by Justin Henry
Cold Hard Football Facts' Dr. Death (@jrhwriting)
Raiders commit to another losing story
Jaguars longing for that futile glory
Cleveland's factory churns more sadness
Buffalo continues their vain streak
Titans declined from September peak
Jets cease to be, rounding out the madness
Ahhh, it must be Christmas time, because the packages are pouring in here at the Cold Hard Crematorium! Of course, some of these packages are merely black bags with actively-decaying cadavers within. Sadly, I can't tear through the packagaing with the glee of a boy on Christmas morning, no matter how much I want to.
As the AFC body count rises, my work continues....
OAKLAND TIME OF DEATH: 3:59 PM EST, Sunday, December 15, 2013 (by Dolphins beating Patriots)
The eleventh straight year that the Raiders have been here before season's end, and the third year without Al Davis to attend the wake. "Commitment to Excellence" has been an ongoing punchline, and despite a promising start to 2013, this young tradition hums along. Through running back injuries and general defensive ineptitude, the Raiders can't seem to break this losing snap.
1. Quarterback Roulette
When the season began, it seems as though Terrelle Pryor had a lot of Cam Newton in him: sizable QB with a rocket arm and jet-fueled legs that could create mismatches with the defense. However, injuries, and a downtick in his play, led to his ultimate benching. Pryor was sacked 29 times in eight starts and two reserve appearances, and ended up with five touchdowns to 11 interceptions, and less than 58 percent completions.
Matt Flynn was hastily canned not long after an okayish performance in a loss to the Redskins, but
the Raiders have only gone 1-4 behind Pryor's surrogate, rookie Matt McGloin. While his eight touchdowns and seven picks are fairly decent, he's completed less than 56 percent of his passes. In Pryor and McGloin's combined 13 starts, they've completed less than 55 percent of their throws in six of them.
All throwers on Oakland have combined for 15 touchdowns, 19 picks, and a 73.77 passer rating, fourth worst in the NFL.
2. Pass Defense Still Not Fixed
In 2012, the Raiders owned the league's third worst Defensive Passer Rating at 97.46, giving up 28 scores through the air, against 11 picks. After bringing in proven talents like Tracy Porter, an aging Charles Woodson, Mike Jenkins, as well as first-round corner DJ Hayden, you'd think it would improve somewhat.
The revamped Raiders defense is actually even worse against the pass, currently sitting on a league-worst 103.51 rating, with 28 touchdowns and eight picks. Opponents are completing over 67 percent of their throws, and four passers have topped a rating of 110.00 on them. Alex Smith and Nick Foles (the seven-TD game) each achieved a perfect 158.3 rating.
No surprise that they, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck all defeated them handily; opponents are 6-0 vs. the Raiders when topping a rating of 100.00 against them this season.
JACKSONVILLE TIME OF DEATH: 3:59 PM EST, Sunday, December 15, 2013 (by Dolphins beating Patriots)
From 'roadkill' to 'the little engine that could', Jacksonville's 0-8 start (along with Tampa Bay's) delayed the 2008 Lions from decorking their Lanson bottles. That the Jaguars would win four of their next five after that, tripping up Houston twice en route, speaks volumes of their improvements, particularly against the run. But 0-8 is insurmountable, and eventally, the roof would cave in.
1. The Offense Still Needs Work
An understatement, given that Jacksonville's still last in points per game (15.8), 30th in yards per run (3.39), 30th in passer rating (69.66), and 30th in sacks given up (45). It's fair to say that Gus Bradley has merely cleaned up one room of a dilapidated mansion. Losing prized rookie Luke Joeckel to injury didn't help an offense struggling to find an identity.
In the Jaguars first ten games (1-9), the team didn't once run for 100 yards. In five of those games
alone, they couldn't even reach 60. Maurice Jones-Drew barely averages 55 yards a game on a mean of 16 carries.
The team's found a working rhythm with youngsters Jordan Todman and Ace Sanders, particularly with gadget plays, but it took a while to get there behind a horrid Blaine Gabbert (one TD, eight INT), and a mediocre Chad Henne (10 TD, 12 INT).
2. Same for the Defense
Clearly, Bradley wasn't going to transplant the DNA of the "Legion of Boom" into his defenders, and hit the ground running. Jacksonville allows 131.86 rushing yards a game over this season (third most), but during a five game stretch in which Jacksonville went 4-1, they gave up just 70.8 yards a game. Not one opponent in that run ran for 100+ yards, but five opponents prior to that streaked past 150.
While the run defense enjoys an encouraging lift, the pass defense is still a mess. Their 96.94 rating is fifth worst in the NFL, and their 27 sacks are second lowest, behind only Chicago's 26. Top it off with the NFL's fifth worst third down defense (43.15% of attempts convert), and it goes back to the earlier statement: there's a lot of work to be done.
CLEVELAND TIME OF DEATH: 3:59 PM EST, Sunday, December 15, 2013 (by Dolphins beating Patriots)
At least the Browns fans have one thing to look forward to: either Kansas City, Denver, or the other Wild Card team bouncing Indianapolis out of the first round of the playoffs, ensuring Cleveland a draft pick between the 21-24 slots, to go with a possible top ten choice. Beyond that, another year of ecstasy (Josh Gordon, great run defense, five minutes of Brian Hoyer) and agony (everything else).
1. Offense Lacks Punch
The Brian Hoyer Show boldly took the fight to the Bengals, thwarted the hapless Vikings, and was in the midst of doing the same to Buffalo when Hoyer's knee was wrecked. Done for the year, Cleveland had to turn back to Brandon Weeden, and eventually journeyman Jason Campbell. Truth be told, Weeden and Campbell combined for 20 touchdowns against 14 picks, which isn't bad, except that as starters, they're 1-10.
Turnovers have been harmful; Cleveland has turned the ball over 25 times, and are 1-4 when giving
the ball up three or more times in a game. The Browns only have 1189 rushing yards, sixth least, and average a scant 3.87 yards a run. Trent Richardson has 105 yards on the Browns, and he's been gone since mid-September; that's still third most on the team.
Just as troubling is their third down percentage; the Browns only convert on 34.29% of the time, barely a third of their tries.
2. Defense Inconsistent
As stated earlier, Ray Horton's defense does a great job in punishing the run. Their 3.69 yards per attempt allowed is third best in the NFL.
Problem is, opponents have run the ball 307 times against them, the third highest amount of attempts. That means Cleveland's opponents get leads, and are content to hold them with clock-rolling plays. Opponents convert about 43 percent of their third down plays, so if it's third down and one, the Browns may only hold opponents to a yard, but what a yard it is. Cleveland is fifth worst in time of possession (28:42) due to opponents' eased pushes.
The Browns are also 19th in Negative Pass Play percentage, disrupting on 8.85% of dropbacks. Their 39 sacks are a boost, and well above the league average, but their 12 picks are tied for 12th fewest, and just below the average of 13.4 per team.
BUFFALO TIME OF DEATH: 3:59 PM EST, Sunday, December 15, 2013 (by Dolphins beating Patriots)
Doug Marrone made for the most curious coach hiring this past offseason, aside from Marc Trestman taking over in Chicago. While Trestman has the Bears competing for the wide-open NFC North, the former Syracuse coach's first year with the Bills has been an up-and-down escapade, with more low points. A promising rookie quarterback in EJ Manuel, and a rock-solid pass defense, weren't enough to bail out this team.
1. No Push From the QBs, Line
Between Manuel's upside, Thaddeus Lewis' so-so play, and the temporary horror that was Jeff Tuel, the Bills quarterbacks combined for 15 touchdowns and 14 picks. Doesn't sound like end-of-the-world sort of numbers, but certainly not befitting of a team fixing to intimidate the opposition and make some noise.
What really hurts Buffalo is their standing in Real Passing Yards Per Attempt, which considers yards lost to sacks. The Bills QBs average only 5.27 RPYPA, the third worst average in the league. The fact
that Buffalo's been sacked 43 times this year (Manuel 28 times for 159 yards off) speaks to the issues with the line. Buffalo ranks tenth worst in Adjusted Sack Rate, per FootballOutsiders.com.
2. Teams Can Work the Clock on Buffalo
Passing on Buffalo? Forget it. They lead the league in sacks with 49, and are tied for third most interceptions with 20. Mike Pettine brought in his aggressive playcalling, and the result has been a cagier defense.
The run defense has improved a little bit from 2012 (4.96 YPA were allowed last year), but the 4.28 YPA allowed in 2013 is still tenth worst in the NFL. That stat remaining mediocre has played a considerable role in a number of losses this season. Buffalo's allowed over 150 yards rushing six times, and are unsurprisingly 1-5 in those games. In four of the five losses, Buffalo was defeated by a touchdown or less.
The Bills are near the bottom of the league in time of possession (28:16, fourth worst time), so opponents, as has been the case with the Browns, are able to peel away the seconds with conservative approaches.
TENNESSEE TIME OF DEATH: 7:41 PM EST, Sunday, December 15, 2013 (by loss to Arizona)
The Titans had such hope earlier in the year, thanks to the suddenly-steady hand of Jake Locker. Tennessee didn't turn the ball over once in their first four games (3-1) and convincingly beat teams like the Steelers and Jets. When Locker was lost to injury on two occasions, the smoothness hit turbulence, and gradually a promising season was whittled into the abyss once more.
1. Improvements to Running Game Don't Manifest
One-time coveted fantasy king Chris Johnson came on strong in the latter stages of 2012, ending the year with 1243 yards and six touchdowns. With young Dowell Loggains installing a run-heavy system with incoming power back Shonn Greene, and new linemen Chance Warmack (first round pick) and Andy Levitre (from the Bills), it seemed as though the run could be Tennessee's calling card.
The line's been solid at picking up the rush (only 33 sacks allowed), but the run hasn't overpowered as many expected. The Titans average 4.09 YPA as a team (19th in the NFL), but their one-two combo of Johnson and Greene combines for just 3.74 YPA. The gainers come from Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick on scrambles. The quarterbacks have combined for 62 runs, so that's some quality bailing out there.
2. Poor Bendability Wrecks an Average Team
The Titans are bland statistically, hardly dominating the categories, but rarely hitting rock bottom either. They're largely mid-level, and that's kept them from contending. One area that's particularly distressing, however, is their Bendability rating: yards allowed divided by points given up.
A good way to see that stat inflate is to be terrible in the red zone and give up return touchdowns, either turnover or special teams. The Titans are 19th in red zone defense, per teamrankings.com, and have given up 16 points on errors: a pick-six to Arizona, a fumble-six to the Jaguars (two close, costly losses), and the opening day safety to Pittsburgh.
The Titans rank 24th in Bendability, with a score of 13.61, which means they allow a touchdown every 95.27 yards given up. Their rating improves to 14.25 without those error points (TD every 99.73 yards), and without the mistakes, they're 7-7 and alive. Alas.
NEW YORK TIME OF DEATH: 11:39 PM EST, Monday, December 16, 2013 (by Ravens beating Lions)
Trading Darrelle Revis. Drafting Geno Smith. Releasing Tim Tebow. Allowing Mark Sanchez to get hurt in preseason. The ensuing "I can say it backwards" presser from Rex Ryan. There was always enough "LOLJETS" in the news to satiate the sadistic fan, in spite of some rather impressive wins scattered about. It wasn't enough, and now news turns to what lies ahead for 2014, and if Ryan will even be there to helm the ship.
1. Geno Smith
There's no two ways about this: Smith had as disastrous a rookie season as one could have. All that was missing was his own "Butt Fumble", although to be fair, even Sanchez's stats weren't this terrible. Whether it's an indictment of Smith, coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, or the offense as a whole, remains to be seen.
But what else is there to say about the Jets passing game, which is dead last in offensive passer rating at 63.09? Smith and Matt Simms tag-teamed for 11 touchdowns and 22 picks in 14 games,
also tailspinning New York into the fourth worst Real Passing Yards Per Attempt, with 5.41.
New York also ranks dead last in Negative Pass Plays on offense, as Smith and Simms have combined to be sacked 47 times (43 for Smith alone). If it's any consolation, Smith's 21 picks aren't the most in the NFL. Hell, they're not even the most in New York.
2. Bad Quarterback Play Kills Bendability
The Jets defense is best against the run (3.19 YPA), and eighth in third-down percentage (35.92% convert), but the numbers dip a bit against the pass. They've allowed 25 touchdowns and made only eight picks (93.87 defensive rating), and give up 6.57 Real passing Yards Per Attempt.
Still, the defensive stat New York is worse in is Bendability. New York ranks fifth worst in the league in the category, allowing 13.02 yards per point scored. That's a touchdown every 91.14 yards given up. What hurts it are turnover-scores that can mostly be blamed on Smith.
Smith is responsible for five pick-sixes and a lost fumble returned for a score. Only one pick-six (against the Patriots) was in a close game, but it just shows Smith's overall erratic nature, getting sloppy when trying to play catchup. If those six defensive scores are wiped out, the Jets' Bendability rating is 14.70, which climbs to 17th best, as opposed to 28th.