2018 Week 6 Review: Ross Jacobs' Notes
Ross Jacobs is a budding football analyst/scout and a long-time friend of FFM. He’s been working on a project all season watching/studying all the games/studying the line play as a key indicator for handicapping and fantasy play.
Weekly, he’s been sharing his notes on each game with me…what he saw with the games that just happened and what he sees coming up with the games about to play.
I’ve enjoyed reading his study notes on the games all season and asked him if I could share them with the FFM audience, and he was happy to. So, please enjoy Ross’s takes on the games more from a line of scrimmage/O-Line standpoint but with an overall view of seeing all these teams and taking notes for data analysis all season.
These are his notes from last week's games…
*Forgive typos, just notes transcribed.
Week 6 Review
Browns vs Chargers
Ok so Cleveland is definitely not there yet, but, and many people are going to think I'm crazy for saying this, I don't think they are far off. There are still some very exploitable flaws here, but the foundation is in place for this to be a good team in 2019 or 2020. First off, despite the score I don't think this game was quite as bad as it appeared. The Browns were playing well early on. They were getting stops and moving the ball decently, but every time they got close to scoring they missed by a hair. The offensive line was allowing some pressure here, but I thought Mayfield was more at fault for the number of sacks. He's got to get the ball out of his hand faster, and that will come with time and improved weapons. Part of the problem is nobody is getting open consistently and he's such a gunslinger that he's always looking downfield to make a play. It's something some of the best QB's in the league share. Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson all do it too. Now several mediocre QB's take too many sacks because they don't know where to go with the ball. The good ones do, and you put up with the frequent sacks because ultimately their value far outweighs the negative plays.
Now if some of those near-miss plays fall slightly better for Cleveland I think this is a whole different game. I recall a Mayfield pass in the endzone that was just over the receivers outstretched hands. There was a second one in the endzone where Mayfield put it between two defenders and the receiver just couldn't bring it in. On defense Tyrell Williams miraculously pulled down an idiotic pass from Rivers into triple coverage for a TD. That pass could easily have been picked off. Tyrell's second TD should have been called back due to an obvious false start, and yet no flag was thrown. Every one of these huge plays fell best for the Chargers and helped them build a big lead. From there it's very difficult to come back.
The second major flaw I see with the Browns is the same flaw I've been talking about with the Cardinals. They are weak to edge runs and screen passes. The Chargers were able to gash the Browns all day on plays outside, be it screen, stretch run, toss, or reverse. I suspect this weakness is a combination of two things: 1) Myles Garrett rushing upfield and taking himself out of the play and 2) the outsider linebackers suck. It's the same thing I saw with the Cardinals so obviously in week 1. Chandler Jones is easily blocked out of the play, and the linebackers can't make the tackle. Mayfield is doing his best to stay in these games, but if the Browns get down then teams are able to tee off on his offensive line, and the defense can't stop these run plays to slow down the clock. It makes it nearly impossible to mount a comeback if you get down. Luckily these issues are correctable, but the Browns will have to wait for the off-season to do it. They should focus on offensive linemen and linebackers in my opinion. Now credit the Chargers here, they didn't Charger things up. They came in with a good game plan and took care of business. They were still quite lucky in my opinion, but they aren't a bad team by any means. I don't think they are ready to compete with the Chiefs or Steelers or Patriots, but they are in that next best group. Be careful of the line on these two teams next week as the Browns are likely to get more points than they should and the Chargers give up more. Could be an excellent time to go contrarian against the current sentiment depending on who they are playing.
Cowboys vs Jaguars
I'm not sure what I just witnessed. How the hell did the Cowboys manage 40 points against one of the league's best defenses when they have struggled getting to 20 in every game previous? I don't have an answer unfortunately. They played well, got a little lucky here and there, and the Jaguars offense stank per usual. They already looked like the better team early, but then a Jags short punt gave the Cowboys great field position and they capitalized to take a 17-0 lead. There is absolutely no way Blake Bortles is coming back from 17 down. The Jags just aren't built for that. They need to get a lead and salt it away with a stingy defense. I say stingy, but they've had three games against remedial offenses in the Giants, Jets, and Titans, and they held the Patriots to 20 while New England was still figuring things out early. The Chiefs didn't have a problem handling them and neither did the Cowboys here. The perception is their defensive line in particular gets after QB's very well, but they honestly haven't been all that great so far. In fact, I would say they are middle of the pack as far as pressure goes, and that showed here as they didn't record a very high pressure rate against a suspect Cowboys line.
Dallas meanwhile made short work of the Jags offensive line with their 3rdstring left tackle. This wasn't a particularly good line even with Cam Robinson, but it's really starting to put up some poor performances, and that is going to make Bortles look even worse than he already is. We all still think of this as a very good Jacksonville team with one of the 2 or 3 best defenses in the league, but the reality might be that it's a top 10 defense and the team as a whole is merely average. It's also possible this game was just a massive fluke as the Jaguars had a similar issue last year where they seemed to randomly give up big points to rather dubious offenses. 37 to the Titans, 27 to the Cardinals, and 44 to the 49'ers. I lean towards something in the middle of those two explanations. Either way it's important to avoid the easy narrative that the Cowboys are suddenly fixed and the Jaguars broken. We have far more evidence to suggest the exact opposite is more likely true. Sometimes crazy s**t happens. You should rarely change your opinion of a team 180 degrees based off one game, and yet that's precisely what the talking heads on ESPN will do this week. Don't fall prey to lazy thinking. This looks like more good opportunities to exploit recency bias in next week's betting lines.
Eagles vs Giants
There's really nothing new to report here. The Giants suck, and the Eagles are decent and starting to find a rhythm. If the schedule ever eases up for the Giants they could pull out a few games as I don't think they are in the same class as the Bills and Cardinals. The Eagles are essentially the same team as last year, but this year they aren't getting lucky to start each drive with a short field. I think that's why we saw Wentz have such an insane TD rate last year. It seemed like they started every drive at the 50, and so far this year that has not been the case. I think most analysts do not give luck it's proper due when it comes to evaluating these games. Good luck can help the worst team in the league beat good teams (Bills vs Vikings). It can make a good team look great like the 2017 Eagles. And it can make a bad team look good like the 2018 Dolphins. I always try to watch for particularly lucky moments in games because it can cause illusions of skill when there is none. Now sometimes the luck just never stops for a team, and if that happens you eventually have to give in and get behind it, but more often than not those kinds of events run out. The Eagles luck from last year hasn't carried over, so now we're left with a 9-10 win team. Good but not great.
Buccaneers vs Falcons
This game came as advertised too. Neither team could do anything to stop the other, and Jameis Winston made just enough mistakes to give the Falcons the win. The Bucs had a few chances to cover, but even though they were the slightly better team at pressuring the opposing QB, it wasn't quite enough to make up for the turnovers. I really thought they could get a touch more pressure on Ryan which could have made all the difference, but the right side of the Falcons line played very well. Ryan wasn't hurried at all and found wide open receivers nearly every play. Ryan and the Falcons have played pretty well on offense so far this year, but they've benefited from playing the Saints, Bucs, and Bengals recently. The schedule is about to tighten up for a bit, so while I'm not suggesting running from your Falcons stock, I am suggesting it might take a little dip before opening back up with their horrible division opponents towards the end of the year. This Bucs squad is unchanged from last year. Hot and cold offense, bad defense. They are in for another top draft pick and hopefully a break with Winston and Koetter. This offense could be scary good with a good QB, but I'm not sure where or if they will be able to acquire a good one this offseason. If Baker Mayfield had Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, OJ Howard, and Cameron Brate to throw to he might be league MVP as a rookie. Not even kidding. This receiving corp is absolutely loaded, and they are being wasted with Winston. The last interesting thing I noticed was Peyton Barber. He made some moves in this game that made me sit up and take notice. I'm not saying he's suddenly a star, but I've never seen him make moves like this. I think RC mentioned he lost weight or something, and if so he could be a serviceable back now. Very impressive showing.
Bengals vs Steelers
Good game. These are two good teams that should be in the playoff mix. The AFC North is absolutely loaded. I still maintain the Browns are a team on the rise, but they are going to have a difficult time this year just having 6 games against the Bengals, Steelers, and Ravens. The Chargers are the only other team that might can beat out two of the North teams for a wildcard spot, and I think that's just because of their easy schedule. The Chargers do not look as good to my eyes as any of the three best North teams. Joe Mixon was highly impressive in this game. He looks so fast and athletic it's ridiculous. The guy isn't far off of Barkley in raw physical ability, but he's the much better natural runner. If Barkley had Mixon's vision he would be unstoppable, and if Mixon got the workload Barkley gets he would be a top 3 RB in fantasy this year. If either of them had the offensive line James Conner is enjoying they would be on Gurley's level for fantasy. Don't get me wrong, Conner is fine, but he's a C running back with an A offensive line and touches. It works for fantasy, but assuming he's the starting RB next year, if there are any changes or cracks in the Pittsburgh line I would avoid Conner without thinking twice.
Texans vs Bills
Oh my God what a disaster. This was one of the worst games I've ever had the displeasure to watch. How anyone still thinks the Texans are a good team is beyond me. They absolutely suck in every way, record be damned. They've won three straight games in OT against a Colts team with half their players hurt, the Jekyll and Hyde Cowboys, and the league's worst team. Don't kid yourselves, the Texans are a bottom 5 team, but because they play in the trash AFC South they'll somehow manage 6-7 wins. They still would not have won this game, despite all the gifts they were given, if Josh Allen hadn't gotten hurt. At least Allen wouldn't have thrown his 47th pick six in 5 games like Nathan Peterman. If the Bills GM and coach aren't fired by mid-season simply for the QB situation then I have no words left for the incompetence of the NFL. If anyone on the Buffalo Bills is reading this please call your bosses and tell them about FFM. Show them the work that RC, Katz, Myles, myself, and everyone else are doing. Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott are getting paid millions to run the Bills into the ground while so many uber talented people here at FFM are struggling to make a decent paycheck. You could hire the FFM team for a fraction of what you're paying the idiots currently running your team and get drastically better results.
Dolphins vs Bears
Did the Dolphins sacrifice a bull to the football gods or something? I talked about luck a lot in the Eagles recap, but this is getting ridiculous. How in the world do they keep getting these crazy turnovers and long TD's at the perfect moments? I don't want to take away from them too much because they have played pretty well this year, but there is no way this is a 4-2 team. I guess if this keeps up then they are just blessed, but I'm not betting on it. The Bears literally had everything go against them this game, and they still should have won. I wasn't as impressed with their passing attack as RC, but it did look better than the first few weeks of the season. Hopefully Nagy continues to open up and let Trubisky go, but there are going to be some growing pains. I'd like to see him clean up some of the occasional silly decisions, but overall you see Trubisky getting a little better each week. We haven't seen his best yet, and I think it's possible he ends up being what Andrew Luck was supposed to be. One thing to monitor that I saw was Khalil Mack having a ghost of a game. He started out on the right side as usual but the Dolphins smartly either had RB's chipping him to help out right tackle James or they ran/threw screens away from him. Later in the game the Bears switched him to the left side, but Tunsil handled him easily. Now Tunsil is a pretty good pass blocker, but I thought Mack looked slower than normal. I'm wondering if maybe he has some hidden injury we haven't heard about, but it's definitely something to watch.
Cardinals vs Vikings
Guys, start your RB's against the Cardinals. I've been saying it since week 1: this is a bad Cardinals run defense. Teams are starting to figure it out. All you have to do is block Chandler Jones out of the play and get a man on the outside linebackers. Glad Latavius Murray finally got some touches, but honestly he really didn't have to do much. He was running through wide open lanes all day. Now I like this Vikings team ok. I don't think they are elite, but they are still pretty good and should be in the playoffs. That said there's a few things holding them back. Riley Reiff being out is huge. Rookie Brian O'Neil was manning the left side, and he actually did as good as could be expected against Chandler Jones, but this is going to be an issue against better teams. Kirk Cousins is good, but he is not good enough to beat the best teams if he's getting pressured. Kirk takes too many sacks for my taste and he's also reckless with the ball at times, fumbling and throwing some silly interceptions. He doesn't do those things a lot, but they definitely show up if you're watching, and I think those moments separate him from being one of the league's best. I think that's why he never had a good record against .500+ teams in Washington. He's another Matt Ryan essentially. Very good, nearly elite, but always going to finish 2nd place to the best. I hope he proves me wrong though because he seems like a really good guy.
Colts vs Jets
How many bets have I lost this year due to absolutely horrible luck by the team I sided with? This seems to happen about 2-3 per week. I counted 17 points by the Jets that were the direct result of stupid, fluky turnovers by the Colts. Plain and simple: the Colts were and are the better team. This is the second Jets win where awful luck by the opposing QB let the Jets score 40+. It's nothing the Jets are doing. It's certainly nothing Sam Darnold is doing. I still stand by my statement that the Colts are underrated. They have suffered from bad luck and a huge number of injuries to key players all year, and they have still played competitively most weeks. Andrew Luck is a huge part of this. His arm looks weaker than before the injury, but he's still playing very good football and willing this team to score. If his arm fully heals by 2019 I don't see why he couldn't return to being on of the 5-7 best QB's in the league. Bills offense coming up for the Colts defense next week. If Nathan Peterman starts I don't care who your other defense is, you start the Colts against him.
Raiders vs Seahawks
Move along, nothing to see here. The Raiders are dying and the Seahawks are still just average. I thought early in the season the Raiders looked decent, but these offensive line injuries have really hurt this team. Derek Carr took a ton of hits, and it was partly the offensive line and partly Carr holding onto the ball too long trying to throw downfield even after the game was out of reach. Rookie tackle Kolton Miller got his lunch eaten by Frank Clark all day long. This is another offense it's safe to start your fantasy defenses against for the foreseeable future especially if this pattern of heavy pressure becomes the norm.
Panthers vs Redskins
After watching this replay I actually think the Panthers played slightly better here. Seems like every game this week I like the team that lost and think the winning team got quite lucky. Contrarian positions to the max! Seriously though the Redskins got a couple of cheap turnovers early that gave them excellent field position. That kind of thing doesn't happen every week, so I imagine in a normal game Washington only scores about 17-20 here. They don't have a good offense, but it's often enough to win because their defense is pretty good. Really this was two evenly matched teams, and if they played this game 10 times they probably split it 5 wins apiece. I still see two 9-7 or so teams with these two. Well balanced teams with respectable offense and defense. Solid offensive lines, defensive lines, mobile QB's that don't make a ton of mistakes, good running games, and mediocre WR's. Very similar across the board. They can beat or lose to any team on any given day. They won't both make the playoffs most likely, but one might sneak in last second to win the division or else snag one of the wildcards.
Broncos vs Rams
This should have been an easy cover by the Rams, but of course Lady Luck had different ideas. It's the same old story, goofy bounces of the ball, an interception off of Josh Reynolds facemask straight to a Broncos defender inside the 20, silly penalites, etc. This game was nowhere near as close as the final score showed. The Rams are fine. The Broncos are not. Case Keenum is visibly holding this team back. Now the Broncos do not have a contending roster, but they aren't far off either. Bradley Chubb had a huge statistical game, but I wasn't really impressed by him. He played ok, but all his sacks had more to do with Goff holding the ball than anything Chubb did. I still think Chubb is going to be an excellent player, but this was no arrival, at least to my eyes.
Titans vs Ravens
This game is the single greatest example I can point to when I say that QB's have more of an effect on sacks than the offensive or defensive lines. These two teams are very, very similar. Mediocre/average QB's, very good offensive lines, above average defensive lines, and passable secondaries. The one thing that was different here, and the source of the massive difference in score, was that Marcus Mariota held the ball too long and Joe Flacco did not. Both QB's were pressured at very high rates, but Mariota gave up a shocking 11 sacks to the Ravens, and it was most definitely Mariota's fault not his line's. Flacco on the other hand was getting rid of the ball when he needed to. Now I'm trying to puzzle out what accounts for this difference in behavior. Flacco is known as a deep ball passer and Mariota as a short, quick passer, so what gives? Why is the deep ball guy getting rid of it quickly in the face of pressure and the quick passer is holding it? The only thing I can come up with is that because Mariota is so used to carving up defenses immediately after the snap, quickly identifying the open man and throwing a dart, that when this option is either covered or not available as a consequence of the play call (the OC calls say Four Verticals for example), he doesn't know what to do and freezes up. Flacco would be the opposite. Because he's always looking for the deep ball, he has to wait for that option to develop. He's comfortable holding it a tick longer and letting the play open up. If nothing comes open or pressure is coming fast he can always just turn and dump it to an outlet RB. Now this is just a theory, but I'm beginning to wonder if there's not some truth to it, and maybe this could apply to other quick passing game specialists of recent draft classes like Dak Prescott and Derek Carr. Is this why all these guys are struggling? I'm not sure, but I'll be watching for more clues to this puzzle in the coming weeks.
As for the game itself there's really nothing else to note. I came to this rewatch prepared to see a dominant Ravens team take it to the Titans and cement themselves as the class of the AFC North. I left thinking this is the same old Ravens team from every year. Very solid all around, definitely capable of winning a Superbowl if Flacco gets hot again but probably not a dominant threat. The Titans have a good team around Mariota, but he is just killing this team right now. Maybe the coaches need to run more of his college offense or maybe he's just cooked, but he is definitely holding this team back. I'm not sure he's got much longer as the starter here.
Chiefs vs Patriots
Holy cow what a game. That is good tv. Hopefully KC learned their lesson from this one: get Tyreek the damn ball. Just do it. Tyreek Hill is the single greatest weapon in the NFL today, and I'm not sure it's even close. With Tyreek Hill on the field teams can't stop this offense. Their only prayer is to contain it. Harass Mahomes enough and he'll make some risky throws. You just have to make sure you come down with the interceptions. Really I didn't see the Patriots do anything to stop the Chiefs this game, not even early when KC was kicking nothing but field goals. They moved the ball at will, and the only thing that stopped them for the most part was a few silly gaffes. Mahomes could have easily had another 6 TD night while Kansas City put up 50+. It doesn't matter that their defense is awful (although I don't think it's quite as bad as advertised because teams are just constantly throwing trying to keep up and that inflates the numbers). This team is an absolute nightmare to try and beat. You can play perfectly holding them to field goal after field goal, but eventually the dam is going to break and the TD's are going to flow. I thought the Patriots played well here but not amazing. They are well-coached as usual, and nobody puts together better strategic game plans than Belichick. Even though this team isn't as strong as past years they still have an excellent chance to win it all because of Belichick. As RC noted in his recap though Brady seems to be losing just a little bit more. We've noticed his arm isn't as strong and he's been missing some easy passes occasionally. The cracks are starting to appear in the armor so now it's just a question of how long the end takes. He may still be a year or so away from a drastic fall in performance, but make no mistake it is coming and not far in the future.
Packers vs 49'ers
The Packers had no business winning this game. They were outplayed from start to finish from what I saw. The only reason they managed a win was because of 3 turnovers by the Niners. Two early fumbles and the interception in OT when Beathard just threw the ball up for Goodwin while under pressure. Kevin King had inside position, and the ball just fell right into his lap. I said it last week, and I'll say it again: Aaron Rodgers is the only thing keeping this team afloat. They are not good end of story. The 49'ers have the opposite problem. They aren't as bad as most people think. Certainly not in Buffalo or Arizona territory. Beathard in particular has played very well in Garoppolo's absence. The line is protecting a bit better since their guards got healthy. The defensive line isn't bad although they could be better. The secondary isn't great, but this team has some pieces in place. With the right draft and free agents in 2019 they could be in position to challenge the Rams.