The Daily Briefing Tuesday, September 19, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
This note from Scott Kacsmar:
Teams with 0-1 TDs thru Week 2:
Happened 4 times total in 2012-2016.
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The NFL has a domestic violence issue with one of its officials. And not just any official – Carl Johnson once headed all NFL officials. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
It appears the NFL has another domestic violence case to sort out, although this one doesn’t involve a player.
TMZ reports that line judge and former NFL vice president of officiating Carl Johnson is under investigation in Louisiana for domestic violence. Johnson has denied the allegations by a woman who claims she and Johnson lived together in 2016 and began being violent with her in December.
Per the report, the woman claims Johnson broke one of her breast implants and reached out to the NFL in March of this year before going to the police. She was granted a temporary restraining order, but a permanent one was denied. A representative of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office told TMZ that the case remains under investigation.
Johnson offered no comment when reached by the website and the NFL has not commented about any internal investigation. Johnson, who left the league office to become the league’s first full-time official in 2012, is subject to discipline under the Personal Conduct Policy.
Stuart Whitaker of ProFootballFocus.com on how DE ZIGGY ANSAH is making the Lions defense roar:
Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah shone in the Detroit Lions 24-10 victory over the New York Giants on Monday night.
Ansah finished with an overall grade of 85.9 and was particularly disruptive against the Giants passing game, recording three total quarterback pressures, all of which were sacks, on 10 pass-rush snaps.
This equated to a pass-rush productivity (measuring pressure created on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks) of 15.8. This is the second consecutive week Ansah has generated pressure on the opposing quarterback with 4 total quarterback pressures and a pass-rushing productivity of 12.5 recorded in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Here is what’s new in the NFL’s battle with the NFLPA and EZEKIEL ELLIOTT. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
A dizzying array of court filings over the past few days has led to one very clear and simple point: The ball is on the tee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to issue a ruling on the NFL’s emergency motion to stay the injunction that blocks the suspension of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The standard process for written submissions made in connection with motions filed by a party to a lawsuit entails three steps: (1) the party filing the motion submits a brief in support of its request; (2) the party opposing the motion submits a brief resisting the request; and (3) the party that filed the motion gets the last word via a reply brief.
On Monday, the NFL filed a 12-page reply brief, answering the response brief submitted by the NFL Players Association on Saturday. That following the original paperwork submitted by the NFL on Friday. Now, both sides play the waiting game.
The NFL has asked for a ruling by September 19 at the earliest, September 26 at the latest. The league’s goal continues to be implementing the suspension as soon as possible.
The league’s primary argument continues to be that Elliott’s camp filed the lawsuit too soon, robbing the Texas federal court of what the lawyers call “subject matter jurisdiction,” a flaw that is fatal to any legal proceeding. Without jurisdiction over the subject matter, the court has no more power than the Wicked Witch of the West when she showed up in Munchkinland to retrieve the ruby slippers. (Timely reference, I know.)
The league’s fallback request continues to be an expedited appeal of the injunction, which would push a ruling deeper into the season — and potentially result in a November-December suspension, if the league wins.
Regardless of how it plays out, the league isn’t willing to concede that Elliott will play the full season, and the league wants to start the six-game clock ticking as soon as next Monday night, when the Cowboys face the Cardinals.
Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com shakes his head at Elliott, who continues to look like a knucklehead whether or not he’s allowed to play:
Through all the cage-rattling and legal maneuvering, the NFL and the Cowboys quietly share (some) common ground on Ezekiel Elliott.
Both knew the reigning rushing champion needed a wakeup call.
The hope, internally, in Dallas was that everything Elliott had gone through over this calendar year would, finally, shake him up and scare him straight. And it wasn’t just the domestic violence investigation, but the reaction to pulling up a woman’s shirt at a St. Patrick’s Day parade, and, at least, being there for a bar fight at an Uptown watering hole that’s known to be frequented by Cowboys.
The overriding point was that when you’re a prominent Cowboy in Dallas in general, and the heir to the Tony Dorsett/Emmitt Smith throne in particular, you don’t get to play by the same rules as everyone else. You can’t go out and expect to blend in, and you can’t slip up and expect to get a pass.
That’s what I take away from the grainy video that showed up on the @inbeastitrust Twitter account late Sunday: Zeke still doesn’t get it.
Is it the end of the world that he’s loafing on a Dak Prescott interception? No. It wouldn’t have changed much for the Cowboys in a 42-17 loss to Denver, and Elliott can easily prevent it from being a season-defining moment.
But that doesn’t change the fact that it did happen, and that Elliott is—and should be—held to a high standard, no matter the score or circumstance, as one of the most important players on the Cowboys’ roster. That’s life as a star player on what Bill Parcells used to call the NFL’s “main stage.” Coach Jason Garrett said as much on Monday, noting that Elliott is competitive and could have been frustrated by his tough day against the Broncos but acknowledging that “that’s not the way we play,” and that the Cowboys would address it with him.
When Elliott was an All-American at Ohio State he developed a reputation as a campus celebrity who liked to bask in the spotlight. He relished being the most famous guy in the room, which is understandable for a 20-year-old. And eventually, word of how Elliott and Joey Bosa were running the town after winning the 2015 national title got to NFL scouts.
A few months later, Bosa incurred a one-game suspension and moved out of the apartment he shared with Elliott, knowing what was on the line for him. Elliott, meanwhile, continued to dominate on the field, then went fourth overall in the draft, and led the NFL in rushing as a rookie, which gave him little reason to change.
That is to say he kept living the life. He showed up to training camp last year at 231 pounds, well above his ideal playing weight of 225. His late-night exploits popped up on social media. In the spring, once again, he had to work his way back into playing shape. None of this stuff ever got in the way of his being a great football player.
But the Cowboys’ brass has been in place for long enough, and the league has enough to dealings with players, to know that eventually it would catch up with Elliott.
Eventually, some guy with a lot less to lose than he has would take a swing at him in a bar. Eventually, the fluctuation in weight would be a problem. Eventually, he wouldn’t be in his early 20s anymore.
Elliott has gone through a domestic violence investigation lasting more than a year. He’s been embroiled in a prolonged court case over the six-game suspension the league handed down. For most athletes, that would be cause for some self-reflection and a lot more caution in behavior.
Instead, we’ve gotten an Elliott who continues to play by his own rules. His loafing on Sunday is just another example of that.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Ty Schalter, writing at The538.com, published this prior to last night’s loss:
Even after Eli Manning’s 200 consecutive regular-season NFL starts, quantifying his career is difficult.
Manning is in his 14th season, and nearly every one has felt like a crossroads. Which quarterback would show up for the Giants: the one capable of winning two Super Bowl MVPs — or the one capable of leading the NFL in interceptions for three seasons?
The answer was probably somewhere in between. Manning has been reliably, and historically, mediocre.
Only 10 quarterbacks in NFL history have started at least 200 games, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, and the list is a who’s who of all-time legends: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Warren Moon and John Elway. And Eli Manning. And, OK, Vinny Testaverde — but still.
Save Eli Manning and Testaverde, all have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or are virtually certain to be.
Among that group, Eli Manning ranks either last, or ahead of only Testaverde, in nearly every season-indexed rate stat: completion rate, yards per attempt, interception rate, passer rating, adjusted yards per attempt, net yards per attempt and adjusted net yards per attempt.
But Manning is not just terrible at being great — he regularly tests the lower boundaries of even being good. He has finished among the top 10 in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating just four times out of the 11 seasons for which QBR has been calculated; his average rank is a middling 16th. He has finished among the top 10 in passer rating just once in 12 starting campaigns, finishing an average of 18th. From 2004, when Manning entered the league, through Week 1 of 2017, he was in the bottom half of both season-indexed passer rating and season-indexed adjusted net yards per attempt2 (among quarterbacks with at least 50 starts):
The truth is, the NFL’s eighth all-time leading passer has produced like a below-average starter across his entire career. That average contains some really low points, like his miserable 27-interception 2013 season, when he finished 35th in passer rating in a league with just 32 teams.
But that is as close as Manning has come to truly poor play. That reliability — that no matter how much he teases us with flashes of greatness, he at least definitely won’t be bad — has prompted the Giants to lean on him for more than a decade. What’s more, he’s rewarded that trust: Tonight, Manning will make his 212th consecutive start, the longest active Ironman streak in the NFL — and third-longest in the history of the league.
Above all, that may be Manning’s greatest skill: just being there. Since he took the starting quarterback job away from Kurt Warner in November 2004, the Giants have not had to worry about the position, allowing the team to devote resources and draft picks to other areas. By comparison, the Giants’ roommates, the Jets, have started 15 quarterbacks in this span. The Cleveland Browns have started 23.
But considering that Eli will turn 37 in January, how much longer can the Giants expect this to last? Quarterbacks seldom hang on to starting jobs beyond age 35. Then again, elite quarterbacks have blown past this expiration date — especially in recent years. Brady and Brees combine for 78 years of life, and together, they threw for more than 800 passing yards when they faced off on Sunday. Favre, Moon and Eli’s brother Peyton all played some of their most efficient football very near the end of their starting career. So maybe Eli Manning will soon reach a never-before-seen level of performance?
But even his best passing performance, in 2011, still couldn’t match up with the best of his peers’. He threw for 501 more yards than he ever had before or ever has since, but 543 fewer than Brees that season. Manning gained an impressive average of 8.4 yards per attempt, but Aaron Rodgers gained an average of 9.2. Manning’s passer rating in 2011, 92.9, was worlds away from the NFL-record 122.5 that Rodgers posted that season.
Even if Manning finds another level sometime soon, he’ll still be several levels shy of Brady, Brees and Rodgers’ best.
In some ways, Manning is a throwback: A high-risk, high-reward passer who is rarely efficient but sometimes makes big plays in big moments. A Joe Namath in an era when offensive innovations have made the average NFL quarterback better than Roger Staubach.3
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Frank Schwab of Shutdown Corner doesn’t like what he sees of Coach Ben McAdoo.
When the New York Giants hired Ben McAdoo to replace Tom Coughlin as head coach, it was strange. The Giants wanted a change, but they hired one of Coughlin’s coaches.
However, it made sense on another level because McAdoo had done a fine job as New York’s offensive coordinator. The Giants wanted continuity for quarterback Eli Manning and the offense. He got the job.
So here we are, 18 regular-season games into McAdoo’s career as Giants head coach, his offense is one of the worst in football and the Giants are off to an 0-2 start this season. The offense was bad last season too, but the Giants had a great defense and won a ton of close games to make the playoffs. McAdoo officially gets credit for an 11-5 record last season, but the Giants won in spite of his poor offense.
There’s no hiding this season. The Giants are bad and it’s almost entirely because the offense is terrible. McAdoo might be in some trouble if that doesn’t turn around.
The Giants’ offense is bland, predictable and ineffective. It has been on prime time twice in two weeks and was unwatchable both times, the latest being a 24-10 loss to the Detroit Lions on Monday night. Fans were booing from the first drive, when the Giants called a give-up run on third-and-13. It never got much better. The Giants have scored 13 points with just one touchdown in two games.
There are personnel issues on offense, but it shouldn’t be this bad. The offensive line is not good, mostly because Ereck Flowers is overmatched as a left tackle. But after Lions end Ezekiel Ansah had two sacks, Flowers was left on him with no help and Ansah got sack No. 3. That’s on the guy calling the plays, who happens to be McAdoo.
The coach deserved some blame too when the Giants decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line, the play came in slow and they took a delay of game. McAdoo isn’t hearing any of it, blaming the penalty on “sloppy quarterback play. Quarterback and center need to be on the same page there.”
If you think about hiring practices in the NFL, it doesn’t always make sense. The most common hire in the NFL is to go get the hottest offensive or defensive coordinator. Those men get a head coaching job and usually have to give up play-calling because it’s too much to do both jobs. So they have to give up the very thing that got them to their dream job and made them attractive in the first place.
Or new coaches try to do both. That’s not easy and it’s understandable why anyone would struggle to juggle it all. McAdoo doesn’t seem adept at handling both jobs. He’s not doing well at either this season.
McAdoo was a tremendous offensive coordinator when he came over to the Giants. Manning had two of his best seasons with McAdoo calling plays in 2014-15. Then McAdoo got promoted and the offense fell apart. Maybe that’s coincidental, and McAdoo was elevated to head coach right as the personnel eroded. But probably not.
The Giants are 0-2 and have done practically nothing on offense in two games. They are spending a ton of money on the defense, and that unit is good. The Giants probably figured that if they added to the defense, McAdoo could coach the offense to big things. That’s not happening, and you have to wonder if McAdoo’s seat will start to get hot as a result.
So who are you going to believe – Robert Griffin III or Santana Moss? Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Former Washington teammates Santana Moss and Robert Griffin III are feuding over the departure of their former coach, Mike Shanahan.
Moss went on 106.7 The Fan and said that Griffin was celebrating when owner Dan Snyder fired Shanahan and his son and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan after the 2013 season, saying the Shanahans’ firing was because they didn’t use Griffin properly. According to Moss, that led to “a rude awakening” for Griffin when Jay Gruden came along, as Gruden was even harder on Griffin than Shanahan had been.
“You can’t do that,” Moss said. “One thing I’ll just share with you: God don’t like ugly. So the little credit that he did take for saying that, ‘Hey, they didn’t like what I was doing,’ or ‘they benched me and not allowing me to play, that’s what happens.’ So 2014 comes, and Jay Gruden comes in, and he don’t care. We see that now. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care what he says about you, he doesn’t care what he says at you. And he rips RG every chance he gets, like every meeting, and we’re sitting there looking like, ‘Yeah. You know what? You were just so happy that Mike and Kyle and them is gone, but now you’re getting your behind ripped every day, because you’re not playing the kind of football that we need to play for us to be successful.’”
That led to a rebuke from Griffin on Twitter this morning.
“Santana Moss, I treat you like a brother & have always had your back. To openly lie about me is a betrayal,” Griffin wrote. “Been lied on a lot over the years.”
It’s not exactly a secret that things got ugly for Griffin in Washington after his tremendous rookie season. But for a teammate to openly call out Griffin, and for Griffin to flat-out call that teammate a liar, is about as ugly as the relationship has ever been shown to be publicly
In a case of the calm AFTER the storm, it was eerily quiet Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
It wasn’t that the Buccaneers offense was quiet Sunday.
But when they return home, they’ll definitely have more firepower.
According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the signature pirate-ship cannons which fire when the Bucs get to the red zone and score didn’t go off Sunday, but will be repaired in time for their next home game on Oct. 1 against the Giants.
(And in honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, we can’t help but wonder if the guys who fire the cannons are members of the N-AARRRRRGGH-A.)
The electrical system which controls the cannons was damaged by water from Hurricane Irma, which kept them from going off during a 29-7 win over the Bears.
The Bucs are hoping to offer plenty of fireworks on offense this year, and when they do, hopefully they’ll be accompanied by one of the cooler new traditions in the NFL.
The Cardinals have not particularly impressed in the first two weeks. But at 1-1, they are tied for first.
One thing Coach Bruce Arians likes about QB CARSON PALMER – he’s not a snowflake. Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com:
There’s a reason Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians publicly criticized quarterback Carson Palmer after Sunday’s win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Because he can take it.
Arians said Monday that Palmer doesn’t respond to Arians’ criticism of him. He simply gets ready for Wednesday’s practice.
“That’s why it’s so easy for me to say it, because he don’t give a s—,” Arians said.
After Sunday’s 16-13 come-from-behind overtime win over the Colts, Arians was asked how the Cardinals’ offense can start playing better early in games. He responded that “the quarterback has to play better, simple.”
Palmer declined to respond to Arians’ comment, saying he’s always trying to play better.
Of course Palmer minds the critical remarks, Arians said.
“Everybody does,” Arians said. “But he’s got enough self-confidence he can handle it.”
Arians softened his tone on Palmer’s performance over the weekend after watching the film. Palmer “played a whole lot better” than Arians had initially thought before breaking down his 332-yard outing, in which Palmer had one touchdown pass and one interception.
Palmer’s teammates don’t necessarily like seeing him get blamed for the offense’s struggles.
“It’s tough to see him take as much heat as he is, because it’s not him. It’s all of us,” tight end Troy Niklas said. “We got to give him more time. We got to step up the running game better. There’s a lot of things we’re not doing to make him successful, so all of us really got to look at ourselves and take accountability and take some of the pressure off of him so he can do his job.”
Arians tracked Palmer’s slow start to the second play of the game, when he was sacked for a 7-yard loss.
“I think looking at the first-quarter offense, we take a quick five-step [drop], we can’t get sacked,” Arians said. “Those things have to stop. The first dropback of the game was a quick throw and Carson gets hit. That leads to him not playing as well as he can. We’ve got guys wide-open and he gets frustrated.”
Arians added: “I’d get frustrated if I took a five-[step drop] and got sacked on the second play of the game. Yeah, I’d get real frustrated.”
Dan Graziano of ESPN.com on whether the AFC West is the best division:
This division had two 12-win playoff teams and a 9-7 Broncos team that missed the playoffs last season. It also had the league’s best last-place team — a hard-luck, 5-11 Chargers team that kept finding creative ways to lose games in the fourth quarter.
So far this season? Yeah, the Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos are all 2-0, and the Chargers have lost two heartbreaking games in the fourth quarter. I think we expected the Raiders and Chiefs to be good again and had some questions about the Broncos, but Denver’s defense looks dominant and the Broncos are stinging from last year, when they followed up their Super Bowl 50 title by missing the playoffs.
“Guys are hungry, man. Guys are willing to put in the work,” Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib told me last week. “We feel like we won the Super Bowl and then we didn’t put in the work we needed to put in to get back. My mom told me, ‘Everything that’s a saying is a saying for a reason.’ And I guess that saying ‘Super Bowl hangover’ is a saying for a reason. For whatever reason, guys took their foot off the gas and we missed the playoffs. We know we don’t want to feel that way again.”
Since the Chargers loss was to the Broncos, the AFC West is technically 5-1 against the rest of the league at the moment. Conversely, both the NFC East and AFC South are 1-3 in non-division games.
Rob Hamilton of ProFootballFocus.com liked what he saw from CB GAREON CONLEY in his first game:
After missing the entire preseason and Week 1 due to injury, Oakland Raiders rookie cornerback Gareon Conley made his professional debut on Sunday in Oakland against the New York Jets. Heading into the game, the Raiders were down 2016 starting CB Sean Smith.
Now healthy and with his legal issues behind him, Conley had a very encouraging debut in which he played 46 snaps and allowed just one catch on two targets. He especially showed off his ball skills on a defensed pass where he almost forced an interception. He’s a welcome addition to an Oakland secondary which has been seen as a weakness for a potential Super Bowl contender.
The Raiders picked Conley with the 24th-overall selection in the 2017 draft out of Ohio State, where he allowed the third best yards per cover snap (0.51) in 2016. He allowed just 14 receptions for 159 yards, and an NFL passer rating of 14.0, best in the nation, on throws into his coverage during his senior season.
This scoop from Vegas from Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Breaking news: The Cleveland Browns are actually favored to win a game.
The Browns opened as a 2.5-point favorite over the Colts on Sunday at Indianapolis. That marks the first time the Browns have been favored since Week 14 of 2015, when they were two-point favorites over the 49ers. The Browns haven’t been road favorites since Week Seven of 2014 at Jacksonville.
Although the Browns’ status as favorites might mean the gambling community is starting to give Cleveland more respect, it probably says more about the Colts. Andrew Luck has already been ruled out for Sunday, and Indianapolis is 0-2. The Colts might be the worst team in the NFL.
Most of the early money has come in on the Colts, and so the line has now moved to having the Browns as one-point favorites. It’s possible that by kickoff, the Browns won’t be favored anymore. So enjoy it while you can, Cleveland.
Conor Orr of NFL.com on how RB DERRICK HENRY shone on Sunday in Jacksonville:
The Titans were conditioning 2016 second-round pick Derrick Henry to be their power back all preseason, and the fruits of their labor were evident in Sunday’s physical win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Henry carried the ball 14 times but averaged nearly seven yards per carry and scored a notable 17-yard touchdown with 6:36 to go in the third quarter that featured Henry bulling over Jaguars star cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
This wasn’t exactly Mike Alstott or Brandon Jacobs-level trucking, but Henry seemed to attach some significance to it. Via ESPN.com:
“I definitely wanted to make him feel me,” Henry said.
He added: “As a running back, you always want to be physical. As the game goes on, I get better and I can see the defense getting tired. That gets me hyped.”
I think what Titans fans saw Sunday was what Henry will be like when he gets the opportunity to actually warm himself up and operate as a starting back during a game. Last season’s puzzling utilization didn’t accentuate the best parts of Henry’s skill set.
This could be one of the few examples of a smooth transition in recent NFL history. Murray will be the Titans’ starting running back for the foreseeable future, but could see another tiny chunk of his role transfer over to Henry as the weeks go on.
Until that happens, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has the best possible situation: Two excellent backs capable of bringing more defenders into the box.
It’s funny how people assume that if you are a Trump supporter, you would think Colin Kaepernick can’t play football very well – and if you are a Democrat you would automatically believe he is one of the greats. Will Levith of RealClearLife sounds surprised that TOM BRADY believes Kaep can play.
A year before the presidential election, New England Patriots quarterback stirred controversy among his fanbase by telling reporters that it “would be great” if Donald Trump were elected president. In a previous locker room interview, a “Make America Great Again” cap was pictured inside it.
Brady repeatedly referred to Trump as a “friend” to the press, and while never publicly endorsing Trump for president, did everything but.
That is, until Brady—along with six other Patriots teammates—skipped the Trump administration’s invite to the White House following the Patriots’ most recent Super Bowl victory. (It’s worth noting that Brady also skipped the event in 2015.) Some of his African-American teammates gave reasons for nixing the visit including not feeling “accepted” in a Trump White House. Brady’s reason? “Personal family matters,” as he wrote in a statement.
Now, in a much more important show of solidarity, Brady distanced himself from the president on a particularly controversial issue: Colin Kaepernick.
Trump, who told reporters last August that Kaepernick was “openly racist” for his silent nation anthem protest, following that up by telling another reporter that “[Kaepernick] should find a country that works better for him.” The president has continued his verbal assault on Kaepernick, taking credit for the tough market the quarterback has faced following his announcement of free agency.
Brady, who spoke to CBS journalist Norah O’Donnell for a vignette that aired yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning, as well as another segment that aired on the network the following morning, said he hopes Kaepernick will play again in the NFL. “I’ve always watched him and admired him, the way that he’s played,” said Brady. “He was a great young quarterback; he came to our stadium and beat us and took his team to the Super Bowl in 2012.”
The CBS Sunday Morning segment that aired did not include the Kaepernick comments, but rather, Brady plugging his new book, The TB-12 Method, healthy lifestyle, and career on the gridiron.
This is the second time in two weeks that the sports and political worlds have collided head on; last week, an ESPN SportsCenter anchor, Jemele Hill, tweeted anti-Trump comments, only to later be backed by her employer (though the situation is complicated). The president responded in kind, tweeting not directly at Hill but calling out ESPN for its falling subscriber numbers.
THIS AND THAT
COACHING HOT SEATS
This from ESPN.com on the five hottest coaching seats at the moment:
Six teams had head-coaching changes heading into the 2017 season. And after two games, five teams could be headed for head-coaching changes in 2018. Just how hot are the coaching seats in New Orleans, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York and Indianapolis? Our NFL Nation reporters break it down.
John Fox, Chicago Bears
Career record: 128-114 (9-25 in Chicago)
Analysis: Fox is in trouble. The Bears — 0-2 for the third consecutive season — have Pittsburgh and Green Bay up next on their schedule. The Bears realistically could be 0-4 after the first quarter of the season, and if that happens (as many expect), Chicago would have almost no shot of reaching the playoffs. The Bears brought Fox to Chicago to build a winner and that hasn’t come close to happening. Player health has been a major problem during the Fox era. The Bears entered Week 2 with three starters already on injured reserve, and three more starters left Sunday’s loss to Tampa Bay and did not return. It’s hard to picture this getting any better for Fox or the Bears. — Jeff Dickerson
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Career record: 118-105-3
Analysis: Lewis is entering the final season of his contract after he and the front office couldn’t come to terms on a new deal. Things have gotten off to a terrible start this season, with the Bengals falling to 0-2 and firing offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. They have yet to score a touchdown. Prior to the season, Lewis said, “[Owner Mike Brown] and I have a great working relationship. Sometimes you don’t want to start that over again, but sometimes you need to. And I’m prepared to do that. It doesn’t affect me one way or another.” If the Bengals can’t climb out of this hole, it’s very possible it could be Lewis’ last season in Cincinnati. While Lewis has been the Bengals’ most successful coach in franchise history, his 0-7 record in the playoffs has been like a cloud over his coaching career. They took a step backward last season by missing the playoffs and have shown regression instead of improvement since the 2015 season. The Bengals need to at least show they’re heading in the right direction this year for Lewis to merit a new deal. Right now, the angry fan base and rudderless team say otherwise. — Katherine Terrell
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
Career record: 94-68
Analysis: It’s hard to label Payton as “on the hot seat” since he is obviously held in high enough regard by Saints owner Tom Benson and general manager Mickey Loomis that they gave him a new five-year extension worth more than $9 million last year that runs through 2020. And if they ever decide to start over with a new quarterback (they almost drafted Patrick Mahomes II this year), Payton is the kind of quarterback guru they would want to tutor him. At the same time, however, even Payton readily would admit the Saints can’t keep putting the same product on the field year after year and expecting different results (7-9, 7-9 and 7-9 over the past three seasons, and now 0-2). The defense, which has been historically bad over the past seven years, has been even worse than usual the first two weeks of 2017. And there is a real chance the Saints could start 0-4 heading into the bye week, with games upcoming at the Carolina Panthers and versus the Miami Dolphins in London. It would be a shocker to see Payton get fired midseason, but a mutual parting of ways in January is a realistic scenario if the Saints don’t show major signs of progress by then. — Mike Triplett
Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
Career record: 49-33
Analysis: The water is boiling in the pot for Pagano. The Colts were unprepared and thoroughly embarrassed in their 37-point Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Then they showed their inability to close a game, blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and losing to Arizona in overtime on Sunday to fall to 0-2 for the fourth consecutive season. And to put into perspective how bad things are for Pagano and the Colts, the Cleveland Browns have opened as 2.5-point ROAD favorites in the Week 3 game between the two winless teams. This is as close to rock bottom as they’ve been since Pagano became coach in 2012. Owner Jim Irsay is preaching patience, but a loss to the Browns in which his team isn’t competitive might not sit well with Irsay. Indianapolis never has opened a season 0-3 under Pagano. He has survived back-to-back 8-8 seasons in which his team missed the playoffs, but the clock is ticking on him if the Colts continue to find ways to lose games, with or without injured QB Andrew Luck. — Mike Wells
Todd Bowles, New York Jets
Career record: 15-19
Analysis: Bowles is in a weird — and precarious — position. Third-year coaches often find themselves in playoffs-or-bust situations, but that’s not the case with Bowles. The 0-2 Jets are in the first year of a full-blown rebuild, with ownership saying there’s no playoff mandate for Bowles. They have one of the worst rosters in the league, so it would be ridiculous to hold him to that standard. He will be evaluated on how the team progresses throughout the season, according to ownership. If the team remains competitive, develops its young players and stays unified, Bowles will have a good chance to return in 2018. But he needs to win some games — anything worse than 4-12 would be tough to stomach. — Rich Cimini
When the Giants visit Tampa Bay in Week 4, FOX will go with a unique three-man booth – the first ever featuring twins. Michael McCarthy of The Sporting News breaks the tale:
This could get very interesting: Former Giants running back Tiki Barber, a longtime critic of Giants quarterback Eli Manning, will join his twin brother, Ronde Barber, in the broadcast booth for Fox Sports’ telecast of the Giants-Buccaneers game in Tampa, Fla., on Oct. 1, John Entz, Fox Sports’ president of production, told Sporting News on Monday.
An official announcement is expected Tuesday.
Fox believes it will be the first time twin brothers have called an NFL game telecast. Tiki will join Ronde’s regular Fox team of play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert and sideline reporter Kristina Pink. Ronde Barber, a longtime defensive back for the Bucs, has called games for Fox since 2013. Tiki Barber co-hosts “Tiki & Tierney” with partner Brandon Tierney on CBS Radio.
There has been bad blood between Tiki Barber and Manning for more than a decade, with Barber repeatedly criticizing his former teammate.
During his stint on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” in 2007, Barber described the low-key Manning’s attempt to lead an offensive team meeting as “comical.” Manning countered that Tiki Barber lost the “heart” to play the previous season in 2006.
Manning then answered Barber, and the rest of his critics, by leading the G-Men to an upset win over Tom Brady’s Patriots at Super Bowl XLII. Manning directed another upset of the Pats in Super Bowl XLVI.
The two men were at it again in 2014 when Tiki Barber called for then-Giants coach Tom Coughlin to be fired. “Very nice of him. Good to hear from ol’ Tiki,” Manning snapped back.
Coughlin was forced out as Giants coach after the 2015 season.
When he was asked last year to name the top quarterback in the NFC East, Tiki Barber went with the Redskins’ Kirk Cousins over Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP. “Eli and Tony (Romo, then of the Cowboys) are old. Kirk just feels like he took the right steps,” Barber said.
“Rarely does a TV network have the chance to broadcast a game from the perspective Ronde and Tiki Barber will provide Fox Sports,” Entz said in a statement to Sporting News. “It is always beneficial to have an analyst who played for one of the teams on the field, but to have both teams represented in the TV booth, by twin brothers, will be truly unique. Both men are sharp and astute on their own, so when they are paired alongside Kenny Albert, it will be intriguing to watch them play off of each other.”
Tiki Barber said in a statement he’ll bring Fox viewers a “different perspective” based on having lived in the New York/New Jersey area for 20 years.
“Ronde and I played against one another five times professionally, and it was always a lot of fun,” Tiki Barber said.
Besides his CBS Radio gig, Tiki Barber runs a New York company, Thuzio, that connects former athletes and celebrities with corporate events. After retiring from the NFL in 2006 (and missing out on a Giants Super Bowl ring), he attempted an NFL comeback four seasons later. There were no takers.
Fox has been experimenting with its announce teams for different sports. The network brought in active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup drivers Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer to call a “Drivers Only” NASCAR Xfinity Series race from Pocono Raceway in June.
Look for more one-off announcer moves like the Barber pairing as Fox tried to boost viewer interest.
The DB thinks it is a stretch to say that KIRK COUSINS is a better QB than ELI is some sign of “bad blood.”
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The NFL’s TV ratings are lackluster in the first two weeks by NFL standards, and Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com tries to figure out what is going on.
The quarterbacks are bad. Or the offensive lines are the problem.
Player protests are driving away viewers. Or Colin Kaepernick’s absence is sending them away.
Perhaps it’s the hurricanes.
The product is worse. But the Super Bowl was better than ever.
If you have a strong NFL viewership opinion, wait a day. It will shift, or someone will tell you how wrong you are. This is the NFL’s most consistent theme in 2017: everything is an eye-gouging argument over why the audience is changing. And the ratings, well, that’s the seesaw the league will be forced to ride all season long.
Through two weeks, nothing is certain and nobody is sure what is causing numbers to land where they are. And through two weeks there has been a perpetual argument over why the TV results are up and down. The most dominant questions: Why is the league’s growth and saturation slowing, who or what is to blame, and how will it be fixed?
It’s why people can’t talk about Kaepernick or player activism without weaving in a ratings conversation. It’s why domestic violence and league discipline can’t be dissected without considering how it impacts image and viewership. And it’s most definitely why the NFL and NFLPA will continue to brutalize each other for the next four years, running up a scoreboard of who is to blame for what problem, and how that is negatively impacting the overall product the two sides produce in unison.
As for the numbers, here’s where we’re at: Week 1 was uneven but mostly bad for the league, essentially down across the board, including the three critical prime-time slots: the Thursday night opener (Kansas City vs. New England) and both Monday prime-time games (New Orleans vs. Minnesota and Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver). Only the first Sunday night game (New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys) of the season floated optimism, with a rise of around 5 percent over the same slot in 2016.
Initial Week 2 readings had scattered results, with Monday night (Detroit vs. Giants) yet to be played. Fox is reporting an 18 percent viewership jump week over week, propelled by the lightning-delayed game between the Denver Broncos and Cowboys, a contest that drew an initial 16.1 rating. Meanwhile, CBS was down slightly week over week, along with NBC’s Sunday night game between the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers.
The state of Florida remains unaccounted for in the TV ratings, due to potentially skewed numbers after Hurricane Irma.
“Sunday was a bit of a mixed bag,” league spokesman Joe Lockhart said. “You had the Fox national game that had a huge audience, particularly given that there was a weather delay that lasted for about an hour in the middle of it. I think some of the numbers were down at the [1 p.m.] game and down a little bit on the Sunday night [game]. These are the preliminary numbers. We’re going to wait and see what we get for the week when we get the final numbers. But, again, we try not to take too much out of any one week. We’ll look at this as far as the season and we’re confident that the ratings will be strong.”
The key word there is “strong.” Like last season, the numbers can fall back for the NFL this year and still be unquestionably strong. But strong doesn’t necessarily mean “up.” While the league can be confident that it will continue to do big numbers, it can’t be certain that it will continue to grow an audience that may be maxing out and flattening.
The truth here is that the NFL doesn’t know. The league’s critics don’t know. And most certainly, the heads of the broadcasting companies who paid tens of billions of dollars for the TV rights don’t know, either. That’s why this has become an annual top-of-the-agenda item for the NFL, because it is the best indicator of where the bottom line is going.
As much publicity as the league gets scouring for new markets and revenue streams, the driving force behind the money will always be television numbers. And the TV numbers will always be the best indication of the game’s saturation. Attendance numbers aside, the league needs to continue growing fan consumption at home.
This is a large reason why the NFL’s biggest move in China to date has been cutting a streaming rights deal with the country’s massive multimedia conglomerate Tencent. The NFL knows that the only way to spread football is to stimulate interest. And the only thing better than having a grassroots system of football in high school and college is to deliver the NFL product into homes at every possible turn.
The only thing more important to the NFL than the football product itself is the ratings and delivery systems. And if the ratings are down or the delivery systems aren’t growing and thriving, it means something is wrong. Either the product is off, the delivery mediums are failing, or the audience has started to reach capacity.
That’s where this argument is going. And it will sustain itself as long as the NFL can’t put out weekly news releases about how the ratings are exploding and delivery platforms are devouring all competitors. Until the audience begins to grow again consistently year over year, this is the lens that almost every debate in the NFL will be seen through.
This is all part of the perpetual seesawing argument that hangs overhead. Last week, this week and every week going forward. The NFL’s ratings are a growing mixed bag. Maybe the only lasting certainty is where the trend is headed next.
Into an argument.
Seven undefeated teams are lined up atop the Aikman Combined Ratings after Week 2 of the 2017 season, led by the Ravens who have defeated Ohio (Bengals and Browns) while allowing only 10 combined points, recording 10 takeaways and holding their foes without a TD in four red zone possessions. It all helps create an Aikman Defense Rating of 120.4 good for first in the NFL as well.
As for Aikman Offense, the two top attacks reside in the AFC West in the Chiefs (107.0) and Raiders (106.8) with the Broncos not far behind in 6th.
With only two weeks of results, we are still early in our season-long determination so the Ratings can still vary significantly from week to week. For example, the Patriots are last in Aikman Defense after meeting the high-octane Chiefs and Saints. This week’s meeting with the Texans might enable them to rise significantly.
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The Aikman Ratings measure seven different categories of performance on both Offense and Defense. Devised by Troy Aikman in 2005 and compiled by Stats, Inc., they provide a better measure of the qualities that win football games than simply total yards gained, the method used by the NFL to rank offenses and defenses. Originally designed where a score of 75 would be the average on both Offense and Defense, the swing towards Offense since has made a score above 80 the mean on that side of the ball while 70 has been an average Defense in recent years.
The seven categories are Offensive Points (20%), Red Zone Efficiency as measured by Points Per Red Zone Possession (20%), Turnovers (20%), Yards per Rush (10%), Yards per Pass (10%), Third Down Percentage (10%) and First Downs (10%).
Aikman Combined Ratings Through Week 2, 2017
——— Aikman ——– ——- NFL ——–
Rank Record Team Combined Off Def Off Def Combined
1 2-0 Ravens 203.0 82.6 120.4 22 11 33
2 1-0 Buccaneers 184.7 81.1 103.6 19 16 35
3 2-0 Panthers 184.1 72.3 111.8 25 1 26
4 2-0 Broncos 176.1 92.6 83.5 11 4 15
5 2-0 Lions 175.0 91.1 83.9 17 7 24
6 2-0 Raiders 173.8 106.8 67.0 4 17 21
7 2-0 Chiefs 170.8 107.0 63.8 2 29 31
8 1-1 Bills 164.6 78.8 85.8 24 2 26
9 1-1 Rams 161.9 84.1 77.8 10 13 23
10 1-1 Eagles 161.0 82.1 78.9 5 12 17
11 2-0 Falcons 158.9 95.4 63.5 8 22 30
12 2-0 Steelers 157.0 82.9 74.1 16 3 19
13 1-1 Titans 155.8 93.9 61.9 6 23 29
14 1-1 Packers 154.4 88.3 66.0 7 8 15
15 1-1 Vikings 154.0 85.7 68.3 9 24 33
16 0-2 Chargers 152.3 82.8 69.5 20 21 41
17 1-1 Jaguars 149.9 79.3 70.6 23 9 32
18 1-1 Seahawks 144.4 69.1 75.3 26 15 41
19 1-0 Dolphins 142.5 76.1 66.4 13 27 40
20 1-1 Patriots 141.6 96.3 45.3 1 31 32
21 1-1 Texans 140.8 60.6 80.2 31 6 37
22 1-1 Redskins 137.9 69.1 68.8 15 26 41
23 0-2 Colts 135.3 64.0 71.3 29 28 57
24 1-1 Cowboys 134.8 71.0 63.8 14 14 28
25 0-2 Bears 133.5 67.2 66.3 21 25 46
26 0-2 Giants 132.2 64.4 67.9 28 20 48
27 0-2 Saints 131.0 83.8 47.2 3 32 35
28 1-1 Cardinals 129.3 64.7 64.6 12 19 31
29 0-2 Browns 127.4 62.0 65.4 18 18 36
30 0-2 49ers 126.6 53.6 73.0 32 10 42
31 0-2 Jets 121.2 74.6 46.7 30 30 60
32 0-2 Bengals 117.9 40.9 77.0 27 5 32
Aikman Offense Ratings Through Week 2, 2017
Aik NFL Team AER
1 2 Chiefs 107.0
2 4 Raiders 106.8
3 1 Patriots 96.3
4 8 Falcons 95.4
5 6 Titans 93.9
6 11 Broncos 92.6
7 17 Lions 91.1
8 7 Packers 88.3
9 9 Vikings 85.7
10 10 Rams 84.1
11 3 Saints 83.8
12 16 Steelers 82.9
13 20 Chargers 82.8
14 22 Ravens 82.6
15 5 Eagles 82.1
16 19 Buccaneers 81.1
17 23 Jaguars 79.3
18 24 Bills 78.8
19 13 Dolphins 76.1
20 30 Jets 74.6
21 25 Panthers 72.3
22 14 Cowboys 71.0
23 15 Redskins 69.1
24 26 Seahawks 69.1
25 21 Bears 67.2
26 12 Cardinals 64.7
27 28 Giants 64.4
28 29 Colts 64.0
29 18 Browns 62.0
30 31 Texans 60.6
31 32 49ers 53.6
32 27 Bengals 40.9
NFL Average 78.3
Aikman Defense Ratings Through Week 2, 2017
Aik NFL Team AER
1 11 Ravens 120.4
2 1 Panthers 111.8
3 16 Buccaneers 103.6
4 2 Bills 85.8
5 7 Lions 83.9
6 4 Broncos 83.5
7 6 Texans 80.2
8 12 Eagles 78.9
9 13 Rams 77.8
10 5 Bengals 77.0
11 15 Seahawks 75.3
12 3 Steelers 74.1
13 10 49ers 73.0
14 28 Colts 71.3
15 9 Jaguars 70.6
16 21 Chargers 69.5
17 26 Redskins 68.8
18 24 Vikings 68.3
19 20 Giants 67.9
20 17 Raiders 67.0
21 27 Dolphins 66.4
22 25 Bears 66.3
23 8 Packers 66.0
24 18 Browns 65.4
25 19 Cardinals 64.6
26 14 Cowboys 63.8
27 29 Chiefs 63.8
28 22 Falcons 63.5
29 23 Titans 61.9
30 32 Saints 47.2
31 30 Jets 46.7
32 31 Patriots 45.3
NFL Average 71.7
Ratings Courtesy of STATS