NFL Week 4 Predictions: Pump the Brakes Edition

I’m going to fire off a rant here, so if you don’t know the backstory, let me quickly catch you up: Shocking, but after three games, I don’t think Carson Wentz is the greatest rookie QB to ever live. I pointed out that Wentz has thrown the third-shortest passes through three weeks, and naturally, this turned the Eagles fan base into an angry mob. I was even getting criticized for pointing out an argument in my mentions between a Cowboys fan and Eagles fan. This was all fueled even more by one of the most cherry-picked articles you’ll ever see by one of their writers. Apparently picking out 12% of specific plays beats a statistical analysis of all 100% these days. Straw men were created at record rates, including things I never said such as Wentz is bad, Wentz never throws deep because he can’t, that I hate Wentz, and insert any other thing you want that’s unfounded. I never said if Wentz’s play has been good, bad or indifferent. I just did what I’ve always done for six years: told people to pump the brakes on unjustified hype, but when you try to knock a player down a few pegs, people automatically assume you hate that player. Welcome to the 2010s, I guess, where being rational isn’t as good as calling a guy “pre-snap Peyton, post-snap Rodgers” after three games.

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I had an exciting idea for a post today, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the timing was not right. While I’ll almost inevitably want to write it within the month, I’m going to take the high road today, or at least a medium road.

Sure, it was easy in 2012 to absolutely shred a random internet dude after he questioned the effort of my work online. But that’s because I was mostly just a random internet dude myself at the time. There are more eyes on what I do now, including current (and perhaps future) employers. When there aren’t that many full-time jobs in this business, a thought I try to repress 24/7, I cannot afford to blow mine by eviscerating someone that’s completely not worth the time. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I very rarely block people, and probably put up with more crap than the average user does. I’m not afraid to use the Mute button, but I haven’t thrown many Block parties in my 5-plus years.

This week, I had an epiphany, and I guess you could say it took the rabid Eagles fanbase to help me get there. I’ve written negative things about the Eagles before, and was proven right by the way (Michael Vick contract was a joke and the good starts in 2012-14 were fool’s gold), but I think people have gotten extra sensitive in recent years. Then with a 3-0 start for a team that, let’s be honest, has been barely relevant for the better part of a decade, I suppose optimism is really high right now. You have a young generation of Eagles fans that don’t really know what it’s like to experience disappointment after expectations.

So when one of their leading voices defends the flag, that awful Twitter herd mentality takes over and you get mobbed by a bunch of people united with the same beliefs. Homerism at its finest (and worst). That’s the difference with what I do. I can raise the flag or burn it down for all 32 teams any time I want, so I don’t really unite any one fanbase behind me. I can at least gather an intelligent following to laugh at some of the ridiculous mentions I get, but I’m realizing I probably give those people more time than they deserve.

My epiphany was quite simple. You don’t block someone just because of what they said; you block them so you don’t have to see what they say next. I’m not going to keep the line of communication open if I know what type of slop is coming out the other end. If you can’t engage in a civilized way, or you’re clearly just another sheep in the herd, I shouldn’t respond, and I should just take a course of action that guarantees we won’t butt heads any time down the road as well.

So I started blocking these people — 71 in all this week. A few may actually have been at a quasi-professional level, or more than just a rabid fan, but if they’re just going to subtweet and create straw man arguments with the best of them, then I don’t have time for them either. If you want to say something, @ me.

Twitter is not always the greatest place for debate due to the 140-character limit, but some people could do much better. Thinking purely as a fan, I would have no problem in tweeting at writers I disagree with, but my motivation would be to actually show where they were wrong or what my disagreement was. I wouldn’t just resort to a petty insult or ride the coattails of what another writer tried to say about them.

I’ve found this is how most people expose themselves as being worthy of a block. When someone who has likely just stumbled upon you for the first time starts with this “you don’t watch the games” crap, just block that person. First of all, would it really be that hard to fathom that a full-time NFL writer would watch Week 2 Monday Night Football, or that someone from Pittsburgh would watch the Week 3 Steelers-Eagles game? Is that really that hard to believe? Are they only showing Eagles games on limited edition VHS tapes these days? Are they that obscure now? Never mind the fact that I have countless tweets in my history from live-tweeting those two Eagles games. Never mind the fact that I do a weekly column that recaps games, albeit the Eagles have yet to appear in it yet this season. Never mind the fact that I’m always ripping NFL Game Pass so much that I just got an email on Friday to speak to members of that product to talk about how it can be improved. What do you think I use Game Pass for, to masturbate to Cris Collinsworth’s face? I watch games every week, I watch them in the offseason, and I have a collection of over 1,200 on DVD. If you knew anything about my work, you wouldn’t bring up such nonsense.

Then there’s the typical “numbers are for nerds” crap. Block those people too. Numbers aren’t just for nerds. You need to understand numbers to some degree just to get through life as an adult. I was shocked at how many people failed to understand the concept of air yards this week. They kept confusing them with yards per attempt or yards per completion. You don’t know how many times I had to hear about some dropped passes in September by the Eagles this week. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard about any drops more than these. And if common sense prevailed, they would understand that whether or not a pass is caught has nothing to do with how far it was actually thrown. Now I understand why there are so many concerns about education in this country.

The people who try to connect my Wentz tweets to a Pittsburgh loss or some pre-draft evaluation are beyond clueless. Do you know how many times I’ve read “well he must not like Tom Brady’s style of dink and dunk either.” Uhh, yeah, I’ve been downgrading him for that since I was in high school. Again, if you knew anything about my work, you would know I’m just being consistent in my analysis of the game, highlighting the things I find to be important and applying them to what’s gone on so far this season. As for “Draft Twitter”, I’m not a part of that. I don’t study the college players like those people do. I made many tweets about Wentz in the offseason leading up to the draft, but I was pointing out things about his role that might be a red flag for the NFL. Why in the world should I go back on a tweet where I said he’d need to have great insulation to succeed? We’re three weeks into the season, and this kid has the No. 1 defense, the best starting field position, the third-shortest throws, the third-most YAC, the second-lowest pressure rate, and has played virtually with the lead almost all season long against very suspect defensive competition. Go ahead, try naming a DB in Chicago. On what planet would I not be calling these things out for another QB? That’s heavy insulation. He’s played better than I expected, but he’s had a great situation, and they haven’t had to ask him to carry the team yet. That doesn’t mean he can’t, or that he won’t when given the chance, but it hasn’t happened yet. So why would I go back on something that, through three weeks, has been proven right? Why would I completely change my mind on how I’ve always viewed short-passing games? Go figure that Wentz is dead last in ALEX (-2.2) for all downs this year, but allegedly that just shows my bias too. Sure, a stat I created in 2015 when no one outside of North Dakota knew who Wentz was has him dead last among QBs at attacking the sticks through three games in 2016. I must have hated this dude before he was even born too, right?

I’ll give Wentz more credit when I believe he’s earned it, just as I would for any player. My knowledge of NFL history and use of statistics prevent me from making foolish claims that he’s the best ever after three games. Sorry, that’s just how I do things. You can always find another source to tell you things are better than they are. If you can’t see my future opinions because you’ve been blocked, then maybe you’ll reevaluate how you approach someone for the first time about their work.

/ENDRANT

Week 4’s Key Games

We do actually have some good games this week, so here are my thoughts on a few of them.

Carolina at Atlanta

I think this is the most interesting game of the week, and also a very important one in the NFC. Are the Panthers still a contender, and are the Falcons one this year after they should have did better in 2015? After Monday night, I realized I couldn’t wait to see these teams match up, and was very pleased to see it was happening this Sunday. For as good as Atlanta’s offense has been, we have to keep in mind the opponents have been the Bucs, Raiders and Saints, or three lousy defenses. The Panthers still bring it on that side of the ball, so this is a great chance for Atlanta to show if year two of the Kyle Shanahan offense is really this legit with the bigger emphasis on the running game. On the other side of the ball, some shaky starts by the Panthers this year even with Kelvin Benjamin back. The lack of production for him and Devin Funchess last week was pretty alarming against the Vikings. Atlanta has some good corners and just shut Brandin Cooks down on Monday night. Again, an all-around huge opportunity for Atlanta to take a nice lead in the NFC South at 3-1 while dropping the Panthers to 1-3. I know it just feels wrong to pick that, and a strong front seven against Matt Ryan combined with a less than 100% Julio Jones and Atlanta’s weak run defense feels like a Carolina win, but I think I’ll go with the home team here.

Seattle at NY Jets

Much like the Rams game in Week 2, this feels like another road game with a hobbled Russell Wilson against a strong defensive line where I should be picking Seattle to lose. Not to mention it’s a long trip and early start time. But then I think of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 6-pick game last week, and the suspect health of his top receivers, and I think it’s going to be an all-around struggle. I still like Seattle to win, though if the 91-game no blowout streak was ever in jeopardy, it could be this game that does it in should Wilson turn it over a few times.

NY Giants at Minnesota

This was a rout last year in a game Odell Beckham was suspended for. I’d like to see a closer game this time, and that shouldn’t be hard to pull off. The main thing is can Minnesota score points on offense? They’re at 15.5 PPG in the two Sam Bradford starts. You can’t rely on D/ST scores every week, though they’ve come through twice now for Minnesota. That secondary should get a great test against NY’s 3-WR attack, but I still like the Vikings to force some Eli mistakes in this one.

Buffalo at New England

It’s almost impossible to lure the Patriots into a trap game, especially after 10 days’ rest, but I have a weird feeling about this one. Yeah, Buffalo always loses to NE, Rex has stunk against Bill since 2011, they lost Sammy Watkins, and everything sounds pretty bad, but don’t things almost sound too rosy for the Patriots? “Oh, they can win with any QB.” Well, what if it’s an injured QB, and which one is it going to be? That seems like a pretty big deal to me. I think a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo makes this a no-brainer, but if he’s still injured or if it’s Jacoby Brissett, then I could see Tyrod Taylor outdueling them in this one with a refocused running game led by LeSean McCoy. I’m still obviously picking New England, but keep this one as an upset alert.

Kansas City at Pittsburgh

Great game on paper, and another important one in the AFC. The main thing to watch is if the Chiefs try to exploit a lot of the horizontal passing the Eagles, a very similar offense, succeeded with a week ago against the Steelers in one of the worst games I’ve ever seen this team play. Granted, a lot of injuries to the middle of the defense during the game didn’t help, but Ryan Shazier is out while the Chiefs get Jamaal Charles back. I doubt Charles is up to his usual effectiveness, but that should be a lift of some sorts for the team. I don’t think Roethlisberger will fear any Marcus Peters-Antonio Brown matchup, but Peters does have incredible ball skills. Le’Veon Bell’s return is another huge story, but it’s not going to be that good if the offensive line doesn’t open up more room than it has in the last two games. But more than anything, can the Steelers get some sacks? They have one in three games, and it was after Andy Dalton held the ball for 7 seconds and tried to scramble for a 0-yard loss. That’s pretty pathetic, but we know Alex Smith is open to taking sacks, so I think the Steelers will collect several at home in this one and score enough for the win.

2016 Week 4 Predictions

I had the Bengals on TNF, but didn’t it look like the Dolphins were ready to show something after that TD bomb to open the game? Then…nothing. It’s as if Joe Philbin has never stopped coaching that team.

 Winners in bold:

  • Colts at Jaguars
  • Browns at Redskins
  • Lions at Bears
  • Bills at Patriots
  • Titans at Texans
  • Panthers at Falcons
  • Seahawks at Jets
  • Raiders at Ravens
  • Broncos at Buccaneers
  • Rams at Cardinals
  • Saints at Chargers
  • Cowboys at 49ers
  • Chiefs at Steelers
  • Giants at Vikings

Yes, I picked the Broncos to lose in Tampa Bay. I’ve also shown I have no clue what I’m doing at picking Buccaneer games since 2015.

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Season: 25-23
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17 thoughts on “NFL Week 4 Predictions: Pump the Brakes Edition

  1. I can’t speak for the entire Eagles fan base, and I’m sure there is some homerism involved. Maybe that’s because we’re excited about Wentz, and maybe we can’t understand how anyone could have watched the first three games and thought anything but “Wentz has been awesome.”

    Sure, there’s been hyperbole, but you should also consider that this is a guy with limited FCS experience in college who many pundits said needed to sit for a year. So for him to come in and play very well and have the Eagles offense running smoothly, it’s understandable that people are excited.

    As for his flaws, it feels like you’re either looking to be contrary or letting personal biases impact your judgement without considering the flow of the game. (Hence the many “do you even watch?” comments.)

    Has he thrown the ball short? Yes. But considering the Eagles screen game has been successful, what should he be doing? I’d rather see him throw underneath to Matthews and Ertz or swing passes to Sproles than watch him force the ball deep. Has this slowed down the Eagles offense? It sure doesn’t seem that way.

    It also feels like you’re downgrading him because the play calling and protection has been good. You don’t get more points for a TD pass if the QB is under pressure, so why does this even matter when analyzing him?

    And come on, you didn’t outright say Wentz was bad, but were you paying him a complement when you called him a “dink and dunker?” You’ve gone on record saying you prefer QBs who don’t throw short, so what other conclusion could people draw?

    I’m confused why you seem so proud of your biases. You defend yourself by saying “I don’t think Tom Brady is as good as his rep.” Did you consider that if your custom stats and beliefs are downgrading a guy who many consider the GOAT, then maybe there’s something wrong?

    If you truly enjoy your job as much as you say, then maybe you should act like it. If you want people to hear and consider your opinions, you need to be ready to hear people tell you you’re wrong. Cutting off people because “you don’t want to hear what they’re going to say next” will only serve to place yourself in an echo chamber.

    1. “…we can’t understand how anyone could have watched the first three games and thought anything but “Wentz has been awesome.”

      That’s such a limited way of evaluating a player. A single viewing of the TV broadcast doesn’t tell us a whole lot, because it fails to explain WHY a player looked awesome. Kirk Cousins looked like a world beater in the second half of 2015, but if you actually go back and analyze the tape, it’s clear that he only looked good because his receivers were bailing him out and he faced a string of poor defenses. Wentz could turn out to be an elite QB, but three games under ideal circumstances isn’t enough to draw any conclusions. Do you really think it takes an elite talent to throw screen passes to Darren Sproles and watch him run for 50 yards after the catch?

      “Did you consider that if your custom stats and beliefs are downgrading a guy who many consider the GOAT, then maybe there’s something wrong?”

      This is a fallacious line of reasoning. Just because a large number of people believe something, does that make it true? Let’s be honest, 95% of people who weight in on GOAT debates are doing lazy “analysis” based on things like rings, playoff wins, and basic counting stats; they’re ignoring the context and nuance of the player’s career.

      1. You mention the Sproles pass that went 73 yards, and Wentz was absolutely a huge part of that play. First he had to elude the defender and keep his eyes downfield. Then he had to sell the threat of keeping it to lure in the defender. Then he had to deliver the ball with perfect touch. So yes, that does take a lot of talent.

      2. If the argument had been, “Part of the reason that Wentz has looked so good is the playcalling, defenses, and protection,”most people would agree. If they had been offered as a slight caveat, most would also agree. The reason Eagles fans are taking offense is because they’ve been held up as negatives against Wentz’s play which is unfair.

      3. As for going against 95% of the people, when it comes like something like analyzing football players, it comes across as trying way too hard to be “the smartest guy in the room”

      4. You realize our issue was mostly that Scott declared that Wentz didn’t deserve credit for his play. Had he perhaps worded it differently he wouldn’t have to end up looking quite so weak.

    2. I agree with you on that specific play; Wentz was able to buy time and find the open receiver. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Eagles have thrown a lot of short passes that almost any NFL QB could complete. I don’t see this as a knock against Wentz, just that we don’t have enough information on him yet to make any kind of educated judgment.

      As far as the 95% comment, you’re advocating being a mindless sheep who follows along with whatever the crowd thinks? Throughout history, the minority who are ahead of the curve end up being persecuted and laughed at. People are afraid of radical views, but radical ideas move the world forward. Otherwise we’d still think the earth is flat.

      1. If every QB could be as successful as Wentz has been, then why aren’t they? You’re telling me that if Chase Daniel was the Eagles QB, they’d have looked as good?

        I do agree that it’s too early to pass definitive judgement. That’s one reason why Jimmy Kempski wrote his “12%” post – to show that when given the opportunity, Wentz can not only throw it longer, but he can do it well.

      2. And no, it’s not being a mindless sheep. But in most cases, the majority is correct. To risk going way off subject, It’s “the minority is right” mindset that has given rise to the dangerous anti-vaccine movement.

    3. The reason other QB’s haven’t been as successful as Wentz in their first three games is largely because Wentz has played under ideal circumstances; he’s had the best field position, never had to play from behind, faced two awful defenses, and has benefited from a ton of YAC. Do you think if Wentz was drafted by the Browns he would he having the same success? Situation matters…a lot.

      Honestly I think we’re splitting hairs with the whole majority opinion thing. When I question Tom Brady, I’m not claiming he isn’t great, merely that he’s the 5th – 8th best QB of all time instead of the GOAT. Sure that’s on the low end of the continuum, but it’s not anti-vaccine level.

  2. “Again, an all-around huge opportunity for Atlanta to take a nice lead in the NFC South at 3-1 while dropping the Panthers to 1-3. ”

    This game is more about Cam than anything else, because if he can’t get back on track against the 32nd ranked defense and 31st ranked against the pass in DVOA, then something is definitely wring there, whether it’s Cam’s health, the struggles of the OLine or just trying to fit Kelvin Benjamin back into the offense, if not a mix of all three, no excuse for Carolina to not only score 27+ points, but win by double digits. I”ve got Carolina 30-17

    1. Still not sold on Falcons, BUT they should win in NFC South this year considering how much Carolina is strugging right now, the Saints defense stinks and Tampa just isn’t ready for primetime.

  3. “My epiphany was quite simple. You don’t block someone just because of what they said; you block them so you don’t have to see what they say next.”

    AMEN, Scott. There’s a subset of fans who only want to see things from the perspective of glorifying their favorite team or player, and will predictably spew biased, emotionally driven vitriol toward anyone who doesn’t share their opinion. We already know what these people will say before they even say it, and none of it is in the service of having a rational discussion. There’s no reason to waste our time indulging these jokers, so the best solution is to block `em.

    I agree 100% on the Carson Wentz hype train; lets see the kid play a full season and face some real adversity before we anoint him The Next Great QB. I’m also dismayed at how difficult it is for people to understand air yards, and how the stat helps us in evaluating quarterback play. I love how these fans dismiss the very concept of air yards, claiming, “It’s all about the scheme and receivers, the QB has nothing to do with it.” Sigh…

      1. That’s an interesting study, but the author is mixing up two different interpretations of air yards. The Kacsmar data is measuring average depth of target, regardless of whether the pass what complete or not. I 100% agree that this is not a stat the should be highly correlated with winning. But the last chart showing career air yards per attempt is measuring something different than Kacsmar. This version of air yards only counts the depth of completed passes, and assigns a value of zero to each incomplete pass. In this case completion % is equally weighted with depth of target, and I believe correlates stronger with winning. Of course the author doesn’t bother to run those correlations.

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