For every week until the end of the season, I will be ranking the NFL teams from 1-32, power rankings style. They will be arranged into four blocks.
Super Bowl contender
Each week, I will write about four teams, one from each block. It's nice and square. Every team gets written about twice until the season is over.
The biggest problem with traditional power rankings is they take too much in account of every week. Each game is exacerbated. Every loss is the end of the world. Every win is another stitch in a dream season. Part of it just goes along with football in general. These games happen only once a week. There are only sixteen of them. Exaggeration is just part of it. I'm going to try and remove that by looking at the big picture instead of bumping up and down based on one loss or one win. The rankings below are simply adjustments made based on what I thought heading into the season; in the future, they will be adjusted based on an entire body of work and trends, not because of a single HUGE win or one BAD loss.
32.) Cleveland Browns--Record: 0-5. Point Differential: -61. DVOA: -33.4% (32). Last Week: 32.
31.) Chicago Bears--Record: 1-4. Point Differential: -41. DVOA: -4.5% (20). Last Week: 31.
30.) San Francisco 49ers--Record: 1-4. Point Differential: -29. DVOA: -14.0% (26). Last Week: 29.
29.) Miami Dolphins--Record: 1-4. Point Differential: -31. DVOA: -15.2% (28). Last Week: 27.
28.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers--Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -48. DVOA: -21.9% (29). Last Week: 28.
27.) Jacksonville Jaguars--Record: 1-3. Point Differential: -27. DVOA: -6.9% (22). Last Week: 26.
While you spent all this time making fun of the Raguars and their 1-3 record, they have been playing really good defensive football. For the first time in Gus Bradley's head coaching career, the Jaguars have a good defense. Despite being a brainwashed Seattle defensive guru, the Jaguars' highest DVOA in Bradley's first three seasons commanding the troops was 22nd. This year, they are tenth.
The main reason why is the talent is finally here. Malik Jackson. Jalen Ramsey. Yannik Ngakoue. Myles Jack. Tashaun Gipson. Prince Amukamara. Dexter Fowler is healthy. All of these players were brought in during their "offseason winning" offseason. After throwing everything into their defense, the results have matched the investment.
Jacksonville is 9th against the pass. The only issue they have had is Davon House has been toasted this year. But the rest, the rest have been awesome. Amukumara has yet to allow a completed pass over his seven targets. Jalen Ramsey is a sassy rookie who has quickly become my favorite cornerback to watch tackle. With Tashaun Gipson covering the deeper part of the field, Jonathan Cyprien can flourish in the box and help stop the run. Telvin Smith is one of the best coverage linebackers in the game and is the main reason why ville is second, according to DVOA, at stopping passes to the running back at -52.6%. Even when passes are completed, runs aren't picked up after the catch. Jacksonville has the lowest broken tackle rate at 4.1% and has only missed 13 tackles. Second place is Minnesota at 7.5%.
To complement the secondary is a pass rush that actually has talent. Rookie Ngakoue is a stretchy spider who uses his long arms to shoot webs of silk around tackles in the form of swims and rips. Jackson was a calculated overpay in free agency that has filled that desperate need of an interior rush. These two standouts, combined with the others, have molded the Jaguars into a team with a teeth-gleaming pass rush. They are ninth in adjusted sack rate and eleventh in pressure rate.
Jacksonville has a defense that should lead to this team being better than 1-3 with the biological warfare they have on offense. The issue here is Bortles is still Bortling. This is year three of his career. The accuracy and decision-making issues of the past are still plaguing him. The impressive physical traits are here: arm strength, pocket presence, and mobility. He simply hasn't done the things that quarterbacks need to do.
Bortles was terrible in the first three games of the 2016 season. He missed throws and threw six interceptions, three of which came against Baltimore in a game where I counted five more dropped interceptions. He finally played well against Indianapolis. The key was that he turned the ball over zero times. What's important for him isn't the yards he throws for; it's the turnover totals. That success against the Colts was against a pass defense that saw Brian Hoyer lead the NFL in DYAR last week. Until Bortles starts having two touchdown/zero interception games against good defenses and not against the old folk in Indy, I'm not buying him.
What's frustrating is the maturation isn't there. He's young and mirthful, yet he's still making the same mistakes he made last year and the year before. By this point in his career, you would expect some of the throws he's attempted would be weeded out by now. However, they are still here.
In this play against Baltimore, the Ravens are playing man coverage on the outside with two safeties deep and are having their linebackers sit in zone underneath. Julius Thomas is running a quick out.
Bortles goes to throw before Thomas even makes his break. He doesn't read the field on this play. He sees only his receiver and not the linebacker. Like a typical millennial covered in Beats headphones, Bortles only sees the vacuum of his life and only what he wants to see. The linebacker sees it all the way, though. He takes a great angle, jumps in front of the pass, and drops a pick-six.
I still think this Geno Smith gene can be phased out with experience and more playing time. The most concerning aspect is his accuracy. Bortles is still missing throws, easy throws that have to be completed. This stalls Jacksonville's offense and leaves it panting and frustrated. Accuracy is something that seems more innate than other traits. College and young quarterbacks who struggle with this component rarely learn how to do this later in life.
This is second and 7. The Jaguars are down by a touchdown to Green Bay. Allen Robinson is lined up to the left against one-on-one press man coverage. He runs one of the filthiest routes I've ever seen. If this was 2009, college kids would post this route on Facebook and use it as a way to describe the filthiness of the drop in some robotic LSD-gurgling dubstep. Man, the world is so much different now, and it is for the better.
Bortles just misses this wide open touchdown throw. There aren't mechanical issues. There isn't pressure here. He doesn't see the throw late. It's just a bad throw. On the next play, he fails to complete another pass to Robinson. They kick a field goal. Jacksonville loses 28-24. This touchdown miss was very important.
Now, when Bortles is throwing deep, things are fine and he can get by. It's a beautiful thing when he's standing tall in the pocket and making perfect throws like this to Robinson.
Again, Bortles is still young. I think he can be a successful quarterback in this league. I just don't think it can be in the setting he's in in Jacksonville. Bortles would be great if he played on a team that could run the ball where he could be used to unleash terrifying downfield throws with terror against stacked boxes, in an offense where he's not forced to be the consistent first down churning thing. In an offense where he only needs to complete the occasional big play completion and convert on third downs, Bortles could succeed.
Jacksonville can't run the ball, though. Their offensive line has been alright at pass-blocking, but it hasn't when it comes to the run game. They are last this year in adjusted line yards. Their running backs are rarely getting holes to run through, instead clomping through swampy boxes. Additionally, their backs aren't the type that can transcend their offensive line. Both Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon need great blocking to succeed.
Here they are running an outside zone play to the left against a great Baltimore front. The center gets driven into the backfield. The left guard makes the most futile second level block I've ever seen. The play-side right guard gets yanked by the linebacker. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum can't turn and take the outside linebacker wide and outside of the play. When Ivory gets to the hole, there are three defenders sitting on the couch with the lights off waiting for him to arrive, thanks to three missed blocks.
This is why I hated the Chris Ivory signing. Throw his performance this year out the window. The money they spent on a 28 year old, Marion Barber type of bruising running back would have been better used on interior line play. If they could run block and run the ball, this offense would be better than the 28th in DVOA it is. Bortles can't be the sole creator and probably will never be a rock of consistency. Because of this, the offense has suffered.
A lot of pressure was put on this team to make the playoffs this season. All I was looking for was improvement from Bortles and the defense. I thought there were still too many unknowns for Jacksonville to expect an AFC South title this year. So far, the defense has done it. All of that talent that was stuffed into that side of the ball like a tupperware cabinet has shown. Offensively, Bortles isn't there, and he has to be. The same problems have hampered him--inaccuracy and poor decision-making. Bortles would be good enough in a run-first offense where he could close his eyes and throw deep ten times a game, but not when he has to be the sole provider. Because of that, the Jaguars are 1-3.
26.) New Orleans Saints--Record: 1-3. Point Differential: -16. DVOA: -6.2% (21). Last Week: 25.
25.) Tennessee Titans--Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -9. DVOA: -0.2% (16). Last Week: 30.
24.) New York Jets--Record: 1-4. Point Differential: -44. DVOA: -29.8% (30). Last Week: 24.
23.) Los Angeles Rams--Record: 3-2. Point Differential: -24. DVOA: -11.0% (25). Last Week: 21.
22.) Detroit Lions--Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -6. DVOA: -8.5% (24). Last Week: 23.
21.) Indianapolis Colts--Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -11. DVOA: -14.7% (27). Last Week: 22.
20.) New York Giants--Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -19. DVOA: -1.8% (18). Last Week: 17.
After Tony Romo broke his back and was put on injured reserve so he could regrow his exoskelton, I thought this division was the Giants' to lose. They spent all of that money on the defensive line. They resigned THE CLAW, Jason Pierre-Paul. They brought in Big Snacks Damon Harrison from the New York Jets. They paid a lot of money for a lot hurries with Olivier Vernon. At first glance, New York had the defensive line to make up for their bad linebackers and had a secondary that could play man coverage on the outside.
Offensively, they have been a glossy tabloid front page. Odell Beckham Jr. doesn't like playing football anymore and has made amends with that net. All week long, sports talk radio has dived into his head to try and figure out what is wrong when in reality the problem is the Giants can't block and can't run the ball. Eli Manning has had to do everything, and Eli isn't the type of quarterback that can be super-efficient over 35 throws a game.
There's something really strange going on with this defense. It was pointed out to me while I was listening to "The Bill Barnwell Show" with Mina Kimes (who are just a joy to listen to). The Giants have 26 pressures and a pressure rate of 13.6%. Olivier Vernon leads the league again and has ten already this year. But the team as a whole has just four sacks. Four.
Sacks are supposed to be the culmination of great play, just like touchdowns. Yet the Giants aren't seeing the end result. The tip of the pyramid hasn't been plopped on. It's the strangest early season stat I've seen.
It's the best way to describe this defense too. They are 16th in DVOA at -1.6%. They have allowed 108 points, which is 15th. At first glance, they are just a fat glob of mediocre, but when you dig deeper , hey are performing in some weird ways.
Going back to their pass defense, they are 18th in the NFL. That is strange when you consider again the amount of pressure they have generated, the talent on that side of the ball, and the year Janoris Jenkins has had. When you get past the epidermis, you see the low sack rate and their performance covering certain receivers. They are second in the league at covering a team's number one receiver, but 31st at covering number two receivers. These players are catching 6.2 passes a game and picking up 62.9 yards a game. Then the Giants are top ten at covering tight ends and running backs despite their crude linebacker play.
On offense, the Giants have just been average. Passing and rushing, they have been mediocre. Not only that, they are mired in mediocrity. They have the lowest offensive variance in the game. The unit just hasn't clicked into place at all. The offensive line has played poorly, especially when it comes to run blocking. The Giants ran the ball for 78 and 43 yards the last two weeks against Minnesota and Green Bay, and they play two more great front sevens in Baltimore and Los Angeles. It's made Eli throw the ball 187 times. That isn't what the Giants want to do.
The New York Giants are the most mediocre team in the NFL. They have been pretty decent at everything except stopping the run. They have played in four one-possession games and have gone 2-2. The talent here is undeniable, and the confusing ways they have found their way to mediocre is difficult to comprehend. If there's a team sitting around the middle who can make a run to the postseason, my guess would be this team.
19.) San Diego Chargers--Record: 1-4. Point Differential: +10. DVOA: 7.2% (11). Last Week: 20. (Doesn't Count TNF)
18.) Carolina Panthers--Record: 1-4. Point Differential: -12. DVOA: -8.1% (23). Last Week: 16.
17.) Washington Redskins--Record: 3-2. Point Differential: -7. DVOA: 4.1% (12). Last Week: 18.
16.) Houston Texans--Record: 3-2. Point Differential: -22. DVOA: -29.9% (31). Last Week: 15.
This past offseason, the Houston Texans sunk their cap space into their offense while ignoring their defense entirely. After two years of using Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates, Tom Savage, and Brandon Weeden at quarterback, the Texans actually made a quarterback decision instead of wasting time with New England castoffs, below average veterans, reignited old flames, a mid round transient, and Brandon Weeden. Houston brought in mail order quarterback Brock Osweiler on a four-year, $72 million deal.
Rather than watch Alfred Blue plod away for an anemic rushing attack, the Texans also signed Lamar Miller for four years and $6.5 million a year. Then they drafted Tyler Ervin. To end the days of their passing game consisting of only throwing the ball to DeAndre Hopkins every play, Houston drafted Will Fuller and Braxton Miller and promised Jaelen Strong would see an increase in snaps. On paper, Houston was all set to grow from an offense that was ranked 21st and 24th in DVOA the last two seasons into a capable unit.
It's October now. Through five games, the Texans' offense is the worst in the NFL. The Texans are 32nd in DVOA, 30th in rushing, and 32nd in passing. They've scored 82 points, tied for 31st, and don't even have a bye week to use as an argument for their basement-dwelling. It was reasonable to expect growing pains with a new quarterback, running back, WR2, and an offensive line missing three of last season's starters. Stutters were expected. But this? The inability to even form full sentences? This has been far from expected.
The run game has been a disaster so far because of the offensive line. Lamar Miller is an artist who creates pretty runs with sharp cuts of the brush and speeding rushes of color. He needs space to work. All the Texans' offensive line has provided him with is three yard spaces and unblocked linebackers to run into. Right now, Miller has a DYAR of -31 (26th), a DVOA of -16.6% (25th), a success rate of 45%, and he's averaging just 3.7 yards a carry. The Texans moved on from Alfred Blue only to turn Lamar Miller into Alfred Blue.
The biggest issue on the offensive line isn't spectacular blown blocks that lead to backfield obliteration. It's blocking on the second level. The Texans had been running a lot of inside zone with two strong double teams and the occasional power pulling play mixed in between. Together, four players working in pairs of twos move the first level and then unclasp to the linebacker. At the first level, they aren't getting enough vertical movement. Because of this, the offensive line is having to travel a longer distance to get the next block. This makes these second blocks more difficult, leading to whiffs, misses, and destinations never fulfilled. Linebackers have roamed freely. They've suffocated space in the box and the run game. As a result, Houston has been plodding between the tackles.
Additionally, Jeff Allen has been worse than Ed Reed, thus far another disastrous free agent signing where Houston opted for a lesser player without a big difference in cost. Allen was signed for a million dollars less per year than Brandon Brooks once Brooks left for Philadelphia. So far, Allen hasn't done anything well. The Texans have stopped running power plays because Allen brings kisses, not punches, and crawls through space. He doesn't have the quickness to get to linebackers. He and Derek Newton haven't worked together well either. On runs over the right tackle, Houston is averaging 1.7 yards per carry and is 29th in adjusted line yards. This has more to do with Allen than Newton, who is a great run blocker that excelled next to Brooks. There isn't drive on the first level, and they don't know when to head to the linebacker, let alone who's leaving. Allen has been a blown blocking black hole at right guard through five games.
Lamer Miller himself is also going to have to play better, too. He's not the main reason why Houston can't run the ball efficiently, but he is still part of the problem. Teams don't pay a running back $6.5 million a year to only pick up what the offensive line creates. You a pay a running back to make the line better. You pay him to break tackles, zip past safeties, and bounce around defenses.
Miller has 101 carries and 14 catches. He's broken only seven rush tackles and two pass tackles. His broken tackle rate is one of the worst in the league at 7.8%. By subtracting running back yards from adjusted line yards, one can get an idea about the extra yards per play a team's runners are picking up. Houston's adjusted line yards are 3.83 and rushing yards are 3.78. At -0.05, they are 25th in the NFL, and Miller has 75.3% of the team's carries. The Texans are also towards the bottom in the NFL in second field and open field yards. No matter where you look, the offensive line or the running back position, the Texans have struggled on the ground.
Excruciating run blocking was on display against Kansas City and New England. The Texans are in 1x0x4 personnel on 2nd and 3 against a nickel defense. This is the perfect defense to run this play against to pick up the first down. Both down interior linemen are in the gap, which creates a natural hip to hip double team. The linebackers are in place for the guards to block after movement is created.
Center Greg Mancz comes off the ball way too high. He's standing up. He's also taking on the entire defender. He doesn't give Xavier Su'a-Filo any room to take on half of the defender. On the right side, Allen and Newton have zero chemistry. Newton takes a slide step left. Allen does the same to the right, but never fully moves over. Instead, he just offers a hand of help.
Both double teams turn into stagnant single man blocks.
After offering a hand of help, they move to the second level. If they are going to do this, they must block the linebackers.
Mancz isn't strong and he plays high. He offers little punch. He makes up for this with his feet. On inside run plays and plays with pulls, he's forced to move nose tackles vertically, but he doesn't have the strength to do it. The defensive tackle picks up the line of scrimmage and moves it backwards.
Blue cuts to the left, right into the defensive tackle. At the next level, Allen is too slow to get there, despite moving off the first level quickly. Su'a-Filo doesn't grab and hold onto the chest well enough to stick to his block. Unlike Allen, XSF has the athleticism to get there, but he falls off his blocks too often because of poor hand placement.
Three defenders rip Blue apart.
Houston has already started to move away from inside runs. Against Tennessee and Minnesota, they ran the outside zone more often. This gives Lamar Miller more freedom and space. He can put his vision to use, make a cut, and then scamper to lands devoid of life. It puts more pressure on him than his offensive line, who don't need to drive; they just have to get hats on hats. The way the offensive line has played, this is for the better.
The run game was abandoned against Minnesota, thanks to a quick 24-0 deficit. But against Tennessee, Miller had some actual real Lamar Miller runs. This here is the stuff. The covered lineman has the defender covering him. The uncovered lineman moves to the gap towards where the play is going. There's lateral double teams between both tight ends on the right, right tackle and right guard, and left guard and left tackle.
Zone steps are taken. One lateral step followed with a forty-five degree angled step. The covered lineman aims for the inside shoulder and the uncovered lineman takes a deeper step to gain depth to overtake the block.
Immediately, there's a free linebacker. Xavier Su'a-Filo, who is as average as they come, gets tossed by Jurrell Casey. He's stumbling like it's 2 a.m. on Sixth Street. Wesley Woodyard is free to run wherever he pleases.
Everywhere else, the blocks are neutral stalemates by the time Miller gets the ball. Mancz was unable to reach the inside shoulder, but is still in the way and moving the nose tackle laterally. The same can be said for Chris Clark. Allen has the defensive end covered up. The ones going to the linebacker are in good position.
Mancz sees Woodyard come free, so he leaves his block and sacrifices his body to prevent Woodyard from getting into the hole and making a play in the backfield.
Now is when Miller has to work. There are seven defenders around him. He was patient and ran laterally, processing the possible running lanes. Nothing opened up play side, so he's forced to cut back and wiggle to get into space. He cuts left once away from the muck, a second time to break a safety's tackle, and then falls down at the 14 yard line.
Rather than Miller being stuck in between the tackles with nowhere to go, the outside zone allows him to take control of the play and have a greater impact. No longer is he forced to take the little bit the offensive line creates. He can naturally run outside. Houston needs to run plays that get him in space, and the outside zone does exactly that.
By getting Miller in space and letting him do what he does best, the run game should improve from its dismal state. The blocking may get better as the players play together, and Duane Brown returning to the lineup helps that, but I don't see much of an increase in performance. There's talent issues on the interior with Sua-Filo, Mancz and Allen. The run game's improvement depends on Miller cutting his way into the open field.
The passing game has turned from "I Think I Like Brock Osweiler" to "When Can The Texans Cut Brock Osweiler?". After throwing the ball down field with ease against Chicago and Kansas City's single high safety looks, the Texans have failed to find success as opponents adjustmented. New England sat down, looked Houston in the eyes, and told them they weren't going to throw the ball to DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller. They forced Osweiler to throw the ball into the middle of the field to complementary receivers. The Texans weren't able to do that. They were shut out that game by a defense that ranks 24th in DVOA. Since then, other teams' have mimicked that strategy.
Since teams have switched to using two deep safeties and bracketed Fuller and Hopkins, Brock Osweiler is 4/-9 (21%) for 99 yards, 5.21 yards an attempt, and has completed 2 interceptions to 0 touchdowns on deep passes. Osweiler has been forced to use accuracy and ball placement to beat defenses. He hasn't been able to do it. The deep passing game has plummeted along with Osweiler's play.
Osweiler has been stupefied and perplexed by two deep safety looks. The majority of his pass attempts are dumps into the flat to Jaelen Strong, Ryan Griffin, C.J. Fiedorowicz or Lamar Miller before other routes are finished without any threat of pressure. This is why Osweiler's yards per attempt has fallen to six yards. This is why his DVOA is -23.9%.
Sometimes, these plays work. Like here against Tennessee, the nickel corner gets beat by Strong and he's open heading to the sideline. Osweiler has seven players blocking. There is a brief whiff of pressure. He dramatically overreacts to it like he's in a a telenovela. Instead of standing tall in the pocket and trusting pass blocking that has been above average so far, Osweiler scurries to the right as the stunt is stopped across Newton's face. He tapdances and then rips one over Strong's head. The Texans don't pick up a first down and are forced to kick the field goal.
This is a good quick passing play from Houston. A defender is beaten, and there's actually a chance to pick up the first down. The majority of these are four yard rags of toxic waste. But even on the good ones, Osweiler's accuracy and ball placement has been sporadic. He misses this throw. So far, he's missed more throws than he's made.
It's not like these two safety coverage looks have completely chained Fuller and Hopkins to defenders. They can still get open. They are open. DeAndre Hopkins caught a buffet of Golden Corral quality passes from five different quarterbacks last season and still ended up being the third best receiver in the league. He can beat man coverage with swim moves. He boxes out corners to create space. Even when covered, Hopkins is always open because of his catch radius. The ball just needs to be placed in a reachable spot away from the defender. In 2016, he has a DVOA of 2.8%, a catch percentage of 52%, and just 283 receiving yards through five games.
Will Fuller is a cheetah with Red Bull palpitating out of his heart. He's so fast that he levitates past defensive backs. But he's so much more than a Ted Ginn jackpot deep threat. Fuller is a great route runner who cuts routes off and leaves defensive backs' jaws on the floor. These two receivers have been open. Brock Osweiler has just been missing them.
Osweiler doesn't give routes time to develop. He looks short instead of down field and is taking six yard throws over deeper throws. This is all despite good pass blocking from his offensive line. He's had plenty of time to scan down field. The Texans have a pressure rate of just 12.7%, which is 11th in the league.
Against Tennessee, it is 2nd and 4. The Titans are in their base defense. It's a perfect play-action chance. Osweiler is faking the hand off to Miller and rolling right. There are routes run into each level of the defense. Hopkins is going deep by running a corner. The tight end is dragging across the middle. Everyone's most hated fullback, Jay Prosch,tumbles into the flat. Of course Osweiler throws to the flat.
Hopkins fits perfectly in between the defensive back and the safety. He is wiiiiiiide open for an easy fifteen yard gain. But since teams have started playing with two safeties back, Osweiler has insisted on throwing short instead of down field.
This isn't an aberration. These plays happen all of the time. Osweiler is afraid of the rush. He's afraid of turning the ball over. Because of that, the Texans' passing offense has stalled into the short left and short right parts of the field.
So much is made of the scheme since George Godsey had play-calling duties taken away. What the coaching staff can do a better job of is running route combinations to help spring lesser receivers who are now seeing more targets. They run mostly isolation routes that force these players to beat man coverage, and they haven't been able to do that. What they have done is call up plays to attack the center of the field Houston is being force fed.
Quarterback analysis can be over-complicated by trying to analyze every specific detail when a lot of it can be simplified down to whether or not the quarterback can make throws. Right now, Osweiler isn't making the throws needed to beat Cover Two and Cover Two Man schemes.
This is a third and four play against Tennessee. Houston is in the shotgun and has trips left against Cover Two Man. Hopkins is lined up in the slot against Perrish Cox and is running a straight nine route into the center of the defense. Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the league. Cox has a success rate of 47%. That's 103rd in the league. This is what Bill O'Brien dreams about in his two hours of sleep every night.
Hopkins swims around the press coverage and gains a foot of separation. The safety is pulled to the sideline, thanks to the corner route. Osweiler has Hopkins open. He lofts the ball short. He puts it high and in front of Hopkins, which pulls Cox back into the play and leads to a near-interception. Hopkins goes over the back and defends the pass.
The coverage here is pretty good. Cox is in the vicinity of Hopkins. But in the NFL, this is open. It's up to the quarterback to throw the receiver open. Osweiler hasn't made his throws, and he hasn't shown the ability to place the ball in spots where only his receiver can get it.
The Texans' passing attack has been an inefficient splattering of throws into the flat instead of passes out to their best receivers. This is on Osweiler. The offensive line has protected him. He has the horses outside that can catch passes no matter the coverage. The plays have been called to beat default Madden two safety deep defenses. Osweiler just hasn't done it.
The quick dump-off passes, overreaction to pressure that messes up his feet and mechanics, leading to inaccurate throws, the decision to throw shorter rather than deeper, the inability to throw players open, and poor ball placement have led to the passing offense becoming stale and predictable. It is now operating in a twelve yard trunk. The offense looks 2013 Schaub-ish.
Defenses know this. Things are predictable. Defensive backs are playing off the ball and sitting ready to pounce on these routes. These innocent six yard passes are going to start turning into disastrous interceptions.
Last week against Minnesota, the Texans went down 17-0 and still had not picked up a first down on their own accord. To mix things up, they go empty with five receivers on first down. Osweiler takes the snap and instantly looks to the flat route in the slot. Harrison Smith is playing six yards off the receiver. He takes one lateral snap and recognizes the route right away. He bolts forward. The ball bounces off his hands and into the ground.
The Texans' passing offense has been putrid, inefficient, and ugly. It still hasn't hit Brock Bottom yet. Plays like this are sitting there for defenses to take advantage of now that the offense exists in a corroded and predictable box.
It takes time for all these new parts to get used to each other and start playing good football. They have faced tough defenses; their opponent's defensive DVOA so far is -6.8% (7th). But the Texans still have the worst offense in the NFL. This wasn't expected from a team that finally made a real quarterback decision by a supposed QB guru and applied their resources to acquiring speed at skill positions.
For things to improve, it's going to take Lamar Miller getting placed into space on runs that take advantage of his skills and mask the offensive line. It's going to take Brock Osweiler doing something more than throwing the ball deep down field. He has to be a real quarterback, and that hasn't happened through five games. With J.J. Watt's injury and general attrition on the defense, it's going to be up to the offense to carry this team if they want to be something other than the least bad team in a bad division.
15.) Buffalo Bills--Record: 3-2. Point Differential: +30. DVOA: 12.7% (8). Last Week: 19.
14.) Arizona Cardinals--Record: 2-3. Point Differential: +24. DVOA: 1.8% (14). Last Week: 14.
13.) Baltimore Ravens--Record: 3-2. Point Differential: +6. DVOA: 1.6% (15) Last Week: 13.
12.) Cincinnati Bengals--Record: 2-3. Point Differential: -18. DVOA: -3.0% (19). Last Week: 7.
11.) Oakland Raiders--Record: 4-1. Point Differential: +5. DVOA: 7.8% (10). Last Week: 11.
10.) Philadelphia Eagles--Record: 3-1. Point Differential: +64. DVOA: 33.5% (2). Last Week: 9.
9.) Atlanta Falcons--Record: 4-1. Point Differential: +35. DVOA: 20.0% (5). Last Week: 12.
8.) Kansas City Chiefs--Record: 2-2. Point Differential: -9. DVOA: 0.1% (17). Last Week: 8.
I still think the Chiefs can be good. They are like the Carolina Panthers, where they play a very tight style of football. The machine is bounded tightly and needs to run with perfection; when it does, it is beautiful. When Alex Smith is playing point guard and zipping screens and quick passes, and the receivers are yaccing all over the field, when Spencer Ware is slitting throats with his legs on disgusting cuts and carrying the pile, when Jeremy Maclin catches the occasional deep ball, when the exterior pass rush is going, when the cornerbacks get long third downs and can play off receivers and jump on the ball, when they get a lead...this is a fun team to watch. When any of those threads skips and tangles, it forces the machine to choke and suffocate on itself.
This was seen against the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger had forever to throw. He took scissors and snipped up the Chiefs' defense. Without a lead, Kansas City's short pass offense really crumbles. It forces Alex Smith to pick up chunks of yards at a time and throw the ball down the field, except most of the time he doesn't and instead opts to throw the ball short, missing open players down field. That makes any chance of a comeback or shootout impossible.
Kansas City is 2-2. They were blown out twice. They came back against San Diego and lost to Houston because they fell behind, lost every offensive fumble they had, saw a kickoff return for a touchdown negated because of a penalty, and because Andy Reid has failed to understand that other teams get a chance to score too when navigating fourth quarter comebacks. There are two holes preventing this machine from operating at its pea. That is why Kansas City is 2-2.
Their skill players haven't done what they need to do. They are 29th in yards per attempt at 6.4 yards gained per pass and are 31st in yards per completion at 9.8. Last year, they were tied for 11th and 19th in the same categories. Their rush offense has dropped from 1st to 31st. The biggest difference is they aren't breaking tackles like last season. When the offense is buzzing like Blake Shelton on some Spanish wine (I hate myself so much), the ball is out quickly and they are breaking tackles and rampaging down field. This season, Kansas City has broken 27 tackles (25th) and has a rate of 7.7% (27th). Last season, they were 12th and 9th, plus they were fifth in DVOA.
Part of this can be attributed to how the Chiefs' offense has had to change and convulse because they have been playing from behind. They have had to run different, longer pass plays. They have run just 47 plays while having a lead, which is 30th in the league. Last year, they ran 512 plays with a lead. That was fifth in the NFL. Kansas City has had to play from behind. It's changed their offense. These two reasons are why Kansas City's precise offense is wheezing and short circuiting. It's why they're 25th in offensive DVOA.
On the other side of the ball, the pass rush is the real killer here. Kansas City is known for getting a lead and crunching quarterbacks in between their toes like Doritos. Once the exterior rush gets going, it forces quarterbacks to toss bile up to Kansas City's cornerbacks. It gives them a shorter field to work with and spreads the score even farther apart. Right now, the Chiefs are 32nd in pressure rate, infuriating quarterbacks only 6.0% of the time. Only three of their defenders have a pressure; Dee Ford leads the team with three. Additionally, they have gotten to the quarterback only five times.
If we look back to last season when they were 6th in DVOA at -13.8%, their pressure rate was 28.1% (5th), their adjusted sack rate was 7.7% (4th), and they ended up with 47 sacks. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston combined for 44.5 pressures. This year, Hali has one. Justin Houston is still out. The edge rushing that swarms quarterbacks is nonexistent this year.
Some of this can be attributed to the fact that they are playing from behind; teams can run the ball to take out the clock. But plays are run before that happens. When teams are throwing the bal, the Chiefs have been trotting out the meekest rush in the NFL.
I still have faith in Kansas City mainly because Justin Houston is coming back October 30th and Jamaal Charles is starting to play again. Houston had 23 hurries in 11 games last season. Charles has averaged 5.5 yards a carry in his career. He will help the screen/quick pass game and be able to pick up the yards after the catch this offense is dying for. With him and Spencer Ware, Kansas City has the best one-two running back punch in the NFL. Houston and Charles can be the tinkers that get this machine calibrated back to equilibrium.
7.) Dallas Cowboys--Record: 4-1. Point Differential: +38. DVOA: 12.6% (9). Last Week: 10.
6.) Green Bay Packers--Record: 3-1. Point Differential: +15. DVOA: 19.0% (6). Last Week: 6.
5.) Denver Broncos--Record: 4-1. Point Differential: +40. DVOA: 16.9% (7) Last Week: 5. (Doesn't Count TNF)
4.) Minnesota Vikings--Record: 4-0. Point Differential: +56. DVOA: 36.0% (1). Last Week: 4.
3.) Pittsburgh Steelers--Record: 4-1. Point Differential: +46. DVOA: 20.8% (4). Last Week: 3.
2.) Seattle Seahawks--Record: 3-1. Point Differential: +25. DVOA: 32.6% (3). Last Week: 2.
1.) New England Patriots--Record: 4-1. Point Differential: +40. DVOA: 2.1% (13). Last Week: 1.
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