IMDb has another alternative to its top 250 film list. I finally took my own list and ranked my top 250 films of all time. Be sure to follow me on Letterboxd if you use that site.
Three months ago, I posted my own top 500 list to celebrate my 5,000th film watched, but at the time I only ranked the top 100 films. Today I took a stab at expanding that to rank the top 250 with 251-500 still ranked alphabetically for the time being.
I’ve slowed my pace of watching in the last three months due to football season, but there was one new entry to the list in that time. I watched The Shop on Main Street (1965) on HBO Max and thought it was incredible with one of the saddest endings ever. I placed that at #248 on my list.
I thought it would be interesting to compare my top 250 to the current IMDb 250, of which I have seen 245 titles.
A total of 128 titles (or just over half) on IMDb also made my top 250. In the two tables below I show where those 128 titles rank for me compared to IMDb, starting with the titles I was most favorable to.
Seven Samurai (#19) and The Apartment (#118) are the only two films I have in the exact same spot as IMDb. Overall, there are 21 films I’m within 10 positions of either way. Apparently I’m lower on Forrest Gump (-202) than most, which makes perfect sense to me.
Finally, here are the 122 titles in my top 250 that IMDb does not have, some of which I’m very surprised to see are gone. Many of these used to be on that list.
Perhaps when I do the next update to rank 251-500, I can look at where those films rank relative to the IMDb list.
Finally, in case you were curious, these are the only five I have yet to see on the IMDb top 250. I’m still confused how Hamilton even counts as a film.
We came into Thanksgiving with one 41-25 final in NFL history, and left Sunday with two more of them in four days. Houston’s 41-25 win over Detroit ended Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn, and it also vaulted Deshaun Watson into No. 1 all-time in passer rating.
Sunday night was a 41-25 victory by the Packers and former record holder Aaron Rodgers over the Bears. It was a bumpy ride in between, with the Broncos literally having no quarterback to face the Saints, and we are still waiting to see if Ravens-Steelers is really happening this week.
Oh yeah, some guy named Patrick Mahomes hit 1,500 career attempts and now officially qualifies for rate statistics.
I Fvcking Love Patrick Mahomes: Week 12 at Buccaneers
Forget the GOAT. What about the perfect quarterback?
The perfect quarterback would be one without a weakness who never has a bad game. This would sound asinine to bring up a couple years ago, but through 47 games of his career, Patrick Mahomes has shown no weakness and he has never had a legitimately bad game.
On Sunday, he had one of his best games yet.
The marquee game of Week 12 was Kansas City at Tampa Bay, and wow, did the Chiefs fire the cannons early. The Mahomes to Tyreek Hill connection has never been better than it was in this game. In the first quarter alone, Hill had 7 catches, 203 yards, 2 TD. The Chiefs led 17-0 and only some issues in the red zone (strip-sack, three straight throwaways) prevented them from scoring 30 in the first half.
On 15 targets, Hill finished with 13 catches, 269 yards and 3 TD. In NFL history, only two other receivers ever hit all three of those marks in a game. Jerry Rice had 14/289/3 for the 49ers against the 1995 Vikings. Jimmy Smith had 15/291/3 for the Jaguars against the vaunted 2000 Ravens.
The 2020 Buccaneers have had a rough month on defense, but this was dynamic stuff from the Chiefs. The Buccaneers and Ravens have been labeled as Super Bowl contenders this year, but in both games on the road, the Chiefs went in there and piled up over 500 yards of offense on each of them in wins.
It actually feels like a disappointment that the Chiefs only scored 27 points given the 543 yards, including 490 total yards from Mahomes. But again, they had the red zone problems in the first half and then three straight punts in the second half, including a would-be 89-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman that the receiver dropped after it was just a little behind him. The Chiefs also punted on drives after Le’Veon Bell was stuffed on two runs (including 3rd-and-2), and on a fourth-quarter drive that was plagued by so many penalties it ended when Mahomes almost fit in a ball on 3rd-and-27 that would have at least set up an important field goal.
You basically have to hope this offense beats itself to have a chance.
However, even after the Buccaneers made it 27-24, Mahomes delivered in the four-minute offense again, draining the final 4:10 on the clock by gaining three first downs (two via his legs, one final third-down dagger to Hill). Mahomes and the Chiefs have been money in the four-minute offense going back to late last season:
You would have expected more from Tom Brady seeing as how CBS commentator Tony Romo deflated his balls for three hours in a way he hasn’t enjoyed since probably his New England days.
Honestly, if Romo never does another Brady game, it would be a gift to the football world. He could not find any fault with anything Brady has been doing this season, or even in this game where he started by sailing several passes nowhere close to a receiver. Romo saw drops when there was only inaccuracy, he saw miscommunication when balls flew over open receiver’s heads, and he thought a checkdown to Leonard Fournette that lost yards was “awesome” before basically blaming Brady missing an open receiver on the Bucs not running this play enough.
Not even John Madden would have stooped to this level of ass-sucking for Brett Favre during his 2005-06 rough patch in Green Bay. It was that atrocious to listen to.
Meanwhile, the player in this game who actually looks like he could be the greatest to ever play it, adds another memorable game to his growing list. This is the first time Mahomes has won a game in regulation in which he threw more than 45 passes (49).
Now that he has 1,500 career attempts, all those records like highest passer rating, most passing yards per game, and most passing touchdowns per game officially are in Mahomes’ name.
Romo still believes this is going to be the Super Bowl matchup in Tampa in February. After seeing Tampa Bay as of late, that doesn’t seem too likely. However, it does seem more than likely that we’ll watch the Buccaneers in the Wild Card round, and after falling behind by double digits, the TV analyst will remind us that Brady didn’t have a preseason with this team and they’re still figuring things out. You know, very normal things you would bring up about a team in their 17th game of the season.
Modern NFL audiences don’t really know how to handle the best team having the legitimately best quarterback at the same time.
As long as Peyton Manning was around, Tom Brady was not the best QB when the Patriots were the best team.
Troy Aikman in Dallas was never the best QB in the league; not when Brett Favre and Steve Young were around.
Yes, Joe Montana with the 49ers. For a brief period in 1989-90 this dynamic existed, but keep in mind the dynasty of the 80s was a toss-up until the 49ers repeated and won their fourth in 1989. Don’t just forget about the brutal period of 1985-87 where they lost three playoff games in a row and Montana was almost replaced permanently by Young. Montana won MVP in 1989 and 1990, but the three-peat was not to be after Montana was injured and Roger Craig fumbled against the Giants in the 1990 NFC Championship Game. Earlier in the decade when Montana had two rings and uneven playoff performances, the Redskins beat them to three rings and Dan Marino was the dominant, record-setting quarterback for 1983-87. Montana really didn’t get back on top until that 1988 playoff run led into a historic 1989 season.
I’ll always be fond of the Steelers and can admit this was before my time, but I have little doubt that Roger Staubach – not Terry Bradshaw – was the best quarterback in the 1970s. Just like how I’d say the same about Johnny Unitas when Bart Starr (reality: Vince Lombardi) was leading the Packers to five championships in the 60s.
It would be a massive disappointment if this Chiefs team did not have a dynasty run, or at least end this historic drought of a repeat champion. This is different than the 2009-10 Saints or 2010-11 Packers or 2013-14 Seahawks. They’re different mostly because of Mahomes.
He’s Perfect Pat, or Patrick “Mr. Perfect” Mahomes. Are those good nicknames? Beats me. How do people say Tom Terrific and not feel their soul melt? All I know is in 15 years, I hope I’m still here to see Mahomes playing great, and that Tony Romo will be there giving him fellatio for a full broadcast.
Saints at Broncos: Fake Diesel vs. Fake Razor Ramon
It is still hard to believe this game happened the way it did in Denver. The Broncos had all four quarterbacks sidelined with COVID-19 due to Jeff Driskel’s positive test and the failure of the rest of the crew to wear masks. I get that they did wrong, but you’re going to tell me you can delay games a week (like Patriots-Broncos), or several days in Baltimore’s case, but not push this one back a day or two so the Broncos could develop some sort of offensive game plan? They had not even 24 hours before it was ruled on Saturday that those quarterbacks were ineligible to play. The point spread went from Denver +6 to Denver +17, and even that proved to be too generous.
It’s bad enough Taysom Hill was pretending to be a starting quarterback in place of Drew Brees, but now this? Imagine if the WWF in 1994 scheduled Diesel vs. Razor Ramon as the main event on Monday Night Raw, then put fake Diesel and fake Razor out there and acted like everything was legit. That was this game.
Clearly, the integrity of the game was sacrificed by letting this game happen on Sunday. The Broncos lost 31-3, completed 1-of-9 passes for 13 yards with two interceptions, and took one sack as they started running back Phillip Lindsay in the Wildcat before using practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton as the “quarterback” for the game.
The teams combined for 75 net passing yards, the fewest in an NFL game since the 2009 Jets-Bengals finished with 63 in a season finale NBC was stuck televising since it pushed Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan’s Jets into the playoffs. The Bengals just wanted to rest Carson Palmer and company before losing to the Jets in the Wild Card the next week too.
The Broncos are the first team to complete one pass in a game since the legendary Cody Pickett performance in 2005 for the 49ers against the Bears.
Maybe the most depressing stat: despite trailing by 14-28 points the whole second half, the Broncos attempted just three pass plays after halftime. They wanted to get this embarrassment over with. The game finished in a speedy 2 hours and 40 minutes.
The Saints won 31-3 despite Taysom Hill completing 9 passes for 78 yards with three sacks. Last week, Alvin Kamara had the first game of his career with zero catches. This week, he had one catch, but for -2 yards.
What a mess. To be honest, I wish the Broncos would have tried some more trick plays. You basically had a free week to do anything you wanted without any real criticism. It’s an outright shame that Hinton was the only Denver player to throw a pass. Jerry Jeudy should have thrown one. They should have done a fake punt. Lindsay could have thrown a pass to Hinton, who is a wide receiver after all. He’s just never played in the NFL before Sunday, and that was the big problem.
At least if this happened in past years to a team like Pittsburgh, they could have put Hines Ward or Antwaan Randle El in the emergency QB spot. They not only had college QB experience, but they knew the playbook well from playing receiver. Hinton is a nobody from the practice squad. That’s also likely why we didn’t see much from Denver as there just was not enough time to get him ready to run plays. Still, drawing up a few things in the dirt on the sideline during the game should have happened to make this a bit more fun to watch.
Instead it will just go down as one of the saddest game experiences in NFL history.
Old-School New England Win
This might sound familiar. The undermanned Patriots, hosting a playoff-hopeful team from Arizona, picked up a 20-17 win on a long, clutch, last-second field goal after the Patriots’ quarterback had a lousy game (but got benefit of the doubt on a controversial penalty), the defense made a red-zone stop on fourth down before halftime, and the opposing kicker blew a go-ahead field goal with 1:47 left.
Just like how you used to draw them up, right Billy Boy?
I picked the Patriots to win this game, because I thought Kliff Kingsbury would shit his pants in his first game against Belichick. I think it’s fair to say he did just that. Kingsbury decided to go for a 4th-and-1 at the NE 1 to end the first half, leading 10-7. It’s really not a bad decision, but you lose the benefit of putting New England in poor field position if it doesn’t work, because this was to end the half. So you’re basically passing on three free points while also getting the ball first in the third quarter. Also, the Cardinals were getting solid pressure on Cam Newton and already hit him to force an interception. He didn’t look capable of leading a big offensive output in this one. I take my 13-7 lead into halftime and prepare my double score on the next drive.
But Kenyan Drake was stuffed, adding another memorable goal-line stand to a defense that has the most of anyone in the last two decades. The Cardinals also didn’t score for several more drives, and Kyler Murray’s interception set up a short field that Newton took advantage of for a go-ahead touchdown.
Arizona tied the game at 17 in the fourth quarter on a drive that took forever and was aided by multiple penalties on the Patriots. Newton’s second pick with 4:27 left seemed like it would prove costly, but Kingsbury screwed up again. Remember that big boy aggression he showed before halftime? He faced 4th-and-1 at the NE 27 with 1:52 left after the Patriots used their final timeout. That means he had a chance to convert and set up the game-winning field goal as the final play of the game. Kicking here, with your obviously shaky kicker, means you’re banking on a 45-yard field goal and your defense to stop Newton in four-down mode with almost two full minutes.
I know it would sound sacrilegious even 5-10 years
ago to bypass a field goal here, but the game has changed. Even bad offenses can get into field goal range quickly enough now given four downs, a heavy reliance on passing, mobile quarterbacks, and a lot of kickers can make from 50-plus now.
Kingsbury cowered again, and for the third time this year, Zane Gonzalez missed a clutch field goal. The Patriots almost went three-and-out, but Newton was able to scramble for 14 yards on 3rd-and-13, plus 15 more yards for a high hit that was however in bounds. That call was shaky and basically put New England in field goal range. Nick Folk hit from 50 yards out and the Patriots are now 5-6.
The three worst QBR games in a win this season have all happened in this stadium.
Lowest ESPN QBR in a win, 2020
1. Cam Newton vs. Cardinals – 6.6
2. Drew Lock at Patriots – 13.8
3. Cam Newton vs. Raiders – 21.2
Maybe it’s a good thing fans aren’t there to watch this.
It was just in Week 9 against Miami when Gonzalez missed a 49-yard game-tying field goal with 1:53 left in a 34-31 loss where Murray was outstanding. Murray was far from outstanding in this game, but he played better than the winning QB, Newton.
This also means that in November 2020 alone, Kyler Murray (two) has lost more games after his kicker missed a clutch field goal than Tom Brady (one) has had in his 338-game career.
Interestingly enough, Brady’s lone loss was in 2012 against the Cardinals when Stephen Gostkowski missed from 42 yards out in a 20-18 loss. Before you say luck evens out, not so fast. When these teams met in 2016, Arizona lost 23-21 after Chandler Catanzaro missed a 47-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in a game Jimmy Garoppolo started for a suspended Brady.
Two decades of the best clutch kicking skill (and luck) for New England.
Justin Herbert’s First Bad Game
Well, it was fun while it lasted to say that, like Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert doesn’t have bad games. The rookie had seven straight games with multiple touchdown passes, but only threw one in Sunday’s 27-17 loss at Buffalo. Herbert had a bad interception that set up Buffalo’s final field goal and the two-score margin. It is also only the second time Herbert was held under 20 points as a starter. The last time was his second start against Carolina, a game where he still threw for 330 yards and would have had a game-winning touchdown pass if a beautiful lateral pitch was not dropped by Austin Ekeler.
Ekeler returned to action on Sunday with mixed results. He only rushed for 44 yards on 14 carries, and Herbert seemed to rely on him too much in the passing game, completing 11-of-16 targets for 85 yards.
Herbert failed to get any completion of over 15 yards against a shaky Buffalo defense until he threw a 55-yard Hail Mary on 4th-and-27 in the closing minute, down 10 points. That could have saved the spread (+4.5), the over, and given him another multi-touchdown pass and 24+ point start, but the Chargers bungled the situation in the most Charger way possible. Instead of running up to spike the ball or throw another pass with 25 seconds left, the Chargers ran Ekeler for a yard to the 1-yard line. By the time the Chargers ran another play there were only 8 seconds left. Keep in mind they clearly needed a quick touchdown, then an onside kick recovery with enough time to set up a field goal. The run call was just inexcusable in that situation.
Earlier in the quarter, head coach Anthony Lynn called a timeout before still kicking a field goal on 4th-and-4. The field goal was fine. The problem was burning the timeout, and he didn’t even burn it quickly to save clock. Also, he went for a 4th-and-1 at the Buffalo 25 to start the quarter when the Chargers were down 10 when he should have been kicking then. That way he could go for it on fourth down next time, down a touchdown.
Oh yeah, Lynn also flirted with a fourth down before halftime at midfield before calling a timeout at 21 seconds before punting. Why not just go for it? If not, why use a timeout? Make Buffalo use a timeout to get the ball back.
Joey Bosa (3.0 sacks and fumble recovery) was amazing, Herbert was disappointing, and Buffalo’s offense was a bummer too to be honest. But Lynn was also a real sore spot for the Chargers, now 3-8, and I think that’s why we will see a change at head coach for the Chargers in 2021.
Adios, Matt Patricia (Who’s Next?)
With the Matt Patricia era over in Detroit, I must point out just how laughably bad he was in managing close games. Patricia’s Lions were 3-15-1 (.184) in fourth-quarter comeback opportunities and 5-16-1 (.250) in all game-winning drive opportunities. Here is how that stacks up to the other 31 current coaches:
You can see Patricia had the worst record of anyone in at least their third season. Of the coaches below him, you have Matt Rhule at 0-7 with Carolina. He is safe as a first-year coach, but there is no denying that offense has been a big disappointment with Teddy Bridgewater and company when it comes to closing out games. On Sunday, they blew an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter to the Vikings, not known for many comebacks with Kirk Cousins. Rhule committed the deadly sin of kicking a field goal to take a 6-point lead with nearly a full two minutes left. He did it facing a fourth-and-goal at the 3 too. Cousins marched down for the game-winning touchdown while the Panthers in return missed on a 54-yard field goal to end the game.
Meanwhile, Zac Taylor and Joe Judge met in likely the only game they’ll ever meet in the NFL (as head coaches at least) as the Giants beat the Bengals 19-17. Taylor (0-12-1) and Judge (0-5) have a combined 0-17-1 record at game-winning drive opportunities. The Giants were up 19-10 with under four minutes to play despite having to finish the game with Colt McCoy after Daniel Jones was injured. The Bengals were in this one with Brandon Allen at QB and even got the ball back at the 50 with 57 seconds to go, only needing a field goal. That’s a great situation to be in, and it likely sets up a field goal if Joe Burrow was still the quarterback. However, on the very first play Allen took a sack and fumbled to end the game.
Taylor is 0-22-1 when the Bengals trail after the 12:00 mark of the third quarter.
Do you know who else got a pass for losing his quarterback for half the season in his second year? Matt Patricia (2019). Maybe the Bengals ought to be thinking about “two-and-done” in this case. That’s still an improvement over what one-and-done usually means in Cincinnati.
I had a few topics lined up for Week 12 here, but after doomscrolling on Twitter this afternoon, I’ve lost some interest in covering them.
With COVID-19 raging, are we about to see this NFL season get indefinitely suspended, or hit with a significant drop in quality to the games?
It’s bad enough we were already entering the “Mike Glennon and Brandon Allen start games for teams going nowhere” phase of the season. It’s disappointing we could see a Tuesday game between the Steelers and Ravens with JV backfields and RGIII in place of Lamar Jackson, if the game even happens at all in Week 12. It’s even downright scary that a player with a history of cancer (James Conner) has tested positive while a player with diabetes (Baltimore TE Mark Andrews) is on a team with one of the worst outbreaks of 2020.
The NFL had some flexibility with bye weeks earlier this season to move games around, but almost all the byes are gone now, and cases are at an all-time high and popping up on multiple teams. Adam Thielen is not expected to play because of COVID. Larry Fitzgerald has tested positive for COVID.
Pretty soon, every game on the schedule will have at least one player out due to COVID. That’s where things are headed. The only question is how much more of this needs to happen before the NFL takes pause and reconsiders how to finish this season in a way that doesn’t expose a large percentage of the players, the money makers in this business, to a virus that we still don’t know the long-term effects of on our organs.
I’d say enjoy the games while they last, because it’s getting tougher by the week to keep this thing going without a bubble.
Ben Roethlisberger Is Still a Top 10 QB
I could have made a post about this, and maybe still will, but on Friday I decided to do a Twitter thread about some of the blatant disrespect over Ben Roethlisberger’s 2020 season.
While I wouldn’t pick him for MVP right now, and I’m not even sure this is the best he’s ever played, I know he’s done a great job for what the Steelers ask him to do this season. It is different from past seasons, but it’s been effective and they’re winning every week on top of it. He’s not getting easy chunk plays or tossing 2-yard touchdown passes to pad his total this season. He’s throwing with better anticipation than ever before and not taking many sacks at all to help his line out. It works for them.
Maybe some quarterbacks have better surface stats this year, but there’s a lot of hollowness to the numbers for Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Teddy Bridgewater, Jared Goff, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, etc. I can’t buy those guys having a better 2020 than Ben is. When I look through the divisions and how the quarterbacks are playing this year, I don’t see how Roethlisberger can be left out of the top 10.
That’s my top 10 in alphabetical order. That’s a hell of a thing to say a QB is holding a team back when said team is 10-0, fourth in scoring, the best scoring differential in the league, and the QB has 24 TD to 5 INT with a barely functioning running game.
Chiefs at Buccaneers: Handshake or No?
Normally I would be amped up to write a big preview about this game, but between the COVID news and the way Tampa Bay is struggling, I’m not that hyped about it right now. Sure, it probably still is the regular-season game most likely to be a Super Bowl preview, but that’s more because the AFC North (Steelers and Ravens) is playing the hopeless NFC East, Drew Brees broke two more ribs carving the Thanksgiving turey, and Super Bowls like Bills-Seahawks or Colts-Packers feel like big longshots.
Green Bay is the only team in the last eight games to not score at least 20 on Tampa Bay, so I’m not concerned with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs being able to put up their usual scoring output on this defense. Sammy Watkins is also expected to return, so the less Demarcus Robinson, the better.
The more decisive matchup should be the Tampa Bay offense vs. Kansas City defense. The Chiefs have allowed over 30 points in their last two games, looking mystified again vs. the Raiders and giving up a lot of wild plays to a game Carolina team before that.
Tom Brady was awful on Monday night against the Rams. He was horrific in Week 9 against the Saints at home as well. Those are two of the three games since the team acquired Antonio Brown. I find it interesting that Brown has 26 targets the last three weeks, or as many as Mike Evans and four more than Chris Godwin. Yet those guys have more yards and touchdowns in that time. They’re the established Tampa Bay receivers, but Brady has to feed AB’s ego (and his own) to justify the move that was largely his making in bringing the troublemaker to Tampa. If things don’t improve soon, at what point should Evans and Godwin feel like they’re getting the shaft in this arrangement?
Speaking of egos, I will point out that Brady shook Mahomes’ hand after the Chiefs beat New England last season. That’s a rare sign of respect from Brady, because you usually have to be a Manning brother or Drew Brees to get him at midfield after beating him instead of watching him run off the field. The fact that people have brought up COVID in defense of Brady doing that after losses (but not after wins) this season is absurd. Here’s a video I put together from the 2009 season of Brady doing what he’s done for most of his NFL career after losing:
So we’ll see if this is a handshake game or not. After their first three losses this year, Tampa Bay won the next game by double digits. I just get the sense that Brady will magically look better this week against a struggling defense, and the Tampa defense will do just enough to slow down Mahomes.
Final: Buccaneers 31, Chiefs 28
NFL Week 12 Predictions
I was 2-0 ATS on Thanksgiving, but there aren’t many underdogs I like this week outside of the Patriots. Just feels like a game where they can move the ball on the Arizona defense. Cam Newton has been playing better in recent weeks.
We’ll see if BAL-PIT is still a go or not this week.
On Tuesday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame released the list of 25 modern-era semifinalists for the 2021 class. The list includes four players eligible for the first time and four older players making their first semifinalist list:
Eric Allen (first-time semifinalist)
Jared Allen (first-year eligible)
Willie Anderson (first-time semifinalist)
Cornelius Bennett (first-time semifinalist)
Rodney Harrison (first-time semifinalist)
Calvin Johnson (first-year eligible)
Peyton Manning (first-year eligible)
Clay Matthews (final year of eligibility)
Charles Woodson (first-year eligible)
The first-ballot choices are interesting, because there has never been a HOF class with more than three of them. I think that trend will continue as voters will wait on Calvin Johnson because of an early retirement, and Jared Allen isn’t a lock to go right in either. Remember, Michael Strahan had to wait until his second year. But I do believe all four will be in soon enough.
Clay Matthews (Sr.) is in his final year of eligibility, but much like Carl Banks a year ago, I do not see a strong push for him. He’ll get added to the senior list next year.
I’m not convinced any of the four first-time semifinalists are going much further in the process. In fact, I don’t see Willie Anderson, Rodney Harrison, Cornelius Bennett, or Eric Allen making the Hall of Fame at all. Maybe as senior selections some day. Harrison, despite an indisputable reputation as a dirty cheater, has the best shot of the four due to his postseason success with New England. He should have been the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX against Philadelphia.
Here are my predictions for the 15 finalists:
Finally, these are the five players I predict to make up the 2021 modern-era class:
Now if only we could get a ceremony next year as we already didn’t have an oversized one in 2020 for the centennial class. Manning deserves a big audience to close the night, or the end of a long week after the Hall of Fame will have 28 people to induct in 2021.
With all this foresight you might think I had a profitable week, but somehow my fate rests in Tom Brady covering a 4-point spread in a game ripe for him to get all the credit for a 3-point win against the Rams. Fun.
No really, I did enjoy this Week 11. It lived up to what looked like a strong week on paper. The only terrible part, aside from seeing Jake Luton throw, was seeing Joe Burrow suffer a season-ending injury. Now there is literally no reason to watch or care about a Cincinnati game the rest of the season. I hope he’s 100% come 2021, and that they build a better team around him.
As I start to write this at 4:15 AM, I’m not sure I want to get too in-depth with this week’s recap since I know it has only three parts: brief look at the Steelers’ effort to hit 10-0, the ridiculous ending of Packers-Colts, and being thankful that I’m watching Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs every week.
I Fvcking Love Patrick Mahomes
In all seriousness, I am considering devoting a whole section to this blog for how incredible Patrick Mahomes is at quarterback. We are taking things for granted that we just should not be doing with this guy so soon, 46 games into his career.
Sure, I am glad that Mahomes had my back when I said the Raiders’ Week 5 win was the anomaly of the season and wouldn’t happen again on Sunday night.
To his credit, Derek Carr was still pretty great in this game, just in a different way from Week 5. The Raiders did not have a 30-yard play this time, and they didn’t have a play over 21 yards after the first three minutes of the game. But both offenses marched up and down the field with scoring drives that really left little margin for error.
Mahomes even made an error before halftime with his second interception of 2020, both against the Raiders. That could have been crucial in a game where the Chiefs only had eight offensive possessions.
Yet, on eight drives, Mahomes led the Chiefs to five touchdowns. I mentioned how in Week 5 that it was the only time all season a defense stopped the Chiefs on four straight drives. The Raiders got three stops all night in this one. A second-quarter stop was a punt on a drive derailed by penalties (face mask and false start leading to 2nd-and-25) on Kansas City’s lesser wideouts. In the fourth quarter, the Chiefs went three-and-out after a 4-yard loss on a first-down run and a false start by Travis Kelce led to a 3rd-and-16 that Mahomes could not produce a miracle on.
If there was ever a weakness in Mahomes’ game in the NFL, he solved it quickly. If this was a 2018 game, the Chiefs probably lose this one. Mahomes would have forced some pass he shouldn’t have, and that mistake you saw before halftime may have doubled and made the difference in a 31-28 defeat.
But now Mahomes is simply taking what the defense gives him, and this game was maybe the greatest example of that yet.
Kansas City had 36 first downs, a total that has only been surpassed eight times in NFL history (three in games that went to overtime). The drive engineering was off the charts for the Chiefs. They had three touchdown drives that were at least 12 plays and 85 yards.
This only happens on nights where the big plays are not happening. Mahomes’ four longest completions of the game were 19-22 yards, all caught by Kelce. The Chiefs lived on 9-yard gains all night.
Mahomes is probably the only quarterback I can enjoy running a dink-and-dunk offense. A big reason for that is that the way he backpedals so deep in the pocket, his short throws are still longer than the average quarterback’s throws to that depth of the field. This also makes him harder to sack, which he avoided all night despite attempting 45 passes.
When Mahomes got the ball back with 1:43 left, trailing 31-28, I would be lying if I said victory felt inevitable. Getting into field goal range felt inevitable with the way the NFL is these days, but little did I expect the touchdown drive to look as easy as Mahomes made it. Seven passes, six completions, and he saved his longest one of the night (22 yards) to a wide open Kelce in the end zone with 28 seconds left.
On a day where three MVPs (Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers) had the ball in the final 2:00, down a field goal, only Mahomes was able to get the game-winning touchdown, which he made look easy. The other two got to the red zone and had to settle for game-tying field goals (and overtime losses).
Kansas City’s defense has some serious problems to solve with Jon Gruden’s offense should the teams meet a third time in the playoffs. But as long as Mahomes is at quarterback, you have to like this team’s chances not only to win, but to do it impressively.
Up next: Chiefs travel to Tampa Bay in a game that just might get a little hype and attention this week.
Undefeated Watch: Thanks, Jake Luton
It is not lost on me that the Steelers have played such an easy schedule that if they do go 16-0, it doesn’t touch what the Patriots did in 2007. I hate to admit that, but it’s undeniably the truth. At least those Patriots beat the Cowboys and Colts, arguably the second and third-best NFL teams that year. Pittsburgh’s big road wins over Tennessee and Baltimore lose their luster a little more each week. Even the blowout over Cleveland is what might be a win over the worst 7-3 team ever. In the last three weeks, the Steelers have taken care of the Cowboys (barely) with Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, the Bengals with a green Joe Burrow, and now the real cherry on top of this shit schedule sandwich: Jake Luton and the Jaguars.
I am glad to see the Steelers winning 36-10 and 27-3 the last two weeks like they should be, but Luton was hard-to-believe horrible on Sunday. It was the worst game I’ve seen from a quarterback this year since… well, since Tom Brady played the Saints at home.
While Luton didn’t lose by five touchdowns like a Florida chump, that’s because the Steelers weren’t at their sharpest offensively. It was a good performance by Ben Roethlisberger and company, but not a great one. They still hit 27 points again. Luton threw four interceptions and had several more passes that were nearly picked or tipped by Pittsburgh defenders. The only thing I really learned about Jacksonville in this game is that Luton should not be starting for any team right now.
Definitely a trap game in past years, it’s nice that the Steelers got an easy win and can go into Thursday night’s battle with Baltimore with the goal of ending their rival’s division title hopes.
I’m still not on the 16-0 bandwagon until I see the win in Buffalo, but I know that’s not the ultimate goal. It would be great to see the Steelers finish 18-1 and still make it count for something, unlike the 2007 Patriots. Plus, if the Steelers beat the Chiefs in the playoffs, there is no better validation of their season than that.
Packers at Colts: Hold Up
This was not your classic Green Bay road loss to a good team, because the Packers actually scored four touchdowns in the first half and Aaron Rodgers only took one sack in the game. However, the four giveaways and near shutout in the second half while the Colts kept grinding away fits in nicely with what we’ve seen from Green Bay since 2011.
I want to focus on the absurd final minutes in regulation to this one.
After Rodgers failed on a 4th-and-1 pass with 3:06 left, the Colts, leading 31-28, had a chance to ice this game. The Packers did not even crack 275 yards of offense yet, which would have been the seventh time in 10 games the Colts held a team under 300 yards this year (most in NFL). No one has been able to gain 400 yards yet on the Colts either. I know yards are not the best metric, but in a season where offenses average 360 yards per game (an all-time high), what the Colts do to limit that is worth noting if you ask me.
The drive even started great with Philip Rivers hitting a 14-yard pass to get an instant first down. That took the clock down to 2:22, then things started getting crazy. There were five straight instances where a penalty was called: two on Green Bay, three on Indy. That stopped the clock every single time, as did a 15-yard completion by Rivers at the two-minute warning on the resulting 3rd-and-19.
Somehow the Colts snapped the ball five times and only burned 24 seconds.
With 1:58 left, coach Frank Reich had a big decision. Do you go for it on 4th-and-4, or do you kick a 54-yard field goal to take a 6-point lead? The 6-point lead is poison there, giving Rodgers nearly two minutes (plus all three timeouts) to beat you with a touchdown. Pinning them deep with a punt is another option, but that’s going to look really awful if you get a touchback or a bad punt. So why not just go for it given it’s makeable and you don’t want Rodgers to touch the ball again?
That is what I would have done, and that’s what Reich did. Rivers delivered with the slant for 13 yards, and Green Bay had to burn the first timeout at 1:55. Now the game was not over, but worst-case scenario, you give Rodgers the ball back with under a minute to go, needing a touchdown. But the Colts botched it again because they kept getting called for holding. In fact, they were flagged nine times for offensive holding in this game. I don’t know if they were all legit, but in a season where that penalty has been called far less than usual, that feels like an absurd amount.
To make matters worse, Rivers threw an incomplete pass on 1st-and-20 after one holding penalty. Rivers ended up taking a sack on 3rd-and-26 to take the Colts out of field goal range.
Incredibly, the Packers managed to get the ball back at their own 6 with 1:25 and one timeout left. That means from the 2:22 mark, the Colts snapped the ball 12 times and only burned 57 seconds and still saved the Packers a timeout. I have never seen anything like it.
After Rodgers hit a 47-yard deep ball, it felt like the Colts were going to blow this one. However, the Packers had their own clock management issues with Rodgers using two spikes where he really didn’t need to rush like that and could save the down. The drive ended with a field goal and we had overtime.
You know the rest from there. Marquez Valdes-Scantling fumbled two snaps into overtime, setting up the Colts for maybe the easiest game-winning drive of Rivers’ career. Three handoffs for 8 yards and a 39-yard field goal for the win.
For Green Bay, what more can be said? We’ve seen this script too often before. This was really the last good road test for the Packers before a potential playoff trip somewhere in January.
For the Colts, can they close the gap with Buffalo and creep up to being the third-best team in the AFC this year? They still have to play Tennessee, Houston twice, Pittsburgh and the Raiders, but this team is interesting. If you remember that they’re the only team to hold Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs under 23 points, then you could see how a 3/2 playoff matchup in Arrowhead could be very intriguing if the Colts finish that high.
I’m being told that the Colts were flagged three more times for offensive holding since I started this section. Oh well, better luck at not getting called next week.
This is probably the worst NFL season to write game previews due to the coronavirus making it difficult to judge which players are going to be allowed to play that weekend.
So naturally, it’s the season where I started writing them weekly at Sportsbook Review. I wrote about Eagles-Browns before finding out Myles Garrett has COVID-19. I also did Packers-Colts this week, a game that could be a really good one on a solid looking Sunday slate.
I’m most proud of my Chiefs-Raiders preview. I think it’s the best one I’ve written this season, really parsing out the anomalies the Raiders and Chiefs had in Week 5 to produce the biggest upset of the season so far.
But the one that bugs me the most this week is my Falcons-Saints preview, something I turned in around Wednesday. I really just assumed Jameis Winston would start the game for Drew Brees while Taysom Hill was sprinkled in to run his usual QB draw plays here and there. Either way, I liked the Falcons to pull off the upset when they were a 5-point favorite.
Come Friday, we hear that Hill is starting the game and there’s no offensive package planned for Winston. Ain’t that a bitch? So Hill is the only QB in New Orleans who is allowed to play 100% of the snaps in this offense. Either he has dirt on Sean Payton or he is his love child. It just hasn’t made sense what he sees in Mormon Tim Tebow, but unfortunately it’s up to the Atlanta defense to put an end to the madness with a good showing.
The spread has dropped from 5 to 3.5, and I’m still going with Atlanta, but the game has to be one of the highest variance outcomes this week. Not a good one to bet on other than the over on Hill’s rushing yards (about 40.5 right now) since he loves to keep the ball on those plays.
Personally, I would have started Winston. Sure, he might throw three interceptions, but he can also throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Hill might fumble three times while only passing for 130 yards. I think the Falcons are catching the Saints at the right time and they’ll even get them without Brees again in a few weeks.
NFL Week 11 Predictions
Finally, I had a good read on TNF when I picked the Seahawks in a less offensive rematch against the Cardinals.
It would really fill out the Chargers’ BINGO card to lose to the 0-9 Jets, but I still picked the Chargers in that one. I probably should at least take the Jets ATS, but oh well, let’s leave it for now.
Update: Missed DET (-1.5) at CAR. I’ll take the Lions in that one.
Just past the midpoint of 2020, I always like to weigh in on the NFL MVP race around this time. In my first non-game preview piece for Sportsbook Review, I looked at the MVP cases for the three leaders according to the oddsmakers at Bovada: Russell Wilson (+185), Patrick Mahomes (+200), and Aaron Rodgers (+333).
How close is this thing? I wrote that article just before MNF and the odds have changed again as the bets pour in. Mahomes (+180) is the favorite, followed by Wilson (+225), Rodgers (+300), and Kyler Murray (+550) has crept up to fourth after Sunday’s memorable comeback win. Murray was +700 on Monday night, by the way.
Since I was trying to stay under a word limit, I wanted to add a little more context to my piece here, including some answers to tweets about it. Also, I have a table to share that probably would look like crap on that site as it barely fits on here well because of how wide it is.
This is a table of MVP winners (QB only) back to 1987 that I’ve maintained for several years now as a fine litmus test to see who is in the running. I included the four 2020 quarterbacks at the bottom with their ranks in ESPN’s QBR, YPA, the FO efficiency stats, and the drive stats that I always push as being important. Remember, you can build a very good QB ranking list from just looking at the average rank in offensive yards per drive for the careers of these quarterbacks.
You can see leading the league in these metrics (#1, darkest green) is a great way to justify winning MVP as a quarterback. Perhaps the most telling one is that no one has been able to win MVP without finishing in the top five in points per drive, and even 2003 Steve McNair, a co-MVP who should not have gotten a share of it with Peyton Manning, was the only season that finished fifth.
This also leads credence to the way I wrote about the race: it’s mostly between Mahomes and Rodgers as Wilson is trending downwards.
As for why not Murray, he certainly could win the award when it’s all said and done. I think he would have to throw for 4,000 yards, rush for 1,000 yards, and finish with over 40 total touchdowns to have a case. Winning the division would also really help. That’s doable, but when I pitched this article a week ago it looked like a three-man race to me, the oddsmakers agreed, and then only until a crazy Hail Mary that DeAndre Hopkins came down with did we really start to think of Murray in this conversation.
But the numbers also show why I think the Murray MVP talk is premature. He’s not in the green for any stats, and he would have the lowest rank of any MVP winner for most of them, especially the passing ones.
Now you can say what about his rushing value? Why isn’t that factored in? You can’t say it’s not factored in as QBR certainly looks at that, and we’ve already seen this play out with 2015 Cam Newton and 2019 Lamar Jackson. The difference is Jackson was still very efficient as a passer last year, certainly more than Murray has been this year through nine games. As for Newton, well you can see why I have always been on the Carson Palmer bandwagon for 2015 as the best quarterback start to finish that season. Newton is an outlier on this MVP table, and 2015 is an outlier in his career as well.
So I am interested to see how the rest of this one plays out with several interesting matchups left, including the next game on Thursday night between Wilson and Murray. That could be the game where Murray leapfrogs Wilson in the standings for good, or it could also be Wilson regaining the lead going into the weekend. This is far from decided.
Finally, I’ll just say that throwing $10 on Ben Roethlisberger (+2500) wouldn’t be the worst bet you can make this week. I still don’t think 16-0 is going to happen for the Steelers. They will slip up at least once. But if he got them there with about 40 touchdown passes, and the running game continues to stink, then that’s going to be a really hard case to ignore.
Imagine that, the season where Russell Wilson was finally going to get MVP votes turns into a year where Big Ben gets his first and wins it all.
I know, it’s 2020, this is going to end horribly with Tom Lucky Fvcking Brady winning MVP, but just let me have some nice thoughts.
No, the title is not a typo. The Steelers are 9-0 this season, but their 3-0 start to November has been historic for a reason that may only excite the anti-running game crowd.
The Steelers are the first team in NFL history* to win three straight games without rushing for 50 yards in any of them.
*Since 1940, but given the way offenses ran the ball prior to that, it’s safe to assume this is a record for all time.
They rushed for 48 yards in Baltimore, 46 yards in Dallas, and 44 yards at home against the Bengals, a lousy run defense, on Sunday. At this rate, the Steelers will attempt to go 19-0 by rushing for 24 yards in the Super Bowl.
This is so unusual that the Steelers already tied the single-season record for most wins without rushing for 50 yards (3). It has been done by five other teams with the 2008 Colts the last to do it.
But this is three games in a row, which has never been done. The 2020 Chiefs actually are on the doorstep of doing this too. They rushed for 50 yards against the Jets and 36 yards against the Panthers in their last two wins. So if we adjust it to “50 or fewer yards” and the Chiefs do it again on Sunday night against the Raiders, then they would join the Steelers.
Maybe it’s just something about this pass-happy pandemic season, but it is concerning that the Steelers couldn’t grind out more yards against Dallas and Cincinnati defenses that rank 30th and 31st in rushing yards per carry. Pittsburgh’s running game has been inconsistent all season, but at least James Conner would break some long runs here and there in the first six games. It hasn’t happened since and the offensive line is also not getting the job done in short-yardage situations. The Steelers rank 21st in short-yardage runs.
On the flip side, the Steelers were playing from behind for much of the Baltimore and Dallas games. No chance to pad the numbers late on the ground. But Sunday, that game was a rout and they still couldn’t run for anything.
Pittsburgh is in Jacksonville this week. When they met in 2018, the Steelers erased a 16-0 deficit for a 20-16 comeback win by rushing only 11 times for 26 yards. Ben Roethlisberger went from having one of his worst three-quarter starts ever to one of his best finishes in his career. The Steelers would like to avoid a repeat of that game script this week.
While Pittsburgh has a respect for the tradition of running the ball that maybe only Chicago can rival, there has never been a season where it’s probably less important to run than this one. Passing numbers are off the charts and Roethlisberger has been feasting with the quick, short passing game. He has already thrown 22 touchdown passes to four interceptions and has four solid wide receivers and a tight end (Eric Ebron) to choose from.
If the lack of a running game dooms Pittsburgh’s season, it’s going to happen because they are too slow or bullish about it to stick with the pass and avoid killing drives with runs. But given this team’s history in the Roethlisberger era, a running back fumble or failure to convert a 4th-and-1 is more likely to hurt the team in the playoffs than any arbitrary rushing total they finish the game with.
The 2020 NFL season has its signature play now. “The Hail Murray” may be a bit on the nose, but it’s a great way to describe the amazing job Kyler Murray did to get a pass off to DeAndre Hopkins that he managed to catch over three defenders for a 43-yard touchdown to beat the Bills with two seconds left.
I’ll cover that play and more from a week that felt closer than it was. Margins were fairly tight, but there were actually as many fourth-quarter lead changes in the final 39 seconds of Bills-Cardinals as there were in the rest of Week 10 combined.
For the 10th week in a row, we had at least two games won after a team trailed by double digits. This time it was New Orleans climbing out an early 10-0 hole against San Francisco and the aforementioned classic between the Bills and Cardinals saw Buffalo blow a 23-9 lead in the second half.
That is 31 with the home stretch still to come. We are not in record territory yet, but any season over 40 would be right up there.
The Hail Murray: Bills at Cardinals
Well that was an exciting display between two of the NFL’s youngest and most athletic quarterbacks, Kyler Murray and Josh Allen. Neither had a traditionally great passing day, but Allen caught a 12-yard touchdown to start the game for Buffalo, and Murray scampered around for another 61 rushing yards and two scores on the ground. Murray is up to 10 rushing touchdowns this season while Cam Newton has nine for New England. Newton still holds the single-season record for quarterbacks with 14 rushing touchdowns in 2011, but Murray could top that unless Newton breaks his own record first.
This 32-30 win by Arizona was also a showcase for how adding a great wide receiver can change an offense. It does not always work out (see: Antonio Brown in Oakland/New England, Odell Beckham Jr. in Cleveland), but there is no denying that Stefon Diggs (Bills) and DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals) have connected with their young quarterbacks in a way that has these teams feeling like contenders this year because of their ability to score.
Diggs caught a 21-yard touchdown with 34 seconds left that looked to be the game winner, but as we see more each year, offenses can answer in quick time. The Cardinals luckily had two timeouts left as well, but driving 75 yards was never going to be easy. They didn’t make it look easy either with Murray holding onto the ball long and having to create, but one throw from midfield decided the game after Hopkins managed to come down with this ball:
How rare is it to see a team take over in the final 35 seconds and drive for a game-winning touchdown? This is only the 10th time it has happened since 1981. There were two other occasions where a team tied a game with a touchdown and won in overtime.
Most of these should ring a bell, and the Cardinals are actually the first team to win twice this way in the last 40 years. These are the kind of plays fans will always remember, and for Hopkins, it becomes the signature play of his career.
Now we’ll just see if Arizona (6-3) has any more special moments this season.
Ravens Wash Out, But Lamar Didn’t Melt Away
Baltimore had a surprising 23-17 loss in New England on Sunday night. Normally, losing in that building would be expected, but the Ravens were a touchdown favorite against a Patriots team lacking in talent. However, the Patriots played a strong first half, took a 13-10 lead into the locker room, expanded it to 20-10, and never looked back. The loss ends Baltimore’s regular-season record streak of 31 straight games scoring at least 20 points, the first time they failed to do so in Lamar Jackson’s career.
I have written plenty this season about Jackson’s front-running tendencies. He is now 0-6 when trailing by at least 9 points in the second half, and the Ravens haven’t actually won a game after trailing by multiple scores at any time in the game since early in 2016 against Cleveland, two years before Jackson was drafted.
Fortunately, we are still talking about six games. Aaron Rodgers infamously started his career 0-26 when trailing by two scores in the second half.
Jackson has a long way to go to catch up to that mark, but in a league where Patrick Mahomes is a respectable 3-6 and the rival Steelers are 2-0 this season alone in the same situation, that comes off as something to be bothered by.
However, the good news is Jackson was not the issue this night. He passed for 249 yards, something he hasn’t done since Week 1, in a game with pouring rain that was at its worst when he had the ball in the final minute. That would have been an amazing game-winning drive, but it only moved 4 yards.
The wet conditions wreaked some havoc with the Ravens’ offense. There were dropped passes and bad snaps. More notable than the final drive was the penultimate drive. A bad snap with 6:01 to play turned a new set of downs into a 2nd-and-26, a tough spot for anyone in this league.
The vaunted Baltimore rushing attack? It only contributed 17 carries for 60 yards despite the return of Mark Ingram to the backfield. That’s not good enough in the rain where Jackson led the team with 55 rushing yards. Meanwhile, Damien Harris rushed for 121 yards for the Patriots, who only needed 118 passing yards from Cam Newton to get the win. The Patriots also had a trick play with wideout Jakobi Meyers throwing a 24-yard touchdown in the first half.
The Patriots (4-5) are still in 10th place in the AFC, sitting behind a logjam of six teams with 6-3 records, not to mention the division-leading Bills at 7-3. Go figure, Tom Brady bounced the year before the AFC had arguably the strongest opening 10 weeks to a season since the merger:
Speaking of Brady, here are some interesting numbers:
Tom Brady finished 4-5 in his last 9 starts with the Patriots (11 total touchdowns)
Cam Newton is 4-4 in his first 8 starts with the Patriots (12 total touchdowns)
Sure, we can laugh at Newton for only having three touchdown passes this year, but he has already rushed for nine scores. Those still count for six points too. We can also enjoy the schadenfreude of seeing New England struggle to win games, but the fact is this has been going on there ever since the Ravens took it to them on Sunday Night Football a year ago. If Newton can beat the struggling Texans next week, he’ll have a better record in nine games than Brady had in his last nine here, and the talent supply has clearly depleted in New England.
So, the hole may be too big for the Patriots to climb out of to make the playoffs, but if this big win triggers a run to a No. 7 seed, then things could get very interesting for that opponent. It could even be the Chiefs, who were in a close game with the Patriots earlier this year without Newton available.
Bucs, Rams Set for Week 11 Showdown
When Tampa Bay isn’t playing New Orleans this year, you could argue this is the best team in the NFC. The Buccaneers completed a season sweep of Carolina with a 46-23 victory that did get a little inflated with short fields in the second half, but this was one of the most dominant games of the season after the Buccaneers were thoroughly dominated by New Orleans a week ago.
Tampa Bay outgained Carolina 544-187, a difference of 357 yards. That is the third-largest difference in a game since 2015, only topped by 2019 Ravens-Dolphins (+443) and 2015 Broncos-Packers (+360). That’s very good company; Denver won the Super Bowl and Baltimore was the No. 1 seed last year.
But sweeping the 2020 Panthers isn’t exactly adding to an impressive resume for the Buccaneers (7-3), still living off that season highlight of demolishing Green Bay 38-10 in Week 6. Fortunately, the schedule makers have come through. Next Monday night, the Bucs will host the Rams and a week later it’s Mahomes and the Chiefs. We’ll learn so much more about where these teams stand after those games.
The Rams got to 6-3 with their biggest win of the season, knocking the Seahawks down a peg, 23-16. Sean McVay is now 5-2 against the Seahawks, and Russell Wilson turned the ball over three times as Seattle scored a season-low 16 points. It’s a little disappointing the Rams didn’t score more and lost left tackle Andrew Whitworth to a torn MCL, but the defense was impressive against a non-NFC East or Bears offense for a change.
You never know what you’re going to get from the Rams these days, but a good showing in Tampa, combined with the uncertainty over Drew Brees’ ribs in New Orleans, could lead to more guesswork on how the NFC will play out this season.
Any one of the Buccaneers, Rams, Seahawks, Packers, Saints, and Cardinals could be capable of going on a run to the Super Bowl this season.
Undefeated Update: Steelers Cruise to 9-0
It was about time the Steelers played a game that did not come down to the final snap. Pittsburgh built a 22-7 halftime lead, did not surrender another touchdown, and Ben Roethlisberger finished with 333 yards and four touchdown passes. Pittsburgh did everything well except for run the football. The Cincinnati rushing offense looks strong on paper (21 carries, 139 yards), but 88 of those yards came in the fourth quarter after they were down 36-7, including a 39-yard fake punt, so judge that according to its worth (hint: it’s nothing).
The 2020 Steelers are the 12th team in NFL history to score at least 24 points in each of their first nine games.
The offense continues to produce, but the defense did something notable in this game too. The Bengals finished 0-for-13 on third down, only the eighth time since 1991 that has happened. It’s the first time since the record holder happened: the Ryan Lindley-led Cardinals were 0-for-15 on third down against the Jets in 2012 in a game that threatened to set offense back decades. The 2009 Jets also held Tampa Bay to 0-for-14 on third down. The other six games were all 0-for-13.
The time will likely come soon enough when the Bengals enter this rivalry with the better quarterback in Joe Burrow, but on Sunday, the rookie was no match for what Roethlisberger and this young cast of receivers have been doing this season.
As a bonus, thanks to the comfortable Pittsburgh win, I was able to flip over to the full ending of Bills-Cardinals, the finish of the year so far.
This NFL season was always going to be different with empty stadiums or barely-filled stadiums due to COVID-19. We have still seen record levels of scoring and offense, but what is the impact of a lack of a crowd on home-field advantage?
In the NFL, the home team usually wins 57-58% of the time. This is built into the Vegas point spreads too, giving a team about 3 points just for being at home. But when you think about this year, it doesn’t seem like it has mattered much with offenses converting on third down at historic rates and referees not doing much to call offensive holding or offensive pass interference. If referee bias– caving to the noisy crowd to make impactful calls — doesn’t exist because of the pandemic, then home-field advantage isn’t even worth a field goal anymore.
When the Chiefs traveled to Baltimore for a huge game in Week 3, it ended up being more lopsided than the two meetings Kansas City won in Arrowhead the last two seasons. When the Saints traveled to Tampa Bay last Sunday night, the 38-3 massacre was the biggest rout of Tom Brady’s 21-year career. But maybe those are just matchups where one team owns the other.
Here are the numbers through Week 9 for the home team’s winning percentage. 2020 is included without the first game from Week 10, the latest example of no home-field advantage with the Colts wiping out the Titans 34-17 on Thursday night. It was Indianapolis’ most complete game of the season.
For the first time in the last 20 years, the home team has a losing record through Week 9 (65-67-1).
However, that’s not the most interesting development. It appears home-field advantage has been trending downwards for a couple of years now, or before the pandemic started. The 2017 season was the lowest from 2001-2017 at 53.0%. Then we had that 2018 season go high up to 59.7%, a season with a lot of good teams playing high-scoring games with the home team usually winning — another reason that 13-3 Super Bowl was a horrible way to end 2018. Then it dropped to 50.7% in 2019, which was the lowest start to a season since 2001 before this year.
There is no guarantee we see regression the rest of the year. In 2019, home teams finished by winning 51.8% of games, the lowest since 1972 (50.8%), and down from 60.2% in 2018 and 56.6% in 2017.
So that means 2020 could be the first season since the 1970 NFL merger where home teams have a losing record in the regular season. We still have almost half the season to complete, and that’s assuming things won’t be derailed by COVID-19, which is surging near 200,000 cases a day now. Positive tests in the NFL are up too. In fact, you could even see instances of a road team traveling, getting COVID, then having to sit players for a home game the following week, possibly hurting their performance in that game. It’s just another thing to keep an eye on this season.
Week 10 Home Splits
I don’t have a lot to say about the Week 10 slate, but there are two games that catch my attention in regards to home-road splits in division games.
One of my favorite stats: Ben Roethlisberger is 67-4 as a home starter when the Steelers allow fewer than 21 points, but three of those losses are to the Bengals. These were all games in the 2009-2015 era, but Roethlisberger has a fascinating home/road split against the Bengals in his career.
We also have Russell Wilson taking on the Rams in a big game for Seattle this week. Wilson is 7-9 against the Rams and has been sacked 61 times in those games. He’s never taken more than 51 sacks in any of his 16-game regular seasons to this point, so the Rams often get after him (thanks, Aaron Donald). Two of the three games where Wilson has taken a career-high 7 sacks came against the Rams. He’s lost four of the last six meetings since Sean McVay took over as coach, and it would be five in a row if Greg Zuerlein did not miss a game-winning field goal last year in Seattle.
Wilson is 2-6 on the road against the Rams, and the Rams are a 2-point favorite at home this week. I have to say I like the Rams in this matchup based on past meetings, though Jared Goff and McVay worry me these days. This is a game where you obviously need to attack the secondary with your wideouts like most offenses have against Seattle’s historically-bad pass defense this year, but why do I feel like Darrell Henderson will have 10 carries in the first quarter? If Goff is on for this matchup, I think the Rams take it and make the NFC West race even more interesting.
NFL Week 10 Predictions
Fooled again by a Thursday game, I underestimated just how bad the special teams are for Tennessee.
A few upsets I like include Washington and Chicago. I know, the Bears playing in prime time again is terrible, but even worse is the fact that it’s Minnesota. Since Kirk Cousins went to Minnesota, he is 0-3 against Chicago and hasn’t broke 6.5 YPA in any of those games. The Vikings average 12 points in those games.
But it would be another nice road win in 2020 for the Vikings to pull that one out.