Week 11 Observations

Good job by the refs of picking up the flag on the last play of the Monday Night game.

It's easy to see why the flag was thrown - Rob Gronkowski was clearly being held by Luke Kuechly, but the ball was five yards short and a couple seconds late, and in any event, Robert Lester was comfortably between Gronk and the ball. Had Gronk not been held, would he have had a chance to catch the ball? Almost certainly not. He'd have had to stop his momentum, cut back in a few yards and go through Lester on a ball thrown into Lester's body. Had Lester caught the ball high over his head, maybe the 6-7 Gronk could have gone up and grabbed it out of his hands. But in this case, he would have had to double back, make it to the spot, play defense on the ball and hope it hit off Lester's knee (or some other body part) and pop into the air. There was no chance he was getting between Lester and the ball, and that's assuming he could get there in the first place. I suppose it could be argued that any infinitesimal chance meant the flag should stand, but when it's so remote, I'd rather not have it turn the outcome of the game.

Some suggested holding should have been called, but that's only before the ball's in the air, and the receiver is prevented from getting open. Once the ball's in the air, it's a judgment call - if there's illegal contact, it's either PI or uncatchable.

Cam Newton engineered a masterful final drive under pressure, and whether one puts him in the Russell Wilson/Andrew Luck future-superstar category, he's seems good enough to win playoff games with the current team around him.

As Mark Stopa suggested on Twitter, the teams should have scheduled an MMA contest between Steve Smith and Aqib Talib at halftime. We installed Smith as the favorite not only against Talib, but also any NFL lineman, MMA professional or person in human history. The only player I'd consider taking over Smith is Sebastian Janikowski, presuming sufficient quantities of GHB in his system.

Tom Brady got 7.4 YPA and 296 yards in Carolina against arguably the league's best defense. His one pick was on the last play of the game. After that and the Pittsburgh game, it's safe to say he's back.

Shane Vereen had only one carry, but saw a whopping 11 targets and eight catches. There didn't seem to be any "working his way up to speed" given he had a wrist rather than a leg injury.

The Bengals-Browns game was total junk, but even so, it's amazing A.J. Green had only two catches on five targets for seven yards. (Joe Haden is good, but still). In fact, Mohamed Sanu led all Bengals wideouts with 11 yards on five targets. Andy Dalton's three-game/11-TD stretch seems like a lifetime ago. As does Jordan Cameron's fast start.

Josh Gordon saw 15 targets, and though he caught only five of them, he had 125 yards and a score. He's a top-10 wideout and would be one of the big five or six if he had a slightly better quarterback.

Chris Ogbonnaya led the Browns in rushes (8), rushing yards (69) and catches (6). Willis McGahee is past his expiration date, and the Browns might as well see what they have in Ogbonnaya.

Doug Martin did nothing all year, but after he got hurt Mike James came in and lit up the Seahawks in Seattle. When James went down, Bobby Rainey had 167 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. At this rate, the Bucs fifth string back will suit up in Week 17 and look like Jim Brown in his prime.

Seriously, though, why have Martin, Trent Richardson and Darren McFadden been so vastly outperformed by their backups? Martin and Richardson were star second-year players with good pedigrees, and McFadden was considered a risk only due to health. But James, Rainey, Donald Brown and Rashad Jennings have been so much more effective.

Matt Ryan was never a good fantasy quarterback until Julio Jones arrived in 2011. Prior to that, his career-high in yards was 3,705, and he had averaged 22 TDs over his first three seasons. That said, his defense is so poor, he might throw the ball 650 times this year.

Matt McGloin played a strong game in Houston and could have had better numbers but for some drops by his receivers. Still he got three TDs and no picks on the road against a decent defense. He's probably an upgrade over Terrelle Pryor.

You have to feel bad for Matt Schaub setting the pick-six record, having people harass him at his house, getting hurt, losing his job and now taking crap in front of everyone on the sideline from his Hall of Fame receiver. People forget from 2007-2011 (half a decade) Schaub averaged more than 8.0 YPA, but the Texans struggled largely due to a terrible defense.

Robert Griffin brought the Redskins back from a 24-0 deficit, but his interception on the final drive was one of the worst I've ever seen. It was 2nd-and-10 from the Eagles 27, and Griffin was trying to throw the ball away, but for God knows what reason threw it short of the end line, and it was picked in the end zone. Game over, any long shot playoff hopes dashed. It's shocking to see a quarterback make such a careless play with the game (and the cover) on the line.

Speaking of great moments in gambling, there was a near-safety at the end of the Niners-Saints game with the score tied at 20-20. The question was whether a penalty occurred in the end zone, and if it had, it was game over (22-20) with the Saints getting the ball back. New Orleans was favored by three, and since I had them, I was very relieved to see the Niners have to punt and wind up losing by a FG (a push).

Why are the Ravens always involved in delayed games? The question of the movable object (the Bears defense) vs. a stoppable force (Ray Rice) was answered at least. Rice went 25 for 131 (5.2 YPC) and a score. Remember, Brandon Jacobs went for 100 and two TDs against the Bears defense too.

Despite his team being totally shut down by the Bills, Chris Ivory managed another long run and salvaged his day with 98 yards and a score. I have no idea why the Jets bailed on Bilal Powell so abruptly, but Ivory is a viable starter now.

The Bills have a top-10 real life and fantasy defense now.

I'm not sure what all the Percy Havin hype is about. Sure, he'll make some highlight-reel plays each game, but even if he were 100 percent healthy and up to speed, he'd be a top 15-20 WR at best on that team. Not knowing his snap count or familiarity with his quarterback and offense, I don't see much reason to get excited. He's basically Tavon Austin until further notice.

Cordarrelle Patterson had only three catches for 28 yards, but saw nine targets. With Greg Jennings (Achilles') and Jerome Simpson (partying) possibly on the way out, Patterson - a huge talent - is worth a look down the stretch.

The Giants game was such a dud, there's not much to say about it. Eli Manning's pick was supposedly Louis Murphy's fault - apparently receivers are supposed to signal route adjustments to Manning with "body language," something that's failed many times this season. Maybe it's a bad idea for Manning to have to guess what the receiver (who's simultaneously trying to deceive the DB) is going to do based on his movements and just throw it away if the guy is covered.

Jason Pierre-Paul had a smooth pick-six which he caught cleanly and easily jogged into the end zone. His shoulder was bothering him last week, but if he gets completely healthy, that's a game changer for an already decent defense. Barring an Eagles collapse, it's probably too little too late for the Giants, though. They still have to play at Detroit and host Seattle. Even if they were to split those games, they'd likely have to go 4-0 in their others (two against Washington, one against Dallas and one at San Diego).

As much as NBC tried to hype the Broncos-Chiefs game, it was pretty boring. Knowshon Moreno saw a lot of work, but Montee Ball got the goal-line carries twice - and this despite fumbling early in the game. That doesn't bode well for Moreno owners.

Alex Smith targeted Dwayne Bowe 14 times, but connected on only four (for 57 yards and a score). While it's hard to fault the Chiefs for neglecting Bowe all year given they were 9-0 before Sunday night, maybe had they had worked him into games and not played it so safe, Smith and Bowe would have had a better rapport. There's no way they'll beat teams like Denver, New England and Indy in the playoffs without getting some downfield plays.


By: jtr5708
On: 11/19/2013 11:13:00 AM
My first instinct was to agree with your assessment on the flag being picked up. But after seeing the replay several times I am leaning towards the fact that it should have been defensive holding and the Pats should have had one more shot 5 yards closer. I agree it should not have been pass interference (giving them the ball on the 1 would have been a complete travesty). Maybe Gronkowski didn't have a good chance to catch that ball but if there is anybody that can fight through two defenders to catch a poorly thrown ball it would be Gronk. From the evidence it may look impossible but if he is not held maybe he fights through and reaches over Lester to at least get his hands involved. You stated that it is a judgement call after the ball is in the air but I think there is enough here for that judgement to be made, or the rules should at least be amended so the officials have some leeway to make a call like that. Bottom line is it looked and felt unfair to NE, which is usually fine by me as a NYG fan, but I'm coming from an integrity standpoint. It was also completely reckless for Kuechly to play him that way.

Regardless of the outcome, the real travesty is that the officials just booked off the field without providing an explanation. That is wrong, for the teams and the fans. An educated fan has a shot to understand why but the average fan was probably left in sheer bewilderment.
By: Chris Liss
On: 11/19/2013 11:37:00 AM
Jtr - I hear you. I don't think holding was an option for them, though, unless it happened before the ball was in the air. Also, while Kuechly really should be penalized for such a blatant grab, he's in theory deterred from doing that in cases where the pass was maybe a 10 or 20 percent chance of being caught, but still unlikely. In that case, you call PI, and Kuechly's grab gave NE a 70 percent chance of winning instead. But when the chance is in my opinion less than 1 percent that Gronk somehow makes that play, I think the uncatchable ruling is correct.
By: npina
On: 11/22/2013 9:29:00 AM
Uncatchable should be reserved for balls that fly 20 yards above the play for example. Once a player is interfered with its not the referees job to figure out if this player could have somehow turned his body and fought the defender for the ball. Its not the refs job to to take into account that someone was already there to intercept. The refs should not have to do any of that. If the ball is in play and not impossible to catch then its a penalty.
If you stop the play(thank you youtube) at the very second contact is made the ball and the interceptor are not in view.
Could Gronk have stopped and made his way toward the ball? Keep in mind the defender not draped all over him may have been easier to sidestep. Could he have at least knocked the ball down? Could he have fought the defender for the catch and won?
I agree all of the above is unlikely.
I disagree that its impossible. If its possible then its a penalty.
By: Chris Liss
On: 11/25/2013 3:30:00 PM
npina - I think it depends how unlikely. 1 in 100? Maybe keep the flag. 1 in 1,000,000 maybe pick it up.

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