Happy Tuesday, friends. After the shellacking that the Patriots put on the Texans last night, it’s time to take stock of both teams, since it’s likely that the Broncos will play at least one of them in the playoffs, and maybe both.
There were some noticeable things on display in the game that will be of interest to us in the coming weeks.
Here are five for each team:
Happy Wednesday, friends. Yesterday, a decent brouhaha erupted in my former stomping grounds of Cleveland, Ohio. It’s pretty widely assumed that, with the change in ownership, head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert will be let go at season’s end.
New owners like to do their own thing, and when Jimmy Haslam hired Joe Banner to be team president, he brought in a guy who is going to certainly change the structure of the organization.
Banner was very successful in Philadelphia as the guy who ran the business end of things, and who oversaw contracts, financial, and cap strategy. I would expect that will be his role in Cleveland as well, and I'm interested to see how he comes out on Shurmur and Heckert, both of whom he knew from Philadelphia. If the Philly rumor mill is to be believed, the organization wasn't all that sad to see Heckert leave for Cleveland when he did, and that would seem to match the color of the smoke that's now coming out of the chimney.
I love freedom. I’m not going to cry about it like Glenn Beck, but I am feeling a little verklempt today, after reading a breathtakingly stupid comment on TJ’s Tebow post, and it has stirred up my patriotism for American freedom. I know what some of you right-wingers are thinking – liberals don’t like freedom, and they aren’t patriotic.
You’re free to believe that stupidity if you want to. (I’d like to see you serve four years in the military.) The commenter on TJ’s post is free to call us religious bigots if (s)he wants to. If (s)he’d gone further over the line, we’d feel free to delete their comment and ban them. Freedom is a good thing; nobody is going to throw any of us in jail for doing any of those things.
This is not going to be much about football. I’m free to write an article about another topic, and you’re free not to like it. Incidentally, I couldn’t care less whether you do or don’t, so spare me the whining about it.
Did you get a load of this, from Doug's most favoritest football writer Alex Marvez?
27 Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists. No QBs nominated. Hasn't been one voted in since 2006. But plenty of o-linemen!!! #fail— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) November 30, 2012
This is a guy who used to be a voter for the Hall of Fame, as president of the Professional Football Writers Association, but doesn't presently hold one of the 44 seats. Other reporters, such as his FoxSports.com colleagues John Czarnecki and Nancy Gay, do get to vote. Remember my Rule Number 1 of sports: anything which is decided by reporters voting is diminished by that fact, and I'd go so far as to say it's inherently worthless.
Happy Friday, friends. I was going to write an article today breaking down the Broncos-Bucs game, but Andy Benoit did a really good job of it yesterday for Football Outsiders, and I don’t really feel like it’s necessary to go over the same ground he just plowed.
Instead, I want to write about a topic I’ve been meaning to get to for a few weeks, which is the unusual multiplicity of the Broncos defense this year. Two passages from the aforementioned Benoit article get to this topic. Here is the first one that jumped out at me:
Laudable as Denver’s offense has been, it’s the defense that has this team looking like Super Bowl favorites in the AFC. It’s almost fruitless trying to analyze this scheme, as John Fox and Jack Del Rio have sprinkled it with so many different flavors.
The Broncos are really doing a bunch of stuff on defense this year. They’re switching their fronts, and subtly adjusting their alignments, and mixing up their coverages, and varying their blitzes. It’s to the point that offenses can’t really get a good read on what the Broncos are doing defensively, because they’re doing a bit of everything.
Oakland is expected to waive Rolando McClain today, which prompted the following from Bill Williamson:
McClain never lived up to his billing on the field. He was out of shape, slow and often out of position. He didn’t show the instincts expected from a top-10 pick. He was convicted on a gun charge last year, but it was recently overturned on an appeal, according to his attorney.
The new Oakland regime was charged with salvaging McClain’s time in Oakland. He didn’t make improvements and his playing time dwindled in some games. Now, it is over.
McClain will be the 27th player to leave since new general manager Reggie McKenzie took over. Last week, fellow starting linebacker Aaron Curry was cut.
Happy Monday, friends. I wanted to talk a little bit about something that both Doug and TJ made mention of in passing, and that was the strange decision by the Broncos to use a lot of nickel personnel in yesterday’s game against the Chiefs.
I haven’t seen any snap counts published yet, but when we do, we’re going to see that both Chris Harris and Tony Carter played a lot of snaps, and that the Chiefs didn’t play very much in three-WR personnel. Usually, a defense will match the offensive personnel grouping, with a third CB coming on the field to match a third WR. The fact that the Broncos chose to use Champ Bailey, Harris, and Carter as much as they did, and irrespective of the offensive personnel grouping, seems to tell us something interesting.
The best reason to use offensive sub packages is that it usually forces a defense to remove a LB from the game who is a better football player than the DB who replaces him. Since it’s easier to find effective WRs than it is to find CBs, the general assumption that third WRs are better than third CBs is typically a sound one.
I read the USA Today article that Doug linked today, which amounted to an interpretation of a Peter King tweet. Only KSK should be interpreting PK, because this reporter follows him down the path of wrong.
They mention "legal chop blocks," but there are no such things in the NFL, nor have there been any in quite a few years. The problem is apparently confusion about what "chop block" means.
Allow me to explain.
A chop block is when a blocker is engaged with a defender up high, and a second offensive player goes low on the same defender. There must be two blockers on one defender, and one must go high, and the other low, for it to be a chop block. That's a 15-yard penalty on the offense.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Today, I’m thankful for being on vacation, which basically has amounted to two different vacations. My girlfriend and I flew into Las Vegas Friday afternoon, stayed there through Monday morning, and then drove over to Los Angeles, which is about a 4.5-hour drive. My brother Chris lives in LA, and he and his wife recently welcomed a new Broncos fan to the world, so we’re doing Turkey Day in SoCal.
Today, I wanted to focus on the Vegas part, because it relates to football. Really, I want to talk about gambling. I would say that I’m a reasonably smart guy, and I hold two bachelors degrees and just finished my MBA. My first degree was in finance, and that’s a fairly math-centric discipline, but the math isn’t difficult. It’s algebra-based, and it mostly revolves around probability.
From that book learnin’, one thing I know is that over a long enough time period, sports betting is a surefire loser. The reason why that’s the case is that on straight bets, sports books get you into asymmetric bets, where what you stand to win (if you win) is less than what you stand to lose (when you lose).
Happy Thursday, friends. In typical salaried-employee fashion, as I prepare to go on vacation Friday, I’m scrambling to do eight days of work in four days this week. As such, my writing time has been a bit limited, but I want to share some quick thoughts today about team expectations and the stupidity of reporters.
One of my favorite drums to beat is that the NFL is a complex and dynamic system, where the facts of yesterday become the “not so much” of today. I laugh every year as the John Claytons of the world, and also his imitators, attempt to forecast the NFL in the preseason.
Usually, this takes two forms: the dumber ones, like Clayton himself, will tend to predict that about 10 of the 12 teams that made the playoffs the year before will do so again, and that two other teams which had hyped draft or free agent classes will also get into the mix. The smarter ones will note that on average, only 7 of 12 teams tend to make the playoffs in back-to-back years, and they’ll try to find the 10 teams that they think are mostly likely to move up and down in class.