The Houston Texans had around $75 million in cap space last offseason. The safety market was absurd. Tyrann Mathieu, Landon Collins, Earl Thomas, and others, can’t hear you over this [KITTENING] money. Before Brian Gaine was fired, Houston penny pinched and toenail clipped and still kept their money in their pockets. The Texans didn’t want to retain Jackson. A contract wasn’t even offered. They found more of a pure centerfield safety in Tashaun Gipson for $12 million less in guaranteed money, and an average of $4.5 million less a season. Choosing Gipson for a cheaper contract wasn’t baffling, not even negotiating with Jackson was.
For three (?) years now I’ve been clamoring in this corner of the internet for the Texans to move Kareem Jackson to safety. They finally did it last season, then cornerback injuries, see Kevin Johnson, forced Jackson back to cornerback, and forced him back to a position he shouldn’t be playing. He was bad. The Texans’ secondary was bad.
The Broncos saw this. They didn’t try to keep jamming the X into the diamond shape while the ticker on a blue gameboard rattled to detonation. They placed Jackson at strong safety and paired him next to Justin Simmons. Together they’ve been one of the best safety groups in the league.
All season long, just like in Houston, Jackson has been splattering guts, crunching on bones, hyena cackling and bicep flexing.
Jackson has been good this season, but he hasn’t been a Hall of Fame caliber player. Against the Texans he was Ed Reed, he was Ronnie Lott, he was Troy Polamalu, he was Paul Krause. Jackson had 11 total tackles, 6 solo, 1 tackle for a loss, deflected 3 passes, dropped 2 interceptions, intercepted 1 pass, and took a fumble recovery hand off for a touchdown.
The fumble was forced by Alexander Johnson (#45). It was recovered by Jeremiah Attaochu (#97). Attaochu turned this into a rugby play. He stood up strong, with Jordan Akins (#88) gnawing on his leg, and slipped the ball into Jackson’s drink.
Bedlam. What is going on? Reality is so fragile. Jackson ran unimpeded. Love it. Savor it. Flex those arms. This made the game 14-0, and kind of sort of ended it.
Throughout the entire game Jackson drove his shoulders through ball carriers. Carlos Hyde (#23) cuts upfield nearing full speed. Jackson (#22) runs right through him. He is an artist. His shoulders are his paintbrush. Ball carriers are are his watercolors. The field his canvas. Lightly flick the brush to create texture. Ooop. Don’t put too much skull in that one. Just a tad. There it is. You got it. Isn’t that just beautiful?
Bodybags were littered across the field. NRG Stadium was a morgue. I thought DeAndre Hopkins died here. He looked upon his bicep flexing undertaker, and wondered where all his days went.
The fumble return led to valuable points and put Houston in the hole. That of course was the most important play of the game he made. This was the second most important one. It’s 3rd and 1. Deshaun Watson hits a quick pass to 6’7” 275 pound Darren Fells (#87). Jackson reads it, he’s seen these words on these pages before, and unsheathes his scythe to cut Fells in half. Houston would go for it on fourth down. Shelby Harris bats the pass at the line. Denver scores again making it 31-3. Fine, I’ll string up the damn lights.
Jackson reveled in satiated revenge. After the game he went online and wrote some posts for his haters.
This was after he was awarded a gameball. He said, “All week I tried not to make it not about me man, but more so about us.” A truly unselfish team first player. Someone who does it the right way. Someone your children, and my children, can look up to.
I love Jackson. His tackling was one of the best parts of Texans games. People change. They have different needs. They feel different things. They want to lead white water rafting trips, or hold different hands, or pursue higher education in intelligent cities, or don’t see someone in their future, before burning it all down for the present anyways. If someone was going to brutalize the Texans, I’m glad it was Jackson. Good for him. Love that guy.
2. PLAY THE BALL
One of the things I’ve always admired about the Patriots is how well they play the football. Defensive backs highpoint it and knock out it out of receivers hands to turn completions into incompletions. The torso isn’t the target on blindside pass rushes. The hand holding the ball is. Loose leaf tea midfield scampering is a prime time to force fumbles.
The best play of the week was this Devin McCourty forced fumble. On 3rd and 2 Travis Kelce has the first down on a quick drag. This isn’t enough. Kelce runs away from the tackle, behind the first down marker, and tries to run around a meek blocking Sammy Watkins (#14) for more. Stephon Gilmore (#21) hits him low. McCourty flies off the turnbuckle, not the top one, but like the second one, places his hand on the ball, and squeezes the top off the jar.
The whistle blew. Quick and clear recovery. Live, it looked like he was down. But upon closer review it was clear and obvious McCourty pressed his fingers on the right spot and squirted the ball out.
New England scored a field goal afterwards making it 23-16. They wouldn’t score again. They failed to convert on fourth down after a N’Keal Harry should have been touchdown was called out of bounds, and Bill Belichick was out of challenges to be able to overturn it.
Still, 16 points against the Chiefs is an awful performance. New England couldn’t run the football against Kansas City’s atrocious front. Kansas City blitzed and created constant pressure. Tom Brady was flopping around the pocket like a clomping horse, maneuvering through ancient crumbled stone ruins, and searching for receivers who couldn’t get open.
The Patriots are at a point where their defense is their best offense. Seven of their points came after a blocked punt. 10 of their 13 points against Dallas were after turnovers—an interception and a blocked point. New England is 1st in defensive DVOA, 19th in special teams DVOA but has blocked 4 kicks, and 13th in offensive DVOA. They’ve had 25 offensive drives after a turnover or blocked kick, the 2nd most, behind Pittsburgh with 26. They’ve scored 15 times in these situations, the 2nd most, behind Pittsburgh, and have scored 67 points off these plays, including 6 non-offensive touchdowns. This accounts for nearly 20% of their points scored.
Additionally, their average offensive drive starts on their own 33.4 yard line. This is the best starting drive in the league. Yet, they score only 1.51 points per offensive possession, which puts them 15th.
New England’s offense is sick. It has been like for a few weeks now. The power run scheme is no longer dominating. Their offensive tackles are lumbering and quick speed rushers can run around them. Teams can blitz Tom Brady to stop him now; a sentence that has never been true. Players aren’t immediately open. Julian Edelman has been doubled and they’re struggling for answers. Brady expects for receivers to break upfield after the conclusion of their route only to throw it into a sea of dark green water.
The defense is deep and multidimensional filled with so many players who can do so many things. The Patriots could, maybe, just maybe, put together a Denver 2016 type of run, but with great teams like Kansas City, and Baltimore scowling in the conference, and without a slam dunk easy Divisional Round matchup waiting for them after they probably clinch a first round bye, this could be the first time since 2010 we haven’t seen them in the Conference Championship game. These words have been said before by others. These words have never been true.
3. THE TRIPLE CROWN RACE
The Texans beat the Patriots. That was the only thing I care about. I’m satiated, rubbing my full and ruinous chili pot belly. MMmmm. That was good.
The afterglow after the climax is starting to wear off. I’m searching elsewhere to find NFL end result satisfaction. I have my white whale. The Jameis Winston Triple Crown. It’s simple. A quarterback has to lead the league in touchdowns, interceptions, and times sacked.
Winston is coming fresh off the most Jameis game of his career. Now this isn’t the best game of his career, that was against Philadelphia in 2015, but this was the Jameiest Jameis game he’s ever played. Winston threw for 456 yards on 45 attempts, 10.13 yards an attempt, 4 touchdowns to 3 interceptions, including a dropped interception and a pick six, and was sacked 1 time.
His first throw of the game was an interception. He read right to left. He thought he knew the coverage, but old Jameis isn’t used to playing against Darius Leonard (#53). Winston expected the slant to be wide open. Leonard was there, staunch and sitting.
Things were better after that. Winston is mobile, but isn’t fast. He’s the Florida Man version of Jacoby Brissett. Winston drives over pink plastic birds when he parks his Ford Ranger on the front yard, he turns his jeans into shorts, he cuts the sleeves off his shirts, the supermarket is his ocean, sunburned and throbbing, he pushes it as far as it can go and he screams furiously that the body, and the skull, has its own set of limitations.
Jacoby Brissett wears turtle necks and affordable Dockers from Macy’s, he refreshes the AT&T website on the 14th of every month to pay his cellphone bill on time, he lived at home for years to pay off his student debt, there isn’t a check down he doesn’t like, water is the only thing he puts into his temple and even that is a bit spicy and sinful, he maxes out what his employer matches for his 401K.
This is a wild dumpoff. King of The Everglades.
Malik Hooker was locked by his gaze. Mike Evans outruns one of the several slow outside Indianapolis cornerbacks. This ball is as beautiful as a vibrant pink gulfcoast sunset as it falls below the horizon and into Evan’s basket. Gunshot to the buttocks. Hamstring. He’s probably out for the rest of the season.
Winston was sacked once. A spectacular performance. Justin Houston (#99) beat backup left tackle Josh Wells (#72) with an inside move. This usually happens four times a game, as Watson drowns in two foot deep puddles and eleven yard losses, or holds and waits, turning the middle of the field into an impromptu game of jackpot.
This game was different than the typical. A nice balance between bewilderment and playmaking. Like here, he scrambles and throws across the grain to convert on 3rd and 10. He would then hit Cameron Brate in the flat to make it 24-21 before the half.
The pick six was a Luke Kuechly type of play. Leonard presses the center as an interior rusher, reads Winston, and ditches the blitz to pick off the slant. Interception number two. Similar to interception number one.
This was my personal favorite Winston throw, despite all the interceptions and negative plays, he does things no one else does. He escapes from the pocket. Pump fakes to get the first level defender (#37) to jump and open a throwing lane. Justin Watson, a 6’3” 215 lb fifth round pick Mike Evans replacement, (#17) turns left and calls for the ball. Winston ignores this request, and lofts it to the other shoulder, away from Malik Hooker (#29).
Winston threw another interception. This one was wasn’t thunderous like the previous Leonard interceptions. Winston missed a post to Breshad Perriman. The ball was behind him, flipped up, and intercepted by Hooker. It didn’t matter. The Colts would miss the field goal on the subsequent drive.
35-31. A game winning drive attempt. Winston picked up an enormous chunk on a handcrafted, made from scratch throw to O.J. Howard. Hopefully Byron Leftwhich doesn’t bolt for a big job, and there is another year of the Winston-Arians-Leftwhich offensive trio in Tampa.
Winston knew he had man coverage on the game winning touchdown. Perriman in the slot v. Quincy Wilson.
He throws it right past him. I’m sure Wilson could hear it flying through his ears. Call of Duty surround sound. This is sublime. My brain is melting. Turn this throw into a National Park. Rename Dry Tortguas to Dry Winston National Park.
The Colts couldn’t convert 4th and 2 at midfield. The Bucs picked up a first and killed the clock. Florida man beat rational, smart, and conservative.
Winston has thrown 26 touchdowns and is 2 behind Russell Wilson for 2nd place. He’s the interception leader with 23, and is 7 up on 2nd place Baker Mayfield. His 41 sacks has him 3rd behind Kyle Allen with 44 and Kyler Murray with 46. He finishes the season against Detroit, Houston, and Atlanta. I believe in him. He can do it. And if he can’t, I’ll just move things around. Passing yards, or pass attempts are suitable replacements. Winston is the silliest quarterback. He deserves a crown.
4. RYAN TANNEHILL CAN TOUCH ME ANYWHERE
The Tannehill takes are hot and writhing. Beautiful legumes in the Instapot. He’s bound to regress. The Titans shouldn’t give him a longterm extension. I don’t know about all of that. I only care about right here and right now. And what I do know, is that Tannehill’s ability to feed Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, Adam Humphries and others, push the ball downfield to open up Derrick Henry in the run game, and excel as a playaction passer has transformed the Titans’ offense.
They’re averaging 31.7 points a game with him at quarterback compared to 16.3 points a game with Marcus Mariota. The Titans are 7-1 with Tannehill as their starter, and in their one loss, they gave Henry two first half carries against a hideous Carolina run defense.
Previous versions of Tannehill were maddening. He’d take vicious hits, which he still does, make dumbfounding decisions, and every throw was a laser. That’s changed. Tannehill has learned how to throw high rising deep passes with touch.
The last two weeks he finished off Indianapolis and then Oakland with these throws. Play action. Roll deep to the left. Throw back the other direction. A frisbee floating towards the golden dog’s open mouth.
I can’t wait for Josh Allen to learn how to do this.
5. LIVING ON THE EDGE
You promised you wouldn’t tell! I told you that in confidence! I can’t trust you ever again!
It’s no secret the Vikings have struggled in pass coverage. MacKenzie Alexander, Trae Waynes, Mike Hughes, and Xavier Rhodes rank 50th, 107, 119, and 171 in Football Outsiders’s Success Rate. They’ve especially struggled covering the sidelines, and rank 16th in deep pass defense DVOA. Despite this, the Vikings are still 11th in pass defense DVOA.
The reason why is simple. Minnesota has the best edge rushing duo in the NFL. I’d place it slightly ahead of Green Bay, which is ahead of San Francisco and Pittsburgh. Everson Griffen has 8 sacks, 23 quarterback hits, and 36 pressures (15th). Danielle Hunter has 12.5 sacks, 20 quarterback hits, and 54 pressures (2nd). As jet edge rushers the Vikings don’t need to blitz. They can drop as many as they want and still get pressure with these two.
Against Detroit they combined for four sacks and five quarterback hits. Their sacks were hilarious. Hunter (#99) had sacks for -6, -12, and -14 yards. David Blough lost eight yards when sacked by Griffen (#97). Detroit was stuck using tight ends, and lost track of them entirely, when they were stretched out towards the sideline.
This was their only real sack. Hunter beats Ricky Wagner (#71) by delaying his punch, getting Wagner to stop his feet and show his hands, and then turns around the corner to bring Blough down for a 14 yard loss.
This pass rushing combination has saved Minnesota’s defense, just like how Dalvin Cook has saved their offense. A playoff spot isn’t locked up yet. Who knows what can happen with Kirk Cousins and a week 17 game against the Chicago Bears, the same team that knocked them out last season. Yet, with these two, ferocious and vicious, and playing like this, they maybe able to overcome the week 17 Cousins curse.
6. JIMMY G DID IT
For the majority of the season Jimmy Garoppolo would make one to three difficult throws a a game and San Francisco would win because of their anti-aircraft pass defense, outside zone stretching run game that is carried by a wide variety of speedy running backs, and some easy throws setup by play action. There were two games that didn’t fit this mold. Two games against Arizona. The 49ers fell behind. Garoppolo completed 52/92 (56%) of his passes for 741 yards, threw 9 touchdowns to 2 interceptions, averaged 8.05 yards an attempt, and took 3 sacks.
I said on the podcast (like, subscribe, give it five stars, write a review, that type of thing), that yes, even though this came against Arizona, it was important that he showed he could come from behind and lead this passing offense, and be something more than a manager. He was going to have to do it sometime this season, and even against a terrible pass defense, he was able to do it.
Garoppolo did exactly this against New Orleans. The 49ers won 48-68. Garoppolo was more than a manager. He had a great game. He completed 26/35 (74.29%) of his passes for 394 yards, averaged 9.74 yards an attempt, and threw 4 touchdowns to 1 interception, all on the road, against a top ten pass defense.
After this showcase, the 49ers are more than a cute story. They’re the type of team that can take down Seattle or go on the road and win multiple playoff games. Now they just need to find Kyle Shanahan a new hat.
7. TACKLING GEORGE KITTLE
A collage of post-it notes stick on my Goodwill desk. Peeling laminate. Sticky backs that don’t stick well anymore. Yellow paper. Blue gel pen. All this stupid world does is make me want more. END OF SEASON REVIEW. One of them says players I don’t want to tackle. It had one name—Derrick Henry. It now has two names:
8.) I LOVE BEING SINGLETARY
The Bills have a FUN rushing offense that has been forgotten because of what the Ravens have done this season. They love to pull each guard, and center Mike Morse especially. Josh Allen isn’t used as a runner often, but when he does, oh boy, ahhhh, watch it mister. He’s a buck with sprouting antlers sprinting across the interstate.
It’s been even better since Devin Singletary replaced Frank Gore in the starting lineup. The Bills made the switch in week 11. Since that point Singletary has 67 carries for 333 yards (4.97 yards a carry), and Gore has 39 carries for 109 yards (2.79 yards a carry). It’s insane they didn’t make this change sooner. Singletary is averaging 1.9 more yards a carry, has broken 24 more tackles, Gore has a broken tackle rate of 6.9%, Singletary has a DVOA of 5.4% compared to Gore’s -15.4%, and he’s an actual option in the passing game.
Singletary is especially great at using his speed to get to the outside, and maneuvering around the open field. He’s a baler against light boxes. With pullers in front of him he can hit the nitrous and blast off.
I’ve waited all season for Singletary to replace Gore. I didn’t want to jinx it. No one needed additional reasons to be a Bills fan this year, but Singletary has done exactly that.
9.) GLORY GLORY
The Miami Dolphins lost to the Jets 24-21. They made seven field goals. They made field goals of 22, 25, 28, 31, 37, 47, and 53 yards. Five redzone field goals. Glory, glory, to our one true all field goal offense.
There have been nine instances where a team has made seven field goals. The record is eight. The Titans went 8/8 to beat the Texans 38-36 in 2007. Jason Sanders could have been a fun piece of trivia. He missed one field goal from 34 yards after a Sam Darnold interception. I’m sure he’s asleep with his sheets soaking wet.
Russell Wilson is still my first MVP choice, and yes, in case you are wondering, I do have a vote. To fully disclose, I believe he does the most with the little, and the Seahawks are 10-3 directly because of his ability to slither away from pass protection and complete unbelievable downfield throws.
Wilson is responsible for the five (?), ten (?), fifteen (?) of the best throws I’ve seen this season. This was the most improbable incompletion of the week. According to NFL Next Gen Stats this throw had a 16.2% completion probability. They need to adjust their stats for Wilson. He isn’t on the same plane of existence as the rest of the league.