The Daily Briefing Tuesday, November 14, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

If The Season Ended Today in the AFC:

 

                                             Overall     Division       Conference

Pittsburgh Steelers      ACN      7-2               3-0                5-1

New England Patriots  ACN      7-2               1-0                4-1

Kansas City Chiefs     ACW      6-3               2-1                4-2

Tennessee Titans        ACS      6-3               2-1                5-3

Jacksonville Jaguars   WC        6-3              2-1                 6-2

Buffalo Bills                 WC        5-4               1-1                 3-2

Baltimore Ravens                     4-5               2-1                 4-3

Miami Dolphins                         4-5               1-1                 3-3

Oakland Raiders                       4-5               1-2                 4-4

New York Jets                          4-6                2-3                4-4

 

The top five all won, but Buffalo lost.  That was good news for the Ravens and Raiders who were on bye and are now one game out of the playoffs.

 

If The Season Ended Today in the NFC:

 

                                             Overall     Division       Conference

Philadelphia Eagles    NCE     8-1               3-0                6-0

Minnesota Vikings      NCN     7-2               2-1                5-1

New Orleans Saints    NCS     7-2              2-0                 5-1

Los Angeles Rams     NCW    7-2               2-1                4-2

Carolina Panthers        WC     7-3              2-1                 4-3

Seattle Seahawks        WC     6-3              3-0                4-2

Atlanta Falcons                       5-4              0-1                4-1    

Detroit Lions                            5-4             2-0                 4-3

Green Bay Packers                 5-4              2-2                4-4

Dallas Cowboys                      5-4              2-0                4-3 

Washington Redskins             4-5              0-3                3-4

Arizona Cardinals                    4-5              2-2                3-5

 

The Cowboys loss to Atlanta dropped them out of the playoffs and into the bottom of the four-way 5-4 tie as the tiebreaker is currently constructed.  That is because they are 0-2 in head-to-head play among the 5-4 teams with losses to Green Bay and the Falcons.

– – –

Kevin Patra of NFL.com looks at the above and notes that the NFC is having quite a year at the expense of the AFC.

 

Take a gander at the NFL playoff picture and the first thing that jumps out is the strength of the NFC comparted to the AFC.

 

The National Football Conference currently sits with four 5-4 teams out of the playoffs. All American Football Conference teams with winning records are in the playoffs, with the 5-4 Buffalo Bills owning the 6th seed even after back-to-back blowout losses.

 

Perhaps the easiest reason to point to for the surplus of winning records in one conference is that the NFC has pounded the AFC in interconference play, particularly of late.

 

In the last three weeks, the NFC is 10-1 versus the AFC with a 371 to 206 scoring differential. (The one loss was the Detroit Lions losing at home to the Steelers, in a game in which they had 47,000 chances to score a touchdown in the red zone and came up empty). In Week 10 alone, the NFC went 5-0 in interconference play, with four of the five victories coming by 14 or more points.

 

For the season, the NFC owns a 24-14 advantage in interconference play, with the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina Panthers leading the way with 3-0 records (including a Panthers victory over the Super Bowl Champion Patriots).

 

The NFC has been feasting on the weak underbelly of the AFC. The Ravens, Bengals, and Brows have collected an 0-5 record versus the NFC North. The AFC South owns two interconference wins in eight games, one of those being the Colts over the previously winless 49ers.

 

The disparity in play between the conferences means we could see some good teams on one side left out of the playoffs, while some suspect ones in the other play into January.

 

The lopsided play, however, do not take away from what should be a fascinating rush towards the playoffs in both conferences. And it doesn’t mean the AFC champion won’t be hoisting their fourth straight Lombardi Trophy when it’s all said and done.

– – –

Things may really be tangled up by the time the Super Bowl hits Minneapolis, but for other reasons.  Frank Schwab of Shutdown Corner:

 

Getting around in Minneapolis during Super Bowl week could get tricky.

 

The union that represents about 2,500 bus drivers, light rail operators and other public transportation workers in the Twin Cities has authorized a strike during Super Bowl week after rejecting the Metropolitan Council’s latest contract offer, the Associated Press reported. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 had 93 percent of votes to reject the contract, the AP said.

 

Minneapolis will host its second Super Bowl on Feb. 4, 2018. Super Bowl week brings in large crowds of people, some who come for the week’s festivities but won’t even stay for the game, and every city puts its best foot forward to make sure the visitors have a great time. That could be a problem if public transportation is at a standstill due to a worker’s strike.

 

The AP reported that the Metropolitan Council is confident a deal can be reached, and there are almost three months before the Super Bowl. The union is fighting for improvements in work rules, outsourcing and security for bus drivers, the AP said.

– – –

If The Commissionership is pried away from Roger Goodell, who might be next? 

 

The staff of The Ringer offers some suggestions, which proves that sportswriters shouldn’t choose commissionerships:

 

This year, the NFL has been losing. Television ratings are down (for a number of reasons), stars across the league are suffering season-ending injuries, concerns about head trauma and brain damage are increasing, and team owners are coming into conflict with their players. Football needs fixing, and Roger Goodell doesn’t seem to be up to the task. So, Ringer staffers suggested some candidates for commissioner who could give the NFL a much-needed shake-up.

 

Bob Iger

Danny Heifetz: Iger, the CEO of Disney, has been contemplating retirement for years. Serving as the NFL commissioner would be the perfect retirement package. As the head of the parent company for ESPN, he already has a relationship with the league and would be in a … unique … position to be negotiating future television deals. He was also essential in clearing room for the NFL’s return to Los Angeles. The NFL might be loathe to bring in a power player rather than turning to an in-house executive, like NFL general counsel Jeff Pash, who was the lead negotiator for the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. But if Iger wants the job, it’s easy to see him getting it, though he may have his eyes on a bigger prize. He is considering running for president against Donald Trump in 2020 — perhaps the only person who has a lower approval rating than Goodell.

 

The Rock

Danny Kelly: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is uniquely prepared to be the next commissioner of the NFL: He’s awesome and universally respected. He understands the game of football because of his days as a defensive tackle with the Miami Hurricanes. He understands the business of the sport from the player’s point of view because he plays a former NFL star turned financial manager on TV. And most important, his résumé as a world-champion wrestler and as the world’s highest-paid actor in 2016 means he’s more qualified than almost anyone in history to make the league more entertaining and compelling — so he’d make the league and its owners lots and lots of money.

 

Donna Brazile

Ryan O’Hanlon: As Kevin Clark wrote last week, the NFL’s deepest problem is that it has no idea what it’s like to lose. And, uh, yeah. I think the Democratic strategist’s book tour should be wrapping up right around when Roger Goodell’s current contract expires.

 

Colin Kaepernick

John Gonzalez: Only one person has managed to unite all 32 owners. They should give that man a job and pay him well for the effort.

 

A Player-Elected Commissioner

Michael Baumann: Expropriate the assets of all 32 owners and reconstitute the league as a workers’ collective, with a commissioner elected by the players.

 

Tom Brady

Shaker Samman: The NFL is at a critical moment in its history. Entanglements in federal court and questions about the sustainability of a sport that levies significant damage to participants’ cerebral functioning have left its future in doubt. At a time like this, ingenuity is vital. And no one is a better choice to introduce creative solutions than Tom Brady. Earlier this year, Tom spread his wisdom, and the world took notice. Drinking water prevents sunburns. Sure! But never drink water during a meal. Fine! And milk is a last-resort beverage. OK! Are there better options to run the league than a man who spent months embroiled in legal battles against it? Absolutely. But how many of those other choices come with an endless supply of avocado ice cream?

 

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

Panthers TE GREG OLSEN will spend his bye week poking around Minnesota and the Vikings have some concerns.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

This weekend, FOX will enhance its broadcast of the Rams-Vikings game by adding Panthers tight end Greg Olsen to the two-man booth of Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis. The Vikings (and for that matter the Rams) may not be thrilled about that.

 

Paul Allen of KFAN and the Vikings Radio Network raised during my weekly visit to his show the question of whether the Vikings will be comfortable with the idea of a player from an upcoming opponent having access to practice, production meetings, etc. Nothing against Olsen, but the Vikings shouldn’t be thrilled with giving Olsen an inside look at team operations, only three weeks before his current team hosts the Vikings.

 

Conflicts of interest are hardly new in this setting; broadcasters (like Jon Gruden, the brother of Washington coach Jay Gruden, and Chris Spielman, the brother of Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman) routinely enjoy access to inside information regarding actual and potential opponents of a family member’s team. But this one is far more direct. Olsen is currently playing for the Panthers, and he’ll be privy to information that no team would want a member of another team to get.

 

Asked about the dynamic during a Monday press conference, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said, “I’m gonna let higher-ups than me handle that.”

 

It’s not just the Vikings that should be skittish about this. The Rams don’t play the Panthers during the regular season, but they possibly will meet in the postseason.

 

It may seem picky, but consider the extent to which teams go to protect their secrets. Indeed, Zimmer’s decision to say anything other than “I’m fine with it, it’s not an issue” suggests that it is. And it will be interesting to see what if anything Zimmer’s higher-ups do about it.

 

UPDATE: FOX says that it will limit Olsen’s access in advance of the game, citing the Vikings’ concerns.

 

More from Florio:

 

“We fully respect the Vikings concerns and will limit the amount of pre-game access allowed to Greg.  We look forward to welcoming him in the broadcast booth and giving viewers a unique perspective this Sunday.”

 

Of course, Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis will have access to the team and its practice, and nothing really stops them from sharing information gleaned through the process to Olsen as they prepare to broadcast the Rams-Vikings games. That fact could make the Vikings (and the Rams) more guarded than usual when dealing with FOX in advance of Sunday’s game.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Thanksgiving may mean that LB SEAN LEE misses two games.  Todd Archer of ESPN.com:

 

The Dallas Cowboys’ schedule will play a big part in when linebacker Sean Lee can return to the field.

 

The Cowboys have three games in 12 days, starting Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, with a quick Thanksgiving turnaround against the Los Angeles Chargers. They play the Washington Redskins Nov. 30 at AT&T Stadium.

 

According to sources, the best hope is that Lee can return against Washington.

 

“It might be some time,” coach Jason Garrett said Monday. “We’ll see.”

 

Lee suffered a hamstring strain in the first quarter of Sunday’s 27-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and did not return. He missed two games earlier this season with a hamstring strain, with the Cowboys losing both games. The Cowboys have lost five straight games in which Lee did not play because of injury or was held out by the coaches as a precaution.

 

“Obviously when your front-line players go out you have to be able to continue to play and be effective,” Garrett said. “Oftentimes that’s seen on the offensive side of the ball, but it certainly applies to defense and certainly applies in Sean Lee’s case. We simply have to play better when he’s not in there.

 

“It’s not only against the run, but it’s against the pass. We’ll continue to look at that, the personnel that we have in there, what we’re asking them to do and just seeing if they’re capable of doing it on a consistent basis. Again, we’re evaluating that. We have to make sure we get better in that area.”

 

The Cowboys are careful with players who have soft tissue injuries. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie has missed six of the past seven games because of a recurring hamstring issue but is expected to practice fully this week.

 

Lee has missed seven games in his career due to a hamstring strain, dating back to his rookie year in 2010.

 

“You have to be very deliberate with this injury, obviously,” Garrett said. “It’s one of those injuries if you don’t watch it, it can really go from being bad to worse quickly and you can lose a guy for an extended period of time. You want to make sure you handle it the right way as you would with any injury, but these soft tissue injuries can be damaging that way.

 

“We’ll handle Sean’s situation the way we always handle the injuries: If he’s ready to play, he’ll have a chance to play. We certainly will not rush him back. When he has an opportunity to play for us and help us, he’ll be in the lineup.”

– – –

RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT has really left Dodge during his suspension:

 

Dallas Cowboys executive Stephen Jones confirmed Monday that Ezekiel Elliott will be training outside the United States during his suspension.

 

Jones, who made his comments in an interview with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, didn’t disclose the exact location where the running back is training.

 

NFL Network first reported the news of Elliott’s plans.

 

“Actually, I give Zeke credit. This was his idea. He’s wanting to really go to work and not have distractions while he’s not able to play the game. He felt the best way to do that was to get away from this environment … and really work to get himself in the best possible shape,” Jones said.

 

Jones said Elliott went over his plans with the team’s coaches and strength and conditioning staff, who were comfortable with what they heard.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

Perhaps buoyed by the 7-2 start and unconcerned about shrinking stats due to a resurgent run game (or surgent if you don’t think they’ve ever been able to run), QB DREW BREES proclaims his love of New Orleans.  Nick Shook of NFL.com:

 

Drew Brees doesn’t want to play anywhere but New Orleans.

 

That’s fine and dandy, but there are a few details that make that less than guaranteed. Brees is in the final year of his contract. The quarterback is 38 years old. And while this might sound preposterous, the Saints are the least reliant upon him that they’ve ever been in his time in New Orleans.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported recently that the Saints are unsure of Brees’ future status, in part because of his contract, and also because of the expectation that he will want a large sum of money. With all of that considered, it sounds like this isn’t a situation that will be easily, or at least quickly resolved.

 

“I’ll handle 2018 when 2018 gets here, but right now I’m in the moment, I’m in 2017,” Brees said during an appearance on Hardwick & Richards on XTRA 1360-AM. “We’re trying to get a little bit better each and every week. I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us and I don’t plan on leaving New Orleans ever.

 

“Hopefully, I know all of that stuff takes care of itself when it’s supposed to. I have not approached them about any contract. We just have a great understanding here. Listen, we’re going to go through this season and we’ll revisit it in the offseason. Right now, I’m in the moment.”

 

At 7-2 overall and in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, it’s a pretty great moment in which to exist. Brees is in the captain’s chair of an offense that ranks second in the NFL with an average of 402.4 yards per game. Brees is seventh in the league in passing yards per game (266.4).

 

That first number is typical of the Saints — New Orleans has finished first or second in yards per game in all but one of its last five seasons — but there’s a massive difference this season that could be pointing to a permanent change in style, which might be driven by the status of Brees.

 

In those five aforementioned seasons, the Saints averaged over 300 yards passing in all but one, and in that outlier (2014), they were just a hair under 300 at 297.8. But this season, the Saints are averaging 402.4 yards per game, with only 260.2 coming through the air. Thanks to a ground game powered by effective blocking and a two-headed attack of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara, New Orleans has made a drastic improvement, going from 108.9 rushing yards per game in 2016 to 142.4 in 2017.

 

The Saints simply don’t need to place all of their offensive hopes on the arm of Brees anymore, which makes this contract situation slightly more intriguing. Will New Orleans, a team that’s long been mired in the salary cap underworld and will have approximately $31 million in cap space in 2018 (per Spotrac), be willing to funnel $25 million (or more, considering Matthew Stafford’s league-leading annual average of $27 million) to a quarterback who turns 39 in January?

 

Saints fans should follow Brees’ plan and live in the moment. They might not get too many more with No. 9 under center.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

No word on when RB DAVID JOHNSON might return, but his hand is out of his cast.  He hurt it in the Week 1 opener in Detroit.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

CB GAREON CONLEY has been something of a star-crossed first round pick for the Raiders in 2017 and he heads to IR. Matt Schneidman of Bay Area News Group.

 

Gareon Conley has been placed on injured reserve by the Raiders, ending the 2017 first-round pick’s rookie season, the team announced Monday afternoon.

 

ESPN’s Field Yates first reported the news.

 

Conley hadn’t practiced since Oct. 6 while dealing with a shin injury. Oakland took Conley 24th overall out of Ohio State in April’s draft, and the injury held him out of the season opener in Tennessee. Conley returned for games at home against the Jets and at Washington, however, and the corner had seven combined tackles in those two games.

 

The Raiders were enamored with Conley’s cover ability in the offseason, but he’s been sidelined since Week 3 after his shin injury worsened. Both head coach Jack Del Rio and general manager Reggie McKenzie said a decision on Conley’s immediate future would be made early this week.

 

“We’ll see what’s happening after when we come back from the weekend and see if we can do anything early in the week, and we’ll make our determination from there,” McKenzie told reporters last week regarding Conley. “It’s just people’s bodies are different, when you have those type injuries, you wait and see if it can heal and feel better and good enough to play. He was feeling better, then he had a setback . . . if he can’t go, then he can’t go and we’re going to have to move on. But we’re going to give him every opportunity to see if he can do it.”

 

Conley’s absence is nothing new to the Raiders’ struggling secondary, which has to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Mexico City this weekend. Starting cornerback David Amerson missed Oakland’s game in Miami with a foot injury, and TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith handled cornerback duties against the Dolphins.

 

The Patriots have the best offense in the NFL and Oakland owns one of the worst passing defenses. Amerson’s return would help the Raiders, however much that may be, with Oakland sitting just outside the AFC playoff picture.

– – –

Ground is broken in Vegas.  Regina Garcia Cano of the AP:

 

In a ceremony that balanced the glitz that Las Vegas embodies and the tragedy from which it is still recovering, the Oakland Raiders broke ground on a 65,000-seat domed stadium across the freeway from the city’s world-famous casinos.

 

Prince protegee Judith Hill opened Monday’s ceremony with a rendition of Andra Day’s song “Rise Up” as police, firefighters, EMTs and other members of the local community walked through a temporary venue to a standing ovation. Fifty-eight beams of light shone behind the stage, each representing one of the victims of the Oct. 1 attack, which was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

 

Longtime Las Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton, musician Carlos Santana, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Hall of Famers Howie Long and Fred Biletnikoff were among the crowd that witnessed state and local officials as well as team leaders turn dirt with shiny shovels emblazoned with the Raiders logo.

 

“Only in Vegas can you turn a ground-breaking ceremony into a show,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during the event.

 

Contractors will be working under an ambitious timeline as the team wants to kick off the 2020 season at the new stadium. But the Raiders have yet to reach crucial agreements for the $1.9 billion project and now stand to lose millions under the tax reform bill U.S. House Republicans unveiled earlier this month.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The long starting streak of QB PHILIP RIVERS may be in jeopardy as he self-reports himself into the concussion protocol.  Jeremy Bergman of ESPN.com:

 

The Los Angeles Chargers quarterback was placed into concussion protocol Monday, coach Anthony Lynn told reporters, one day after the Bolts fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime. Lynn said he saw “nothing at all” from Rivers after the game to indicate he had suffered a concussion.

 

 Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

#Chargers QB Philip Rivers is in the concussion protocol after coming into the facility today and self-reporting symptoms. Kellen Clemens is the backup if he can’t go.

 

It’s unclear when Rivers suffered the head injury. On his final play of the game, Rivers threw a deep interception to Jags corner A.J. Bouye and then proceeded to deck Bouye out of bounds to prevent a game-winning pick-six. Rivers was not sacked by the self-proclaimed “Sacksonville” defense, but did take five QB hits. Rivers finished with 235 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the 20-17 loss.

 

The 35-year-old has not shown up on the injury report this year and has not displayed concrete signs of physical deterioration. In fact, he hasn’t missed a game since taking over the Chargers’ starting role from Drew Brees in 2006. The Chargers ironman has started 185 consecutive games, the second-best active streak behind draft mate Eli Manning (208) and the fourth-best all time.

 

If Rivers can’t go against the Buffalo Bills next Sunday, it’s likely that longtime backup Kellen Clemens will fill in. Former Bills quarterback Cardale Jones is also on the roster.

 

For a 3-6 Chargers club teetering on the verge of elimination from playoff contention, Rivers’ health will be something to monitor.

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

Is there anyone who would miss Thursday night football?  Certainly not QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER.  John Breech of CBSSports.com:

 

During an interview Monday with 93.7 The Fan, a CBS Sports Radio station in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger ripped the idea of Thursday games and called on the NFL to just get rid of them.

 

“It’s miserable, it’s terrible, they need to get rid of this game I think,” Roethlisberger said. “Just play on Mondays and Sundays. It’s so tough on guys, you’re beat up, you’re banged up. It’s a very violent, physical game we play.”

 

Roethlisberger also added that the Titans probably feel the same way about playing on just four days of rest.

 

“Both teams are going through it, so I’m not just speaking on ours,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m sure the Titans would say the same thing and everyone who’s played on Thursday night would say the same thing.”

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

The Saints ran all over the Bills, but Coach Sean McDermott says it’s not because DT MARCELL DAREAUS is plugging holes in Jacksonville at the moment.  Chris Brown of Bills Insider:

 

Buffalo’s run defense in the words of Lorenzo Alexander “took a whupping.” The 298 yards they allowed on the ground far surpassed what was the previous high permitted just a week ago against the Jets (194). Again the Bills head coach emphasized getting back to mastering the basics.

 

“We’ve got to look at it and own what we did do well and didn’t do well,” said McDermott. “A lot of it we didn’t do well. That starts with gap integrity and fundamentals and technique in taking on blocks and staying in our gaps. That’s where we have to improve.”

 

McDermott also dismissed the perception that the run defense problems coincided with the trade of Marcell Dareus.

 

“No, we played good run defense even when Marcell (Dareus) was in the building and not on the field,” he said. “We’ve played good run defense and I expect us to do that going forward.”

 

At no point did McDermott feel his defensive unit’s effort was lacking, though he did admit his players got worn down knowing they spent better than 41 of the game’s 60 minutes on the field.

 

Most important for he and his coaching staff is that what needs to be fixed in Buffalo’s run front is correctable.

 

“I’m of the belief that it’s easier to fix fundamentals and technique (than effort), but that’s not easy either because it takes work,” McDermott said. “Everything you do in life takes work and in this case no different.”

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Held to 10 points by a Bucs’ defense that had not been stopping much lately, the Jets are sticking it out for now with QB JOSH McCOWN.  Daniel Popper in the New York Daily News:

 

As the Jets enter their bye week at 4-6 following Sunday’s demoralizing and sluggish loss at the Bucs, Todd Bowles’ future with the franchise remains uncertain. In many ways, the third-year man will be coaching for his job over the season’s final six games, three of which are against division leaders.

 

So it’s no surprise Bowles isn’t thinking about the Jets’ long-term plan at quarterback. In a conference call Monday, Bowles said he’s “not coming up with a scenario right now” as far as when he would want to get a look at either backup Bryce Petty or third-stringer Christian Hackenberg this season.

 

“We’re going to play the games and we’re going to try to win each one and take them one at a time,” Bowles said. “Josh will be our quarterback, and then we’ll go from there.”

 

Earlier in the call, Bowles said Petty and Hackenberg would only play “if something happens to” McCown. He later clarified that meant an injury.

 

McCown, meanwhile, isn’t even considering the prospect of losing his job down the stretch.

 

“My approach is that I give my all to the role that I’m in, and if that changes, then I will adjust accordingly,” the 38-year-old signal-caller said. “But I don’t really pay attention to what outside opinions are or any of that stuff. My role right now is to serve this team as the starting quarterback. I’m going to do that as best I can.”

 

In his meeting with the media after a Week 2 loss at the Raiders, acting owner Christopher Johnson said he will not be judging Bowles on wins and losses this season, but rather on how much improvement the team displays over the course of the year.

 

The Jets return from their bye to face the 6-3 Panthers and 6-3 Chiefs in back-to-back weeks at home. Then in Week 15, they travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints, who are the hottest team in football after winning their seventh straight game Sunday in a beatdown of the Bills. Gang Green concludes the season at the Patriots.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS

Thru Week 10

 

There is no change in the leaders of the Aikman Ratings compiled by STATS after Week 10.  The idle Eagles saw their advantage over the Jaguars widen by a point to 6.2 points. 

 

After the Jaguars, now the AFC South co-leaders, come the other three NFC teams that have taken over division leads – the Rams, Saints and Vikings.  The Aikman Combined Ratings tend to identify teams with winning records and right now seven of the top eight are division leaders and all of the top 13 have winning records.

 

The Eagles also continue to lead Aikman Offense at 94.4, 1.5 ahead of the Patriots who last led after Week 8.

 

The Jaguars are atop Aikman Defense for the fourth consecutive week, with the Steelers replacing the Vikings in second.

– – –

The Aikman Ratings were devised by Troy Aikman to help identify winning elements of offensive and defensive performance more successfully than the mere compilation of yards which is the NFL’s official standard.  We note that the teams with the higher Aikman Game Score last week went 14-0 to bring the annual winning rate to just under 85%.  Teams that gain more yards are winning 71% of the time in 2017.

 

 

Aikman Combined Ratings Through Week 10, 2017

 

                                 ——— Aikman ——–       —— NFL ——–

 Rank  Record   Team             Combined     Off      Def       Off    Def Combined

   1     8-1    Eagles             172.8     94.4     78.4         4     10     14 

   2     6-3    Jaguars            166.6     83.9     82.7         6      3      9 

   3     7-2    Rams               166.3     89.1     77.1         3     14     17 

   4     7-2    Saints             164.6     91.3     73.4         2      8     10 

   5     7-2    Vikings            163.5     86.2     77.4         9      5     14 

   6     7-2    Patriots           158.7     92.9     65.8         1     32     33 

   7     6-3    Seahawks           157.2     80.5     76.7         7     12     19 

   8     7-2    Steelers           156.9     77.7     79.1        10      2     12 

   9     5-4    Cowboys            156.3     89.2     67.1        11     15     26 

  10     5-4    Falcons            154.8     84.1     70.7         8      7     15 

  11     7-3    Panthers           153.3     82.0     71.3        16      1     17 

  12     6-3    Titans             153.2     81.7     71.5        19     16     35 

  13     6-3    Chiefs             152.2     90.1     62.1         5     30     35 

  14     4-5    Ravens             152.2     73.4     78.8        30      6     36 

  15     5-4    Lions              151.8     78.9     72.9        15     22     37 

  16     5-4    Packers            151.0     86.7     64.3        23.5   24     47.5

  17     3-6    Chargers           150.9     77.3     73.6        18     19     37 

  18     5-4    Bills              149.0     80.1     68.9        28     25     53 

  19     4-5    Raiders            147.6     83.1     64.6        22     26     48 

  20     3-6    Texans             147.4     78.0     69.4        12     23     35 

  21     4-6    Jets               146.8     77.3     69.6        26     21     47 

  22     3-6    Bears              144.7     71.4     73.4        29      9     38 

  23     4-5    Redskins           144.2     79.3     64.9        13     20     33 

  24     3-6    Buccaneers         142.5     76.4     66.0        14     27     41 

  25     3-6    Broncos            141.7     70.9     70.8        20      4     24 

  26     3-7    Colts              140.7     73.0     67.8        27     29     56 

  27     1-8    Giants             138.4     75.7     62.6        25     31     56 

  28     3-6    Bengals            137.6     65.9     71.7        32     13     45 

  29     1-9    49ers              137.2     73.4     63.8        21     28     49 

  30     4-5    Cardinals          136.9     70.8     66.2        17     18     35 

  31     4-5    Dolphins           136.4     76.3     60.1        31     17     48 

  32     0-9    Browns             128.8     65.1     63.7        23.5   11     34.5

 

 

Aikman Offense Ratings Through Week 10, 2017

 

  Aik     NFL     Team                 AER

   1       4      Eagles              94.4

   2       1      Patriots            92.9

   3       2      Saints              91.3

   4       5      Chiefs              90.1

   5      11      Cowboys             89.2

   6       3      Rams                89.1

   7      23.5    Packers             86.7

   8       9      Vikings             86.2

   9       8      Falcons             84.1

  10       6      Jaguars             83.9

  11      22      Raiders             83.1

  12      16      Panthers            82.0

  13      19      Titans              81.7

  14       7      Seahawks            80.5

  15      28      Bills               80.1

  16      13      Redskins            79.3

  17      15      Lions               78.9

  18      12      Texans              78.0

  19      10      Steelers            77.7

  20      18      Chargers            77.3

  21      26      Jets                77.3

  22      14      Buccaneers          76.4

  23      31      Dolphins            76.3

  24      25      Giants              75.7

  25      30      Ravens              73.4

  26      21      49ers               73.4

  27      27      Colts               73.0

  28      29      Bears               71.4

  29      20      Broncos             70.9

  30      17      Cardinals           70.8

  31      32      Bengals             65.9

  32      23.5    Browns              65.1

 

NFL Average                           79.6

 

 

Aikman Defense Ratings Through Week 10, 2017

 

  Aik     NFL     Team                 AER

   1       3      Jaguars             82.7

   2       2      Steelers            79.1

   3       6      Ravens              78.8

   4      10      Eagles              78.4

   5       5      Vikings             77.4

   6      14      Rams                77.1

   7      12      Seahawks            76.7

   8      19      Chargers            73.6

   9       8      Saints              73.4

  10       9      Bears               73.4

  11      22      Lions               72.9

  12      13      Bengals             71.7

  13      16      Titans              71.5

  14       1      Panthers            71.3

  15       4      Broncos             70.8

  16       7      Falcons             70.7

  17      21      Jets                69.6

  18      23      Texans              69.4

  19      25      Bills               68.9

  20      29      Colts               67.8

  21      15      Cowboys             67.1

  22      18      Cardinals           66.2

  23      27      Buccaneers          66.0

  24      32      Patriots            65.8

  25      20      Redskins            64.9

  26      26      Raiders             64.6

  27      24      Packers             64.3

  28      28      49ers               63.8

  29      11      Browns              63.7

  30      31      Giants              62.6

  31      30      Chiefs              62.1

  32      17      Dolphins            60.1

 

NFL Average                           70.4

 

Ratings Courtesy of STATS

 

 

 

 

JERRY vs. ROGER

The six owners on the Compensation Committee who want to give Roger Goodell the huge five-year contract extension get on a conference call and decide that Jerry Jones is out of line to question their wisdom.  If he does not cease-and-desist, their man The Commish will start taking draft picks away from Dallas.  Ken Belsen of the New York Times carries the message:

 

Several fellow owners of N.F.L. teams have given Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones a cease-and-desist warning, threatening to punish him over his efforts to block a contract extension for Commissioner Roger Goodell, according to several people with knowledge of the situation.

 

The warning to Jones, which was issued by the six owners on the N.F.L. compensation committee after the group held a conference call Monday, comes less than two weeks after he threatened to sue the league and the owners on the committee who have been working for months on a new contract for Goodell.

 

The league could take a range of steps, including fines, docking draft picks and even suspending Jones.

 

Jones’s maneuvers have escalated one of the worst fissures in decades in the normally clubby ownership group. Jones, who had been a nonvoting member of the committee, was immediately thrown out of the group after he threatened to sue the six other owners. Those owners and Jones have since communicated through lawyers.

 

“The committee is continuing its work towards finalizing a contract extension with the commissioner,” the compensation committee chairman, Falcons owner Arthur Blank, said in a statement on Monday. “The negotiations are progressing and we will keep ownership apprised of the negotiations as they move forward. We do not intend to publicly comment on our discussions.”

 

Jones’s efforts to derail the five-year extension for the commissioner, which has been in the works for months and is nearly complete, has annoyed a growing number of owners, who are angry that Jones has tried to hold Goodell’s compensation hostage as a way to punish the commissioner for his decision to suspend Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

 

Jones also has been accused of pushing the chief executive of Papa John’s, a pizza chain and a league sponsor, to discredit the commissioner and of leaking false information about the details of Goodell’s contract negotiations. Two weeks ago, John Schnatter, the Papa John’s chief executive, claimed that player protests during the national anthem had hurt his company’s sales.

 

Jones has denied that he is seeking revenge for Goodell’s decision to suspend Elliott for six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Rather, Jones has said that he is trying to make Goodell’s contract talks more transparent in light of what he calls recent missteps by the league office, including how it has handled the protests by players.

 

Jones wants all owners to be able to sign off on the details of Goodell’s new contract, which would begin in 2019, even though the owners voted unanimously in May to allow the compensation committee to negotiate the specifics of the deal.

 

The six people on the committee — the owners of the Chiefs, Falcons, Giants, Patriots, Steelers and Texans — have spoken regularly with other owners about the status of the negotiations, and Blank briefed all owners on the contract talks at leaguewide meeting in mid-October.

 

Suspending an owner for conduct detrimental to the league is an extraordinary step, but it has happened. Major League Baseball forced Marge Schott and George Steinbrenner to give up control of their clubs for periods of time. More recently, the N.B.A. forced Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers after he was heard making racist remarks on an audiotape.

 

The commissioner would have to impose the penalties, and is reluctant to do so without a groundswell of owners pushing him to take action, according to several people with knowledge of the situation. Punishing Jones might prompt lawsuits and an even messier public fight.

 

Jones is publicly laughing off the threats from Goodell’s owners.  ProFootballTalk.com:

 

During an appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, Jones said he has no plans to back off his mission to throw a wrench into the Goodell extension plans and called talk that there could be a push to force him out as owner of the Cowboys “laughable and ridiculous.”

 

Jones said that there’s “all the time in the world” to discuss the extension because Goodell has 18 months left on his current deal. He said team owners “need to slow this train down” before entering into another deal with Goodell, who Jones reportedly believes is too well-compensated.

 

Jones had no issue giving the OK to go ahead with an extension for Goodell in May, but that was before the Ezekiel Elliott suspension and Jones’ criticism of Goodell’s leadership regarding player protests during the playing of the national anthem. Jones remained critical of Goodell on the Elliott front Tuesday and it appears that’s not the only place he’s sticking to his guns when it comes to a difference of opinion with the league.

 

Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report says fans should be rooting for Jerry Jones in this battle royal.

 

The biggest NFL story of the day Sunday—and maybe of the past few years—started with a question: Did Dallas owner Jerry Jones leak the inflammatory story from ESPN about Roger Goodell’s contractual demands?

 

We’ll likely never know, but the question is similar to: Is there gravity?

 

I can’t prove there’s gravity, but I know it’s there. I don’t float off into space unless I’m on the purple drank.

 

What’s certain is that some owners believe Jones leaked the story, in what is quickly becoming one of the most high-stakes, ugly and public fights the NFL has ever seen.

 

One owner, who asked not to be identified, sent me a stark text about Jones: “He’s trying to start a civil war among ownership. I can’t sit here and tell you it won’t work.”

 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that Goodell is asking for around $49.5 million a year, use of a private plane for life and health insurance for life for his family. It’s unclear whether Goodell is also demanding a unicorn that poops gold.

 

What’s clear, based on sources in the league that I speak to, is that not all owners knew about Goodell’s contractual requests. This is not unusual. The NFL’s compensation committee, chaired by Falcons owner Arthur Blank, negotiates these deals and doesn’t routinely apprise all owners.

 

“My experience was that anyone who wanted that information [compensation-package details] could ask Arthur and that he readily answered questions and provided the information requested,” said one source. “That was the case when I asked for information.

 

“So is that information shared with all owners in a group forum? No. Can any owner…ask for and easily get the information? Yes. … So if owners don’t know, it’s on them. They only need to ask.”

 

Make no mistake, however: When some owners saw those Goodell requests, they were stunned.

 

Leaking news of Goodell’s demands is like dropping a giant stink bomb into a closed room. Whoever did it (Smerry Smones?) knew exactly what the reaction would be from owners, fans and players.

 

Fans may see this only as a squabble between a rich guy and really rich guys. Yet it all matters, and if there is anyone fans should root for, it’s Jones.

 

Jones is asking something of Goodell that most fans have in their lives: accountability.

 

Goodell has made approximately $200 million over his tenure and currently earns around $30 million a year, according to Schefter and Mortensen. During his time as commissioner, there’ve been numerous messes because of Goodell’s mishandling, from Deflategate to Ray Rice to Bountygate. We don’t need to get into the details. Fans know them.

 

The league has made an extraordinary amount of money under Goodell, which would be one of his defenses. But the owners have not held Goodell accountable for any of his errors in any known significant way. In fact, his salary has only increased.

 

Jones wants to change that. He is pushing to make Goodell’s contract more incentive-based. As far as I can tell, Jones is the only owner who has tried to hold Goodell accountable.

 

Jones is doing this for selfish reasons (the Ezekiel Elliott case), but at least he’s doing something to challenge Goodell’s power. Fans and players have been asking for someone to hold Goodell accountable for years. It’s finally happening.

 

“This is simply about making sure that all clubs have input into not only…his extension, but also, in future years, his decisions,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas last week in reference to his threat to sue the league over the Goodell negotiations, as the New York Times first reported.

 

“And we all see how impactful a commissioner’s decision can be in many areas,” Jones continued. “We’ve given him a lot of power. I think we need the checks and balances of ownership having to be in a position to not just suggest, but approve of his decisions. So that’s what this is about.”

 

The courts haven’t checked Goodell; Tom Brady eventually served his suspension, as will Elliott. Fans can’t check him. Players can’t. The only people who can are the owners, who are his bosses. One of them is finally taking Goodell on.

 

How will all of this work out? It remains likely that Goodell will get his extension and Jones will stand down.

 

Yet those odds diminish almost daily. The leak of Goodell’s contractual demands shows someone (Smerry Smones?) is willing to make this really ugly.

 

It’s possible Jones gains allies and this gets even nastier. We could see more owners versus owners.

 

We could see a civil war, and not the kind with Captain America.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

ESPN continues to take the biggest hit among the NFL’s broadcast partners.  Jay Busbee of Shutdown Corner:

 

Turns out three ugly Miami Dolphins losses in a row aren’t exactly a ratings boon for the NFL’s national ratings. Who knew?

 

Ratings for Week 10 are beginning to surface, and one that NFL observers could have seen from three states away indeed came to pass: the “Monday Night Football” game between the Carolina Panthers and the Miami Dolphins drew a 6.2 rating, the fourth-lowest since ESPN began broadcasting games in 2006. (The season’s lowest MNF? Titans-Colts, which drew a 6.1.) Locally in Miami, the game drew a 12.1 rating, weak for a local market and well below the 15.6 that the University of Miami/Notre Dame game drew over the weekend.

 

The ratings issue has hit red-alert status for the NFL, and there are plenty of potential causes: cord-cutting, terrible games and protesting fans rank high on the list. But before opponents of the NFL begin celebrating too much, there are other data points:

 

• Sunday’s Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears game averaged a 22.4 rating in Chicago and a monstrous 39.5 rating in Milwaukee, strong numbers for a couple of non-playoff-bound teams.

 

• Seattle’s ratings have remained remarkably consistent since the 2013 season, with Thursday night’s game against Arizona averaging a 39.3 and a prior game against Washington averaging a 39.9 rating.

 

• Ratings on Sunday pregame shows are decidedly mixed. Fox’s shows are up as much as 5 percent, and NFL Network’s pregame show is up 17 percent. On the other hand, NBC’s pregame shows are down as much as 7.2 percent, and ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” is down 14.8 percent from 2016 and 25.4 percent from 2015.

 

Plummeting ratings have raised concerns across NFL front offices and league headquarters, with good reason. Still, the NFL remains the top draw on television by a long shot, and the league’s declines are in line with the decline in ratings across all of TV. So while the declines are an indisputable fact, it’s not entirely clear whether they’re due to the NFL’s own actions—permitting protests, scheduling terrible teams in prime slots—or forces beyond the league’s control. There’s plenty of data for all sides in this story to spin a narrative however they wish.