gfoster: (Geoff Foster, sports activities editor): NFL Week 14 was very odd in lots of respects (and the week isn’t over) with the Raiders, Niners and Giants profitable and the Rams, Texans, Steelers and Patriots all dropping. All of it went an extended option to making the playoff image even murkier. What was your largest takeaway from the week?
Salfino (Michael Salfino, contributor): How a lot ought to we be apprehensive concerning the Rams? Is each offense entitled to at least one hiccup like this, or is it a part of a sample that started with the Lions, who didn’t care about play-action in any respect and simply coated the receivers. The Bears additionally didn’t chew. Does Los Angeles have a Plan B?
neil (Neil Paine, senior sports activities author): It was undoubtedly startling to see the Rams’ offense be held in examine so completely. Jared Goff was horrible. Todd Gurley did subsequent to nothing. The Rams’ offensive anticipated factors added within the recreation was -23.5. That was 29.6 factors worse than their second-worst offensive recreation of the season … which was Week 13 vs. Detroit. And it was 33.Eight factors of EPA worse than their low earlier than the Detroit recreation.
sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, assistant sports activities editor): I do know individuals speak so much about enjoying within the chilly as an issue, and I often roll my eyes. However was that a issue right here?
neil: The Rams have solely performed 4 video games the place temp was beneath 50 levels within the Sean McVay period.
Salfino: I do know, that temperature stuff. I simply can’t consider these guys from all totally different elements of the nation are instantly capable of solely play in heat climate. However that’s going to be the idea of the case now virtually definitely.
gfoster: The Rams recreation at Detroit was undoubtedly curious. They got here out of the bye utterly flat, Goff performed poorly, and most of the people kinda wrote it off to rust. However now I’m beginning to marvel if groups, as Mike alluded to, are beginning to determine this McVay offense.
Salfino: This type of factor has occurred earlier than. The 1994 49ers staff that gained the Tremendous Bowl and was electrifying on offense laid an egg towards the Eagles that yr, dropping 40-Eight. That they had 189 yards that recreation.
And on protection, the 1985 Bears famously flubbed a primetime recreation towards the Dolphins late within the yr for his or her solely loss that season.
gfoster: That Detroit recreation was in a dome, Sara.
Salfino: This will’t be Cooper Kupp, can it? My concept of enjoying the Rams was to only ignore the operating recreation. I figured a staff that gave them matches would principally concede Gurley. What actually stunned me concerning the Chicago efficiency was that Gurley didn’t even get going. That they had nothing. The Bears didn’t even settle for the sluggish demise of Gurley operating.
sara.ziegler: However why didn’t the Rams even attempt to run Gurley? Solely 11 carries?
neil: Good query, Sara. That they had been virtually precisely balanced (49.7 % cross/50.three % run) on first down, however final night time they handed on 73 % of first downs. Regardless of averaging four.6 yards per keep on the primary downs the place they did run.
Salfino: My feeling watching the sport with Gurley is that the Rams needed to get extensive open passes by faking to Gurley like they often do, after which when that didn’t work, they have been behind the down and distance and needed to straight-up cross, with sometimes disastrous outcomes.
neil: Proper — Goff had a 23.zero passer score on 1st down.
Salfino: What occurs to a play-action offense when nobody buys into the deception? When the protection simply ignores it?
sara.ziegler: I assume I might argue that it is best to simply run the ball.
Particularly with a man like Gurley.
Salfino: Precisely proper. That’s when they need to run. That is in all probability why McVay was so arduous on himself within the post-game.
sara.ziegler: And for good purpose! LOL
gfoster: Let’s speak concerning the ending of the Dolphins-Patriots recreation, which was in all probability the spotlight of the yr. Though, I could also be a fan of the Chris Carson entrance flip a pair weeks in the past.
neil: Unimaginable. Simply take a look at the diagram:
Longest game-winning scoring play in NFL historical past, I consider.
Salfino: Kenyan Drake made one of the best nonlateral determination ever on a lateral play. Or perhaps the worst since anybody aside from Gronk simply tackles him.
gfoster: The funniest sequence of that was when Drake was trying to lateral extra after which you can see him to say to himself, “Oh wait, I can simply run this in from right here.”
sara.ziegler: Gronk undoubtedly failing his defensive audition.
Salfino: Why was Gronk even on the sector? It was not a Hail Mary state of affairs 69 yards from pay dust.
neil: Proper, clearly Ryan Tannehill doesn’t have the arm for that throw within the air. He’s not Patrick Mahomes.
gfoster: Tannehill can throw 80 yards. You didn’t know that?
Salfino: Did Drake simply giggle on the concept of Gronk tackling him?
Gronk seemed like I think about Brady would making an attempt to make that deal with. And sarcastically, he lastly seemed like Gronk on offense.
neil: And Invoice Belichick left Devin McCourty off the sector for that play in favor of Gronkowski. Shades of Malcolm Butler within the Tremendous Bowl. Too cute for his personal good.
sara.ziegler: I simply have to take a second to thank Drake for giving me 12.2 fantasy factors on that play.
Salfino: Fantasy scoring on that play is hilarious. It goes as a Tannehill landing cross. There have been no screams about that as a result of who’s enjoying Tannehill?
sara.ziegler: LOL, good level.
Salfino: How dumb are the Dolphins although for not getting a man as electrical as Drake the ball extra on offense? However they’re 7-6. Should be one of many worst profitable groups at this juncture of the season in reminiscence, however they do personal wins towards the Bears and Patriots.
gfoster: Salfino is just not a Frank Gore fan.
Salfino: OMG, Frank Gore. The dude is a survivor, I’ll give him that. He’s going to finish up within the Corridor of Fame, too. However he’s been only a man for therefore lengthy now.
gfoster: Neil wrote about this lately. Is that this Patriots workforce simply not intimidating?
Gronk’s “protection” is getting the headlines, however he had an enormous recreation offensively Sunday. There’s little question the offense is world’s totally different when he’s wholesome — and it’s onerous to recollect a playoffs when he was remotely wholesome.
Salfino: The Patriots’ drawback is that they lacked offensive upside. However then Tom Brady actually seemed just like the Brady of previous vs. Previous Brady. Gronk received rolling. Gordon was hyper-efficient. The operating recreation was trash, however that’s kind of old-school Patriots too. Even the protection struggling appeared regular. However dropping that recreation was not regular in any respect. In case you advised me New England was going to lose, I’d determine it was their offense flagging the sport.
neil: Though it’s value noting they pressured zero turnovers towards a Tannehill Phins offense.
sara.ziegler: That’s type of the great thing about these lateral performs truly working: It’s a fluke, not a systemic drawback for them.
neil: However that is undoubtedly the kind of toss-up recreation they often discover a option to win, not lose.
sara.ziegler: For positive. Which is what made it so enjoyable!
neil: At the least for 31 fanbases looking for Patriots schadenfreude.
Salfino: I actually thought one of many Patriots and Steelers would emerge within the AFC, and now perhaps each of these groups are going to be enjoying wild-card weekend.
gfoster: There are 4 AFC groups at 7-6: Ravens, Colts, Dolphins, Titans. Which a type of goes to make the playoffs in your eyes? Or will it’s the Browns, Neil?
neil: They’re “within the hunt”!
For the primary time in roughly 30 years.
Salfino: I feel the sixth workforce within the AFC would be the Colts. Andrew Luck is completely out of his shoulder concern and throwing the ball downfield. T.Y. Hilton has almost 600 receiving yards up to now 4 video games. Luck-to-Hilton is perhaps probably the most deadly mixture in soccer proper now.
gfoster: Not Luck-to-Ebron?
neil: For what it’s value, our mannequin thinks the Ravens nonetheless have one of the best probability at 55 %.
sara.ziegler: I just like the Ravens. They have been tremendous unfortunate to lose to the Chiefs.
I imply, come on.
Salfino: The Ravens did every thing proper on protection. Tyreek Hill takes standing eight counts with three totally different accidents. And also you lookup on the finish of the sport and Mahomes has almost 4 payments and the Hill has 139 receiving yards. Spencer Ware appeared very harmful. How can anybody cease the Chiefs?
neil: The diagram on that one is superb, too:
(In case you possibly can’t inform, I’m addicted to those issues.)
Salfino: Just one participant might make that throw, and just one receiver might race to make that catch. The chance for Mahomes-to-Hill ought to have been, like, 50 % 🙂
neil: Perhaps Aaron Rodgers might. However definitely just one QB on a playoff-bound workforce.
Salfino: Sure, perhaps Rodgers.
sara.ziegler: (And he in all probability doesn’t have a receiver this yr who might catch it.)
neil: Which may not have even been Mahomes’ most jaw dropping cross of the day!
Salfino: The Ravens blitzed the hell out of Mahomes, and it actually appeared to offer him matches, however then once more you take a look at the stat sheet and are like, “??????”
gfoster: I might usually say right here that the Chargers might cling with the Chiefs and seem like the AFC’s Tremendous Bowl-bound group. However that was a considerably lifeless effort by them Sunday. Towards Jeff Driskel and doubtless the worst protection within the NFL.
sara.ziegler: I assume we’ll discover that out on Thursday, when the Chiefs and Chargers play.
Salfino: I assumed it was going to be typical Chargers. However perhaps typical Chargers is having simply the second-best group within the convention and someway being the fifth seed. As for the Bengals efficiency, it matches the “letdown recreation” concept between Pittsburgh and Kansas Metropolis.
gfoster: Though, it ought to be famous that Mike Badgley hit 4 of 4 subject objectives, together with a 59 yarder. That really ties the whole of made Chargers subject objectives for the final two seasons.
Salfino: How is Hill going to play that recreation on Thursday? He was like Rocky on the stool on the finish of that Ravens recreation.
The factor concerning the Chargers that’s bizarre is their tempo of play. They have been 29th in performs earlier than final week after which put up one other comparatively low play rely.
Might Mike Tomlin get fired if the Steelers miss the playoffs? Ought to he?
sara.ziegler: Not in mild of the Le’Veon Bell mess, I’m guessing.
The Steelers’ operating recreation was nonexistent, with no James Conner even.
Salfino: Has Bell’s absence even harm the workforce? Sunday was the primary recreation you would say they misplaced due to it, arguably. However the protection couldn’t cease Derek Carr. Take into consideration that sentence within the context of this yr.
gfoster: I don’t assume this Steelers workforce is excellent. They now have the Patriots after which AT the Saints. They might simply be 7-7-1 going into last week.
sara.ziegler: I’ve been amazed all season at how excessive the Steelers’ Elo was. However they only stored profitable — till the previous three video games.
neil: Taking a look at our Elo, although, the Steelers often decide up steam late in seasons. They haven’t had a swoon like this since 2012.
And that yr they might pin it on Charlie Batch beginning some video games.
Salfino: Clarify to me how Roethlisberger goes 25-for-29, the Steelers protection continues to be close to the highest of the league in yards allowed per play, they usually lose to the Raiders. Tomlin completely blows the top of the sport by not calling a timeout, he will get his personal lateral play to work, after which the kicker falls down.
sara.ziegler: Area objective kicking has been about common this yr, at 84.2 % made. However this week was a nasty one for kickers, who made solely 42 subject objectives out of 56 makes an attempt.
Salfino: Steelers vs. Patriots is the sport of the week, however not for the explanations we thought going into the season. These are two determined groups now. The Steelers are teetering on elimination, and New England can’t win the convention with no bye, IMO.
Have you learnt how onerous it’s to cross like Roethlisberger has this yr and have a prime protection in yards per play and nonetheless wrestle to win?
gfoster: They haven’t crushed a very good group this season. Particularly now that we will safely name the Panthers a nasty group.
And the Jags.
And the Falcons.
The Steelers’ greatest win was arguably over the Browns!
Salfino: They actually ought to have crushed the Chargers, although. However you’re proper.
sara.ziegler: And they might have crushed Oakland, if not for his or her kicker falling down.
neil: … one other actually dangerous staff.
Salfino: Are we frightened concerning the Saints? They didn’t actually bounce again in any respect offensively from final week’s loss to the Cowboys. You’ve gotten had the sensation all yr that Sean Payton was apprehensive concerning the depth of his receiving corps, they usually had nothing aside from Michael Thomas on Sunday — and Thomas actually needed to grind it out. Nothing in that recreation towards a horrible Tampa protection was straightforward, which is surprising.
gfoster: However on Thanksgiving, we have been singing the praises of Brees’s means to throw TD passes to 4 totally different guys who walked in off the road and placed on Saints jerseys.
Salfino: I feel the Saints protection is underrated now and the Saints offense is overrated.
gfoster: The place are Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood, Tommylee Lewis and Dan Arnold?
Salfino: Arnold was inactive on Sunday. Crippling loss.
That quartet feels like a rustic rock band lineup.
neil: Are we rattling off Saints WRs or members of the 1973-74 Cavaliers?
Salfino: Good pull, Neil!
gfoster: Brees and the Saints are all the time dangerous in Tampa, it appears. Kinda like how Brady all the time appears to wrestle in Miami. What’s it about Florida?
(Brady was good Sunday, although.)
Salfino: The Saints actually pulled that recreation out of the hearth and it was big. Might give them the No. 1 seed, and I feel they actually need it.
gfoster: Right here’s a query: If we might change the outcomes of one of many slender losses within the first eight weeks, are we speaking concerning the Giants as a sleeper playoff workforce?
neil: Individuals are speaking concerning the Giants as a sleeper playoff group NOW.
(At the very least on WFAN.)
gfoster: They’ve two wins extra spectacular than Pittsburgh: at Texans, Bears.
Salfino: Eli Manning goes to resign the Giants into giving him a lifetime contract. He’s sucking all hope out of their potential QB search.
Eli is the Frank Gore of QBs.
neil: Sara and I theorized that Eli paid Kyle Lauletta to maintain screwing up.
“Right here’s $50, go commit a visitors violation in New Jersey.”
Salfino: Eli’s final 4 wins have been towards opposing QBs Mullen, Fitzpatrick, Daniel, Sanchez.
sara.ziegler: My favourite factor in soccer this season is how dangerous the Giants are at tanking.
Salfino: Precisely! It’s not that tough.
sara.ziegler: Keep in mind when the Giants principally didn’t play Saquon Barkley within the second half towards Philly?
And handed the Eagles that recreation?
Salfino: Though the Jets would have the No. 1 decide proper now if Sam Darnold didn’t mess all of it up by profitable.
neil: Broadway Sam can’t assist himself.
gfoster: A variety of groups are struggling to tank. These guys want to observe extra NBA. The Niners gained’t give up.
Salfino: What about Josh Allen’s insane operating. This isn’t a sustainable QB mannequin, or am I improper?
neil: Did I learn that Allen broke a Mike Vick dashing report Sunday?
Salfino: No QB ever had two consecutive video games of 99+ yards dashing (within the trendy period anyway), and now he has three.
gfoster: He looks like he’s trying to run. You watch a QB like Watson, Rodgers, Mahomes — they’re so reluctant to do it. All the time have eyes down the sector till they bodily cross the road of scrimmage.
Salfino: My principle with Allen is that his operating is so efficient and dependable that it’s hurting his improvement as a passer.
gfoster: He additionally has the worst supporting forged of probably any QB ever.
Salfino: Darnold escapes to throw and never run, too. Particularly on his landing cross Sunday, which was an unimaginable play.
sara.ziegler: Allen is like Bizarro Mahomes.
Salfino: Sara talked about the Eagles. Is their window closing? They’re going to need to rebuild their protection, which is bereft of impression gamers. Their talent gamers are mediocre. Alshon Jeffery just isn’t a No. 1 receiver, remotely. Out of the blue their team-building appears suspect.
sara.ziegler: That they had appeared to be enjoying higher since that walloping by the Saints. However perhaps not a lot.
neil: Will we glance again at 2017 as a bizarre, one-off yr normally?
Eagles benefit from a wierd hiccup within the basic arc of the sport?
Salfino: Particularly profitable with Foles.
gfoster: Another NFC East thought: The Amari Cooper commerce was in all probability probably the most derided entrance workplace transfer of the yr. I personally brazenly laughed at it. Now…
Salfino: The Cooper commerce goes to go down in historical past as one of the best in-season deal. He was the lacking piece. Everybody else is now within the position that they’re suited to be in. Dak Prescott was explosive Sunday. I can’t consider I’m saying it.
The bug for the Cowboys was purported to be their decision-making by Jerry Jones and his household, and that’s turned out to be their power. Critically, identify the group that’s drafted higher just lately than the Cowboys. Now add Cooper to this. God, I hate myself for saying this.
gfoster: The difficulty with that commerce was extra relative to the extensive receiver market. Golden Tate, Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas have been all traded for a much smaller return. The distinction is that previous to the deal, I might have lumped Cooper in with that tier of receiver, nevertheless it’s attainable that his drawback was much more Derek Carr than I assumed.
Salfino: My view is that Cooper is an explosive participant who can take the highest off the protection. These different guys, together with Gordon now, can’t.
gfoster: OK, earlier than we go, I need to get in a single school soccer query off the large information of the weekend: Did Heisman voters get this one proper?
Salfino: Oklahoma someway pulled a Favre to Rodgers in school soccer.
sara.ziegler: I’m nonetheless kinda shocked that Kyler Murray gained.
It actually got here right down to performances within the convention championships.
neil: It’s humorous as a result of the Tua-is-unstoppable narrative had been in place for like two months (or extra). But the indicators have been there that Kyler was a official menace to him. He had a greater NCAA passing effectivity, higher QBR. Betting odds even favored Kyler on Saturday AM.
Salfino: My take is that Alabama can be nice/No. 1 within the nation with just about a typical school QB, however Oklahoma completely should have Murray to rank the place they’re. So Murray is the MVP of school soccer for positive.
gfoster: Right here’s the flip aspect of that: Tagovailoa barely performed within the fourth quarter a lot of the season, whereas Murray was needing to attain 40 to 50 factors each week to beat any staff.
Salfino: I’ve heard the draft individuals concede the Murray can be a first-round decide. Now the query I assume is how excessive? There are not any guidelines anymore after Baker.
sara.ziegler: Until he’s an Oakland A by that time…
gfoster: And, likewise, Mahomes popping out of the identical Massive 12 nonsense soccer that appears like two 11-year-olds enjoying Madden.
Salfino: If Murray is a top-five decide, the monetary calculus modifications dramatically. He might by no means get one other MLB contract. Take a look at ninth-overall picks in historical past, for instance.
neil: Sure it does change the components we checked out right here.
gfoster: All proper, final query:
Shortly give me the Week 14 Tremendous Bowl prediction and No. 1 general decide prediction, since we’ve a authentic race this yr.
neil: I assume I shouldn’t stick to my October decide of the Vikings…
They’re not out of it…
neil: Though who is aware of! We’ll see tonight.
sara.ziegler: I nonetheless assume will probably be the Chiefs out of the AFC, however who is aware of from the NFC.
Even after final night time, I simply can’t get behind the Bears.
gfoster: Sara, simply decide the Vikings, it’s high quality. We’ll overlook about it.
sara.ziegler: I can’t. The second I do, it’s over for them.
Salfino: I feel the Raiders are the favourite for the No. 1 decide as a result of San Francisco goes to face backups towards the Rams in Week 17. I picked Saints-Steelers within the preseason. I’ll stick to the Saints — figuring that Payton figures it out. AFC needs to be the Chiefs now. They do have a cross rush. They completely can’t lose Hill or Kelce although. (And clearly Mahomes.)
Betting on Andy Reid in January although and the Chiefs in January at house, yikes.
sara.ziegler: I’ll take an extended shot for the No. 1 decide with the Jaguars. That’s a workforce that appears prefer it doesn’t care.
neil: I’ll converse for the mannequin and decide the Saints popping out of the NFC. We have now them at 26 % to win all of it. AFC favourite is Chiefs, although I share Mike’s considerations there, regardless of my crush on Mahomes.
And I’ll go together with the Cardinals at No. 1, our mannequin’s decide for the worst document.
Forecasting the race to the underside
Fewest projected 2018 wins based on FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Elo mannequin
Simulated ties included as half-wins.
gfoster: I’m saying Saints over Chargers. Cardinals with the primary decide (they’ve at Seattle and Rams nonetheless).
And if the Chargers get drilled by the Chiefs on Thursday, I’ll sneak into WordPress and delete all of this.
Take a look at our newest NFL predictions.