All NFL games but one have concluded for this week. We have a Wednesday Afternoon Football game still remaining–to my knowledge, the first time an NFL game has ever been played on a Wednesday. I’m all about it because usually Wednesdays suck for sports. On Monday you’ve got MNF, Tuesdays you get Tuesday night MACtion, Thursdays we get TNF, Fridays there’s always some CFB on, Saturdays are obviously all college football, and Sundays are NFL Sundays, of course.
But Wednesdays usually don’t get any football love. So I’m all about this Wednesday Afternoon Football game, especially because it’s Steelers vs. Ravens, the best rivalry in football. (Don’t give me that crap about Bears-Packers or Browns-Steelers. Those rivalries have been almost completely one-sided for decades.)
I’ll do the Power Rankings on Thursday along with the updated statistical rankings, which will be interesting because the #1 ranked team in terms of statistics just got obliterated at home.
Here’s the rundown of the Week 12 NFL action to this point:
The Broncos Got Screwed 🤷♂️
Running on the topic of the WNF Game, it seems like the NFL is bending over backwards to make this Ravens-Steelers game happen. They’ve now pushed this game back 6 days; remember, it was supposed to be played Thanksgiving Night. Yet on the flip side, every QB on the Broncos’ roster was ruled ineligible for their game against the Saints due to “high-risk, close-contact” COVID situations literally less than 24 hours before kickoff, and the NFL still made the Broncos play the game. Denver had to start a dude named Kendall Hinton, who hasn’t played QB since 2018 when he was a junior at Wake Forest (he converted to WR for his senior season). It was a de facto forfeit. In no way am I saying this was Hinton’s fault, but the dude went 1-9 passing for 13 yards with 2 picks. Yeah: the Broncos completed one pass for the whole game. The NFL basically forced the Broncos to lose the game. That poor dude Hinton didn’t even have 24 hours notice before being tossed into a game against one of the best defenses in the league. Coach Vic Fangio said they had no more than 4 hours to get him ready for the game. Hinton was selling candy bars (I’m not making this up) one day, and the next day he’s getting chased by Cam Jordan. Lots of respect to Kendall Hinton for stepping up to the plate.
As for the game itself, the Saints won easily, 31-3. Awfully nice timing for the Saints as they improve to 2-0 in Drew Brees’ absence this season (7-0 without Brees going back to last season when Teddy Bridgewater filled in for him). The Saints were probably going to win the game no matter who Denver started at QB, but Denver is an underrated team, and if they had Drew Lock, it’s possible they could’ve stolen that game from the Saints. After all, Taysom Hill was not that much better than Hinton throwing the ball: he finished 9-16 for 78 yards with an INT. Maybe with a competent offense that game could’ve gone differently for Denver. But no: the NFL would not cut them any slack at all.
Apparently the official excuse for pushing the Ravens’ game back 6 days while not budging at all on the Broncos’ game was that the Ravens’ COVID situation was an “ongoing outbreak” while the Broncos’ was contained to the QB room almost immediately. It’s because more and more Ravens players have been testing positive by the day going back to last Monday, while the Broncos’ COVID situation was contained. But if anything, this should’ve been more of a reason to cut the Broncos some slack and punish the Ravens. The Broncos got screwed for isolating their COVID risks, while the Ravens potentially get bailed out for not containing their COVID outbreak. The way it seems to a lot of people out there is that there’s a double standard because Steelers-Ravens is a huge game for the NFL every year, while they really couldn’t care less about the Broncos getting pasted by the Saints. It’s bogus, but that’s how the business works. And that’s the way a lot of people see it.
In my view, the NFL was sending a message to every team: we will get these games played. If you have a COVID outbreak, the NFL will bend over backwards and reschedule the game to give you time to get it contained. If the outbreak is contained, they’re going to make you play the game even if every one of your quarterbacks can’t play. The NFL isn’t playing favorites: they’re doing whatever they can to make sure all these games get played. If a guy on your team tests positive, he’s out, and probably all of his close contacts will be out, too. Then you’ll have to play your next game with whoever is left. It’s that simple. The NFL is doing everything it can to avoid canceling games.
The Bears Are Trash 🤦♂️
Don’t let the final score (41-25) fool you: at one point the Packers were up 41-10 on the Bears. It was a total beatdown. I do believe Mitch Trubisky may have bought himself some more runway in Chicago, potentially, given that the guy he was benched in favor of, Nick Foles, wasn’t able to do any better than him in that offense. If Foles would’ve balled-out after replacing Trubisky, then you could’ve said, “See? Mitch just sucks.” But since Foles also played like crap, it’s harder to argue that Trubisky was the reason the Chicago offense has been so abysmal this season (4th fewest points scored in the league). Of course, it could be the case that Trubisky and Foles both just suck. So Trubisky may be done in Chicago no matter what: the GM that drafted him, Ryan Pace, refused to pick up Trubisky’s option for next season, likely marking the end of his time in Chicago. And Pace himself might be fired after the season: he was the one who traded up to draft Trubisky at #2 in the 2017 draft ahead of Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson. That is a career-defining blunder for Ryan Pace.
Here’s the worst thing for Bears fans: the Bears have a better roster top-to-bottom than the Packers, and they have for years now. The Bears have more talent on defense than the Packers do, and I don’t think very many people would dispute that. On offense, Allen Robinson compares pretty well to Davante Adams, and then beyond those two I’d say the Bears have the deeper WR corps of the two teams. If you’re skeptical of that, remember that Rodgers elevates his WRs while the Bears QBs throughout the years have not (and have probably even done the opposite). The only two positions the Packers have the clear edge are at RB with Aaron Jones, and QB, where they have a massive advantage over the Bears. And it has been that way for years. Aaron Rodgers is the difference in this rivalry. If you switched the teams’ QBs, the Packers would be the ones getting dominated year in and year out.
Chiefs Becoming the Warriors of the NFL?
The Bucs outscored Kansas City 24-10 after the first quarter. They were a third-down stop away from getting the ball back with a chance to win that game at the end. Of course, they never got that third down stop, so they never got the ball back. And a lot of people out there probably believe the Chiefs were never in any real danger, even though they truly did almost give that game away. With Mahomes and the Chiefs, I am starting to get that sense (like with Brady and Rodgers in their primes) that no matter how much trouble it seems like they’re in, they’re never really sweating it. KC went down 31-28 with 1:15 to go against the Raiders last week, and everyone just knew Mahomes was going to effortlessly lead them down the field and win the game. When they were running the clock out against Tampa and needed a big third-down conversion, you just knew Mahomes was going to make it happen somehow. Mahomes is now on that Rodgers/Brady level where you just know he’s going to pull out the win in the end, except with Mahomes it looks like it’s easy for him. With Rodgers and Brady, they’d often have to really go all-out and make some incredible efforts to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But Mahomes makes it look effortless; it’s all just a formality with him. Down 24-0 to Houston in the playoffs? No biggie. Titans go up 17-7 in the AFC Championship last year? “Okay, time to start trying.” Down 10 points with 7 minutes to play in the Super Bowl? “You didn’t really think you were going to win, did you, San Fran?” When the game is on the line, and Mahomes has the ball in his hands, you don’t stand a chance. There’s nothing you can do. You are completely helpless. Watching him get the ball at the end of the game on Sunday, my only thought was that Tampa has zero chance here; Mahomes will find a way to get it done. It’s just incredible.
However, I can now see Mahomes and the Chiefs begining to turn into the villains of the NFL. They’re no longer the fun, lovable underdogs from the franchise that hadn’t won a Super Bowl in 50 years and was more known for choking in the playoffs than anything else. They’re now the bullies who are embarrassing everyone else. The hunters are becoming the hunted. It’s just inevitable: the more you win, the more people will resent you and get sick of you winning. At first everyone loved the Chiefs because of their high-powered offense and the fact that there’s literally nothing not to like about Mahomes, but now fans of other teams will start to see them differently. Mark my words. This is the year Kansas City becomes the villain of the NFL.
They barely even had their Super Bowl parade and already they were talking about repeating. If and when they do repeat (and right now it feels more like a “when” than an “if”), then I promise you they will become the villains. What people once saw as swagger and upstart ambition will now be seen as cockiness and provocation. People get sick of teams that win for an extended period of time. It’s inevitable. Jealousy is definitely a part of it, but I don’t think that fully explains why people start to hate really, really successful teams. I think the main part of it is that eventually, continued winning and excellence starts to strike people as vaguely unfair; it starts to feel like that team is cheating, even if there’s no proof that they are. Why do you think people latched on to the Patriots’ Spygate and Deflategate scandals? Because it gave them an excuse to write all the Patriots’ success off as a result of cheating.
The Chiefs are about to become the Golden State Warriors of the NFL. And this is great for the sport: you need a villain. You need a goliath. It makes everything more compelling. Storylines and drama sell. It’s hard to see now how Patrick Mahomes–one of the most likable and good-natured superstar athletes ever–will become a villain that people start to hate, but I promise you it will happen at some point in the next year or two. He’s just too good. Brady, Rodgers, LeBron, Kobe, the Yankees–it happens with all the best players and teams. Mark my words, we are seeing the start of the Chiefs’ collective transformation into the villains of the NFL.
Eventually people are going to stop getting a kick out of Tyreek Hill backflipping into the endzone and start getting mad about it.
Bucs Drop to 7-5 😐
As for the Bucs, yeah it seemed like they figured some stuff out on defense after that first quarter in which they went down 17-0 and in which Tyreek Hill had over 200 yards receiving, but my concern with the Bucs is their offense. They just don’t seem to have it figured out. It feels like they’re not tailoring the offense in a way that maximizes Brady’s strengths and minimizes his weaknesses.
Brady works best in an offense that gets the ball out quickly and relies on short, easy passes that can eventually open up the deep shots. It requires precision, discipline and patience. It worked in New England, obviously. And Arians should’ve re-tooled his offensive system to incorporate a lot of those elements once the team signed Tom Brady. After all, you know it can work.
But it seems like they’re just forcing him into a system that doesn’t really play to his strengths or minimize his weaknesses. Arians wants to go for the home run all the time, and that’s just not what Brady is built for. He’s actually done pretty well this year despite being in an offense that is not designed around him: the Bucs rank #2 in the league in completed air yards (which measures how many yards a team’s passes traveled in the air past the line of scrimmage before being caught). They’re actually ahead of both the Chiefs and Seahawks in this category, believe it or not. The Bucs rank #7 in the league in intended air yards per pass attempt, too.
But Brady also ranks 6th in the league in “bad throw” percentage at 20.5%. Conversely, he ranks 26th in the league in throws “on target” at 72.8%. Compare that to the Saints, who lead the league in on-target throws with 83.1%. So it’s not all on Arians’ offensive system. Brady hasn’t been executing it well, either.
It just feels like that offense is severely underachieving.
And why didn’t the Bucs run the ball more in that game? They had 13 attempts for 75 yards. I know they were down 17-0 early but that’s the thing: it was early. And run defense is Kansas City’s weakness. It’s the one thing they don’t do well. Tampa averaged 5.8 yards per carry in the game. Once Tampa drew within 10 points in the second quarter, I feel like they should’ve leaned more on the run.
The Bucs, like the Ravens, are getting hammered by the media and being left for dead, but they’ve both had really tough schedules. I don’t think either team is as bad as people are saying. The Bucs have played the toughest schedule in the NFC and the 7th-toughest schedule in the league overall. And while they’ve lost two straight big games to high-quality opponents, it’s not like they’ve been blown out in those games. They lost to both the Rams and the Chiefs by identical 27-24 scores.
I am not willing to hit the panic button on the Bucs just yet, but they are not a Super Bowl contender right now.
Shanahan Owns McVay 💪
Not only does that make the 49ers 2-0 against the Rams this season, but San Fran is now 4-0 against the Rams the past two seasons. Anyone who has been following the league for the past few years knows the whole NFL basically began worshipping Sean McVay after the Rams went to the Super Bowl in the 2018 season. Everyone wanted to hire a young, offensive-minded hotshot in hopes he’d turn into the next Sean McVay. That’s why Arizona hired Kliff Kingsbury, why Cincy hired Zac Taylor (who was the Rams’ quarterbacks coach in 2018 only and never even had an offensive coordinator job before becoming a head coach in the NFL), it’s why Green Bay hired Matt LaFleur (McVay’s OC with the Rams in 2017). The Bears hired Matt Nagy in 2018 because even prior to LA’s breakout season, the thought was that “you have to go offensive-minded at head coach.”
But guess who Sean McVay is chasing after? Kyle Shanahan.
The year after McVay’s Rams lost the Super Bowl, Shanahan’s 49ers also lost the Super Bowl, albeit with a different sort of overall team philosophy. While the 2018 Rams were a high-scoring offensive juggernaut, they were considered soft and finesse and there was a perception that they didn’t want to get their hands dirty. But Shanahan’s 49ers were the complete opposite: they were run-first, elite-tier play calling, they played ferocious defense, and they were all about physicality. Sean McVay took notice. Look at the Rams this year: 7th in the league in rushing attempts, committee backfield, highly-ranked physical defense. The 2020 Rams look more like the 2019 49ers than they do the 2018 Rams. Apparently, McVay has been using a lot of the 49ers’ run game concepts this season. It’s clear to anyone watching that McVay has completely reinvented the Rams as a football team, which is hilarious because half the league is still trying find the next young, offensive-minded hotshot while McVay is trying to be more like Kyle Shanahan.
It hasn’t been a great season for the 49ers. After the win they’re 5-6, and actually very much alive in the NFC playoff picture being only a game back of Arizona for the final wild card spot. The 49ers now cannot even play home games because of California COVID restrictions, so they have to now play in Arizona for at least the next two weeks. Give Shanahan credit for making the best of a season that has been plagued with injuries from the start, and now not even being able to play home games. Despite it all, he still owns the Rams. The Rams, meanwhile, were looking great this year until they met their kryptonite. I don’t want to overreact to the Rams loss because A. it was a close game that SF won on a walk-off field goal, and B. because of the 49ers dominance over the Rams since last season. The Rams are a good team, it’s just that the Niners clearly have their number. I’m giving the Rams the benefit of the doubt here and not reading too much into that game.
Titans Get Revenge on Indy, 45-26 👑
Derrick Henry ran all over the Colts for 178 yards and 3 TDs, albeit in a game where the Colts were missing Pro Bowl DT DeForest Buckner as well as starting linebacker Bobby Okereke. I don’t want to take too much credit away from Henry because we all know he can do that to just about anybody, but I do want to point out that the Colts had some major, major injuries. Vegas and die-hard fans are the only people who really understand how important defensive injuries are. There’s just so many defensive players who are extremely important but unknown to a national audience. Most casual NFL fans don’t know how good DeForest Buckner is, but diehard Colts fans do.
It’s like with the Bears on Sunday night, too: they were without DT Akeim Hicks and so the Packers ran all over them. But most non-Bears fans don’t know who Akeim Hicks is and why he’s so important. Bears fans and Vegas sharps are the only ones who know these key players. Casual NFL fans probably don’t know the name Akeim Hicks, and they probably don’t know the name DeForest Buckner. But both guys are crucial for their teams’ run defenses and without them their teams are significantly worse.
But still, give the Titans credit for avenging their big loss to the Colts from two weeks ago and taking over the division. I’m starting to believe in the Titans now. Obviously they have an elite run game, but their defense is starting to look better, too.
Is the Seahawks Defense For Real?
The Seahawks took down the Eagles 23-17 on Monday Night Football. A lot of bettors who had Seattle -6.5 were pissed because they lost their bets on ridiculous Philly Hail Mary TD followed by a pointless 2-point conversion.
But don’t be fooled by the close-ish score. The Seahawks were in control of that game the whole time. They made some mistakes on offense–DK Metcalf dropped a sure TD late in the 4th quarter, plus Seattle got stopped on 4th down a couple of times early–but there was never really a point in that game where you thought Philly could win.
Metcalf had 10 catches for 177 yards and should have had around 200 plus a TD had he not had that drop. He was constantly getting open. I know this guy is young and still somewhat raw, but he’s already basically unguardable. He was being shadowed by Darius Slay for most of the game and it didn’t even matter. I don’t know why the Seahawks don’t throw it to him 20 times a game consistently. Even if he’s covered, he can make contested catches. Just get him in single coverage, give Russ decent protection, and toss it up for him. He’ll come down with the ball. Hopefully this game is a sign of things to come in terms of making Metcalf the focal point of the offense. He’s a nightmare for defenses and could be one of those rare players that other teams have to base their entire defensive gameplan around stopping–if the Seahawks continue targeting him frequently.
The Seahawks put together yet another strong defensive performance, and I’m getting close to actually buying into their defense as being legit. They sacked Carson Wentz 6 times and picked him off once. Is Seattle’s defense coming around? Maybe, but it’s also possible this was more about how bad the Eagles are on offense.
Carson Wentz is statistically one of the very worst starting QBs in the NFL. He’s got the most INTs at 15 (with only 16 TDs), ranks 25th in passing YPG. He has been sacked the most, 46 times, which is 11 more than the #2 ranked guy, Russell Wilson. He has the 5th-lowest QBR in the league at 49.7, putting him ahead of only Nick Mullens, Nick Foles, Drew Lock and Sam Darnold–most of those guys have been in and out of the starting position. Wentz’s QB rating is 3rd lowest in the league. He has the 2nd-lowest completion percentage in the league at 58.1%, his yards-per-completion of 6.0 is 3rd lowest in the league, Is he actually the worst QB in the league? No, I would not say that.
For much of the season his offensive line has been hurt–including a week where all five guys were out–plus all of his top pass-catchers have been injured for extended stretches. Alshon Jeffrey just made his first catch of the season on Monday.
It’s hard to blame Wentz fully given the litany of offensive injuries that team has sustained, but it’s also hard to deny that Wentz has clearly regressed as a quarterback. I don’t know why he’s gotten worse, but he clearly has. It’s getting to the point where people are now talking about the Eagles potentially firing head coach Doug Pederson, who is just three years removed from winning the Super Bowl, and who led the Eagles to consecutive 9-7 seasons with playoff appearances over the past two seasons. I think Philly would be crazy to give up on him so quickly, and I think he’d be hired by someone else very quickly. More on this later.
Thanksgiving Action 🦃
Given that the Steelers-Ravens game got moved off of Thanksgiving, there’s really not much to talk about. It was four garbage teams playing. The Lions got beat so badly they fired both their coach and their GM. So long, Matt Patricia. I’m sure he’ll end up back in New England eventually.
As for the other game, I think I actually would’ve fired Mike McCarthy before I fired Matt Patricia. Both guys are bad head coaches, but I feel like the Lions have been more competitive this year.
The Washington Football team is the best team in the NFC East. I know the Giants are now in first place in that horrendous division, but I think the Football Team is better.
Speaking of Matt Patricia being fired, there have now been three coaches fired this season: Patricia, Bill O’Brien and Dan Quinn.
You have to assume Adam Gase is getting fired after the season. Most people assume the only reason the Jets are keeping him around is because he’s so bad he basically ensures the Jets will get the #1 overall pick in the draft. However, if I were Gase, I would not want to do the Jets a favor and put them in position to get a quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, that they are never going to let me coach. I’d be doing my best to win a game or two to screw the Jets out of Trevor Lawrence on my way out. The Jets traded away all the talented players on the roster and have put Gase in the worst possible situation. He should be trying to screw their plans up.
I’m also assuming Doug Marrone in Jacksonville is a dead man walking. They’ve already started a full rebuild and just fired their GM.
People are also talking about the Bears firing Matt Nagy, even though he’s currently got a 25-19 record as a head coach.
Also, it feels increasingly likely that the Chargers part ways with Anthony Lynn after the season. They’ve got talent but they just can’t win games. More accurately, they seem to find new ways to lose every week, and it feels like it’s been that way with the Chargers for years. Nobody would really be surprised if they decided to find a new coach.
So that’s 5 guaranteed coaching vacancies, plus 3 potential vacancies (Philly, Chicago, LA Chargers). Things will get interesting here in about a month or so.
It’s crazy how much coaching turnover there is in the NFL. Basically 1/4 of the head coaches in the league get fired every single year. Would you believe that 33-year-old Sean McVay has a longer active tenure as head coach than 22 other coaches in the league? He was only hired in 2017!
19 out of the 32 coaches in the league have three or fewer seasons in their current roles. Obviously several of them–Gruden, Rivera, McCarthy, Arians and Gase–have additional head coaching experience with other teams, but the point remains. Only 7 of the 32 coaches have 6 or more years in their current jobs: Zimmer, Reid, Carroll, Harbaugh, Tomlin, Payton and Belichick.
It’s not a coincidence that the teams coached by those guys are usually the best in the league, although the Vikings and Patriots are both having down years in 2020. You’ve got these experienced veteran coaches preying on a carousel of young and inexperienced new guys.
That’s why it’s pretty wild that the Eagles could fire Doug Pederson. He’s only been head coach for five years, but he’s got more coaching experience than like 2/3 of the league. Coaching experience is extremely valuable and increasingly rare these days. Super Bowl-winning experience? Forget it. Guys like Doug Pederson, who are just a few years off a Super Bowl win, do not hit the market every day.
Since Belichick won his first in 2001, there have been 19 Super Bowl Champions (including those Patriots). Obviously there are some repeats: the Patriots won 6, the Giants won 2 and the Steelers won 2. So there have been 13 Super Bowl-winning head coaches since 2001, and 9 of them are still active. The most recent head coach to win a Super Bowl and not currently be an NFL head coach is Gary Kubiak of the Broncos, who led his team to a Super Bowl in 2015 and retired after the following season. But Kubiak only retired due to health reasons. He was not fired; he stepped down on his own accord.
The other three that are not currently coaching are Tom Coughlin, Tony Dungy and Bill Cowher. None of those guys were fired, either. They all stepped down on their own terms.
See what I’m getting at here? The Eagles firing Doug Pederson would be a fairly unprecedented move. Yes, the Packers unceremoniously fired Mike McCarthy a couple years back, but that was 8 years after he led the team to the Super Bowl. They stuck with him for a long time. And now he’s back on the sidelines after a year off.
Aside from McCarthy, the most recent coaches to win a Super Bowl and subsequently be fired were Mike Shanahan of Broncos, who won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 & 1998 and was fired after the 2008 season, and Brian Billick of the Ravens, who won the Super Bowl in 2000 and got fired after the 2007 season. My point is, coaches who win Super Bowls just don’t get fired willy-nilly.
But now people are talking about the Eagles dumping Pederson just three years after winning the Super Bowl. That type of thing simply doesn’t happen these days. Normally if you coach a team to a Super Bowl, you are a made man. You buy yourself at least 7-10 years of leeway before you’re at risk of wearing out your welcome. Only one team in the league makes an exception to this unwritten rule: the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones has fired plenty of Super Bowl-winning coaches: Bill Parcells, Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson and Tom Landry. Jerry actually fired Jimmy Johnson one month after he won the Super Bowl. But no other team does it like that.
Except for potentially the Eagles now, apparently. Maybe it would be an on-brand move for Philly: Pederson leads the team to their first Super Bowl ever, follows that up with two playoff berths, but then has one bad season and gets run out of town on a rail.
If Pederson gets fired, I guarantee you he will not be unemployed for long. Maybe a week or two, tops. All the teams he’s got either playing history (Dolphins, Panthers, Packers, Browns) or coaching history (Eagles, Chiefs) with are not looking for new coaches. Nor is the team from where he grew up (the Seattle Seahawks). He went to college in Louisiana and later got his coaching start there with a high school team, but obviously the Saints are set.
Still, one of those other seven teams will hire him. Guaranteed.
Houston, Atlanta, Detroit, Jacksonville, the Jets: all of them will pursue Pederson if he’s available. So will the Bears if they fire Nagy, and so will the Chargers if they fire Lynn.
I could see Pederson going to New York to coach Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence is a generational talent and I’m sure at least 3/4 of the coaches in the league would kill to have him. But also that Jets organization is a joke and it seems like they don’t treat their personnel well. To me the most attractive coaching job with a likely upcoming vacancy would be the Chargers, and it’s really not even close. You get LA weather, you get a roster that’s already pretty good on both sides, and you get Justin Herbert, who already looks like a superstar.
I’d be shocked if the Eagles were dumb enough to fire Doug Pederson, but then again it is Philly we’re talking about.
That’s it for the Week 12 Takeaways. After the Steelers-Ravens game concludes, I’ll do the power rankings and crunch the numbers for the statistical rankings.