• Zone Blitz: Your Official Turkey Week Open Thread



    With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, and a huge week of football in both the college and pro ranks, I've gone solo this week to help you prepare for your football feast. I hope you enjoy, and I look forward to reading your comments below.

    Bad Coaching Epidemic
    Congrats to Jim Caldwell for that vitally important FG that the Lions kicked down 27-6 early in the 4th quarter. I understand that it was 4th and 14, but when your odds of winning (according to PFR) were 0.01% at the time of the kick, and your odds of winning improved by exactly .01% after making the kick (with that .01 negated when they kicked off back to the Pats), what's the point? Why not go for it? Add in two 4th quarter punts called by the usually gutsy Bruce Arians down 2 scores, including one on 4th and 4 with 7 minutes left, plus whatever it is that Mike Smith thinks he's doing, and what exactly is the credential needed to be an NFL head coach?

    Let's examine Mike Smith's decision-making process for a minute. I think we can all agree that it is much easier to control the clock on offense than on defense. At the 2 minute warning, Atlanta had driven into Cleveland territory, and looked like they were handling the clock situation pretty well. Only need a FG to win, once you're in that situation, you can easily call 5-6 plays without even needing a TO, and get out with a win. Out of the break, they ran Steven Jackson for 3 yards to get a 1st down, took 29 seconds before completing a pass for 1 yard to Jacquizz Rogers, then took 28 seconds before hitting Harry Douglas for 7 yards, putting them in range for a 53 yard (dome) FG. Following the Douglas catch, the Falcons, who still had all 3 TOs, had plenty of time to get set, and were in perfect shape to bleed clock, call 3 more plays, and pick up 10-15 more yards, if not force Cleveland into eventually using their TOs. Instead, Smith immediately calls TO with 0:55 left to set up 3rd and 2. The play call coming out of the TO? A low-percentage deep pass to Devin Hester, their #4 WR. The pass goes incomplete, Matt Bryant hits the 53 yarder, and they left the Browns with 0:44 and 3 TOs to drive for a FG.

    Inversely, a few plays later, the Browns complete a pass that gets them to the 30, and immediately call their 3rd TO with 16 seconds left. The announcers go in full-on panic mode-- "What are you doing? Why are you using a TO there? Why leave that much time on the clock? Why risk another play? There's not enough time... blah, blah, blah..." The Browns then proceed to run another play, OVER THE WIDE-OPEN MIDDLE OF THE FIELD NO LESS (how risky to call a play where there are no defenders), then against-all-odds (gasp!) spike the ball with 5 seconds left (that was an option?) and turned the the 48 yard FG that the announcers wanted them to take into a 37 yarder that Billy Cundiff (of "Billy Cundiff" fame) actually had a chance to not shank. Somehow, Cundiff didn't shank the much easier kick (he's shanked much worse, am I right Baltimore?), and the Browns won, thanks to some-- wait for it-- GOOD clock management by Mike Pettine.

    Of course, Pettine isn’t completely absolved from this, as to close the 1st half, he called on Billy Cundiff to try a 60 yarder. Mike Smith, as only Mike Smith can, iced the kicker, allowing Cundiff to prove that he had no chance to make the kick in the process. However, not to be deterred, Pettine allowed Cundiff to try it again, only to have Cundiff’s kick again fall short, giving Devin Hester an opportunity to return it. Hester nearly broke it, returing it inside the 35, but Browns OL Joel Bitonio hustled down the field, and was in position to make the game, and possibly season-saving tackle.



    Week 12 started with a big upset for the Raiders, and Sunday night ends with a really good game as Dallas takes out the GIants despite the ridiculousness of Odell Beckham. In between, we saw the Broncos fend off the dangerous Dolphins, and a duel for the ages between Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick that hearkened us back to the days of Theisman v. Montana circa 1984. http://www.pro-football-reference.co...8409100sfo.htm Strike that, reverse it. I can't remember seeing more pathetic football, especially from a team like SF that's supposedly good. Have these two teams surpassed the Titans as the least enjoyable to watch in all of football? Exactly what has happened to Kaepernick and Griffin that has caused them to become this bad?

    Now, Griffin has been subsequently benched in favor of Colt McCoy. Haven’t we seen this script before with Kirk Cousins? I can’t remember a situation where a team has soured on a top 5 pick, specifically one who looked so good as a rookie, this quickly. I still think there’s success in Griffin’s future. Yes, he has some maturing to do, but hopefully this situation will be his wakeup call. With two parents with a military background, he clearly has that work ethic somewhere within him, and the talent is still undeniable. He’ll get it at some point, but it’s looking less and less likely that his epiphany will happen in Washington.

    Week 13- Turkey Time!
    Week 13 brings us our first full slate of games since week 3, as the bye weeks are finally over. Thursday brings us a particularly strong slate of divisional games, as the NFL gave up on their long-standing tradition of featuring at least 1 AFC team against the Lions or Cowboys, and instead has given us Lions-Bears at 12:30(CBS) and Cowboys-Eagles at 4:30(FOX). The 49ers and Seahawks will give us their version of a bloodbath on Thursday night in Santa Clara on NBC. 5 of these 6 teams are smack in the middle of the heated NFC playoff race, with a very strong possibility that no more than 3 of these teams survive into January. With the West having 3 playoff-quality teams, and a 4th dangerous team in the Rams, don’t be surprised if that’s the division that ultimately ends with only one playoff representative, no matter what happens on Thursday night.

    Super Bowl Preview?
    After passing numerous home tests this year, the Pats get their biggest road test, as they travel to Lambeau in this week’s game of the week. ESPN did a survey of their “experts” this week, and 58% of those experts believe that this is a preview of Super Bowl XLIX (why isn’t it IL?). I’m not ready to declare the NFL season as a foregone conclusion as of yet, but this will be an excellent test for both teams as each prepares to make their championship run.

    NFC South vs. AFC North
    On Sunday, the big story has to be the reprehensible NFC South. The Saints and Falcons are currently tied for the division at 4-7—the first time ever that every team within the division is at least 3 games under .500. The Panthers are only a half game back at 3-6-1, and the Bucs, while only one game away from the top pick in football, are only 2 games back in the division race at 2-9. Meanwhile, the entire AFC North is at least 3 games over .500, and it’s very possible that only one of those teams makes it into the playoffs, with an amazing 11 teams in the AFC currently with at least 6 wins. The one benefit the AFC North has is that 3 of the teams have already completed much of its division schedule, with the exception being Cincinnati, who despite their current 1st place standing, may be in the worst position, having to finish with 3 division games (2 on the road) and one against Denver among their final 5.

    Of course, it just so happens that the NFC South and AFC North have drawn each other on the 2014 schedule, with 2 inter-conference games scheduled for Sunday, with the Saints and Steelers meeting at Heinz Field, while the Bengals travel to Tampa. Add in Atlanta hosting the NFC’s top team in Arizona, and Carolina traveling to Minnesota, and the NFC South is an underdog in each of those 4 games. I’m not ready to parlay anything, but don’t be surprised if/when each team in the NFC South falls back another game in the standings by the end of the day Sunday.

    Now, It’s Your Turn
    That’s all I’ve got for this week. Please comment below on anything you’ve read here, or on any of your own week 13 thoughts. Enjoy your feast, and take some time over the next few days to thank those that have made a difference in your life.

    Comments 29 Comments
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Colts-Redskins. What should have been...
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      No fact/crap this week, but let's discuss this- what are the 5 worst QB situations in the NFL?
    1. brauneyz's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Brian Williams View Post
      No fact/crap this week, but let's discuss this- what are the 5 worst QB situations in the NFL?

      Off the top of my head ...

      Washington - Back to McCoy?
      Tennessee - Do they believe in a healthy Locker?
      Buffalo - Does Orton get a real shot w/o Manual looking over his shoulder?
      Houston - They've seen enough of FitzBeard to keep looking, but have they seen enough of Mallett?
      Jax - Bortles is young, but Jax has been perennially bad for so long it's hard to know how patient they will be.

      None know which direction to go. I'll add Philly and Jesters to the mix because I don't believe they are sold on their QBs either. Who knows? Maybe they'll swap Sanchize and Vick again.

      Oakland is a mess and digging themselves out (I think), but it will take a few more years. I like Derek Carr, but again, who knows what this schizo mgmt. style will run with?
    1. KabaModernFan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Brian Williams View Post
      No fact/crap this week, but let's discuss this- what are the 5 worst QB situations in the NFL?
      New York Jets
      Washington Football Club
      St. Louis Rams
      Buffalo Bills
      Tennessee Titans
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      New York J
      Washington
      Houston
      St. Louis
      Buffalo
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar




    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Brian Williams View Post
      No fact/crap this week, but let's discuss this- what are the 5 worst QB situations in the NFL?
      Washington -- Griffin should be thankful to be within arm's reach of leaving 'Lil Danny the Destroyer's football cesspool.

      Tennessee -- Locker may or may not be the guy. Problem is, the question will never be answered because the dude cannot stay on the field.

      Houston -- Fitzy's not the answer, Mallett is unproven, and don't they have a rookie buried in there as well?

      NY Jets -- Geno stinks. Vick is old and he also stinks. Marty "we'll take the wind in overtime" Morninwheg is the O.C. Do I need to continue?

      St. Louis -- When the 2014 season ends, the Rams will have played 80 games since the 2010 Draft. The guy they drafted fist overall and possessor of the last #1 pick albatross rookie QB contract has started only 49 contests.

      HONORABLE MENTION:

      Detroit -- While his career volume stats are impressive, Matthew Stafford's production since the mid-point of the 2013 season has been atrocious. And if you think Bradford's deal is a weight around the neck of the Rams, go check out Stafford's contract numbers (let's not forget the Lions have extended/restructured #9's deal a couple times to clear up cap space).

      Grrrr...
    1. Nancy's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Brian Williams View Post
      No fact/crap this week, but let's discuss this- what are the 5 worst QB situations in the NFL?
      Houston--Fitzy again? Really? Think they miss Matt Schaub yet?

      Tennessee--Jake Locker and Zach Mettenberger. The Titans are so bad that I don't think the quarterback situation even matters that much at this point.

      Arizona--The defense may carry them for the rest of the season, but I'm not convinced that Stanton is a big-time QB, and I'm doubtful of Palmer's ability to come back quickly from a second knee surgery, so next season could see some ugly QB play.

      New York Jets--Any team that signs Michael Vick automatically goes on my list. The fact that he's been awful and that Geno Smith was awful before him just makes it easier.

      St. Louis--Things may be unpleasant in Washington, but I do think RG III is a genuine talent, Cousins can be competent on occasion, and McCoy is an experienced player. The Rams, however, are in dire straits. Even if Bradford is back next year, he hasn't played a full season since 2012. That's practically a generation in NFL terms If Bradford recovers and plays up to his potential next season, things will be looking up in STL, but he's an unknown quantity at this point. Shaun Hill is 34 and Austin Davis....Ok, who are these guys?
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      A lot of really great stuff this week, Brian.

      To start:

      Quote Originally Posted by BW View Post
      ESPN did a survey of their “experts” this week, and 58% of those experts believe that this is a preview of Super Bowl XLIX (why isn’t it IL?).
      The reason for this, actually, is that conventions for Roman numerals are designed to prevent the same from appearing four times in a row (e.g., 9 is not VIIII but IX, 40 is not XXXX but XL, 90 is not LXXXX but XC, 400 is not CCCC but CD, 900 is not DCCCC but CM, and so on). In this case, there's no need to prevent that quadruple-repeat, so it stays XLIX instead of shifting to IL.

      Maybe we should put keep time with Roman numerals during NFL games to at least give coaches some sort of out when they completely bungle the last couple minutes of a half. Good Lord. And Mike Smith's answer as to why he took a timeout was basically that Cleveland would have used one of theirs anyway. Wait, what?



      It's undoubtedly easier to do this after a win than a loss, but at least Pettine had the self-awareness to say that he 'lost his mind' at the end of the first half. It was also the second time this season (the other being against Tampa Bay) when the Browns were moving the ball late in a half and seemed to be less interested in scoring and more interested in making sure that whatever happened, the opponent wouldn't get the ball back until after halftime. The Tampa Bay drive yielded a field goal, and I understood what they were doing, but that's a fairly disturbing tendency for the team to be adopting. The team looks well-managed, but as much we're all praising Hoyer for his ability to navigate the last two minutes of the second half, they clearly have some misgivings about the offense's ability to push it at the end of the first.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Brian Williams View Post
      No fact/crap this week, but let's discuss this- what are the 5 worst QB situations in the NFL?
      I'm really surprised no one has mentioned Tampa Bay in this yet, because that position group really is atrocious. The numbers themselves aren't that bad for McCown and Glennon, but this team looks so bad on the field. Oh, and they have had Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson to throw to all season. Does any other team you'd even consider for this list have two targets like that?
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Redskins- this is what happens to elite athletes who loose their eliteness. Not sure he ever had to develop th the basic skills when his otherwordly physical talents always made up for any issues. This is similar to all those AAU basketball players who flame out in the NBA.

      Tampa - Lovie will trade for Orton or Rex next year. We've seen this movie before.

      Jets - the problem is the media and fans, with unrealistic expectations and the Ghost of Broadway Joe and his marinated Liver.

      Titans - the problem is the coach, who is still looking for the next big innacurate passer that will succedd in the NFL, but who cant stick to one guy.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Mr. Blank's look:



      Mr. Blank's thought:



      Methinks Mr. Smith's goose is cooked.
    1. Nancy's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Matt Kocsan View Post
      I'm really surprised no one has mentioned Tampa Bay in this yet, because that position group really is atrocious. The numbers themselves aren't that bad for McCown and Glennon, but this team looks so bad on the field. Oh, and they have had Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson to throw to all season. Does any other team you'd even consider for this list have two targets like that?
      I'd say Tampa and Washington are neck-and-neck here, but Washington is overall the bigger and more titillating CF. That said, I don't know when I've seen a worse QB performance than McGown against the Panthers in week 1. He looked like he'd never seen a football before. I'm not sure he knew where he was. I think Glennon has looked less terrible overall, but if anyone has seen evidence that he's particularly special, apart from being really really tall, I'd like to hear it.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      And in the stunner of the day, Reggie Bush is out.

      AGAIN.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Sullivan View Post
      Methinks Mr. Smith's goose is cooked.
      I don't see how it couldn't be. The Falcons have some personnel problems to be sure--the running game, the offensive line, general toughness--but Matt Ryan has entered the prime of his career and the team as a whole has fallen off a cliff. Someone's got to go.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      It feels like this poll has been up on ESPN for the entire week. Obviously, this is the most important question in America:

    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Joe Namath?
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Matt Kocsan View Post
      I don't see how it couldn't be. The Falcons have some personnel problems to be sure--the running game, the offensive line, general toughness--but Matt Ryan has entered the prime of his career and the team as a whole has fallen off a cliff. Someone's got to go.
      I said last year that the Falcons were headed off a cliff with the Dimitroff/Smith duo. That draft day trade for Julio Jones is eating them alive.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Sullivan View Post
      I said last year that the Falcons were headed off a cliff with the Dimitroff/Smith duo. That draft day trade for Julio Jones is eating them alive.
      It's probably not a coincidence that Washington is on this list, speaking of megatrades. The Bills may avoid it if they get lucky in the quarterback draft lottery, since the Watkins trade wasn't nearly as awful.

      The big trade for one piece is almost never worth it. Your team might be one piece away, but it's probably not.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Sullivan View Post
      Joe Namath?
      The Jets could do worse, and they probably will.