The Case for More Ties

After every tie, the conversation is the same. How does professional football still have ties? Why is the NFL the only level of football to allow such an anti-American concept in the game? Nobody likes ties, get them out of the game. Overtime until someone wins!

Look, I get it. Coaches don’t like ties. Players don’t like ties. Fans loath ties. We all don’t like ties. Football is a game of winners and losers and there isn’t supposed to be an in-between. Despite this, The NFL needs to eliminate overtime (regular season only) and embrace ties, or at least learn to deal with them. Let’s look at why.

Ryan Santoso misses a 48-yard field goal in OT of the Lions 16-16 tie against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Ryan Santoso misses a 48-yard field goal in OT of the Lions 16-16 tie against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

College football implemented overtime in 1996, eliminating ties. Since then, there has been a myriad of attempted changes. Teams had to start going for a two-point conversion after a touchdown in the 3rd overtime. Starting in 2021, that became the second overtime while, starting in the third overtime, teams had to then alternate two-point tries to determine the winner.

This is a poor, and ultimately arbitrary, way to decide who is victorious.

Teams who excel in short-yardage situations are given an advantage in these situations while spread passing offenses are hindered. Ideas for field goal competitions have been proposed. This presents another arbitrary advantage-disadvantage situation. No matter the method, anything short of playing more, standard rules football, will not determine who the better team is, but rather who benefitted more from gimmicky rules.

Arizona kicker Chandler Catanzaro misses a field goal in overtime of the Cardinals 6-6 tie with the Seahawks in Glendale in 2016.

The NFL has portrayed itself as being pro-player safety-driven since the reports of widespread CTE became national news. Many rules have been changed to lessen the chances of injury to the players. These include a ban on lowering the helmet to initiate contact, protections for defenseless players, and shortening the overtime period from 15 to 10 minutes in 2017.

With each game that goes to overtime, players on the field are required to sacrifice their bodies for an additional 10 potential minutes of game time, on top of the 60 minutes of punishing hits they had already endured. If a primary goal of the NFL is player safety, not extending a game should be a focus.

Kyler Murray throws a pass during the Cardinals 27-27 tie against the Lions in 2019.

1,174 regular-season games have been played from the 2017 NFL season through Week 10 of the 2021 season. Of those 1,174, just 62 have reached the end of regulation with the score tied. Five of those games resulted in a tie. That’s less than 12 overtime games each year.

The Colts attempt a 4th and 4 in their 37-34 overtime loss against the Texans in Indianapolis in 2018.

There are other tie-limiting factors to consider as well. In 2018, Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich famously left his offense on the field to attempt a 4th and 4 from their own 43 yard line in overtime against the Houston Texans. With just 27 seconds left in the extra period, the attempt failed. The Texans won on a field goal as time expired. Reich said after the game: “We’re not playing to tie. We’re going for it 10 times out of 10.” While this was more of an exception than the rule, it was not an isolated incident.

Later that season, then Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn attempted a 2-point conversion with four seconds left in regulation. Down one point in Kansas City to the Chiefs, Lynn did not want to take the risk of giving the ball to Patrick Mahomes in overtime. That fear had quality reasoning behind it.

Zane Gonzalez reacts to missing an overtime field goal against the Steelers in Cleveland in 2018. The game would finish tied 21-21.
Zane Gonzalez reacts to missing an overtime field goal against the Steelers in Cleveland in 2018. The game would finish tied 21-21.

Winning the coin toss is random and unpredictable. With each coin flip, the away team has a 50/50 chance of guessing correctly and, because of this, winning a game in overtime is far from random. Since 2017, teams that won the overtime coin toss are 35-22-5 (.605). Football is a game of inches. A 20 percentage point swing is monstrous and outside the bounds of standard variance. In 2021 alone, coin toss winners are 9-4-1. Overtime doesn’t decide who was the better team, it decides which was luckier.

Carson Wentz and Joe Burrow after the Bengals and Eagles tied 23-23 in Philadelphia in 2020.
Carson Wentz and Joe Burrow after the Bengals and Eagles tied 23-23 in Philadelphia in 2020.

Entering the final week of the regular season, playoff-clinching scenarios articles are in abundance. Every possible outcome is accounted for including which tiebreakers would be in play. Sporadic ties eliminate the need for those tiebreakers. The 2017 Buffalo Bills punched their postseason ticket on a tiebreaker with the Baltimore Ravens. Had those Bills tied with the Colts in an overtime game they won earlier that season (after winning the overtime coin-toss), and the Ravens tied with the Chicago Bears in a game they lost in overtime (Chicago won the overtime coin-toss) a more deserving Ravens team would have been in the playoffs.

Lamar Jackson slams the ball to the grass after being sacked during the Ravens 22-10 loss in Miami.

In Week 9, 2021, The Ravens hosted the Minnesota Vikings. The game lasted 69 minutes, 44 seconds. The Ravens won on a Justin Tucker field goal (after winning the coin toss), beating the Vikings 34-31. Just four short days later, that same Ravens team flew to Miami to take on the lowly 2-7 Dolphins on Thursday Night Football. Hard Rock Stadium was humid, hot, and mucky. Favored by 8.5 points, Baltimore came out flat, eventually losing 22-10 in a game the score did no justice. Thursday Nights are extremely hard on NFL players’ bodies (a case for eliminating those another time). Adding extra wear and tear only worsens the turnaround.

Daniel Carlson misses an overtime field goal as time expires in Green Bay in 2018. The Packers and Vikings tie 29-29.
Daniel Carlson misses an overtime field goal as time expires in Green Bay in 2018. The Packers and Vikings tie 29-29.

Not every game deserves a winner and a loser. If, after 60 minutes of game action two teams are even, so be it. Players should not have to sacrifice their bodies for additional game minutes without compensation. A loss should not be assigned to a team because the NFL arbitrarily extended their game. A team should not win because they won a 50-50 luck-based proposition. Other sports have recognized this. MLS awards three points for a win and one for a draw. The NHL rewards an overtime loss with one point. MLS plays twice the amount of games as the NFL while the NHL plays nearly five times as many. With NFL teams playing 17 games, and the noted randomness of overtime, too much is at stake to leave even one game riding on chance.

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Odell Beckham Jr. Addition Pushes Patriots Deep Into Playoff Discussion

When the story of Odell Beckham Jr. first surfaced nearing the trade deadline, the name Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots immediately began to surface in connection. The immediate reaction was: “Please, not again. We’re tired of this rumor”. As this would not mark the first time a potential link between the Patriots and OBJ has been brought up. Yet, this time around, Beckham is subject to waivers, not a mere trade target to appease Tom Brady. 

The situation presents itself a little differently. New England will likely be looking for that one last playmaker to differentiate their 4-4 offense. Making the possibility of this deal actually happening seem a little bit more real. Leading one to imagine, what the offense would look like, how Beckham could function in the offense, what he could add to it, and whether his addition, at likely a restructured salary, would be worth it. 

The waiver wire process, Patriots’ chances

Of course, Beckham is going through the waiver wire, where the Patriots stand middle of the pack at 15th. There are a few teams in front of New England, posing as threats to snatch him off the wire. Most would likely have more money to do so. As the Patriots sit with their estimated $2.5 million in cap space. However, something to anticipate is the mere fact that some of the under .500 teams would have to consider between surrendering draft pick value for a season that seemingly cannot be salvaged, and the value of bringing in Beckham, who could potentially become disgruntled in a losing environment. That is especially if the quarterback situation is less than optimal. Leaving many contenders, looking for that last push over the hump, the most likely candidates for his service. 

Many of whom also have limited cap space to absorb Beckham’s large remaining salary of $7.5 million for the nine remaining weeks of the regular season. In fact, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, there are only nine teams that can afford to claim Beckham without maneuvering any other money around. Many of those teams have reasonable questions regarding their competitiveness around the league, and or their quarterback situation. Leaving many to question if Beckham will get claimed off waivers at all. 

A lot still has to play out, yes. However, one thing to count on, if Beckham does in fact hit the open market, New England will be interested in some form. Beckham will share at least somewhat similar interest. The rest of the story is yet to unfold. 

With much speculation and possibility in the air, let’s try to address how he can fit in this offense. What does Beckham bring to the table, and how does he open things up for this offense?

How does Beckham fit? 

Adding Beckham gives you at the very least a fourth truly competent receiver to work with. With Jakobi Meyers in the slot, Nelson Agholor at the Z spot, the Patriots fit Beckham in at the X. That’s a receiver trio that Mac Jones should be comfortable with, and most other quarterbacks would agree. Especially with Kendrick Bourne also in the mix. Then, N’Keal Harry seeing some usage, the two tight ends in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, and the rushing threat of Damien Harris. That offense would have a lot of options at their disposal. They would be able to operate from a variety of different looks, and incorporate loads of pre-snap motion in order to create a multiplicity of mismatches on the field. On a consistent basis, they would have the personnel to beat the blitz, tight man coverage, and find empty holes in zone coverage, getting playmakers into space with the football.

Ability to draw favorable matchups from a variety of looks

Beckham would be that true number one receiver that New England is missing, and be the true X receiver they have been searching for. With top three receivers solidified and two top tier tight ends, the passing game could work out of almost any formation. 

That includes spreading out the field, and Jones reading out of a three receiver, two tight end set. With defenses focusing on not getting beat deep by Agholor and trying to account for Beckham and his playmaking ability, the defense would still have to account for both Henry and Smith in the passing game, along with either Meyers or Bourne (whoever is in the game) on the shallow route. Leaving those four to get favorable matchups in the passing game, and likely strengthen Jones’ quick passing game ability and options even further. 

Likely improvement on third-down conversions

Not to mention, the third-down conversion rate for this team (currently at 42.86%, good for sixth according to TeamRankings) would go up even further. Allowing them to compete for one of the top chain-moving offenses in football, which would be another way in which they could start to solidify themselves as a playoff threat. 

How the run game factors in; defensive stressors

Ideally, with solid offensive line play and Jones continuing to complete passes, avoid the mistakes, that offense plus Beckham makes them a serious AFC threat. Adding in the threat of the run game behind the offensive line still potentially awaiting the return of Trent Brown. Also factoring in the defense that has impressed throughout the season. A unit currently ranking twelfth in the league. Additionally, just won the game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Doing so by holding Justin Hebert to arguably his worst performance of the season. 

With the strong rushing attack, and the depth at the skill positions, play action would present problems for opposing defenses. Harris has been routinely rushing for 100 yards a game. So to have Harris or Stevenson as a rushing threat or a receiving threat, along with the two tight ends helping sell run until it’s a pass, would be enough stress on a defense. But also Beckham underneath, Agholor up top. Man, that puts a lot of different stressors on a defense and secondary. Especially when the offensive line can protect the pass. 

An underutilized wrinkle to call more: possibility of RPOs

Along those lines, the offense has not been afraid to dabble in the RPO from time to time this season. Offensive playcaller, Josh McDaniels, could also put defenders in a bind. With Alabama boys Jones and Harris, both familiar with similar RPO looks, have another weapon at their disposal. Beckham, who can be a threat on the slant route and with the ball in his hands. That RPO trio off different looks, including two-tight end sets, could be deadly. 

Beckham would get his targets, of course. He would likely be a big splash play guy. Play the role as someone who they would get the ball to in space. He’d be someone who could haul in given contested catch scenarios. Along with run those RPOs with on occasion. It would truly depend on how quickly he could get a feel for the offense and the environment. 

Dominating field position, moving the chains, & hitting the checkdowns

Regardless of Beckham’s individual statistical contributions, one thing is for sure. His addition to the offense would help in two of the three keys to winning football games (field position, turnovers, and penalties). This team with Beckham would be able to dominate field position on all three units. They’d be able to convert third downs at a high rate. By adding enough talent for defenses to need to respect, defenses get in a matchup bind. Therefore, allowing Jones to likely have his checkdown options and third-down chainmovers (Meyers, Henry, Bourne, potentially Smith) open even more. While for the times in which defenses don’t respect Beckham’s game-changing talent, you then have a big playmaker option in this offense. An offense that has struggled to produce plays of 20 yards or more in the first half of the season. 

What might Belichick think of all this?

That offense would have much at their disposal to push them into a Wild Card spot. It would be Wild Card at the very least, assuming this then high-powered team could go on a run to end the season. Given the team is currently the first spot out of the Wild Card, you better bet that Belichick is salivating at the idea of Beckham. The idea of being able to run his offense out of so many different looks and formations would be arousing to almost any head coach. The move would likely stamp his ticket to the team’s first playoff appearance of the Mac Jones/post-Brady era. A milestone that the he’s likely at least somewhat itching to get past. Buckle up folks, things could get interesting. 

As when Belichick was asked about mid-season acquisitions today, he responded with this:

And to top things all off for Belichick, this could sweeten the deal even more, given Beckham clears waivers:

Again, we’ve been looking at photos of Beckham cropped into a New England jersey for years. However, this time around, buckle up folks. It might just be that time a camera truly captures Beckham wearing the blue, red, and grey. Don’t buy the jerseys yet and monitor the weekend rumors distantly from the couch. Just keep in mind, if no team were to claim him Monday night, the Patriots will almost definitely swoop in hawkishly toward this missing puzzle piece to their offense. Making another aggressive push, just like the spending-spree bonanza they had this off-season.

Patriots Can Reframe AFC Playoffs Versus Chargers

Last year, the Patriots steamrolled the Chargers in SoFi Stadium. In front of no fans, the Chargers folded against an inadequate Patriots team whose strengths were often afterthoughts in the world of football. Special teams and defense carried New England to a 45-0 victory. A game where quarterback Cam Newton only had to throw for 69 yards. This game will surely be a whole different type of game. The Chargers have improved significantly, leading the AFC West, and look like an explosive team headed into the halfway mark of the season. Justin Herbert hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and it looks like the hiring of Brandon Staley has worked wonders for the Chargers defense.

The Patriots are coming off of a 54-13 domination over the New York Jets. A game where the offense finally looked like it clicked. Mac Jones threw for 307 yards and two scores. Meanwhile, the defense suffocated anything New York gave them. The Chargers will be a taller task though, and will not be a walk in the park. The Patriots need to start stringing some big wins together. They’re just a game out of the playoff picture, the next several weeks will be huge in their push. So let’s get to it. Set it up Bailey, and let’s get this one underway.

Three Keys to The Game

Patriots vs. Jets: Live updates, score, news, game details - Pats Pulpit

Key #1: Keep Offense Hot

The Patriots finally put a complete effort on offense together last week against the Jets. Over 300 yards through the air, and nearly 150 yards on the ground. The Pats shouldn’t have any lack of confidence when it comes to the capabilities of this unit after such a dominating outing last week. Though the Chargers are far more talented than the lowly Jets, I don’t see any reason why the Pats should just collapse. There will be more resistance, but by no means should they be shut down. Josh McDaniels has opened this playbook just enough to show just how productive they can be. I wouldn’t expect another 300-yard day for Jones, but efficiency is within the realm of possibility for this squadron.

Key #2: Contain Justin Herbert

The sophomore slump hasn’t affected Justin Herbert in the least bit. The 2020 rookie of the year has been lights out through six games. The former Oregon Duck has already passed for 1,771 yards and 14 touchdowns, proving to be one of the most productive signal-callers in the game. He’s got a plethora of weapons to throw to. Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Jared Cook, and Austin Ekeler out of the backfield could prove to be a nightmare for a beat-up Patriots secondary. Herbert will probably be airing the ball out and often to start, the Pats need to be prepared for the Chargers’ main weapon of choice.

Key #3: Neutralize Joey Bosa

Joey Bosa is probably the best pure pass rusher New England has faced to this point of the season. The sixth-year (yeah, that shocked me too) pro has already racked up 3.5 sacks and 8 QB hits on the year. Ranking top-10 in win percentage versus opposing lineman and the fourth-best graded edge rusher according to PFF. Isaiah Wynn or whoever ends up playing at right tackle this week will have their hands full versus the former Buckeye. If The Patriots are going to have a chance this week it’ll have to include making sure Mac Jones doesn’t get torn apart by Bosa.

X-Factor: Kyle Dugger

LOCAL PRO ROUNDUP: New England's Dugger 'hyped' for 2021 NFL season |  Sports News |

Two interceptions in two games is really impressive for second-year safety Kyle Dugger. He’ll have his hands full against the crafty veteran Jared Cook this weekend. The Patriots love to man up against these tight ends with athletic safeties. Dugger certainly fits this bill and he’s taken over the Chung role to take on these freakishly talented tight ends. Adrian Phillips will play a significant role in this defensive gameplan as well, but I’m really hoping Dugger gets a chance to shine against one of the NFL’s best.

Closing Thoughts

Patriots-Rams betting: Sharps grab side, total | Las Vegas Review-Journal

What makes this game so appealing is that both of these teams are vastly improved from a season ago. The Patriots have totally remodeled themselves into an offense with some serious potential. Meanwhile, the Chargers have turned themselves into the top-tier AFC contender we all thought that they could be. Taking the AFC West and currently running away with it, with the help of the unforeseen collapse of the Kansas City Chiefs of course.

Even with all of that being said, I think New England is seriously onto something here. I haven’t seen the team this amped up since the departure of Tom Brady. No matter who it’s against, dropping a 50 burger on anybody is surely confidence-inspiring, and I think New England pulls out a tough win on this road trip getting back up to .500. Having them feeling good versus Stephon Gilmore and the Carolina Panthers next week.

Final Score: 31-28, New England (4-4)

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The Patriots Need to Close the Door on the Jets

The New England Patriots have a chronic issue. They can never close the door. Forget that all of their losses have been at home. They’ve been in every game they’ve played. There have been countless chances to win it. Versus the Dolphins week one, Damien Harris fumbled late and cost them. Versus the Saints week three, the defense held on just long enough but Jonnu Smith dropped a pass that got taken back to the endzone by Malcolm Jenkins. Week four against Tom Brady and the Bucs, a Mac Jones pass was batted down on the last drive of the game and forced the Patriots to kick a 56-yard field goal, just too much to ask of an injured Nick Folk.

Then last week against Dallas, they were simply outcoached and outplayed. They held a late lead but Mac Jones threw a pick-six and in overtime, Nelson Agholor dropped a pass that he could’ve taken all the way to end the game. The Patriots have nobody to blame but themselves for their 2-4 record. If it was not for the Dolphins starting out 1-5, they’d be perpetually in third place of the AFC East. Luckily, the third-place spot is about the floor for this team. As their opponent this week, the New York Jets, are more of a mess than almost anybody in the NFL. The Patriots floored them 25-6 in their week two matchup. Forcing four interceptions off rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.

I don’t foresee them having an issue keeping the Jets out of the game, but Gillette Stadium hasn’t been a good place for the Patriots this season. Which means we can’t rule anything out at home. So without further delay, set it up, Bailey! Let’s get this underway.

Three Keys to The Game

The Patriots-Jets rivalry has entered the Mac Jones-Zach Wilson era, but  the result is the same – The Athletic

Key #1: Confuse Zach Wilson … Again

In week two, the rookie in green threw four interceptions and saw ghosts, just as Sam Darnold did before him. It was obvious that the Patriots’ defense set the tone early and got in his head often. Obviously, Bill Belichick can’t just copy and paste his week two strategy. It’s been five weeks, and the Jets actually have a win under their belt against a solid Titans team. But being just as complex and overwhelming as they were in week two will go a long way. Get in the rookie’s head. I’m sure he’s baked more turnovers for the boogeymen to enjoy.

Key #2: Contain Quinnen Williams

The Jets aren’t good at much. But Quinnen Williams is a monster on the defensive line. A true force to be reckoned with. Not quite Aaron Donald, but he’ll wreck a game for your offense if you let him. He wins about 19% of his pass-rush snaps, which is in the top-16 for defensive tackles. He’s also already got three sacks on the year and is consistently ranked as one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL by PFF. Williams is a dominant force and the battered Patriots offensive line is going to have their hands full come Sunday afternoon. Mac Jones, per usual, won’t have all day to throw the football. Not only because the offensive line is that ugly, but that Williams is that damn good as well.

Key #3: Establish an Offensive Attack

The Jets quietly have a top-10 defense in both terms of rushing yards and passing yards. They stuffed the Patriots’ run game with only allowing Damien Harris and James White to have a combined 82 total yards rushing in their last meeting. Meanwhile keeping Mac Jones quiet, only allowing 186 yards through the air for no score. This is where closing the door comes into play. The Patriots cannot allow the Jets to get chance after chance because the offense stalls.

Simply relying on your opponent to be worse than you doesn’t work that often. Especially for the Patriots this year, no more evident than when they almost choked a game away against the Houston Texans, allowing Davis Mills to drop over 300 passing yards and 4 touchdowns on their head. Zach Wilson is much more dynamic than Mills. If he taps into his potential, he’ll take advantage of a lazy defense. Don’t make the defense work harder than they have to. The offense needs to pick up some of the slack. Whether it be Harris or Rhamondre Stevenson on the ground, or through Jones and the air attack, they can’t fall asleep.

X-Factor: Jonnu Smith

Jonnu Smith, <a rel=

A lot of Jonnu Smith’s teammates have been gassing him up, saying that a breakout game is coming soon. Could this be his opportunity? The Jets are a bottom-10 team against the tight end position according to fantasy points allowed. Not to say that Fantasy Football is the end-all-be-all of defensive rankings, but it’s a spot they’ve been vulnerable at and the stats show it. Hunter Henry has been eating the most recently out of the two. It might be Jonnu’s time to shine after a quiet handful of weeks. If he comes alive, this Patriots offense becomes so much closer to everything it’s supposed to be.

At this point, I’ll personally take any big-time impact from the new guys we brought in. We’ve seen Kendrick Bourne break out. Particularly last week versus the Cowboys. We’ve seen Hunter Henry become a consistent target for Mac Jones. It’s time to see Jonnu Smith become the same.

Closing Thoughts

3-Time Super Bowl Champion Richard Seymour Voted into Patriots Hall of Fame  | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

In case you missed it, Patriots legend Richard Seymour is getting his red jacket this weekend at Patriot Place. His induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame is on Saturday ahead of this matchup. Just to remember how much of a beast he was; he racked up 39 sacks over the course of 8 seasons with the team, 64 tackles for loss, and won three Super Bowls with the franchise. Making up one half of a deadly combination between him and Vince Wilfork, another surefire Patriots Hall of Famer and possibly bound for the NFL Hall of Fame at the same time. Seymour is well-deserving of this honor and will be remembered as one of the most fierce linemen of the Patriots dynasty, after terrorizing countless opponents in the biggest games imaginable.

As for the game at hand, there’s no reason Patriots fans shouldn’t be confident. This is a really abysmal Jets team, with a rookie quarterback and head coach still struggling to find their identity. Who were also dominated by New England just five weeks ago. But I think the Jets have a good chance of keeping pace with the Pats. The New England offense just hasn’t found its groove yet. They can compete with the best of them, but winning the game has proven to be something that they struggle with.

Despite all this, I will give New England the win. The Jets have failed to prove much of anything themselves. Despite good defense against the rush and the pass, they struggle to win more than New England does. Anything can happen though. We’ve seen Gillette Stadium become a grounds for losing it hasn’t seen in its almost 20-year history. I’d like to think that changes on Sunday.

Final Score: 28-12, New England (3-4)

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The Kneecap Recap: Lions-Bengals Review

Following their loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Jacksonville Jaguars win over the Miami Dolphins in London, the Detroit Lions are now the lone winless team in the NFL this season. And unlike their losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings, they never had a chance. The Lions fell to the Bengals 34-11 Sunday afternoon at Ford Field, in a display that will not be fondly remembered. In my first edition of The Kneecap Recap, I’d like to look at where this game puts each team in the standings at the time of this writing, a few top performers for both teams, a big takeaway from both teams, before giving an overall closing thought.


Detroit Lions: 0-6, 4th in NFC North (next week: @ LA Rams)

Cincinnati Bengals: 4-2, 2nd in AFC North (next week: @ Ravens)

Top Performers

Detroit Lions: QB Jared Goff (28/42, 202 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT), RB D’Andre Swift (67 total yards, 1 rush TD), TE T.J. Hockenson (8 catches, 74 yards)

Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow (19/29, 271 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT), RB Joe Mixon (153 total yards, 1 rec. TD), WR Ja’Marr Chase (4 catches, 97 yards)

Lions Takeaway: Frustration Abounds

Photo Credit: Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press

In my Lions-Bengals preview, I said that the fight that this Lions team had would prevent them from being well and truly blown out. In actuality, there wasn’t much fight from this Lions team. They replaced their fight with something else: frustration. The Detroit Lions were frustrated today, and it was clear no matter where you looked. Anytime the FOX NFL cameras focused on head coach Dan Campbell, you could see it in his expression. When you saw the Lions’ offense stall out, you could see it in their body language. Hell, anytime the cameras focused on the fans, you could see it on their faces.

And I guess I should have seen it coming. If there’s any team in the NFL you’d expect to be frustrated, it’d have to be the Detroit Lions. After all, what team wouldn’t carry some frustration with them after losing twice in three weeks on last-second 50+ yard field goals, one of which was an NFL record? Today, it just seemed like the team couldn’t bottle it up any longer. They wore their frustration on their faces, in the way they carried themselves, but they didn’t channel it into their play. And as a result, they got blown out.

Ultimately, this loss comes down to their failure to execute once again. They were consistent today, which may be a first, but they were consistently bad. They failed to execute on offense most of the game, until offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn just said to hell with it and instructed his receivers to run five-yard routes for most of the second half. And even, the offense struggled to execute much of anything. The defense, while better than the offense, eventually broke down, allowing the game to get away.

Bengals Takeaway: Exactly What They Needed

Photo Credit: David Reginek/USA TODAY Sports

This may sound like I’m down on the Bengals or their performance, but I assure you I’m not. It sounds boring to say, but this is exactly what this team needed all around. After narrowly escaping a then-winless-Jaguars team and losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Green Bay Packers, this kind of win is what the Bengals needed. They were strong on both sides of the ball and never took their foot off the gas. Unlike the Packers, who trailed at half to this same Lions team, they were never in danger of losing.

In my preview, I said the biggest mistake the Bengals could make was underestimating this Lions team. And it seems like they agreed. Taking a 10-0 lead into the half, the Bengals poured it on in the second half, scoring 24 total points to secure the win. Even when head coach Zac Taylor sat Burrow and had Brandon Allen under center, they kept pushing. And it was Allen’s TD pass to wideout Auden Tate that kept the Lions and their fans from having delusions of a comeback.

This is what good teams do. Good teams should be able to face a team like the Lions and win comfortably. And that’s exactly what the Bengals did. They have a huge test next week against the Ravens, but they’ll celebrate this one tonight.

Closing Thoughts

Photo Credit: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

I am not under any delusions of this actually happening. I don’t believe it’s even under consideration. And I really don’t want this to appear as me jumping on the bandwagon. However, as I sat back at halftime and I considered Jared Goff’s 38-yard first-half performance, I wondered what it is the Lions coaching staff sees in Goff that they don’t see in backup David Blough. He certainly won’t light the world on fire, but I feel confident that Blough will at least see open receivers and/or feel confident enough to throw further than five yards down the field more than once per game.

The Lions are on the road next week to face their greatest quarterback in franchise history. A man who’s thriving with the Los Angeles Rams in a way he never was given a chance to in Detroit. I’ll obviously have clearer thoughts about the Matthew Stafford Derby, if I may borrow a soccer term, later on in the week when it comes time for the preview. However, I don’t see an outcome that doesn’t involve Stafford unleashing years of frustration with this organization onto their defense.

I’ll see you all later this week for The Hunt For Kneecaps Preview.

Featured Photo Credit: Daniel Mears/Detroit News

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The Hunt For Kneecaps: Lions-Bengals Preview

The Detroit Lions are still looking for their first taste of sweet, sweet kneecap this season, and will welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to Ford Field on Sunday. This is the first meeting between the two teams since Christmas Eve 2017 when the Bengals came out on top 26-17 in Cincy. If the Lions were to win on Sunday, it’d be their first victory over the Bengals since 1992, according to The Football Database. Let’s look at their place in the standings, the injury reports, and what exactly each team needs to do in order to pull out the win. And I will give a game prediction at the end of the piece. Let’s get started.


Detroit Lions: 0-5, 4th in NFC North (last game: L @ Vikings)

Cincinnati Bengals: 3-2, T-2nd in AFC North (last game: OT L vs. Packers)

Injury Report

Detroit Lions: LB Trey Flowers (knee, questionable), TE TJ Hockenson (knee, questionable), RB D’Andre Swift (groin, questionable), RB Jamaal Williams (hip/illness, questionable)

Cincinnati Bengals: G D’Ante Smith (knee, out), WR Mike Thomas (ankle, questionable), G Jackson Carman (not injury related, questionable), HB Joe Mixon (ankle, questionable)

Lions Gameplan: Execute and Execute Consistently

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Duane Burleson

It seems like the easiest thing in the world in discussing how this Lions team can win any game. And yet, Detroit has had serious issues with executing their game plan. A lot of this is because of their injury issues. Besides losing defensive back Jeff Okudah during their Week 1 loss to San Francisco, the Lions have also lost center Frank Ragnow (toe), wide receiver Quintez Cephus (shoulder), and pass rusher Romeo Okwara (Achilles) for the season. Starting kick returner Corey Ballentine is on injured reserve as well.

The Lions are going into this game with a lot of injury issues, but they cannot allow that to hinder them. They have to execute on both sides of the ball if they want to have a chance of winning this game. They’ve shown that they can put together scoring drives this season. This leads me to my next point: they cannot be wildly inconsistent in this game. The Lions haven’t played a good game of football this season.

They’ve had great stretches in a single quarter or half, but they’ve yet to put it all together for 60 full minutes. The closest they’ve gotten was last week against Minnesota. The defense played well enough to keep them in it, but the offense didn’t really show until the dying embers of the game. Even when the offense finally showed up, the defense disappeared, and the Lions lost once again on a last-second field goal. If the Lions can consistently execute their plays on both sides of the ball, they’ll give themselves the best chance to win.

The one player who absolutely needs to be better is quarterback Jared Goff. Yes, he has a makeshift wide receiver core and an offensive line missing key pieces. However, he isn’t guilt-free. He needs to trust himself to throw the ball further than five yards. If he sees an open receiver deep down the field, he needs to trust his arm and his receiver to make the play.

Bengals Gameplan: Don’t Underestimate The Lions

Photo Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/Cincinnati Enquirer

I might underestimate the Lions in my own right, which is weird as a Lions fan, but this is the one mistake I think the Bengals could make that would be costly. The Lions are not a good football team, that much is established. However, the Bengals have been in a similar situation this season. They faced the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are also winless, two weeks ago at home. And it was a game in which the Bengals barely escaped with a win.

It’s not like the Jags played super well. Signal caller Trevor Lawrence barely threw over 200 yards. Wideout Laviska Shenault Jr had 99 yards receiving, but 52 of them came on one play. The Jags’ defense had one sack and two tackles for a loss and didn’t force a single turnover. Despite all of this, Jacksonville led 14-0 at the half and took a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter. The Bengals needed a last-second kick from rookie kicker Evan McPherson to snatch victory away from Urban Meyer.

This isn’t to say the Bengals are a poor team because they aren’t. I’m saying that the Bengals played down to the Jaguars, despite the result. They cannot afford to do the same to this Lions team. This might be my bias as a Lions fan speaking, but I believe the Lions are better than the Jaguars. They certainly have more fight in them than Jacksonville does. Cincinnati should not give the Lions a chance in this game as they did with the Jags.

For Cincinnati, they should look to the Joe Burrow-to-Ja’Marr Chase connection all game long. Justin Jefferson burned the Lions last week, and there’s no reason to believe that the 5th overall pick in April’s draft shouldn’t do the same. This connection has worked all season, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


Photo Credit: AP Photo/Emilee Chinn

I apologize, fellow Lions fans, but I cannot see them winning their first game this Sunday. While Cincinnati played down to Jacksonville, they went toe to toe with the Green Bay Packers. If it wasn’t for the most bizarre kicking sequence in recent NFL history, the Bengals would be 4-1. And I just don’t see the Lions putting it all together to beat this team. However, the Lions will fight like they always do, so I don’t believe they’ll be completely blown out.

Prediction: Bengals def. Lions 24-14

Photo Credit: Quinn Harris/USA Today Sports

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Patriots Will Be Challenged by Cowboys

The New England Patriots were barely able to escape last week with a 25-22 win over the Houston Texans. After a 312 yard, two-touchdown performance from third-round pick quarterback Davis Mills, the Patriots completed a 13-point second-half comeback. With an offensive line made from the scrap heap, Mac Jones was only sacked once. The pass protection wasn’t the problem last weekend. Ball security and sloppy defense were. Damien Harris fumbled yet again, costing the Patriots a touchdown early. Defensively they couldn’t stop a nosebleed. They relied on Davis Mills falling apart to steal the victory.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (not you, Matt Patricia) to figure out that they probably won’t get that lucky against the Dallas Cowboys. Dak Prescott has been on an absolute tear to start the season, passing for 1,368 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year. Posting a 116.9 passer rating. He’s surrounded by a plethora of talent. Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb, and Amari Cooper far outmatch the talent that Houston had last week. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ defense is vastly improved. They’re a top-five rushing defense and they rank first in scoring. Not a great matchup for a Pats offense that struggles to put points on the board as is.

It’s not all bad though. The Patriots are finally getting healthy again with Michael Onwenu and Shaq Mason returning to practice. It shouldn’t be long until they’re full strength. So without further ado, set it up, Bailey. Let’s get this one going.

Three Keys to The Game

How the Patriots offense will find success against the Cowboys - Pats Pulpit

Key #1: Stuff The Run

Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best backs in the NFL. Even if the production hasn’t been the same since his first year, he’s a force to be reckoned with. The Dallas offense still revolves heavily around their success with the run game. The Cowboys average 5.3 yards per rush and about 172 yards per game on the ground. Tony Pollard providing some support on the depth chart shouldn’t be overlooked either. He’s averaging 60 yards a game as well. The run game will be a huge factor in the possible rain in Gillette Stadium. If the Patriots can slow them down they’re already in great shape. We’re looking at you, Lawrence Guy, and Davon Godchaux. Do what you do best.

Key #2: Keep Up With The Recievers

It’s not just the ground game that New England has to keep up with. The Cowboys have an MVP caliber quarterback in Dak Prescott, passing to pro-bowl caliber receivers in Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Not to mention sneakily dynamic tight ends Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin. You’d be hard-pressed to find an offense more talented than Dallas. I’m worried the Pats might not have the secondary to match.

Jalen Mills should be back this week to accompany J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones in taking on this tall task. But he’s no Stephon Gilmore. The Pats secondary will have to play infinitely better than they did last week if they want to be even semi-competitive against Dak Prescott. He’s not Davis Mills. Prescott will crush you if given the opportunity. If he’s given the windows that Mills was last week, he’ll make his case for MVP even stronger at our expense.

Key #3: Mac Jones Needs to Leap Forward

Listen, I’ve been just a big a fan of Mac Jones as the rest of the New England region. He’s been a nice change at the position by throwing the ball smartly, safely, and surprisingly accurate. At first, I thought the comparisons to 2001 Tom Brady were a bit reactionary. But I can sort of see it. And reports are from the ownership down, the Patriots organization absolutely loves what they have in Mac Jones. The confidence the organization has in him, and the confidence he has in himself are great. But the results need to start to come.

In the rookie’s first five starts, he’s been anything but flashy. He’s top 10 in total turnover-worthy plays for quarterbacks and his big-time throw rate sits with the likes of Daniel Jones and former Patriot Jacoby Brissett at 3.5 percent. It is possible that play-calling has hindered his ability to show what he has in store. But sooner or later he’s going to have to really hit his potential if the Patriots are to be contenders in 2021. The expectations are high, but that comes with being a first-round selection. He won’t get the pass that some late-round guys do for starting slow.

It’s almost mid-season, it’s put up or shut up time from now until the season’s close in Miami in 12 weeks. I’m sure that Bill Belichick intends on playing further into January as well. Let’s ease up on the training wheels and give Jones a chance to show off against a worthy opponent. Belichick didn’t sign Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor for no reason. Let’s see those big additions pay off in the biggest games, and I think this week against a Super Bowl contender certainly counts as one.

X-Factor: Jakobi Meyers

Patriots' Jakobi Meyers trying to carry on <a rel=

Did you know through three seasons in the NFL, Jakobi Meyers doesn’t have a single touchdown catch? He has a couple of throws to the endzone, but never a catch. Sure, he might’ve had one or two his rookie season if Tom Brady didn’t decide he hated rookies in his twilight in New England. But it’s unfathomable that despite being the Patriots’ best receiver last year and into this season, he’s been unable to find the endzone in his natural position.

If Jones is going to have the big day that he might just need to match up with Prescott, Meyers is going to have to break free from Trevon Diggs, and Anthony Brown, who has been electric to start this season. Diggs himself has put up a campaign similar to Stephon Gilmore in 2019 when he won defensive player of the year. If the passing game is to be the focus against the Cowboys, I wouldn’t be shocked if Meyers is the focal point of it and sees around 15 looks from Jones. Isn’t it about the time he’s found the endzone anyway? He’s only been the Patriots’ most reliable target since the conclusion of Julian Edelman‘s career. Which came about eight months before his official retirement announcement.

Closing Thoughts

3 Players Bill Belichick, Patriots Need to Get More Involved Immediately |  Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

I cannot begin to fathom how bad of a look it would be for the Patriots to lose four straight home games to open the season. The last time the Patriots had a .500 or lower record at home? The 2000 season, Belichick’s first with the team, and effectively Drew Bledsoe‘s last as the starter. Even Cam Newton was able to pull off the wins in Foxboro. I get the schedule hasn’t been easy, and if it wasn’t for a few plays going the wrong way, the Pats are a 4-1 team. But we don’t live in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where “What If?” could be turned into something worthwhile. In the NFL, the win is all that matters.

I would be lying if I said I’m confident the Patriots can pull off a win, but that doesn’t mean they can’t. After keeping up with Tampa Bay’s offense at almost full strength, it isn’t impossible to picture Belichick being able to frustrate the Cowboys. We’ve seen the Patriots do far more with much less. It’s a common theme among various Patriots teams through the years.

The concern obviously lies with the Patriots’ offense making the most of their opportunities. Something they’ve failed on doing thus far into the season. Ranking 25th in total offense. Maybe Mrs. McDaniels can get Josh to finally start being a little more aggressive with the play calls, and let Mac Jones rip it a little. If they can produce at least three touchdowns worth of points on offense? I give the Patriots a real chance. So I’ll ride on the optimism train a little bit longer. Don’t let me down, Belichick!

Final Score: 27-23, New England (3-3)

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A Political and Football Look At Jon Gruden

I have to preface this article with a note that (a) the opinions and ideas written here are strictly that of the author and do not represent the entirety of Pro Football Press, and (b) this article will get political. If this is a bother to you, click away now. If not, let’s take a political and football look at the Jon Gruden situation.

Former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden resigned from his position as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night. This move followed a report from The New York Times about the bigoted language he used in emails as recently as 2018. This new report follows an earlier report in which Gruden used a racist trope to describe NFLPA union president DeMaurice Smith, who is black. Gruden said in a statement, “I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”

Anytime we see someone who has past comments and beliefs exposed to the world, there are always two sides developed. One side impugns the person in question, criticizes them, and calls for them to face some sort of repercussion. The other side immediately runs to social media to call anyone who doesn’t like these comments/beliefs soft snowflakes and rage about cancel culture. And the cancel culture/culture war discourse is one that refuses to die down online.

So, I will not shy away from it, because I believe that Jon Gruden needed to go. And in this piece, I want to look at why Gruden isn’t a victim of being canceled for things he said years ago, as well as why Gruden needed to go from strictly a football point of view. Once again, if political discourse is something you wish to avoid, skip this piece. If it’s something that does not bother you, follow along with me.

A Political Examination

Jon Gruden
Photo Credit: Rick Scuteri/AP

Jon Gruden is not a victim. The New York Times and the National Football League did not systematically single him out, and he is not a victim of this nefarious “cancel culture” that internet conservatives and centrists love to complain about. The only thing that Gruden could be a victim of currently is karma. This is a man who now has to live with the consequences of his own actions.

It seems like the most obvious and agreeable thing in the world. When someone says something racist, homophobic, sexist, etc, that person rightly deserves any backlash they receive. And yet we live in a world where a brigade of reactionary white knights will reflexively defend any sort of situation involving bigoted comments. Usually, this comes under the guise of being against cancel culture. There’s also a very popular argument that people can change. They’re not the same person now that they were back when those comments were made.

Honestly? I agree with that last sentiment. I’m a firm believer that people absolutely can change. I believe in reformative justice for everyone. However, my issue with this argument is that Jon Gruden hasn’t changed. There’s no evidence of this being a situation of Gruden saying something back then that he’s later changed his mind on. Again, he was using this type of language as recently as in 2018. That is rather recent. And while three years is definitely an amount of time in which a person can grow and change, let’s not pretend that the most old-school coach in the NFL before his resignation, bar maybe Detroit’s Dan Campbell, is secretly some huge liberal or progressive.

No Sympathy Warranted

I’m also not on the “Gruden was singled out” train. The investigation into the 650,000 emails had little to do with Gruden himself. It was an investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct within the Washington Football Team. His language was discovered because the group he sent the emails to included Bruce Allen, a former executive with the Washington Football Team. After finding Gruden’s first email that included a racist trope, only then did more of his comments receive any extra scrutiny. This doesn’t feel like someone getting singled out by cancel culture. It feels like someone got caught doing something wrong, and further examination brought more wrongdoing to light.

Jon Gruden made his bed, and now he has to lie in it. For all the talk conservative media will make about how “cancel culture strikes again,” this one doesn’t fit. Leaving aside the fact that cancel culture is just a spooky buzzword these days, this isn’t the case of someone getting canceled for out-of-context comments or beliefs they no longer hold. Gruden is the same now as he was then, and it is for that reason that Jon Gruden is only a victim of himself. He now has to live with his actions, which have now recently cost him his enshrinement in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ring of honor.

A Football Purview

Jon Gruden
Photo Credit: Ben Liebenberg/AP

Online political discourse aside, Jon Gruden also needed to go from a sheer football point of view. He was coaching in a league where 70% of the players are black. He was coaching the first team in NFL history to field an openly gay player, defensive lineman Carl Nassib. There’s absolutely no way Gruden could have come back into that locker room knowing that their coach essentially puts on a mask in front of them that he takes off privately.

If you’re Carl Nassib, how do you reconcile the fact that your coach used homophobic slurs freely and without care? How do you reconcile him pushing for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to pressure the then-St. Louis Rams into not drafting an openly gay player, Michael Sam, in the 2014 NFL Draft? How do you trust a man who says one thing to your face but mocks you to his friends in private?

If you’re a black player on the Raiders, how do you reconcile his locker room behavior with his private use of racist tropes to describe another black man? If you’ve kneeled for the national anthem, how do you reconcile his private push for more punishments for those who take a knee? How do you reconcile his desire to see former 49ers and Panthers safety Eric Reid “fired” for his protests? If you’re an advocate for social justice causes, how could you trust a coach who wants to curtail NFL involvement in these sorts of issues?

There was just no way for Gruden to continue with this team. It would lead to much distraction, too much to reconcile, and too much distrust. The Raiders organization could no longer ignore it, not with the NFL waiting to see how the team would respond to these emails. Not with this being public knowledge like it is now. The NFL couldn’t ignore it, given their public drive to be more inclusive and diverse.

So, even removed from online political discourse, there was just no way for Gruden to keep this job.


Jon Gruden
Photo Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Regardless of how you slice this, Jon Gruden had to go. The NFL couldn’t allow Gruden to continue, given their public desire to be more inclusive and diverse. The Raiders organization couldn’t allow it to continue. And it was in the players’ best interest for Gruden to step away from this organization.

Simply put, this is who Jon Gruden is. Even in his statement to the media following his resignation, there was no genuine remorse for his language. “I never meant to hurt anyone,” he said. And yet, he meant to hurt people. No one in Gruden’s position uses that kind of language without the intent to hurt someone. And even without the language, there’s still the fact that he actively pushed to prevent an openly gay player from being drafted.

That would be enough to know that he intended to hurt people. Add in that he was also against the NFL’s push to decrease concussions, and we can see that in a literal and figurative sense, Jon Gruden intended to hurt people. Or, at the very least, he was okay with people being hurt. Anything to take this game back to 1998, I suppose.

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Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/AP

Lamar Jackson just put the “M” in MVP

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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws the ball under pressure from Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) and defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (97) during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Lamar Jackson. Have yourself a night, young man.

Down 22-3 late in the 3rd, after 3 quarters of sloppy play, the Baltimore Ravens seemed out of this game. The defense couldn’t get stops, the running game was going nowhere, and the Ravens had failed to convert any 3rd downs. The deficit itself was daunting enough, but the play up to that point made it feel even larger.

Worse still, the game had been dedicated to Haloti Ngata, a team legend. Ngata was forced to watch the depressing performance instead of celebrating a victory with his family on a night made for him.

And then Lamar Jackson happened.

The Comeback

After a short two minute drive, Lamar threw a 40 yard bomb to Marquise Brown. The score was now 22-9 with time left in the third and seemed to jolt the Ravens’ offense awake. When the Colts predictably drove down the field and made a field goal to make it 25-9, Lamar got right back to work in the 4th.

Circumstance forced him to drop back snap after snap, and he responded with darts across the field to Mark Andrews. He checked down when he had to, ran when he had to, and punished the Colts down the field. Another touchdown and 2-point conversion later, and this was suddenly a one-score game. 25-17. The drive only took two and a half minutes off the clock.

Then the Colts started driving again, this time into field goal range. The Ravens’ defense still had no answers for anything Indianapolis did on offense. However, a huge Calais Campbell blocked field goal meant the Colts got 0 points for their drive. The game was still winnable.

Just like that, the Ravens drove down the field again behind Lamar’s impeccable throwing. The Colts’ entire defense seemed exhausted at this point, understandable given they had to chase receivers and worry about Lamar running every single play. With barely any time left on the regulation clock, Lamar found Mark Andrews for their second touchdown connection. 25-23. The two-point conversion was successful, and the game had somehow gone to overtime.

Once the Ravens won the toss, everyone seemed to know the game was over. Lamar even said so himself. And everyone who thought that was proven right. The final drive of the game was methodical, featuring checkdowns to running backs. The final play came on a dart to Hollywood Brown just inside the endzone. 31-25.

Lamar MVP?

On a night where seemingly nothing was going the Ravens’ way, Lamar Jackson stepped up like few quarterbacks in the game can. In the second half and overtime alone, he was 29-32 for 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns. He set a new career high in passing yards at 442. He accounted for all but 19 of the Ravens’ total offensive yards. The first QB to ever complete 85% of his passes in a 400 yard performance.

The list of records and mind-boggling statistics all point to one reality; Lamar Jackson delivered an all-time performance with his arm to bring a listless team back from the grave. His heroics also brought the Ravens to 4-1 on the year and atop the AFC North standings.

Such comebacks are the hallmark of franchise quarterbacks. In the truest sense of the title “Most Valuable Player,” Jackson stands out as an anomaly. No Quarterback in the game has accounted for a higher percentage of his team’s total offense. After games like last night’s, it’s also clear he can single-handedly win games for his team even when the rest of the team isn’t playing well. There is a compelling argument to be made that removing Lamar Jackson from the Ravens would hurt them more than removing any other player from any other roster.


Despite his performance last night, there are also fair reasons why Lamar should not be the frontrunner in the MVP race. The largest factor is the way this Ravens team is 4-1.

While they’ve had an impressive win over the Chiefs, their remaining wins have come against less than stellar competition in the Lions, Broncos, and now Colts. With the Chiefs struggling, the Ravens’ victory over them looks less impressive by the week. Excluding the Broncos game, every win the Ravens have was nail-biting until the final snap. And when you factor in the improbabilities of their victories- a fumble from a running back that hadn’t fumbled since college, a missed delay of game, a 66-yard field goal- these wins look less and less definitive. Realistically, the Ravens could be 1-4.

Winning close games against poor competition is not what MVP quarterbacks do. To win the award, you need statement wins against good teams. Lamar himself benefitted from this during his first MVP season; his wins over the Seahawks, 49ers, and undefeated Patriots on Monday Night Football catapulted him from breakout star to unanimous MVP. Thus far this year, Lamar lacks such a statement win.

The second largest factor is the other Quarterbacks in the league. Tom Brady is ageless, Justin Herbert has been spectacular, Josh Allen has regained his 2020 form, and Kyler Murray is playing playground football on the NFL. All four of those Quarterbacks’ teams can match or exceed the Ravens’ team record, but their wins have been more decisive and against arguably better competition. While the Ravens squeaked by the Chiefs, the Bills dominated them. It’s telling that all four teams are above the Ravens in the latest NFL power rankings according to ESPN. The Ravens are also the lowest-ranked 4-1 team in the NFL in that poll.

So…is Lamar MVP or isn’t he?

The short answer is “yes, but no.” The long answer is “he’s probably the most valuable player in the NFL, but the award factors in more than that. It factors in team success, who a team beats, how they beat them, and even things like how “new” the player is. Lamar benefitted from being the “new” superstar in 2019; now, Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert get the same benefit against him. And right now, when factoring in all of the common criteria for MVP, the league will likely give it to Kyler Murray for his breakout campaign”.

However, the NFL season is long. Longer than ever, actually. There’s still a lot of time for the MVP race to become solidified. If Lamar continues this level of play, he’ll remain on the voters’ radar all season. Even if he doesn’t, one thing is perfectly clear; Lamar Jackson put the “M” in “MVP” last night.

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What’s Next For The Detroit Lions?

The 2021 NFL season is about a quarter of the way through its grind, but for Detroit Lions fans, it has already felt like an eternity. The team has lost their first five games of the season, and it doesn’t seem like there is much light at the end of the tunnel. No one had any delusions of grandeur for this football team. However, even the most pessimistic Lions fan has to admit that they hadn’t expected this. Saying the offense has performed poorly would be a monumental understatement, the defense is still disastrous, and the team has committed mistakes that even junior varsity coaches would yell and scream over.

Now that some time has passed and we have a clearer picture of how the team will perform, I’d like to look at what has gone wrong with the team, what are some areas of positivity, how the rest of Detroit’s schedule looks, and how the rest of the season could play out for them. I also want to look at the team’s draft prospects, and in which direction they could go in with their two first-round picks. Without further ado, let’s get started.

What’s Gone Wrong?

Detroit Lions QB <a rel=
Photo Credit: Mike Mulholland/

The glaring issue with this Detroit Lions team has been the offense. Quarterback Jared Goff, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Rams in the offseason, currently leads the NFL in fumbles. Goff added to this lead with a fumble on Sunday against the Vikings. The turnovers have become such an issue that head coach Dan Campbell is considering trimming the playbook. “That’ll certainly be something that we look at, ‘cause it has — it’s killed us a couple weeks in a row,” Campbell said during an emotional press conference after the heartbreaking loss in Minnesota. “We’ll look at everything with it, but it hurts us.”

The turnover issues shouldn’t be entirely surprising. Over his final two seasons in LA, Goff led all quarterbacks in turnovers. And according to Pro Football Focus, Goff has made five turnover-worthy plays, which puts him in the top 10 for most turnover-worthy plays. And it doesn’t help that Goff is one of the most conservative signal-callers in the league. Only 2.3% of Goff’s throws last season were big-time throws according to PFF. A big-time throw is considered “a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and into a tighter window.” Goff also ranks 37th this season in average depth of target (seven yards).

Goff’s receivers have been of little help, to be fair. He is in the top 15 for most drops with seven dropped balls, which puts him in the company of San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo and Washington’s Taylor Heinicke. He still falls just outside of the top 20 in adjusted completion percentage. To say that Goff has underperformed is a colossal understatement, even with a skeleton crew at wide receiver.


The problems aren’t all on offense, however. The defense was historically bad last season, and it has been a little better this year. The Detroit Lions have the 23rd worst rush defense and PFF has them dead last in pass coverage. Safety Will Harris grades as the worst safety in the NFL out of safeties who have started at least four games. Julian and Romeo Okwara lead the team in missed tackle percentage. Linebacker Alex Anzalone has the highest total of missed tackles with six. Anzalone has been targeted twelve times in coverage and has allowed a catch every single time. He gives up an average of 10.3 yards per reception and a total of 57 yards after the catch.

Injuries have also been a nuisance. Romeo Okwara and cornerback Jeff Okudah have been ruled out for the rest of the season with Achilles injuries. They placed wideout Tyrell Williams on IR a couple of weeks ago due to a concussion. Wideout Quintez Cephus suffered a shoulder injury against the Vikings and will likely miss a significant amount of time. Tackle Taylor Decker has been on IR all season, and Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow joined him not too long ago with a toe injury.

For all of this, there’s likely an argument to be made that the Lions could sit at 3-2 right now. However, the team has been painfully inconsistent this season. Against the 49ers, Detroit only truly showed up in the final two minutes of the game. In Lambeau, the Lions put together an entire half but imploded down the stretch against Green Bay. The Detroit Lions were a bit more consistent against Baltimore but failed to close the door. They were never truly in the game against Chicago, and the team again showed up late against the Vikings on Sunday. The Detroit Lions arguably could have picked up three wins, but have yet to put together a full four quarters of winning football.

What’s Gone Right?

Detroit Lions' OT <a rel=
Photo Credit: Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press

Not much has gone right in the Motor City but it also hasn’t been entirely poor. There have been a few bright spots. Top draft pick Penei Sewell, while having his share of struggles, hasn’t been entirely bad. He grades in the top 10 for pass and run blocking among rookie offensive linemen that have played at least 50% of their team’s offensive snaps this season. Cephus had taken some big strides before his injury Sunday and was coming off a near-100 yard performance against the Bears. Undrafted corner AJ Parker, while not excellent, has been decent in coverage throughout these first five weeks of the season. Parker’s only truly poor performance came on Week 3 against the Ravens. Rookie defensive tackle Alim McNeill has also been a bit of a bright spot, especially against the Bears.

The best thing I could probably say about the Lions right now is that they are a well-coached football team. Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn have made impressive play calls this season, which is something we didn’t see a ton from the Matt Patricia regime. And this is, in part, a reason why the Detroit Lions have been close to winning a few times this season. The problem is not the coaching, it’s the execution, especially on offense. A few times the Lions have gone for it on fourth and short, and had a man open, only for Goff to go elsewhere with the ball.

The Lions have also shown a ton of heart and haven’t backed down from anyone. Despite their offensive woes, the Lions have been aggressive, leading the league in most fourth-down attempts. They’ve also kept pushing even when the game was all but over. This is clear from their Week 1 loss to the 49ers, where Detroit trailed 41-17 with two minutes left, only to bring the game within one score on their last drive. We also saw this type of fight against Baltimore, Chicago, and Minnesota to varying degrees. This team doesn’t quit, and with the lack of depth on this team, that is quite admirable.

What’s Next?

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Cambell.
Photo Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Rest of the Season

The Lions have 12 games remaining in their season. Seven of these upcoming games are against teams who are over .500 on the season. This includes meetings with the Matthew Stafford-led Rams (4-1), the Bears (3-2), the Cardinals (5-0), and the Packers (4-1). Realistically, there are about two games remaining that I could see this Lions team winning. Those games being the Eagles (2-3) on Halloween and the Falcons (2-3) on the day after Christmas. Remember, I base this view on what I know right now, and that this could obviously change as the season progresses.

And I believe this team will improve. Whether this improvement comes from trimming the playbook offensively, getting guys back from injury, players on defense stepping up, or a combination of these factors, I believe the Lions will improve and steal a game or two that we don’t expect. In terms of performance, the best-case scenario for the Lions in my mind is a 4-13 finish. The worst case is a straight 0-17 outing, and a middle-of-the-road prediction is 2-15. For draft order, flip the worst and best-case scenarios. Speaking of the draft…

The Draft

The Lions, barring a truly unforeseen surge, will undoubtedly have a top draft pick this season. And they have several needs to address. They could use a quarterback, wide receiver, pass rushers, corners, etc. The most valuable position would be quarterback, but the issue is that there isn’t a true franchise signal-caller in this upcoming draft. At the very least, one hasn’t emerged. Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, UNC’s Sam Howell, and USC’s Kedon Slovis have taken steps back this year and have seen their draft stock fall.

On the other side of the coin, Nevada’s Carson Strong, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder have climbed up draft boards. At wideout, Ohio State offers a pair of intriguing options in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. And on the defensive side, we see possibly the best prospects in the draft in Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr., and Texas A&amp;M’s DeMarvin Leal.

Obviously, things will change between now and draft night. This is a way, way too early to look at the draft and how things will play out. However, it is something the Lions should keep in mind as their already bleak playoff hopes die right before their eyes. As of now, the Lions would have a top-two pick in the draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars, should they pick ahead of the Lions, do not need a QB. This affords Detroit the pick of the lot as far as available quarterbacks.

If Detroit goes QB early, Corral and Ridder are the likeliest options. If they decide to go elsewhere, look for them to target an edge rusher or possibly a safety. With the first-rounder Detroit acquired from the Rams, Detroit could go with Strong or Liberty’s Malik Willis at QB. If they’ve already taken one, Detroit could use this pick to shore up their defense or get a playmaking wideout.

I hope you all enjoyed this look at the Detroit Lions so far, and I can’t wait to revisit this article down the road once the season has progressed even further.

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Featured Photo Credit: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images