Vince Lombardi

QuantCoach.com

No Monday Morning Quarterbacks

Follow QuantCoach on Twitter

WELCOME to QuantCoach.com, the only site on the world-wide web that provides meaningful professional football coaching statistics. QuantCoach.com's revolutionary coaching statistics are derived from a peer-reviewed and generally accepted theory of competition known as Growth Theory. Veteran coach Bill Parcells once said, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." But Growth Theory teaches us that success "springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking." In professional football, those "recipes" are the plays that coaches design. Simply, QuantCoach.com's coaching statistics separate the contribution of plays to pro football success from the contribution of players.

THE ARCHIVES (2016-Part 5)

QC's Week 17 Thoughts

Better designed NFL teams finished the season 195-59-2 for a winning percentage of .768. It was the eighth straight year such teams won between 74.6% and 78.9% of all games. In the nine years since QC invented coaching stats, better designed NFL teams have won a little more than 76.9% of all games (1572-471-5; .769). Year-by-year winning percentage of better designed teams since 2009 is as follows:

2016: .768 (195-59-2)
2015: .778 (199-56-1)
2014: .784 (200-55-1)
2013: .773 (198-58)
2012: .749 (191-64-1)
2011: .746 (191-65)
2010: .766 (196-60)
2009: .789 (202-54)

********

After beating the Browns in OT, 27-24, Pittsburgh not only finished 11-5, but also finished No. 7 in play design differential. The Steelers are the only team in the NFL to finish in the Top 10 in play design differential every year since QC invented coaching statistics.

********

Only six of the Top 10 teams in play design differential made the playoffs. What happened to Denver (No. 3), Washington (No. 6), San Diego (No. 8) and Cincinnati (No. 9). For the most part, turnovers and special teams failures doomed these teams. The Redskins and QB Kirk Cousins were -3 TO in both of their final two home games, losses to Carolina and the NY Giants. Those turnovers will haunt HC Jay Gruden the entire off-season. The Broncos had the misfortune of being in the same division with the two most TO-subsidized teams in the NFL, Kansas City and Oakland (both +16 TO). The Broncos also played a schedule that per coaching statistics was almost 3 times more difficult than the schedules the Chiefs and Raiders faced.

********

Three teams in the bottom ten in play design differential made the playoffs. Oakland's and Green Bay's success was fueled by turnover subsidies (+16 and +8, respectively) and QBs who threw lots of TD passes (Derek Carr and Aaron Rogers). But how did the Texans grab a playoff spot with a TO differential of -7 and Brock Osweiler at QB? It really came down to a missed last-second FG by Cincinnati's Randy Bullock in Week 16, which allowed Houston to esacape with a 12-10 win. If Bullock had made that kick, then Tennessee's 24-17 win over Houston in Week 17 would have put the Titans in the playoffs and left the Texans at home.

********

Nine of the 12 playoff qualifiers finished in the top 12 in play design differential and/or turnover differential. The threee that did not were the NY Giants (who finished No. 13 in play design differential), Houston, and Detroit. The 9-7 Lions are in the playoffs and 8-8 Minnesota (No. 11 in play design differential and +11 TO) is not because then Vikings K Blair Walsh missed a PAT at home against Detroit, which left the door open for Lions K Matt Prater to bomb a 58-yard game-tying FG as time expired in regulation, which gave Matt Stafford the chance to drive his team to a game winning TD on the first possession of OT.

********

QC did not enter the Westgate Super Contest, but he did use the Super Contest line as the point spread for his weekly "5 Best Guesses." After a 3-2 Week 17, QC finished 46-37-2 (.554) against the Super Contest number, which would have netted 47 points if an actual Super Contest entry. (Contestants who netted 50.5 points or more finished in the money).

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's 5 Best Guesses | Week 17

Leave it to San Diego and Phil Rivers to spoil an otherwise perfectly handicapped Week 16. And Cleveland's win comes too late to help QC with his Browns over 4 wins wager. (If Cleveland had not let wins over Baltimore and Miami get away earlier in the seaon, QC would be pulling for Cleveland to pull a backdoor cover win against the Steelers, who will barely be trying. But, it's called gambling for a reason.) For the last 6 weeks, the NFL market has been as friendly to bettors as any 6-week stretch QC can remember. QC is 21-9 (.700) over that stretch. A lot of bettors are doing just as well. In November, Nevada sports books held on to just 2.1% of the money wagered on football, a 77.1% decline from profits reaped in November of last year. It won't last forever. So let's keep doin' that thing we do and hope it lasts for one more week.

1. Vikings -5 over Bears. These teams are virtually dead even in every respect except one: TOs. The Vikings are +7 TO for the year and the Bears are -16 TO. Chicago's last 2 games at Green Bay (-4 TO) and versus Washington (-5 TO) have been disasters. The Bears smacked Minnesota at mid-season, but Jay Cutler directed a TO-free attack that game. It seems too much to expect Matt Barkley to do the same in what will be just his second road start in 6 starts. Chicago has covered its last 2 games on the road (at Giants, at Lions), but they were subsidized +7.5 in both those contests. Further, before those games, the Bears were 0-5 ATS on the road and would not have covered the -5 the Vikings are laying here in any of those games. Minnesota is 5-2 ATS at home and won by more than 5 in all 4 of those games in which they also won SU. The Vikings have given up big points in their last two games, but the QBs they faced were Andrew Luck and Aaron Rogers and Barkley is not on that level. At best he is a little below the Carson Palmer and Blake Bortles level and Mike Zimmer's D held them in check enough to win and cover. Unless talented rookie RB Jordan Howard has another big game, it probably will be another tough day for Barkley. On offense, Minnesota might be able to get something going on the ground as the Bears have given up more than 200 yards rushing the past 2 games to the Redskins and the Packers and opponents have averaged a whopping 167.6 yards rushing over the past 5 games. QB Sam Bradford does not need much help from the ground game. He is 7-2 against the number when the Vikings attempt just 24 or more rushes.

2. Panthers +6 over Buccaneers. Like Minnesota v. Chicago, Tampa Bay and Carolina are almost perfectly matched in coaching stats. Unlike the Vikings v. Bears, the teams also are almost evenly matched in TO differential. In their first meeting, the Panthers subsidized the Buccs +4 TO--and still lost by just a FG. Backup QB Derek Anderson was under center that night for Carolina, but this time DC Mike Smith will get Mike Shula's varsity QB, Cam Newton. Tampa has covered their last 3 at home after an 0-4 ATS start. In those last 3 games, opponents have provided 9 TOs. In the Buccs last 2 games--both on the road and both losses--the TO worm turned and Jameis Winston and friends provided 6 TOs while the D collected just 1 TO. The Panthers have had difficulty on the road (1-4-2). But Carolina covered its last road game at Washington and if the Panthers had been subidized the 6 points they are getting here their road ATS record would be 5-2. In order to cover the number, Winston probably will have to be +2 TO and, at this point in their careers, QC trusts Newton a little more than Winston to avoid turnovers. Look for the Panthers to not only cover but win SU.

3. Colts -4.5 over Jaguars. Indy QB Andrew Luck off a loss and against a division opponent is always a good bet. The linemakers are making us pay a little premium for the Indy side, but given Luck's past performance in these situations, it is worth carrying the extra weight. Luck has been oustanding all year posting over 7.7 QCYPA and tossing 30 TD passes. In the past 4 games, he has lost only 18 yards on sacks, an average of just .137 yards per pass attempt. Indy lost 2 of those 4 games, but the Colts have cashed at home against opponents that are TO-prone such as the Chargers, Bears and Titans. And boy are the Jaguars TO-prone. QB Black Bortles and friends have subsidized opponets with 27 TOs and are -16 TO for the year because the D has collected just 11 TOs. Bortles looked good last week against Tennessee's terrible pass coverage and the Colts' D has been shredded in the past month by Derek Carr and Ben Roethlisberger. But against Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sam Bradford, and Brock Osweiler, who like Bortles are all below average, the Indy D held up fine. The Jaguars pass D is greatly improved, especially when it involves rookie DB Jalen Ramsey who looks like he could be a cover star. The D controlled Luck in the first meeting in London. But it is awfully hard to dominate a QB as good as Luck twice in season, particularly when he is at home. Look for the Colts to win by a TD or more and the guessing game to start as to whether 8-8 will be enough for Chuck Pagano to return in 2017 as HC.

4. Ravens +2 over Bengals. Per coaching statistics, the Bengals are the better designed team, are playing at home, and are turnover positive. But Marvin Lewis' team has underachieved all year and been dreadful on special teams. New K Randy Bulluck cost Cincinnati a win and it backers a cover last week in Houston when he missed a potential game-winning field goal. Upon close inspection, one sees that the Bengals came pretty close to a total collapse this year. Four of Cincinnati's five wins have come over the teams ranked Nos. 32, 30 and 29 in the NFL in play design differential (the Browns (2x), Jets, and Eagles). The other win came at the expense of the visiting Dolphins in one of those Thursday night games that are dreadful for travelers. QB Andy Dalton won't have TE Tyler Eifert or WR A.J. Green and he has had only one game over 6.1 QCYPA since losing Green six games ago. The Ravens play great defense against the run and, as mentioned above, the Bengals' kicking game is unreliable. It would not surprise QC in the least if DC Dean Pees' stop troops pitch a shut out. The Ravens are only 2-4-1 ATS on the road and QB Joe Flacco has exceeded 7.00 QCYPA on the just twice away from home. However, if the Ravens had been subisized +2 point in all those games, they would be 5-2 ATS on the road. Moreover, Flacco and the Ravens have lost the TO battle only one time away from home. HC John Harbaugh also can call on the best K in footall in Justin Tucker. Given the Bengals lack of firepower on offense, avoiding turnovers, a lethal kicker, and 2 bonus points should be enough for Baltimore to win SU and cover.

5. Cardinals -6 over Rams. How bad have the Rams been since No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff took over as the starting QB? Well, Los Angeles' play design differential over that period is -.0891. That dismal figure is worse than the Browns' current play design differential (-.0608). LA's differential is worse even than the 2009 Rams (-.0867), who finished 1-15 and posted the lowest play design differential for an entire season that QC has recorded since inventing coaching statistics. Average productivity with Goff under center is beneath the JaMarcus Cable and the offense has been below this NFL "Mendoza Line" in 4 of Goff's 6 starts. (In one of the other Goff starts, productivity was 2.05, just above the JaMarcus Cable threshold of offensive incompetence of 2.00.) This year's Rams also are -7 TO since Goff took over and are 0-6 both SU and ATS. It is hard to imagine an NFL team ever could be worse. LA still has a little pride on defense especially against the run. If Arizona fails to show up, turns the ball over, and/or breaks down on special teams as it has so often on the road this season, it could be a game. But Bruce Arians is cranky. His team responded last week to his frustration (and to the release of underachieving WR Michael Floyd) and handed the Seahawks a crushing defeat in Seattle. The victory raised the Cardinals' ATS road record in the division to 2-0 in comparison to their 0-5 record on the road against opponents outside the NFC West . Arians has plenty of piss and vinegar left in him to fuel another focused peformance in the season finale. There is nothing he would like more than for his team to blast another division opponent to end the season. And there is nothing QC would like more than for him and his team to do it.

Last Week: 4-1 (.800)
Season: 43-35-2 (.551)

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's Week 16 Thoughts

QC was surprised to wake up Monday morning after Kansas City thumped Denver 33-10 and find CBS's Adam Schein and former Oakland executive Amy Trask tweeting that Broncos HC Gary Kubiak has done a "bad" job this year. Nothing could be further from the truth. Trask even contended that P-rex Manning's "extraordinary knowledge/understanding of game" carried Kubiak last year. There is no denying that P-rex did possess great football knowledge, but, other than acknowledging the truth of that point in a vaccuum, these takes are total baloney. The 2016 Broncos current play design (+3.21%) and turnover differentials (0) are better than those figures were for the 2015 Super Bowl champs (+2.82% and -4, respectively). Denver ranks No. 4 overall in the NFL in play design differential behind only Atlanta (10-5), New England (13-2), and Miami (10-5). The main reason the Broncos are not returning to the playoffs is Oakland is +18 TO and KC is +15 TO, which ranks first and second in the NFL in turnover differential. However, the Chiefs opponents collectively have given the ball away a net of 29 times (-29) while the Broncos opponents collectively have taken the ball away from their opponents a net of +18 times. (The Raiders opponents have taken the ball away from their opponents a net of +5 times so Oakland's +18 TO is even more impressive ... take a bow, Khalil Mack). Denver's opponents (collectively +0.60% play design differential ) also collectively have been better designed than KC's opponents (+0.21%) and Oakland's opponents (+0.30%). As for last year, Kubiak designed around P-rex who finished second in the NFL in interceptions thrown despite only playing in 10 games and Brock Osweiler (who has been a disaster in Houston). Like the 2012 Ravens, the 2015 champion Broncos got hot at the right time. More specifically, Denver's pass rush got hot at the right time. That hot pass rush plus Kubiak convincing P-rex to play like a scavenger, not a predator (which he probably could not have done if P-rex had been healthy and at the peak of his powers) was just enough for the Broncos to steal a Lombardi Trophy in 2015. That Kubiak, DC Wade Phillips, and the tremendous Denver pass coverage (5.631 QCYPA) will not be able to repeat that trick does not mean Kubiak or anyone else did a "bad" job. It just means variance is a fact of life in the NFL. And, if you believe in coaching stats, Kubiak--who broke in a first-time starter at QB in Trevor Siemian--did a better job in 2016 than the excellent job he did in 2015.

********

It was a merry Christmas Eve in Cleveland as Santa Diego delivered the gift that HC Hue Jackson and Browns' fans wanted most of all: The first W of the season. In contrast to Santa Clause, who delivers gifts by positioning himself INSIDE the chimney, Santa Diego delivered the 20-17 win to Cleveland when K Josh Lambo pushed two Q4 field goals OUTSIDE the uprights. Those two missed FGs plus another gift, an interception from QB Phil Rivers which set up a Cleveland FG, were just enough for the Browns to outlast the better designed Chargers. For Rivers, it was a fitting end to his era in Santa Diego. Rivers leads the NFL in TO gifts with 19 interceptions and the Chargers rank No. 2 in the NFL with 33 offensive TOs (just one less than the happless Jets 34 turnovers). No team has wasted more design and productivity over the past decade with turnovers and special teams breakdowns. However, as has been the case with Marty Schottenheimer and Norv Turner, the person who will pay for those gifts is HC Mike McCoy, not Rivers or any other player. Combine that with what seems like the team's imminent move to LA and it was a most unmerry Christmas in Santa Diego.

********

Santa Diego was not the only Santa delivering gift W's on Chrismast Eve. In Houston Sansantannati delivered not only a win to HC Bill O'Brien and the Texans, but also the AFC South Division title. Again, the gift came from a Q4 field goal, this one from the Bengals' Randy Bulluck, staying outside the uprights. Bulluck's miss enabled Houston to dash away with a 12-10 win that clinched a playoff spot. It was the third time this year in which a missed FG or PAT played a large role in a Bengals' (5-9-1) loss or tie.

********

The Bears and the Jets were filled with the spirit of giving in blowout losses to the Redskins and Patriots, respectively. In Chicago, QB Matt Barkley threw 5 interceptons. In New England, the Jets gifted 4 turnovers without taking anyting in return to decrease their turnover differential to -23 TO. It will take a great effort next week to reach the all-time record of -30 TO set by the 1965 Steelers (Bill Nelsen, Tommy Wade and Ed Brown combined to throw 30 INTs in Mike Nixon's only year as HC in Pittsburgh), but Buffalo is +9 TO for the year and the Jets already have had an 8 giveaway game so anything is possible.

********

We do not have an X-ray, but QC would not be surprised if--like the Grinch--Arizona HC Bruce Arians heart grew 2 sizes in the Cardinals 34-31 win at Seattle. Arians has had plenty to be Grinchy about this year, particularly his special teams which have played big roles in 4 of Arizona's losses and have caused him to make a couple of trips to the hospital with chest pain after close losses. Against the Seahawks, the Cardinals blocked a field goal in Q1 and then watched Seattle K Steven Hauschka miss a PAT after Russell Wilson willed the Seahawks into a 31-31 tie with just a minute to play in Q4. Arizona QB Carson Palmer quickly moved the Cardinals into FG range where K Chandler Cantanzaro delivered the kick that not only won the game, but likely saved his job (for now).

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's 5 Best Guesses | Week 16

Week 14 was QC's fourth winning week in the past 5 weeks. But once again a couple of rich deposits of turnovers (Denver and Detroit combined to give the ball away 5 times, frequently in the opposition's red zone) kept QC from mining even greater profits. The last two weeks of the season bring the added complexity of speculating as to which out-of-the-playoff-race teams will play hard and which will merely show up and collect paychecks. That means no backing the Jets. (Of course, you should not have been backing the Jets at any time prior to these last two weeks. So this should be nothing new. QC mentions it for emphasis.)

1. Chargers -6 over Browns. Nobody has gotten into the spirit of the season of giving this year more than San Diego Santa Rivers. Santa Rivers and his elves lead the NFL in giveaways with 32. Santa Rivers passer rating is over 100 in the Q1, but is around 50 in the Q4 when he has thrown 9 of his 16 picks. All of this sounds like the Browns could receive a gift W on Christmas Eve. But Cleveland probably will get Scrooged again. The problem is that it has been 6 games since the Browns were in the game in the Q4. The closest Cleveland has come in any of those games is a 13-point loss to Cincinnati. The Browns are a cautionary tale of "moral hazard." HC Hue Jackson knows he is coming back so he is taking an extremely experimental approach akin to what one normally only sees in preseason games. Yet, the linemakers continue to set the line as if the games are true NFL regular season games. Santa Rivers and the elves still rank in the top 10 in the NFL in play design despite their 5-9 record and the Browns rank dead last. As long as the Chargers bring at least a little Grinchy fight with them, they should cover easily in what is in all likelihood Mike McCoy's penultimate game as HC and Santa Rivers' penultimate game representing San Diego.

2. Redskins -3 over Bears. Washington is coming off a 3-TO home meltdown in a loss to Carolina and Chicago played the red-hot Packers to the final whistle at Lambeau Field. But no NFL team is as bad as it looked one week or as good as it looked one week. The Redskins rank in the top 5 in play design +/- and are a solid 5-2 ATS on the road. The only games HC Jay Gruden's team did not cover away from home were at Detroit and at Arizona and the issue was in doubt until late in the Q4. QB Kirk Cousins QCYPA is a robust 8.236 and now he is flying under the radar screen. Chicago was -4 TO last week, which made their cover against the Packers pretty fluky. The Bears have covered 3 of the 4 games they have played with Matt Barkley at QB and RB Jordan Howard could hurt Washington's soft defense if he gets enough carries. But Chicago has given the ball away 7 times (against just 2 takeaways) and run the ball more than 22 times just once (against the 49ers atrocious run D) since Barkley took over at QB. This line looks like it has some recency bias in it as QC's line would be closer to Redskins -5.

3. Raiders -3.5 over Colts. It's been a roller-coaster in Indy this year. The Colts have been hammered by the Chiefs, rebounded to smack the Packers and Titans, got rolled by the Steelers (without QB Andrew Luck), and sandwiched a home stinker against the Texans around road blow outs of the Jets and Vikings. The most consistent element of Indy's game has been giveaways. Luck and company played TO-free last week in Minnesota, but in the prior 6 games they averaged nearly 2 giveaways a game. Nobody takes the ball away more consistently than the Raiders Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and the rest of Oakland's D. The Raiders have collected at least 2 turnovers in 6 straight games and in 7 of their last 8 games. And QB Derek Carr rarely gives the ball away and throws lots of TD passes to big WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Luck probably will keep this close for more than half, but Carr and Mack will own the fourth quarter. Again.

4. Cardinals +7.5 over Seahawks. These teams battled for 5 quarters to a 6-6 tie in the first meeting, have the same turnover differential, and are separated by only about 2% in play design differential. So why is the line so big? The linemakers know Bruce Arians team has been awful on the road and must think the Cardinals might not show up. QC thinks Zona will show. It has been a frustrating fall in the desert and Arians showed he has had enough last week when he cut Michael Floyd after the underachieving WR was arrested for DUI. While Arizona has covered only one game on the road, it also has been unlucky. The Cardinals have lost or tied 4 games because of special teams break downs (Patriots, Seahawks, Vikings, Dolphins). QC will cross his fingers and hope it does not happen again. Seattle covered a 16-point spread 10-days ago against the hapless Rams. But if LA had been just a little less hapless, they could have hung in the game. And without safety Earl Thomas, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer might find some success over the top to speedsters JJ Nelson and Smoke Brown. If he can connect on a couple of deep shots, Arizona could even pull the SU upset.

5. Ravens +5.5 over Steelers. As the comedian Steven Wright once said, "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." Don't be the first mouse to rush in and try to grab that Pittsburgh cheese. The Steelers have won 5 in a row and are rocketing up virtually every set of power rankings QC has seen the last 2 weeks. But if you look closer at the streak it loses a bit of luster. Cleveland, Indy without Luck, the Giants looking ahead to Dallas, dysfunctional Buffalo and underachieving Cincinnati. It is not exactly a murder's row. The line looks like a classic case of recency bias given the Ravens come in off two underwhelming performances against the Patriots and the Eagles. But in the last 12 meetings with Pittsburgh, Baltimore has lost by more than a field goal just 1 time. Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, et al. are not intimidated in the least by visits to the Steel City. In the last meeting, DC Dean Pees' defenders shuttered RB Le'Veon Bell and controlled Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers. The narrative is that Ben was coming off a knee injury and other than a blocked punt and a 95-yard TD pass from Flacco to Mike Wallace, the Ravens did nothing on offense. That is pretty accurate. But Baltimore ran the ball 29 times, its third highest total of the year, because it got out to a comfortable 21-0 lead. If Flacco can post a more evenly accumulated 7.5 QCYPA as he did in the first meeting and OC Marty Mornhinweg calls 25 rushing plays, the Ravens should cover and could even win SU.

Last Week: 3-2
Season: 39-34-2

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's Week 15 Thoughts

How close was Oakland's 19-16 win over San Diego? Well, BOTH the play design differential AND the turnover differential was 0 AND both teams were solid in the kicking game. In a year in which the NFL has seen two ties, this game deserved to be a tie more than any other.

********

New Orleans QB Drew Brees was the star of New Orleans 48-41 win over Arizona, but if Brees had been off even a little, backup Cardinals RB Kerwyn Williams would have been the star. Williams, who has stepped in from time-to-time in Arizona over the past few years, carried just 3 times, but gained 63 yards, including one TD. It will come as no consolation to HC Bruce Arians, but Williams big runs resulted in the Cardinals posting the greater player productivity differential even though Sean Payton's team was a little better designed, an unusual (though not unprecedented) result for coaching stats. The last time Payton's team was in a game in which one team was better designed and the other more productive, it also worked out just fine. That game was Super Bowl 44 in which the better designed Saints beat the more productive Indianapolis Colts, 31-17.

********

Mike McCarthy is known mostly for designing passing recipes for master chef Aaron Rogers. It is often overlooked that he is quite creative in designing the running game. Back in 2010, when the Packers won their last Super Bowl, he innovated the "inverted wishbone" and turned RB James Stark into a competent complimentary side dish to Rogers downfield passing main dish. It looks like he has done it again with Ty Montgomery. Until this year, Montgomery was a WR. But now he is a RB. In a 30-27 win over Chicago, he ran 16 times for 162 yards and Green Bay rang up 226 yards on just 23 carries. Such hearty ground chuck went perfectly with the 4 popping hot turnovers the Bears served up.

********

Jacksonville's offense is as horribly out-of-synch mess of garbage as QC has ever seen. It is a zombie offense. Against Houston, the defense collected 2 turnovers that forced Texans' starting QB Brock Osweiler to the bench. And WR Marquise Lee returned a kickoff 100 yards for a TD. But QB Blake Bortles and the rest of the Jaguars did not have so much as pulse as Bortles posted a miniscule 2.964 QCYPA and Houston rallied behind backup QB Tom Savage to win 21-20. The Jacksonville front office thought after last year it had most of the pieces in place to have a good offense in Bortles and a group of young receivers. It is clear that is not the case. After the game, the front office mercifully put Gus Bradley out of his misery and announced his dismissal as HC. At least Bradley won't have to endure two more games of this disaster.

********

Trailing Kansas City 17-16 with less than 4 minutes to play and no timeouts, Tennessee HC Mike Mularkey eschewed the PAT kick and went for a 2-point PAT. It failed. But the Titans D held and QB Marcus Mariota, got Tenny in position for K Ryan Succup to bomb a 53-yard field goal throgh the pipes to steal a 19-17 win. Did Mularkey make the right decision? You could argue it either way. On one hand, the Titans were the better designed team, which usually counsels betting "long" and playing for OT. But Tenny also had provided 3 TOs to the scavening Chiefs D and to think it could have provided another in an OT period was a reasonable concern. It worked out for Mularkey. But it was far from clear that he made the correct PAT choice.

********

Cleveland and San Francisco cruised to defeat to extend their NFL record synchronous losing streak. The Browns took a 33-13 beatdown from Buffalo while the 49ers were boat-raced in Atlanta by the Falcons, 41-13. The paired losses extended the synchronous losing streak to 13 games. If San Francisco cannot beat the equally hapless Rams in Los Angeles next week, it is likely the synchronous streak will reach 15 by the end of the year and the only way two teams will ever be able top the streak will be for both teams to go 0-16. With two games to go, the 49ers are just 1/5,000th of a point better designed than the Browns (-.0600 v. -.0602).

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's 5 Best Guesses | Week 15

As the 1 PM games wrapped up Week 14, QC was experiencing a perfect handicapping week. Titans bullying Broncos on the ground and Marcus Mariota playing turnover-free? Check. Bears hanging tough in Detroit and picking up a couple overdue turnover subsidies from Lions QB Matt Stafford? Check. Cardinals imploding on the road in Miami with turnovers and special teams breakdowns? Check. Then the 4 PM games came and the Seahawks and Saints provided nine--9!!--TO subsidies to the Packers and Buccs, respectively, and QC had to fork back over most of the profits. Favorites and home teams have been rolling the last two weeks, but there are many attractive underdogs on the board this week.

1. Jaguars + 6 over Texans. If you like to watch good NFL QB play, well, hope you have DirectTV Sunday Ticket package because you won't see that here. Houston is paying Brock Osweiler $17 million for 5.7 QCYPA and Blake Bortles has all but finished getting Jacksonville HC Gus Bradley fired. The Texans are in the thick of the race for the AFC South title and the Jags are going nowhere. Also, Houston is 4-1-1 ATS at home. But Jacksonville is the better designed team, has not quit playing hard, and is 3-3 ATS on the road. In his last 3 games against Houston, Bortles has thrown TD passes to 5 different receivers. Unfortunately, two of those receivers were Texans. DB Kareem Jackson, who returned two of those passes for scores, will miss this game with an injury. The Jags running game has been formidable in two of their last 3 road games at Buffalo and Kansas City (both covers) and respectable in the other at Detroit (missed cover by just .5 point). Jacksonville's -17 TO differential is ghastly, but Houston has provided almost as many TOs as the Jags (21 v. 25) and has provided a TO in every game but the first meeting in Jacksonville. Bradley's defense has become quite stingy against the pass, yielding just 6.654 QCYPA. If Bortles can avoid making the big mistake, this should be a defensive slugfest and having 6 points already in pocket is a nice cushion. QC would not be surprised if Jacksonville wins SU.

2. Lions +4 over Giants. The good news is temperatures are predicted to be relatively mild in the New York area come Sunday. The bad news is there may be rain and winds could be blowing at 15 to 25 mph. Both NY and Detroit rely on their QBs, Eli Manning and Matt Stafford, to move the ball through the air. Both have below average ground games. And both have been playing lights out pass defense for a least the last 6 weeks. Detroit has provided just 10 TOs all year to its opponents and is +4 TO for the year. In contrast, the Giants have given the ball away 24 times and are -5 TO for the year. After injuring the middle finger on his passing hand, Stafford threw a couple of picks last week against Chicago, including a pick-6. But he played TO-free in 5 of the his 7 prior games and he says he does not expect the finger to cause him any problem. New York covered and ended Dallas' 11-game win streak in its last home game, but the Giants have failed to cover 4 times as short home favorites already this year. All of this adds up to defensive struggle in which points will at a premium. Detroit K Matt Prater is having an outstanding year and should provide the edge the Lions need to win their sixth straight game or at least keep the margin of defeat to a field goal.

3. Falcons -13.5 over 49ers. It takes a special matchup for QC to lay double digit points. This is a special matchup. Atlanta is No. 1 in play design differential. San Francisco is No. 31. Moreover, Falcons QB Matt Ryan is averaging over 9.3 QCYPA. That is the best mark this late in the season since Aaron Rogers' 2011 MVP season when he finished at 9.8 QCYPA and Green Bay finished 15-1. Nobody has really stopped Atlanta this year and only Philadelphia slowed the Falcons down by bogarting the ball on offense. San Francisco RB Carlos Hyde turned in a Herculean effort last week against the Jets, but it wasn't enough. It is unlikely that he will be able to muster up nearly 200 yards for a second week in a row even though Atlanta has been soft at times against the run. And even if Hyde gets traction, Chip Kelly's pace will put the ball back in Ryan's hands quickly. The SF defense has been shredded for over 170 yards rushing per game, has yielded 25 TD passes, and allowed opposing passers to post over 7.8 QCYPA. On offense, Colin Kaepernick and friends have not committed a TO in their last 2 games or in 3 of their last 4 games. So they are probably do to provide a couple subsidies. But even if the 49ers play TO-free, Atlanta has plenty of firepower to win this game by at least 3 scores.

4. Broncos +3.5 over Patriots. This is a battle between the second best designed team in the NFL, New England, and the third best designed team, Denver. The line is exctly what it should be. Tom Brady bounced back from a thigh injury and two sub-par games with a huge game against Baltimore last Monday night. RB LaGarrett Blount is having a career year and the Broncos have been soft against the run, but, honestly, do you really think Denver DC Wade Phillips would rather see Blount banging between the tackles or Brady spreading the ball around? Exactly. Phillips will be without LB Brandon Marshall and Atlanta hurt the Broncos badly with passes to RB Tevin Coleman earlier this year so Phillips is probably more worried about containing RBs James White and Dion Lewis in the passing game than he is about Blount running over his defense. Denver's pass defense is the most suffocating in the NFL (5.510 QCYPA) so, without TE Rob Gronkowski, Brady and the Patriots offense probably will go as White and Lewis go. If Denver can contain them, the Broncos have a good shot. A lot of people are concerned that when the Broncos have the ball they will not be able to run after gaining just 18 yards on 9 carries last week at Tennessee. But it's not surprising the Broncos were so pass heavy because they fell behind and the Titans secondary is poor. Kubiak's ground game is better than it showed last week. Still, the Patriots are strong against the run so Kubiak again will look for QB Trevor Siemian to do the heavy lifting. In the two games New England has failed to cover since Brady returned (Seahawks and at the Jets), the opposing QB posted greater than 9 QCYPA and tossed 2.5 TD passes per game. Siemian will have to come close to those numbers for the Broncos to cover. In any other year, QC would think driving the ball downfield against a Belichick D would be likely to result in suicidal turnovers. But only the Browns, Jaguars, Colts, Bears and Jets have collected fewer turnovers this year than the Patriots. This looks like a field goal game that could go either way.

Buccaneers +6.5 over Cowboys. QC sees great value on the Tampa side here and, if he was making the line, he would make it just Buccs +3.5. In rookie QB Dak Prescott's first 10 games, the Cowboys turned the ball over just 7 times. But in his last two games on the road against defenses that have collected 22 TOs (Vikings) and 24 TOs (Giants), the Cowboys turned the ball over 5 times. Tampa's D is No. 1 in the NFL in TO collection with 26. Thus, in order to protect Prescott, look for Dallas HC Jason Garrett and OC Scott Linehan to give rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott a heavy workload against a Buccs D that has seen no more than 25 rush attempts in any game during Tampa's current 5-game winning streak. The Cowboys have rushed the ball less than 30 times in just 4 games, including their last 2 games in which they failed to cover. In the first 10 games of the season, Elliott and company averaged 33 rushes per game and covered all 10 games. Dallas will need 30 rushes to win the game, but that also will shorten the game and play to the advantage of the team holding 6.5 points. On the other side of the ball, Buccs QB Jameis Winston struggled a little bit last week against New Orleans, but he did not commit a turnover. Moreover, prior to the Saints visit, Winston had been playing as efficiently as any QB in the NFL over the past month, posting at least 8.5 QCYPA in his previous 4 games. Tampa has run the ball more than 30 times in each game during its current winning streak and Buccs RB Doug Martin is by far the best ball-carrier DC Rod Marinelli has seen since the Cowboys encountered Le'Veon Bell more than a month ago. The Cowboys controlled Bell that day, but Ben Roethlisberger had a big day. Indeed, QC believes Dallas' success against the run is a bit of a mirage. Cowboys' oppnents have not tried to run much because they have usually been behind and the Dallas pass coverage is a little below average and the pass rush is non-existent. The pass rush took another small hit this week when it was announced underachieving DE Demarcus Lawrence will miss the game with a back injury. It is hard to imagine that Tampa will struggle to move the ball and, unless Dallas collects more than 1 TO for just the second time in its last 7 games, the Buccs also are likely to put up some points. It seems hard to believe, but after adjusting for schedule strength, Dallas is just the 5th best designed team in the NFC. The Cowboys are still better designed than the Buccs over the course of the entire season. But unless Elliott erupts for astro yards, QC likes surging Tampa in a SU upset that will only make the volume of the calls for Tony Romo to return at QB grow louder.

Last Week: 3-2
Season: 36-32-2

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's Week 14 Thoughts

If there is one thing that QC takes great pride in with regard to coaching statistics it is this: When the statistics lie to you, QC can tell you the source of the false information. QC and coaching stats obey the 10th Commandment: All statistics sometimes lie.. Take this game from Sunday: One team was 3.61% better designed than its opponent, +3 TO, and solid in the kicking game. Coaching statistics show that such a team wins over 95% of the time. But this time the team--Buffalo--lost, 27-20 to Pittsburgh. Why? Because Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell ran wild for a team record 236 yards. Coaching stats are driven by passing stats, not running stats. Occasionally, a running back or running game will break out and carry a team to victory. It does not happen as often as most people probably think it does. And it definitely does not happen often enough for QC to think about trying to tweak the coachin stats formulas. But it sometimes happens. And when it does coaching stats lie to you.

********

Let's all give a big Bronx cheet to Cleveland and San Francisco who set the stand alone record for most consectutive games sychronously lost at 12. The Browns fell behind the Bengals and never seriously threatened to win, falling 23-10. But the 49ers had to retreat from ahead after jumping on top of the Jets and new QB Bryce Petty. Most of New York's roster was somnolent enough for Chip Kelly's team to end the streak, but then RB Bilal Powell woke up and scored a TD in Q4 and another in OT and the 49ers slid down the pole to the record defeat. If Cleveland and San Francisco drop their last 3 games, they will probably set a unbreakable record of 15 consecutive synchronous defeats.

********

Tennessee ground out a critical 13-10 win over defending Super Bowl champion Denver to keep themselves tied with Houston atop the AFC South. Even though the Titans won, QB Marcus Mariota's production was below the JaMarcus Cable. But more importantly, this was Mariota's and Tennessee's 4th straight turnover free game. Only QBs like Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rogers and Alex Smith can consistently go a month without committing a turnover. And three of those four have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.

********

QC rarely mentions officiating. Coaches coach and officials judge. The two are completely different jobs, notwithstanding many fans (and coaches) frequently do not observe the organizational chart. But Detroit definitely got some help from the zebras in its 20-17 win over Chicago. The Bears were +2 TO and better designed and driving late in Q4 to what could have been at least a short attempt at a tying field goal. But holding calls on Chicago on back-to-back plays nullied completions by "hey, look what we found" QB Matt Barkley and the Lions survived. For the record, QC is not saying the penalties were not justified. QC was listening on the radio and has no idea if they were good or bad calls. But without those calls Chicago's chances of upsetting Detroit would have increased dramatically.

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's 5 Best Guesses | Week 14

QC split blowouts with Seattle and Indy winning big after Miami and Buffalo lost big. As is discussed more below, if Washington could have held onto a cover at Arizona, it would have been a winning week. Still, QC felt fortunate to grind out a 2-3 Week 13. It looks like another challenging card in Week 14.

1. Dolphins -1 over Cardinals. Both Arizona's and Miami's fortunes turned on fourth down last week. Bruce Arians chose to go for a first down on his side of the 50 in the fourth quarter holding a narrow 24-23 lead. The Cardinals converted and Carson Palmer connected with J.J. Nelson to cover. Meanwhile, in Baltimore, Ravens coach John Harbaugh twice chose to for a first down on fourth down in the first half. Joe Flacco converted both times to keep drives alive and what might have been just a 10-0 halftime lead inflated to 24-0. Given those facts, the results last week on both sides of this matchup look a little inflated. Moreover, Arizona has been awful on the road this year. The only game the Cards have covered was at the miserable 49ers (with conservative Drew Stanton at QB). Zona has hit the snooze every time it has played in EST and fallen far behind Buffalo, Carolina, and Atlanta. A lot of bettors are ignoring this data as money on the Cards has pushed Arians' team from underdog to favorite. On the other hand, although the Dolphins 6-game winning streak ended with a thud in Baltimore, the last time the Fins were embarrassed, they rebounded at home with an impressive win over Pittsburgh. One of the hallmarks of a good play design is the ability to get back on track, answer a setback, and return to form. This will be a good test to see if Adam Gase can answer. QC will give him the benefit of the doubt that he can, particularly given the Cards road woes.

2. Titans -1 over Broncos. This is Tennessee's sixth chance this year to get over .500. The Titans have failed to convert each of their first 5 chances. Mike Mularkey's team is fresh off its bye while the Broncos are playing their second consecutive road game. In addition, while Denver's defense is still formidable, it has had difficulty stopping the run and Mularkey can give the ball to DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry behind two of the best tackles in the NFL in Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin. The Broncos played without starting QB Trevor Siemian last week and it is still not certain Siemian will be ready to go. Even if he does start, it is likely that he will not be at 100%. Tennessee's prospects are positive if QB Marcus Mariota can avoid the devastating turnovers that probably cost the Titans wins against Minnesota and San Diego. The Titans have played TO-free their last 3 games and have not committed more than 1 turnover in any game over their last 9 games. Denver has only coughed up 1 turnover in its last two games, but gave the ball away 7 times in the 3 games prior and Dick LeBeau's D has generated 6 TOs in its last 3 games.

3. Bears +7.5 over Lions. Can you say "recency bias?" Detroit was very impressive in winning in New Orleans Week 13 and is 4-2 ATS at home. But the Lions largest margin of victory at Ford Field has been 7 points against woeful Jacksonville. If a couple of plays had gone against Detroit in wins over Philadelphia, Washington, and Minnesota and a few things had broken right for Chicago in losses to Indianapolis and Jacksonville, both teams would be entering this game 5-7. True, the Bears are a dreadful 1-5 ATS on the road, but the one cover came in Chicago's last road game when John Fox's team caught 7.5 points at the NY Giants. It would be hard to argue the Lions are significantly better than the Giants. Fox has been forced to turn to Matt Barkley at QB and the former USC standout has been pretty good. His receivers have not been and this is his first road game. To cover the number, Barkley will have to avoid turnovers and his receivers will have to hang onto the ball. It also would help if DC Vic Fangio's D could generate a turnover or two as the Bears have only forced 1 turnover in their last 5 games. Matt Stafford and his teammates are coming off back-to-back TO-free outings so maybe it is time for a little regression to the TO mean.

4. Saints +2.5 over Buccaneers. Tampa surges into this game on an impressive 4-game winning streak that includes a road conquest of Kansas City and a home beat down of Seattle. DC Mike Smith's pirates have pillaged opposing offense to the tune of 11 turnovers in those 4 games. On the other side of the ball, QB Jameis Winston has exceeded 8.5 QCYPA in every game. That's rolling. But Winston still is prone to lapses of greed, such as when he tried to drive a stake into the Seahawks heart and instead threw a ghastly interception in the end zone. You have to think that one of these days, Winston will have more than one lapse and the turnover worm will turn on Tampa. New Orleans has TO problems of its own. Last week, Drew Brees threw 3 second half picks as the Lions pulled away in the Super Dome. Sean Payton's team is only 2-3 SU on the road, but they are a perfect 5-0 ATS away from home. In addition, the last time a passer of Brees' stature came to Tampa--Matt Ryan--he torched the Bucs for 31 first downs and over 40 points. It will not surprise QC if Winston and Smith can keep Tampa's momentum going. But there are plenty strong signals to back Nawlins too.

5. Seahawks -2.5 over Packers. This may be the most fun game to handicap all year. Green Bay is No. 29 in the NFL in play design differential, despite the fact that Aaron Rogers leads the league in TD passes and opposing passers lose on average .580 yards per pass attempt, the best pressure in the league. Normally, a team that throws TD passes and sacks opposing QBs so well would be near the top of the standings. But the Packers are only 6-6 due to the lousy play design differential number. Is this Mike McCarthy's fault? Maybe. But it also might be that with the third-youngest team in the NFL (despite the presence of grizzled vets like Rogers, Julius Peppers, Jordy Nelson, and Clay Matthews), the Packers have a hard time following McCarthy's recipes. Betting against the Pack in Lambeua Field used to be a no-no, but McCarthy's team is 2-4 ATS this year on the "Frozen Tundra" and those two covers have come against Houston and Chicago who are a combined 2-10 ATS on the road. Seattle also has had some difficulty on the road. The Seahawks lost SU to sub-.500 Los Angeles and New Orleans and were manhandled in Tampa. Pete Carroll's team also lost stud S Earl Thomas to a broken leg last week against Carolina. Still, the Seahawks won SU impressively at New England and also covered on the road against two underachievers, the Jets and Cardinals. Green Bay also has underachieved all year and QC is not ready to believe that underachievement is all in the rear view mirror just because Rogers and the D looked good against Philadelphia and Houston. The Eagles and Texans dink-and-dunk as much as any team in the NFL. But Seattle QB Russell Wilson is a playmaker who will keep his eyes down field and look for Jimmy Graham, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. His job will be a little easier with the Packers' leading sacker, Nick Perry, out with some broken fingers. It was not that long ago that Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota and Kirk Cousins were launching rockets over the heads of the Packers secondary and QC was pronouncing Green Bay "done." Giving credit where credit is due, the Packers have pulled themselves out of the grave. But QC is not a fan of recency bias and thinks Carroll's D and Wilson's playmaking will be too much for the Pack.

Last Week: 2-3
Season: 33-30-2

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's Week 13 Thouhgts

Kansas City HC Andy Reid, Bob Sutton, Dave Toub, Alex Smith, Eric Berry and all the rest of Reid's assistant coaches and players put on one of the finest performances of play designing and playmaking QC has ever seen in the Chiefs 29-28 win over Atlanta. KC could not have been in tougher spot. The Chiefs' faced the best-designed team in the NFL on the road after needing 5 quarters last Sunday night to subdue bitter division rival Denver and with hated division rival Oakland waiting in the wings for a Thursday night game this week. It would have been perfectly understandable if Reid and his team had simply mailed in this non-conference game. But led by Smith the Chiefs were infinitely productive on offense and stunned the Falcons with a fake punt call that Albert Wilson ran 55-yards for a TD. On the playmaking side, Berry returned and interception for a TD and Atlanta's 2-point PAT attempt for 2 points for KC that provided the margin of victory. It was another gut-wrenching defeat for HC Dan Quinn's team, which fell to just 7-5 despite being the best designed team in the NFL. Screw ups like the 2-point PAT try that Berry turned around have cost the Falcons 3 wins.

********

San Francisco's stench has been mostly masked by Cleveland's aroma this year. But with the Browns on a bye Week 13, the 49ers' rich aroma wafted alone through the NFL air. HC Chip Kelly's team came through with a stinker so potent, QC had to dig back through the coaching stats to find one that smelled worse. In SF's 26-6 loss to Chicago, the 49ers gained an average of 2.6 yards per pass attempt and lost an average of 2.2 yards per pass attempt on sacks. That left Kelly's team with a microscopic QCYPA of 0.400 and player productivity of 0.53. The only performance worse that QC can recall was turned in by Tennessee in a 59-0 loss to New England in 2009. In that game in the snow, the Titans were not sacked, but still managed to lose 7 yards on 14 pass attempts, which left QC unable to calculate any productivity for Tennessee. Alas, even at their smelliest, the 49ers still could not completely escape the Browns' malodor. Combined with the 11 games Cleveland lost from Game 2 through Game 12, SF's 11th straight loss tied the record for synchronous losing streak set by the 2001 tandem of Carolina and Detroit, who also ran off simultaneous 11-game losing streaks that spanned Games 2 through 12, inclusive, that year.

********

After absorbing a 32-14 drubbing from the previously listless Bengals, the Eagles' play design differential diminished to -3.10%, which ranks No. 28 in the NFL ahead only of the Browns, 49ers, Texans and Packers. Philadelphia's coaching statistics have been in a steady decline since fallling to 4-3. Yet, going into the game at Cincinnati, the Eagles still ranked as the No. 3 best team in the NFL according to Football Outsiders. That's pretty odd. QC has nothing against Football Outsiders and recognizes that sometimes a team's quant-based ranking will not jive with its record on the field. It happens. San Diego has ranked in the Top 10 in play design differential all of 2016 despite the fact its record has never reached .500. But that's because the Chargers, especially QB Phil Rivers, are especially prone to cataclysmic turnovers and special teams blunders. In San Diego's 28-21 loss to Tampa Bay, Rivers threw a killer pick-6 that moved him into 6th place on the all-time pick-6 list. That's "666" if you are scoring at home. Evil, indeed. But QC digresses.... Back to the Eagles and Football Outsiders. QC sees nothing signifant about the fact that from time-to-time a quant-based ranking of a team may seem out of whack. But there should be an explanation for the discrepancy. And it is hard to understand what is keeping Philadelphia afloat near the top of the Football Outsiders rankings when the Eagles have been sinking like a stone in QC's rankings since Week 8.

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's 5 Best Guesses | Week 13

Markets always correct. QC is a white-hot 9-1 ATS the last two weeks. Even QC expects a correction. Let's do this.

1. Dolphins +3 over Ravens. This line does not seem like much respect for a team that has won 6 games in row. Even more so when you consider the Dolphins only loss to a negatively designed team was on the road on a short week (at Cincinnati Week 5). QB Ryan Tannehill and DC Vance Joseph's D have shown the last 3 weeks they can step up even when opponents contain RB Jay Ajayi. Meanwhile, Baltimore HC John Harbaugh's team just cannot score. Even last week against punchless Cincinnati, Ravens backers needed Bengals K Mike Nugent to miss a PAT in order to avoid a push. Baltimore 1-3 ATS at home if you disregard that game and a Thursday night blitz of winless Cleveland. This should be a physical, low-scoring defensive struggle. Three points in your pocket feels like a lot more in games like that.

2. Redskins +2.5 over Cardinals. Arizona HC Bruce Arians' is facing serious adversity for the first time in his career as an HC. And he is not handling it well. After losing last week in Atlanta in a game in which he gave stud RB David Johnson only 13 carries against the Falcons soft run D, Arians said some of his defenders were "selfish" in the way that played. Huh? The Cardinals D has been the strength of the team . Washington is another team that is soft against the run on D and explosive in the air on offense. So Arians should shorten the game, patiently pound the Redskins D with Johnson, and rely on his own D. But QC's guess is that Arians ego will get in the way, QB Carson Palmer will throw too many times and provide some turnovers, and Washington will cover for the fifth time in six road games.

3. Bills +3 over Raiders. Buffalo is 2-0 ATS on the West Coast and 6-1 ATS when it runs the ball 27 times or more. (The only blemish was last week at home when the Bills laid a whopping 7.5 points.) QB Tyrod Taylor also was happy to have WR Sammie Watkins back last week and showed he can now strike down the field. Oakland has surrendered big rushing totals to teams like Tennessee and Kansas City and LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee have run for at last 153 yards in each of their last 4 games. The Raiders are just 1-4 ATS at home, worried about QB Derek Carr's dislocated pinkie on his throwing (though they are not admitting it), and have a crucial meeting on the road with divisional rival Kansas City just a few days after this encounter. If there is ever a "trap game" scenario, this would seem to be it.


4. Seahawsk -6.5 over Panthers. Seattle went to Tampa last week battered and bruised and turned the ball over 3 times in a loss to the Buccaneers. But that is an aberration. Russell Wilson and company had subsizied opponents with a single measly turnover the 7 games prior. So look for the Seahawks austerity measures to return this week. Carolina has been game in its attempts to rally from a 1-5 start, but the Panthers are 1-3-1 ATS on the road. The Panthers offense runs through RB Jonathan Stewart as much as it runs through QB Cam Newtown. When Stewart cannot get going, Newton tends to be overrun by the pass rush and provide turnover subsidies. Such a developments are a definite possibility with Carolina's weak offensive line in a shambles as the result of injuries and DT Michael Bennett and S Earl Thomas returning to the Seattle lineup.

5. Colts -2 over Jets. The first 5 weeks of the season, NY's pass defense was bombarded by the likes of Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor and Russell Wilson. But since then, the Jets' pass D has been much better. Indy OC Rob Chudzinski is a Norv Turner disciple who loves to throw downfield. With QB Andrew Luck returning from injury and HC Chuck Pagano's team in desperate need for a win to keep pace in the AFC South, this will be a good test of whether Todd Bowles' pass D is for real. The Jets have covered the last 2 home games that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has started, but no team is better off a loss than the Colts with Luck under center.

Last Week: 4-1
Season: 31-27-2

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's Week 12 Thought

The philosophical change between Minnesota interim OC Pat Shurmur and former OC Norv Turner is obvious. In a 16-13 loss to the Lions, Vikings QB Sam Bradford was not sacked and completed 31 of 37 passes and was not sacked. But those completions generated virtually no productivity. Bradford looked like a MVP candidate weeks 2 through 5 when he was utilizing Turner's downfield designs. HC Mike Zimmer chose Shurmur's super-duper virus protection software when the Minnesota O-line disintegrated. The approach keeps the Vikings in games. But they will need scores from special teams and Zimmer's defense if they are going to hoist themselves back up over the Lions because the most that can be expected from Shurmur's design is that Bradford will stay on the field and time of possession will not become too imbalanced. The virus protection slows down the operating system too much for the system to provide much of any performance productivity.

********

QC long ago determined that play design usually contributes more to victory than playmaking. But, occassionally, an individual playmaking performance occurs that nearly single-handedly lifts a team to a win. It happened twice in Week 2. In Kansas City's 30-27 OT win over Denver, Chiefs WR Tyreke Hill scored on a kick return, a run and a reception. He was was the first NFL player to do so in a single game since Chicago HOF RB Gale Sayers did so in 1965. In Oakland's 33-30 win over Carolina, Raiders LB Khalid Mack had an interception, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a TD. He was the first player to accomplish those 5 items since Charles Woodson in 2009.

********

New Orleans play designer Sean Payton put it to the DC who helped him and the Saints to the 2009 Super Bowl, Gregg Williams, in a 49-21 beat down of Los Angeles. The Rams got off to a good start as rookie QB Jared Goff tossed 2 TD passes and LA led 14-7. But Payton's offense piled up 555 total yards, including 209 yards rushing, and Drew Brees and the Saints ran away and hid. Williams always has been a guesser on defense. When his guesses work, his D creates turnovers and is effective. But when his guesses do not work, it leaves his defense vulnerable. Payton looked like he knew that the entire game. Ouch.

********

Seattle fans have to be worried if the Seahawsk have to go on the road in the playoffs. Tampa Bay throttled Russell Wilson in a 14-5 win in which Wilson's production was well below the JaMarcus Cable. It was the third time this year Seattle failed to score more than 6 points a road game. The Seahawks were held to 3 points in a 9-3 loss at LA and tallied only 6 in a 6-6 tie at Arizona. Just a week ago, many so-called experts were starting to sing about the Hawks being the best team in the NFC. But right now it is hard to imagine Seattle winning any road game in the playoffs and not hard to imagine them getting blown out at Dallas or Atlanta.

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's 5 Best Guesses | Week 12

Play designers (11-3) rallied from back-to-back down weeks to win more than 75% of the NFL's Week 11 games. QC's handicapping also rallied to a perfect 5-0 mark. QC was not the only handicapper flogging the bookmakers. As ESPN's David Purdum reported, many Las Vegas sports desks suffered a losing day as 9 favorites covered. Long-time linemaker Michah Roberts said the books were "wiped out." The Las Vegas Sun called the day "catstrophic" as it reported parlays cashing heavily. This is not the first time a mass bookmaker beating has coincided with play designer success. In Week 9 of 2012, bookmakers endured the "worst day" many had ever seen as play designers posted a perfect 14-0 mark. QC does not expect this to happen again, so he will be looking to try to build some momentum by buying variance in Week 12.

1. Redskins +7 over Cowboys. Dallas has covered all 10 games against the Westgate's Super Contest line. Washington has covered 7 of its last 8 games against the same line. In the first meeting in Washington, the Cowboys rallied to win in OT as the Redskins could muster only 17 rushing attempts and QB Kirk Cousins threw 46 times. Washington has averaged 30.2 rushes per game over its past 5 games and Cousins has posted QCYPA greater than 8.3 in 4 of those games (all wins). The Redskins line also is providing outstanding pass protection (.281 sack yards lost per pass attempt). On defense, Dallas has generated very little pressure (.233 sack yards per pass attempt) and will be without CB Morris Claiborne and S Barry Church. It will be up to the Cowboys' fabulous O-line and the super rookies--QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott--to outscore Cousins and Company. Washington did pretty well against the run in Week 2, limiting Dallas to 102 yards on 30 carries. The Cowboys have not played a positively designed team since Week 3. Washington is traveling on a short week, but QC still expects Jay Gruden's team to tighten up the NFC East race with a SU upset win.

2. Buccaneers +6 over Seahawks. A funny thing is happening in Tampa. QC expected Bucs' QB Jameis Winston to enjoy a break out year and tabbed him as his pre-season choice for NFL MVP. That pick looked good after a Week 1 beatdown of Atlanta. Then Winston and the Bucs cratered by turning the ball over 11 times in their next 3 games (all losses). But since that stretch, Winston has settled down and Tampa has won 4 of 6 to get back into contention in the AFC South. The key to the resurgence has been the D taking the ball away from opponents. In their last 6 games, DC Mike Smith's stop troops have forced 15 turnovers. On offense, the Bucs have run the ball 30 or more times in their 4 wins and RB Doug Martin returned to absorb 24 carries last week in an upset of Kansas City. On the other hand, number crunchers and the public are in love with Seattle. The Seahawks rose to No. 1 in Football Outsider's DVOA rankings this week so all the formulas should be loving on Pete Carroll's team this week. QB Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense have provided just 1 TO subsidy in the last 6 games! Wow! Seattle looked great at New England two weeks ago, but they have struggled on the road against lesser opponents in Los Angeles (L), Arizona (T), and New Orleans (L).

3. Rams +7 over Saints. Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, started his first NFL game last week. The reviews of his performance in a 14-10 loss to Miami were mostly negative. Goff's production was below the JaMarcus Cable of 2.00 play productivity, QC's standard for offensive incompetence in the NFL. But Goff did not cough up critical TOs as Case Keenum (9 TOs) did in a 4-game losing streak earlier in the year. The weather (rain) was awful and the Rams jumped to a 10-0 lead which they still held--thanks to their nasty D--with a little over 6 minutes to play. So HC Jeff Fisher simply had no reason to ask Goff to buy any risk. Fisher and Goff should find New Orleans' D, which is yielding 8.390 QCYPA, much friendlier. The Saints run D has come around so it may be another difficult day for Todd Gurley, but the pass coverage is still amongst the worst in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, Drew Brees will confront a pass defense (6.294 QCYPA) that has been consistently outstanding in almost every game. Only Detroit's Matt Stafford has posted QCYPA greater than 7.000 and LA covered that game as +3 underdogs. Fisher is 103-74-1 (.584) all-time as an underdog. A 7-point subsidy under these circumstances is simply too generous to pass up.

4. Ravens -4 over Bengals. Cincinnati covered its first road game of the year against the Super Contest line two weeks ago in a 21-20 loss at the NY Giants. But last week at home the Bengals lost WR A.J. Green and RB Giovanni Bernard to injuries. Without those threats, QB Andy Dalton's production plummeted to just above the JaMarcus Cable (2.03). This is not how a team wants to go to Baltimore. The Ravens are undefeated in 3 games against the AFC North and have cranked up the pass rush in 3 of their last 4 games. Opposing runners are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry against C.J. Mosely and company so this looks like it will be a physically challenging day for Dalton. On offense, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco has posted QCYPA greater than 7.4 in each of his last 3 games and tossed 5 TD passes. In the 4 games the Ravens have covered against the Super Contest line, they have averaged 28.25 rushes per game. Cincinnati's opponents are averaging 29.6 rushing attempts in their past 5 games. If Baltimore's Terrence West has a decent game, John Harbaugh's team should not have much trouble staying on top of the division and covering the number.

5. Falcons -4 over Cardinals. Atlanta is the best designed team in the NFL and is coming off a bye. The balance of the Falcons' schedule sets up for a good run with only two (winnable) road games (at Los Angeles and at Carolina). OC Kyle Shannahan and QB Matt Ryan have produced QCYPA great than 8.000 in every game this year except one and that was 7.8. Shannahan also will have RB Tevin Coleman back in the lineup for the first time in weeks. Coleman and WR Taylor Gabriel frequently have been surprisingly productive. The Cardinals' pass coverage has not seen offensive design nearly this good since Week 1 when the Patriots visited the desert and backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo carved them up. Look for Zona HC Bruce Arians to try to bludgeon Atlanta's D with RB David Johnson. Philadelphia ran the ball 38 times against the Falcons two weeks ago and kept Ryan off the field. If the Cardinals can run 30 times or more, they can hang in there. QB Carson Palmer was under constant pressure last week at Minnesota. The Falcons are getting a bit of pass rush for the first time in years from blossoming Vic Beasely and timeless Dwight Freeney and DB Desmond Trufant is slated to return from injury to upgrade the coverage. If Dan Quinn's front 7 can take away Johnson and Arizona's pass rushers cannot get to Ryan, this is likely to be a blowout.

Last Week: 5-0
Season: 27-26-2

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

The Browns Doctor Is "In" | Week 11

0-11

Will the Browns lose them all in Hue Jackson's first year?

The only team ever to go 0-16, the 2008 Lions were 6.94% worse designed than their opponents and -9 TO. That was quite bad, but not as dreadful as you might think. Heck, Rod Marinelli's teams was not even last in play design differential or TO differential.

Two teams were worse designed, St. Louis (-7.07%) and ... wait for it ... the Browns (-7.83%). And four teams had worse turnover differentials (Houston -10, Dallas -11, Denver -17, and San Francisco -18). All of those teams managed to win at least 2 games.

Why did the Lions lose all their games in 2016? They faced what might have been the toughest schedule ever if you measure a schedule by play design differential. Detroit faced only one poorly designed team (Jacksonville -3.18%, 5-11) and only two other negatively designed teams (Chicago -.09%, 9-7 and Tampa Bay, -.10%, 9-7). Every other team the Lions played posted a postive play design differential. The Lions won the design battle only twice in 2016 (Week 6 in a 28-21 loss to Houston and Week 8 in a 27-23 loss to Chicago). That's tough.

The Browns schedule to date has been almost as daunting in that they have faced only one genuinely poorly designed team (NY Jets) and three other teams who are just barely negatively designed (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia). After falling to the Steelers on Sunday, Cleveland is 5.88% worse designed than its opponents and -7 TO.

Still, there are 3 teams left on the schedule who are negatively designed (Cincinnati -.10%, Pittsburgh -.73%, and Buffalo -2.82%). Further, the two positively designed teams have negative TO differentials (NY Giants -7 and San Diego -3). So it is still a reasonle expectation the Browns probably will notch at least one win before the season comes to an end.

And if they don't, so what. This is when smart investors are looking at bargains--Briean Boddy-Calhoun?--that might pay off in the future. A winless season would be embarrassing, but that is all it would be. Embarassment does not linger or keep a franchise down. Embarrassment is a short-term condition.

Cleveland has been betting "long" all year. "Short" results mean nothing at this point.

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's 5 Week 11 Thoughts

This week the Prediction Machine's weekly probabilities showed that New England and Dallas have a better chance to win the Super Bowl than the rest of the NFL. But both appear to have a weakness. For the Patriots, it is the inability to create turnovers. Over the past 10 or so years, no team has taken the ball away from the opposition as reliably as New England. But after again not receiving any subsidies in a 30-17 win over lowly San Francisco, Bill Belichick's D has created only 1 turnover in its last 5 games and 2 turnovers in its last 7 games. Likewise, Rod Marinelli's D in Dallas has not created any turnovers in its last 3 games. A bigger problem in the playoffs may be the absence of pass rush. The Cowboys rarely disturbed Baltimore QB Joe Flacco in a 27-17 win and for the year opposing passers have lost on .233 yards per pass attempt on sacks, one of the lowest figures in the league.

********

No. 1 overall draft pick QB Jared Goff made his debut in LA's 14-10 loss to Miami. Goff's QCYPA barely exceed 4 and his productivity (1.64) was well below the JaMarcus Cable. In Seattle, No. 2 overal pick Carson Wentz also produced below the JaMarcus Cable (1.91) in a 26-15 loss to the Seahawks. Maybe Goff and/or Wentz will develop into solid NFL QBs. But so far neither player looks to have John Elway/Troy Aikman/Andrew Luck-like transcendent talent for which a team could justify trading numerous high draft picks.

********

If #Seahawks QB Russell Wilson keeps playing like he has the last 3 weeks, he could make a late charge at NFL MVP. Wilson took a tremendous beating early in the season behind a leaky offensive line. Then, in Weeks 6-8, he did not throw a TD pass as Seattle struggled mightily through a 1-1-1 stretch that could have been 0-3 if a few plays had gone the other way. But the last 3 weeks Wilson has been magnificent in throwing 7 TDs and lowering his interception rate to a microscopic 0.6%.

********

Green Bay is done. After getting blown out by Washington, 42-24, Green Bay's play design differential (-5.19%) is less than 1% better than the 0-11 Browns' differential (-5.88%), its turnover differential (-6) is just one better than Cleveland's differential (-7), and its player productivity differential (-6.29) is the NFL's worst. (The Browns player productivity differential is second worst at -4.95). Expect the drum beat for a coaching change to get much louder before 2016 comes to an end.

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's 5 Best Guesses | Week 11

QC has cratered the last two weeks (2-7-1) along with NFL play designers. Better designed NFL teams have been just 15-12 SU (.556) the last 2 weeks after winning at a better than .800 clip the first 8 weeks of the season. Withe better designed teams now winning about 77% of all games, just a little more than the expected 75% rate, the big correction may be over. Here's hoping QC finds his own big correction in Week 11.

1. Bills +2.5 over Bengals. Buffalo has been off for 10 days since losing a hard-fought game in Seattle while Cincinnati is on short-week after falling 1 point short against the Giants in New York. Rex Ryan's team has been streaky. After losing their first two games, the Bills won 4 in a row and now are trying to break a 3-game losing streak. When LeSean McCoy and company have rushed the ball 27 times or more, the Bills are 5-0 ATS. Opponents have averaged 27 rush attempts per game against the underachieving Bengals.

2. Vikings PK over Cardinals.. Minnesota, who won and covered its first 5 games, is now on a 4-game skid SU and ATS. But in two of those losses (Detroit and Philadelphia), special teams breakdowns were costly. The Vikings finally bid adieu to struggling K Blair Walsh after he missed another PAT in a loss at Washington last week. That game ended in a flurry of sacks after Sam Bradford drove his team into the Redskins' red zone. Arizona's schedule shows that the Cardinals have played 3 road games, but in reality Bruce Arians team only showed up for one of those contests (against lowly San Francisco). The Red Birds barely competed at Buffalo and Carolina and the Vikings' D, which should be at pretty close to full health, is much better than either of those teams.

3. Colts -3 over Titans. A few weeks ago, with Indy coming off a loss, QC changed his pick at the last minute and went with Tennessee over the Colts. He will not make that mistake again. Indy QB Andrew Luck has owned the Titans and Tenny QB Marcus Mariota still dispenses turnovers like a Pez on too many occassions. This game will be decided by Indy's pass protection. In the prior meeting, DC Dick LeBeau's pass rushers came in hot, but the Colts were able to cool them off. If they can do it again, Luck and friends will break out the broom and sweep the season series.

4. Bears +7.5 over Giants. Chicago QB Jay Cutler was abysmal last week when the Bears were blasted in Tampa Bay. But Cutler looked quite efficient in his previous start againt Minnesota's tough D. The Giants have been playing well on D as well, but Eli Manning still turns the ball over too much and all of NY's wins have been by less than 7 points. Opponents who have run the ball 30 or more times against the Giants are 4-0 ATS so look for the Bears to try to feature banger Jordan Howard and to reduce Cutler's impact on the outcome. Don't be surprised if Chicago even pulls a SU upset.

5. Redskins -2.5 over Packers. For the first time since he arrived in Green Bay, Mike McCarthy's seat is getting a little warm. After being torched last week in Tennessee, the Packers have sunk to 31st in the NFL in play design differential. Only the 0-10 Browns are worse. QB Aaron Rogers is still lethal in the red zone as evidenced by his 22 TD passes although his interceptions (7) are up. Still, this looks like a play design, not playmaker, problem. Washington's pass defense has become much better since Week 3 and it won't have to fear the physical running game that McCarthy unleashed on the Redskins in last year's wild-card playoff game. Washington has covered 6 of its last 7 games. In the only game it failed to cover, Detroit's Matt Stafford (8.966 QCYPA) hurt their D with downfield throws. In just about any other year, you would expect Rogers to be able to do the same. But it has been a long time since we have seen McCarthy's designs free anyone up downfield.

Last Week: 1-4
Season: 22-26-2

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's Week 10 Thoughts

QC's not down with going for two in the first quarter after scoring first as Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin did in a 35-30 loss to Dallas. The Steelers failed and then chased that lost point for the remainder of the game. One cannot say mathmatically that it cost Pittsburgh the win, because Ezekiel Elliott's TD run with less than :10 to play made the final margin 5 and the Steelers failed on only four 2-point PATs. But those missing points changed the dynamics of the game. From a design perspective, it was uncomfortable to watch because it kept putting Ben Rothlisberger in a more difficult position that he would have otherwise been.

********

It was a strange day for PATs. New Orleans QB Drew Brees looked like he had pulled out a last minute win over Denver when he hit Brandin Cooks to tie the score 23-23. But the Broncos Justin Simmons hurdled the center, blocked the PAT, and his teammate Will Parks took the block back the other way for 2 points for Denver and a stunning 25-23 win. QC'd put the odds that next offseason the NFL bans hurdling the center on PATs and FGs about -800.

********

The NFC North has fallen back to its "Norris Division" status. It looked like the division would be a powerhouse when Green Bay was a popular pre-season Super Bowl pick and Minnesota sprinted to a 5-0 record to start the season. But on Sunday the diviions went 0-3 and Detroit moved into a tie for first with the Vikings at 5-4.

********

Houston beat Jacksonville 24-21 for its first road win of the season and to stay atop the AFC South. But QB Brock Osweiler's production (1.67) again was below the JaMarcus Cable. Osweiler attempted 27 passes, but through for only 99 yards. Still, his QCYPA of 4.148 was his best figure on the road because he threw a pair of TD passes. With such impotent road productivity and 4 away games on the schedule, the Texans' probably will have to run the table at home (San Diego, Cincinnati, and Jacksonville) to repeat as division champs.

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC's 5 Best Guesses | Week 10

Week 9 left QC grousing again as Kansas City was so anemic that it could not cover despite a +4 TO edge and the Vikings and Dolphins special teams imploded.

1. Browns +9.5 over Ravens. Week 10 started with a thud as Cleveland fell apart (again) in the second half and the Ravens, who looked disinterested early, won going away.

2. Falcons PK over Eagles.. Atlanta travels to Philadelphia without some key performers, particulaly DB Desmond Trufant. But OC Kyle Shannahan and QB Matt Ryan are the best designed team in the NFL and have been infinitely productive since Week 1. Moreover, Atlanta is 4-1 SU on the road and 5-0 ATS. Their offense has more than held its own against top-shelf defenses on the road at Denver and at Seattle. On defense, Vic Beasley and friends are starting to generate some pass pressure. The Falcons D has struggled against teams that throw the ball down the field (Tampa Bay 2x and San Diego), but Philly QB Carson Wentz is mostly a dinker and a dunker.

3. Broncos +2.5 over Saints. The Broncos D was gashed on the ground last week in Oakland while the Saints ran rough shod over San Francisco. But when total bodies of work are considered, Denver is far better designed and a much better achiever. This line looks like a classic example of recency bias. If HC Gary Kubiak can revive the Broncos running game and QB Trevor Siemian bounces back, the Broncos should win SU.

4. Steelers -2.5 over Cowboys. Dallas is a perfect 8-0 ATS, but for the most part veteran QBs have been productive against the Cowboys secondary, which will be without DB Morris Claiborne. Pittsburgh is the only team in the NFL to rank in the Top 10 in play design +/- every year since QC invented that statistic in 2008. So far in 2016, however, Pittsburgh ranks No. 19. This is a play that HC Mike Tomlin's team regresses some to its usual level and hands the streaking Cowboys their first loss since Week 1.

5. Giants -2 over Bengals. This line has moved 3 points to New York catching 1 point since the open. Still, Cincinnati opponents have thrown 16 TD passes and averaged over 7.9 QCYPA in the first half of the season. New York has no runnin game, but QB Eli Manning has tossed 12 TD passes, including 4 last week versus Philadelphia, and posted over 7.4 QCYPA. On the other side of the ball, the Giants D is yielding only a little over 6.4 QCYPA. The pass pressure, which was nonexistent the first 6 games, has showns signs of life the last 2 games and the Bengals have had difficulty protecting QB Andy Dalton all year. Marvin Lewis' teams are only 6-7 off a bye and are 0-4 ATS on the road in 2016. The last two times the Bengals faced a positively designed team on the road--New England and Dallas--they were blown out (although they did tie Washington in London the week before the bye).

Last Week: 2-3
Season: 21-22-2

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

The Browns Doctor Is "In" | Week 9

Does Hue Jackson surive a 1-15 or 0-16 season?

This was the question of one of QC's best followers after Dallas took Cleveland apart in Week 9, 35-10. QC's answer is ... absolutely!

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was a minority owner of the Steelers before he sold that interest to buy a majority stake in Cleveland. Pittsburgh is a model franchise. But it was not always so. When Art Rooney was the primary authority over the franchise, the Steelers perennially were the worst team in the NFL.

Pittsburgh's fortunes began to change when Dan Rooney became the primary authority over the franchise. But even Dan Rooney struggled in the beginning. His first head coach lasted one year. He second head coach--a former assistant of the lordly Lombardi--lasted 3 years. His third coach was Chuck Noll.

In 1969, Noll drafted "Mean" Joe Greene and won in his debut in Pittsburgh over Detroit, 16-13.

The Steelers then lost their next 13 games.

Noll famously told his team, "I've watched the game films and I can tell you guys why you've been losing. It's not because you're not trying hard enough. This isn't a good football team and most of you aren't going to be here when is a good football team."

When the Steelers won the Super Bowl five years later in 1974, only 3 starters remained from that 1969 team: Mean Joe, center Ray Mansfield, and LB Andy Russell.

Cleveland is in a similar situation. Haslam quickly went through two coaches. He has now settled on a coach with whom he appears to be comfortable and has empowered (in partnership with the front office) to completely reinvent the franchise. If the Browns had just a bit of luck earlier in the year, they would have a win or two already. If they had gotten more than their share of luck, they might even be 4-5 and most people would see Hue Jackson as a miracle worker.

But the Browns would still be a bad team.

And in 5 years, when Cleveland is a good team, it is likely that the number of current players that will be on the team will not greatly exceed the number of 1969 Pittsburgh players that were on the 1974 Super Bowl champion Steelers.

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

QC 's Week 9 Thoughts

You could see it coming. For 8 weeks, better coached/designed NFL teams won games at a better than 80% rate, which is more than 5% more than expected. A correction was inevitable. It was just a question when the correction would arrive. Week 9 was the answer. In at least 7 games, special teams impacted the final score. In only three of those games—Baltimore’s 21-14 win over Pittsburgh, New York’s 28-23 win over Philadelphia, and Indianapolis’ 31-26 win over Green Bay—was the team benefitting from a blocked punt, blocked field goal or kickoff return for a TD also better designed than its opponents. In the other four games, special teams were clearly the decisive factor in the outcome of the game.

********

No where were special teams breakdowns more devastating and painful than in Minnesota. Detroit never would have beaten the Vikings in OT, 22-16, if Mike Zimmer's team had been solid in the kicking game. New OC Pat Shurmur installed a "fast pass" offense that reduced sacks on QB Sam Bradford, produced more than 30 completions, and empowered the Vikings to move the ball adequatly. Zimmer's D also looked like its old self in winning the TO battle and holding Matt Stafford without a first down for almost all of the second half. But Minnesota K Blair Walsh clanged a PAT off an upright and had a field goal block. The Lions took advantage of those misses when their K Matt Prater bombed a 58-yard field between the posts as time expired in regulation. Don’t be surprised if the Vikings have a new kicker before they take the field Week 10.

********

In Kansas City, the Chiefs played without their starting QB (Alex Smith) and their two best running backs (Spencer Ware and Jamal Charles) and lost their best WR early in the game (Jeremy Macklin). Without those playmakers, Andy Reid's offense sputtered and coughed all day. But K Cairo Santos was a perfect 5 for 5 on field goals attempts and Jacksonville puked up 4 turnovers in KC’s "not-as-close-as-it-sounds" 19-14 victory.

********

In Miami, the Jets shut down Dolphins RB Jay Ajahi for much of the game, overcame a ghastly Ryan Fitzpatrick turnover, and rallied to take a 23-20 lead in the fourth quarter. After doing so, New York's kickoff team cornered return man Jakeem Grant and pinned the Dolphins deep in their own end. But the Jets' Antonio Allen was flagged for questionable offside penalty and the Jets had to kickoff again. This time Miami backup RB Kenyan Drake returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a TD to give Miami a 27-23 win over New York.

********

It may seem harsh to blame Los Angeles K Greg Zeuerlein for the Rams’ 13-10 loss to Carolina given that Zerurlein’s two missed field goal attempts were from 55-yards. But the guy had not missed a field goal all year until Sunday and is known as “Greg the Leg” for a reason.

(Home)
(Archives Home)

 

The Browns Doctor Is "In" | Week 8

Chase Stuart wrote an interesting column about Hue Jackson entitled "What Does An 0-7 Start Tell You About A Head Coach?" before the Browns fell to 0-8 with a 31-28 loss to the Jets.

Stuart looked at the ultimate results of the 16 coaches who started at least 0-7 in the first year with a team between 1970 and 2015. It is not encouraging. Of the 16, only Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson won more than 50% the games they coached for the franchise and Forest Gregg was the only other coach to win at least 40%.

Still, it is fairly common for great coaches to endure dreaful a first year on the job as shown in this chart, which depicts the play design differential and turnover differential of four coaches who won multiple Super Bowls as well as Jackson after 8 games.

Year  Team Coach Play Design +/- TO +/- Record

1960

Dallas

Tom Landry

-.0470

-24

0-11-1

1969

Pittsburgh

Chuck Noll

-.0413

-8

1-13

1979

San Francisco

Bill Walsh

-.0421

-5

2-14

1989

Dallas

Jimmy Johnson

-.0490

-27

1-15

2016

Cleveland

Hue Jackson

-.0582

-4

0-8

The Browns were better designed than New York in Week 8, the second time this year Cleveland has won the design battle. (The other was WK2 vs. Baltimore.) But Cleveland was -2 TO and anNFL team wins less than 5% of games in which it is -2 TO or worse.

The Browns let a couple of wins get away early in the season against the Ravens and Dolphins. But now that the toughest stretch of the season is behind them (4 road games + Tom Brady) and are getting a bit healthier (Cody Kessler and Corey Coleman return to action this week), the Browns' play design differential should start to show a little improvement and couple of wins should emerge before the season ends.

(Home)
(Archives Home)