NFL Week 4 Predictions: B-B-B-Bortles and the Jets

So Week 3 was fun. Let’s see if Week 4 can keep it up (Thursday wasn’t a good start).

Saints vs. Dolphins

I might actually get up early to see this one, especially since it’s on TV this time. Expectations are wide open in a London game after seeing the Jaguars just dominate Baltimore on both sides of the ball last week. We’re used to low-scoring, shitty quality London games. The Saints did play one of the best back in 2008 against the Chargers. I think they won 37-32 or so. I think this is a good opportunity for Drew Brees to light up an underwhelming Miami defense. I don’t like what we’re seeing out of Miami’s offense so far with Jay Cutler and Jarvis “My Team Gets Worse the More They Throw Me the Ball” Landry. Jay Ajayi is primed for a bounce-back game though. Miami really should be 0-2, but you know how the Chargers are in crunch time. I’ll take the Saints in this one.

Rams at Dallas

This is a weird one since we thought the Rams would be really good on defense and the Cowboys would need carried by their offense. So far this year, the Rams are clearly better on the offensive side of the ball (thanks, Sean McVay) while the Cowboys have a sneaky good defense and haven’t quite put things together on offense. However, I would note that the Dallas defense has had incredible starting field position this year, which makes their job a bit easier. This is an interesting matchup with the top RBs of the last two draft classes (Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott). I think Elliott gets on track at home, and I’m still a big believer in what Dak Prescott is doing. Dez Bryant should have an easier matchup this week with the Rams’ secondary. But if the Rams get the win, I think there’s much more to believe in this 3-1 start as opposed to last year’s fool’s gold with Jeff Fisher and Case Keenum.

Lions at Vikings

Speaking of Keenum, WTF was that last week, Tampa Bay? He lit them up, and it’s not the first time in his career. On a similar note, can he light up the Lions like he did for most of the game in Detroit last year, only to throw a game-ending interception late? The Vikings certainly have improved the OL, and I like the skill players, so it’s not hugely surprising to see Keenum fare alright last week, his second start of 2017. That’s why I think this game can be very interesting. These teams played two low-scoring nail-biters last season, and Detroit pulling out both games late is why they went to the playoffs while the Vikings were 8-8. Detroit looks solid so far and was inches away from a 3-0 start, but I kinda like what the Vikings have been doing in these two home games this year. And I still like Mike Zimmer over Jim Caldwell.

Panthers at Patriots

Well, this was a really good game in 2013, but I don’t think we’ll see a good one here. Then again, I thought the Patriots would walk all over Houston last week instead of needing a last-minute touchdown to win a shootout. The New England defense is in a poor state right now, but if Carolina couldn’t take advantage of the Saints at home last week, why should I believe the offense will do anything in Foxboro this week? Cam Newton hasn’t been good all year, Greg Olsen is out, and Kelvin Benjamin is banged up. No thanks. Patriots should get a comfortable home win for a change this year.

Bills at Falcons

This one could be good if Buffalo’s offense shows up. Need to see more LeSean McCoy, less Mike Tolbert. The Falcons still aren’t great defensively, but that offense still leads the NFL in yards per drive and points per drive. Matt Ryan should be sharper at home as he usually is. I know Buffalo’s defense is No. 1 in points per drive allowed, but they haven’t played a good offense yet. This is a huge test. Truthfully, the Bills have played the most consistently of the AFC East teams and would be 3-0 if Tyrod Taylor delivered a slightly better pass to Zay Jones against Carolina. Atlanta could easily be 1-2 if the Bears and Lions connected in the red zone on their final plays. So I’m interested in seeing how competitive this one is.

Steelers at Ravens

I thought we’d see a battle of 3-0 teams, but both disappointed last week. Joe Flacco may have had the worst game of his career. I think the defensive performance in London was an aberration. Baltimore is better than that defensively, just not as good as the first two weeks against Ohio. The Ravens always play the Steelers tough in Baltimore where Ben Roethlisberger is 2-6 as a starter. I don’t like really anything the Steelers are doing offensively this year. It could be that Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant’s timing is off after one skipped the offseason and the other was suspended all of last year, but this is Week 4. Time to start producing. The offensive line is not blocking well for Bell either, and I’m not sure that will just improve itself against a quality front seven here. It’s Steelers-Ravens, so you expect a close, low-scoring game, though they have tore that script up a few times in recent years. Still, I’m going to lean with the home team as I just don’t care for how Pittsburgh has started this season.

Oakland at Denver

Big game here. I don’t know how Denver pulled off four home games in the first five weeks, but big home-field advantage at Mile High. Derek Carr has to get over the hump of not playing well against the Broncos and Chiefs. He has never had a real quality game against Denver. He has a few wins, but that doesn’t mean he played that well. I think the Denver defense is still outstanding, and having the worst starting field position in the league because of the offense’s turnovers is hurting their scoring numbers this year. If Trevor Siemian and the offense hang onto the ball, they’ll win this game. Oakland played so poorly last week that I can’t imagine we won’t see a bounce-back effort, but this is not a good matchup for this offense to shine. And I still think the defense is pretty weak.

Jaguars at Jets

Imagine that, the Jaguars can be 3-1 or the Jets can be 2-2 after this one. I have yet to cover either team in Clutch Encounters since all of their games have been so one-sided this year. So I’m looking to see if we’ll have a competitive one for a change. I believe in the talent of the Jacksonville defense, though I’m still skeptical of Blake Bortles. Big game last week, but Marcedes Lewis catching 3 TDs against Baltimore may go down as the “WTF? Game of the Year.”

Colts at Seahawks

This might have been pretty intriguing if Andrew Luck was still alive, but I expect to get my nap in during this game. And I’ll just leave this here.

Redskins at Chiefs

Much like Buffalo, Washington is another “who gives a shit?” franchise that could easily be 3-0 with a better throw from the quarterback. The defense seems legit, though I don’t like what’s happening with Kirk Cousins and his wide receivers. Terrelle Pryor is looking like a free-agent bust so far. I think you need strong wide receiver play to match up with the Chiefs, who defend RBs (Chris Thompson) and TEs (Vernon Davis/Jordan Reed) quite well. That’s why I think Cousins will struggle to repeat his recent success, and the Chiefs have been playing like the best team in the NFL this year. So I’ll take the Chiefs at home in this one.

2017 Week 4 Predictions

I had the Packers on TNF, because Mike Glennon is only good for two things: being tall and beating the Steelers. Seriously, he’s 2-10 in his last 12 starts and both wins were over Pittsburgh.

Winners in bold.

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

Yes, I like the Bengals and Giants to get their first wins of the season this week. I think Odell Beckham Jr. goes off for 100+ for the first time this season.

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Season: 28-19
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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.

————————————————————————————————————————————————–

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

NFL Week 4 Predictions: Sit Andrew Luck

First, a moment of silence for Josh Scobee’s career. Okay, that was long enough.

Sit Andrew Luck, Indy

I hate to play doctor for an injury I don’t even know the extent of, but it might be in the Colts’ best interest to sit Andrew Luck this week with a right shoulder injury. They have to think about the hits he takes and the fact that there’s a big game in Houston on Thursday where the Colts can quickly get to 3-2 and back in first place. Luck being listed as questionable, limited in practice and the signing of Josh Johnson are all signs this is not some minor issue. You could see him wincing on the sideline on Sunday after a little celebratory contact from a teammate.

Let Matt Hasselbeck earn that game check. The Colts have only had 12 games with a 20-point lead in the Luck era. Five of those games have been against the Jaguars, so this team is used to dominating Jacksonville, and the game is at home this week. I’m not sure if a few more days of rest is going to make Luck’s shoulder any better, but I know going out there and taking a beating on Sunday won’t help him for Thursday. The Colts have to think ahead on this one.

But the expectations going into Sunday are that Luck will start. Just what does questionable really mean to Indianapolis?

  • 2014: 15 of 26 questionable Indy players played (57.7%)
  • 2014 NFL average: 55.7%
  • 2013: 19 of 30 questionable Indy players played (63.3%)
  • 2013 NFL average: 61.3%

So things really are up in the air on whether or not he’ll play, though the team probably has a good idea tonight what will happen. If Luck sits out, he’ll end his consecutive start streak to begin a career at 51 games. Here’s the list of leaders since 1950 (regular season only):

QBconsst

The ironman thing is cool, but sometimes you just have to recognize when you have a winnable game with your backup and your starter isn’t right. It’s not like Luck has been playing well this season.

Where’s the 18-Hour Football Sunday?

I like to get up around 12:20 p.m. on Sundays after staying up late. A 9:30 a.m. start for a London game does not jive with me. I got up for last year’s Atlanta-Detroit game, and I could have easily slept in during the first half. The Lions sure did.

But when you schedule Dolphins vs. Jets, that gives me even less of a reason to get up early, though I may be up anyway because I don’t have what you’d call a “sleep schedule.” If I had to rank the worst division rivalries since 2002 realignment, Dolphins vs. Jets is right up there because of how boring those teams have been in that time. We’re not getting a Dan Marino vs. Ken O’Brien shootout here. We’re not even getting older Dan Marino vs. NY-era Boomer Esiason and the fake spike game. We’re getting Ryan Fitzpatrick and a coach from Miami who is going to be fired any week now.

If I end up going to sleep tonight, I’ll probably wake up around 11:30 just to catch the ending of this one. If it’s close, I’m not sure how that will shake out since Fitzpatrick will want to throw interceptions and Joe Philbin will try finding some way to blow the game.

I’m surprised the NFL hasn’t tacked on a midnight EST start out west to go for the 18-hour football Sunday. 

And I must say it’s total bullshit to make any team give up a home game for a division game (Miami in this case). That’s the definition of unfair since the other team will be at home when the rematch comes.

Where Are the Good Games?

To the NFL’s credit, we didn’t end up with many better options to ship to London in Week 4. Vikings at Broncos is the only game between teams with winning records. I’m looking forward to that one in the national slot for 4:30 p.m. Both defenses should play very well, meaning it will look like Denver’s other 2015 games. The running game can’t stay this bad all season under Gary Kubiak, right? Denver has rushed for 171 yards at 2.59 YPC. Adrian Peterson has 260 rushing yards in the last two weeks alone.

Denver (and the 2015 Lions) is the 34th team to rush for less than 175 yards through three games since 1970. On average these teams finish with 1,442 yards and 3.69 YPC. Only 9 of the teams cracked 4.0 YPC by season’s end. To the Broncos’ credit, they join the 2007 Packers as the only other 3-0 team on the list. That GB team with Brett Favre reached the NFC Championship Game after finishing 13-3. Ryan Grant really came along for the offense, though there was no running game to speak of in the playoff defeat. Your weaknesses tend to get exposed in the end, but as long as the Broncos have the No. 1 defense and Peyton Manning, every game is winnable. It’s just not going to be pretty.

Final prediction: Broncos 20, Vikings 16

2015 Week 4 Predictions

I followed my worst week in years with one of my best (14-2). Life lesson: the Jets will always screw you over in the end. I originally was going to pick Houston too, but changed to Tampa Bay at the last second. The kicker didn’t help in that one either. The kickers did however help me correctly pick Baltimore over Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

Winners in bold

  • Jets at Dolphins
  • Chiefs at Bengals
  • Giants at Bills
  • Eagles at Redskins
  • Jaguars at Colts
  • Panthers at Buccaneers
  • Texans at Falcons
  • Raiders at Bears
  • Packers at 49ers
  • Vikings at Broncos
  • Rams at Cardinals
  • Browns at Chargers
  • Cowboys at Saints
  • Lions at Seahawks

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Season: 30-18 (.625)

NFL Week 4 Predictions: Ground Control to Major Tom Brady, Your Circuit’s Dead

“You come at the king, you best not miss.”

I’m not here to shovel dirt on Tom Brady’s career today. Technically, everyone’s career is closer to death with each passing day, but the boldness of declaring Brady finished is something I would need far more evidence to dare write.

However, let’s evaluate some troubling numbers.

Just passing for 200 yards and/or multiple touchdowns has become a struggle for Brady dating back to late last season. Brady hasn’t thrown multiple touchdown passes in his last seven games — one shy of the longest streak of his career (came in 2001).

In each of his last eight games, Brady has been held under 8.0 yards per pass attempt, one of the longest streaks in his career. The lowly Oakland defense held him to 6.32 YPA at home last week.

For the second year in a row the Patriots have gotten off to a slow start offensively, but this year isn’t about a massive turnover at receiver. Julian Edelman is impossible to cover underneath and he’s caught 22 out of 28 targets. Rob Gronkowski is back, though he’s been limited in his recovery from a torn ACL. Danny Amendola is there, but he’s not been the success the Patriots gambled on when deciding to move on from Wes Welker. Then there are the outside wide receivers that tend to occupy milk cartons in this offense. Brandon LaFell has caught 4-of-14 targets from Brady. Kenbrell Thompkins has 53 yards on 11 targets. Aaron Dobson has barely seen the field with injuries.

This year’s new problem is the offensive line. Subtract Logan Mankins, and more importantly, subtract OL coach Dante Scarnecchia, and without that pristine pass protection or consistent run blocking, you get an offense that ranks last in the league in yards per play (4.3). Yes, even below the Jaguars (4.6).

Some of the problems are new, but some have been there for Brady’s entire career. They’ve just been masked better by superior coaching and talent. Brady’s not a scrambler. He’s not one for extending plays. He won’t break out of sacks. He’s not a great vertical passer able to stretch the field on any given play. He’ll dink-and-dunk a defense to death, only to set up a big play at the opportune moment.

And at 2-1, the Patriots are still technically winning, even if it’s all about a defense that’s allowed a total of 16 points to Minnesota and Oakland the last two weeks.

Brady winning despite inefficiency with passing the ball is an old story. He has the best record of any QB since 1960 in games with 6.5 YPA or worse (minimum 15 attempts). Only 7 quarterbacks (min. 40 games) have a winning record when they average no more than 6.5 YPA:

  1. Tom Brady (41-25, .621)
  2. Roger Staubach (25-16, .610)
  3. Jim McMahon (25-18, .581)
  4. Kordell Stewart (26-23, .531)
  5. Jake Delhomme (21-19, .525)
  6. Jay Schroeder (21-19, .525)
  7. Jack Kemp (25-24-2, .510)

Some of these players had rushing value you don’t get with Brady, but dominant defense was also a common theme here.

If you lowered the bar to 6.0 YPA (minimum 30 games), Brady again has the best record ever at 27-20 (.547) when including playoffs. That’s more than a full yard per attempt below the league average. Only five quarterbacks since 1960 have a winning record in that situation (McMahon, Stewart, Len Dawson, and Jim Kelly) with a minimum 30 games.

Does that make Brady special? Not really, but it does say a lot for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. They find different ways to win, but if Brady’s playing like this against competition like Miami/Minnesota/Oakland, then how can the Patriots expect to win a championship this year?

I had another theory about Brady’s winning record with bad YPA. Not all sub-6.0 YPA games are created equally. Maybe Brady does other things well on those days, such as a higher completion percentage and good touchdown-interception ratio. So I looked at my growing database of QB game logs (regular season only) and looked at every game (min. 10 attempts) thru 2013 where the QB averaged no better than 6.0 YPA. Then I summed those numbers together to produce the following table (click to enlarge). It’s not a conclusive list — I have about 90 players and many of them are very good — but it gives us an idea of general performance.

Using 85 quarterbacks with a minimum of 400 attempts, I ranked everyone best-to-worst on sub-6.0 days for stats like completion percentage, YPA, TD%, INT%, passer rating (PR) and win pct. I also ranked each QB based on his team’s scoring averages: points for (PF) and points allowed (PA). These scoring numbers were not adjusted for return scores.

sub6

Brady ranks well above average here in everything, but especially in regards to TD% and INT%. Where he’s not as impressive as some of his peers are completion percentage (13th) and the stat this table is built around, YPA (27th). Brady’s 7th in scoring, but he’s had the luxury of the 8th-best scoring defense here, which is true for most of the quarterbacks with a winning record. A guy that actually shows up very well here statistically is Andy Dalton (highest TD%, passer rating and team scoring average), but these numbers could use some opponent adjustments.  Peyton Manning was a tenth away two Dallas QBs from having the highest completion percentage and highest YPA.

Remember, these are all regular-season numbers. Including the playoffs would actually improve Brady’s record, because he somehow went 5-3 when averaging <=6.0 YPA. There’s the rub though. Brady started 5-0 in the playoffs when doing that, but since the 2007 season when the Patriots shifted to an offensive-first team, he’s 0-3 like you would expect from that low average.

When the Patriots take on Kansas City on Monday night, which Brady will show up? A KC win would bring the Chiefs even in record with the Patriots and further add to the AFC’s mediocrity this season. It’s hard to imagine Brady not having his best game this month under the bright lights, but maybe we need to temper expectations for this 37-year-old quarterback. Maybe those dominant performances from 2007-2012 are a thing of the past. Maybe last year was the beginning of the end. All careers have to wind down and end eventually.

Any previous matchup between a Tom Brady offense and an Alex Smith offense would be a no-brainer. But this week, it’s not so clear which quarterback is the one who struggles to stretch the field and must rely on his defense and running game. This is the closest in caliber Brady and Smith have been in their NFL careers.

If that’s not cause for concern in New England, then I don’t know what is. But I like the Patriots this week, because I know this has never truly been a team that lives or die by its quarterback play. Bill Belichick versus Andy Reid is the real mismatch, and I expect The Hood to improve to 5-0 vs. Big Red.

Final prediction: Patriots 24, Chiefs 16

Bonus prediction: Brady will end his streak of games without multiple touchdown passes…barely.

NFL Week 4 Predictions

I screwed up my first Thursday pick after Kirk Cousins went full Buccaneer against the Giants. Not every defense plays like Jacksonville and Philadelphia.

Cousins only has 341 official dropbacks in the regular season, but his turnover rate is 5.87 percent. How bad is that? Let’s just say Mark Sanchez (5.29%) and Rex Grossman (5.30%) think it’s too high to remain a starter in today’s NFL.

Winners in bold:

  • Packers at Bears
  • Panthers at Ravens
  • Bills at Texans
  • Lions at Jets
  • Dolphins at Raiders
  • Titans at Colts
  • Buccaneers at Steelers
  • Jaguars at Chargers
  • Falcons at Vikings
  • Eagles at 49ers
  • Saints at Cowboys
  • Patriots at Chiefs

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Total: 28-20

NFL Week 4 Predictions: I Don’t Care If Aaron Rodgers Is Clutch

This has been quite the week. Four years after first quantifying a quarterback’s record at fourth-quarter comeback opportunities, I finally saw that work transfer to the TV set this week on ESPN’s First Take with this graphic:

2013-09-24_11-38-24_225

Little did I expect what would follow. In true First Take style, right after debating whether or not Peyton Manning was the greatest QB in the history of the NFL, the next segment was fully devoted to whether or not Aaron Rodgers was still the best QB in today’s NFL. You know, ahead of the guy they just said might be the GOAT.

The surreal event of watching Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless hold a printout copy of my Insider article on Rodgers so they could argue about it is something I never would have expected and never will forget.

FT0924

The fruits of my labor made it like Christmas morning for Bayless, as he has argued his ridiculous “lack of clutch gene” narrative — ridiculous in that no gene exists for anyone — on Rodgers for years without doing the research to support it. He has something now, just as anyone should when I first wrote about the front-running Packers before the 2011 season started. This is nothing new to long-time readers, but it took a push by ESPN to finally get the numbers out there.

So if Green Bay’s historic struggles to win these games is a story going forward, then I have done my job.

The problem is when a large audience catches on to something completely new to them, there’s going to be a strong negative reaction too. That’s what I want to address here. You can consider this version 2.0 of “The Truth About the Front-Running Green Bay Packers”

First, allow me to expose a little secret:  Monday’s article was a last-second backup plan after the events of Sunday’s early games made a piece I did on the AFC null and void. So after the dramatic game ended between Green Bay and Cincinnati, I pitched a topic I’m very familiar with and have plenty of research on already.

Now, let’s understand this is a business. You need some controversial headlines that will generate clicks. Any good business will tell you that, not just ESPN. People can twist headlines all they want, but if you read the article:

I never said Rodgers is not clutch. I don’t write about the “clutchiness” of QBs. I write about what happened in clutch situations. Clutch is a history, not a skill.

I never said the 5-24 record at comebacks or 9-26 record at game-winning drive opportunities is all Rodgers’ fault. In fact, my first mention of this goes right to head coach Mike McCarthy.

“These close-game failures have been the hush-hush hallmark of coach Mike McCarthy’s otherwise successful tenure as Packers head coach. While the blame should be distributed everywhere, why are we not looking at the quarterback more?”

Here are some other direct quotes from the article that do not put the blame all on Rodgers:

“It’s always the same story for Green Bay: win big or lose close”

“Sunday was a perfect opportunity, but it was the latest in a long line of failures for the league’s best front-running quarterback and team.”

“There is some historical data to show the crunch-time disconnect in Green Bay.”

I understand the article is behind a pay wall, so not everyone was able to read it (hint: try Google). But there are claims out there on things I never wrote in the piece.

I also did not write the line “Recurring fourth-quarter failures prevent him from being NFL’s top QB” under the title, however I agree with it 100 percent. I’m not going to put Rodgers ahead of Peyton and Tom Brady, who have the gaudy stats, records, MVP awards and Super Bowl rings too. They also have a larger body of work. But the main difference comes in that I can still trust those QBs when the game does not start as planned and they have to win it late. I don’t trust Rodgers in the same fashion, which is why I had little faith he would get the go-ahead drive on Sunday in Cincinnati.

I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words on this topic before, so anyone thinking this was a knee-jerk reaction to Sunday’s game just doesn’t know my work on the topic. By the way, I’m limited to around 1,500 words on Insider, so any thought to being able to fully explain away every loss in the 9-26 record is a pipe dream.

Stephen A. Smith said he didn’t see a list of the games where Rodgers led the Packers to a fourth-quarter lead, but the defense gave it back. HOWEVVVVA, it does state this in the article:

“Of course, some of the 26 losses speak well for him. He has put Green Bay ahead seven times in the fourth quarter when trailing, only for the team to go on to lose the game. The defense is certainly deserving of blame for this.”

I make sure I cover my bases. So that’s what I wanted to say about the Insider piece itself.

As for any fan criticism or written defenses that have come from other writers this week, now I will respond to those.

I’m not as nonchalant about things as Rodgers, who responded with “Yeah, I’m not worried about that at all” when ESPN’s Jason Wilde asked him point blank about the lack of success in these games. I probably need to get that way to survive in this business, but I probably like arguing with people too much to stop completely.

There were many comments, e-mails and articles this week in response to my work. I’m not going to link to any of the articles as I didn’t see any that attacked me personally. If I did, I would have responded accordingly. I’m just going to go over some of the general faults I found.

No one’s done the same study I have done. It’s hard to compare (straight up) any past study of close games if you’re not looking at things the way I do, which is 4th quarter/OT, tied or down by one score. What I do takes an eternity for one person to compile, so I don’t think anyone could have accomplished that the last few days.

Stats in the final 5:00 – Sure, we can look at these, but that leaves out a lot of what goes into the 5-24/9-26 records. It’s not just about what you do when you’re behind, but it’s how you protect that lead or how you avoid getting into these situations late in the first place.

Win-loss record at 4QC/GWD should not be thrown away like trash – You can read my rant on this from FO here. We can take these stats and just look at how good a guy is at scoring a TD when he’s down 4-8 points in the 4Q, or scoring a FG when he’s tied or down 1-3. We can break them up that way and maybe get something useful out of that. The only reason I haven’t done it is because I’m still trying to put together a full database for every single opportunity in the last 30+ years. That takes time.

However, the record, the wins and losses (and sometimes ties), is the starting point for knowing which games to look at. We can’t just ignore it. While we can break the games down and see why the team won or lost, we need to be taking 4QC/GWD, which are situational drive stats at the heart of it all, and not just focus on the scoring drive(s).

Rodgers probably could have avoided last Sunday’s 4QC opportunity if he didn’t throw a bad INT early in the quarter in scoring territory. And people talk about the Johnathan Franklin fumble on 4th-and-1 losing the game, but I can tell you any advanced stat (DVOA, QBR, WPA, EPA) will give Rodgers two negatives for the sack on 2nd-and-6 and the 11-yard pass on 3rd-and-12 that set up that 4th-and-1 in the first place. He’s still accountable in that loss for things that took place before he was even trailing in the 4Q.

With a stat like TD passes, we don’t care about what happened on the drive before and after. It is what it is. These 4QC/GWD stats are different because what happens before and after them will usually decide if they stand up or not. Just taking a 1-point lead with 14:50 left to play does not put you in good position for a GWD. You will likely need to do something the rest of the game too.

Even before I became the guy who corrected 4QC stats for people like Elway and Marino, I was tracking successes and failures for active QBs for years. Eventually I started combining the two files to develop records for how successful QBs/teams are at such games. It was only natural for me to start quantifying things like one-minute drills, two-minute offense and the four-minute offense. I want to develop a new win probability model this offseason so I can use things like WPA and Expected Points Added (EPA) for QBs in these situations. I want to quantify late-game performance and strategy as well as anyone ever has, but it’s a process and you’ll just have to bear with me.

I don’t think the W-L record, especially for a QB, is the best way to judge these things, but I know it’s not meaningless either, especially for those who sit at the extreme ends of the chart. There’s something there that’s worth exploring and talking about.

Final-score analysis is heavily flawed to study the closeness of games. Because it takes too long to do this, most close-game studies have always been about the final score. Those can be very misleading. The Colts/49ers from last Sunday played a game that was a tie or one-score difference for 93% of the game before the Colts pulled away 27-7. A final-score study would reject that as a close game, but it would accept trash like MNF Eagles/Redskins from Week 1 when Washington made it 33-27 late and failed to recover the onside kick. That game was not close and the only drive involving a one-score game in the 4Q that night was Michael Vick taking two knees. Forget about the final score.

Rodgers is 20-22 (.476) in games decided by one score, and I hope it’s assumed when I say Rodgers I mean “the Packers with Rodgers at QB”. Because the record with Matt Flynn or Brett Favre (under McCarthy) would be different.

Anyways, 20-22 is a hell of a difference from 9-26 (.257) at GWDs, so you can see it’s two completely different studies. That’s the one thing I would like to change in how I’ve been writing about this. It’s not so much a close-game issue for Green Bay as it is a failure to win games when they have to score the winning points in the 4Q/OT.  Behind Rodgers they’re 9-26 at doing that, but 49-5 in all other games. No one has been able to explain that absurd gap in winning percentage, which is the largest in NFL history.

There is no simple explanation as teams lose games for various reasons. Sometimes it’s the QB, sometimes it’s the defense and once in a while it’s a kicker. You can count how many times Mason Crosby missed a clutch kick (four games and three were long attempts) that led to a loss, but what about Tony Romo (5) or Tom Brady (once)? You can’t just adjust Rodgers’ record for these things, because they happen to all other QBs too. If you want the article that will show that, stay tuned to Football Outsiders this season.

No matter who you want to blame, the Packers are 9-26 at GWDs with Rodgers at QB and that is a terrible record, especially for such a good team. Rodgers is the headline, but the Packers’ problems are the real story, and too many people are glossing over that aspect of this.

As for criticism of my “Phil Simms analysis” that 4QC show the cream rising to the top, well you find fault with the 10 guys who have held the record for most 4QC wins since 1950: Sammy Baugh, Sid Luckman, Bob Waterfield, Bobby Layne, Otto Graham, Y.A. Tittle, Johnny Unitas, John Elway, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning. That’s a who’s who of the best QBs through the years with Joe Montana (5th all time) only excluded because he missed too many games in his career. The 1970s are not represented, but wouldn’t you know Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach and Ken Stabler all lead the decade with 15 4QC wins. Throughout NFL history, the best QBs dominate this stat as much as any other stat you can pick. But for Aaron Rodgers, he’s still somehow behind John Skelton and Tim Tebow. If that doesn’t make you scratch your head, nothing will.

Enough with the “lack of opportunity” argument – I hammered on this before, but again some people think Rodgers has a lack of 4QC/GWD for a lack of opportunity. 29-35 games is plenty of opportunity. It’s not the opportunity, it’s the bad winning percentage. Here’s an updated list with a few more notable QBs and how many 4QC opportunities they have had by start.

4QO

Rodgers is just above average at 32.6%, so stop it.

Statistical significance vs. real significance – I want to tread lightly on this topic as this alone could be 5,000 words out of me. I fully understand the small sample size issues with covering football. I’ve done hundreds of articles and looked at many things over the years, so I know as well as anyone when we don’t have enough data to make good conclusions. How many comeback opportunities does Rodgers need before we can statistically conclude his record is bad? 30? 50? 100? I don’t know, but I will work to find out in the offseason.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep doing my job as a football analyst to present the patterns and trends that aid our coverage of the game. They may or may not have statistical significance, but once you start talking about 29-35 games, that seems rather foolish to brush everything off as being random.

We can all agree the final minutes of a close NFL game are different from the rest of the game, right? The rule book changes in regards to clock stoppages and things like advancing the ball after a fumble. Time actually becomes a factor with using timeouts and managing the clock. No one cares about the game clock unless it’s the end of a half. Offenses will use all four downs while playing three-down football most of the time otherwise. There’s that sense of “if this drive is not successful, we will lose the game” that just does not come early in the game. It’s a different experience in crunch time.

So how many times does a team need to experience this before they learn how to adapt to the situation? Think of your own real-life experiences in adverse situations: driving up an icy hill on your way home from work, flying on an airplane or going to a funeral parlor. Yeah, I’m going to go with the darkest analogy I could think of.

Do you have to go see 80 dead people before it becomes statistically significant in how you will handle the situation? Or does it take a few trips before we know what to expect and act accordingly? That could be anything from the smell of the place, the demeanor of mourners, dealing with the image of the person in the casket, proper dress attire, etc. Sometimes we may get thrown a curve ball like a person laughing hysterically or someone throwing themselves onto the casket. In football, some unexpected things can come up too like a seven-man blitz or a dropped pass.

In other sports we have seen teams like Michael Jordan’s Bulls or Sidney Crosby’s Penguins have to climb the ladder of success before winning a championship. That means getting your feet wet in the playoffs, learning how to adjust for a best-of-7 series and going further each time before eventually completing the journey to the top.

Why can’t it be the same in the NFL where you have to learn to adjust to adverse situations? It shouldn’t take years upon years to do that either. I think we’ve seen enough from the Packers to reasonably conclude they struggle a lot in these types of games.

If you honestly see zero significance and only randomness to the Packers being 5-24 at 4QC behind Rodgers — possibly 0-20 against winning teams — then maybe following the NFL is not right for you. That record is unlike anyone else’s record when we’re talking about an annual SB contending team. Now if you want me to break the records down to adjust for opponent, or dig deeper into the causes, then that’s fine. I’ve done such things in the past. I know the few wins the Packers do have have often been unimpressive (bad opponents, small deficits). There are patterns. I’ve done enough to know something is not right with how the Packers win and lose football games.

Not to harp on it, but the comments made this offseason by Greg Jennings and Donald Driver about Rodgers’ leadership is another layer to this story. Cue the smoke/fire line. We don’t see receivers for QBs like Peyton, Brady and Matt Ryan question their leadership. We also see those QBs with great success in these close games. Maybe there’s something there, but let’s stick to numbers.

I have seen all 26 losses by GB. They happened and it didn’t take a stroke of bad luck every time. This team has issues late whether it’s the QB’s unwillingness to throw interceptions so he takes drive-killing sacks, the lack of a running game, the struggling OL, McCarthy’s playcalling, Dom Capers’ defense or Mr. Crosby’s kicking. There are baselines already established. For an elite QB, a 9-26 record at GWDs is bad and no one will convince me to say otherwise. Should it improve, then credit to the Packers.

But as long as it stays where it is, we have a problem here, and remember it’s a problem that has already and will continue to cost the Packers wins, division titles, higher playoff seeds, playoff wins and Super Bowl rings.

2013 NFL Week 4 Predictions

After hesitantly picking the 49ers, that makes me 4-0 on the Thursday games this season. My record’s much better than the quality of those games. I’m still stinging from another difficult Week 3 that saw an 8-8 record. Onward and upward this week as we try to figure these teams out.

Winners in bold:

  • Giants at Chiefs
  • Cardinals at Buccaneers
  • Steelers at Vikings
  • Ravens at Bills
  • Bears at Lions
  • Bengals at Browns
  • Colts at Jaguars
  • Seahawks at Texans
  • Jets at Titans
  • Eagles at Broncos
  • Cowboys at Chargers
  • Redskins at Raiders
  • Patriots at Falcons
  • Dolphins at Saints

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Season: 31-17

Good god I have 10/14 road teams winning this week. Even if we don’t count Pittsburgh (neutral site), that sounds like trouble. Upset watch for Seattle, Cincy, Baltimore and Chicago?

Also, back in April I had Pittsburgh beating Minnesota in London with the premonition of Adrian Peterson being contained, Christian Ponder coughing over some turnovers, Big Ben finding Sanders/Brown deep down the sideline for scores. Just a good day for the Steelers in London. Now with both teams at 0-3, I barely feel like watching this one. Though with Matt Cassel stepping in at QB, I can’t imagine the takeaway-less Steelers do not get a few this week. And I still expect the Steelers to win, dropping a Minnesota team I railed on more than any other team this offseason to 0-4.

With Carolina and Green Bay on the bye week, there’s no chance to blow a late lead this week. But if there’s anyone I don’t want to see need a fourth-quarter comeback in Week 4, it will be Breaking Bad. I’ve noticed a lot of big-time series finales in recent years (Dexter and Big Love especially) waited too long to get things going and tried to rush it for a botched ending. I’m counting on big things from AMC here.

If Walter White escapes the country to become a lumberjack, I’m going to lose my sanity and quit watching these series since we never get closure or final satisfaction anymore.

NFL Week 4 Predictions and More Golden Tate Hail Mary Response

Well this has been the most interesting week yet in the brief time I have covered the NFL. It started with a Sunday full of crazy games, which resulted in a nice stat of the week I jumped on first after the New England loss.

Then Monday night came, bringing in the biggest overreaction to a correct call in NFL history. But this wasn’t about injustice as much as it was scorn for the replacement referees, and the only positive is it did end the lockout.

But the controversial Golden Tate Hail Mary touchdown is a classic example of groupthink and media manipulation. How one views this play really separates the sheep from people willing to think for themselves and not be influenced by Jon Gruden’s second-half disgust, which is an entertaining thought because he still looks like a Chucky doll.

At the very least, any objective person should see this was too close of a call to make in real time for anyone, and that there’s no way you could have clearly called it an interception. It  is completely understandable why they ruled what they did, and upon further analysis, it was the right call just as the NFL and that replacement referee have said.

So in writing the article, I tried to put as much as I could into it. That’s why I write long articles, as I try to cover all bases and leave little for anyone to nitpick over. But I will reply to a few of the same things I’m seeing in response to it on Twitter or in your e-mails. And no, I won’t use anyone’s name.  Reaction has been 50/50, even though it seems like reaction to the call has been 90/10.

Well Allow Me To Retort

Worthless Picture – First, it is always easy to see which people actually read the article and which respond after reading only the headline. Anyone still trying to use this picture as proof of anything needs to get a clue.

This is several seconds after both players have landed on the ground. The catch was already over as all aspects of a catch have been satisfied (control and possession through the process of going to the ground). Just because the refs came in late doesn’t mean anything. This wasn’t a fumble and two players battling on the ground for the ball, in which refs will often let them fight it out. This was a (TD) catch.

Back judge – He never signaled touchback like some have said. That has a distinct motion — like a vertical spanking/tap that ass motion — which he never used. What the back judge even ruled was never going to be more reliable than the ref on the spot, because look how far away the back judge is at the moment both players have hit the ground:

He is barely past the goal post at this point. How could he possibly been able to tell who controlled the ball first? From the point of contact with the ball to this picture where the second foot hits for Jennings, a total of 0.7 seconds passed. Over three additional seconds pass before the back judge runs in to take a look at the players on the ground, which makes for a call from him that was never going to be conclusive or even confident.

Semantics – Lots of semantics mess again this week with control, possession and catch. I have seen people say simultaneous possession, even though the only thing in the rule book is “simultaneous catch.” I have heard comments from a ex-NFL referee talking about possession in the air, even though the NFL clearly said in their statement possession cannot happen in the air. A player must get two feet or an equivalent like a knee down to legally gain possession.

It is also indisputable that Tate gains possession first, but the most important part of the play comes at the very beginning.

Physics of the play – First let’s talk about control, since that is the common complaint.

You can control a ball with one hand. That was the point of the one-handed examples I used to refute the article from ProFootballTalk or Hochuli’s mumbo-jumbo about four arms. You do not need two hands/arms, and this Randy Moss TD is another nice example pointed out by @DeeepThreat. You can move your hand/arm off the ball (see Reggie Wayne) if you want, but as long as you have sustained control with one hand, it counts.

As for Tate, I have yet to see anyone explain this. First, let’s recall the fact Tate was in front of Jennings and should have been the first to contact the ball. I proved the ball made first contact with his left hand. Do not even try and say it hit Jennings’ right hand first, as that is just depth perception. If you watch the video in conjunction with making the frames, the ball hits Tate first, and it did much more than just touch him.

Why does the ball get stuck in the air at this point if Tate didn’t have control, or only had his fingertips on the ball? Go outside and have someone throw you a football and try to hold it up in the air without any real control or grip. It won’t happen. The ball will deflect off your hand. Any non-sticky object would if you don’t actually initiate some type of grip on it.  Jennings only closed his hands around it after Tate stopped it in the air first for the play to even develop into a catch.

How else are you going to stop a football traveling roughly 45 yards in the air in 2.85 seconds if you didn’t initiate a good grip to control it?

This isn’t to say that you can’t grip an object with just your fingers. Having a big, strong hand would definitely help make it more possible.

Tate has a very interesting Twitter background pic  that shows him hauling in a ball with his left hand on a more difficult looking play in practice. These guys get drafted high for a reason. They are great athletes capable of making tough catches.

Notice that Jennings does a horizontal close on the ball with his hands. It does not move backwards or fall forwards after Tate’s initial grab. That supports his grip of the ball. It’s not like Jennings had to keep the ball up from being deflected away incomplete. Tate controlled it. Watch most catches in football. The receiver’s initial contact with the ball is when he gets the grip on it, and it is possible to do so with one hand.

Less than a tenth of a second passes between Tate’s contact and Jennings’ close on the ball. If you are trying to judge this in real time, how could that not look simultaneous? Makes perfect sense why referee Lance Easley made the call he did.

Consider the initial contact Point A, and we know from the end of the play when Jennings struggles to wrestle the ball away from Tate that Tate has that grip with his left hand still on the ball (Point B). So where between Point A and Point B does Tate ever lose the ball from his left hand? No one has any evidence that he loses control. That is why this is a TD, because he maintained that control from the start of the play through the process of going to the ground.

Other criticisms – Some people talk about the ball being in Jennings’ chest. For starters, there is no rule that says you have to have the ball in your chest, so just ignore Steve Young’s revisionist, agenda-pushing history. More importantly, everyone who thinks this is ignoring the fact that Tate’s hand was in the way of his chest throughout the play. Pretty hard to pull something to your chest if a guy has his hand lodged in there the whole time.

The NFL would have admitted they blew the TD call and it should have been an interception if that was actually the case. They did admit the OPI, which also would have ended the game. People don’t think the NFL admits such game-changing errors, but the fact is they do. What they don’t do is change the final outcome because of one.

Listening to some people, you’d think Jennings caught it first and Tate just fingered the ball on the way down. Some of the reaction has just been embarrassing. Not sure how long this play will be in focus, but expect to hear about it more should the season continue going sour for Green Bay. But hopefully by that point people would just realize this game didn’t decide their season, and it was their disappointing play starting in Week 1 that was the real culprit.

Not a right call that Mike Tirico initially made himself in the heat of the moment, only to bash for the last 12 minutes of the broadcast.

Take emotion out of it, and you will understand why Seattle got the touchdown.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 3: What the Hell’s Going on Out There? – Cold, Hard Football Facts

After 12 games with a fourth quarter comeback opportunity, this was a jammed-packed edition of Captain Comeback. It has only received about 4,900 fewer Facebook likes than you know which article.

Crazy Season Even Affecting NFL’s Best Quarterbacks – NBC Sports

For the first time in 58 opportunities, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger all lost on Sunday. If that’s not enough, Week 2 (1-3) was their first losing week. It’s just a reflection of what’s been a crazy season so far.

New Orleans Saints’ Disastrous 0-3 Start Goes Well Beyond Sean Payton’s Absence – Bleacher Report

The Saints are 0-3, but before we give Sean Payton coach of the year in his absence, let’s call a spade a spade. Drew Brees is playing like an average quarterback at best, and the defense might be the worst in the league.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 3 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars – Colts Authority

Luck came very close to his first 4QC, but a shocking 80-yard TD put that out of reach. Check the analysis of every drop back.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to NFL Week 4 – Bleacher Report

Included: the greatest 0-3 at 1-2 game ever, San Francisco’s Jet lag, must-win weekend for the century’s best quarterbacks, and no-huddle nuggets.

Shame on the Angry Mob: Golden Tate’s Touchdown Was Legit – Cold, Hard Football Facts

I just call it like I see it.

2012 NFL Week 4 Predictions

After an all-time worst 4-12 record in Week 3, it’s time for some redemption. Baltimore has started me off 1-0, but that was closer than it should have been.

Winners in bold:

  • Panthers at Falcons
  • Patriots at Bills
  • Vikings at Lions
  • Titans at Texans
  • Chargers at Chiefs
  • 49ers at Jets
  • Seahawks at Rams
  • Dolphins at Cardinals
  • Raiders at Broncos
  • Bengals at Jaguars
  • Saints at Packers
  • Redskins at Buccaneers
  • Giants at Eagles
  • Bears at Cowboys

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Season: 27-21

You can keep e-mailing me if you want, but I am less likely to reply and really would like to move on from Monday night starting with Week 4 Sunday action. Believe it or not the season has continued. More bad calls will be made. A lot more bad plays that lead to losses will also happen. That’s football.