No, there isn't a single good thing to say about the NYJ offense. ... New England is certainly not standing pat(s) at WR, but will the pieces fit. … Time for some Miranda warnings in Seattle.
I knew when the NFL team-by-team tour began, and I did it West to East in terms of both divisions and the alphabetical orders within them, that one of the greatest challenges of all would keep building until a near climactic point towards the end – the train wreck that is the 2017 New York Jets offense. But as I deal with a pair of teams in each of the next two days to wrap things up, at least there is New England to balance things out a bit, though there are some questions about how efficient the Patriots offense will be in the early stages. Time to go to work, including a foray to the Tuesday night MLB diamonds.
NYJ 2017: The Jets are awful and everyone knows it, so now what?
I will not belabor the point here and keep the Jets short and sweet – the offensive roster is the weakest I have seen for a non-expansion team in my betting lifetime, with almost no chance for upside. They don’t have a QB for this season, nor do they have someone that they can build with into the future.
A couple of weeks ago when sitting in as a guest with Sports BIT’s Pauly Howard, and Mitch Moss on their daily show for the VSIN network, I proposed a question that the reading audience here can answer to themselves as well: If you were Todd Bowles, would you rather have been fired at the end of last season and be working as someone’s DC this season, at an 80% pay cut, or getting the full $4 million to coach the Jets? Pauly and Mitch both quickly chose the DC option.
The issue is also pretty much one of the foregone conclusion going forward – it will take a lot of bounces to equal the 5-11 of 2016, and this could get as ugly as 2-14 or maybe even worse, which means Bowles won’t be the HC next year. So how difficult will it be for a guy to grind through a season bereft of optimism???
But there is a market issue here. One of the things that I noted when discussing the Cleveland Browns last Friday was that despite their historic 0-14 ATS opening to the season, most Sportsbooks only got beat up a bit and not destroyed. There were hordes of parlay tickets coming in against Cleveland each week, but there was some balance because a few of the sharps kept trying to make the Browns work towards usual NFL regression patterns.
That could be the case with the Jets, with one particular intriguing notion – a rush defense that was the best in the league in 2016 has a chance to be near the top again. That will create the mindset of there being a fundamental strength that will tantalize some of the computer models, but the other pieces are so far removed from being good that it is a strength that will be wasted.
Playing against the Jets offense in some form just may be a mode that will work early in the season anyway – the betting markets understand bad, but will they have the proper grasp for a team that is historically bad?
New England 2017: How long will it take for those new WRs to become Brady’s Bunch?
The gap in offensive potential between the Jets and Patriots is about as wide as can be across the 2017 landscape, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t some drama going on in New England. The pieces are there for the offense to be special, but they are different pieces in different places from previous editions. The catalyst for those recent successes wasn’t necessarily overwhelming talent, but instead marvelous execution, Tom Brady a master of the craft. Hence why the early stages of this season bring such an intriguing case study.
Julian Edelman is not a Hall of Fame talent, but he caught 98 passes in 2016, by far the team leader. He plays a particular role, and the chemistry he developed with Brady enabled that role to be maximized. While Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett bring talent and speed to the position, they do not mimic the Edelman skill set, and that means developing a different chemistry, which can take time.
Let’s let Brady set this up from the standpoint of football fundamentals: “Really, it comes down to whatever your different skill sets are, it’s a matter of execution. Fast, quick, tall, smart — you’ve got to put it all together and you’ve got to put it together on every play. Offensive football is really important that every player is on the same page. You can’t really have one part of the chain that is not connected. Everyone has to be focused on what their responsibility is.
“Those guys that can present problems with speed, that’s what they’ve got to do and when they get the ball, they’ve got to play that way. The quick guys and the tall guys and the strong guys, everyone has different skill sets and it’s really a matter of how everyone comes together in our style of offense and how we can execute to get the ball down the field.”
Mostly common sense there, except for the notion that these things simply don’t happen by someone snapping their fingers; there is a layer of development needed. An offense that gets so much mileage out of Brady’s ability to get into the best possible plays from his pre-snap reads, which can pinpoint mismatch opportunities, may not have that same ability as this season begins. If you wonder why Bill Belichick had Brady out there for the opening of the final preseason game vs. the Giants last week, it may well have been an acceptance of that.
This isn’t about talent, but a scheme change. With Edelman as the leading pass catcher the Pats could dink-and-dunk and maintain the ball for long possessions; now they have the ability to stretch the field as much as any time since the Randy Moss days, but that is a different flow. Consider this context:
2017 Yards per Catch
Hogan 17.9 (#2)
Dorsett 16.0 (#8)
Cooks 15.0 (#14)
Edelman 11.3 (#80)
And by the way, Rob Gronkowski’s 21.6 per catch would have rated #1 if he had enough receptions to qualify. There will be excitement for an offense that brings so many players near the top of those charts, except that it is now a different playbook. Not only does it take time to develop that, but is this also the best flow for the skill set of a QB who is 40 years old?
There is a lot of upside here, but it will take some time, and in fact may not be as fully maximized as we have seen from previous Patriot offenses. There is a prime opportunity for the Eye Test on Thursday night vs. the Chiefs.
In the Sights, Tuesday MLB ...
There will be much made about Justin Verlander’s first start with the Tigers, and there should be – Verlander has found his game again, a sharp 5-2/2.41 since the All Star break in which his average fastball is a mile and a half quicker than in 2016. In nine of his 10 post-break starts, strikeouts have exceeded hits allowed, and in the other the counts matched. Pencil Verlander in as a hungry veteran who could bring even more to the table tonight, with legit World Series aspirations now a part of his consciousness, something he has not had in years.
Yet it is the other side of the equation that perhaps brings the biggest edge, and that will get me to #927 Houston Run Line (10:10 Eastern), with -1.5 at even money or better registering for me on the value scales. I believe the Astros got through a major psychological cycle in that cathartic weekend routing of the Mets, and while the impact of Hurricane Harvey will linger, their focus does seem squarely on baseball. That means the opportunity to pick on Ariel Miranda, the Mariners' starter vs. Houston on Tuesday.
Miranda is the key for me. He is merely a journeyman forced into a major starter’s role because of all of the Seattle injuries, and I do not see much of anything to like – Miranda is sitting at a FIP of 5.51 and xFIP of 5.23 now at over 200 MLB innings, not getting enough strikeouts or ground balls to have much of a shelf life. And that 2017 shelf life may be nearing its expiration point.
Miranda isn’t just a below-average pitcher with little upside, he is also a worn-down below-average pitcher with little upside. In 10 starts since July 1 he has toiled to a 6.84 ERA, only finishing six innings once, and in three of his last four outings he has not finished the fifth. This will be the fifth look for the Astros against his limited arsenal, and it would be no surprise if they made short work of him tonight.
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