Bite-size Nuggets

Bite-size nuggets: The importance of a first-place schedule

Happy Monday, friends.  I’m going to give yesterday’s game a broadcast-angle review tonight, and another coach’s film review on Wednesday, but for today, I wanted to write a quick article about something that gets talked about frequently, but isn’t well-understood.  Today’s topic will be the first-place schedule.

The best path to the playoffs in the NFL is in winning your division.  Organizing in divisions is a true test of quality for a subset of teams, because for 14 of their 16 games, they play the same teams.  Here is how an NFL schedule rubric lays out:

 

Type of game Number
Division home-and-home 6 games
Another division in same conference 4 games
Another division in the other conference 4 games
Teams from the other divisions in same conference with same finish 2 games

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Bite-size nuggets: Re-thinking the coach’s challenge

Happy Monday, friends.  Yesterday’s game got me thinking about coach’s challenges, and I wanted to share those thoughts with all of you.  I’m a big fan of the new rule that mandates that all turnovers be automatically reviewed, in addition to all scoring plays.  Those are the high-leverage events which tend to swing football games, and I applaud the NFL’s commitment to get them correct, to the extent that their scab officials are capable of doing so.

The rule change necessitates a re-thinking of challenge strategy, though, because in the past, coaches would save their challenges for scoring plays and turnovers.  Since those plays aren’t challengeable any more, they’re going to be looking at lower-leverage plays.  That will lead a smart coach to figure out what kind of play is even worth risking a timeout for.  I came up with a few that I think are worth it, and a few that aren’t.

Down by contact on a possible lost fumble:  If the call on the field is a turnover, the play is automatically reviewed.  If the call on a fumble is that the runner was down by contact, the coach may still challenge the play.  The key is that the coach of the defensive team would only want to do so if the ball was clearly recovered by his team.

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Bite-size Nuggets: Trading picks for players is often a smart thing to do

I agree with what Doug wrote yesterday about Maurice Jones-Drew not being worth trading for - not for the Broncos, and not for anybody else, either.  While driving the last two days, I’ve heard all kinds of “trading for MJD” talk on Sirius, and I was thinking about how I’ve meant to do an article for quite a while about trades for veteran players.

More often than not, it’s a good idea to trade draft picks for proven veteran players.  A draft pick is a derivative asset, in the sense that it has no definable value, in and of itself, other than the fact that it confers upon the holder of it the right to acquire a football asset at a point in time.  A player is a football asset that’s more or less known.  There’s some uncertainty to how he’ll perform in a new place, while being a year older, but there’s less risk than with a guy straight out of college.

Whether it is a good idea to trade a pick for a player almost always hinges upon the reason why the player is available.  MJD may or may not be available, but if he is, it’s because he wants more money.  That’s almost never a good situation from which to acquire a guy.

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Bite-size nuggets: Pontificatin’ on officiatin’

Happy Monday, friends.  As I did my morning commute today, I was thinking about bad officiating and the lockout of the real NFL officials.  Since I got so much practice analyzing labor actions last year, and since I’m trying to serve up some bite-size hors d’ oeuvres (pronounced “whores divorce” in my best Andrew Dice Clay voice) I decided to scribble some thoughts in purple crayon for y’all.

First things first – the officiating has been atrocious in every preseason NFL game I’ve seen.  They’ve been getting a lot of stuff wrong, from spotting the ball, to speaking into a microphone, to being able to see the game at the speed at which it’s played.

It’s a mess, and it’s not these underqualified officials’ fault, really.  Mark my words: If they’re still officiating games come the regular season, they’re going to negatively affect playoff positioning.

The question is whether the evident suckitude of the officiating gives the locked out refs any leverage.  I initially thought it might, but it seems like it isn’t having that effect.  The dynamics in play are clearly pretty different than they were with the players.

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Bite-size Nuggets:  Paraphrasing MTC at Dove Valley

Happy Wednesday, friends.  Here I go for the third day in a row.  Yay!  I left work at 5pm yesterday, which is rare, because it was primary election day in Florida.  I live an hour from work, so in order to go vote, I had to get out on time, and hustle.

To my pleasant surprise, Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan of Sirius XM NFL Radio were at Dove Valley for Broncos training camp.  I always like when they talk to football people, because coaches and players tend to open up to them a lot more than they do with other media.  The difference is really clear with a guy like Bill Belichick, who obviously feels that telling regular idiot media anything of substance is a waste of time and breath, but that telling Tim & Pat some substantive things is worthwhile, because they know what he means.  It’s a very similar phenomenon with John Fox, who appears on Movin’ the Chains every Tuesday evening during the season.

Sirius isn’t so good about making a lot of audio available online, so Doug asked me to paraphrase some of the things I heard, which included some good insight, much of which tended to confirm our speculation.

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Bite-size Nuggets: Rookie QBs

Happy Monday, friends.  I’m going to be working to split my various pontifications and blatherings into smaller, and more frequent articles, and finally get with the spirit of the whole blogging thing.  To that end, I’m going to be more topical, and less wide-ranging in each one.

Today, I decided to talk about the play of rookie QBs in their first preseason games, focusing on the five who seem to have a chance to start for their teams.  I saw a lot of good play from these guys, for beginners, and I was mostly very impressed.

Andrew Luck - Indianapolis Colts, 1st pick

Luck looked excellent, especially in the areas of anticipation, footwork, ball handling, concept understanding, and accuracy.  He even zipped a couple of deep outs a little better than I thought he could.  His ball handling is the most impressive thing to me, and he obviously has a lot of background with play action from his time at Stanford. 

Luck looked like he could be one of the best QBs in the NFL right away on Sunday, but there’s a huge caveat to that.  He was playing against a really vanilla defense, and the Colts were running concepts that were specifically designed to beat those defenses.  I’ll be interested to see how well the kid does in recognizing more exotic coverages and rush schemes once the season starts.  In terms of handling the speed of the game, though, and executing NFL QB responsibilities, he’s beyond advanced.

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