With free agency and the draft process revving up, there are plenty of questions for every NFL team. But for most, there's one issue that trumps the rest. This is the latest in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
When the Texans’ season ended in New England, where Houston got its second beatdown in as many trips to Foxborough, most of the panic was directed at Matt Schaub. Yes, Schaub threw for 343 yards — one less than Tom Brady — but it required 51 attempts to get there. In today’s NFL, teams just don’t win Super Bowls without their best player residing under center, and although Schaub has put together his share of solid years in Houston, he isn’t the type of quarterback who wins in January. Or at least that’s how the thinking seemed to go.
That opinion of Schaub may be true, but in evaluating how far apart the Patriots and Texans actually were, the more telling difference was among those getting the throws, rather than those making them. New England spent almost the entire game shorthanded (as the Pats had been for the most of the year) after Rob Gronkowski reinjured his forearm. The typical Patriots still had their impact — Wes Welker had eight catches for 131 yards, and Aaron Hernandez added six for 85 — but it was the output of a lesser name that said everything anyone needs to know about the New England offense. For the entire regular season, Shane Vereen had eight catches for 179 yards. He totaled about half that against Houston, hauling in five passes for 83 yards, two of them for touchdowns. Vereen lined up all over the formation, and New England used the reserve running back to constantly exploit the coverage deficiencies of Houston’s inside linebackers. It was the exact type of opponent-specific game planning that has made the Patriots a problem for the past decade.
The thought had lingered all weekend — for the past couple weekends, actually — but it took Matt Schaub’s trip to Foxborough for it to take hold. Houston had just completed another seven-yard pass on a third-and-8, and as it became clear that the Texans’ tailspin would end with nothing more than a death rattle, I wondered whether this was it for Matt Schaub.
This doesn’t mean I think Schaub’s time in Houston is over. Matt Schaub will be the Texans’ starting quarterback next season, and he probably should be. In every season in which Matt Schaub started 16 games, he’s thrown for 4,000 yards. He’s been to the Pro Bowl twice, the most recent trip being just last season. In the world, there are probably 15 men better than Matt Schaub at what Matt Schaub does. The problem for the Texans, and the problem for a handful of teams around the league, is that Matt Schaub’s competence may actually be their undoing.
Being that Tuesday was Christmas and all, we decided to post this little scoring update a bit late so everyone could get their BQBL finals matchups in order for Week 17. In the event that you aren’t familiar with the playoff structure, please refer to this post from last year and adjust your leagues accordingly. Basically, it boils down to this:
1. Single-elimination tournament
2. The top four teams in the league are in. Everyone else is out.
3. Those four keep one team's QBs already on their roster, and every team not kept is available for the playoff draft.
4. The four teams draft in order of their seed (tiebreaker is total points scored) until each has a new four-team roster for the playoffs. It's a non-snake draft — same order each round.
5. Week 16: no. 1 seed vs. no. 4 seed, and no. 2 seed vs. no. 3 seed
6. Week 17: Winners face off in the championship game
Now, if are reading this post and saying to yourself, “That is great and all, but I would have loved that information LAST WEEK because I didn’t know that Week 16 was the first week of the playoffs," then I have a solution. Take the top four teams in your league and set up a four-team final heading into Week 17. I always thought that having more than two teams to go head-to-head in a football fantasy league would be fun anyway.
Each week, the Fantasy Island contestants will submit a preview for each of that weekend's games. The best preview from each game will be selected and combined with the others into one comprehensive guide, and points are awarded based on how many individual previews from each writer are selected. Get it? OK. We sorta do, too.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Cam Newton threw for 302 yards and accounted for four touchdowns as the Panthers topped the Eagles 30-22 in Monday Night Football. After the game, fired Auburn coach Gene Chizik greeted Newton in the parking lot with a sarcastic slow clap. "Well, look at Mr. BigShot," he said with a sneer, before toppling to the ground and bruising his ribs on an empty vodka bottle.
There is much to celebrate this week in atrocious quarterbacking: Yo Gabba Gabbert was benched, Nick Foles did many Nick Folesian things, Mark Sanchez continued his campaign to ensure that Tim Tebow is front-page news, and Eli may have officially regressed into the fourth-best football player at next week’s Manning Thanksgiving table. But none of these triumphantly terrible turns behind center could top the work of Ryan Tannehill, who was nice enough to remind everyone, with this week’s performance, how he earned the name TAINTehill. I thought that was nice of him. So did the Titans.
Three and Out
Dolphins (Ryan Tannehill), 67 points: When TAINTehill took the field this week, the announcers set the scene: “He has really limited his mistakes — no interceptions for Tannehill over his last four games, a completion percentage of just under 59 percent. Tannehill, last week, was good ...” At that moment on Sunday afternoon, with Miami at home, facing a Titans defense that allowed an average of 34.2 points a game through its first nine games, there was absolutely no reason to believe that at the end of the game, Lauren Tannehill’s husband would have as many interceptions as the Dolphins had points. You know that old saying about how “it isn’t how a man reacts when he is on top that defines him, but rather how he reacts when he is at his lowest”? No? Well, it probably doesn’t go exactly like that. But with vigorous and passionate tackle attempts after each of his three interceptions, Lauren Tannehill’s husband reflected a very strong character and pleased all at BQBL headquarters, where, oddly, we care very much about those things. In honor of TAINTehill’s tackles, we will now review his Sunday by contrasting his turnovers with his takedowns, each worthy of celebration:
On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
Questions But No Answers in Foxborough
This is getting tiresome. Almost every week, I get in this space and spew whiny reverse homerisms about The Death March of Mark Sanchez. It may look easy from afar, and it is — Mark Sanchez is the vampire tween fiction of quarterbacks: There is so much of it and it is all hot garbage.
But then a game like yesterday’s happens. A game that, barring the 47 Jaguars and Raiders fans left in America, was essentially a Monday Night Football game happening in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. A game for everyone to see. All Eyez on Mark. Here are some of the fun things Sanchez did in Foxborough against the Patriots: failed to identify wide-open receivers. Underthrew an open receiver late, leading to an interception. Botched a handoff, then, during the ensuing fumble, aggressively kicked the ball out of the end zone for a safety. Took repeated needless sacks in close and late situations. Misunderstood the game clock and unnecessarily burned timeouts. Depended on checkdowns over the middle and forced near-decapitation and certain head injuries for his running back.
Ephraim and I started off this week's show by discussing the Eagles relieving defensive coordinator Juan Castillo of his duties and whether any of Ephraim's old offensive line coaches ever could've made the move to the other side of the ball. That, of course, led to a conversation about competitive Uno, at which Ephraim is apparently very, very talented. From there, it was a talk about the possible end for Ray Lewis, the middle linebacker's legacy in football and what's set him apart during his historic 17-year career. Finally, we got to a topic whose absence from previous podcasts is pretty embarrassing on my part: the best linemen gifts Ephraim has ever received. Let's just say you never want Clinton Portis as your secret Santa.
The way we define a benching is by asking the question, “If he had played well, would he still be on the field?” I bring this up because there were some borderline benching calls this week — a couple of those sympathy benchings, those-bruised ego benchings, those “If you throw another pick I am going to strangle you on national television so I am just going to put in T.J. Yates right now” benchings. The BQBL committee (read: some dude we’ve never met) has reached the conclusion that both Matt Schaub and Alex Smith were the recipients of this type of merciful benching this week. Even with those extra 35 points, their combined terriblocity couldn’t top what Philip Michael Rivers did last night. When Philip Rivers plays a division rival on Monday night, it doesn’t just go poorly, it goes straight Shakespearean tragedy.
I didn't want to start this blog post with the phrase "Houston, we have a problem." But the Texans are facing a serious crisis — starting quarterback Matt Schaub is out for the season with a Lisfranc injury. Replacing him as the starter is habitual hot-tubber and colossal draft bust Matt Leinart, who quietly signed and then re-signed with the Texans last year after being cut by the Arizona Cardinals in training camp.
So, they're doomed, right? Well, hold on. The narrative surrounding Leinart's flop coming out of USC has holes you can drive a truck through. And we’re behind the wheel.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Aaron Rodgers threw three four touchdown passes and the Green Bay Packers improved to 9-0 with a 45-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. I'm trying to suppress a decade's worth of media influence here God help me I'm not strong enough BRETTFAVREBRETTFAVREBRETTFAVRE.