, said Chris Sherwood, a research engineer at Biocore, a biomechanical engineering firm that works with the NFL. The data set will also include injury information and Next Gen stats, the X/Y position and speeds of every player on the field.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

Would the Packers really hire Josh McDaniels?  Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com:

 

With Mike McCarthy out for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, a new question will orbit the franchise for the next month or two: Could New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels be the next man in?

 

A handful of NFL assistant coaches have indicated interest in joining a McDaniels-led coaching staff in Green Bay, according to sources who spoke to Yahoo Sports on Sunday. So much so that at least one has pulled his name from consideration for a college coordinator position. While such a development doesn’t guarantee mutual interest between the Packers and McDaniels, it is an indication the Patriots assistant is maintaining a list of staff candidates if he chooses to depart New England.

 

It remains to be seen whether the Packers would entertain a McDaniels pursuit, something that seemed unthinkable less than 10 months ago after McDaniels agreed to and then reneged on a commitment to take over the Indianapolis Colts. But league sources told Yahoo Sports as far back as last summer that McDaniels didn’t consider himself to be “burned” when it came to future head-coaching opportunities. An opinion that likely buoyed when he signed with Athletes First, which has a number of coaches as clients (including the now-fired McCarthy).

 

Whether McDaniels is a viable candidate for any job – let alone the Packers – depends on who you ask. From the camp of McDaniels supporters, there have been a wide array of backstories about why he spurned the Colts at the 11th hour. They have ranged from family considerations to concern about Andrew Luck’s then-undetermined health to the Patriots simply making an open-the-books pitch he couldn’t refuse. All of these reasons have been laid out at various times, largely off the record, likely in hopes that McDaniels’ long-term viability could be salvaged.

 

Whatever the reasoning for McDaniels’ decision, several of his key supporters who were working in the background in support of his reputation left the Colts decision feeling scalded by his waffling. His agent at the time, Bob LaMonte, cut ties with him amid the fallout. Others who lobbied in his favor with Colts general manager Chris Ballard privately vowed they wouldn’t advocate for McDaniels in the future. None of that matched the tattooing he took in the media (including from me) – which left his head-coaching career dead and buried with the decision.

 

But by the summer of 2018, there was already a sense around McDaniels that another chance may come. Those close to him relayed his confidence that his head-coaching window wasn’t slammed shut forever. At the time, it sounded like someone who lacked the self-awareness to understand his own reputation. But sources around the league weren’t resolute about his demise, either.

 

As one league executive told Yahoo Sports of McDaniels during training camp, “He’s still a young offensive coach who is extremely smart and creative, and that’s something everyone wants now. When the next [hiring cycle] comes, nobody will really care what he did to the Colts if they think they need him. Especially if there aren’t a lot of good guys to choose from.”

                         

That’s one part of this that is discounted right now. As it stands, there appears to be a dearth of quality candidates who are young, experienced and have a track record of creative offensive success. At the moment, there is no obvious Sean McVay or Matt Nagy to be had in this next wave of candidates. It’s part of why Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury are perceived to be hot commodities despite a lack of NFL coaching experience. Both have experience running wide-open schemes that have recently contributed to stretching the boundaries of NFL offenses with the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Jerry Jones has his eye on the NFL and its upcoming discipline of RB KAREEM HUNT per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has never made a secret of the fact that he thinks the NFL was overeager to discipline running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was suspended six games last season over a domestic violence case accusation that Elliott denied and that never resulted in an arrest or criminal charges. Now he’s interested to see how the NFL handles the latest domestic violence case it’s facing.

 

Jones said today on 105.3 The Fan that he is monitoring the Kareem Hunt case and wants to know how the NFL is going to handle it.

 

“Yes, keeping a very close eye, and have a very keen interest in how this plays out. It’s a challenging area of what we’re about . . . everyone has zero tolerance for domestic abuse,” Jones said.

 

It’s hard to see how Jones can say everyone has zero tolerance for domestic abuse when multiple NFL teams have signed players after domestic abuse allegations hit. That includes the Cowboys, who signed Greg Hardy after he served a suspension for domestic violence.

 

Jones has a point if he thinks the NFL has been inconsistent in its handling of domestic violence, and that Elliott was treated more harshly than other players with similar accusations. But Jones has been inconsistent in his handling of domestic violence as well.

 

 

WASHINGTON

John Keim of ESPN.com with plenty of notes on RB ADRIAN PETERSON’s big run Monday night:

 

The Washington Redskins felt an 11-day layoff would refresh running back Adrian Peterson. He then showed just how fresh he was on one second-quarter carry, establishing a new career high for himself and a Redskins record.

 

From his own 10-yard line, Peterson ran through the middle and then cut to his left en route to a 90-yard touchdown in Washington’s 28-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s the longest run of his career and the longest rushing touchdown in Washington’s history. Peterson, 33, became the oldest player with a 90-yard touchdown run in NFL history. At the time, it gave Washington a 10-7 lead.

 

“As the play developed, I saw the blitz coming off to the right side,” Peterson said. “I knew I wanted to be patient and press it and see what presented itself. I kind of predetermined that it would be the cut-back or just straight ahead. It was about being patient and seeing how it developed. Trent [Williams] and [Jonathan] Cooper did a great job sealing it off. I was able to bounce it and, once I broke free from the one tackle, it was lights out in my eyes.”

 

The scoring run also tied him with Jim Brown for fifth place on the all-time list with 106 rushing touchdowns.

 

“Definitely looked up to Jim Brown,” Peterson said. “He’s a guy that inspires me. He is definitely one of those guys, when I look on that list, that I want to surpass. He paved the way. Arguably the greatest running back to play the game. To be in a position to tie him and, God’s will, to go past him is a humbling feeling.”

 

And it gave Peterson his 16th career touchdown run of at least 50 yards, snapping a tie with Barry Sanders for most in NFL history.

 

Peterson had managed just 171 yards rushing in the previous four games, with the Redskins losing three of them. The Redskins reduced his practice load after losing at Dallas on Thanksgiving, as Peterson did not work until Friday. He has been dealing with a bad shoulder in addition to various leg issues. But he has not yet missed a game.

 

Washington also hoped the return of Chris Thompson on Monday would help reduce the burden on Peterson.

 

Peterson gained more on his one carry than he had in the previous two games combined (86). He now has three rushes of 40 yards or more, one less than he had from 2014 to 2017 combined. And he hit a max speed of 20.84 miles per hour, according to Next Gen Stats, his fastest speed in the past three seasons.

 

Peterson also became the oldest player with multiple 50-yard touchdown runs this season. He ran 64 yards for a touchdown against the New York Giants in Week 8.

 

But the long run did not lead to a great night, as Peterson finished with 98 yards on nine carries.

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

The Raiders have been playing a bit better lately, and they will be hosting a Steelers team on Sunday that doesn’t have its best back.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers will attempt to rebound from back-to-back losses without its dual-threat running back.

 

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced Tuesday that James Conner is out for the Week 14 tilt versus the Oakland Raiders.

 

Tomlin said tests came back showing the leg injury suffered in Sunday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers came back more serious than their initial indications. The coach described the injury as a sprain, not a contusion as first thought.

 

“James Conner’s injury is probably a little more significant than we initially thought,” Tomlin told reporters. “I don’t know if you would describe it as a high-ankle sprain. It is an ankle sprain, much more than a contusion initially thought to be.”

 

Conner exited Sunday’s loss late in the fourth quarter after totaling 74 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Tomlin didn’t indicate whether the injury could force Conner to miss more than one week.

 

The second-year Pitt product has filled in splendidly for Le’Veon Bell, who is sitting out the season after not signing his franchise tender. Conner’s blend of power, speed, and pass catching ability fit perfectly into the Steelers’ offense. In 12 games, the 23-year-old galloped for 909 rushing yards on 201 carries, and 467 receiving yards on 52 catches with 13 total touchdowns (12 rushing).

 

With Conner out, rookie Jaylen Samuels will likely be first in line. The N.C. State product took over late versus the Chargers and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass. Stevan Ridley and Trey Edmunds are also candidates for snaps.

 

Tomlin said he expects to employ a committee approach against the Raiders.

 

“That is our intention as we sit here,” the coach said, noting one of the backs has a chance to impress and earn more snaps.

 

The Steelers have favored the pass more in recent weeks. Conner hadn’t seen more than 15 totes in the past four games, while Ben Roethlisberger has averaged more than 49 passes in the past three tilts. Expect Pittsburgh to stay skewed toward the pass even more sans Conner.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS

 

The Saints and Bears survived Week 13 losses to remain 1-2 in the Aikman Combined Ratings as compiled by Sports Radar through Week 13.  The Chargers remained in 3rd after they rallied to beat Pittsburgh while the Rams jumped two spots to 4th after beating the Lions.

 

Being contained by the Dallas defense, did cost the Saints their lead in Aikman Offense as only the Chiefs remain above the 100 mark.

 

The Bears continue atop Aikman Defense.

 

2018 Aikman Combined Ratings Through Week 13

————–

Aikman

————–

————–

NFL

————–

Rank

Record

Team

Combined

Off

Def

Off

Def

Combined

1

10-2-0

New Orleans Saints

168.0

99.8

68.3

6

16

22

2

8-4-0

Chicago Bears

164.7

86.3

78.3

20

4

24

3

9-3-0

Los Angeles Chargers

164.2

93.0

71.3

5

8

13

4

11-1-0

Los Angeles Rams

161.8

97.8

64.0

2

18

20

5

7-5-0

Seattle Seahawks

159.8

91.1

68.7

19

19

38

6

10-2-0

Kansas City Chiefs

159.6

101.9

57.7

3

31

34

7

6-6-0

Indianapolis Colts

159.0

89.5

69.5

9

11

20

8

7-5-0

Baltimore Ravens

158.0

87.5

70.5

13

1

14

9

7-4-1

Pittsburgh Steelers

157.9

91.9

66.0

4

7

11

10

9-3-0

New England Patriots

156.8

90.3

66.5

7

22

29

11

6-5-1

Minnesota Vikings

154.5

79.7

74.8

16

6

22

12

7-5-0

Dallas Cowboys

154.1

81.1

73.0

25

5

30

13

9-3-0

Houston Texans

153.3

83.7

69.6

12

10

22

14

4-7-1

Green Bay Packers

152.6

87.2

65.5

8

13

21

15

6-6-0

Carolina Panthers

152.4

90.7

61.7

11

14

25

16

6-6-0

Denver Broncos

151.9

84.2

67.7

14

25

39

17

6-6-0

Washington Redskins

151.3

80.5

70.8

27

19

46

18

6-6-0

Philadelphia Eagles

149.5

82.6

66.9

17

21

38

19

4-7-1

Cleveland Browns

149.4

84.1

65.3

18

30

48

20

6-6-0

Tennessee Titans

149.4

79.0

70.5

28

9

37

21

4-8-0

New York Giants

145.8

81.2

64.5

21

24

45

22

4-8-0

Jacksonville Jaguars

143.9

73.6

70.3

24

3

27

23

4-8-0

Atlanta Falcons

141.7

88.6

53.0

10

26

36

24

4-8-0

Detroit Lions

141.0

79.2

61.8

23

15

38

25

6-6-0

Miami Dolphins

140.3

73.9

66.5

29

29

58

26

4-8-0

Buffalo Bills

138.7

71.5

66.5

31

2

33

27

5-7-0

Cincinnati Bengals

138.5

86.8

66.5

26

32

58

28

5-7-0

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

138.2

85.4

66.5

1

27

28

29

2-10-0

San Francisco 49ers

137.9

78.1

66.5

15

12

27

30

3-9-0

New York Jets

134.9

67.0

66.5

30

23

53

31

2-10-0

Oakland Raiders

134.8

78.0

66.5

22

28

50

32

3-9-0

Arizona Cardinals

133.1

70.9

66.5

32

17

49

NFL Average:

149.9

84.3

67.1

 

 

Aikman Offense Ratings Through Week 13, 2018

Aikman

NFL

Team

AER

1

3

Kansas City Chiefs

101.9

2

6

New Orleans Saints

99.8

3

2

Los Angeles Rams

97.8

4

5

Los Angeles Chargers

93.0

5

4

Pittsburgh Steelers

91.9

6

19

Seattle Seahawks

91.1

7

11

Carolina Panthers

90.7

8

7

New England Patriots

90.3

9

9

Indianapolis Colts

89.5

10

10

Atlanta Falcons

88.6

11

13

Baltimore Ravens

87.5

12

8

Green Bay Packers

87.2

13

26

Cincinnati Bengals

86.8

14

20

Chicago Bears

86.3

15

1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

85.4

16

14

Denver Broncos

84.2

17

18

Cleveland Browns

84.1

18

12

Houston Texans

83.7

19

17

Philadelphia Eagles

82.6

20

21

New York Giants

81.2

21

25

Dallas Cowboys

81.1

22

27

Washington Redskins

80.5

23

16

Minnesota Vikings

79.7

24

23

Detroit Lions

79.2

25

28

Tennessee Titans

79.0

26

15

San Francisco 49ers

78.1

27

22

Oakland Raiders

78.0

28

29

Miami Dolphins

73.9

29

24

Jacksonville Jaguars

73.6

30

31

Buffalo Bills

71.5

31

32

Arizona Cardinals

70.9

32

30

New York Jets

67.0

NFL Average:

84.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aikman Defense Ratings Through Week 13, 2018

Aikman

NFL

Team

AER

1

4

Chicago Bears

78.3

2

6

Minnesota Vikings

74.8

3

5

Dallas Cowboys

73.0

4

8

Los Angeles Chargers

71.3

5

19

Washington Redskins

70.8

6

9

Tennessee Titans

70.5

7

1

Baltimore Ravens

70.5

8

3

Jacksonville Jaguars

70.3

9

10

Houston Texans

69.6

10

11

Indianapolis Colts

69.5

11

19

Seattle Seahawks

68.7

12

16

New Orleans Saints

68.3

13

23

New York Jets

67.9

14

25

Denver Broncos

67.7

15

2

Buffalo Bills

67.3

16

21

Philadelphia Eagles

66.9

17

29

Miami Dolphins

66.5

18

22

New England Patriots

66.5

19

7

Pittsburgh Steelers

66.0

20

13

Green Bay Packers

65.5

21

30

Cleveland Browns

65.3

22

24

New York Giants

64.5

23

18

Los Angeles Rams

64.0

24

17

Arizona Cardinals

62.2

25

15

Detroit Lions

61.8

26

14

Carolina Panthers

61.7

27

12

San Francisco 49ers

59.7

28

31

Kansas City Chiefs

57.7

29

28

Oakland Raiders

56.8

30

26

Atlanta Falcons

53.0

31

27

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

52.8

32

32

Cincinnati Bengals

51.7

NFL Average:

65.7