The Daily Briefing Tuesday, November 28, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
If The Season Ended Today in the AFC:
Overall Division Conference
Pittsburgh Steelers ACN 9-2 3-0 6-1
New England Patriots ACN 9-2 2-0 6-1
Tennessee Titans ACS 7-4 3-1 6-4
Kansas City Chiefs ACW 6-5 2-1 4-3
Jacksonville Jaguars WC 7-4 2-1 7-2
Baltimore Ravens WC 6-5 2-1 5-3
Buffalo Bills 6-5 1-1 4-3
Cincinnati Bengals 5-6 2-2 5-5
Los Angeles Chargers 5-6 2-2 3-5
Oakland Raiders 5-6 2-2 5-5
The Steelers and Patriots are pulling away and appear destined for byes with the Week 15 meeting between the teams likely to decide top seed.
The Titans and Jaguars seem headed for a Week 17 AFC South showdown, the kind that the NFL likes to move to Sunday night. That game would be in Nashville.
And, the DB admits to being shocked to see the Bengals sitting just one game south of the playoff cutoff line. The bad news for Cincinnati, is that they already have their two wins over Cleveland in the bank. Three of Cincinnati’s final 5 games are with NFC North teams by the way.
– – –
As far as the NFC goes – before you think the NFC Wild Card race is down to the two NFC South teams that don’t win the division and Seattle, take note of this tweet from Mike Sando of ESPN:
Toughest remaining #NFL schedules: ATL .673, SEA .636, TB .618, CAR .600, CIN .593, NYJ .564, NO .545, MIA .545, NYG .545, LAR .545, SF .537
Easiest remaining #NFL schedules: WAS .364, LAC .364, CHI .382, KC .382, DEN .400, DET .407, JAC .407, BAL .415, PIT .434, TEN .463
Sando also notes that the Redskins have so far played the NFL’s 2nd-toughest schedule. Washington has two meetings with the Eagles in its rearview mirror.
As the Packers sit on the verge of playoff contention, there are rumblings that QB AARON RODGERS is getting somewhat close to a return. Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com:
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers won’t practice on Friday, the first day he’s eligible to take the field since he was placed on injured reserve.
No, Rodgers didn’t have a setback in the recovery from his broken collarbone. The Packers just don’t practice on Fridays.
Saturday, however, could be another story.
One day after Rodgers was seen chucking passes some 50 yards in the air during a pregame workout at Heinz Field before Green Bay’s 31-28 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Packers coach Mike McCarthy raved about Rodgers’ dedication to his rehab but wouldn’t commit to a timeline for when Rodgers would return to practice.
“We’ll see,” McCarthy said Monday. “I mean, he’s still going through — there’s a protocol, there’s targets we’re trying to hit each and every week. I think they’re working [on it], and it’s segmented. The A-No. 1 priority is to get him healthy. Practice is not something we’re really focused on right now.
“I’m more focused on game planning for the Buccaneers. There’s a plan laid out for Aaron, just like the other guys on IR. He’s knocking it out of the park, he’s going at it 120 miles an hour. We’ll see what the end of the week brings.”
Either way, Rodgers can’t return to game action until Dec. 17 at Carolina. But players who go on injured reserve are eligible to practice six weeks after the roster move was made. Rodgers was placed on IR on Oct. 20, one day after he underwent surgery to repair his broken right clavicle.
The Packers haven’t practiced on Fridays during a normal game week for several years, using the day instead for recovery, treatment and meetings, before then having a short practice on Saturday. Those Saturday practices are closed to the media, but the Packers would have to inform the league if Rodgers returns to practice, because it would count as one of the two players designated to return off IR. They’ve already used one spot, on Jason Spriggs, who started at right tackle against the Steelers.
Even with QB BRETT HUNDLEY at QB (and the light seemed to click for him Sunday night in Pittsburgh), the 5-6 Packers have a pair of winnable games prior to the possible Rodgers return – at home vs. Tampa Bay Sunday and at Cleveland on December 10.
The Eagles can be division champs before November ends. All they need is a Dallas loss or tie on Thursday night. Or they clinch on Sunday with a win or a tie in Seattle.
QB BLAINE GABBERT may be rising off the scrap heap into position to be the Cardinals starter in 2018. Kevin Patra at NFL.com:
The Arizona Cardinals are sticking with Blaine Gabbert under center, and the maligned quarterback could be auditioning for a future role.
Cards coach Bruce Arians was asked on Monday whether he’d be confident with Gabbert as his starter next season if Carson Palmer retired.
“The way he’s playing right now I’d be very, very comfortable,” Arians said, via the team’s official website.
While there are many, many layers to the hypothetical question, the coach likes what he’s seen from Gabbert in two starts.
“Oh yeah, I think that’s a possibility,” Arians said.
Gabbert has performed well in two games as a starter in Arizona, including Sunday’s last-second win over a stout Jacksonville Jaguars defense. In a small sample size, Gabbert’s stats in Arians’ offense are similar to what Palmer was putting up this season:
Palmer 2017: 61.4 completion percentage, 282.6 pass YPT, 9-7 TD-INT ratio, 84.4 passer rating.
Gabbert 2017: 61.1 completion percentage, 249.0 pass YPT, 5-3 TD-INT ratio, 87.6 passer rating.
“I’m really proud of him,” Arians said of Gabbert. “These things don’t happen. I mean, you hope they don’t happen very often when your top two guys go down. But we’re very blessed to have him and he has taken the bull by the horns and showing us, ‘I’m a player. I can play at this level and play very high.'”
Seeing Gabbert in Arians’ system gives hope the career of the once washed-out No. 10 overall pick could be salvaged. With Palmer’s future in question, the Cards will test-drive Gabbert to see whether he can sustain his play or if it will nosedive down the stretch.
The NFL suspension dice came up snake-eyes for the Raiders as WR MICHAEL CRABTREE gets a two-game suspension (along with CB AQIB TALIB of the Broncos). Vincent Frank of Forbes notes an inconsistency:
Back in Week 9, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green put Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a choke hold after the two traded jabs.
While both Green and Ramsey were ejected from the game, each avoided suspension. Most figured Green’s aggressiveness in the skirmish warranted at least a one-game ban.
Fast forward three weeks, and another fight unfolded in Oakland in a game between two heated division rivals. Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib continued with a spat that started last December.
It was about as ugly as it gets. Multiple times throughout the scuffle, Crabtree and Talib could be seen throwing punches at one another.
We figured that the NFL had taken note and would react accordingly. That happened Monday evening when the league decided to suspend each player two games.
It’s not that Crabtree and Talib didn’t deserve to be suspended. Unlike Green, both have a history of on-field antics. Heck, that history includes with one another.
Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com with more:
The NFL on Monday night announced two-game suspensions for Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and Oakland Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree. It was swift justice for an extended fight one day earlier.
Shortly thereafter, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio tweeted his understandable confusion about the discipline, noting the NFL’s refusal to suspend the protagonists of an equally violent fight four weeks earlier in Jacksonville.
I’ve got news for you, Del Rio. Talib and Crabtree didn’t just receive far harsher punishments than Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. If these suspensions hold up under expected appeals, they received two of the most severe disciplinary actions for an on-field incident in NFL history.
There are no official records for suspensions in pro football, but the website Football Zebras maintains a well-researched database that shows only seven incidents since 1920 that resulted in multigame suspensions. (The list does not include suspensions under the drug or personal conduct policies.) If you’re one who believes the NFL is cracking down more severely this season, you’ll note that two of the seven — accounting for three of the eight players suspended — have occurred this season.
The NFL seemed to take into account the prior history between Talib and Crabtree as well as Crabtree’s punch of a Broncos player one play before the fight. Regardless, the NFL has placed them in rare company in an effort to root out fighting at a time of the season when maximum eyes are on the league and tensions tend to run high.
The first player to be suspended for more than one game under such circumstances was Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Charles Martin, who got two games from commissioner Pete Rozelle for body-slamming Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon in 1986. Here is the rest of the list:
2005: Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth suspended five games for stomping on Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode.
2011: Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh suspended two games for stomping on Packers center Evan Smith (formally known as Evan Dietrich-Smith).
2014: Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather suspended two games for multiple illegal hits on defenseless players.
2016/2017: Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict suspended three games in consecutive seasons for hits on defenseless players and a blindside block, respectively.
2017: Talib and Crabtree suspended two games, pending appeals.
Do Talib and Crabtree deserve spots alongside Suh, Burfict, Haynesworth, Meriweather and Martin? That’s a short list of players in a span of 31 years, much less the nearly 100-year history of the NFL.
Here’s what I would tell you: The context of NFL on-field discipline has changed dramatically under commissioner Roger Goodell, and there’s no sense in comparing what Talib and Crabtree did to what you’ve seen NFL Films document from the 1970s or even the 2000s. The league has taken a much harsher approach the past 10 years, presumably in an effort to further sanitize the game of what we’ll call “unsanctioned violence.”
If anything, that effort has accelerated this season. While the league has handed out three multigame suspensions, referees have ejected 13 players from games through the first 12 weeks. That matches the NFL’s highest total since at least 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and likely longer than that.
So yes, Del Rio, Monday night’s news was a little confusing, given the league’s long-term history. But in terms of 2017 and beyond? We probably shouldn’t be surprised.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Pete Prisco has the Chargers at #10 in his latest power rankings here and he thinks they could go higher.
The NFL is — and always will be — a passer-and-pass rusher league.
That’s why the Los Angeles Chargers are one of the most-dangerous teams in the league right now.
They showed on Thanksgiving Day against the Dallas Cowboys on the road just how dangerous that formula can be. Philip Rivers carved up the Cowboys to the tune of 434 yards and three touchdowns, while the pass rush had two sacks and spent the day pressuring Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram didn’t get any sacks against Dallas, but their presence was felt, and they have a combined 19 sacks between them on the season.
With Rivers playing at high level, and those two creating pass-rush havoc, it’s a formula for success in the modern NFL. That’s why the Chargers are a team that the AFC elite doesn’t want to see in the playoffs.
The Chargers are 5-6 and one game out of first place in the AFC West, trailing the reeling Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers play the Browns this week and the Redskins next week at home before playing the Chiefs at Arrowhead in Week 15. They have a real shot now to win the division after opening the season 0-4, which would be an amazing turnaround.
They’ve won five out of seven to get in the mix, and that’s put them in my top-10 of the Power Rankings this week in the 10th spot. That might seem high based on their record, but can anybody dispute they are one of the 10 best teams right now?
The Chargers still have problems stopping the run on defense and they are 25th in rushing on offense. Those two numbers have to improve down the stretch if they are to make the postseason and do damage once there.
But they have the right pieces working now. They can throw it with Rivers and they can knock down the opposition’s thrower. That’s what it takes to win come January.
Remember, if they win the AFC West they host a playoff game at StubHub Center, possibly against the favorite team in Los Angeles, the Raiders.
Good quote from Coach John Harbaugh in the aftermath of Baltimore’s win over Houston on Monday night. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
The Baltimore Ravens sit at 6-5, currently in the driver’s seat for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. John Harbaugh’s team is in playoff position thanks mostly to a smothering defense.
The Ravens D has the most takeaways (26) and interceptions (18) in the NFL this season. The 17.0 points per game given up, 305.7 total yards per game allowed, 189.9 pass YPG, 34.2 third down percent, 2.7 sacks per game, and 2.4 takeaways per tilt are all better stats than the 2012 squad that went on to win the Super Bowl.
The key to the Ravens defense has been ageless wonder Terrell Suggs, who earned his third multi-sack game of the season in Monday’s win over the Houston Texans. Suggs had 2.0 sacks, one forced fumble, one tackle for loss, 3 QB hits, one pass defended, and four tackles on the night. His strip-sack of Tom Savage was the game’s biggest play in the fourth quarter.
Harbaugh marveled at the 35-year-old pass-rusher after the game.
“Terrell Suggs, I mean, he’s Ponce de Leon — you should put that on the back of his jersey — he has found the Fountain of Youth,” Harbaugh said.
(Shhhhhhhh, no one tell Harbaugh that Juan Ponce de Leon never actually found the Fountain of Youth — and most historians believe he wasn’t even looking for it. Don’t ruin a good nickname, fact checkers.)
– – –
JOE FLACCO passed 32 times Monday, completed 62.5% of his passes and still didn’t reach 150 yards. But his 4.41 per pass attempt isn’t the lowest number in a win while completing better the 60% of 30 pass attempts. It is close though:
Yds/Att C-Att Pct Yds
3.89 Steve Bono 09/10/95 KC vs NYG 27-47 61.7% 183
4.22 Matt Moore 01/01/12 Mia vs NYJ 22-32 68.8% 135
4.28 Dan Pastiorini 09/18/77 Hou vsNYJ 20-32 62.5% 137
4.41 Joe Flacco 11/27/17 Bal vs Hou 20-32 62.5% 141
The Browns only win of 2016 came against the Chargers in December. This year, the rematch is upon us and the Browns have a key reinforcement. Mary Kay Cabot in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Hue Jackson will rip open his biggest Christmas present this week in Josh Gordon, put the batteries in, flip the ‘on’ switch and let ‘er rip in his debut Sunday against the Chargers in Los Angeles.
“My plans for him? Oh boy, let me tell you, I have big plans for him,” Jackson said Monday. “I plan for him to play and play as much as he can handle. He’s a very talented player. He needs to get out there and play but we have to see where he is and make sure how much can he handle, how much can he do.”
Gordon was eligible to come off the Commissioner’s Exempt list Monday, but the Browns will likely wait until at least Friday when they leave for Los Angeles. They can delay the decision until next Monday, but they have no plans of doing that.
The Browns are 0-11 and need all the help they can get to avoid becoming the second member of the exclusive 0-16 club. So when a 6-3, 225-pound Pro Bowl receiver who led the NFL with 1,646 yards in 2013 drops in your lap, you accept the gift and use it right away.
Especially when your 2016 No. 15 overall pick in Corey Coleman drops a touchdown pass in the end zone in Cincinnati.
– – –
Like a rainbow’s end, the pot of draft gold always glimmers promisingly in Cleveland at this time of the year.
The Browns haven’t won this year, and they weren’t even on the field last night, but they still got some good news.
With the Texans losing to the Ravens, the draft portfolio of the Browns went up in value. Since it’s almost December and most of these teams don’t have anything better to think about, we might as well look at the current order of picks for the 2018 NFL Draft.
If the season ended today, the Browns would pick first and seventh. Also, a lot of people would be wondering: “Why did the season end on the Tuesday after Week 12?”
The Browns, of course, top the list based on their 0-11 record. The 49ers (1-10) are second, followed by the Giants (2-9), Broncos (3-8), Colts (3-8), and Bears (3-8).
The pick the Texans (4-7) owe the Browns as part of the Deshaun Watson trade would be seventh, followed by the Jets (4-7), Dolphins (4-7), and Buccaneers (4-7).
Draft order ties are broken using strength of schedule (and the order shown here is based on 16-game strength of schedule calculation). Although strength seems like a relative term considering this bunch.
To refresh your memory, the pick the Browns received from the Texans came when Houston moved up from 25 to 12 in last year’s draft to seize franchise QB DESHAUN WATSON, so at this time there are no regrets in Houston.
The Browns also have Houston’s second round pick for having taken the bloated contract of QB BROCK OSWEILER off the Texans’ hands.
ESPN Analytics is projecting the top 10 this way:
On Sunday, much of the status quo remained with most of the worst teams in the league losing again. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fresh off a loss to the Atlanta Falcons, slid into the top 10.
Below is FPI’s projected order for the 2018 draft, based on each team’s average draft position in the simulations. While each team’s current record is listed below, remember that the order is based on the record the model believes the teams will have after 16 games:
1 – Cleveland Browns (0-11)
2 – San Francisco 49ers (1-10)
3 – Indianapolis Colts (3-8)
4 – New York Giants (2-9)
5 – Denver Broncos (3-8)
6 – New York Jets (4-7)
7 – Chicago Bears (3-8)
8 – Miami Dolphins (4-7)
9 – Arizona Cardinals (5-6)
10 -Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)
Why is Arizona projected ahead of Tampa Bay? The Cardinals have a very winnable home game against the Giants left and the team that just beat Jacksonville could win some of the other four including at Washington. So let’s put the Cardinals at 6-10.
Even if the Buccaneers have the tiebreaker with Arizona (and we’re not sure they do), they have games left with each of their dominant AFC South brethren – the Saints, Panthers and Falcons. So that means they have to win both of a pair of iffy games, this week at Green Bay and in Week 14 at home to Detroit. We don’t see them as a favorite in any of the five (maybe the Lions).
So, now TE MARTELLUS BENNETT goes on New England’s IR instead of Green Bay’s. But it’s due to a hamstring injury, not the balky shoulder per the Boston Globe.
THIS AND THAT
The NFL’s anthem protest is down to five or so players, but the damage has been done. Still, the league is talking about talking about their policy in March. Mark Maske of the Washington Post takes the pulse:
Some NFL owners believe there is a strong possibility they will enact an offseason change to the league’s national anthem policy if players’ protests during the anthem persist through the end of this season, reverting to a previous approach of keeping players in the locker room while the anthem is played, according to several people familiar with the league’s inner workings.
“I think that if players are still kneeling at the end of the year, then it could very well happen,” said one person familiar with the owners’ deliberations on anthem-related issues.
That person said it was “too early to tell” for certain if the change to the anthem policy will be made by owners and the league. The person was “not sure” if a formal vote of the owners would be required to enact such a change but said, “I think most owners would support it, particularly if players continue to kneel this season.”
Those sentiments were echoed by several others with knowledge of the owners’ thinking on the matter. They said they did not know at this point exactly how many owners would favor such an approach, and they cautioned that there have been no detailed discussions yet about leaving teams and players in the locker room for the anthem because owners did not consider it appropriate to make an in-season change to the policy.
But they agreed that if the protests last all season and remain intensely controversial among fans, the issue will be raised during the offseason and a policy change to having players remain in the locker room until the anthem’s conclusion would have the support of a significant number of owners. They said the matter could be addressed at the annual league meeting in March.
“It would certainly have to be considered very strongly,” said an official with an NFL franchise who is familiar with the thinking of that team’s owner on the matter.
The change to having players and coaches on the sideline for the anthem was made in 2009. The current league policy says that players must be on the sideline for the anthem. It suggests but does not require that players stand for the anthem.
The DB wonders if there will be any players who feel as strongly about being present and standing for the Anthem as those who currently kneel. What if they insist on coming out of the locker room to express their First Amendment rights? Will the NFL lock them up under penalty of fine or suspension?
The NFL did minimal flexing for Week 14. Darin Gantt at ProFootballTalk.com:
With the Ravens and Steelers both looking like playoff teams (or at least looking like teams which will qualify) the NFL decided not to take them off of Sunday Night Football.
In fact, the adjustments to the Week 14 television schedule were slight.
The league announced that the Seattle at Jacksonville game was moved to the 4:25 p.m. ET slot on FOX, and the Cowboys-Giants game was moved into the 1:00 p.m. ET slot on the same network.
That gives more people a chance to see a great defense (and also the Seahawks), and allows FOX the opportunity to hide a game that seemed like a much better idea in April. It also keeps the Eagles and the Rams on FOX at 4:25 p.m. ET, while some might have preferred seeing that in prime time.
The simple fact that a scheduling change was made so more people could see the Jaguars is a wonderful thing, an early Festivus miracle.
The DB is not so sure that Gantt’s reasoning is correct here. Flexing the Cowboys and the Giants early means that the New York and Dallas markets can now take the best FOX game of the week – Eagles at Rams. We’re guessing that the late Seahawks-Jaguars game will end up with a smaller range of markets than Dallas-Giants would have if it remained late.
As for the idea that Eagles-Rams should have gone late, this from Aaron Schatz:
Seeing a lot of complaints that LARM-PHI wasn’t flexed to SNF… The flex rules aren’t there to give NBC the best game. They’re there to avoid BAD games. BAL-PIT is a good game, two playoff contenders, hardcore division rivalry. It’s just not the best game of the week.
Thru Week 12
The 10-1 Eagles have the best record in the NFL and they also stand first in the Aikman Combined Ratings compiled by STATS through the first 12 weeks. Philadelphia, in first in the Aikman Combined for the fifth straight week, maintains the same 8.4 margin on second place they had last week, but there is a new team in the runner-up slot. The 9-2 Vikings have moved ahead of the Jaguars.
The Patriots are also in the ascendency. They have advanced to 4th in the Aikman Combined and also taken over the lead in Aikman Offense, displacing the Eagles after three-week run. New England’s strength this year comes from leading the NFL in two of the seven Aikman Offensive categories with 25.0 first downs per game and only 7 turnovers. The Patriots are now two points ahead of the Eagles who are first in Offensive Points and in Points Per Red Zone Opportunity.
The Jaguars continue to lead Aikman Defense, as the Eagles advance to 2nd.
– – –
After Week 5, the Chiefs (then 5-0) were the top team in the Aikman Combined with a 169.0 rating. As they have dropped 5 of their last 7 games, Kansas City has fallen to 13th. They are now behind the Chargers who have moved from 23rd to 11th in the same period of time and have the highest Aikman Combined in the AFC West.
Aikman Combined Ratings Through Week 12, 2017
——— Aikman ——– —— NFL ——–
Rank Record Team Combined Off Def Off Def Combined
1 10-1 Eagles 176.4 93.1 83.4 3 6 9
2 9-2 Vikings 168.0 88.8 79.2 5 5 10
3 7-4 Jaguars 165.9 81.5 84.4 12 1 13
4 9-2 Patriots 165.2 95.1 70.2 1 30 31
5 8-3 Saints 161.4 91.7 69.7 2 15 17
6 8-3 Rams 159.1 85.9 73.1 4 16 20
7 9-2 Steelers 158.9 81.0 77.9 7 4 11
8 7-4 Falcons 157.3 87.4 69.9 6 10 16
9 7-4 Seahawks 156.2 81.4 74.8 8 8 16
10 6-5 Ravens 155.9 73.4 82.5 31 7 38
11 5-6 Chargers 154.4 79.6 74.8 10 17 27
12 8-3 Panthers 153.2 82.2 71.0 17 2 19
13 6-5 Chiefs 151.1 85.2 65.9 9 27 36
14 7-4 Titans 150.4 79.2 71.1 20 11 31
15 5-6 Cowboys 149.1 83.1 66.0 16 22 38
16 4-7 Texans 147.8 78.1 69.8 13 18 31
17 5-6 Redskins 147.8 81.6 66.1 11 20 31
18 5-6 Packers 147.5 83.1 64.4 25 23 48
19 6-5 Lions 147.3 78.4 69.0 15 26 41
20 4-7 Jets 147.0 77.8 69.2 23 19 42
21 6-5 Bills 146.7 78.7 68.1 26 25 51
22 5-6 Raiders 146.7 81.7 65.0 19 24 43
23 3-8 Bears 145.5 72.7 72.8 29 12 41
24 4-7 Buccaneers 143.2 77.4 65.8 14 32 46
25 5-6 Bengals 142.4 71.1 71.3 32 13 45
26 3-8 Colts 141.2 72.7 68.5 27 29 56
27 3-8 Broncos 140.3 70.4 69.9 22 3 25
28 5-6 Cardinals 138.5 71.8 66.7 18 14 32
29 2-9 Giants 138.1 72.0 66.0 28 31 59
30 1-10 49ers 137.1 73.4 63.7 21 28 49
31 4-7 Dolphins 131.2 71.5 59.8 30 21 51
32 0-11 Browns 128.4 64.7 63.7 24 9 33
Aikman Offense Ratings Through Week 12, 2017
Aik NFL Team AER
1 1 Patriots 95.1
2 3 Eagles 93.1
3 2 Saints 91.7
4 5 Vikings 88.8
5 6 Falcons 87.4
6 4 Rams 85.9
7 9 Chiefs 85.2
8 16 Cowboys 83.1
9 25 Packers 83.1
10 17 Panthers 82.2
11 19 Raiders 81.7
12 11 Redskins 81.6
13 12 Jaguars 81.5
14 8 Seahawks 81.4
15 7 Steelers 81.0
16 10 Chargers 79.6
17 20 Titans 79.2
18 26 Bills 78.7
19 15 Lions 78.4
20 13 Texans 78.1
21 23 Jets 77.8
22 14 Buccaneers 77.4
23 21 49ers 73.4
24 31 Ravens 73.4
25 27 Colts 72.7
26 29 Bears 72.7
27 28 Giants 72.0
28 18 Cardinals 71.8
29 30 Dolphins 71.5
30 32 Bengals 71.1
31 22 Broncos 70.4
32 24 Browns 64.7
NFL Average 79.7
Aikman Defense Ratings Through Week 12, 2017
Aik NFL Team AER
1 1 Jaguars 84.4
2 6 Eagles 83.4
3 7 Ravens 82.5
4 5 Vikings 79.2
5 4 Steelers 77.9
6 8 Seahawks 74.8
7 17 Chargers 74.8
8 16 Rams 73.1
9 12 Bears 72.8
10 13 Bengals 71.3
11 11 Titans 71.1
12 2 Panthers 71.0
13 30 Patriots 70.2
14 10 Falcons 69.9
15 3 Broncos 69.9
16 18 Texans 69.8
17 15 Saints 69.7
18 19 Jets 69.2
19 26 Lions 69.0
20 29 Colts 68.5
21 25 Bills 68.1
22 14 Cardinals 66.7
23 20 Redskins 66.1
24 31 Giants 66.0
25 22 Cowboys 66.0
26 27 Chiefs 65.9
27 32 Buccaneers 65.8
28 24 Raiders 65.0
29 23 Packers 64.4
30 9 Browns 63.7
31 28 49ers 63.7
32 21 Dolphins 59.8
NFL Average 70.3
Ratings Courtesy of STATS
NFL quarterbacks have launched, tossed, shoveled, flipped and otherwise delivered more than 11,000 passes this season. Some QBs are rising, others are falling and a great many are what 2017 QB Tiers voters thought they were heading into the season.
Nearly four months after 50 coaches and evaluators voted all projected starters into five possible performance tiers, it’s time to revisit some of the more interesting cases. I’ve singled out a combination of 16 risers, fallers, newcomers and players who are otherwise fun to debate right now. First, here’s a refresher on each tier:
Tier 1: Can carry his team each week. The team wins because of him. Expertly handles pure-pass situations.
Tier 2: Can carry his team sometimes, but not as consistently. Can handle pure-pass situations in doses or possesses other dimensions that are special enough to elevate him above Tier 3.
Tier 3: A legitimate starter, but needs a heavier run game and/or defense to win.
Tier 4: Could be an unproven player with some upside, or a veteran who is ultimately best suited as a backup.
Tier 5: Should not start under any circumstances.
Three clear risers
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
2017 Tier: 4
Projected 2018 Tier: high 3
Goff landed in the fourth tier following a brutal 2016 rookie season that saw him go 0-7 as a starter under difficult circumstances. He is thriving now within an offense stabilized by veteran additions to the offensive line and the playcalling of Sean McVay, whose special ability as an offensive schemer helped him become a head coach at age 31.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
2017 Tier: 3
Projected 2018 Tier: 2
Some voters thought Wentz, more than Goff, had a chance to challenge for the first tier ultimately. One GM quoted in the 2017 QB Tiers article said he thought Wentz was a 2 already, with a chance to become a 1 this season. This GM called Wentz the “pick of the litter” among emerging young quarterbacks in the league for his toughness, movement, arm, quickness, decisiveness and accuracy.
Josh McCown, New York Jets
2017 Tier: 4
Projected 2018 Tier: 3
The 38-year-old McCown might not be a starter heading into next season, but his play in 2017 shows he was more viable than voters thought he would be. McCown has done a better job avoiding unnecessary contact when he runs with the ball. His discretion has helped him stay on the field. As one voter put it over the summer, McCown is a Tier 3 quarterback for as long as he lasts.
Three clear fallers
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
2017 Tier: 1
Projected 2018 Tier: 2
Ryan had been a Tier 2 QB for years, but his 2016 MVP season led some voters to push him into the top tier, allowing him to barely make the cut in that group. Ryan has settled back into previous form, which seemed predictable, especially with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan leaving for San Francisco.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
2017 Tier: 2
Projected 2018 Tier: 3
Manning had no running game going into the season and then lost his top receivers, so there are clearly strong outside forces contributing to his performance.
“He needs help and he needs it three ways: big-gun receivers, the run game and defense,” one voter said. “He has zero of them. It is too leveraged on him.”
If Manning were truly a Tier 2 QB at this point, however, wouldn’t he sometimes carry the Giants regardless? That doesn’t seem to happen.
Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins
2017 Tier: 3
Projected 2018 Tier: 4
Cutler was a late addition to the 2017 QB Tiers ballot, forcing me to gather votes from coaches and evaluators who had already completed the survey. It’s possible some simply recalled Cutler as they had seen him a few years ago, not as injuries were keeping him off the field late in his Chicago tenure.
Six QBs of interest
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
2017 Tier: 1
Projected 2018 Tier: 1 or 2
Roethlisberger seems able to summon top-tier powers when needed, but he does not play that way consistently. Voters still might admire his abilities and track record sufficiently to keep him in the top tier, but he went into Week 12 with 23 interceptions since the start of last season, same as Blake Bortles and Eli Manning.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
2017 Tier: 1
Projected 2018 Tier: 1 or 2
“If you have a 2A and a 2B in the second tier,” one voter said, “then Brees is in that 2A group right at the top. He’s so much better than some of those guys at the bottom of the second tier.”
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
2017 Tier: top of 3
Projected 2018 Tier: 3
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
2017 Tier: 3
Projected 2018 Tier: 3
Smith looked like a Tier 2 QB for stretches under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco. He looked better than that for stretches under Andy Reid in Kansas City, including when he started this season with 15 touchdown passes and no picks through seven games.
Smith is not looking that way during the Chiefs’ current three-game losing streak.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
2017 Tier: 2
Projected 2018 Tier: high 2
Wilson is carrying an offense featuring no reliable conventional ground game. Sometimes he plays brilliantly, as he did when he outgunned Houston during a memorable shootout with Deshaun Watson in Week 8. Sometimes he commits costly turnovers and has trouble generating offense, as the case was during a 17-14 home defeat to Washington, or Sunday’s game against San Francisco, when he completed 8 of 19 first-half passes and threw a pick on the first play. Wilson will generate more top-tier votes in 2018 if he shows greater consistency and Seattle finishes strong.
“Here’s a guy that, when pieces are missing, he can win,” one voter said Sunday. “He finds ways to win. He has a complete game. He can do it with his feet, running around with his arm, he can do it in the pocket with his arm. You’d like to see the offense play a little more consistently over time, but they don’t have a line.”
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
2017 Tier: 3
Projected 2018 Tier: 3
Mariota’s ratio of touchdown passes to interceptions (9-to-12) places him in unexpected company. Brett Hundley, C.J. Beathard and DeShone Kizer are the only qualifying QBs with worse ratios. Five of the six QBs with passer ratings lower than Mariota’s 79.1 have been benched or entered the season as backups.
Why, then, isn’t Mariota listed among players likely to fall in 2018 QB Tiers polling? For the same reason Joe Flacco, Jameis Winston and a few others enduring underwhelming seasons aren’t listed there: All were already in Tier 3 with the other QBs who need more from their defenses and/or running games.
Four newcomers to analyze
Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings
Projected 2018 Tier: 3
“It’s a little bit like an Andy Dalton,” a voter theorized. “If he has all the pieces around him, he can play like a lower Tier 2 guy. If he does not, he is barely a 2, probably a high 3.”
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Projected 2018 Tier: low 2 or high 3
“If we are scoring him just off the games he has played and that’s it, then Watson is probably a 2,” a voter said. “If you need more information, then he probably starts in 3 with an arrow pointing up. I would start him in 3 because there’s not enough information yet, and he’s injured.”
Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts
Projected 2018 Tier: low 3 or high 4
“He will have some plays where you kind of cringe, but you look at all these young quarterbacks playing, and if I am Cleveland’s owner, I’m wondering why we don’t have Brissett,” a voter said. “Put Brissett in Jacksonville and, oh man. He has a lot of courage in the pocket and is better than some of those midlevel starters you see out there.”
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Projected 2018 Tier: 4
“He can’t throw to win right now and they suck at receiver, so it is hard to tell,” a voter said. “If they can’t play defense and hand the ball off 38 times, it is going to be hard for them to win.”