- Ryan Fitzpatrick has been benched so that Tua can start. I think this is odd timing since the Dolphins are playing well and now you are going to throw Tua out there. I would have thought they would have waited for Fitzpatrick to mess up before pulling him but they drafted Tua to play, so play he will.
- Michael Thomas had some injuries listed as part of the excuse why he isn't playing. In addition to punching teammates.
- The Raiders sent their offensive line home from practice due to contact with Trent Brown. Once they get tested they'll be allowed back to practice.
- Le'veon Bell is excited to be with the Chiefs and Andy Reid. He should be excited that anyone wants him with how toxic he has become.
- And speaking of toxic, it seems like the Seahawks are interested in Antonio Brown. Other teams are supposedly as well.
- And staying on the toxic theme, OBJ got banned from visiting LSU football for two years. LSU's football program is charged with a Level III violation involving Beckham, a former Tigers star, who gave $2,000 in cash to four Tigers football players on the field after the team's 42-25 victory over Clemson in the CFP National Championship game on Jan. 13.
- Bills released OL Quinton Spain seven months after they signed him to an extension. With all of the Covid and injury issues I wouldn't be surprised to see him on a new team by Saturday.
- The NFL is also talking about possibly moving back the Super Bowl up to four weeks if need be. It will be an interesting season.
Thursday, October 22
New York Giants (1-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-4-1) 8:20pm FOX/NFL
Sunday, October 25
Detroit Lions (2-3) at Atlanta Falcons (1-5) 1:00pm FOX
Cleveland Browns (4-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-4-1) 1:00pm CBS
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-0) at Tennessee Titans (5-0) 1:00pm CBS
Carolina Panthers (3-3) at New Orleans Saints (3-2) 1:00pm FOX
Buffalo Bills (4-2) at New York Jets (0-6) 1:00pm CBS
Dallas Cowboys (2-4) at Washington Football Team (1-5) 1:00pm FOX
Green Bay Packers (4-1) at Houston Texans (1-5) 1:00pm FOX
Seattle Seahawks (5-0) at Arizona Cardinals (4-2) 4:05pm FOX
Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) at Denver Broncos (2-3) 4:25pm CBS
San Francisco 49ers (3-3) at New England Patriots (2-3) 4:25pm CBS
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) 4:25pm CBS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) at Las Vegas Raiders (3-2) 8:20pm NBC
Monday, October 26
Chicago Bears (5-1) at Los Angeles Rams (4-2) 8:15pm ESPN
Indianapolis Colts (4-2), Miami Dolphins (3-3), Minnesota Vikings (1-5), Baltimore Ravens (5-1)
- The Titans are 5-0, after beating the Texans in an incredible offensive show. Not only did QB Ryan Tannehill throw for 364 yards and 4 TDs, but Derrick Henry ran for 212 and 2 TDs, on only 22 carries himself. Is it about time we start talking about Tennessee as a legitimate Super Bowl contender? The Titans, not the Ravens, are the biggest threat to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC.
- The also-undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers reminded the Cleveland Browns that they are still the Browns...The question is, can the Browns recover their swagger after getting absolutely wrecked against the Steelers, or was their quick start an aberration, and we can expect the Browns to look like the Browns from here on out?
- The Atlanta Falcons won a game. Granted, it was against the Vikings, but a win is a win, right?
- The New York Football Giants won a game. Granted it was against the unnamed Washington Football team, but a win is a win, right?
- The Detroit Lions played their best defensive game of the season against the Jaguars, and picked up a convincing win. Matt Patricia still needs to be fired immediately.
- Start the O-fer countdown for the Jets. Shit. I'll say it...the 0-16 Lions and the 0-16 Browns were a better football team that this Jets team so far this year. They flat out SUCK.
- I very much enjoyed watching Tom Brady kick Aaron Rodgers ass. I am a petty Lions fan, and watching Rodgers get beaten down like that is always fun to watch.
- The 2-4 Dallas Cowboys are in sole possession of 1st place in the NFC East. Can we institute a relegation program like they have in the British Premier League, and then relegate the entire NFC East?
Sunday, October 18
Houston at Tennessee 1:00 PM CBS
Cincinnati at Indianapolis 1:00 PM FOX
Atlanta at Minnesota 1:00 PM FOX
Denver at New England 1:00 PM CBS
Washington at New York Giants 1:00 PM FOX
Baltimore at Philadelphia 1:00 PM CBS
Cleveland at Pittsburgh 1:00 PM CBS
Chicago at Carolina 1:00 PM FOX
Detroit at Jacksonville 1:00 PM FOX
New York Jets at Miami 4:05 PM CBS
Green Bay at Tampa Bay 4:25 PM FOX
Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 8:20 PM NBC
Monday, October 19
Kansas City at Buffalo 5:00 PM FOX/NFL
Arizona at Dallas 8:15 PM ESPN
Las Vegas, New Orleans, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle
- Dak Prescott has right ankle compound fracture dislocation and surgery last night night to repair the damage. How many people remembered that Any Dalton is the backup in Dallas? Because I didn't.
- The Falcons fired Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff following yesterdays loss. The Falcons are struggling and needed the complete change. I expect Raheem Morris to be named the coach later today but we'll see which direction they go as Dirk Koetter has experience as well.
- I don't think the Patriots get enough credit for the soul crushing defeats they have given to teams that destroyed up and coming teams. The Falcons never recovered from 28-3. We remember the Butler interception but forget that Brady took the Legion of Boom behind the woodshed in that fourth quarter. The Jaguars were on the rise with a nasty defense when the Patriots stacked them in the heart and destroyed their spirit. Beating an opponent in the NFL is tough, but stealing a team's soul is really impressive.
- Who had the Raiders over the Chiefs? The Chiefs have a dynamic offense but their defense is an Achilles heal, especially against teams that like to run. Teams like the Chiefs, just like the Patriots in the past, are designed for shootouts and they aren't comfortable with smashmouth. And losing a starting guard for the year won't help the Chiefs out.
- Is there a QB better at last minute heroics than Russel Wilson?
- Is there a QB better at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory like Kirk Cousins?
- Don't be shocked when the NFL adds a Week 18. 8 teams have already used their bye week and don't have options to move games around anymore.
- Michael Thomas decided to punch a teammate so he'll be getting Monday night off. Drew Brees has to be giggling after Thomas' comments this offseason.
- Chase Claypool? Really? No one in the NFL drafts WR talent better than the Steelers do.
- Browns are 4-1 for the first time since Belichick was the coach. Yea, it's been that long.
- 49ers have gone all in the Super Bowl loser curse. Who had Belichick winning the Jimmy Trade?
- Congrats to the Jags on making NFL history by losing to three in a row to previously winless teams.
- If you had the Bills, Steelers, Titans, Packers and Seahawks as your last undefeated then props to you. Bills and Titans are scheduled to play on Tuesday so their should be one less undefeated, unless it is cancelled or tied.
- Are the Browns for real? They have arguably the most talented NFL roster in the NFL. Which isn't surprising when your roster is filled with first round picks. The Browns need to prove they are more than just a streaky team because that talent has a bunch of mental issues that make it really hard for them to stay consistent week after week.
- The Patriots clearly have QB issues after Cam. Hoyer is a practice squad QB who can hand the ball off. Stidham wants to be Brett Favre and try to equal touchdowns and interceptions. If Cam is out for long they are going to fall too far behind the Bills. Yup, the Bills. Speaking of which.
- How good are the Bills really? The defense is fantastic and the offense looks like it is making great progress. Right now they look pretty legit even if they haven't played the best teams in the NFL yet. We'll see what happens when they hit the rougher parts of their schedule but right now they are 2 games up for the first time since 1993 so good on them.
- Just Herbert looks great so far despite playing with a weak supporting cast. Which gets even worse with Austin Ekeler.
- Brady looks like he is starting to get into his groove. Which shouldn't be hard with all of the talent around him in Tampa. Losing their best tight end probably won't help and they'll need more out of Gronk.
- If you had Justin Jefferson as a breakout WR I'd be shocked. The guy is killing it for the Vikings.
- 49ers season is on deaths door. They can't afford to get too far behind unless their plan is to use the Giants old strategy of "suck all year, barely sneak into the playoffs and then play lights out defense." It can work, but its feast or famine and most of the time its famine.
- Bill O'Brien finally let go. He's toxic and probably doesn't need to get another NFL job. Someone may think he is capable of being a reclamation project. My money would be on him being the offensive coordinator at Alabama after the season is Steve Sarkisian has his alcohol issues under control and is ready to take his own job.
- The Bears have two backup quarterbacks, and no starter.
Thursday, October 8
Tampa Bay at Chicago, 8:20 PM, FOX/NFL
Sunday, October 11
Carolina at Atlanta, 1:00 PM, FOX
Buffalo at Tennessee, 1:00 PM, CBS
Las Vegas at Kansas City, 1:00 PM, CBS
Arizona at New York Jets, 1:00 PM, FOX
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM, FOX
Los Angeles Rams at Washington, 1:00 PM, FOX
Cincinnati at Baltimore, 1:00 PM, CBS
Jacksonville at Houston, 1:00 PM, CBS
Miami at San Francisco, 4:05 PM, FOX
Indianapolis at Cleveland, 4:25 PM, CBS
New York Giants at Dallas, 4:25 PM, CBS
Denver at New England, 4:25 PM, CBS
Minnesota at Seattle, 8:20 PM, NBC
Monday, October 12
Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans, 8:15 PM, ESPN
Detroit, Green Bay
In its entire 100-year history, the NFL has never opened a season on the kind of scoring tear we've seen in 2020. Teams are averaging 24.7 offensive points per game during the first three weeks, 16% better than 2019 over the same period, and 22% higher than their average during the previous two decades.
There are a number of theories for the surge, from high-level quarterback play to the coronavirus pandemic-related loss of home-crowd advantage. All have merits. But there is another direct correlation, an inorganic root emanating from the league office. At the direction of its new leadership team, on-field officials have changed the way they enforce penalties -- especially offensive holding -- in a way that is too dramatic to ignore.
The decision has not only helped offenses, by cutting their penalty yards in half, but it also has led to slightly quicker games and certainly less public discussion about officiating.
Few fans would object to such aesthetics, and you've heard no complaints from teams. It's fair to ask whether the league can or will credibly sustain this effort, and to question where it will lead to as players and coaches test their new boundaries. More than anything, this episode is a stark reminder of how the NFL can manipulate its product without changing a single rule. It is football's equivalent to juicing the ball, an artificial injection of energy into the game.
ESPN has made multiple requests to interview the NFL's officiating leadership team about this and other developments during the past few months. All have been declined. But retired referee Walt Anderson, who has effectively taken control of the department as its new senior vice president of training and development, told the league's website recently that he wants officials focused on "clear and obvious" fouls and not "all of a sudden to start calling the ticky-tack stuff." Anderson acknowledged that it's what "the NFL likes and what the audience likes."
Through the first 48 games of 2020, officials have thrown flags for 95 offensive holding penalties. That's 59% fewer than in 2019, when they were operating under instructions to increase such penalties, and 45% lower than the previous five-year average. At the same time, flags for defensive pass interference have risen 22% from 2019 to 72, the most through three weeks since at least 2001. Despite the increase in pass interference, the league's current average of 13.63 flags per game is its lowest through three weeks of a season since 2001.
While NFL players are highly skilled, no reasonable observer would believe that they have changed their blocking styles to such an extent, not after a virtual offseason and without the benefit of a single preseason game. It's far more likely that officials have changed their standards, similar to previous seasons when they have been asked to focus on other points of emphasis, such as roughing the passer.
"Officials are good soldiers," ESPN officiating analyst John Parry said. "They hear the message and they perform based on what they've been instructed to call. At this level, they are that good. Whatever the marching orders are, that's how they will officiate."
NBC officiating analyst Terry McAulay noted one example on Twitter to illustrate the extent to which officials are looking the other way. The video shows how an obvious takedown went uncalled during a touchdown reception by New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara.
It's unclear why the NFL felt compelled to reorient offensive holding this season. A point of emphasis on certain blocking techniques last season prompted an ugly spike in flags, but it leveled off after Week 2 and didn't seem to need further adjustment. Scoring certainly hasn't dropped in recent seasons; two of the NFL's highest-scoring seasons have occurred in the past four years.
But the NFL has known for a while that it would open its season amid the most crowded sports calendar in its history. The delayed NBA, WNBA and NHL seasons were still underway. Major League Baseball, meanwhile, had returned for an intense, shortened season followed by an expanded postseason.
The NFL also understood that it had put its officiating department through a significant transition that might be better suited to instructions for limiting its flag throwing. In addition to new leadership, it has replaced a total of 11 officials because of retirements, attrition and pandemic opt-outs. The group also lost out on valuable training camp and preseason preparation time, and most crews didn't meet each other in person until they convened to ride to stadiums for their Week 1 games.
In any case, there can be little debate about public preferences for games that move quicker and maximize scoring. Those goals ranked atop the list of focus groups conducted by the XFL during 2018 and 2019, and were the crux of the nascent league's on-field philosophy.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the non-overtime portions of NFL games this season are finishing 41 seconds sooner than during the same period in 2019. The NFL, which adjusts its time-of-game statistics for weather and other unnatural delays, reports it has shaved 46 seconds off the 2019 number.
There is also a clear connection between offensive penalty totals and the subsequent yards lost, and sustaining drives. Since the start of the 2001 season, it has been twice as difficult to gain a first down on the play after an offensive penalty (19.9%) than on all others (39%). And according to ESPN's expected points added (EPA) model, the worst plays in football come immediately after a penalty. Their EPA is minus-0.1 per play. And it almost goes without saying that an increase in defensive pass interference calls will help passing as well. In 2020, offenses have gained 33% more penalty yards via pass interference (1,022) than during the first three weeks of 2019 (764).
But why the seemingly random choice to focus on offensive holding? Historically, it is the most frequently called foul in football. The NFL has been trying to calibrate it for years, beginning in Week 13 of the 2018 season and continuing into the start of the 2019 season. Uncalled holding fouls, moreover, don't register on the public outrage meter the way uncalled pass interference or roughing the passer penalties do, largely because they go unseen by fans who are watching the ball. A surge in called pass interference calls could generate some public angst, but ultimately it contributes further to point scoring.
In truth, the only risk here is the natural instincts of competitors. Although they don't get nearly the same public airing as some other analytics, officiating trends are closely monitored by teams. If the red line for a holding call has changed, coaches will notice and instruct their players to adjust accordingly. That would not only mean a higher frequency of blocks that would have been penalized for holding in previous seasons but also an effort to push the standard further. Without a pullback by the officiating department at some point, football games could become wrestling matches.
Until that time, however, the NFL has produced an on-field start that fits all the boxes for modern fans: more scoring, faster pacing and fewer flags
Thursday, October 1
Denver at New York Jets, 8:20 PM, NFL
Sunday, October 4
Indianapolis at Chicago, 1:00 PM, CBS
Jacksonville at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM, CBS
Cleveland at Dallas, 1:00 PM, FOX
New Orleans at Detroit, 1:00 PM, FOX
Pittsburgh at Tennessee, 1:00 PM, CBS
Seattle at Miami, 1:00 PM, FOX
Los Angeles Chargers at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM, CBS
Baltimore at Washington, 1:00 PM, CBS
Arizona at Carolina, 1:00 PM, FOX
Minnesota at Houston, 1:00 PM, FOX
New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 PM, FOX
New England at Kansas City, 4:25 PM, CBS
Buffalo at Las Vegas, 4:25 PM, CBS
Philadelphia at San Francisco, 8:20 PM, NBC
Monday, October 5
Atlanta at Green Bay, 8:15 PM, ESPN