This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.
Net Points For Wild Cards
I've suggested ways the NFL could improve it's officiating and penalty rules but that's mostly playing defense, i.e., preventing the game from becoming bad. Switching from best record to net points for wild card berths would actually make the games better than ever.
There are eight divisions, and the winners of each would qualify for the playoffs (and the top four seeds in each conference) as usual. But the wild card teams from each conference would get in based on net points. We often do this in fantasy to reward the teams with the best overall performance rather than those who lucked out at the margins of head to head match-ups. Why not extend it to the NFL where we'd get to see the best teams square off in the playoffs, rather than almost surely one-and-done teams?
But the implications of this rule would go beyond the quality of the playoffs. Teams would keep their feet on the gas all game long. No more running clock and punting, no more prevent defense, no more distinction between stats gained in real vs. garbage time. The entirety of the game would be real because every point scored and allowed would count. No more backdoor covers as teams trade margin of victory for time on the clock. When you bet a team – even with the spread – you'd be aligned with their interests.
I also expect you'd see less punting on 4th-and-short in plus territory. The crutch of the safe win would largely disappear as playing for a one-point margin would end up costing teams playoff berths. There would be less resting starters in blowouts, and even Week 17 might take on more significance if teams with disparate records were in net-points range.
Wins would still matter for division titles, so the Eddy Pineiros and Young Hoe Koos could still inflict misery on fan bases, but if your team were excellent, it wouldn't be a death sentence, just a harder row to hoe, no matter how old your kicker was.
Bottom line, there's a lot of waste in the NFL. Partly, it's the time taken for reviews, excessive commercials and penalties, but much of it is also huge swaths of games rendered meaningless by blowouts or too much clock management. Net points for wild cards would fix that and usher in a sense of urgency for all four quarters of nearly every game.
Week 9 Trivia
Apropos of Matt Schaub passing for 460 yards Sunday, can you name the quarterbacks to eclipse the 500-yard mark in a single regular-season game?
Guessing the Lines
|Game||My Line||My Early Line||Guessed Line||Actual Line||ML-AL||O/U||Actual O/U||MO-AO|
|49ers at Cardinals||-7.5||-6||-6||-9.5||-2||48||43||5|
|Texans at Jaguars||2.5||2.5||0||-2||-4.5||43||47||-4|
|Bears at Eagles||6.5||3.5||5.5||4.5||-2||42||43.5||-1.5|
|Colts at Steelers||0||-1.5||1.5||-1||-1||44||43.5||0.5|
|Jets at Dolphins||-3||0||-3||-5.5||-2.5||41||41||0|
|Vikings at Chiefs||-2.5||-3.5||-4||0||2.5||47||48||-1|
|Titans at Panthers||4.5||5.5||4.5||3.5||-1||46||41||5|
|Redskins at Bills||6.5||7.5||7||10||3.5||41||37||4|
|Buccaneers at Seahawks||6||5.5||8||6.5||0.5||49||52.5||-3.5|
|Lions at Raiders||4.5||4||3||2||-2.5||51||51||0|
|Packers at Chargers||-4||-3||-4||-3||1||45||46.5||-1.5|
|Browns at Broncos||-1.5||3||2.5||-2.5||-1||41||40||1|
|Patriots at Ravens||-2.5||-3||-3||-3.5||-1||43||44.5||-1.5|
|Cowboys at Giants||-3||-3||-4.5||-7||-4||52||48||4|
I went 11-4 ATS last week with my real lines, but would have gone 6-8-1 with my early ones. Still, I think the exercise helped me by mitigating overreactions to what happened in Week 7. While I don't look at the early lines (and actually don't remember them) when I set my real lines, it's possible the process helps at some level by anchoring me to my priors – even if it's subconscious. As such I'll keep doing it.
This week, my biggest discrepancies put me on the Jaguars, Redskins and Giants, though of course I reserve the right to change my mind in Beating the Book.
Week 8 Observations
• Aaron Jones looked like peak Marshall Faulk Sunday night — he could have had another TD had he not stepped out of bounds at the 10 on a long pass too. It's amazing Mike McCarthy refused to commit to him for so long. Jamaal Williams scored two TDs of his own — he's the perfect backup — tough, physical and reliable. That the backs scored all four TDs shows how little the Packers have at wide receiver or tight end with Davante Adams still out.
• Aaron Rodgers is still at the top of his game. His throw to Williams at the back of the end zone while under pressure was beyond belief. If the Packers get Adams healthy and land one more receiver at the deadline, they might win the Super Bowl.
• Too bad we couldn't see Rodgers (with receivers) vs. Patrick Mahomes. It would have been Rodgers 1.0 vs. Rodgers 2.0.
• The Browns had a shot against the Patriots, but you can't lose two fumbles and have one returned for a touchdown. And the non-pass-interference calls were as egregious as any since the NFC title game.
• The Patriots are on pace to be the best fantasy defense of all time. Nick Chubb, besides the fumbles, had his way running against them though.
• Deshaun Watson suddenly doesn't seem to have many play-makers. Will Fuller is out, DeAndre Hopkins catches mostly short stuff and Kenny Stills had a drop and wasn't a factor. So he spun out of a sack, shook off a kick to the eye and found Darren Fells for the go-ahead TD.
• The 49ers are the best team in the NFL right now. Nick Bosa showed off absurd athleticism on his interception return — looked like George Kittle running after the catch — and Tevin Coleman was too fast for the Panthers defense. And the Panthers are actually decent.
• Christian McCaffrey always gets his, even in a 51-13 blowout.
• I didn't watch the Jets-Jaguars, but every highlight seemed to be Sam Darnold throwing an interception.
• Matt Schaub did his best Matt Ryan impression, throwing for 460 yards in a loss. Austin Hooper doesn't seem to care who the quarterback is, and neither does Julio Jones. Incidentally, Schaub is no stranger to big yardage totals — he's tied with Warren Moon for the second most passing yards in a game all time (527.)
• The Chargers must have felt strange seeing an opponent lose a game on a short missed field goal. The Bears probably weren't going anywhere this year anyway, but at 3-4, with the Vikings and the Packers in their division, that seals it.
• David Montgomery finally had the breakout game many paid for this preseason.
• The Bears dominated time of possession 38 minutes to 22 and 77 plays to 42.
• Danny Dollars lost a fumble early that was returned for a TD, but otherwise played a great game, leading long drives with accurate throws and overcoming penalties and drops. The Giants also got Saquon Barkley more involved in the passing game. Jones still makes mistakes, but more importantly for a young QB, he makes plays. If he has a flaw, it's that he's too calm in the pocket, sometimes ignoring the rush for too long. Jones needs to get rid of the ball earlier sometimes, but that failing is much better than having happy feet or "seeing ghosts."
• The Colts know how to grind out ugly wins, but I should have taken Denver plus 6.5.
• I had the Bengals plus 13, and that was one of the more frustrating non-covers. On their penultimate drive, Andy Dalton threw short of the sticks on 4th-and-goal, and on their final drive, the Bengals had a TD on the field to Auden Tate with five seconds left that was overturned. The game was over anyway, so just leave it alone! Then on fourth down, on the last play of the game, Dalton throws the ball out of the end zone. Just kick a field goal next time!
• Darrell Henderson (11 carries, two catches) is creeping toward a larger role.
• Imagine if you benched Chase Edmunds last week and started him against the Saints this week.
• Drew Brees picked up where he left off with 8.7 YPA, 373 passing yards and three TDs.
• Michael Thomas caught all 11 of his targets from Brees. He now has an 82 percent catch rate, on pace for the second-highest in NFL history after his own absurd 85 percent mark last year.
Mason Rudolph is okay, probably worthy of an NFL backup job. He showed something, down 14-0 to a winless team after a bad interception with his career likely on the line. That might sound hyperbolic, but if the Steelers lose at home to the Dolphins and go to 2-5, their season is over, and Rudolph's associated with that failure.
• Mike Tomlin also showed faith in Rudolph as he called for downfield throws all game. Say what you want about Tomlin's down-and-distance decision-making skills, but there was no panic in him, down 14-0.
• James Conner ran hard through good holes and made some nice cuts — he's a solid back and even better in fantasy, given his workload. But apparently he injured his shoulder in the game and was seen in a sling afterwards.
• Diontae Johnson had a nice catch and run at the end of the first half, but JSS reminds me of peak Hines Ward — a stout, strong wideout with great hands and focus. If Rudolph can sustain even decent play, expect JSS to have a big second half.
• Ryan Fitzpatrick is the perfect quarterback for the Dolphins. He makes 0-7 fun to watch, and he's not terrible.