Week 10 Observations

There are two main problems with the Giants right now: (1) Terrible special teams; and (2) Eli Manning.

Were Manning to play at the level he did in 2011 and early in 2012, I'd have no doubt they'd win the NFC East at 8-8 or so. But over his last 18 games, Manning has averaged only 6.91 yards per attempt, with 25 touchdowns and 24 picks. Moreover, his best game in that span was a meaningless Week 17 blowout over an Eagles team that had packed it in. Remove that five TD, zero INT game, and his YPA drops to 6.8, and his TD/INT ratio 20/24 over 17 games.

I have no idea why he's been so bad - his offensive line was good for most of last year and has gotten a little better in 2013 after a tough start. His surrounding skill players are top shelf. Not knowing why he's been bad, it's hard to say when and whether he'll improve. This is not Tom Brady whose track record has been so consistently good you can confidently bank on a rebound.

This was one of the crazier weeks for Survivor pools. Fading Tennessee was the easy call once it became apparent 68 percent of pools were on them. It mostly came down to whether people had used Indy already. If you had, you probably took the Giants and possibly won your pool outright. If you hadn't, it was over early.

The Rams have had two road games where they absolutely annihilated heavily-favored AFC South teams with defensive and special teams TDs. In a year where the AFC is taking it to the NFC, the Rams have been an exception, going 3-1 and crushing the team that beat both Seattle and San Francisco.

The Cowboys run defense fell apart in the Sunday night game. If you combine the production of Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas, you get 36 carries for 244 yards (6.8 YPC) and 16 catches for 115 yards and five combined touchdowns. That's 81 points in a PPR league. The Saints also set an all-time record (40) for first downs in a game.

How does Dez Bryant get two targets in a game the Cowboys lose 49-17? And why were Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray still in the game with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter? Even Kyle Orton would be too valuable to use in that situation. Get a back-up linebacker or third-string running back to take the snaps at that point.

While I'm piling on the Cowboys, good article by Jonathan Bales on why the Cowboys conservative strategy was stupid.

Sharp bettors loved Atlanta at home getting six against Seattle and drove that line down to 3.5 by kickoff. Of course, Seattle rolled. Otherwise, it was the day of the ugly dog: the Jaguars, Rams, Vikings and Bucs won outright, and the Raiders covered.

If Vernon Davis (concussion) is unable to go this week, it'll be interesting to see what Colin Kaepernick will do in New Orleans. Kaepernick had 91 passing yards, 16 rushing yards and a pick at home against the Panthers, and while that might be the toughest defense in the league, he'll have to make more happen against one of the league's top offenses. Maybe Mario Manningham is a factor.

For some reason, Jonathan Stewart led the Panthers in carries with 13, while a more effective DeAngelo Williams saw only eight.

Matt Ryan is simply not good enough to transcend his difficult circumstances. It hasn't helped that he's faced Seattle and Carolina of late and this week draws a tough matchup at Tampa Bay.

Case Keenum didn't have a good game in Arizona (4.7 YPA) and lost a fumble for a touchdown, but he's willing to target Andre Johnson in the end zone, something no Houston quarterback has ever done over his 11-season Hall of Fame career. As such, Johnson has to be considered in the big six WR, replacing the injured Julio Jones. (Others are Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant). Jordy Nelson belonged in that group before Aaron Rodgers went down, too.

The Cardinals suddenly have quality skill players now with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd (when healthy), Andre Roberts (when they use him), Andre Ellington and a now-healthy Rob Housler. And they even mix in Patrick Peterson on occasion. Unforunately, they're a bit like the Giants with a mediocre quarterback and shaky offensive line.

I hate when announcers see a third-down play come up just short and say: "It's short. They have to punt." No, they do not "have to" punt. They might choose to punt, and it might or might not be the right decision, but they don't "have to" do anything. Framing it that way is part of the problem because it takes the agency away from coaches and therefore absolves them of responsibility for what should be a probability-based decision. It's pretty clear why coaches don't maximize win percentage in their punt/go-for-it/FG decisions - because it is not something to which they're properly incentivized. If a coach goes for it on fourth and short, gets stuffed, and the team loses, the media destroys him. If he punts, even though it's the wrong call, and the team loses, there's nothing.

So the coach - whose job in the long-term depends on winning and whose job in the short term depends on how bad things look - has a call to make. That call - probably made subconsciously - is how to minimize looking bad in a loss to the media and dumb fans (to whom the media largely caters) while sacrificing only some win probability. I doubt coaches as a professional group are especially stupid, so the reason so many of them consistently do the cowardly thing is they must be correctly responding to bad incentives. So it's really up to fans to prod their local media to ask the right questions of coaches who fail to do the right thing even if that's the way it's always been done.

Philip Rivers would be so much better if he were only as athletic as the average man. When RIvers gets pressure not only can he not scramble, he can't even move around in the pocket.


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