1.) Buffalo Rumbling
Who needs love and kisses, big girl dog companionship, friends and family that I care about, books that expand my consciousness, or fourteen mile walks after long drives and sleeping outside to quiet the pestering skull clanging noise? The Bills are my favorite thing not only in football, but in the entire world right now. I really need to examine my priorities.
It starts with Josh Allen. Last season he was the perfect exemplification of youth. Frontal lobeless. Unable to comprehend time and the effect present decisions have on the future. There are repercussions to your actions. He skated across the field, stiff arming monsters twice his size, heaving asteroids across the universe, and making decisions, that in the moment seemed correct, were quickly disastrous and hilarious as soon as they left his hand.
This season all of the good and beauty is there without the hideous mistakes. His brain is finally filling out the front of his skull. The defining decade. Last season Allen threw 12 interceptions and had a bad throw rate of 24.4%. This season he’s thrown 2 interceptions, but one of those was a drop by Cole Beasley, and the other was a batted pass turned into an interception. He lost a fumble because of a crummy snap. His bad throw rate has plummeted to 4.5%, and his aggressiveness rate is just 11.9% (28th). After scoring 0 points in the first half against the Jets, the Bills have scored 45 in six quarters.
The biggest change in Allen’s game is his accuracy. Is it perfect? Hell no. But it’s been good enough. Simple throws he’d over throw by infinity, and the triple coverage on the run heaves have been removed from his game. These first down completions didn’t exist last season. They’d end up on the moon instead of in the arms of the crossing receiver.
He’s been a spectacular downfield passer this season. He’s completed 3/6 +20 air yard attempts for 108 yards and a touchdown, and 13/21 +10 air yard attempts for 296 yards and 1 touchdown. The uptick in completion percentage isn’t the result of marble shooting. Allen is dead eyeing rocket launches at a higher rate of accuracy.
On the run he’s even better than last season. He’s still a frenzied deer screaming across the interstate. He still hands out PCP stiff arms that can break bullet proof glass and send over sized linebackers to their graves. This season he’s taking what he can, finding open men downfield, and isn’t spraying crap into triple coverage. It’s, like, so hot.
The Bills transformed their receiving group this offseason. They gave Cole Beasley an average annual salary of $7.25 million, and John Brown $9 million. Aside from a drop turned pick six, Beasley has played well. He has a catch rate of nearly 70% and his averaging 13.7 yards a reception. The real star here is Brown. Put on Titus Andronicus’s The Monitor because John Brown’s body is back. After being unable to work things out with Joe Flacco, and Lamar Jackson ignoring the sidelines completely, Brown has been torturous to start this season. He has 14 catches on 18 targets for 195 yards and 1 touchdown.
The best, of course, was his game winning catch against the Jets. Brown used his speed to get the cornerback turning and running. Allen saw the back of the defensive back’s head. He underthrew it, allowed Brown to come back and get it, and then he strolled to take the lead. From there Adam Gase’s impotent short passing offense wasn’t unable to flip the switch and comeback.
I love their running game so much too. The Bills are spectacular at getting really big men blocking really small men. At any level football can be that simple.
Additionally, my favorite blocking wrinkle this season have been power plays where center Mitch Morse, and either guard, Quinton Spain and his big belly, or the big wheel steam roller Jon Feliciano, pull outside and lead the way. The Bills regularly have two lead blockers for either running back, and can make it three when Allen keeps it himself. I’m going to take a vacation day to write 3,000 words about this madness.
Defensively, the Bills have allowed only 30 points, and rank 5th in points allowed. Seven of which were a pick six. Another two were from a safety. As a unit, they’ve allowed only three scoring drives. They rank 1st in net yards allowed per attempt with 4.4. Their pass rush is composed of a variety of different pieces.
It’s 2019 and 31 year old Jerry Hughes and 36 year old Lorenzo Alexander are providing. Tremaine Edmunds is a cackling witch under a full moon zooming across the field. Matt Milano, and Jordan Poyer smash and break teeth. Shaq Lawson has even done somethings. And it’s only a matter of time until Ed Oliver really gets it. They combine a Nickel defense with some awesome blitz packages, and they can strangle receivers on the outside. This isn’t purely a result of the schedule either. The Bills were 2nd in defensive DVOA last season too.
There are only two downsides to the Bills. One, there’s too much Frank Gore. I admire the fact that he’s 43 years old and still stout and picking up inside rushing yards using vision and low pad level. He’s just not young and hot and explosive like Devin Singletary is. Gore is averaging 2.9 yards an attempt with a long of 9! yards. Singletary is averaging 12.7 yards a carry with a long of 23 yards. Singletary is also the better pass catching back. He’s an offensive rookie of the year award candidate if he ever gets the volume.
The other is second round pick Cody Ford can’t play tackle. He’s slow off the snap. His kick slide is lackadaisical. He’s wide and powerful and has been mashing defenders like potatoes in the run game. Ford just can’t stay with edge rushers. The kick-slide is slower than a sleeping heart. Four concrete steps leads to turning and running, and opens the door for sack attempts.
Buffalo currently has a dueling freshmen quarterback, you get a drive, now you get a drive, competition between Ty Nsekhe and Ford. Ford will eventually slide down to guard and grinds defensive tackles into powder, and snorts the dust in a berserker pregame ritual.
The Bills have wins over the Jets and Giants, two of the worst teams in the league. Buffalo is the king of New York. Regardless of the schedule, I think it’s going to stick. The rest of their schedule isn’t that tough with another game against the Jets, two games against the drowning Dolphins, and other games against Cincinnati, Washington, and Denver. With Pittsburgh careening, and the Chargers having another black cat Chargers season, the Wildcard doors have opened up for a 8-8 or 9-7 team to get in. There’s no reason why Buffalo can’t be that team.
I’m sorry to remind you this, but I’m going to die one day, you are going to die one day, the sun will eventually run out of hydrogen, expand, cool down, and even the Earth will die. Remember this next time you watch football. Savor your life. Don’t do things like watch the Miami Dolphins.
The embargo has been signed. Like the Hue Jackson Browns, I absolutely refuse to watch anything the Dolphins participate in. Julie’n Davenport, my best buddy, broke his leg in practice and won’t get the chance to continue to grow comfortable at right tackle; he looked so much better at that spot against Baltimore than he did last season. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s jukes and head first dives stopped being cute six seasons ago. Look through their depth chart. They have at least nine starters you’ve never heard of before. Stop trying to make DeVante Parker happen.
I won’t watch them again. Even when they wear their Roundabout Dolphins jumping out of the ocean and they stand there jerseys. They’ve gone from rebuilding to tanking. I’m out. Wake me up after they finish putting their Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick draft capital to use.
3.) Seattle Split
The Seattle Seahawks run pass splits were astounding last season. With Russell Wilson in the prime of his career the Seahawks ran the ball 534 times, the second most carries in the league, and threw the ball only 427 times, the least amount in football. When they threw it they were spectacular. Tyler Lockett had the most efficient receiving season in DVOA history (goes back to 1986). His receiving DVOA was 66.3%, he averaged 16.3 yards a catch, and his average depth of target was 15.9 yards. Wilson’s average depth of target was 9.7 yards (5th), and his season wasn’t inflated by yards after the catch.
Everyone honked online loogies at them, and sprayed cyber chunks in their direction. I was one of them. I’m a freak when I watch the game. I don’t care all that much about who wins and loses anymore. Instead, what I care about, is if a team plays in an interesting way, and if they are getting the most out of their talent. The Seahawks have a passing offense that should be utilized more. It of course wouldn’t be as efficient with added volume, but when you have a quarterback like Wilson, you shouldn’t handcuff yourself to your run game and limit the points you score by self infliction. Instead of being a Superbowl contender last season, it ended with a frustrating Wildcard Round loss to Dallas.
The Seahawks are still doing what they did last year. I feel differently this around. They are run heavy and mix it up with deep heaves once again. They have 58 rush attempts, 10th, and 55 pass attempts 28th. On the ground they average 3.8 yards a carry and 2 touchdowns. Through the air they average 9.01 yards an attempt, and Wilson has thrown 5 touchdowns. Throwing the ball is more effective than running the ball. Wild right? Damn, analytics has taught us so much.
The reason for this is simple. Their offensive line can run block, but it can’t pass block. Wilson has been sacked eight times, hit four times, and hurried three other times. They’re trying to elongate the career of their 31 year old quarterback who spent his youth dodging traffic. The run game has been largely ineffective. The numbers are inflated by a fat Rashaad Penny run, who finally did something against Pittsburgh.
That being said, something is more enjoyable when it happens less often. There’s pleasure in novelty. The Seahawks are like reading a book with pleasant sentence structure. Short. Choppy. Sentences. Compose the majority of the pages. Until a long superfluous section comes around. Wilson fakes the hand off, rolling right and looking back across the field, and searching, searching, searching, it was the time before the sunset when the light was dark and gold in a zebra pattern across the bedroom wall and the ceiling fan continued to click until hitting D.K. Metcalf or Tyler Lockett on a deep passing attempt.
This season Lockett is averaging 10.6 air yards before the catch, Metcalf 19.1, and recently discovered Malik Turner 18.1. It’s either choppy runs, short passes to the backs or Will Dissly, who just sounds like a Band of Horses track, and then finding one of their receivers vertically. Its worked so far. The Seahawks are ninth in points scored and 2-0 to start the season. But, most importantly, they’re unique and pleasant to watch.
4.) Jalen Ramsey’s PFF Grade
I wasn’t hungover Sunday morning, but I wish I was. The Texans-Jaguars game would have been enriched by a nauseous turning stomach; is this my last breath anxiety; cold brew, four Tylenol, and a Alka Seltzer headache; four beers so I can finally fall asleep hangover. This is required to get in the correct headspace to fully savor AFC South football. It’s like listening to Explosions In the Sky on a National Park drive, or reading The Blood Meridian in West Texas during a scorched a summer with parched mouth, or meditating next to a river and focusing on each individual rolling and trickling section that composes the entire symphony.
Sharp mind. White eyes. The best part of the game was the Jalen Ramsey-Doug Marrone blood feud. Ramsey was pig-tailed and furious because, to my best guess, Marrone didn’t challenge a DeAndre Hopkins third down drop. The drive continued. The Texans picked up three points.
Jalen Ramsey is not happy. pic.twitter.com/n58TyH6BKe— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) September 15, 2019
Jalen Ramsey is not happy, part II pic.twitter.com/FzJUJR7N3t— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) September 15, 2019
I like to think Ramsey wasn’t mad about the three points itself, but instead was irate and squabbling that the catch would count against his stats. Hopkins would gain a reception, first down, and three yards, while Ramsey’s PFF Grade would drop by like 2.3 points.
Since then, Jalen Ramsey has requested a trade. The Jaguars want a first round pick. Keke Coutee, Lonnie Johnson, a 2019 4th round pick, and a 2020 3rd round pick...who says no?????
5.) Overtime Is For Cowards
When faced with a go for two and win situation, most coaches take the extra point and their chances in overtime. This is the wrong decision. There are multiple barriers to win in overtime. The coin toss, the risk of never getting the ball back again, ten minutes to complete a scoring drive, and general attrition by elongating an already exhausting and disgusting game. The odds to pick up two yards are in the offense’s favor. Since 2015, offenses have converted two point conversion attempts at a rate of 62.6%. In the NFL, 52.7% of the team’s who win the coin toss win the game in over time. Let’s go.
In week two there were two teams who went for it. The Jaguars raked their way back against an exhausted Texans’ defense thanks to some Gardner Minshew magic. Finally, after spending the entire game wasting everyone’s time cowardly dinking and dunking, he started moving the pocket, using his legs to convert important firsts, and tossed the ball downfield. A scrambled egg flip to D.J. Chark in the back of the endzone made the game 13-12.
Instead of letting the magic mustache go get it himself, Marrone handed the ball of to Leonard Fournette to pick up two yards. Why use a fourth overall pick on a player who can’t get two yards? Marrone ignored the fact that the Texans have one of the best run defenses in football, and Fournette’s second effort was held up at the goal line by a crafty Justin Reid tackle.
The other worked out...kind of.
First and goal. It looked like Kyle Fuller wasn’t ready for the snap. Emmanuel Saunders beat him down the sideline. Fuller took a correct angle and tried to cut off his pass attempt. Joe Flacco threw one of the best passes of his entire career, right over Fuller’s head, and gasping in the corner of the endzone.
Things became so, so, so stupid after this play. Vic Fangio made the correct decision to twist the last piece of ligament attached from the neck to the dangling head. Flacco failed to get a play off. Delay of game. Ball moved back five yards. Brandon McManus missed the extra point, but Buster Skrine jumped offsides. The ball moved back to the two. Let’s try it again.
Then Mitch Trubisky pulled some late game heroics, and the clock ticked slower than it typically does. The pins have been pulled out of the voodoo doll. The Bears kicked a game winner to win in regulation.
Both coaches made the correct decision. Each one lost. That’s just the way football go sometimes.
6.) Hold It Horizontal
I was dubious the Rams would repeat this year. They went 7-1 in one score games, they had a turnover differential of +11 (4th), they played the 25th easiest schedule, were the third healthiest team, and won 2.1 more games than expected, the second most in football.
This team was led by its rushing attack in 2018. They had a DVOA of 21.3%, which was more efficient than nearly half of the league’s passing attacks. They averaged 4.9 yards an attempt (3rd). They had 23 rushing touchdowns (2nd). Yards are an awful measure of success, but they had 2,231 of them (2nd). And they led the league in adjusted line yards with 5.49. Todd Gurley had offseason arthritis. They lost Rodger Saffold to Tennessee and John Sullivan to Washington. Replacing them was Joe Notebloom and Brian Allen, former mid round picks who had yet to play meaningful snaps. It looked like Jared Goff was going to have to lead this team on his own, something he hasn’t done yet as a complementary quarterback.
I was wrong to be skeptical. If you didn’t know, Sean McVay is a great coach. The Rams are always going to be good. That’s just how it works.
Against New Orleans the Rams lost starting right guard Austin Blythe and replaced him with Jemil Demby, a second year sixth round pick. The Rams replaced the entire interior from one of the greatest rushing attacks of all time, and had no trouble running the ball against a viscous Saints’ run defense.
The Rams did this by expanding their rushing attack and making it horizontal. Led by their protective tackle combination of Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein, and spectacular wide receiver blocking, they were able to keep running the ball without much trouble. Against New Orleans they averaged 2.6 yards a carry on interior runs compared to 5.0 yards a carry on exterior runs.
The Saints even ran a 6-1-4 defense at times and were unable to stop it. This is the cool little jet sweep they love to run with Robert Woods, who is the best trio of rushing, receiving and blocking at the position. Tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett are lined up right. Blocking like it’s outside zone, they cream the two defensive backs playing the edge, setting up an easy nine yards for Woods.
This is a fun one. They allow Cameron Jordan to run up the field and wall him off with Cooper Kupp. New squatty center Brian Allen blocks the only second level defender. Robert Woods sets the edge. Gurley turns two pullers and no one around him into 20 easy yards.
This was the big gain that increased the lead to 20-6 lead making it insurmountable for Teddy Bridgewater to come back against. The Rams have trips left. Each one makes a great block. Both Gurley and Malcolm Brown are great tackle breakers and one cut runners. Even though Andrew Whitworth misses his block on the pull, out on the edge, and in space, Brown is able to turn the field into a rugby game and zips around the Saints’ defense.
The Rams are great. McVay and the run game is regression proof. I was wrong. As the interior keeps working itself out, expect the Rams to continue to rush along the boundaries to use their best blockers, and get their backs in space.
This time of year Blue marker on a paper bag is clanging around my head, the idea of going outside and swimming and walking is exhausting after months of barraging around in it, fantasy football drafts are completed, the NFL season finally comes around, and everything finally feels right in the world. The motif to these thoughts, the thing I see when I close my eyes, is the window that overlooks my grandmother’s backyard filled with hummingbirds and mosquitoes, and the Oakland Raiders playing football on a baseball field.
The infield shredding players, pulling together two worlds into one, is the signal to the beginning of the season. It cracks me open every time. Reminding me of backyard football and previous days that probably weren’t even very good to begin with. And it leads to me rooting for the Oakland A’s to extend their season as far into October as they can, so the Raiders’ scrum can continue across the infield for as long as possible.
After this season it will be gone forever. Things won’t ever be the same. Robots and plastic people will exhale cancerous plumes of vape smoke. Raiders’ games will be an event, not a football game. The gothic costume party where every Sunday is Halloween. Gone. The eternal flame. Carried on a flat bed truck through the Mojave. It will only exist inside of a dusty Xbox spinning a coagulated copy of Madden. The baseball diamond’s final resting place.
8.) Don’t Block Defensive Ends With Tight Ends
Danielle Hunter v. Jimmy Graham:
9.) Regress THIS
The worst part of being a football fan is how short lived things are. Teams have the shelf life of avocados. They turn from golf balls to rotten mush in the span of three to five years. Windows are narrow. They open for a brief instant before they are slammed shut by injuries, age, and the salary cap. The quarterback position is the only one that has any consistency, and even then, teams will ride that carousel for an entire decade without finding someone who provides them the opportunity to build the model modern football team.
Entire sides of the ball can change dramatically from year to year. Last year we saw the Jaguars’ all time great pass defense fall to a fringe top ten one because of injuries, turnover fortune, and the impossibility to keep up the same level of play. Rather than enjoy a collection of talent for years and years, one spectacular season maybe all a team squeezes out.
The first two weeks have been pleasant. Those great units that were expected to regress started off the season dominant. The Kansas City Chiefs have scored 68 points, including 28 in a single quarter. Chicago has allowed only 24 points. The Rams are once again running the ball effectively. Jameis Winston has already thrown two pick sixes, two horrifying and wretched abominations. Gary Kubiak has brought the outside zone to Minnesota and what was once beautiful still is. DeAndre Hopkins is still the best receiver in the league.
In a sport that can best be described as transient, where every week violently shakes things, and every season is a potential bungee jump, it’s nice to have some consistency, and most of all, it’s lovely to be able to enjoy the best things for multiple seasons, instead of them being some short lived verdant cosmic ejaculate shooting across the sky.
10.) I HATE IT
The things that you hate don’t make you special, that being said, there were numerous things that drove me crazy. Kirk Cousins’s check downs and exasperating downfield heaves that amount to nothing, Cam Newton’s accuracy, the Buccaneers continue use of heavy formations, Jacoby Brissett’s check downs, McVay reading the defense for Jared Goff, Adam Gases’s offense, Kliff Kingsbury field goal attempts, Rodger Saffold’s inability to block Denico Autry, Devin Bush in pass coverage, the Steelers’ inability to sort out their wide receiver group, and the referees blowing the play dead despite replay existing for a reason all led to me clenching my fist and grinding my teeth.