• Packers finally end losing streak: An NFC analytics executive wants to see the Packers replicate their Week 10 success before crowning them “back.”
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IS HC JOSH MCDANIELS SAFE IN LAS VEGAS?
NFC player personnel executive: Buy
New Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels couldn’t have gotten out to a worse start in Las Vegas, and things bottomed out Sunday in Week 10 when they lost to an Indianapolis Colts team led by interim head coach Jeff Saturday and first-time NFL play-caller Parks Frazier.
The Raiders are now 2-7 on the season despite facing the NFL’s 24th-most difficult schedule. And it only gets more challenging from here on out with the sixth-hardest schedule over the final slate of games.
Owners with a quick trigger finger would at least consider firing McDaniels, who’s now 13-24 in his career as a head coach and 7-24 after starting his career back in 2009 as head coach of the Denver Broncos with six straight wins.
Raiders owner Mark Davis publicly backed McDaniels to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday, saying, “I like Josh. I think he’s doing a fantastic job. That’s why I hired him. We did an exhaustive search and found the person we believe is going to bring the Raiders to greatness.”
A high-ranking NFC player personnel executive doesn’t think McDaniels will get the axe.
“I think he’s fine,” he said. “Who knows anymore? That (Derek) Carr speech postgame was something, though.”
The Raiders quarterback teared up in his postgame news conference after the team was unable to hold its lead over Indianapolis nor complete a comeback in the final five minutes of the game.
“Sorry for being emotional,” Carr said, in part. “I'm just pissed off about some of the things, you know, that a lot of us try and do just to practice. What we put our bodies through, just to sleep at night.
“And for that to be the result of all that effort, pisses me off, pisses a lot of guys off. It's hard, knowing what some guys are doing … just to practice. What they're putting in their body just to sleep at night. Just so we can be there for each other. And I wish everybody in that room felt the same way about this place. And as a leader, that pisses me off, if I'm being honest.”
It seemed as if Carr was questioning the effort of some of his teammates this season.
“It’s WILD,” the NFC player personnel executive said. “We never had guys not trying in our situation, so I don’t even know how to approach that.”
McDaniels said Monday that he doesn’t have an issue with his players’ effort.
The Raiders made a shift in offensive and defensive schemes when McDaniels was hired and brought in defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. They’ve either waived or traded high picks from the previous Jon Gruden/Mike Mayock regime in offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood (2021, 1st round), cornerback Trayvon Mullen (2019, 2nd round) and safety Johnathan Abram (2019, 1st round). One league source dismissed the idea that players are simply getting acclimated to new coaching and schemes.
“It’s professional football, and football is hard,” he said. “You have to earn wins. Everyone has to do their jobs better. It’s no mystery.”
Another source was asked about the issue in Las Vegas, and he responded with, “Josh McDaniels.”
A richer owner might be more willing to hit the reset button at head coach, but Davis is among the least wealthy owners in the NFL, and Las Vegas just paid out a contract settlement after firing Jon Gruden last season. By firing McDaniels one year into a four-year contract and hiring a new head coach, one of the least wealthy owners in the NFL would essentially be having to pay the salaries of three head coaches.
The Raiders also hired McDaniels as a long-term solution, not to immediately win a Super Bowl, which is why they brought along Graham, general manager Dave Ziegler and other coaches and executives who had worked closely with McDaniels in previous stops. It’s been a laborious season for the Raiders that hasn’t been aided by injuries to key players, including tight end Darren Waller and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. If Davis can remain patient, it would be worth seeing if McDaniels and Ziegler can turn things around and add players who fit what Las Vegas is looking to do in at least a full year.
But Raider Nation is not pleased with the current direction of the team, which currently ranks 13th in expected points added (EPA) per play but 28th in EPA allowed per play.
HAVE THE BUFFALO BILLS BEEN FIGURED OUT?
AFC pro scout: Sell
The Bills have suddenly lost two straight games and currently are in third place in a stacked AFC East after Sunday’s overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Buffalo also lost to the New York Jets in Week 9 but are still betting favorites to win the AFC (+200) and the Super Bowl (+400).
An AFC pro scout wasn’t overly concerned about Buffalo’s recent struggles, chalking up Sunday’s loss to a great game between two good teams.
Quarterback Josh Allen’s recent propensity for turning the ball over has been slightly concerning, however. He now leads the position in turnover-worthy plays (19) on the season and ranks 10th among 47 quarterbacks who have started games this season with a 4.7% turnover-worthy play rate. Nine of Allen’s 19 turnover-worthy plays have come in the past three weeks alone. He also made six turnover-worthy plays in Buffalo’s Week 3 loss to the Miami Dolphins. His turnover-worthy play rate in losses this season is 7.1%, whereas his turnover-worthy play rate in wins is 2.9%.
The Bills added running back Nyheim Hines at the trade deadline but could still use one more playmaker in their offense to compliment wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, tight end Dawson Knox and running backs Devin Singletary and James Cook. Diggs is being targeted on 28.6% of his receiving snaps. He accounts for 35.9% of the Bills’ total passing yards.
Enter Odell Beckham Jr.? When we polled NFL sources last week, over 30% of people believed Beckham would sign with Buffalo. The Bills received the second-most votes behind the Dallas Cowboys, who also showed in Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers that they could use another talented wide receiver in their offense.
ARE THE PACKERS ‘BACK?’
NFC analytics executive: Sell
An NFC analytics executive is holding off on showering too much praise on quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, however.
“I'd need to see their offense produce like this for more than one game to say they're ‘back,’ but they definitely looked more inspired,” he said.
“Hoping it’s just a fluke game, for our sake,” he joked.
That win did have NFC playoff picture implications, however. The Cowboys are now in sixth place in the NFC behind the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants. The Packers move all the way from 12th place into ninth with the win.
Green Bay ranked third in expected points added (EPA) per play in Sunday’s win, though they certainly can’t count on rookie wide receiver Christian Watson, who also had two drops, scoring three touchdowns every week.
“Especially when none of their other receivers have produced much this season,” the NFC analytics executive said.
It hurts that fellow rookie wideout Romeo Doubs is currently out with a high ankle sprain. Receiver Randall Cobb is eligible to return from injured reserve prior to Week 11, however, and perhaps a win over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday could push the Packers back into contention for Beckham if he hasn’t signed elsewhere by that point.
It would be premature to declare the Packers back. But it’s also difficult to count them out completely with Rodgers at quarterback.