NFL 2016: Week 15

Thursday
Rams-Seahawks

Saturday
Dolphins-Jets

Sunday
Browns-Bills
Lions-Giants
Eagles-Ravens
Steelers-Bengals
Colts-Vikings
Packers-Bears
Titans-Chiefs
Jaguars-Texans
Saints-Cardinals
49ers-Falcons
Patriots-Broncos
Raiders-Chargers
Buccaneers-Cowboys

Monday
Panthers-Redskins

19 Responses to “NFL 2016: Week 15”


  1. Reid

    Pre-Game Comments

    Rams-Seahawks

    Seahawks should win this, but they’re so unpredictable, I don’t know what to think about them at this point. I will say this: Carroll talks about seasons often having a decisive, crisis-point in every season. This is a moment where, if the coach doesn’t intervene somehow to turn things around, the season will be lost. In 2014, that occurred after the Chiefs loss. Either Carroll or the team on their own someone addressed the problem and turned around the season. The previous game feels like that for this season. If they play well tonight and win, I feel like that’s a sign they’ll go far. If not, the season might be over. They might make the playoffs, but they won’t go far.

    Lions-Giants

    Good test for both teams, in terms of the extent to which they’re serious contenders.

    Colts-Vikings
    Seems like a game both will be fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive, so this should be a good one.

    Titans-Chiefs
    This might be the biggest win for the Titans if they can pull this out. If the Titans defense/ST can really limit big plays by the Chiefs offense/ST and/or get some turnovers, and the offense can protect the ball. They should win this. Honestly, I don’t put a lot of faith in the Titans defense/ST being able to do this.

    Patriots-Broncos

    Looking forward to this. My theory about the Belichick: he can scheme away any problems except a run-first offense that can hit on deep passes from the play action. So if the Broncos can run and Siemian can hit on one or two deep throws, I think they can win this.

    I know the Broncos are vulnerable in the run game, but I’d be a little surprised if the Patriot go run-heavy and do well. Then again, maybe they’ll win because if they pass too much, the Patriots pass-pro doesn’t seem that good. (I wonder if Ware is playing.)

    Raiders-Chargers
    This is the type of game Raiders should win, although with a division rival, you never know. They should at least play well, though.

    Buccaneers-Cowboys

    This is another good one. Of the second tier teams, the Bucs are rising as a legit contender to go all the way. This will say a lot about their chances.

    On the Cowboys side, win or lose the key is the way Prescott and the offense performs. If they sputter, that could cause some serious doubts/tensions on the team.

  2. Reid

    Rams-Seahawks

    The score is misleading in my view. Rams had two great opportunities to score early on–and that might have made a huge difference. I think the Seahawks got one or two brakes in terms of calls. Finally, the Seahawks OL looked overwhelmed. So irritating. If you guys watched the game, I’m interested in hearing your impression of the OL.

    The key with the Seahawks chances are related to the quality of front sevens they’ll have to face–although that might be mitigated by the quality of the offense of those teams (e.g., Broncos or Vikings).

  3. Reid

    Lions-Giants
    If you like two good-but-not-great teams going at it, this was a game for you.

    Colts-Vikings
    I didn’t watch a lot of this game, but I’m surprised by how much the Colts won by.

    Packers-Bears
    I watched some of this. Assuming that the Bears aren’t awful, the Packers, both on offense and defense, looked liked they’ve improved, and they could make waves if they can get into the playoffs.

    Titans-Chiefs
    Titans defense didn’t look good in the beginning and then settled down–although I don’t know if that’s because the Chiefs offense is kinda horrid. (Same thing sort of happened in the Raiders game.) It could be that the Chiefs got real conservative. The thing is, I don’t think the defense is good enough for that approach.

    Mariota’s two turnovers were frustrating. (Titans’ WR also had a fumble close to the goal line which was painful.)

    Patriots-Broncos
    Patriots went with a more run-first offense, and that was effective. Broncos run game and offense overall just not good enough to get the job done. Siemian’s INT was all him.

    Raiders-Chargers
    Raiders run game looked decent.

    Buccaneers-Cowboys
    Cowboys shot themselves in the foot when they got into scoring range. Buc’s turnovers were costly. Cowboys defense might have won the game for them in the end. Who the heck is David Irving? Did the Buc’s RT get hurt. Irving looked like Von Miller.

  4. Mitchell

    Irving was signed off the Chiefs’ practice squad last year. After this year’s game against the Packers, he was the NFC defensive player of the week. He did have an amazing game last night.

  5. don

    Seahawks OL did seem overwhelmed, but Aaron Donald can do that to you. I thought there were times the Giants OL looked overwhelmed as well against a poor Dallas DL and that goes for the Bucs as well. I thought Seattle pass pro looked a little better than the parts I saw against the Bucs for something positive. But Seattle couldn’t do much on the ground in this one.

    What do you guys think of Goff? He looks good. He doesn’t seem to panic, he looks good stepping into the pocket, and in general moves decently well within the pocket (better than Dak, Winston or Mariota). His accuracy is okay, I would put him in same category as Dak. His arm strength is supposed to be not bad, but it looks just okay. However, he has not been super productive (but it’s early) and that could make him another Tannehill. Tannehill is a guy that can look good in spurts, but he’s not a super productive QB.

    Lions, Giants:
    Saw parts of this game. I know the Lions offense has been inconsistent, but the Giants defense seem to be all over the place. I think the Giants defense may be for real. They have good cover corners and a quick front seven.

    Cowboys, Bucs:
    The Cowboys defense has been looking more aggressive the last few weeks. I’m not sure if that has to do with the competition, but I hope they can keep it up. The Bucs are known to have a quick but smaller front seven (especially at LB). That really hurt them as they didn’t seem able to stop Dallas’ running attack. The Bucs offense was not great, imo. If you take away the somewhat lucky TD that Dallas tipped, the Bucs had just one or two really good drives for the entire game. Winston looked shaky for much of the game, and he seem to be holding the ball much too long. Irving was toasting his guy in the 4th quarter as Reid mentioned, and that really took a toll on the Bucs in the end of the game.

  6. Reid

    Mitchell,

    After this year’s game against the Packers, he was the NFC defensive player of the week.

    Dang, I have no recollection of him playing that well in that game.

  7. Reid

    Don,

    Seahawks OL did seem overwhelmed,…

    So, you’re saying they didn’t seem more overwhelmed than other OLs?

    But Seattle couldn’t do much on the ground in this one.

    I really think that goes back to the OL being overwhelmed. (Someone just did an analysis of the OL in that game, saying that the Seahawk O-linemen couldn’t execute basic blocks.)

    What do you guys think of Goff?

    His poise seems decent, but he doesn’t look that good to me so far.

    I think the Giants defense may be for real.

    Yeah, I agree. They may not be elite, but they might be around #4-#6 defense.

    The Bucs offense was not great, imo.

    I don’t know. They brought the team back in the second half. I think they started to look bad when they became one-dimensional. Bottom line: they could have won this game. If they didn’t turn the ball over, they would have had a good shot. (Then again, if the Cowboys didn’t make errors in scoring position, they might have blew up the Bucs, too.)

  8. Don

    So, you’re saying they didn’t seem more overwhelmed than other OLs?

    Yeah especially on pass pro. I’m guessing you don’t agree? I thought they looked worse in the parts I saw against the Bucs.

    …but he doesn’t look that good to me so far.

    What do you think is bad about him so far?

    I think they started to look bad when they became one-dimensional.

    I thought the Bucs had one okay drive in the first half which led to a field goal. The first TD drive for the Bucs was okay, but the TD pass was an extremely bad decision and they got lucky that it wasn’t intercepted. The second TD drive was the Bucs best drive and really showed something in a must score situation. But after that, they shouldn’t have been one-dimensional because they were either up or down by three for most of that time and they couldn’t do much again. But you are right, Dallas’ mistakes and field goals instead of TDs and missed field goals, kept the Bucs in the game with not that great of an offensive performance.

  9. Reid

    Yeah especially on pass pro. I’m guessing you don’t agree? I thought they looked worse in the parts I saw against the Bucs.

    Yeah, I tend not to agree. My feeling is that the Seahawk OL doesn’t look as bad because of Russell Wilson.

    Also, I’m not really comparing the games–the ‘Hawks OL looked bad against the Bucs, too.

    What do you think is bad about him so far?

    I haven’t watched him closely, but some of his passes are way off. The problem is that he’s playing in the Rams offense. Maybe in a different offense–including with better players–with a different OC, he’d look a lot better.

    But after that, they shouldn’t have been one-dimensional because they were either up or down by three for most of that time and they couldn’t do much again.

    There were some turnovers, too, though, right?

  10. Reid

    Two things I wanted to mention:

    Richard Sherman went on a tirade against Darrell Bevell and Pete Carroll on the sidelines in the last game. His complaint? They passed the ball on the one-yard line to Jimmy Graham, and the ball was almost picked off. (Shoot, it looked like an INT if you asked me). Sherm’s way out of line, and this wouldn’t be a big deal if he hadn’t had a previous blow-up earlier in the year. (He might have been more justified in that situation, but still.) I’ve supporter Carroll, but this is the kind of thing that would worry me, although I think Sherm has been a great player and teammate for the most part. I actually think Marshawn was the bigger challenge. But still, I get the feeling like Sherman’s ego is getting out of control–that he’s bigger than the coaches or the team. This is the kind of thing that can bring the team down this season, and it could cause even more serious problems to the culture if it’s not handled well. We’ll see.

    The second thing, I wanted to ask Don…What’s your take on the Cowboys use of play action? To me, that’s the one criticism I have of the offense–they don’t use the play action enough. To me, it would be all over if they used more of that, especially in the vertical game. From what I’ve seen Prescott has a good deep ball, too. I don’t get it. (I sort of felt this way when Romo played as well–that they should have used the play action pass a lot more.)

  11. don

    The only time that Tampa should have been one-dimensional was the last drive of the game. Anything short of that if they were being one-dimensional, would have been just bad play calling.

    So what would you do in terms of Sherman if you were Carroll? Would you go so far as trade him?

    In a past Cowboy game broadcast, I’m pretty sure they mentioned that Dallas was one of the top teams in calling play-action passes. I think at that time the broadcasters said that almost 25% of Dallas’ passes were off of play-action. I was surprised as well. But I’m pretty sure that any bootleg Dallas runs is off of play-action and I wouldn’t doubt if they run that almost 15% of called passing plays.

    Overall, I’m fine with the bootlegs, but I’m not as huge a proponent of the play-action as you are in today’s football. That’s not to say I don’t think they should do it, but I prefer that it be used to set up a big play (ie: long passes down the field). Two negatives with the play-action are it really limits the amount of reads the QB has for two reasons: One, it takes away half of the time the QB has to read a defense since his back is to the play for at least 1 second (normal pass progressions should take 2.5 secs). And two, running formations (in Dallas anyway) usually have just two receivers (at most three) going out on patterns. If the defense is able guess correctly (ie: running the play often), it really limits who the QB can throw the ball to versus in spread situations where there are at least five guys that have a chance to catch a pass. I would actually like to see Dallas call more draws in spread (five wide) formations.

  12. Reid

    Don,

    I don’t want to say anything more about whether the Bucs became one-dimensional too early or not at this point, because my memory is really hazy.

    As for Carroll handling Sherman, the first thing would be to gauge the effect on the team–specifically, if I was losing control, respect of the players, or that the culture was being compromised. If it was then I’d probably take some action–like having some consequence for Sherm’s actions. If I didn’t feel any of those things were in jeopardy, I’d talk to Sherm–make sure he understood that what he did crossed the line.

    From my perspective as a fan, I’d keep this in mind while watching the team from here on out, looking for signs that the Carroll was losing control of the team, or that Sherm’s behavior was having a negative impact on individual or team performance (which is admittedly more speculative).

    In a past Cowboy game broadcast, I’m pretty sure they mentioned that Dallas was one of the top teams in calling play-action passes. I think at that time the broadcasters said that almost 25% of Dallas’ passes were off of play-action. I was surprised as well.

    That is surprising–although I don’t have a strong sense of whether 25% is a big number or not. Also, I have a feeling that a lot of teams don’t utilize play action so much.

    Overall, I’m fine with the bootlegs, but I’m not as huge a proponent of the play-action as you are in today’s football.

    Are you saying this because in the past they didn’t utilize the spread offense so much? In other words, if all offenses also incorporated the spread offense in the 80s, you would not favor the play action so much?

    That’s not to say I don’t think they should do it, but I prefer that it be used to set up a big play (ie: long passes down the field).

    Yeah, that’s my preference, too.

    To me, the concerns you mentioned are far outweighed by the benefits. The QB might not have as much time to read the defenses, but the defense will often be at a huge disadvantage because they have to respect the run: the pass rushers will slow down, the LBs and safeties will either freeze or move toward the LOS, which opens things up down field for the WRs and TEs. Also, you’ve got someone like Bryant who can win many one-on-one match ups. So the defense has to decide if they’re going to move a safety into the box to stop the run or help with coverage. Even if the defense “guesses” pass on a play action, you still have a chance of making the play work. Also, guessing can be real dangerous as that can lead to a big run–and Elliot has proven that he has home run capability.

    With smart use of play action (and even draws), defenses would be screwed. The offense would become nearly indefensible in my view.

    One other thing: from what I understand, the reads in play action passing are easier, and that would ideal for a rookie QB like Prescott.

  13. Reid

    For what it’s worth, here’s some footage of the Seahawk OL against the Rams:

    There were some better plays, but there were some more bad ones that could be put up here, too. In the end, I tend to feel the bad outweighed the good.

  14. Mitchell

    The Giants D doesn’t intimidate the way Denver’s or Seattle’s does, but they seem to get to the ball super quickly. They look to me like one of those teams that (as they have in the past) finds its groove right as the season ends. If you combine that D with Good Eli, they’re going to be tough to beat. The question lately is just whether you’re going to get Good Eli or Bad Eli.

    Goff looks like he has some potential. As I said after his first game, if this is his floor, he at least doesn’t suck. But I may be a horrible judge of these things, because to be honest, I don’t dislike any of this year’s rookie QBs. I think Wentz has the most upside, though.

    Dallas is the best team in the NFC, but if I were them I’d be a little worried about the Giants and Packers.

  15. Reid

    The Giants D doesn’t intimidate the way Denver’s or Seattle’s does, but they seem to get to the ball super quickly.

    I sort of feel that both the Broncos and Seahawks defenses’ intimidation factor and effectiveness has declined. For both teams, the my sense is that opponents have developed an effective playbook against them: namely, utilize a run-first offense, i.e., running the ball in formations with the QB under center, and throwing in play action. Both defenses seem designed primarily to stop spread-based offenses, and the emphasis on team speed over power and size in the front seven is an expression of this. But this is precisely what makes them vulnerable to run-first offenses.

    In contrast, the Giants defense seems based on more power/stout front seven–and they’re better equipped to stop run-first offenses. I get a similar vibe from the Packers, maybe the Vikings (but I’m less sure about both teams). The Panther, under Rivera, seemed to try to be this way as well.

    If you combine that D with Good Eli, they’re going to be tough to beat. The question lately is just whether you’re going to get Good Eli or Bad Eli.

    I just want to say that I really agree with that. The other thing, not as important as the points you made, perhaps, is whether they can be balanced on offense–including how well they can run the ball. Also, with regarding to “good Eli,” this would specifically mean protecting the football and being able to make key throws in key situations.

    I think Wentz has the most upside, though.

    At first I was going to agree with this, but I think Prescott is also close, if not equal, to Wentz in terms of upside. The thing is, Prescott is in a far more favorable situation than Wentz.

    I’m not big on Goff right now.

    Dallas is the best team in the NFC, but if I were them I’d be a little worried about the Giants and Packers.

    I agree, but I would also not blow off the Seahawks.

    Don,

    Does it seem like the Cowboys pass protection hasn’t been as good against the recent teams (e.g., Giants and Bucs)–especially against 4 or 5 pass-rushers? That’s the sense I’m getting. If this is the case, this is where properly mixing in a lot of play action (and draws, to a lesser extent) can mitigate this. One example of this: Atlanta versus Seattle. When the Falcons utilized a lot of shotgun looks Ryan was pressured heavily. They looked the best with Ryan under center, with them mixing in a lot of play action (including stretch boots). This created better protection and time for him to throw in my view.

  16. don

    Dallas has built an offense for third and short. Against the Giants and Vikings, they weren’t in third and short enough to be effective. Dallas even in 2014 was just okay in terms of pass pro. I’m pretty sure they led the entire NFL in the 2014 playoffs in QB pressure or maybe it was just sacks per game. So their line is not invincible. They are built more to push guys around rather than stay in front of them. In my amateurish opinion, the Cowboys should always be playing to get to third and three instead of trying to get a first down on first and second downs. For example, if Dallas is second and eight, throw a four yard out or post and take your chances on third and four. Dallas should also throw over the top more on first down (play-action would be great) and run more on second down to mix it up more than anything (sort of what Reid is saying). Dallas loves to run play action on first down if they are going to pass and not in a five wide formation, but I would love if they throw long in those situations more often. I think part of the problem is Dez may be their only threat long, which makes it easier to play him over the top. They have been trying to utilitze Butler in that role as well, but I think they should do it more often on first down. My guess, though, is having Butler in on first down is sort of taking away the surprise of throwing deep.

    Re Wentz:
    Wentz is also in a great situation in terms of what he’s asked to do. I almost never see him throw more than 10 yards in the air. I think Dak’s playbook is more open than Wentz’s is. But if I had to pick, I would pick Wentz slightly over Dak. I think Wentz is better in terms of pocket awareness and his accuracy seems a little more consistent. FWIW, if I had to choose a team, I would take both Wentz and Dak over Winston and probably Mariota as well. On sort of a side note, my views on Winston have been declining in the past couple months and my view of Mariota have been climbing (but I still think he’s much more apt to make a turnover than Dak and Wentz).

  17. Reid

    So their line is not invincible. They are built more to push guys around rather than stay in front of them.

    Yeah, but you didn’t think that Prescott was getting really terrific protection for a large portion of the year? In the recent games, that’s been a little less true in my view.

    In my amateurish opinion, the Cowboys should always be playing to get to third and three instead of trying to get a first down on first and second downs.

    My sense is that what you’re saying is true for all run-first offenses. (When we were growing up, this is how it was for the majority of offenses.) Teams like Carolina, Seattle, Dallas, Denver–they get into trouble when they’re in third and long.

    I think part of the problem is Dez may be their only threat long, which makes it easier to play him over the top.

    What’s surprised me is how ineffective Terrence Williams seems to be. When Romo played, I thought Williams was a really good #2. This year, he’s been invisible.

    Wentz is also in a great situation in terms of what he’s asked to do.

    But not in terms of supporting cast, right? That’s basically what I meant.

  18. don

    Sorry basically my point that I was trying to make but wasn’t clear is in a short-yardage, quick-passing style, the pass pro is very good. In long yardage situations like in the Vikings and Giants game, the pass pro can break down. I do not know if Dallas is getting worse in pass pro, but I just think game script has just been a little different in more recent games.

    Yes, Wentz has almost no weapons, which has made him somewhat more impressive. As I said I would take Wentz slightly over Dak.

  19. Reid

    Sorry basically my point that I was trying to make but wasn’t clear is in a short-yardage, quick-passing style, the pass pro is very good. In long yardage situations like in the Vikings and Giants game, the pass pro can break down.

    You’re saying, because the Cowboys faced more long-yardage situations against the Vikings and Giants, the pass-protection wasn’t as good? That could be, but I don’t think Prescott only had good pass pro on really quick passes. Earlier in the year, it seemed like he could stay back there and stand flatfooted for a very long time and just pass the ball. Now, he’s being moved around a lot more.

    Yes, Wentz has almost no weapons, which has made him somewhat more impressive. As I said I would take Wentz slightly over Dak.

    OK, got it.

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