Josh McCown has an NFL-leading 85.7 QBR, but Jay Cutler will start when healthy. Read More.
General Football Talk
NFL Team Forums
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Articles
By Christopher Reina
Our NFL Team Rankings are based entirely on the The Trench Counter, which is an objective formula measuring average yards per pass and run on both offense and defense, along with first downs registered and given up, turnovers for and against, and total penalty yards.
Over time, The Trench Counter rankings begin to closely resemble the standings but goes even further to determine which teams are truly the best when on the line of scrimmage.
We are also including the Bill Parcells/Michael Lombardi stat that we modified called Total Rushes/Completions, which is listed as the second set of rankings below.
The chief aim of the Trench Counter is to take the subjective out of the equation and even the somewhat fluky nature of teams actually scoring points, which is of course the whole point on a game-by-game basis.
The Philadelphia Eagles again rose in our rankings with a +27.9 in the Trench Counter against the Detroit Lions.
The Seattle Seahawks had a negative Trench Counter against the San Francisco 49ers in their loss, while the New Orleans Saints had a less impressive Trench Counter (+7.8) than the final scorewould suggest.
Trench Counter (TC) Rankings
1. Seattle Seahawks: 7.7
Total Rushes/Completions (TRC) Rankings
1. Denver Broncos: 9.0
By Jeff Risdon
The draft order is updated as of 12/6, which includes the win by the Jacksonville Jaguars over the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football.
Editor Note: Scherff announced he will return to Iowa after this mock was created.
By Jeff Risdon
It was one of the most thrilling weekends of football in memory. A Saturday filled with high-flying college championships set the table for a truly amazing Sunday. Snowy fields, crazy comebacks, prolific scoring, and some egregious officiating made this one of the most memorable Sundays in NFL history.
$.01--The San Francisco 49ers pumped the breaks on the Seattle Seahawks’ hype train with a hard-fought 19-17 win. The Niners won the game thanks to an outstanding late drive, catapulted by Frank Gore’s 51-yard run that erased any doubt about San Francisco’s toughness up front.
This game says more about the power of the 49ers than it does creating any doubts about the Seahawks. The Niners simply do not lose at home to NFC West opponents, something they haven’t done in more than five years. Seattle was merely the latest victim, albeit a very prominent one.
Gore will garner the headlines for his show-stopping run, but the San Francisco defense played a major role in the win. They harangued Russell Wilson with repeated pressure, holding the MVP candidate to 178 yards while picking him off once and sacking him twice. Seattle had just two good drives on the day, and their first three possessions of the second half came up critically empty.
Seattle was game, but the Niners do not back down from the intimidation tactics the Seahawks deploy like no other. There was constant post-whistle activity, resulting in 16 combined penalties. Chris Cluff of the Examiner wrote on Twitter that the two teams have combined for 38 penalties in their two games.
Don’t fret at the loss, Seahawks fans. The Niners are monsters at home and desperately needed the win. Seattle still sits comfortably atop the powerful NFC West in full control of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. All this game did was show that the 49ers probably represent the best chance to knock them off come January.
$.02--In the other marquee game of the weekend, the New Orleans Saints plastered the surging Carolina Panthers in the Sunday night affair. Drew Brees was coolly efficient and precise, carving up the vaunted Carolina defense for 313 yards and four TDs in New Orleans’ convincing 31-13 home win. Brees became the fastest player to 50,000 career passing yards in the process.
The Saints' defense was equally impressive, if not more. New Orleans stymied Cam Newton with various blitzes from various formations and looks, pressuring the big quarterback from multiple angles. The back end covered better than they have been recently, and the Panthers could not get anything going. They did a very good job deploying a Cam spy, preventing Newton from breaking off big chunks of yardage. They were physical with the Panthers receivers, throwing off timing and keeping them from getting clean routes. Pass rusher Junior Gallette was dominant against the right side of the Panthers line, bagging three sacks.
This was a big rebound game for the Saints, who were embarrassed in Seattle on Monday night. They proved the better team despite traveling across the country on an abbreviated week, albeit for a home game. They remain unblemished within the NFC South and improved to 8-1 in the NFC. That is critical, because even if the Panthers win the rematch in Charlotte in two weeks the Saints will still hold the tiebreaker.
The Panthers saw their 8-game winning streak snapped in inglorious fashion, but only a fool would count them out. This game got away from them early, proving that perhaps they weren’t quite ready to make the next step into the NFC elite. But now they’ve seen the level they need to get to, and the talent is in place to ascend to that level.
$.03--For most of the afternoon, the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings struggled to do much of anything positive in the sloppy snow in the Inner Harbor. At the end of the third quarter, Baltimore led 7-6. The longest drive of the game produced just 45 yards, and there had been 10 three-and-outs.
Even late into the fourth quarter, it really wasn’t much of a game. The Vikings were holding a 12-7 lead before the Ravens scored with 2:05 remaining on a Joe Flacco-to-Dennis Pitta touchdown on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line. That’s when all hell broke loose and a staid game turned into one of the most thrilling, video game-like finishes in NFL history.
Flacco followed up the touchdown with a two-point conversion to Torrey Smith to put the Ravens up 15-12. Minnesota returned fire quickly. Two plays were all that they needed to jump back on top. A strike from Matt Cassel to Jerome Simpson moved them into Ravens territory, and backup RB Toby Gerhart took it the last 41 yards on his own. The extra point put the Vikings back on top 18-15 with 1:27 remaining.
Jacoby Jones only needed 11 seconds to give the lead back to Baltimore. He returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown, barely staying inbounds along the way. The cold fans who gutted out a boring, frozen slogfest for 57 minutes were suddenly breathless with excitement. But wait, there’s more!
Minnesota, ironically the team not used to playing in the snow, struck back with a vengeance. Cassel hit rookie wideout Cordarrelle Patterson with a fairly innocuous bubble screen, but Patterson made it lethal for Baltimore. He weaved around, through and past the entire Ravens defense for a 79-yard touchdown. The thrilled fans were now frozen in shock as the Vikings retook the lead 26-22 with just 45 seconds left on the clock.
Surely the Vikings could prevent the Ravens from scoring another touchdown. No they could not, and please stop calling me Shirley. A questionable pass interference call on Chad Greenway wiped out an interception that would have sealed it. Flacco found Pitta for 18 yards to set up 1st-and-goal with 10 seconds left as the Ravens burned their final timeout.
On the next play, Flacco found Marlon Brown sneaking just inside the back of the end zone for a tough catch below the goalpost. Touchdown Ravens, the fifth touchdown in the final 2:06 of play.
The amazing output set a number of NFL records, all of these cited per Elias. Most lead changes in the final two minutes. Most points scored in the final three minutes. First game ever with six lead changes in the fourth quarter.
The thrilling victory improved the Ravens to 7-6 and put them in temporary possession of the second Wild Card spot in the topsy-turvy AFC. If they do in fact make the playoffs, they can look back at this unbelievable game in the snow as the catalyst.
$.04--The Houston Texans finally put an end to the Gary Kubiak era. After Thursday night’s loss to the (perceived) lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, owner Bob McNair pulled the plug on his longtime head coach.
The final nail in the coffin, per a team source I’ve used extensively, was Kubiak’s waffling on the quarterback issue. When he inserted Matt Schaub into the game for a struggling Case Keenum, Kubiak essentially admitted he was desperately trying to win a game against a team the owner considers vastly inferior…and it didn’t work. Schaub, as is his custom, threw a terrible interception, though for once this year it wasn’t returned for a touchdown.
Wade Philips takes over as interim coach, but he’s strictly a bridge until the end of the season. The precipitous fall-off of the back end of his defense is a big reason why the Texans have lost 11 in a row. The best player in the secondary is probably rookie safety D.J. Swearinger, but he’s a penalty waiting to erupt after any given play. Corners Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson have declined, while nickelback Brice McCain has fallen to Hinder-level schlock.
Going forward, whomever takes over the Texans has a shot at a quick turnaround. They almost certainly will have the first pick in the draft, giving the new coach the ability to bring in the new franchise quarterback of his choosing. The offensive line should rebound with good health, and if Brian Cushing can come back (again) the defense will look a lot better. They still have J.J. Watt, in the midst of one of the greatest stretches of impact defensive play in NFL history.
Early names bandied about include Kevin Sumlin of nearby Texas A&M, Stanford’s David Shaw, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, and NFL coordinators like Jay Gruden, Pep Hamilton and former Bears coach Lovie Smith. One name prominently mentioned but quickly rebuffed by folks who would know is Washington’s Mike Shanahan. As Lance Zeirlein and other Texans media folks have stated, that is an obvious plant by the Shanahan camp to try and leverage a landing spot once he’s fired from Washington…
$.05--…which is going to be very, very soon. Many reports, including this excellent one from Mark Maske of the Washington Post, surfaced on Sunday that the relationship between Shanahan and owner Daniel Snyder is broken beyond repair.
It does not appear coincidental that the Ethnic Slurs played their worst game in a long time on the same day all these stories surfaced. Washington was annihilated 45-10 by Kansas City. The Chiefs led 31-0 after a little over 20 minutes of play when Dexter McCluster returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown. Once again, Washington was inferior in all three phases of the game.
That reflects back on Shanahan, who prides himself on his management skills and control over detail. When nothing is going right on the field, the buck stops at his spacious office. Yet it’s not the complete on-field ineptitude which will likely spell the end of Shanahan in Washington.
The biggest straw in the camel humps is his fractious relationship with quarterback Robert Griffin III. RG3 is clearly a Snyder favorite, a charismatic talent with amazing potential that may or may not be being hindered by poor coaching. The Ethnic Slurs mortgaged the house on RG3, and if Shanahan can’t work well with the franchise, he’s no longer part of the franchise plan.
I agree with John Keim of ESPN and others--if Snyder knows he’s going to fire Shanahan at the end of the season, he might as well fire him now. Call Shanahan’s poorly choreographed bluff on the Houston front and send him packing. The owner himself has clearly chosen to side with Griffin. I would caution Snyder about giving his star too much input on the hiring front, however; Griffin’s Baylor coach Art Briles will be a tempting option, but this team needs someone with NFL experience and a willingness to simultaneously get along with Griffin but also keep him (and Snyder) from dominating the franchise.
$.06-- Fans of the Cleveland have to wonder what minor deity they offended on Sunday to cost them a sure victory over the New England Patriots. The Browns led 26-14 with just over a minute to go, and the Patriots had no timeouts.
Somehow, the Browns managed to lose 27-26. They got some help from the officials with an iffy pass interference call in the end zone to set up the game-winning score. My first reaction was that it was a weak call, but when I saw the angle form the vantage point of the official who threw the flag, I see why he called it. Cleveland also helped out quite a bit, bumbling away the onside kick which preceded the questionable play. Stephen Gostkowski’s kick didn’t travel 10 yards, but Fozzy Whitaker’s attempt at recovering it for Cleveland was as lame as Fozzy Bear jokes from The Muppets Take Manhattan.
The Browns wasted another amazing effort from wideout Josh Gordon. He hauled in another 7 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. In the process, he set the NFL record for most receiving yards over a 4-game period, with an eye-popping 774. Those four games alone would rank him 24th in the NFL in receiving yards after 13 games. He’s scored touchdowns of at least 70 yards in three of Cleveland’s last four games. Just to top things off, Gordon also led the Browns in rushing with a 34-yard scamper.
Cleveland remains so close, and yet so far. Their defense gave up almost 500 yards to Tom Brady & Co., who accrued 30 first downs and ran 49 plays in the second half to Cleveland’s 32. Jason Campbell returned at quarterback and played well, but not quite well enough. Give this group some time, Cleveland fans, because the young core of the team is solid and Gordon is a legit star. It’s hard to be patient in the land of “Wait Til Next Year”, but the Browns are closer to playoff success than either the Cavaliers or Indians going forward.
$.07--As I wrote about last week, I was at the Ohio State-Michigan game. Even in victory, it was painfully obvious for all of the Buckeye nation that the scarlet and grey needed to play better to hang with Michigan State.
Guess what happened on the way to an inevitable loss to Florida State in the BCS Title game? The same Buckeyes from the Big House showed up at Lucas Oil Field and Michigan State proved us prophetic. Sparty spurted out to a 17-0 lead, sputtered sharply as Ohio State scored 24 in a row, then soared from a 24-17 deficit to a sweet 34-24 victory.
The more complete team won. Michigan State handled the pressure more adeptly, and Mark Dantonio outcoached Urban Meyer. Even the failed onside kick was a coaching point victory for Sparty. Michigan State was more prepared and poised, but what stood out was their hunger. They desperately wanted to win, while the Buckeyes almost seemed like their coronation was a matter of fact.
I’ve had the chance to watch just about every Michigan State game this season. Just as I knew they would beat Ohio State, I’m telling everyone right now that they will also beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The Cardinal win (sidebar--when the moniker isn’t plural how do you make the noun and verb tense agree?) by being the more physical and disciplined team. But they’re not going to out-physical the Spartans, and the MSU defense is the best in the country, period. Congrats to all the Spartans for winning the final season of the Big Ten as we know it.
1. Congrats to Denver kicker Matt Prater for setting the NFL record for the longest field goal in NFL history. Prater nailed a 64-yarder as the first half expired to break the record held by three others. There was little doubt from the moment the ball boomed off his foot. I wonder if he gets bonus fantasy points for breaking the record?
2. The Arizona Cardinals slammed the door on a cadre of teams’ mathematical playoff hopes when they slammed the Rams. Their win elevated the Cardinals to 8-5, thus eliminating the Rams, Giants and Buccaneers. It was a costly win, however, as dynamic rookie cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was lost for the season with a torn ACL. That won’t help Arizona in their chasing of San Francisco for a Wild Card spot, but it’s still too early to count them out.
3. There was much ado on Twitter about Rob Gronkowski’s ugly leg injury on a deliberately low hit from Cleveland safety T.J. Ward. I am firmly in the camp that the NFL is forcing plays like this with their over-the-top emphasis on contact above the shoulders and repeated terrible calls resulting from such vigilance. It stinks for Gronk and the Patriots, but Ward really had no better option.
4. Sunday set a record for most touchdowns scored in a NFL day when the Saints scored just before halftime. It was the 88th TD of the week. The only team that failed to score a touchdown was the Buffalo Bills, who lost 27-6 to Tampa despite allowing just 90 yards passing. Four E.J. Manuel INTs and seven sacks cost the Bills dearly.
5. In a day with many exciting finishes, none was crazier than the final play of the Pittsburgh/Miami game. The Steelers ran the hook and ladder, with a mix of the Stanford/Cal band play and the Music City Miracle for good measure. Amazingly, it worked. Except wideout Antonio Brown stepped out of bounds at the 10-yard line on his way to the game-winning score. He was not forced out, but his foot did indeed encroach the snowy sideline. The loss all but eliminated the Steelers from playoff contention.
Lots of seniors are accepting invitations to the postseason bowl games which serve as major draft evaluation opportunities. I will be covering both the Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl in person once again. Here are a few players I’m excited to evaluate live, and my initial thoughts on them.
Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State (Senior Bowl)--One of my favorites in a very deep center class, Richburg fits in the Alex Mack mold of pivots: lean build but with crazy athleticism and surprising base strength. He beats defenders by being quicker and understanding leverage and angles inside out. He is exceptional at turning the shoulders of a defensive tackle to create an A-gap running lane and at sustaining the block. His pass protection is solid, and he’s savvy on line calls. My biggest knocks: he winds up on his knees too much, and he doesn’t always find targets at the second level even though he’s out there quickly. He’d make a great replacement for Dominic Raiola in Detroit.
Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan (Shrine Game)--He was a big play machine against Ohio State, showcasing his ability to operate in space and his excellent agility. Gallon projects to the NFL as a slot receiver, but could get a shot as more of an offensive weapon-type of player; he can take toss sweeps and end-arounds, and he should get a shot at returning kicks and punts as well. He’s skinny and gets overpowered by more physical corners, however, and during the Nebraska and Michigan State games he was a detriment as a blocker.
Stephen Morris, QB, Miami FL (Shrine Game)--Morris is a player I wanted to like a lot more than I do after watching a few games. There are times, prolonged times even, where Morris looks like a legitimate NFL starter. He has arm strength to spare, and he can buy time for himself with his feet. However, Morris is prone to wild inaccuracy. Even on many completions he makes his receivers work for the catch. I’m not sure there is enough upside to merit the patience needed to perhaps coax it out, but a strong week in St. Pete could elevate him.
Jack Mewhort, T, Ohio State (Senior Bowl)--If a Buckeye player can be under the radar, Mewhort is that guy. He’s quietly emerged into the second tier of tackles in a class which has a great deal of potential but no real ordination at this point. In apples to apples comparison, he was better than the more heralded Taylor Lewan against Michigan State and Nebraska. His footwork and natural balance allow him to handle both speed and power off the edge, though he doesn’t always sustain blocks well.
$.10--This is for all my fellow Ohio Bobcats, and let it serve as a public service announcement for broadcasters everywhere.
Ohio State is not Ohio.
They are Buckeyes. We are Bobcats.
They play in the Big Ten, which will now have 14 teams. We play in the Mid-American Conference, which has 12 teams. They are in a conference with Illinois and Michigan. WE are in a conference with Northern Illinois and Eastern, Central and Western Michigan.
Their home is in Columbus. We are located in Athens. They’re just 75 miles apart but demographically the two locales are foreign countries.
When you say “Michigan State beat Ohio”, you’re wrong. They beat Ohio State. Our Bobcats struggled to a 7-5 record under Frank Solich, who once coached Nebraska. He also once passed out in a car facing the wrong way on Court Street in Athens. In Columbus, people would freak out at that, but in Athens that sort of thing happens to someone just about every night.
Many of us Bobcats root for Ohio State football because our own program was so downtrodden for so long. In my first four years there (1990-94) we went 7-35-2 and three of those wins were against I-AA teams. We’ve found success recently, but most of us have a major program we pull for in addition to our Bobcats…but only in football. We’re just fine in basketball and volleyball on our own, thank you.
So stop being lazy, inconsiderate and incorrect when referring to the Buckeyes as “Ohio”. The real Ohio is the reason why the Buckeyes call themselves THE Ohio State University.
A hugely important NFC South showdown between the Saints and Panthers, playoff implications between the Lions and Eagles and the rest of the NFL slate.
The Seahawks delivered a huge statement with their win over the Saints while essentially locking up homefield advantage.
On the Broncos separating from the Chiefs, Lions taking control of the NFC North, Panthers/49ers all but locked into the Wild Card, Mike Tomlin, Nick Saban and more.
The Saints travel to Seattle with control of the NFC on the line, a quick rematch of Broncos/Chiefs, Thanksgiving's tripleheader and more.
The 49ers reestablished as a contender with their convincing victory over the Redskins, while the Patriots have a great argument as the best team in the AFC.
Another victory for Tom Brady over Peyton Manning, a late comeback by Tony Romo, disarray in the NFC North and the bottom of the AFC picture, and more.