Sunday, November 20, 2016

Week 11 NFL Notes

Just out of curiosity I wanted to see just how “bad” my Packers’ defense is this year, just to take some of the heat off Aaron Rodgers, who reportedly has some “family” issues. Coming into the game against the Redskins, the Packers were ranked 10th out of 32 teams in total yardage allowed. That sounds “good,” right? 339 yards allowed per game is normally hardly what would be called an “elite” level, and it isn’t. The difference between 10th and 23rd is only 27 yards per game. The more telling statistic is that the Packers were 24th in the league in points allowed, at 26 points per game, and that is bad. What explains this? That the offense is 19th in giveaways, 14 in 9 games? Is that a lot? I suppose, but not compared to the Jets. The Giants have 18 giveaways, and they are 7-3. The Packers defense, on the other hand, has only 10 takeaways, which for an offense as mediocre as the Packers, is distinctly unhelpful. 

The Packers’ offense hasn’t been worse than the opposition in most statistical categories—suggesting a .500 caliber team. What has been “noticeable” is that the Packers have been a team mostly bereft of life in the second half of games, scoring only 65 points in nine games. Over an entire game, that would be an average of 14.4 points per game, behind the Rams. Eventually mediocre play will catch up with a team, especially if the game is already “tight” at half time. The Packers are obviously a team that needs an opportunistic defense to bail out an offense that has been for the most part unable to control the ball—let alone score—in the latter half of games when the most is on the line.

Anyways, Week 11 went thus:

Redskins 42 Packers 24 Well, OK. Rodgers had perhaps his best game in a long time, except for two things: the Packers left points on the field with a missed field goal and Jared Cook's fumble. Make that three things: the Packers' defense gave off an aroma more suited to a pig sty, giving up plays of 70  and 44 yards that resulted in touchdowns, and 66 and 53 yards that only led to touchdowns. And one other thing: Brett Hundley is now 2-7 for 17 yards and an interception. Welcome to your future.

Panthers 23 Saints 20 Statistically, the Saints easily outplayed the Panthers, but when opportunities arise, you have to take advantage of them, which is what the Panthers did. A fumble, and interception, a short field after a punt from the end zone, and a blocked field goal leading to another short field helped the Panthers to a 23-3 lead before they nearly gave the game away as they did last week. The Panthers converted on a 3rd and 10 deep in their own territory in the last minutes after the Saints scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, which allowed them to control the ball just long enough to prevent the Saints from running the one more play the needed to get them into game-tying field goal range before time expired.

Vikings 30 Cardinals 24 The Vikings somehow won this game with hardly any effort on their offense's part. 74 yards in defensive penalties "keyed" two Viking touchdown drives, but it was a 100-yard interception and a 104-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns that prevented a miserable fifth straight loss.

Dolphins 14 Rams 10 The Dolphins won their fifth game in a row in this snooze fest. Until their last two possessions in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins trailed 10-0 and gained only 118 yards of total offense.  Two dumb roughing the passer penalties put the Dolphins in Rams territory on each possession, which was “unnecessary” since for the most part the Ram defense was having its way. The only item of interest (besides the Dolphins getting back into the playoff race), was first overall draft pick Jared Goff getting his first action of the season. He wasn’t horrible by any stretch, but he certainly wasn’t much of an “improvement” over the other guy.

Patriots 30 49ers 17 This was actually a game for three quarters, but Colin Kaepernick is no Russell Wilson. Since Kaepernick “relieved” Blaine Gabbert of his duty to the 49ers, the team is 0-5. Is at least being “competitive” good enough to keep Kaepernick around? Or will the 49ers dump Chip Kelly first?

Seahawks 26 Eagles 15 Thomas Rawls returned to the line-up for the Seahawks. Does that mean the team’s “identity” as a ground control offense has returned? Two plays accounted for 90 of the team’s 152 yards rushing against the Eagles, meaning they gained only 62 yards on 28 carries for an anemic 2.2 yards-per-rush attempt. But against a mistake-prone Eagles who have now lost 5 of 7 games, the Seahawks have another day to “find” their legs—and without C.J. Prosise, who gained 72 of those yards on one pop. 

Steelers 24 Browns 9 Ben Roethlisberger was barely better than Cody Kessler and Josh McCown combined, which is not saying much for him. Le’Veon Bell was the offense in this game, gaining 201 of the Steelers’ 313 total yards all on his own.

Cowboys 27 Ravens 17 OK, so Dak Prescott is going to be the face of the Cowboys for the next 12 to 15 years—just like RGIII was supposed to be for the Redskins and Kaepernick for the 49ers, and Geno Smith for the Jets. Wilson may yet be that for the Seahawks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a major or a string of injuries derails his career before then. Still, one has to admit that Prescott has at least looked better than any of those guys in their rookie campaigns, and this may be a case of just acceptting this season as inevitable, and wait to see if the balloon “pops” as it did for a few of these characters.

Lions 26 Jaguars 19 One of those games where “bad” is a relative thing. The Lions had no business winning this game, but the Jaguars proved once again that a good thing just isn’t worth keeping for teams for which “bad” is the normal state of affairs. An interception returned for a touchdown, and a punt return for the same result, for more of the same results.

Colts 24 Titans 17 The Colts hang on for dear life after an ill-advised deep pass by Andrew Luck on first down was intercepted to give the Titans a shot at tying the game late. The Colts have won all five of their games by a touchdown or less, despite averaging 26.3 points per game overall. Remember the “talk” last season that Luck was “regressing”? He’s still the reason they are even .500 this year.

Bills 16 Bengals 12 Just because your all-pro wide receiver is injured early and likely out for the season doesn’t mean you have to get stupid about it. The Bengals’ defense, despite being ground-up by the Bills ground game, still gave the offense opportunity after opportunity to win the game, but four straight 3-and-outs in the second half were just not going to cut it. Two missed extra points forced the Bengals to go for a touchdown instead of a game-tying field goal when they were finally able to move the ball on their final possession, but 11 passes in the final 2:30 that only got them to the Bills’ 27 as time expired?

Buccaneers 19 Chiefs 17 Jameis Winston might not be a “loser,” but the Chiefs deserve some “credit” for that. An Alex Smith interception in the end zone and a failure to recover Winston’s second fumble of the day soon afterward, prevented another “ugly” Chiefs win. 

Giants 22 Bears 16 After the Giants broke a 16-16 tie with 6:49 left in the third quarter in a fairly entertaining game, the next possessions  were as follows: punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception. The only other “interesting” factoid about this game was that the Bears’ Connor Barth and the Giants’ Robbie Gould were a combined 2 for 5 on extra-points kicks, their three misses contributing to a record-tying 11 misses this Sunday. Think that the NFL should “rethink” the rules on the no longer “automatic” extra-point kicks?

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