The Daily Briefing Wednesday, October 11, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
A day late, here is If The Season Ended Today for the NFC
Overall Division Conference
Philadelphia Eagles NCE 4-1 2-0 3-0
Green Bay Packers NCN 4-1 1-0 3-1
Carolina Panthers NCS 4-1 0-1 2-1
Seattle Seahawks NCN 3-2 2-0 2-1
Atlanta Falcons WC 3-1 0-0 3-0
Detroit Lions WC 3-2 1-0 3-2
Minnesota Vikings 3-2 1-1 3-1
Los Angeles Rams 3-2 1-1 2-2
The Saints, Buccaneers and Redskins are next at 2-2.
QB MATTHEW STAFFORD is hobbled with an injury whose severity is not yet clear. And now DT HALOTI NGATA is done for the year. Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:
The Lions’ defensive line has just suffered a big loss.
Haloti Ngata, the big defensive tackle who was off to a good start this season, suffered a torn bicep on Sunday and will be placed on injured reserve. Although he would be eligible to return in eight weeks, the Detroit Free Press reports that the team’s medical staff has already ruled him out for the rest of the season.
After a bad year in 2016, the Lions’ defense has rebounded this season, both against the run and against the pass. But with Ngata out for the season, they’ll have to scramble to replace an important cog.
The Lions have added to their defensive line this week by signing defensive end Datone Jones and defensive tackle Caraun Reid.
A while ago, the DB wondered how QB SAM BRADFORD could have a “non-contact” bruised knee. Wouldn’t the knee have to contact something to bruise? Well, it turns out the bruises are coming from bone on bone contact. Nick Shook at NFL.com:
The latest on Sam Bradford doesn’t put him out for a long time. It also doesn’t quell concerns about his long-term standing as quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings.
Bradford underwent an MRI and hasn’t suffered a new injury, Vikings trainer Eric Sugarman told members of the local media on Tuesday, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Bradford is dealing with what Sugarman called knee wear and tear related to his two previous surgeries.
Bradford was visibly limited while playing on Monday night against Chicago before leaving due to the knee issue. Sugarman told reporters the Vikings did not put the quarterback at risk in allowing him to play, and wouldn’t speculate on how long Bradford might be out. Based on how Bradford looked before his exit, there’s a good chance Case Keenum makes another start at quarterback for Minnesota on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
In other quarterback news, Teddy Bridgewater will be re-evaluated on Monday, according to Sugarman. Bridgewater has been relegated to the physically unable to perform list since the start of the season due to his continued recovery from last year’s major knee injury, but is eligible to return after Week 6.
Eric Sugarman quote on Teddy Bridgewater: “He will be reevaluated by his surgeon next Monday and then we’ll take it from there.”
Mike Zimmer later told reporters he believes Bridgewater will play at some point this season, “but he hasn’t been on the field yet so it’s hard to say”
It might not sound like it, but it appears we are now approaching a crossroads for the franchise. Bradford is in the last year of his contract, as is Bridgewater after the Vikings declined to use their fifth-year option on the former Louisville star. Both now have serious injury histories, though Bradford’s is longer and more concerning. Bradford is also five years older than Bridgewater, but was surprisingly scintillating in Week 1 before the knee issue arose.
If Bridgewater is cleared to play and shows he can return near the form he displayed before his injury, the Vikings will have a tough decision on their hands between he and Bradford this offseason. The team will likely only sign one in 2018. If Bridgewater is effective, Minnesota also has a reason for renewed optimism in 2017, even though Keenum has been more than serviceable in relief.
This situation is fluid with plenty of uncertain factors and is definitely worth monitoring. Whether Bradford can get healthy enough to play could go a very long way toward making this a difficult or easy call for GM Rick Spielman and Co.
The Cardinals shore up their ailing running game by trading for RB ADRIAN PETERSON. Conor Orr of NFL.com:
The Saints provided an unexpected blip on the transaction radar Tuesday by dealing future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson to the Cardinals in exchange for a conditional late-round pick in 2018. As in every deal, some stand to benefit a little more than others.
Here’s our crack at identifying the winners and losers of Tuesday’s swap:
Adrian Peterson: Peterson texted NFL Network’s Stacey Dales, saying, “I am so ecstatic,” in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s deal. Peterson wins because, for at least another few weeks, he can continue operating as the player he’s always seen himself as: the every-down power back who is a central focus of the team’s offensive gameplan. That was certainly not going to be the case anymore in Minnesota, and it was never the case in New Orleans — where he’d posted just 81 yards on 27 carries in four games after signing in the offseason — no matter how often both parties tried to convince themselves Peterson was capable of accepting a complementary role. Whether or not he reclaims magic down the road seems immaterial now. Peterson got what he wanted, and he’s heading to Phoenix.
Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, Saints running backs: No longer will the Saints’ two main running backs have to leave the field for an awkward transition into the Peterson offense. Kamara is perfectly suited for the type of offense coach Sean Payton runs, but the rookie was getting out-carried by Peterson, 27-15, despite averaging more than 2 additional yards per attempt. Ingram, who’s been with the Saints since 2011 and was always a perfectly suitable power-type back for New Orleans to transition to anyway, saw his attempts per game this year dwindle to about 10. Peterson’s absence should help that number increase, as well.
Sean Payton, Saints coach: While Payton and Peterson both insisted there was nothing brewing when a Peterson comment during the season opener forced Payton to turn around and stare at his running back just before halftime, it was clear that Peterson wasn’t happy. He was never going to be happy in this type of role, and Payton would probably prefer he didn’t have to downshift his offense into a specific formation just to properly utilize his best back. Creating a more fluid play-calling situation with fewer unhappy players is rarely a losing proposition for a head coach.
Drew Brees, Saints quarterback: In the season opener, the Saints took out Peterson and brought in Kamara for a third-and-short play, which almost completely signaled pass to the defense. This was the type of stacked deck the Saints were working against. Peterson can be dominant in stretches, but his presence in this offense can also lend itself to predictability. Brees has always been working against defenses that expected him to chuck the ball 35 times per game, but if there’s still an opportunity to deceive, he’ll take it.
The Cardinals: At least for now, the Cardinals get a momentary jolt. After reaching their peak in 2015 under Bruce Arians, Arizona has faltered in recent years, thanks to injury and age. The Cardinals lost do-it-all back David Johnson to a dislocated wrist in Week 1 and have stumbled to a 2-3 start, while their running game is ranked 32nd. Will adding a 32-year-old power back help? Who knows? But … the team seems happy. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald tweeted a celebration on Tuesday. Veterans with similar cachet like Peterson, Fitzgerald, cornerback Patrick Peterson and quarterback Carson Palmer should get along just fine.
Another bonus? This move comes for pennies on the dollar and, if Peterson, who is signed to a two-year deal, still has some juice left, the Cardinals retain his rights for 2018.
The Saints: It’s never easy to admit a mistake, and kudos to the organization for doing so. New Orleans is going to end up paying the bulk of Peterson’s salary this season (about $2.8 million), according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The return on their investment? Four games and less than 100 rushing yards.
The Cardinals’ offensive line: Already under scrutiny, this unit now shoulders the increased burden of clearing lanes for an NFL legend. If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, who will undoubtedly be the first to take the blame? In the past, Peterson has been able to elevate offensive-line play with his fierce, downhill running style. We have not seen evidence of that in 2017, nor did we in late 2016, when Peterson returned from a torn meniscus.
Adrian Peterson: If this doesn’t work out, what does the market end up looking like for a soon-to-be 33-year-old running back? Clearly, Peterson still has lofty goals and ambitions, but his phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook during free agency.
Chris Johnson: Johnson was released to make room for Peterson on the roster. The 32-year-old was the Cardinals’ leading rusher this season, with 114 yards on 45 carries.
Bad news for Fantasy Football fans. Pete Carroll won’t declare a feature back. Conor Orr of NFL.com:
In Pete Carroll’s egalitarian, post-Chris Carson backfield, there is no first- or second-string anymore. Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls will be treated the same.
“We’re just going to keep working our guys and keep rolling with both really worthy guys,” Carroll said, via ESPN. “We’ll just pound away and see what happens as the games go and everybody is ready to go.”
He added: “There’s no reason to have any criteria for it right now because we like our guys, and really, equal status now is good for us. We’ll see how they do.”
This past week in a win over the Rams, that meant nine carries for 19 yards by Lacy and eight carries for 20 yards from Rawls. However, as Next Gen Stats pointed out, Rawls did almost all the heavy lifting. No ballcarrier in Week 5 faced a crowded, 8-man box more than Rawls, who essentially ran into a brick wall of defenders on 62 percent of his carries.
The fact that he outgained Lacy despite those circumstances could bode well moving forward.
With C.J. Prosise set to come back a few weeks from now and reclaim the obvious third-down role he was meant to play, it seems like Seattle’s backfield has been able to heal all wounds for now. While the team’s plans are often a mess for those embattled fantasy football players, those who love the game should take a step back and admire how well the organization scouts and acquires talent at the position. Even J.D. McKissic slid into a valuable role once his number was called.
Before we hand Lombardi to the Chiefs read this tweet from Adam Schefter:
For fifth time in Super-Bowl era, Chiefs are last unbeaten team of the season. In four previous instances, they did not win a playoff game.
Easy to say now, but RB Le’VEON BELL thinks the Steelers passed too much on Sunday. Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Le’Veon Bell’s carries weren’t expansive against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and neither were his answers Monday in the wake of the Steelers’ stunning 30-9 home defeat.
Bell offered some curt responses when questioned about his diminished role against a team that entered the game Sunday with the NFL’s worst rushing defense.
He said he was unhappy with the loss, but his tone also indicated a displeasure with the Steelers abandoning the running game against Jacksonville. Bell had 15 carries — down from 35 a week earlier — and ran the ball six times after halftime.
“I don’t think we got enough attempts,” said Bell, speaking with reporters for the first time since the loss.
Asked why the Steelers went away from the running game, Bell said, “I didn’t get any explanation. I just go out there and play.”
Was the plan to begin the game by running the ball against the Jaguars?
“Um, no,” Bell said.
And so it went for the duration of a six-minute interview.
Did Bell think more carries might have changed the outcome for the Steelers, who were hurt by Ben Roethlisberger’s career-high five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns?
“It doesn’t really matter what I think,” Bell said. “I just go out there and play.”
Does he expect to see more carries next Sunday against the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs?
“I expect anything,” Bell said. “I’m just going to go out and play football.”
– – –
We have the full DVOA Rankings of FootballOutsiders.com down below but pulled out this explanation as to why the Steelers persist at number 4. It’s not very convincing:
Many readers are probably shocked to see the Pittsburgh Steelers still up at No. 4 after an embarassing loss against Jacksonville. They remain our No. 3 team in Super Bowl odds. Two weeks ago, I explained why the Steelers were high in our ratings even after an overtime loss in Chicago. For DVOA, that loss was not really a bad performance: the two teams had similar efficiency but the Bears recovered six of the game’s seven fumbles and the field goal block has very little no predictive value for future performance.
This week’s game, in similar ways, went from a loss to a debacle because of plays that aren’t particularly predictive of future performance. Returns on interceptions are generally random. Obviously, different types of passes are returned for a touchdown more often. The shorter the pass, the more dangerous the return. The closer the offense to its own goal line, the more likely a return will end up as a pick-six. To give a couple of appropriate examples, DVOA accounts for this by giving a larger penalty to a 6-yard pass from the offense’s 22 than the penalty it gives to a 17-yard pass from the offense’s 34. Nevertheless, those two interceptions will rarely both be returned for touchdowns. More often than not, neither will be. The Steelers also are not going to be giving up a lot of 90-yard touchdown runs this year. It’s hard to give up a 90-yard touchdown run because usually you don’t have the opposing team backed up on its own 10-yard line.
There are plenty of reasons to worry about the current structure of the Pittsburgh offense, and Charles McDonald will get to that in Film Room on Thursday. But there are also plenty of reasons to believe that reports of Pittsburgh’s demise are a bit premature. The offense is currently 15th in DVOA — far below what we all expected, but not anywhere near the Cassel Zone. The pass defense ranks third in DVOA, and even the run defense, which has had some problems, is 15th. The Steelers had two easy 26-9 wins over two 3-2 teams, Baltimore and Minnesota. Even if the quarterback thinks he might be done, the team is far from it, especially when only two other AFC teams have better records.
And of course that got the DB wondering about the score 26 to 9.
What did we find?
There have now been just 8 NFL games that have ended up with a score of 26 to 9.
Two have been won by the Steelers in the first five weeks of 2017 (actually the first four weeks).
In fact the Steelers have been involved in four of those eight games – also beating Cleveland 26 to 9 in 1971 and losing to Dallas 26 to 9 in 1994.
Before the Steelers’ win over Minnesota in Week 2, there had not been a 26 to 9 game since 2002 (Denver over San Diego). Then two weeks later the Steelers did it again.
The Colts may be taking the bubble wrap of rookie RB MARLON MACK. Kevin Patra of NFL.com quotes the head coach who sounds curiously distanced from the decision as to how much to use Mack:
Look out for the Marlon Mack locomotive. It just hit the second-level and is about to blast off.
The rookie running back burst out in Week 5, churning just nine carries into 91 yards and a touchdown. After the big day — which followed him missing the previous two weeks — coach Chuck Pagano said he’d like to see Mack’s role increase.
“I think it’d be wise to try to find ways to get him the football and get him more involved,” Pagano said, via the team’s official website. “I think that would’ve happened by itself had he been available the entire time. But it’s good to have him back.”
After flashing in the preseason, Mack saw 16 carries for 21 yards the first two weeks before sitting out Weeks 3 and 4.
The rookie returned in a big way. Mack displayed blazing speed to the edge and good one-cut vision. With defensive backs chasing T.Y. Hilton downfield, there is plenty of space on the second level for Colts running backs — if they can get there. Mack’s ability to out-flank box defenders provided plenty of galloping space in the 49ers’ secondary Sunday.
Mack started to heat up in the second half, ripping off runs of 11 yards, 22 yards (touchdown), 16 yards (overturned touchdown) and a 35-yarder in overtime that set up the winning field goal.
A player with Mack’s burst can threaten the defense from any vantage point on the field. It’s a threat Pagano would like to see employed more as the season progresses.
QB TOM BRADY has a fairly significant injury if it had occurred on his other shoulder. Conor Orr at NFL.com:
Tom Brady was not seen at Patriots practice on Tuesday during the portion open to media. We now know why.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that Brady suffered an AC joint sprain in his non-throwing shoulder during a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday. The game was a particularly brutal one for the Patriots quarterback, who was sacked three times and hit six times over the course of 60 minutes.
According to Rapoport, Brady will not miss Sunday’s game against the New York Jets (3-2). Brady has not missed a game due to injury since 2008 when he tore his ACL in the season-opener.
While this would only be stunning news if Brady were actually flirting with missing time, any pock or bruise on the future Hall of Famer is noteworthy. Brady has looked largely like his old self in 2017, but at 40 years old injuries tend to take on a greater significance regardless of how transcendently healthy one appears to be.
Brady has been under pressure so far this season, taking 16 sacks — one more than he took in all of 2016.
NEW YORK JETS
The DB notes that ESPN’s FPI lists the playoff chances of the four AFC East teams thusly:
We think that’s high for New England – which still should be the favorite, just not at 92%.
And we think it’s low for the Jets.
To get to 10-6 which is probably the playoff line, the Jets would have to go 7-5 against the following schedule.
Sun, Oct 15 vs New England
Sun, Oct 22 @ Miami
Sun, Oct 29 vs Atlanta
Thu, Nov 2 vs Buffalo
Sun, Nov 12 @ Tampa Bay
Sun, Nov 26 vs Carolina
Sun, Dec 3 vs Kansas City
Sun, Dec 10 @ Denver
Sun, Dec 17 @ New Orleans
Sun, Dec 24 vs Los Angeles Chargers
Sun, Dec 31 @ New England
Miami, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Chargers, split with New England – that would be 6. Need an ambush of Atlanta or Carolina at home…
Might be a bridge or two too far.
THIS AND THAT
The official position of The Commissioner is revealed to be that he “wants” NFL players to stand, presumably respectfully, for The National Anthem. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com:
The NFL has developed a plan to “move past” its ongoing debate about player protests during the national anthem and could enact it next week, commissioner Roger Goodell wrote Tuesday in a letter to all 32 teams.
Goodell made it clear in the letter, obtained by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that he wants players to stand during the anthem. He did not provide specifics on how he intends to ensure it, but he wrote that it would “include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues.”
The issue will be discussed, and likely acted upon, during the NFL’s regularly-scheduled fall meetings on Oct. 17-18.
Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones says he will bench players who don’t stand for the national anthem. But what are the legal implications of him doing so?
In the letter, Goodell said he wanted to end the controversy by agreeing on a uniform approach for all teams.
“Like many of our fans,” Goodell wrote, “we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.
“We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”
The NFL’s current anthem policy states that players “should” stand for the anthem, but it stops short of requiring it.
The proposed new policy is the result of “many of discussions with clubs and players,” Goodell added.
President Donald Trump has called on NFL owners since last month to fire players who do not stand for the anthem, saying their protest “disrespects the flag” and the country. The issue intensified last weekend, when Vice President Mike Pence walked out of the 49ers-Colts game because more than 20 players from the 49ers kneeled during the anthem.
Players involved in the protest, which began in 2016 with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have said they are protesting police brutality and racism — not the flag itself. But many NFL owners have grown concerned about the appearance of unpatriotic acts and, on Sunday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he would bench any player who kneeled.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on the NFL’s evolving approach to the players’ social justice protest/attack on their business:
The NFL hasn’t specifically said that it plans to consider revising the rule that makes standing for the anthem optional, but all signs point to the league taking up the possibility — and quite possibly changing the rule to require standing. Although NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart didn’t say during a Tuesday media briefing that the league definitely will be considering a potential revision to the provision of the game operations manual that says players “should” (not “must”) stand, a discussion/debate over whether to make standing mandatory is possible if not likely, especially in light of recent comments from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
Based on the Tuesday memo from the Commissioner to all teams, which was published not leaked by the league office (which means they wanted the media and fans to see it), it’s fair to wonder whether the outcome will be the implementation of a rule that requires standing. The reference in the memo to an “in-season platform to promote the work of our players” on “core issues” regarding their communities coupled with the declaration that “we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem” suggests that the league, through the authority vested in its $40 million-per-year pin cushion, will be telling the players, “Here’s a vehicle for giving attention to the causes that are important to you. Now, you will stand for the anthem.”
This could spark a legal battle with the union over whether that change can be made without submitting the issue to the tit-for-tat of collective bargaining. From the league’s perspective, so what? Like other instances of going too far and then forcing the NFLPA to push back via the court system, the league would be able to tell the President and anyone else who has a problem with kneeling for the anthem that the league has done everything it can to force the players to stand. If, ultimately, a court blocks the NFL from forcing players to stand, the outcome came be blamed on “activist, unelected judges” who don’t properly respect nation, flag, and country.
Along the way, the NFLPA and the players will potentially become the villains, from the perspective of the President and those who refuse to accept that kneeling or sitting for the anthem is ever anything but disrespectful. The NFL and its owners will emerge with clean hands, and the NFL and the owners ultimately need to be concerned about that because the players will come and go but the owners will always hold the equity in the league.
Could it get ugly if the owners ultimately secure the ability to force players to stand, at the risk of being kept from playing? Sure. But as we’ve learned through multiple strikes and a lockout, players want to play. If the NFL successfully adopts a rule requiring players to stand for the anthem with the consequence being that they won’t play and they won’t get paid if they don’t, they’re going to stand for the anthem.
The only remaining question may be whether the NFL legally can pull it off. For now, it’s looking possible if not probable that they’ll at least try.
It seems clear that Jones is leading the NFL’s less appeasing reaction to its social justice demanding players. A tweet storm from Chris Mortensen:
Jerry Jones cited this in phone conversation short time ago…will post more of his thoughts
Jerry Jones: There will be no exceptions to workplace policy he expressed Sunday evening – disrespect anthem & flag and players won’t play.
Jones said the policy is not new; made Jason Garrett aware last year after observing some players on other teams sit or kneel during anthem
Jones: “My job is the Dallas Cowboys. It’s in the best interests of the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL and the players …to honor the flag.”
Jones said he thought controversy would “go away” after MNF in AZ when team knelt “in unity” before anthem and then stood locked arm in arm
Jones said VP Pence’s actions and statement in Indianapolis Sunday generated new questions that he decided to answer post-game.
Jones: “I’ve always had our players’ backs on issues I’ve been criticized for”- understands social concerns but no compromise on anthem
Jones adamant the policy is in best interest of players, who “need consequences” to stand up to peer pressure
When asked about Demontre Moore & David Irving raising a fists after anthem ended Sunday, Jones noted they weren’t in AZ when issue was hot
Moore & Irving were serving suspensions. Jones said he’s giving thought to their actions because “they were cutting it close” post-anthem
Jones didn’t say that meant the two players would be disciplined (Garrett said they won’t). JJ just wants clarity for them going forward.
Jones emphasized NFL game ops manual several times and then this: “You know who reminded me about the game ops policy? Donald Trump.”
Diana Moskovitz of Deadspin with more on a change to the Game Operations Manual that she seems to find sinister:
What the heck is the “game operations manual”? Officially titled “Policy Manual for Member Clubs,” it’s not a document easily accessed from the NFL website, like the NFL rulebook is. Indeed, the only current portion of the document publicly available is the short anthem-related portion the league has been feeding to various sources for several weeks. But the policy—the NFL is clear to define it as such, rather than “rule”—hasn’t always been phrased that way.
We have a copy of the 2014 edition of the game operations guide thanks to court records from the lawsuit over the Tom Brady suspension
Instead of applying the Player Policies, Vincent punished Brady pursuant to, and for being generally aware of, violations of the Competitive Integrity Policy, which is only incorporated into the Game Operations Manual and provided to teams and team executives. NFLPA Ex. 115, Game Operations Manual at A2. The policy is not given to players, is not part of the annual Player Policies handed out to all players, and does not apply to them. This was undisputed by the NFL’s witnesses at the hearing.
The 2014 policy reads that failure to be on the field by the start of the national anthem may “result in disciplinary action from the League office.” The version currently being promulgated by the NFL revises this to read “result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violation of the above, including first offenses.”
That’s a pretty big change for two reasons: They’ve added a lot of punishment, and they’ve removed the language that punishment would come from the league office. We don’t know when the change was made; its language did not appear on the web at all until two weeks ago, and questions sent to an NFL spokesperson have yet to be answered.
This tweet from Sean Davis:
The NFL numbers must have been horrifically bad to force Goodell to so publicly bend the knee to Trump.
Early indications that the protesting players, in the words of the late Tom Petty, won’t back down. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
The NFL’s owners seem to have grown weary with the anthem controversy and its persistent threat to their business interests. And so the signs are pointing to the NFL’s owners telling players to stand for the anthem.
That could backfire.
“I think we’ve seen even over the last year that you can take a player out of the league, you can threaten to do whatever you want to do, that’s not going to deter players from doing what’s right, or doing what they believe is right,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said Tuesday, via Tim McManus of ESPN.com. “You might be able to change the manner in which that looks but I don’t see players stopping their pursuit for justice or equality.”
The league apparently will be trying to change “the manner in which that looks” by giving them an alternative platform for bringing attention to their concerns. The question becomes whether the players will accept an involuntary adjustment to the format for their voluntary protests.
“The position of the players is that we’re going to continue to do the work that we’ve been doing, we’re going to continue to use our platforms as we have been over the last year to drive awareness to injustices in our country,” Jenkins said. “Now what the NFL decides to do is kind of on them. There has been open dialogue between players and different ownership; there has been dialogue between players and Commissioner Goodell.
“But at the end of the day, you’ve also had these individual owners come out and take these strong stances, and some owners take stances behind closed doors. But from a player’s standpoint, that doesn’t change what we do or how we go about our business. Whether they want to assist us or deter us is on them.”
The owners clearly want to assist the players. But, ultimately, the owners will be dictating the terms of that assistance. And the owners will be guessing that players who will never give up the cash they’re currently getting in order to make more cash via a strike will never give up the cash they’re currently getting in order to make a point.
We saw that a labor union had filed a “complaint” against Jones and his leadership on the issue and assumed it was the NFLPA, but found out that it was a grandstanding union in Dallas with no skin in the game.
Local 100 of the United Labor Unions filed a complaint against the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, alleging owner and general manager Jerry Jones has violated the National Labor Relations Act by threatening players if they choose not to stand for the national anthem.
Jones said earlier this week if a player “disrespects the flag” and national anthem by not standing, then the player will not play.
According to the filing to the National Labor Relations Board, “the employer, evidenced by repeated public statements, is attempting to threaten, coerce and intimidate all Dallas Cowboys players on the roster in order to prevent them from exercising concerted activity protected under the act by saying that he will fire any players involved in such concerted activity.”
Jones has said players will not play, not that they would be fired, if they do not stand for the anthem, but Wade Rathke, Local 100s chief organizer, said that is a “distinction without difference when it comes to the law.”
This as we go to press on Wednesday morning from Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is really trying to move past the national anthem controversy.
But President Donald Trump keeps trying to paint him into a corner, in an effort to prove that he’s the most patriotic.
Trump’s at it on the Twitter machine again this morning, with more bluster about the only reality show that threatens to get bigger ratings than his own.
It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem-RESPECT OUR COUNTRY
The league hasn’t done anything resembling demanding that players stand. If anything, they’re tiptoeing up to the line of pretty-please-asking-if-they-would-so-we-could-all-get-along in exchange for some vague promise of a platform to express their social concerns.
Jemele Hill, a lead anchor of one of ESPN’s featured shows, will sit out two weeks
Some thoughts on ESPN (and by implication the NFL) from Glenn Reynolds:
So in ESPN we see an institution that is recklessly alienating its prime customer base, and only now — much too late — beginning to dimly sense that it’s in trouble. And this is a pattern we’ve seen over and over again. Why is that? I think it’s a function of two things. First, the people running most of the insititutions come from a monoculture. As Angelo Codevilla wrote of the Ruling Class:
Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity.
Second, their loyalties are essentially tribal. They care more about what their peers think of them than, basically, anything else, including the success or failure of the institutions they manage. Thus, they are prone to suicidal levels of virtue-signaling. And — because they are socially and intellectually isolated from non-ruling-class Flyover America — they often have no idea how badly their actions resonate. Since, as Dana Loesch reminds us, you can’t run a country you’ve never been to, the result is generally poor.
Not everyone is this blind. When Phil Bredesen ran for governor in Tennessee the first time, he was totally out of touch: Basically, a sort of mini Mike Bloomberg. He then spent four years going around the state to chili suppers, VFW posts, and so on, actually talking to people and — more importantly — listening. He won, and became a successful governor for two terms, possibly the last Democrat to do so in my lifetime. But that sort of approach requires a lot of self-awareness, and willingness to work hard, and respect for other people’s opinions. Our ruling class is willing to work hard, but not at this sort of thing.
This tweet from Clay Travis:
So @espn evicted protesters who showed up at ESPN’s place of business, but argues all day long on TV NFL teams should accept protesting.
So if you are the Browns or the Jets or the 49ers or any other team that passed on DESHAUN WATSON to wait on the great QB class of 2018, who should you draft? Todd McShay and Mel Kiper of ESPN.com break down the prospects:
Does your favorite NFL team need a quarterback? You might be in luck next year.
After only three QBs went in the first round in this year’s draft, ESPN NFL draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both believe the 2018 QB class is one of the deepest in recent years — with high-end starters at the top. In fact, both have three quarterbacks among their early top four overall prospects.
Sam Darnold, USC
2017 stats: 136-of-210 passing (64.8 percent) for 1,705 yards with 12 touchdown passes, nine interceptions; three rushing touchdowns; 68.5 Total QBR (No. 37 in FBS)
Kiper: Let’s start with the interceptions. Darnold has already matched last year’s total of nine — in only six games. The number is concerning, especially when one of his strengths in 2016 was his supreme accuracy. But I think it’s also misleading, even though his mechanics get a little sloppy at times. What do you think, Todd?
McShay: I’m not concerned about Darnold’s picks. Several were well-thrown balls that simply bounced off his receivers’ hands. I still have questions about his mechanics and his three-quarters launch spot, but his accuracy has been tremendous from what I’ve seen on tape. I also love Darnold’s ability to manipulate the pocket and keep his eyes downfield, and he does a terrific job of going through his progressions.
Kiper: USC’s offensive line has also been subpar and had some injuries. The loss of Zach Banner and Damien Mama has been significant. You can see that Darnold is trying to make plays when they’re not there, and he just needs to throw the ball away. But that’s no excuse — Darnold just has to be more consistent. He has the arm talent, athleticism, size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and makeup of a top-tier quarterback.
McShay: He was No. 1 on my Top 32 heading into the season, and he has remained there throughout. He’ll be just fine.
Kiper: He’s still No. 1 on my board, too, and I think he’ll be right there next spring.
Where Darnold projects in the draft
Kiper: Top five.
McShay: Top five.
Josh Rosen, UCLA
2017 stats: 159-of-245 passing (64.9 percent) for 2,135 yards with 17 touchdown passes, five interceptions; one rushing touchdown; 72.4 Total QBR (No. 28 in FBS)
McShay: A lot of my questions from Rosen’s injury-plagued 2016 campaign have been answered so far. UCLA can’t stop anyone on defense and can’t run the ball consistently. Rosen has to carry the team — he leads the FBS in passing yards.
Kiper: You’re absolutely right. Rosen has been fantastic. He has rare arm talent. There aren’t many quarterbacks who can make the throws he does. He’s 6-foot-4 and a little thinner than Darnold.
McShay: He has a huge arm but isn’t the running threat that Darnold is, and he’s not as athletic. I have been impressed by Rosen’s improved accuracy, especially since he’s averaging 49 passing attempts per game.
Kiper: The pre-draft process is going to be especially important for Rosen. He has been in the headlines too much for all the wrong reasons, and he’s going to have to answer tough questions from coaches and evaluators. Bruins offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has repeatedly talked up Rosen’s intelligence, but teams are going to quiz him on everything. That’s the NFL’s equivalent of a job interview. It’s a huge investment to take a quarterback in the top five.
McShay: Rosen’s grade has improved slightly (92 to 93), and he has raised his draft stock — he’s up to No. 4 overall in my Top 32. If there are multiple teams picking in the top five that need a quarterback, Rosen has a chance to come off the board very early.
Kiper: The gap has closed between Darnold and Rosen at the top of my board. It’s close. I think you’re going to see some teams that like Rosen over Darnold next year.
Where Rosen projects in the draft
Kiper: Top five.
McShay: Top 10.
Josh Allen, Wyoming
2017 stats: 77-of-139 passing (55.4 percent) for 877 yards with six touchdown passes, three interceptions; one rushing touchdown; 48.4 Total QBR (No. 85 in FBS)
Kiper: Let’s start with what Allen does have. At 6-foot-5, 233 pounds, he has great size. He has a great arm — I think he and Rosen have the best pure arms in this class. What he doesn’t have is much talent around him. The Wyoming offense lost 47 touchdowns from last season’s team, along with its center. That’s tough to overcome. I think his numbers will be much better in an NFL offense with NFL players around him.
McShay: I hate to keep agreeing with Mel, but Allen will be better as a pro. I think he has the best arm in this class. He can make strong throws from any platform. That has gotten him into trouble at times; he has some bad turnovers and pedestrian overall numbers.
Kiper: One comparison I’ve made on Allen’s college career: Jay Cutler, who didn’t have much talent around him at Vanderbilt and didn’t win many games — he went 7-15. Now, Allen is a different kind of player than Cutler. But Denver took Cutler No. 11 overall in 2006, and Allen is going to be picked high, too. Fans are going to look at Allen’s numbers and try to downgrade him.
McShay: Cutler is an interesting comp. Allen is more naturally gifted, I think.
Kiper: So where do you have Allen ranked, Todd? I’ve got it Darnold, Rosen, Allen at the top of my board, with Penn State star Saquon Barkley sandwiched in between at No. 2 overall.
McShay: I have Allen slightly ahead of Rosen right now. They’re battling for the No. 2 quarterback spot. But we’re still a long ways from the combine and pro days.
Where Allen projects in the draft
Kiper: Top 15
McShay: Top 10.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
2017 stats: 117-of-173 passing (67.6 percent) for 1,909 yards with 16 touchdown passes, four interceptions; five rushing touchdowns; 88.0 Total QBR (No. 2 in FBS)
McShay: Rudolph’s numbers might be inflated because Oklahoma State has the best set of pass-catchers in the nation. He gets some help. But he’s in total control of that offense (33 starts) and is the most experienced QB in this group. Rudolph is also an underrated athlete.
Kiper: Rudolph doesn’t wow you like Mayfield and Jackson do. He doesn’t have a huge arm, and he’s not a runner, though he can move in the pocket. He’s just a steady player. He has improved every season. He has the size — 6-foot-5, 230 pounds — that teams covet, and I love that he’s not afraid to take shots down the field.
McShay: Steady is a fair description. He knows where to go with the ball and is a good decision-maker. The pre-draft process — combine, pro day and Senior Bowl, if he plays — will be important in getting a closer look at him. Right now, he’s my fourth-ranked quarterback, on the fringe of the first round.
Kiper: He’s right there with Jackson on my board. Rudolph is probably more ready to play right away than Jackson.
Where Rudolph projects in the draft
Kiper: Late first or early second round.
McShay: Late first or early second round.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
2017 stats: 138-of-222 passing (62.2 percent) for 1,990 yards with 14 touchdown passes, four interceptions; seven rushing touchdowns; 80.4 Total QBR (No. 9 in FBS)
Kiper: Before the Heisman ceremony last year I said Jackson hadn’t shown consistent NFL-level passing skills at that point. I said I was going to label him as an athlete until I saw that. Well, if you hadn’t noticed, I put him on my Big Board about a month ago. His accuracy is way up, his delivery looks more fluid and he has put on some good weight. And he’s still the same athlete who won the Heisman Trophy. Didn’t you compare him to Michael Vick last year, Todd?
McShay: I did. Jackson is extremely dynamic with the ball in his hands and is as fun to watch as any player in college football. I wanted to see whether he improved throwing from the pocket. His 2016 completion percentage — with much better weapons than he has now — was just 56.2 percent.
Kiper: He really is a gifted athlete, but it’s going to take some time before he’s ready to start in the NFL. He’s the most raw of these quarterbacks.
McShay: Agreed. He’s not a guy who should be counted on to start on day one. He needs time to develop his entire skill set. We know he’s a great athlete, but he has to get more reps from the pocket. Everyone in the NFL is a great athlete. Also, he looks a little bigger, but he still has a slight frame. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 211 pounds.
Kiper: I could see a team stashing him and redshirting him, like the Chiefs are doing with Patrick Mahomes II right now. Jackson has tremendous upside, but I don’t think he’s a lock to be a first-round pick.
McShay: He’s actually my seventh-ranked quarterback. I have him behind Rudolph, Baker Mayfield and Luke Falk, too. I still need to see more from him before I’m comfortable moving him up. Remember: it’s early. There’s a long time until the draft, and Jackson has plenty of time to make a move.
Kiper: He’s the No. 4 quarterback on my board. It’s going to be a fun class.
Where Jackson projects in the draft
Kiper: Late first or early second round.
McShay: Day 2 or early Day 3 pick.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
2017 stats: 100-of-134 passing (74.6 percent) for 1,635 yards with 15 touchdown passes, zero interceptions; one rushing touchdown; 92.7 Total QBR (No. 1 in FBS)
McShay: I really love watching this kid play because of his toughness and grit. He’s a competitor and you can tell his teammates love him. I was very impressed with his Week 2 performance against a tremendous Ohio State defense.
Kiper: Mayfield is the toughest of these quarterbacks to evaluate for me. Is he just a great college quarterback? Does he benefit from having one of the best offensive coordinators in the country in Lincoln Riley? You have to love his numbers, though. He’s completing 72 percent of his passes with 55 touchdowns and eight interceptions (zero this season) over the past two seasons. That’s spectacular. He throws a nice ball and plays with a chip on his shoulder
McShay: The issue for him is that he doesn’t have the ideal measurables of an NFL starter — he’s listed at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds — and he doesn’t have an elite trait to compensate, like Russell Wilson’s scrambling ability or Drew Brees’ accuracy. I still have him ranked ahead of Falk and Jackson, though, and he will stick somewhere in the league, at least as a backup.
Kiper: I also see him bailing out of the pocket too much on film. Scouts would like to see him climb the pocket instead of scrambling, though he’s fun to watch when he does. He’s a Day 2 pick at this point.
Where Mayfield projects in the draft
Kiper: Second or third round.
McShay: Day 2 or early Day 3 pick.
Best of the rest
McShay: Which other quarterbacks are on your board, Mel?
Kiper: You mentioned Washington State’s Luke Falk earlier — he’s right there with Rudolph and Mayfield for me. He might be an early sleeper as someone who could sneak into the first round if he has a great pre-draft process. He’s the best of these quarterbacks at working the pocket, but he’s also probably the least athletic. You have to be impressed with 19 touchdown passes to only two picks. He has started 34 games for the Cougars.
McShay: Yeah, I’m a fan of Falk as well. He’s my No. 6-ranked quarterback right now. I also like the upside of Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald, but he should return for another season, regardless of how the rest of this season goes. And Riley Ferguson is an intriguing guy at Memphis, but he will have a steep learning curve from that offense and can be a little erratic throwing the ball.
Kiper: A few more on the radar for the 2018 draft: Seniors Brandon Silvers (Troy) and Mike White (Western Kentucky) have had great seasons. Will Grier (West Virginia), Kelly Bryant (Clemson) and Ryan Finley (NC State) are intriguing draft-eligible underclassmen. Like you said earlier, there’s still a long time until the draft.
The following story is a blend of ESPN’s human-voted Power Rankings and ESPN’s computer-generated FPI which focuses on the odds of making the playoffs. So the Falcons may be #3 in the “Power Ranking” even if FPI thinks 8 teams, including the Panthers in their own division, have a better chance of making the playoffs.
We also note that the Patriots are 91.9% to make the playoffs even if they are tied in the standings at the moment with the Jets who have a 1.3% chance of making the playoffs.
The number in parenthesis is where ESPN’s Power Ranking had the team last week:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (1)
99.4 percent chance. No team is ever a lock to make the playoffs after five games, but the Chiefs are pretty close right now. They are undefeated, lead the NFL in scoring and haven’t committed a turnover since the very first snap of the season. They have the best chances in the NFL through Week 5.
2. Green Bay Packers (2)
84.1 percent chance. Where would the Packers be without Aaron Rodgers? He has thrown an NFL-best six touchdowns in the fourth quarter this season, and four of the six TDs have come with his team trailing. Green Bay has the fifth-best overall chances of making the playoffs.
3. Atlanta Falcons (3)
65.6 percent chance. The Falcons have a strong chance of making the playoffs as is, but they need to take advantage of a struggling Dolphins team at home this week. Why? Because after that, they play four of the next five on the road, with trips to New England, Carolina and Seattle.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (8)
86.0 percent chance. The Eagles have the best playoff chances in the NFC by a nose (one-tenth of a percent). What has the Eagles soaring? Ball control. They’ve converted a league-best 53 percent of third downs, and they’ve averaged a league-best 35 minutes, 32 seconds of possession this season.
5. New England Patriots (7)
91.9 percent chance. Even with a below-average defense and two early losses, the Patriots’ offense has been so good that New England has the second-best overall chance of making the playoffs. The Bills and Jets also are 3-2, but the Patriots are still the team to beat in the AFC East.
6. Carolina Panthers (13)
67.4 percent chance. Cam Newton is completing 68 percent of his passes this season, and he has thrown for 300 yards and three touchdowns in consecutive games for the first time in his career. His performance has the Panthers with the fourth-best chances of making the playoffs in the NFC.
7. Denver Broncos (4)
57.7 percent chance. Denver’s defense is the most efficient unit in the NFL, according to FPI, making up for any deficiencies from their 21st-ranked offense. The Broncos’ next two games are against the Giants and Chargers, so their chances of making the playoffs could be on the rise.
8. Seattle Seahawks (6)
85.9 percent chance. The Seahawks have the second-best chances of making the playoffs in the NFC, and that’s mostly thanks to their division rivals. Every other team in the NFC West ranks 25th or worse in efficiency this season.
9. Dallas Cowboys (12)
16.9 percent chance. The Cowboys peaked at a 71.5 percent chance of making the playoffs following their Week 1 win. There’s still plenty of season left for Dallas, which will regroup during its Week 6 bye.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (5)
70.9 percent chance. Ben Roethlisberger’s five interceptions at home were shocking, and the blowout loss to the Jaguars dropped the Steelers’ playoff chances from 92.9 to 70.9 percent. It’s a big drop, but they still have the fourth-best chances in the AFC.
11. Los Angeles Rams (16)
16.2 percent chance. That percentage might seem low for a 3-2 Rams team, but keep in mind that they currently rank 25th in efficiency, according to FPI. And despite his improvements, Jared Goff ranks just 15th in Total QBR through five weeks.
12. Jacksonville Jaguars (24)
82.2 percent chance. The Jaguars have the best point differential and best turnover differential so far this season, which is a big reason why they have the sixth-best overall chance of making the playoffs through Week 5 (third best in the AFC). But the Jags also have the easiest remaining schedule. That plays a big part, too.
13. Washington Redskins (14)
27.0 percent chance. Washington’s two losses this season have come against teams that are a combined 9-1, so its .500 record shouldn’t look that bad. The Redskins have the second-easiest remaining schedule, so their record (and playoff chances) could improve.
14. Detroit Lions (9)
34.6 percent chance. The Lions have the eighth-best playoff chances in the NFC. Matthew Stafford has been sacked 18 times this season (tied for third most), however, and if the Lions continue to struggle protecting him, their chances might continue to slip.
15. Oakland Raiders (11)
12.3 percent chance. If the Raiders played in any other division, their outlook might be better than it is in the AFC West. But with Derek Carr injured and with the Chiefs and Broncos a combined 8-1, Oakland’s chances have dipped to 12.3 percent after starting the season over 50 percent.
16. Buffalo Bills (16)
36.8 percent chance. The Bills weren’t given much of a shot by FPI at the start of the season (11.6 percent), but their chances have tripled since then, thanks to a three-win start. The Bills get some rest this week, before they play three at home in a four-game stretch afterward.
17. Houston Texans (10)
36.5 percent chance. Deshaun Watson has been exciting and currently leads the NFL in Total QBR, but his big numbers have still only translated to a 2-3 start for Houston. There’s reason for optimism though, and the Texans’ chances of making the playoffs are the highest for any team under .500.
18. Baltimore Ravens (22)
52.0 percent chance. The Ravens have two ugly losses, but their three wins have been by an average of 15.7 points. Two of their next three games are against the Bears and Dolphins, which is a big reason why Baltimore currently has a 52 percent chance of making the playoffs.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (18)
20.9 percent chance. The schedule is not a friend of the Buccaneers right now. Not only do they have the second-most difficult remaining strength of schedule, they have to play six of their next eight on the road.
20. Minnesota Vikings (17)
51.5 percent chance. Sam Bradford’s health is a concern, but Case Keenum has more than held his own, keeping the Vikings’ playoff chances over 50 percent. How good has Keenum been? Only Drew Brees and Alex Smith have thrown more passes without a pick this season.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (23)
17.5 percent chance. The Bengals head into their bye coming off back-to-back wins. Their chances of making the playoffs still aren’t great, but considering that they dropped to 2.2 percent following their 0-3 start, 17.5 percent doesn’t look too bad.
22. New Orleans Saints (20)
36.4 percent chance. The Saints’ chances of making the playoffs dipped to 5.1 percent after an 0-2 start, but two straight wins in which the defense allowed a combined 13 points has those chances back up to 36.4 percent. If the defense can continue to limit opponents, their chances of making the playoffs could improve.
23. Tennessee Titans (19)
31.8 percent chance. The Titans were the favorite in the AFC South, according to FPI before the season, but because of Marcus Mariota’s injury, they now own the third-best chances in division. With upcoming games against the Colts and Browns, however, the Titans could be back in the driver’s seat soon.
24. Arizona Cardinals (21)
6.9 percent chance. The Cardinals have had one of the biggest falls this season, opening the year with a 44.3 percent chance of making the playoffs. If they can’t beat the Buccaneers at home this week, their chances could be all but nothing.
25. New York Jets (26)
1.3 percent chance. The Jets have three wins! The unexpected start has nearly doubled the Jets’ chances of making the playoffs. But don’t get too excited. FPI gives still gives them the sixth-lowest chances in the NFL, but that’s still up from 0.6 percent at the start of the season.
26. Miami Dolphins (27)
4.9 percent chance. Jay Cutler has the second-worst Total QBR in the NFL through Week 5, and the Dolphins are last in the league in scoring. If that’s not bad enough, they also have the hardest remaining strength of schedule and no bye week to look forward to. Their low chances of making the playoff almost seem high.
27. Indianapolis Colts (31)
0.8 percent chance. The Colts still have every division game remaining, and if Andrew Luck returns soon, the AFC South could look a lot different. But for now, with Jacoby Brissett and a league-worst minus-62 point differential, their chances of making the playoffs are just below 1 percent.
28. Los Angeles Chargers (25)
3.9 percent chance. This past Sunday against the Giants, the Chargers ended a nine-game losing streak stretching back to last season. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Chargers have only a 3.8 percent chance of making the playoffs, and with a three-game stretch against the Raiders, Broncos and Patriots coming up, that might have been their high point of the 2017 season.
29. San Francisco 49ers (29)
<0.1 percent chance. The 49ers have virtually no shot at making the playoffs following a five-loss start. To their credit, four of their five losses have been by exactly three points, so at least they’ve been in most of their games.
30. Chicago Bears (28)
<0.1 percent chance. Mitchell Trubisky had his growing pains in his regular-season debut (especially late in the game), but his performance on Monday gives Bears fans something to look forward to. One thing Chicago fans won’t be looking forward to, though? The playoffs. The Bears have less than a 1 percent chance of making it.
31. New York Giants (30)
0.5 percent chance. An 0-5 start has dropped the Giants to a less than 1 percent chance of making the playoffs. If you think the offense has been bad so far, just wait to see what we’ll be saying after they play back-to-back games against the Broncos and Seahawks without Odell Beckham Jr.
32. Cleveland Browns (32)
<0.1 percent chance. It took the Browns five games just to take a lead in a game. Technically, they have some chance of making the playoffs, but according to FPI, that chance is below 0.1 percent. At least the Indians are still looking good.
An edited version of the Week 5 DVOA Ratings of Football Outsiders (full story here) by Aaron Schatz:
There are a lot of surprising results in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings after five weeks of the 2017 season, but the team at No. 1 is not a surprise. The Kansas City Chiefs are the only undefeated team in the NFL and they still have a huge lead over the rest of the league in DVOA. The gap between Kansas City (37.0%) and No. 2 Washington (24.1%) is larger than the gap between Washington and No. 11 Green Bay (12.2%). The Chiefs are undefeated despite playing what has so far been the fifth-toughest schedule in the NFL based on the current rating of their first five opponents.
Their dominance is even greater if you look at the Football Outsiders playoff odds report. The Chiefs were neck-and-neck with the Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago, but this week’s simulation uses ratings that add in Pittsburgh’s awful day against Jacksonville and lowers the strength of their big preseason projection. That puts the Chiefs all alone as Super Bowl favorites, by a mile. Right now the Chiefs win the Super Bowl in 24.3 percent of our simulations. No other team in the league, AFC or NFC, wins in more than 10 percent of simulations.
What’s going on here is not just that the Chiefs have the best DVOA rating in the league, but also that they have a 1.5-game lead over the rest of the conference. Denver is 3-1 coming off the bye week, but no other AFC team has only one loss. That huge lead in the standings helps Kansas City get a 65.5 percent chance of being the AFC’s top seed. A better chance of being the top seed means a better chance of winning playoff games, and a better chance of representing the AFC in the Super Bowl, even if the Chiefs did not have a huge lead over the rest of the league in our efficiency ratings. Going back through all of years of DVOA, we couldn’t find a single season where any team already had a 1.5-game lead in its conference after Week 5.
Going back to the start of the DVOA era, there are 10 instances where only a single team after five games had both a 5-0 record and a DVOA rating over 30%. Three of those teams won the Super Bowl, and three others made it but lost, but the other teams ended up a bit of a disappointment in the playoffs.
1990 New York Giants (40.7%)
1993 New Orleans Saints (33.7%)
1997 Denver Broncos (40.1%)
1999 St. Louis Rams (55.4%)
2001 St. Louis Rams (37.1%)
2005 Indianapolis Colts (42.4%)
2006 Chicago Bears (56.3%)
2012 Houston Texans (33.8%)
2013 Denver Broncos (51.3%)
and now the 2017 Kansas City Chiefs (37.0%)
With only one really dominant team this season, there rest of the good teams in the NFL are packed tightly together and there’s plenty for people to disagree with. Teams with only one loss rank below a number of two-loss teams. A lot of teams have mostly close games, or have combined big wins with big losses or losses to bad teams.
Losses for the Steelers and Rams drop them in the ratings this week, and Washington move up to No. 2 on its bye week. Perhaps the most shocking team when you first look is Jacksonville, which moves up five spots to No. 3 because of the big win over Pittsburgh. (That game was covered in Any Given Sunday and will be discussed further in Thursday’s Film Room.) It seems shocking that the Jaguars can be third despite losing to the lowly Jets, but that’s how big their two big wins have been. The Jaguars now rank No. 1 in defensive DVOA and are a surprisingly mediocre 18th in offensive DVOA.
– – –
(By the way, the lowly Jets are still lowly according to DVOA; they rank 25th despite their 3-2 record, even though opponent adjustments for their easy early schedule are still only at half strength.)
1 KC 37.0%
2 WAS 24.1%
3 JAC 23.7%
4 PIT 20.2%
5 PHI 20.0%
6 HOU 17.7%
7 LARM 16.1%
8 DET 14.9%
9 NO 14.4%
10 BUF 14.3%
11 GB 12.2%
12 SEA 11.1%
13 ATL 10.5%
14 MIN 10.4%
15 CIN 9.4%
16 DEN 7.4%
17 CAR 7.4%
18 BAL 6.3%
19 TB -0.5%
20 TEN -1.7%
21 NE -1.8%
22 OAK -3.0%
23 DAL -3.1%
24 LACH -10.0%
25 NYJ -17.3%
26 NYG -21.4%
27 SF -26.4%
28 CHI -28.4%
29 MIA -31.0%
30 ARI -31.9%
31 IND -48.8%
32 CLE -49.1%