Unlike the magical Vikings and even the resurgent Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who looked Sunday just like the Bucs of our preseason expectations, six other teams with highly paid quarterbacks and elevated preseason Vegas win totals find themselves below .500 with eight weeks remaining. The Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams and suddenly twitching-with-life Green Bay Packers arrived at this crossroads a wide range of ways.
The Pick Six column for Week 10 leads with a take a look at what’s really incorrect with these wayward teams, which of them can still make a run on the playoffs, and what coaches/execs within the league take into consideration them.
• What’s incorrect with NFL underachievers
• Justin Jefferson and an incredible “W”
• Old issues not dead issues for Bills
• What Patriots can learn from Dolphins
• Vrabel, Titans experience situations
• Two-minute drill: Colts and tanking
1. The Raiders, Broncos, Colts, Cardinals, Rams and Packers all entered this season with highly paid veteran QBs and Vegas win totals set at 8.5 or higher. None has a winning record through Week 10. Here’s why, and here’s who can reach the playoffs anyway.
Each team’s record and preseason Vegas win total (VWT) appear in parentheses.
Packers (4-6, 10.5 VWT)
What’s incorrect: Even the perfect quarterbacks require a baseline level of weaponry to provide consistently. For Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, this season has resembled Tom Brady’s final season in Recent England. Back then, in 2019, Brady struggled because the weaponry around him fell off. Rob Gronkowski had retired, and Brady’s relationship with the organization appeared to have run its course. Some mistakenly thought Brady was declining, but multiple coaches who studied him closely insisted on the time that this was not the case. They saw a decline in what was around him. Those coaches were correct. Brady’s production spiked once he landed in Tampa Bay, surrounded by significantly better offensive skill players.
The massive difference for Rodgers is that his team has began slowly, whereas Brady’s Patriots began 8-0 on the strength of a dominant defense before losing 4 of their final six, including playoffs. Few in Recent England will forget the Tennessee Titans celebrating their clinching pick-six interception off Brady within the playoffs to finish that painful Patriots season and Brady’s long term with the team.
The Packers, having already erred in pondering Rodgers was declining enough for them to draft successor Jordan Love in the primary round two years ago, could possibly be in peril of constructing an analogous mistake this coming offseason — unless they accurately realize the weaponry is the difficulty in Green Bay. At one point through the Cowboys-Packers broadcast Sunday, the announcers noted as a matter in fact that Allen Lazard was Green Bay’s No. 1 receiver. That’s a reasonably good indication how far the weaponry has fallen, which is the leading reason Rodgers has seemed so near imploding.
Rodgers berating coach Matt LaFleur after the Packers ran the ball as a substitute of putting it into his hands on the ultimate drive of regulation against Dallas had such destructive potential.
Rodgers seems pleased with LaFleur pic.twitter.com/fIf5nkC3bw
— Mike Sando (@SandoNFL) November 14, 2022
What was Rodgers so upset about?
“Each play call, probably,” he revealed in his news conference after the sport. “I felt like we were 30 yards from ending the sport in regulation. I also felt prefer it was 2-minute, so I used to be going to be calling those and I used to be in a reasonably good rhythm. Obviously, didn’t have a ton of attempts tonight, but I felt like I used to be in a reasonably good rhythm, I felt like I threw the ball nearly exactly where I desired to tonight, and I wanted a likelihood to go win the sport.”
This victory, built on a recommitment to the bottom game and three Rodgers touchdown passes to rookie Christian Watson, averted any more immediate fallout from the exchange, which LaFleur said resulted from his own indecision on how best to proceed against the Cowboys’ defensive looks (“That was on me, totally,” he told reporters after the sport). The Packers bought themselves time to loaf around in a wide-open NFC.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) November 13, 2022
Green Bay has been such a front-running team for therefore long because, let’s face it, the Packers haven’t had much practice living the way in which the remainder of the league lives. They’ve almost at all times found out ways to win because they’ve been so significantly better than everyone else at quarterback. They still are so significantly better than (nearly) everyone else on the position, even during this frustrating season.
Rodgers’ worst game, at Detroit last week, did feature just a few uncharacteristically bad plays by him, plus plenty of destructive frustration. But there have been 10 other plays befitting Rodgers’ unanimous Tier 1 status — greater than other quarterbacks produce even during higher weeks.
Why they will make the playoffs: They’ve Rodgers they usually have the potential to lean on their ground game while he hopefully works through the rough spots together with his receivers. Six of their remaining eight games could possibly be played in cold weather (4 at Lambeau, plus trips to Philadelphia and Chicago). The bottom game could serve Green Bay well in those venues, this late within the season.
Having fun with success targeting Watson doesn’t suddenly turn Watson into Davante Adams, but it surely does inject positivity where Rodgers didn’t appear to be manufacturing any on his own. It’s a start, no less than.
“Rodgers is advantageous, but he has been so frustrated, it has been harder for him to raise his talent,” a coach from one other team said on the condition of anonymity for competitive reasons.
The Packers executed 11 pass plays and 16 rushes after falling behind the Cowboys 28-14 with two minutes 54 seconds remaining within the third quarter and still won. Rodgers accomplished 8 of 10 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns the remainder of the way in which. The sort of balance requires extreme efficiency on those limited pass attempts, which Rodgers can deliver with just a bit help.
“They’re the dead fish that’s washed ashore, except they’ve Rodgers, so now there’s a twitch of life,” an exec from one other team said. “All they should do is stack some wins. None of it erases the actual fact it’s going to take time to get his weaponry built up, but the actual fact stays, when he suits up on your team, you might be never out of it. They got here back against Buffalo, they got here back against Dallas.
“(Cowboys defensive coordinator) Dan Quinn is sitting up there with a backwards cap and reader glasses knowing they (the Packers) will not be running the ball all day. He knows once they flip that switch, it’s going to get really hard, really fast, and it did on fourth-and-7 (when Rodgers found Watson for a 39-yard touchdown with 13:31 left in regulation). You’re coping with trained killer who’s dangerous on a regular basis.”
Some semblance of balance is vital so long as running back Aaron Jones is by far the perfect Packer on the offensive skill positions, beyond Rodgers. The Packers found the proper balance Sunday, even in the event that they went overboard by grounding Rodgers for a 2-minute drill. They could must do something similar against Tennessee next week. They’ll need to complete 5-2 to achieve 9-8, which might require beating Philadelphia, Miami or Minnesota. It’s doable.
Browns (3-6, 8.5 VWT)
The newest: The Browns fell 39-17 at Miami, leaving them eleventh within the AFC playoff picture.
What’s incorrect: The defense hasn’t been ok to win even with an offense that, while limited with Jacoby Brissett behind center as a substitute of the suspended Deshaun Watson, still ranks sixth in EPA per game. The Browns rank thirtieth in defensive EPA per game, twenty first on special teams and thirty second in combined defense/special teams. That isn’t ok for a team that should win a certain way on offense, by avoiding pure-pass situations.
Sunday’s defeat at Miami marked the primary time in 365 total Browns games since 2000 that Cleveland didn’t force an opponent right into a drive-ending turnover, punt or safety. The Dolphins’ offense had never gone without considered one of those drive results for a complete game over the identical period, in line with TruMedia. This was a nasty matchup for a Browns team that badly needed a get-well game on defense, but that isn’t any excuse. The Browns also couldn’t stop the Recent York Jets, who enjoyed their best offensive EPA game of the season against the Browns.
Before the sport at Miami, I compared the Browns’ year-over-year PFF grades for tackling, run defense and coverage to see which mainstay players had potentially fallen off most. PFF grades are subjective, and repeatedly teams disagree with the evaluations. But when the identical general standards were applied from one yr to the following, wide variance could tell some form of story. The table below shows the grades entering Sunday suffering probably the most for some key players, from cornerback Denzel Ward to defensive end Myles Garrett.
“They’ve a variety of star power on defense,” an offensive coach said. “Myles Garrett got in that automobile accident and let’s face it, he got hurt and he shouldn’t be fully healthy.”
Why they will make the playoffs: What number of other teams scrapping for playoff positioning can add a top quarterback for the stretch run? Watson could possibly be rusty. He could struggle. Or, he could light up Houston, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Recent Orleans, Washington and Pittsburgh to shut out the season. The Browns could conceivably run the table once Watson enters the starting lineup for the ultimate five regular-season games. That might get the Browns to 9-8 even in the event that they lost to Buffalo and Tampa Bay the following two weeks, before Watson returns. That is de facto the one hope for Cleveland, and it’s not a terrible one.
“This was an enormous game against Miami and one which in the event that they lost, it was going to be really hard for them to stay awake within the AFC,” an exec said. “Baltimore goes to be there, and Cincinnati goes to be right behind them when it’s all said and done.”
Colts (4-5-1, 9.5 VWT)
The newest: Beating the Raiders 25-20 gave Indy its first victory under latest coach Jeff Saturday, leaving the Colts tenth within the AFC.
What’s incorrect: A diminished offensive line, limited speed on the offensive perimeter and an injury that limited running back Jonathan Taylor earlier within the season contributed to Matt Ryan imploding in a flurry of turnovers. The offense only got worse when owner Jim Irsay pushed backup Sam Ehlinger into the lineup at Ryan’s expense.
Why they will make the playoffs: Their record isn’t terrible, so there’s less ground to make up within the standings, and the switch back to Ryan at quarterback raises the quarterback performance ceiling within the short term.
If the widely criticized hiring of Saturday was going to lead to on-field improvement of any kind, it might presumably begin with the offensive line, given Saturday’s a few years playing the position. The road was the one area Indy needed to enhance probably the most, since it could lift up the remainder of the offense, notably Ryan, who can function consistently well only when he’s in a position to step into his throws.
The outcomes Sunday were encouraging. Taylor rushed for 147 yards, his highest total since Week 1. Ryan’s pressure rate dropped to a season-low 17 percent, in line with Pro Football Focus. That was the second-lowest rate for any starting QB against the Raiders this season.
Indy does face the NFL’s second-toughest remaining schedule by opponent winning percentage. Philadelphia, Minnesota, Dallas, the Giants and Chargers still remain for the Colts, who’ve already been swept by Tennessee. So there remains to be potential for this season to proceed unraveling. But with Ryan back within the lineup and Indy winning on the road with its second-best offensive EPA game of the season, there’s now some hope where there was recently none.
Raiders (2-7, 10.5 VWT)
The newest: Las Vegas lost to a Colts team people had accused of tanking just just a few days ago. The Raiders are fifteenth within the AFC, with only the Houston Texans beneath them.
What’s incorrect: The Raiders were banking on Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow leading an offense powerful enough for Las Vegas to beat a shaky defense. Those three have been on the sector together for 62 snaps, and only five because the season’s first two weeks. Larger picture, even when latest coach Josh McDaniels has not tried to do things exactly the way in which Bill Belichick would have done them, it’s fair to wonder how much early traction he has established with a team whose veteran players seemed hopeful the team might keep 2021 interim coach Wealthy Bisaccia.
“I feel that they had a veteran team who doesn’t need to do the Bill Belichick way,” a coach from one other team said. “Everyone desires to say Josh is different and learned from the primary time. Josh is Josh, and once you return to your core and your fabric, you might be who you might be. I feel it was really necessary for him to get off to a great start, and he didn’t, and that makes it harder to capture the locker room.”
The Raiders didn’t behave just like the Patriots once they gave latest contracts to quarterback Derek Carr, Adams, Waller and Renfrow before any of them had played for McDaniels. Those signings seemed incongruent with a latest coach coming in and making holdover players earn their spots. But after former coach Jon Gruden traded away Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, reaching deals with Carr, Adams, Waller and Renfrow might have been seen as ownership’s push for stability.
Regardless of the case, McDaniels needs those players to perform at their best, but Waller and Renfrow were regulars on the injury report before landing on injured reserve recently. Adams has been productive. He has one fewer catch for 2 fewer yards than he had through the Packers’ first nine games last season. But it surely hasn’t been enough.
Why they will make the playoffs: I don’t think they will, but they’re an interesting team to debate. The Raiders are considered one of five teams this season to steer by no less than 17 points in 4 or more games. They’re 1-3 in those games. The remaining of the league is 49-3-1 in them. Las Vegas is 0-6 in one-score games.
We could use those figures to suggest Las Vegas is near breaking through, that things are sure to even out, but not many teams are going to win consistently when their most talented players are within the training room. Adams is great and showed it Sunday with nine catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. But with Waller sidelined and Renfrow failing to provide as hoped before landing on IR, this Raiders team appears shorthanded, with no evidence McDaniels could make up the difference on game day.
Rams (3-6, 8.5 VWT)
The newest: The Rams fell 27-17 at home to the Cardinals, leaving Los Angeles thirteenth within the NFC.
What’s incorrect: The defending Super Bowl champs’ margin for error shrunk after going all-in for elite talent acquisitions, from Matthew Stafford to Jalen Ramsey to the now-in-Buffalo Von Miller. To contend this season, the Rams needed to sufficiently replace retiring left tackle Andrew Whitworth while maintaining an injury edge that had grow to be so pronounced, the team could take credit for locating ways to maintain its players on the sector.
From 2016 through 2020, the Rams ranked between the third- and eighth-healthiest teams, as measured by the injury tracking site Man-Games Lost, which measures injury impact using position-weighted Approximate Value player stats from Pro Football Reference. The Rams reached the Super Bowl last season while slipping to sixteenth in those rankings. This season, the injuries have hit the offensive line, with Whitworth’s alternative, Joe Noteboom, landing on injured reserve, and the team shuttling through multiple players at other positions up front, including center. A concussion prevented Stafford from starting the Arizona game. A potentially severe leg injury prevented top receiver Cooper Kupp from ending it.
With poor pass protection and no viable run game, the Rams have gotten the worst version of their quarterback. Stafford is considered one of 26 quarterbacks with no less than 200 pass attempts this season and the just one who doesn’t have more touchdown passes than interceptions.
“They’re running basic plays they usually will not be executing and the balls aren’t on time and also you don’t believe in the road,” a coach from one other team said.
Why they will make the playoffs: Hanging around and hoping other teams encounter even worse predicaments isn’t much of a method, but it surely is perhaps all of the Rams have at this point. They are going to need the remainder of of their division to stay inconsistent. They still play Seattle twice, and a few of their tougher-looking opponents entering the season now seem more manageable (Denver, Green Bay, Arizona, Las Vegas). But this appears like a lost season, and it feels as if the Rams realize it.
After the team lost games in recent seasons, coach Sean McVay sounded in his postgame news conferences as if he were agitated and won’t sleep until the team won again. This season, he has sounded calm and without much edge in those situations, as if he knows there are logical reasons the team is in this case, and there won’t be anything in his powers to sort things anytime soon.
Broncos (3-6, 10.5 VWT)
The newest: Denver suffered a 17-10 defeat at Tennessee, leaving the Broncos twelfth within the AFC.
What’s incorrect: Every thing on offense. The Broncos have an overmatched rookie head coach whose offensive staff features zero members with even 10 years of experience within the league. They’ve a diminished version of the formerly good Russell Wilson, whose limitations at the moment are outweighing the remainder of his game. Those that thought entering the season that Denver’s receivers were overrated have been proven correct. Losing Jerry Jeudy to injury Sunday (and Tim Patrick previously) doesn’t help. The offensive line has struggled, and with top running back Javonte Williams out for the yr, there’s nowhere for this offense to show.
Why they will make the playoffs: They can’t unless disaster strikes considered one of the AFC East or AFC North leaders. Even then, with Denver still having to play Kansas City twice, the outlook is bleak. That said, the Denver defense under latest coordinator Ejiro Evero ismuch higher than many within the league thought it might be after Vic Fangio’s firing. Teams with good defenses can often keep games close in the event that they don’t suffer turnovers. Wilson, for all his faults this season, shouldn’t be a turnover machine. Though he hasn’t been in a position to elevate what’s around him with any consistency, if in any respect, there remains to be no less than an outdoor likelihood he improves because the season progresses.
Cardinals (4-6, 8.5 VWT)
The newest: Arizona won 27-17 on the road against the Rams in a battle between teams with backup quarterbacks. The Cardinals are eleventh within the NFC.
What’s incorrect: The offense faltered beyond expectation while No. 1 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins served a six-game suspension to begin the season, amplifying questions on coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray. Hopkins is back, but now Murray is coping with a hamstring injury. Arizona’s offense ranks twenty eighth in explosive plays per game on offense (runs of no less than 12 yards, passes of no less than 16). Its defense ranks twenty fifth in explosive plays allowed per game. That could be a losing combination, and if Murray stays sidelined or limited, how high is the ceiling for Arizona?
Why they will make the playoffs: It’s going to be tough with the 49ers (twice), Chargers, Patriots, Broncos, Buccaneers and Falcons still on the schedule. The Cardinals did beat the Stafford-less Rams on Sunday with Colt McCoy within the lineup. They scored 27 points on offense, one point from their season high. With McCoy completing 26 of 37 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown, there could possibly be some urgency for Murray to play higher when he returns. Has that been missing?
“Colt had quite a bit to do with it on offense,” Kingsbury said afterward, when asked about what gave the impression to be an increased energy level on offense. “His presence, how he carried himself — being 36, he understands the opportunities for him don’t come along fairly often. All week during practice, guys felt that. There was a way of urgency — ‘Hey, I’m going to exit and showing what I can do, that is my opportunity.’ ”
A short lived boost in energy from McCoy playing decently isn’t going to propel Arizona anywhere. Will it propel Murray? His streakiness has been an issue, but no less than there’s evidence previously that Arizona can string together victories when Murray and Hopkins are each at their best. The Cardinals averaged 26.5 offensive points per game last season when Murray began and Hopkins played.
2. How wild was the Vikings’ 33-30 extra time victory at Buffalo? Justin Jefferson’s off-the-charts catch arrange the winning touchdown — by Minnesota’s defense.
Fourth down, 18 yards to go, Vikings at their very own 17-yard line, trailing Buffalo by a 27-23 rating. Kirk Cousins all but threw the ball up for grabs in an exceedingly desperate situation.
How desperate? Since 2000, teams had converted just seven times in 56 probabilities when facing fourth-and-18 or longer in that general situation: final two minutes of regulation, trailing by 4-8 points. The Bills succeeded in considered one of these situations against the Vikings in 2014, when Kyle Orton found Scott Chandler for twenty-four yards on fourth-and-20 with 1:27 left.
Jefferson made it eight conversions in 57 probabilities since 2000 with a leaping one-handed grab, regardless that Bills safety Cam Lewis had each hands on the football as Jefferson fell over backward toward the bottom.
Just throw it to @JJettas2
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) November 13, 2022
It was considered one of the nice catches, made greater by the dire circumstances for his team, the standard of the opponent, the sport’s eventual consequence within the Vikings’ favor and Jefferson’s overall performance while catching 10 passes for 193 yards and at touchdown.
The completion probability models developed by NextGen Stats showed Jefferson making nine receptions with lower than 50 percent completion probability, three greater than anyone else has made in a game since charting became available in 2017.
Justin Jefferson was answerable for nine receptions with a sub-50% completion probability, probably the most in a game by any receiver within the NGS era. No other player has had greater than six.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 13, 2022
Even less probable: The Vikings won regardless that their offense did not rating on the drive Jefferson saved together with his incredible catch. Minnesota stalling on the Buffalo 1 with 49 seconds left in regulation forced the Bills to take over near their very own goal line while protecting their 27-23 lead. Josh Allen couldn’t handle the middle exchange, the Vikings recovered ultimately zone, Buffalo responded with a drive to the tying field goal and the Vikings prevailed in extra time.
As incredible as this ending was for the Vikings, it was a bit too familiar for the Bills. More on that in the following item.
Never quit. Don’t ever quit.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) November 13, 2022
3. For the Bills, more questions proliferate about their ability to handle end-of-game situations, and Allen’s ability to guard the football. What is happening here?
Buffalo losing on this off-the-wall manner needs to be some form of one-off event the Bills never worry about again, but it surely shouldn’t be that in any respect.
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs needed just 13 seconds to maneuver down the sector and force extra time before eliminating the Bills from the playoffs last season.
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
Sunday marked only the third time in 49 probabilities since 2000 that a team leading by 4 points lost after taking up possession with 1:00 to 0:30 left in regulation, and its opponent possessing only one timeout, in line with TruMedia. The 2020 Bills account for considered one of the opposite two defeats, the sport when Hopkins’ leaping grab for Arizona lifted the Cardinals over Buffalo.
These kind of late-game issues, coupled with Allen’s resurgent turnover problems, are aspects that, when combined, produce the sort of playoff implosion the Bills suffered against Houston following the 2019 season. The Bills have long since moved past that meltdown, but they could possibly be closer to repeating one than they ever would have imagined.
Allen suffered 24 turnovers through the tumultuous first 21 games of his profession. Since then, Allen reduced his turnover rate while developing right into a superstar quarterback, in a position to take over games through sheer physical force. Allen remains to be that overpowering superstar, but with three more turnovers against Minnesota on Sunday, Allen has 27 in his past 21 games dating to Week 9 last season. That’s the very best turnover total for Allen in any 21-game stretch of his profession. The miscues Sunday cost Buffalo a house victory, imperiling the Bills’ probabilities for winning their division and securing home-field advantage within the AFC playoffs (they stand sixth within the conference).
Allen wasn’t responsible for all of the turnovers Sunday. A coach who saw the fumbled center exchange blamed a low snap, forced by good technique from Minnesota’s line of defense. Still, Allen’s interceptions against the Vikings weren’t needed in any respect. Two picks by Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson ultimately zone played large roles in Buffalo blowing a 17-point lead. We could blame those turnovers on Allen’s elbow injury, except that Allen is on a turnover tear that predates the injury by an extended while.
The query now becomes, what to do about it. With Allen playing through injury and wet snow pelting Orchard Park on Sunday, the Bills got here out rushing greater than passing to an extent Buffalo had not shown since its 2021 windstorm game against Recent England.
There was some thought heading into this season that Buffalo might grow to be less pass-happy after losing offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to the Giants’ head coaching job. The pondering held that the Bills’ defensive-minded head coach, Sean McDermott, would steer the offense toward a more conservative tack. Despite the coordinator change, Buffalo entered Week 10 leading the league in pass frequency on early downs in the primary 28 minutes of games, before time remaining and rating differential exert more influence of run-pass selection. The speed had increased this season to a McDermott-era high.
The 27 turnovers for Allen in his last 21 games are the identical total he suffered within the 39 games before that. Only the Rams’ Stafford has more turnovers than Allen since 2021 Week 9. Running the ball more steadily isn’t a cure-all, but when McDermott thinks it would helped to reframe Allen’s outlook toward protecting the football, while also possibly protecting his elbow, that could possibly be an option.
As for the end-of-game issues, Buffalo needs to be in higher position than most to avoid them, as a team with a head coach who doesn’t call plays and subsequently can focus more on situational ball. But these are tricky situations to guage. If the Chiefs seem better-equipped to handle them, a few of that might stem from their offensive orientation through coach Andy Reid.
“The Bills are where all of us need to be, always on primetime, and winning a variety of games that aren’t very close,” a coach from one other team said. “I actually don’t think that is something that’s within the mindset of their team. But just take into consideration how good Kansas City is at the top of the half or late within the games. Most of those situations are on offense. They teach everyone who catches the ball to call timeout they usually always rating they usually take defensive timeouts to get into those situations. Since Kansas City is attempting to do it, they’re good at it. Buffalo is attempting to be good at it more erratically and at unplanned times, so it’s harder to be nearly as good at it.”
The Bills are good at many things, including some elements of situational football (getting opponents to leap offsides, as an illustration). But they’ve had just a few too many memorable meltdowns for such a wonderful team.
4. While we’re talking about situational football, the Titans’ trick-play touchdown against the Broncos was the difference in defensive battle Tennessee won, 17-10. Add this call to the mounting evidence that Mike Vrabel revels in these moments.
The Titans fell behind the Broncos 10-0 and trailed 10-7 with 5:25 left within the third quarter. They’d gone three-and-out five times in eight previous possessions to that time. They’d also gotten a scare before the sport when kicker Randy Bullock suffered an injury.
“How much of a priority is it once you don’t have your kicker 10 minutes before the sport?” Vrabel asked, repeating a reporter’s query. “A s— ton.”
And so the Titans might need known they’d need to fabricate points in unusual ways to drag off a victory. They were set as much as run the ball, not play from behind, even before they traded top receiver A.J. Brown to Philadelphia last offseason. And so that they dialed up a flea flicker for a 63-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, they usually never again trailed in a game that helped them stake their record to 6-3, good for the third seed within the AFC behind Kansas City and Miami.
FLEA FLICKER ALERT
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) November 13, 2022
This was the form of play Denver needed to win a game that was tough to win, but Vrabel and the Titans were those to drag it off. They now head to Lambeau, where the Packers prevailed over the Cowboys despite what LaFleur called some late-game uncertainty over whether to let Rodgers operate the 2-minute drill without limitation against Dallas’ dangerous pass-rush.
Will we feel as if LaFleur and Rodgers are in sync enough and unified enough across the Packers’ current identity to drag out a detailed game against a Titans opponent that has zero doubt over its identity and has won 24-22, 24-17, 21-17, 19-10, 17-10 and 17-10 over the past seven weeks? Tennessee’s only defeat during that stretch was more impressive than most victories: taking Kansas City to extra time at Arrowhead Stadium with a rookie quarterback who accomplished only five passes all game.
The table below shows how every opposing quarterback has fared against the Titans this season. Rodgers is up next.
5. It doesn’t take two offensive coordinators to determine what the Patriots can learn from the Dolphins.
The Dolphins moved as much as second in offensive EPA per game, behind only the Chiefs, following their blowout victory over Cleveland. Their plus-23.9 EPA for this game ranks second for any Dolphins team in 124 total games because the start of the 2015 season, behind only their Week 2 game at Baltimore. Their quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, now leads the league in EPA per pass play, ahead of Mahomes, Allen and Jalen Hurts.
As noted earlier, this Dolphins game against the Browns was their first since no less than 2000 with no single Dolphins drive ending in a punt, turnover or safety.
It wasn’t at all times like this for Miami on offense, in fact, and there is perhaps a lesson in there for the division-rival Patriots.
The 2021 Dolphins, led by former Patriots assistant coach Brian Flores, employed co-offensive coordinators in George Godsey and Eric Studesville, who had limited play-calling experience/success before assuming the twin role. That setup, combined with incomplete offensive weaponry, contributed to Tagovailoa suffering through a disappointing second season.
Imagine watching how the Dolphins handled their offense in 2021 and deciding to implement an analogous approach for your individual young passer. That’s effectively what the Patriots have done as Flores’ former boss, Bill Belichick, has delegated offensive coordinating duties to teach/offensive assistant Joe Judge and offensive line/senior advisor Matt Patricia. The outcomes have been disappointing for Mac Jones and the offense.
“Flores had two offensive coordinators, three different play callers and a collaborative, build-the-offensive-style game plan,” a coach from one other team said. “What does Mac Jones have this yr? He has two guys who’ve never coached the position and a collaborative mindset.”
The Dolphins improved Tagovailoa’s profession trajectory this season by adding Tyreek Hill to a receiving corps already featuring Jaylen Waddle, while implementing a clearly defined scheme through a single empowered caller/designer in head coach Mike McDaniel. We don’t know the way things will play out in Miami for Tagovailoa, McDaniel and the Dolphins on offense. We typically wouldn’t suggest that Belichick pattern anything after what the Dolphins are doing. Nonetheless, on this case, Miami is doing more to maximise the prospects for its young quarterback, while Jones suffers through what Tagovailoa experienced in his second season.
We’ll see what all of it means late within the season because the weather turns and the Dolphins play games at Buffalo and Recent England. Every week shouldn’t be going to look the way in which lots of the weeks have searched for Tagovailoa. But he surely wouldn’t trade his current setup for his previous one, or for the setup Jones is working inside in Recent England.
6. Two-minute drill: Colts and tanking
When Colts owner Jim Irsay pushed back against allegations of tanking last week, my thought was, “OK, but what would a tanking team do otherwise from what the Colts have done?”
By then, Indy had benched its achieved veteran quarterback for one with no previous starts; replaced its achieved head coach with a retired player possessing no pro or college coaching experience; and unloaded a talented running back in Nyheim Hines on the trade deadline without getting much in return beyond some money savings.
The primary evidence that the Colts will not be blatantly tanking arrived Sunday when latest coach Jeff Saturday reinstated Ryan because the starting quarterback. The team had benched Ryan previously at Irsay’s urging. Putting him back within the lineup restored some credibility since it’s what any team would do to maximise its probabilities for winning within the short term.
Saturday indicated he didn’t make a final decision until late within the week. Word never got out, leaving the Raiders as surprised as anyone when Ryan took first-team reps in warmups. …
Ryan scrambling for a 39-yard gain was a sight to behold. It was also the longest rushing gain for a Colts quarterback since no less than 2000. Here is the funny part: Peyton Manning owns the second-longest run, a 33-yarder against Buffalo in 2001. Andrew Luck, possibly probably the most athletic regular quarterback in Colts history, had two 33-yarders for Indy. But for Luck to never have rushed for gains longer than the longest Colts rushes by Manning and Ryan will likely be the reply to future sports trivia questions.
Matt Ryan 39-yard run? Matt Ryan 39-yard run! @M_Ryan02
— NFL (@NFL) November 13, 2022
Ryan’s longest profession rush: the 39-yarder against the Raiders, which got here during a critical situation within the fourth quarter of a game Indy led 20-19, followed by a 20-yarder in 2010 and two 18-yarders (2015, 2016). …
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) November 14, 2022
Justin Jefferson was not the one wideout making spectacular grabs in Orchard Park on Sunday. The Bills’ Stefon Diggs made his own one-handed leaping grab on this game.
STEFON DIGGS OH MY
— NFL (@NFL) November 13, 2022
Jefferson and Diggs are perpetually linked by the trading of Diggs from the Vikings to Bills, which precipitated Minnesota drafting Jefferson.
The table shows where each man ranks amongst wide receivers with no less than 100 catches since each players joined their current teams. One big difference: Diggs has earned greater than $50 million in salary since then, in comparison with about $11 million for Jefferson.
The Buccaneers’ ability to rally and play their best game (shortly) against a younger, faster, more energetic Seahawks team could possibly be as restorative as Tampa’s coming bye.
“I feel Tampa is healthier than they’ve shown, and I’m curious if a visit east goes to do anything for his or her season,” a coach who has studied the Bucs said before their 21-16 victory against Seattle in Germany. “It has looked hard and I just think we haven’t seen their best and I feel they’re going to recover and I feel they’re a bit bit higher.”
The Bucs get a break by drawing Cleveland within the Browns’ final game before Watson returns. Tampa has scored greater than 22 points only once all season. Will that change against the Browns, who’ve allowed 22 or fewer just twice? …
Mike McCarthy’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Green Bay 35 in extra time took under consideration so many aspects: how he felt about his own offense against this Green Bay defense; how he felt about his own kicker from 53 yards; how he felt about kicking specifically on a Lambeau surface he knows well; how he felt about Rodgers’ ability to steer an answering drive; and other things a coach might know, but almost never discloses.
ESPN’s model found no meaningful difference in win probability between trying a field goal and going for it, based on what could possibly be known in regards to the situation.
Cowboys 4th-and-4 in OT
WP Go: 59.7%
WP Kick: 60.1%
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 14, 2022
The Cowboys failed on this fourth-down try, and the Packers answered with a drive to their very own winning field goal. Kickers have made 11 of their past 15 kicks at Lambeau from 51-55 yards. Bullock’s injury situation for the Titans could influence Vrabel’s willingness to try longer field goals when Tennessee visits Lambeau on Thursday night. As for flea flickers, well, Vrabel’s boss pulled off one at Lambeau just just a few years ago. On a Sunday night in 2018, Patriots running back James White tossed the ball back to Brady, who found Julian Edelman for a 33-yard gain in a 31-17 Recent England victory.
(Top photo illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; photo: Sean Gardner / Getty Images)