NFL week 16 preview and predictions

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Aug 4, 2013; Canton, OH, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) in the first quarter of the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame game against the Dallas Cowboys at Fawcett Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Armchair Quarterback’s Take Of The Week

More People Should Be Talking About Miami Quarterback Ryan Tannehill

NFL fans often hear about all the promising young quarterbacks in the league today. Andrew Luck is supposedly the second coming of anyone from John Elway to Peyton Manning. Robert Griffin III is supposed to be a dynamic new type of QB that combines great passing accuracy with elite physical tools. Russell Wilson has taken the NFL by storm after having been passed over by many teams because of his smaller stature. Colin Kaepernick lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl in his first season as a starter. Cam Newton is starting to come into his own and Nick Foles has looked great under the tutelage of Chip Kelly.

….and then there’s Ryan Tannehill.

My guess is that some of you clicked on this article not even knowing who the person in the cover picture was. Tannehill may have been taken only a few picks behind Luck and Griffin, but in terms of hype and publicity Tannehill has been more of a Mr. Irrelevant than future superstar (at least for those who don’t follow the Dolphins). However, with Miami’s win over New England last Sunday, the Dolphins are now in prime position to land the final wild card spot and Tannehill deserves a lot of credit for that.

Tannehill’s rookie numbers may not have held up to the other highly publicized rookie QBs, but in his sophomore season he has closed the gap. Below are the 2013 numbers for Luck, Griffin, Wilson, and Tannehill. Do you know who is who?

62.4%, 259.1 YPG, 7.0 YPA, 23 TDs, 14 INTs, 86.6 QB Rating
58.7%, 235.6 YPG, 6.7 YPA, 21 TDs, 9 INTs, 85.2 QB Rating
60.1%, 246.4 YPG, 7.0 YPA, 16 TDs, 12 INTs, 82.2 QB Rating
64.7%, 219.8 YPG, 8.6 YPA, 24 TDs, 8 INTs, 105.0 QB Rating

Those stats belong to (from top to bottom) Tannehill, Luck, Griffin, and Wilson. So in their second NFL season you can make a strong case for Tannehill being the second best QB this season behind Russell Wilson. While Wilson deserves every bit of praise he gets, he’s also the QB on this list that has the least amount of pressure on his passing attack. He has far and away the best supporting cast with an elite defense and rushing attack. Tannehill (as well as Luck and Griffin) are basically being asked to carry their teams’ offenses on their very young shoulders.

Tannehill’s numbers become even more impressive when you factor in the absolutely horrendous offensive line play he has had to deal with. Through 14 games he has been sacked an NFL leading 51 times. That equals about 3.6 sacks per game. Of the other sophomore QBs listed above, RGIII is the next closest in times sacked with 38. That’s almost one whole sack less per game than Tannehill.

Then there is the absolute three ring circus that the Dolphins had to endure with the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito bullying fiasco. That could have easily sent the Dolphins into a tail spin. Instead, the team seems to have pulled together and weathered the storm. That’s pretty impressive for a team lead by a 2nd year QB that didn’t even play QB in college until midway through his junior season.

If anyone is going to try and argue that Tannehill is benefitting from his strong supporting cast on offense, I’d like you to stop and look over the Dolphins roster for a moment. Tannehill’s go to WR this season is Brian Hartline and his running game is a combination of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas. Mike Wallace is a nice deep threat and Charles Clay has developed into a nice pass catching tight end, but these guys aren’t exactly the 90′s Dallas Cowboys at the skill positions.

Come playoff time, RGIII will be sitting at home and Russell Wilson will be chasing a Super Bowl birth on the back of the most talented roster in the NFL. Meanwhile, Tannehill (assuming the Dolphins can hold onto that last playoff spot (have you seen Baltimore’s schedule?)) and Andrew Luck will carry the weight of their teams’ playoff success on their shoulders. While Luck is basically expected to become a Hall Of Famer some day, you can actually make a strong case that in their second seasons Tannehill has done just as much, if not more, to lead his team to the playoffs.

Yet no one is listing him amongst the NFL’s best young QBs.

If Miami does make it into the playoffs and maybe even wins a game I would guess that the Tannehill bandwagon will start to become a lot more crowded. In the meantime, there are plenty of seats available and I recommend claiming your seat now.

Now on to this week’s game predictions……….

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  • Bill Stowers

    Ive started reading you this year and your constant disbelief in the dolphins was very frustrating. Now granted, some of it was deserved but overall great article about tannehill! :) it was extremely well written and finally someone other than a dolphins fan is intelligent about him haha. You nailed it.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Thanks for sticking with me Bill! Sometimes I have trouble changing my perception of a team. I road Houston far too long and didn’t catch on to Miami soon enough.

      • Bill Stowers

        Ya you are my favorite writer on here outside the guys at phinphanatic haha. Now tell me, you are a chiefs fan right? Are you loving alex smith? Or did you want someone else?

        • Lyle Graversen

          I appreciate that. Huge Chiefs fan, and I’ve 100% come around on Alex Smith. My initial reaction was “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!” because it’s been so long since KC drafted and developed their own QB that I wanted them to go that route. However, after seeing Smith play and seeing this year’s rookies play, I think Reid and Dorsey made the absolute right call. Now I’m to the point that I hope they give him about a three year contract extension.

  • Dalton Newell

    Uh the last two physical teams the Saints played on the road were the Seahawks and Rams, not Jets. They played the Jets 4 away games ago.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Dalton,

      You are 100% correct, I’m not sure how I overlooked the Seattle game when I was looking at their schedule. That makes them 0-3 on the road against physical front 7s. The smart money may be on Carolina, I just have a feeling that Payton/Brees will come through in the clutch. Thanks for catching that.

  • http://sbpra.com/paulvsuffriti Paul V. Suffriti

    After the Dolphins had an emotionally charged win against the Pats, I think they travel to Buffalo and get ambushed by a division foe who already beat them earlier this year in Miami. Hard to match the intensity they played against the Pats. The Dolphins have to play error free in Buffalo if they want to leave with a win…..23-19 Buffalo.

    • Lyle Graversen

      I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bills won by any means, I just think the Dolphins will be too motivated for a let down.

  • Adam Smith

    “While Wilson deserves every bit of praise he gets, he’s also the QB on this list that has the least amount of pressure on his passing attack.”

    BS. Half the starting offensive line has been out all season, and Wilson has been one of the MOST pressured QBs.

    • anon76returns

      He’s actually THE most pressured QB on a per pass basis according to MMQB’s pressure points rating system, while Football Outsiders has Seattle as the #31 pass blocking unit (NY Jets #32, Miami all the way up at #29). On such a good all-around team, Seattle’s weakness is definitely pass blocking. Luckily for them they use a run-first offensive scheme, and their defense has kept them from having to play from behind. One wonders what might happen if a big scoring offense got out in front of them …

      • Daniel Dannen

        For almost the entire season. the Seahawks have had two, three, even four starting offensive linemen sitting on the bench injured (they had four out in the six point road loss to the Colts). The starting tight end has missed games as well. And these starters aren’t bums: we’re talking three Pro Bowlers. That pretty much explains the hideous offensive line ratings.

        Also, it may be counter-intuitive, but scrambling quarterbacks (=Wilson) actually take more sacks on average than immobile, pocket quarterbacks. (Source: Football Outsiders)

        As for a big scoring offense getting in front of them….The Seahawks have far and away the best defense in the league–especially against the pass–and so the situation you wonder about is very unlikely to arise. When for various reasons they have fallen behind against not so big scoring offenses, Wilson has faced intense pressure and ran like a demon, burning defenses with his legs.

        • anon76returns

          If pass blocking is bad, pass blocking is bad. It doesn’t matter if it’s because three OL pro bowlers are on IR, or if it’s because the franchise put its money into defense and had to settle for lesser talent on the O line. No team is perfect- they all have strengths and weaknesses, and on a performance basis penalties and pass blocking have been the most obvious weaknesses for the Seahawks on the year.
          The Broncos have what is arguably the best offense that has ever existed in the history of the league, both on a points/game and yards/game basis. That doesn’t mean they can’t be shut down, as just happened last Thursday, by what is frankly a pretty poor defense.
          The Seahawks have arguably the best defense in the league THIS YEAR, though the gap between them and Carolina-Houston isn’t that large in terms of yards/game (Just 25 yds/game separating them from 4th place in the league), and almost nonexistent in terms of points/game (just 0.3 points/game separating them from Carolina). By historical standards the Seahawks have a very good defense, but not amongst the best, certainly not in the same category of historical greatness as the Broncos’ offense. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that if the Broncos’ offense can be shut down for a game, the Seahawks defense can be lit up in a game as well. And if that does happen early on in game, it would be interesting to see how the Seahawks respond. I think Wilson is on a trajectory to be a great QB, but I’m not convinced he has the weapons on offense to come back and win in a shootout, not when Lynch is taken out of the game by situation and Wilson has to rely on that leaky line to hold up long enough for late breaking routes to open on obvious passing downs.

          • Daniel Dannen

            The Seahawks have UNQUESTIONABLY the best defense this year, and arguably a historically great defense. You’re consulting overly basic, crap statistics that give a flawed view. Instead, see “Football Outsiders” defensive ratings, as well as a recent article in the New York Times. In judging Seattle’s pass defense as an all time great one, the author of the NYT’s article “controls” for the many rules changes that have been introduced in modern football that very much favor the offense and especially the passing game.

            It does greatly matter WHY pass blocking is bad, LOL. An injured star player can get healthy and return to Pro Bowl form; a crap offensive lineman is doomed to remain a crap offensive lineman regardless of his health.

            The Broncos offense is putting up mind blowingly great numbers only because the modern NFL has stacked the deck to favor the offense generally and the passing game in particular. If this Broncos offense were living under the rules of the 1970s or ’80s, and under the style of officiating common back then, it would be no better than the Dan Fouts/San Diego Charger teams of that time, and would probably be not as good. That being said, in the NFL as it exists currently the Broncos offense is certainly highly effective.

          • anon76returns

            I’m a fan of advanced statistics as much as the next guy, but as good as the Seahawks have been against the pass, they have not been that good against the run, and there’s been no rule changes to excuse that. They are not as good as the 1985 Bears, the 2000 Ravens, or the 2002 Bucs.

            Incidentally, I would argue that the combination of an all-time great QB, 3 excellent WOs, a beast of a TE, an excellent, all-purpose RB, and the best OLine currently in the game would make the Broncos offense historically proficient no matter what era they played in.

            And of course, your argument “The Seahawks would be historically great if the rules were different” does not support your contention that “the Seahawks’ defense is too good to allow the team to fall behind by several scores”. Again, if the Broncos offense, with or without the benefit of the rules adjustments can be shut down by the #32 rated pass defense (courtesy of FO), why do you think it is impossible for the Seahawks defense to give up a ton of points, especially if there are early turnovers/special teams plays putting the D in a difficult spot?

          • Daniel Dannen

            I didn’t say it would be impossible for the Seahawks defense to give up a ton of points (which is an amount we haven’t even defined yet), I said it’s very unlikely that they would. Given their performance this year, I think “very unlikely” is a fair judgment to make.
            In 2013, the Seahawks have given up 14.6 ppg.
            Now, by far the most points scored against the Seahawks was in week five to Indianapolis–the Colts scored 34 points, 7 of which came from a touchdown return of a blocked field goal.

            The Seahawks defense doesn’t have to be better than EVERY OTHER defense in history to make the list of “historically great defenses,” and statistically the 2013 Seahawks defense is in a dead heat with 2000 Ravens defense: Football Outsiders gives the Hawks a DVOA of -23.3% and the Ravens a DVOA of -23,8% (2002 Bucs = -31.8%). The Hawks won’t catch the Bucs, but will almost certainly pass the Ravens inasmuch as the Hawks final two opponents (Arizona and St. Louis) are hardly offensive powerhouses. Incidentally, according to F.O. the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles had far and away the best defense since 1989 (when F.O.’s ratings begin). But in the NFL of 2013 there’s no way on earth any defense could get away with playing the 1991 “Gang Green” style of defense: a defense that played that way today would get penalized out of the stadium.

            And the 2013 Broncos are a far cry from having “the best offense that has ever existed in the history of the league.” For example, this offense is a clear notch below the 1998 Broncos offense, and nowhere near as potent as the Patriot offenses of 2007 and 2010. And F.O. rates several other offenses since 1989 equal to or higher than the 2013 Broncos. So in historical terms, this offense is no more outstanding than the 2013 Seahawks defense, and probably less so. It is unquestionably less outstanding if modern rule changes and style of officiating are factored in.

          • anon76returns

            DVOA isn’t a great metric for comparing different eras, as it normalizes relative to each season. You could use the statistic to say “the 1998 Broncos were better relative to other teams and relative to the defenses they faced then the 2013 Broncos are relative to the same contemporary quantities”. But that wouldn’t be near the same as saying that the 1998ers were better than the 2013ers (noted 1998er member Rod Smith says that the 2013 incarnation is without a doubt better, though he notes that the 1998 version could run the ball much better).
            I’m also not convinced that DVOA is a better metric to use than FO’s own DYAR statistic. DYAR doesn’t normalize for how often a player is used, as DVOA explicitly does. By DYAR measures, the Broncos have the #1 QB (by a 20% margin), the #4, #8, and #18 WR, the #3 TE, the #4 pass catching RB, the #7 & #22 rushing RBs, the #1 pass blocking line (DVOA here, and for pass blocking I think their methodology is flawed), and the #11 run blocking line. You can look at every year from 1989 to now and you will never find an offense with anything resembling that concentration of talent.

            As for offenses then vs. now, the defenses have been playing playing the Broncos receivers very tightly since at least week 6, yet Manning has no more DPI calls than Bledsoe or Manning himself had in 1998 (2 less than Jake Plummer drew), and that’s with Manning having already thrown more passes in 2013 than any of those three threw in all of 1998.

            But in the end none of this statistical dithering gets around the incongruity of your statement that a team getting up big on the Seahawks “is unlikely to arise”. The Broncos offense from a pure points & yards perspective is having the greatest season in NFL history, yet their offense was still shut down by a decidedly mediocre defense. The Seahawks are having a great season defensively, but there is no reason why an aberrant performance by them is any less likely than the Broncos’ game against the Chargers last Thursday. As the saying goes, “it happens to the best of them” (and historically, it always has- even the ’85 Bears gave up 38 points to Miami).

          • Daniel Dannen

            Perhaps the DVOA of teams from different years can’t reasonably be compared, but Football Outsiders does this itself all the time. I’m not enough of a statistician to know whether this is kosher or not (everything I know about statistics I taught myself in effort to become a better poker player, lol).

            There’s a difference in meaning between “unlikely” and “impossible.” The two aren’t synonyms. The Seahawks defense isn’t a brick wall and it isn’t the proverbial immovable object. It’s certainly possible “on any given Sunday” for Seattle to get lit-up for forty points or whatever. I’m saying “on any given Sunday” it’s most unlikely for this to happen.

            More pertinently, if we assume that it did happen, would Russell Wilson and the offense be able to come back? Well, on several occasions the Seahawks have fallen behind by quite a bit, and Wilson launched successful late game comebacks. He does have this Elway-esque quality. For example, he was able to do it early in the season against the now laughingstock Houston Texans. The Texans have a formidable pass rush, and the Seahawks had most of their offensive line starters on the bench, so you can guess what the pressure on Wilson was like–nevertheless the Seahawks still came back (with the help of a Richard Sherman pick 6).

    • Lyle Graversen

      Sorry Adam,

      That was a poor use of words on my part. When I said “pressure” I wasn’t talking about literal pressure on the QB by opposing defenses. I was talking about the pressure of having to carry their team with their individual performance. In other words, the Seahawks have such a good run game and defense that Wilson doesn’t have to go into games thinking “I’m going to have to throw for 300 yards and 3 TDs in order for us to win.” It’s not a knock on Wilson, I think he’s arguably the best QB of the bunch, he just doesn’t have to put up huge numbers in order to win. The other three rookies from that class sometimes have to carry a larger load in order for their teams to win. I recognize the fact that Wilson often has to avoid pressure to make throws. That’s not what I was referring to.

  • chas territo

    Sorry Bill, but I think the Bills win this week. There are many reasons why. I wont name them because having commented on many sites about this game I’m tired of typing. lol. That’s all I have to say. GO BILLS!!

  • chas territo

    Bill, I went back and copied, now pasting my comment from another site and here it is:

    We can go 1-1 or 2-0 the rest of the way. I see both games as tightly
    fought.Miami, since we beat them once, we can do it again. The Pats won
    the 1st game and since then they are not the Pats of years past. Age is
    creeping up kind of fast on Brady. He has shown a dark side when this go
    wrong, such as anger, finger pointing and just a loss of control. Maybe
    it’s wishful thinking on my part, but Brady and the Pats seem beatable
    more than ever. Both games will be entertaining and finger’s crossedd
    types of games. We can win out, BUT………?? GO BILLS!!

  • chas territo

    Bill, this one is my most direct comment on the Miami-Bills game:

    Hopefully we do to Tannehill exactly what we did to G. Smith! What’s
    that you ask? We made Mrs. Smith a terrible QB who sees shadows and
    hears the footsteps of the Buffalo Bills when he Lines up at QB, so much
    so that he can not play the QB position at all! Let’s make Tannehill
    less than adequate at QB for…ever!! GO BILLS!!

  • sidibeke

    37-34 KC over the colts? You’re overcompensating for the homer effect. I don’t think Indy will put that many on KC. The o line has been porous for Indy as of late.

    • Lyle Graversen

      If Matt McGloin can put 30 points on KC then I think Andrew Luck has a shot. I hope I’m wrong, but KCs pass rush/coverage has been suspect for a while now.

      • sidibeke

        I hear you. I’m just looking at that Indy is averaging 21.5 points since they beat Denver. They just don’t seem to be the same without Wayne, and the o line doesn’t seem to be giving Luck time consistently. We shall see.

  • ahrcshaw

    You have said a mouthful which opens up many cans of worms which makes it difficult to side with anything you have said. That said, in this media age, oops media along is not the answer as the “normal media” no longer exists, so I will call it sports information. In this sports information age, WIN, WIN WIN, and you get recognized, but even then you win and the other team has an excuse, so maybe you were just lucky, ie the Panthers. In the end it still is winning that makes teams, players or coaches stand out. Last years winning QB’s GRIII, Luck, the Manning brothers, Wilson all had winning seasons so the sports information center keyed on them. In the end you are right in what you say about Miami, watch out as they are only missing a few players and Ryan Tannehill will be right up on top.

    The big mistake you made was selecting NO over the Panthers, there is no way the Panthers will allow NO to beat them twice in the same season. The panthers have been facing Brees for years, no question he is good, but Home field, outside grass and weather, a revenge game, Superman Cam’s personal playground, and most important PRIDE will make the difference. Go Panthers and pound those Saints.

  • Chris Schroeder

    To the defense of the Raiders. Playing in San Diego is like playing another home game. Philip Rivers is like the Tony Romo of the West. He’s great at times and then he chokes at others. The Raiders beat him once, they could beat him again, they need to get to them early so they bring out his girlish side where he starts kicking and screaming and whining like a five-year-old little girl. Come on, you all know that’s true.