Shaun Morash: NFL Teams Need Common Sense, Not Analytics

Analytics are fine – right until they get in the way of common sense

The DA Show
October 29, 2018 - 7:25 am

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By Shaun Morash

Cold Open

Aggressive and analytical coaching is taking away from pure common sense. That wasn't more evident in Week 7 and it began in London On Sunday when Mike Vrabel's Titans went down the field to potentially come back and tie their game with the Chargers, only they elected to "play the odds" in going for two – and they failed. And the team lost a potentially crucial tie breaking game for playoff implications versus the Chargers.

Then, on Monday Night, in a play that ended up becoming meaningless, the Giants down 14 scored a touchdown with 14 minutes left and elected to go for two. They failed, the team lost. Analytics again said the Giants made the right call. Stop it, they didn't.

Two teams playing the analytics of suddenly going for two, each big, fat, losers. The truth is, when painting NFL odds on going for two with a broad brush you are only fooling yourself. Each team, each team's play calling, and each team's personnel are totally different. The Giants have the worst offensive line in football, and an immobile quarterback, essentially eliminating half of a normal team's short-yardage package. Those teams going for two is not the same as the Eagles going for two. The Titans not using Derrick Henry in going for two only further demonstrates that. No two teams are alike, so stop using analytical talk about league-wide averages when it comes to game-changing decisions in big spots. 

Ten Yard Gain

1-The Panthers showed guts in coming back from 17 down in the fourth quarter on the road in Philadelphia. Carolina has the ability to play deep into January; what we didn't know is if they were truly resilient, and it didn't get more resilient than what the accomplished Sunday. Don't sleep on Cam and the Cats in the second half of the season in the NFC.

2-One yard short in Chicago. That mid field heave from Mitchell Trubisky was one yard from becoming the biggest play of his career. Instead, the standings say the Bears lost and the Patriots won. However, it was just another week where the Patriots looked mortal thanks to their leaky defense.

3- The Browns and overtime, like peanut butter and jelly. Now one overtime game away from tying the record for a single season, this young core in Cleveland can somehow benefit from all of this extra play. Cleveland is learning how to win, even if they aren't actually getting wins week in and week out. The best way for a team to get crucial high-leverage game-situation experience is to play in the playoffs; the next best thing is playing overtime games. The Browns are gaining playoff experience in a different matter, overtime after overtime can only be a good thing for Baker Mayfield and this group of players to accelerate their clock to contention. 

4- Jason Garrett's conservative style never ends. He never changes, and sometimes that is a bad thing. But it wasn't on Sunday when he very clearly played for Dak Prescott to get the Cowboys into field goal range for a tie (only to miss the kick.) If Garrett has Dak taking unnecessary shots to a mediocre receiver core and he throws an interception, but Garrett and Prescott are being destroyed by the media Monday. For Garrett, it is damned if he does damned if he doesn't. 

5- The Jaguars are crumbling. Jalen Ramsey telling the media posgame that they know what the problem was, is as open a swipe at quarterback Blake Bortles as you can see. This is a rudderless ship that cannot sneak up on anyone this season like it did a year ago. A loss in London Sunday may make for one awkward flight home for this group of 53. 

6- Deshaun Watson having to take a bus 12 hours to Jacksonville is the craziest NFL report I may have ever read. He ended up coming out of the game fine health-wise, and the Texans won. However, in a league that is all about safety, if a player is not healthy enough to get on an airplane, should he be allowed to play and take hits? We all avoided a scary situation in Jacksonville with Deshaun Watson, but this is something the league must look into.  

7-Forgive me if I am cautious about Everson Griffen's return to Minnesota. While the best thing for his mental health may very well be being around his teammates in the locker room, this is still a man who not long ago jumped out of the back of an ambulance in a state of mind that is scary to comprehend. Should we trust him as a league to hit and tackle opponents safely now? Who’s to say he cannot snap again, this time on the field?

8- The Bengals in prime time, woof. The league and NBC had no shot but to flex a game into where the Rams and lowly 49ers previously stood, but the Bengals cannot win big games under the lights. Remind me again, why is Marvin Lewis still the head coach in Cincinnati? 

9- Moving the extra point back was still so dumb. Was Justin Tucker missing that PAT versus the Saints enough excitement for everybody? The Ravens players in the trenches busted themselves in a tremendous fight in the fourth quarter only to fall in the standings thanks to a player who contributes so much less to an actual game. Kickers shouldn't be able to lose a team games by one point thanks to a rule that wasn't broken to begin with. 

10-Undefeated watch is in full effect in Los Angeles. The Rams at 7-0 are dare I say it, better than the 1999 Rams, at least to this point. I say that based on the fact that this roster is good in all phases not just offense. How fitting would it be for this Rams team to get revenge for the 2001 Rams that lost to Tom Brady, starting Brady's reign of terror on this league?

Five Games To Chew

5) Browns @ Steelers: A rematch of the Week 1 tie is already here. The Browns will have to dig deep as there will be no foe on Cleveland's schedule this angry to meet them all season, mainly of course because of what happened in Week 1. The Steelers are coming off of a BYE week, still without Le'Veon Bell and ready to flip the switch. Can the Browns put doubt in Pittsburgh's minds once again?

4) Ravens @ Panthers: After three straight games versus the NFC East, the Panthers are home and playing a team in their second straight game vs an NFC South team. The Ravens feel they were robbed after Tucker's missed extra point vs the Saints. This game should be a big test for Cam Newton, as the Ravens defense will pressure him all game long. Can Joe Flacco and the Ravens make enough plays vertically to avoid a two-game losing streak and still command the AFC North?

3) Packers @ Rams: The Packers defense has been a mess, and outside of Aaron Rodgers, nothing really looks the part for Green Bay. They are coming off a bye week as heavy underdogs versus the league's best team. If the Rams are to slip up at some point, there aren't that many more games where this is possible. Sunday is certainly one of them. The Rams have a chance to put Mike McCarthy back on the hot seat if they run the "cheese heads" out of the building. 

2) Eagles @ Jaguars: ​London has yet to get a game with two teams with winning records. That is hard to believe considering this is the 11th year of NFL football in London. This is as close as we can get to a "big game" in London with the Super Bowl champs facing the Jags who were in last year's AFC Championship game. Both teams at 3-4, the loser across the pond here will have way more questions than answers entering the second half of the season.

1) Saints @ Vikings: Sunday night gets it right this week with the game of the week. For New Orleans they go back to the scene of the crime for the Minneapolis Miracle that ended their season last January. The Saints survived in Baltimore on a missed extra point and still haven't looked like the 2017 Saints despite their record. Revenge will be on Drew Brees' mind, but Kirk Cousins can light up that suspect secondary that has just added an even more suspect Eli Apple. 

My Picks

Jets +7.5 @ Bears: Yes, the Bears nearly bested the Patriots at home. Yes, the Bears defense – mainly their pass rush – has been terrorizing since acquiring Khalil Mack. No, they should not ever be more than touchdown favorite this season. The Jets have had their share of injuries on offense and problems dealing with big defenses, like last week versus Minnesota. But this game feels ugly at times, and likely decided in the 24-20, 26-21 range one way or another. I would not touch the Jets on the money line, but I sure will grab the points. 

Rams -9.5 vs Packers: The trendiest pick I have seen all week has been those loading up on the Packers getting so many points. In fact, this is the biggest point spread underdog that Aaron Rodgers has ever been in his career. The Packers are also coming off of a bye. I'm going opposite of what everyone wants to grab onto this week. The Packers have problems – big problems – and a week off won't change the fact that their defense could not stop an offense featuring me at tight end. The Rams will shred them. This is one track meet Rodgers simply won't have the horses to outlast. Los Angeles pulls away late to cover in the fourth quarter.  

Patriots -14 @ Bills: ​If you need to catch up on sleep next week, you should have no problem going to bed early Monday Night. The Bills have no answer at quarterback, which totally negates New England's terrible defense. Tom Brady should put on an aerial attack similar to the one he put on vs the Colts on Thursday Night a could weeks ago. On national TV, versus a bad divisional foe, the Patriots for a night will have us thinking everything will be just fine. 

Football Food Of The Week

Peanut Butter and Jelly Puffs. Why not take you back to a taste of your childhood while gorging and being unproductive in front of the television all Sunday. For this, very simply, get Pillsbury Crescent rolls, peanut butter, and jelly. Picture rolling out the rolls similar to the way you would make a pig in a blanket, only instead of the pig but a glob of peanut butter and a touch of jelly on the raw dough. Enclose each mini piece and bake on a bake sheet for approximately eight minutes or until golden brown.

When out of the oven, you will get delicious, flaky, crescent rolls stuffed with warm, creamy peanut butter, and sweet jelly. Nothing spicy, nothing cheesy, just good old fashioned goodness in every bite.  

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the last weekend in October. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS.