* Officiating is broken. This past week saw some of the worst blown calls that changed games:
- Everything in the Lions/Packers game, from the phantom hands to the face calls to the missed pass interference
- In Chiefs/Texans, Travis Kelce is tackled while running a route, refs throw flag, and Mahomes chucks it into the endzone because it's a free play, and the pass is intercepted. The refs call the interference penalty, then they huddle up, then say it's not interference, nor any other sort of penalty, and the play becomes an interception.
- In Browns/Seahawks, the Browns were flagged for a block that was delivered face to face that was somehow a "blindside" hit, and a "horse collar" tackle in which the Browns defender was clearly pulling on jersey and did not have Wilson's pads at all (let alone specifically hooking the collar of his pads).
The calls in two of those three games affected the game-deciding scoring drives.
* Pass interference review is broken. Since week 3, only 1 out of 22 pass interference review challenges has been upheld. Many of the rejected challenges were very clearly pass interference. The league has said that this review is for obvious, egregious plays like the Vikings/Saints playoff game. That sounds OK and all, except instead of having to think "was that interference or not?" before challenging, coaches must navigate the much murkier waters of, "was it flagrant enough?". Having challenges be denied because they were only egregious pass interference and not double secret egregious pass interference is not reasonable. Interference review is a 1-year test rule for now, and it feels like it has been sabotaged from the beginning.
Russell Wilson found a way around this: have the helmet comms go out and call your own damn plays, and he did, to drive Seattle to their game-winning touchdown late in the 4th.
Russell Wilson is, right now, the obvious hands-down MVP of the league. Seattle's defense is no longer carrying the water - they are ranked 20th in the league this year, their expectations for edge rusher pair Clowney and Ansah have not been met, their pass blocking is pure garbage, and their playcalling tries to keep Wilson on a tether. In 4 of their 5 wins, Wilson has driven the team to the go-ahead TD in the 4th quarter, as the team inevitably has to loosen their grip on him and let him play.
Niners fans have been enjoying this stat, but I think it reflects how leashed Seattle keeps Wilson as much as it does how dominant the 49ers have been:
* Through 6 weeks, perhaps the worst offseason move was Kansas City sending a 1st and 2nd round pick to the Seahawks for Frank Clark, then signing him to a deal that averages almost $21m a year. Through 6 games, Clark has 1 sack and a very low pressure rate. They gave away Dee Ford for a 2nd rounder, who the Niners signed to a deal that averages $17m a year, and Ford has 3.5 sacks (in 2 fewer games than Clark), and one of the highest pressure rates among edge rushers.
Seattle fans are patting themselves on the back for having moved Clark while his value was still high. Opposing teams aren't doing anything special to stop him, blocking him 1-on-1 the majority of the time.
* Kansas City's defensive woes go beyond Clark, though, as they are coming to discover the the reason Steve Spagnuolo's defenses from 2009-2018 were almost universally bad is because of Steve Spagnuolo.
* I honestly don't understand the Rams trading for Jalen Ramsey on multiple levels.
First, they're already an extremely top-heavy cap. As of right now, in 2020 they will have:
- the #1 QB cap hit (Goff, $36m)
- the #1 RB cap hit (Gurley, $17m)
- the #1 DL cap hit (Donald, $25m)
- the #6 WR cap hit (Cooks, $16.8m)
- the #8 TE cap hit (Higbee, $8.6m)
- the #10 CB cap hit (Ramsey, $13.7m)
Contracts that get signed in the offseason may affect those rankings slightly, and the team could bring down Ramsey's cap figure a bit by signing him to a long-term deal with a smaller cap hit in year 1. But right now, you're looking at $117.1m out of a projected $200m salary cap for just those 6 players. They have the 10th lowest free cap space projected for 2020. On top of that, they have 4 of the top 20 highest paid players that are entering free agency in 2020: Michael Brockers, Andrew Whitworth, Aqib Talib, Dante Fowler. So none of those players are counting towards their already-swollen 2020 cap. Whitworth will probably retire (hurting the offensive line even more), but it's clear the team is going to struggle to maintain, let alone be in a position to improve.
What's more, Cooper Kupp will be entering the final year of his cheap rookie contract, and the team is going to have to find a way to pay him too, or risk letting him walk.
How do you improve when you have a top-heavy cap? Draft, draft, draft. Which is the exact opposite of what the Rams do. Assuming they don't find a way to trade back into round 1 either this year or next, the Rams will go 5 straight years without making a 1st round selection:
2017: Traded to the Titans (along with their 3rd round pick) in 2016 to move up for Jared Goff
2018: Traded to the Patriots for Brandin Cooks
2019: Traded to the Falcons for 2nd and 3rd round picks
2020: Traded to the Jaguars for Jalen Ramsey
2021: Traded to the Jaguars for Jalen Ramsey
They're also short on lower round picks in 2020 (5th rounder, traded to Jags for Fowler) and 2021 (4th rounder, traded to Jags for Ramsey).
Most shocking of all, the Rams have put themselves in this position without any guarantees from Jalen Ramsey. When the Bears traded for Khalil Mack, the deal included agreeing to terms with Mack on an extension before executing the trade. The Rams have gone "all in" with Ramsey and now Ramsey has all the leverage, and has proven his willingness to miss games over not getting what he wants.
There's also the question of, exactly how good is Jalen Ramsey?
2017 - 66.4 targeted passer rating, 51.1% reception rate, 91.3 PFF grade
2018 - 73.8 targeted passer rating, 54.6% reception rate, 72.8 PFF grade
2019 (3 games) - 115.3 targeted passer rating, 62.5% reception rate, 59.6 PFF grade
The 2019 numbers obviously are small sample size at this point, but they follow the downward trend Ramsey has been on since the 2017 peak. And while some struggles in weeks 1 and 2 against Mahomes and Watson are understandable, his last game as a Jaguar saw him give up a 93.8 passer rating when targeted 7 times by Marcus Mariota.
It's hard to see this as anything but a win-now move by the Rams, who still clearly think of themselves as NFC champions and not a 3-3 football team sitting behind a pair of division opponents who are a combined 10-1 (and who have each already taken a head-to-head win over the Rams). And for a win-now move, this one doesn't even solve any of their actual 2019 problems.
For the Jags, losing Ramsey obviously hurts. But they were a team headed towards a similar cap situation as the Rams, and their cap future just got a lot less top-heavy. The team has been stalling signing Yannick Ngakoue to a long-term deal, and such a deal just got a lot easier to sign. Having extra 1sts plus a couple extra later round picks in the next 2 drafts gives them a lot to rebuild with.
* Miami "won" the Tank Bowl with a failed 2-point conversion. But Washington is now replaced by Cincinnati as the co-frontrunner for the tank, as they reach 0-6.
* The Titans are benching Marcus Mariota, and turning the offense over to Ryan Tannehill. Despite having a 2-4 record, the Titans are one of only 6 teams to score fewer than 100 points through week 6, and three of those teams have only played 5 games. The only thing keeping Tennessee alive? A defense which has yielded fewer than 100 points, something only 5 other defenses have managed.