Monday Morning Digest: Is Lamar Jackson the Next Big Thing or a 1-Game Wonder?

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterNovember 19, 2018

Monday Morning Digest: Is Lamar Jackson the Next Big Thing or a 1-Game Wonder?

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    Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

    In this week's typically overstuffed edition of Monday Morning Digest:

    • Someone in the Saints offense is on pace to smash a record, and it's not (just) Drew Brees;
    • The Jaguars smother themselves with their own arch-conservative game plan;
    • The Alex Smith injury spells doom in Washington and causes chaos in the NFC playoff chase; 
    • Danica Patrick and Condoleezza Rice make NFL news. Yup, that's a thing that happened this week;
    • Digest Sportsbook previews the Chiefs-Rams showdown;

    and much more, beginning with the much-anticipated—and modestly encouragingstarting debut of Lamar Jackson.  


Lamar Jackson's Big Win Answers Some Questions and Raises Some Others

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    Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

    Lamar Jackson was mesmerizing, dynamic, electrifying and thrilling to watch in his first NFL start. 

    He just wasn't very good.

    Jackson led the Ravens to a 24-21 victory over the Bengals in relief of the injured Joe Flacco, now on his sixth year of personifying overpriced quarterback mediocrity. Jackson rushed for 117 yards on 27 carries, adding 150 yards and an interception on 13-of-19 passing.

    When a quarterback runs the ball eight more times than he throws it, you know something is up. The Ravens offense with Jackson at the helm looked like a mid-major college.

    Jackson executed the option, ran quarterback draws on third downs, scrambled frequently and handed off effectively to Gus Edwards and other rushers. He juked, spun and bedeviled defenders who were never quite sure who had the ball. He tossed a few short passes to the flat and fired enough side-armed throws on shallow crosses to keep the Bengals defense semi-honest.

    Jackson also threw an ugly interception at the end of a playground scramble to set up a Bengals touchdown, heaved a few other dangerous throws up for grabs and failed to convert a 4th-and-1 because everyone in the stadium knew a sneak was the only possibility. What passing game the Ravens had was primitive and conservative. 

    Evaluating Jackson on Sunday was like interpreting midterm election results. If you were hoping for a Jackson wave, you got a win, highlights and stats that don't look out of place among Jackson's rookie-quarterback peers. If you belong to the Committee to Convert Jackson to Wide Receiver, well, Jackson looked a little like a wide receiver pressed into emergency service at quarterback a few times. 

    Jackson was still mastering the basics of being an NFL quarterback in August. Both his preseason performances and weekly Wildcat cameos were a lot like Sunday's game: some OMG-worthy athletic highlights mixed with long stretches of ineffective read-option gadgetry and pocket indecision. 

    Jackson still appears to have a long way to go before he's an effective every-down passer, and it will catch up with the Ravens quickly if what he showed on Sunday is all he's got. The Bengals may be flummoxed by read options—the Bengals just fired their defensive coordinator and hired Hue Jackson, for heaven's sake—but future opponents will render Jackson's designed runs about as dangerous as Flacco's one-yard passes on 3rd-and-long.

    The Ravens are 5-5: still wild-card berth viable, with a winnable Raiders game next week. Flacco should be healthy enough to return soon. Jim Harbaugh's job may well depend on how the next six weeks play out. But there is no obvious answer to their quarterback dilemma. 

    Jackson is the future for the Ravens. And Flacco is the past. But the present may still belong to the Flacco-Jackson platoon. Whether that's the best of both worlds or an imperfect compromise, it gives the Ravens the best chance to win, at least until Jackson shows that there's more to his game than options and potential. 

Game Spotlight: Bears 25, Vikings 20

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    What happened

    The Bears asserted themselves as front-runners for the NFC North title with a dominating defensive performance. Minnesota running backs rushed for just 17 yards in the game, and the Vikings netted just 77 offensive yards in the first half as Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd dominated the line of scrimmage.

    The Vikings clawed back into the game after the Bears took a 14-0 lead with a pair of second-half field goals, but Kirk Cousins threw a pick-six to Eddie Jackson in the fourth quarter, giving the Bears an insurmountable lead.

    Cousins made the final score look good with a pair of late touchdowns, but the Vikings once again proved that they don't belong in the Super Bowl conversation this year and that their hefty financial investment in Cousins won't be paying the hoped-for dividends.


    What it means

    The Bears' Chiefs-like (or Chiefs Lite) offense has gotten most of the attention this season, but it ran hot-and-cold on Sunday, as it often does against decent opponents.

    Mitchell Trubisky made some plays with his legs but tossed a pair of ugly interceptions to go with a diving touchdown catch by Anthony Miller. Tarik Cohen mixed in a costly fumble with his jitterbug runs. Trubisky is more accurate and decisive than he was early in the year, and the Bears offense creates plenty of opportunities for playmakers, but Matt Nagy's scheme is still a work in progress.

    The Bears defense, which was outstanding in a three-week run against the Jets, Bills and Lions, proved that it could do more than shut down the NFL's weakest defenses. Hicks was credited with five tackles for loss. Mack forced a fumble and tossed blockers aside to get to Cousins. The Bears may not be the NFL's most consistent team, but when they are humming on both sides of the ball, they are among the league's most complete and dangerous teams. 

    The Vikings defense played well enough to win, but Cousins and the running backs got no support from an offensive line playing its worst game since the Week 3 Bills loss. Blame the line or the game plan, but the fact remains that Cousins keeps serving up disappointing performances against opponents he's getting paid $84 million over three years to beat. And some of Cousins' worst throws, like his pre-halftime interception, can't be blamed on anyone else.


    What's next

    The Bears clobbered the Lions last week, but the Thanksgiving visit to Detroit is always a trickier matchup. Chicago visits the Giants after that and then get the Rams and Packers back-to-back in a series which will help shape the NFC postseason picture.

    The Vikings host the Packers and then travel to Foxborough. If they are fighting for anything but the last wild-card spot after that, either Cousins finally found fourth gear or a lot more NFC teams went belly-up.  

Player Spotlight: Mike Thomas, Saints

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    What happened

    Thomas caught all four of the passes thrown to him for 92 yards and one touchdown in the Saints' 48-7 vivisection of the Eagles.

    Thomas didn't lead the Saints in receivingrookie Tre'Quan Smith raced through the smoldering ashes of the Eagles secondary for a 10-157-1 stat linebut with his perfect 4-for-4 receiving performance, Thomas now has 82 catches for 1,042 yards and eight touchdowns on just 91 passes for a mind-boggling 90.1 percent catch rate.


    What it means

    It's hard to express just how unbelievable a 90.1 percent catch rate is for a wide receiver.

    The NFL's completion rate entering Sunday was 65.1 percent, the highest in history by over two percentage points. That historic rate includes every single screen and dump-off thrown by every quarterback in the NFL, so receivers like Thomas—who are targeted for many more downfield passes than most running backs or tight endsrarely have catch rates much higher than 70 percent, even in these days of passing games gone bonkers.

    Jerry Rice's highest catch rate as a starter was 74.2 percent in 1994. Fine, completion rates and offensive levels were lower then. Wes Welker's catch rate for the 2007 Patriots, when he hoovered up all of Tom Brady's short stuff for the greatest offense in history, was 77.2 percent. 

    The only other wide receiver in history* to catch more than 80 percent of his targets in a season with more than 50 receptions was Austin Collie, who caught 58 of 71 passes (81.7 percent) thrown to him by Peyton Manning on the 2010 Colts. Thomas blows Collie away in every conceivable way.

    Lots of credit goes to Drew Brees, of course, who is on his way to another completion percentage record, and to Sean Payton and Thomas' fellow playmakers. But Thomas has become the hardest receiver in the league to cover this year, if not one of the hardest to cover in history. His catch rate may drop off as the season progresses, but his impact on defenses and the NFC standings will not.


    What's next

    The Falcons secondary Thomas faces next week isn't as injury-plagued and shell-shocked as the Eagles secondary. But it's close.

    *Catch rates on Pro Football Reference only date back to 1992, when targets became a widely available statistic.  

Game Spotlight: Steelers 20, Jaguars 16

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    What happened

    The Jaguars played to not lose after their defense pitched a near-perfect game for almost three quarters. And as a result, they lost.

    Jalen Ramsey, the subject of trade speculation in the Sunday morning rumor mill, intercepted two passes and helped hold Antonio Brown to just one catch in the first half. The Jaguars defense as a whole held the Steelers to just 68 yards of offense. But Jacksonville settled for three field goals before Leonard Fournette leapt from the 5-yard line and crowd-surfed Coachella-style for a touchdown that gave it a 16-0 lead late in the third quarter.

    Brown struck back quickly with a 78-yard touchdown on a busted coverage. The Jaguars then went three-and-out on four archconservative fourth-quarter drives in a foolish attempt to squat on a 10-point lead for 15 solid minutes. A would-be game-saving interception by D.J. Hayden in the final seconds was nullified by a (blatant) facemask foul, and Ben Roethlisberger jumped across the goal line for a game-winning touchdown in the waning seconds.


    What it means

    The Jaguars offensive game plan was an embarrassment. High school coaches forced to start freshman quarterbacks in the 1970s had more trust in their passing game than Doug Marrone and his staff have in Blake Bortles, who completed just 10 of 18 passes for 104 yards while enduring six sacks.

    The Jaguars got the ball with a 10-point lead and 6:47 to play in the fourth quarter, ran Fournette up the gut twice and threw a pass that wouldn't have netted a first down even if it were complete. Their defense then allowed the Steelers to march down the field and score at the 2:35 mark, with all three timeouts and the two-minute warning remaining. The Jaguars responded with three plays and a punt. It was an absolute clock-management and play-calling meltdown.

    The Jags also committed 11 penalties for 111 yards, including some drive-killing holding calls in the first half and a series of facemask and roughing fouls on defense in the second half.

    The only reason Jacksonville should ever try to trade Ramsey is if he demands a chance to get away from a horribly coached team in deep denial about its quarterback situation. 

    Oh, yeah: Great comeback and late-game effort by the Steelers, who looked sloppy for three quarters in the wake of The Great Le'Veon Bell Locker Caper.


    What's next

    The Steelers visit the Broncos. The Jaguars face the Bills, who have gone through four starting quarterbacks and have been a national punchline all season—and have the exact same 3-7 record as they do. 

Checking in with the NFC Playoff Also-Rans

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    With all eyes on Sunday night's Bears-Vikings game and the Chiefs-Rams Super Bowl preview on Monday night, it's easy to lose track of all the wild-card hopefuls and divisional challengers jostling each other for position on the NFC's second tier. But you can count on Digest to keep track of things by watching Falcons football so you don't have to.


    Washington Redskins: Lost 23-21 to Texans

    Alex Smith suffered a nasty leg injury in the third quarter, 33 years to the day after Joe Theismann's gruesome leg injury at the hands of Lawrence Taylor on Monday Night Football.

    Veteran backup Colt McCoy did his best Ryan FitzMagic impression in relief, throwing a touchdown and scrambling for some first downs to make things interesting against a Texans team suffering its usual pass protection and red-zone scoring issues. But Washington is beat up along the offensive line and at the skill positions, and there is nothing in McCoy's background that suggests he's capable of doing more than keeping the team comfortable as it slowly sinks from the top of the standings.

    Alex Smith's injury was something no one ever wants to see again. Theismann's injury was something you can close your eyes, picture, and shudder at 33 years later. It was like a Saw movie, only real.


    Dallas Cowboys: Defeated the Falcons 22-19

    The Cowboys defense is generating plenty of pressure, Ezekiel Elliott is cruising and Dak Prescott has stabilized at the "workmanlike scrambler" effectiveness setting, allowing the Cowboys to commit far fewer mistakes than the Falcons and Eagles—opponents they have now climbed over in the playoff chase.

    The Cowboys aren't spectacular by any means, but it doesn't matter: The NFC playoff road is rising to meet them, with the battered Redskins crawling into town to face them on Thanksgiving with the NFC East lead on the line.


    Atlanta Falcons: Lost 22-19 to the Cowboys

    If you haven't figured out by now that the Falcons play just well enough to tear out your heart and toss it in the garbage disposal, Digest doesn't know what else to tell you. Remember how the Falcons supposedly had their red-zone offensive problems solved? Five field goals against the Cowboys later, they are back where they were in September.

    Now 4-6 with visits to New Orleans and Lambeau over the next three weeks, the Falcons are cooked. 


    Carolina Panthers: Lost 20-19 to the Lions

    Speaking of teams giving back the offensive gains they made: The Panthers replaced all of the misdirection plays that gave opponents fits in the first half of the year with Cam Newton sacks over the past two games. Newton got crunched so hard he had to leave the game briefly on Sunday, but he returned to lead a pair of late-game comeback drives before misfiring on a game-winning two-point conversion attempt that looked like it was drawn up to purposely negate everything Newton and the Panthers do well.

    Two straight losses have jeopardized the Panthers' wild-card chances. They face the Saints twice in the final three weeks, and those games are starting to look like a potential 1-2 knockout punch. 


    Philadelphia Eagles: Lost 48-7 to Saints

    If it gets any worse, the NFL may just ask for those Super Bowl rings back. 

Inside the Numbers

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Josh Rosen: 9-of-20 for 136 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT

    Christian Kirk provided 59 yards and a touchdown on a screen pass, meaning Rosen's other 19 throws netted just 87 total yards.

    Rosen completed just three passes for 22 yards in the entire second half, when the Cardinals possessed the ball for just eight minutes and 11 seconds. Arizona's second-half drives, in a game that was always within one touchdown either way, consisted mostly of David Johnson runs until it was 3rd-and-long and Rosen could throw an incomplete pass.

    Digest was a little hard on the Lamar Jackson game plan earlier. Lots of designed runs can be a sign that a team is hiding a young quarterback's limits, but they are better than just doing nothing and surrendering to those limits. 


    Phillip Lindsay, Broncos: 11 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns; 4 catches for 27 yards

    Lindsay's first touchdown was a 41-yarder from a single-setback formation, and his second came on a direct snap play near the goal line. Lindsay caught screen passes from the backfield, slot and split wide and also caught a flat pass after motioning into an H-back position. 

    Who saw this kind of versatile productivity coming from an undersized, unheralded rookie? Digest will just leave this link here and wink.


    T.Y. Hilton, Colts: 9 catches on 9 targets for 155 yards, 2 TD

    Hilton picked on second-year Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson for most of his production Sunday. Jackson is a tremendous athlete with inconsistent coverage technique who tackles like he's trying to climb onto the side of a moving dump truck, so Hilton had no trouble deconstructing him on a wide variety of pass routes.

    By the way, if you forgot that Hilton was a great receiver—or even existed—during Andrew Luck's nine-year shoulder rehabilitation, it's time to tune back in. Luck-to-Hilton is a scary combination again.


    Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick: 25-of-37, 366 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

    Buccaneers quarterbacks have combined for 23 interceptions this season. The Buccaneers defense has intercepted just one pass. It's hard to win many games with a minus-22 interception differential. 

Digest Sportsbook: Monday Night Chiefs-Rams Blowout Spectacular!

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    This week's Sportsbook looks ahead to the Super Bowl Preview, the Game of the Century, The Game So Big It Took Two Cities to Host: Monday night's Chiefs-Rams showdown. 


    The Line: Rams -3.5

    Chiefs-Rams opened at Rams -1 but jumped once the game was moved from the Mexico City mud flats to Los Angeles. The fact that the Rams are 4-6 ATS this year (1-6 since Week 4) and 5-7 as home favorites since 2017 may be baked into this modest line: The public doesn't love them as big favorites. 

    Digest wouldn't touch the Rams past -4 and would love the push cushion of -3 some books were still offering Sunday, but we lean toward taking the Rams and laying the points. 


    The Moneyline: Rams -175, Chiefs +165

    Yuck. The house sees what we all seehigh likelihood of a two-to-four-point Rams winso it's not giving us any meat on the bone for a straight-up Rams win. The Chiefs are more enticing here if you are feeling a straight-up win for them: Digest doesn't love the Chiefs, but if we did, we'd rather have a +165 payout than a field goal.


    The Number: 63

    Yep, that's scary high, especially since the two teams are a combined 10-9-1 at pole-vaulting over the wild expectations their offenses have created this season. The Chiefs are 2-4-1 against the number since Week 4, with a push in a 30-23 win over the Broncos giving a sense of how dizzyingly high the house has set the bar for them.

    Neither of these teams is exactly hapless on defense, and the idea of staying up late on Monday night to lose on a 31-30 final is too much for Digest to bear. We'd rather skip unders than bet them, but if it's your cup of tea, take the under and cheer for every first-half field goal.


    The Parlay: Rams Straight Up and Under: +195

    We found this one on the DraftKings app on Sunday and don't loathe it. You can get the Chiefs and either the over or under at +350, which is a heck of a payout for hunch-players. But we don't have that hunch. Instead, we see the Rams defense slowing the Chiefs down the way the Broncos did in both meetings and the Rams offense going into high-efficiency ball-control mode, and that combination will allow Los Angeles to pull out some 28-27 win. This parlay, with no spread to worry about, pays a pretty tasty dividend.


    Player Props

    Most of them are not enticing: Todd Gurley's rushing-yard over/under was 95.5 as of Sunday, for example. But there are some fun multi-touchdown props out there (according to the DraftKings app). Todd Gurley is just +100 to score two touchdowns against the Chiefs run defense, which has allowed 12 touchdowns this season. But take Gurley up to three total touchdowns, and you can get a +375 moneyline.

    Or say you are a big fan of Josh Reynolds taking over Cooper Kupp's role in the Rams offense. You can get Reynolds +2200 to score two touchdowns on DraftKings and a wild +10000 to score three. It's practically a Powerball ticket, but it could add some real drama to Rams red-zone trips for a very low price. 


    All trends and splits courtesy of; point spreads and over/unders from OddsShark.

Awards Digest

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    Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

    Defender of the Week

    Jalen Ramsey intercepted two passes, one of them in the end zone, and stymied Antonio Brown for much of the afternoon before giving up one fourth-quarter Brown catch down to the goal line. (Ramsey can be seen chasing Brown on his 78-yard touchdown, but that was zone coverage, and a deep safety made a mistake to spring Brown.)

    If there are any more rumblings out of Jacksonville about a Ramsey trade, with or without official denials, it's a troubling sign that the Jaguars are blaming organizational failures on their best players and are preparing to sink back into oblivion.


    Offensive Line of the Week

    The Ravens offensive line had to switch to a service academy game plan as Lamar Jackson and company ran 54 times for 265 yards on options and quarterback draws. It's not easy to pick up an entirely new offensive philosophy on the fly, so let's hear it for Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, Marshal Yanda, Orlando Brown Jr. and Jermaine Eluemunor, who filled in for the banged-up Stanley on a few snaps. 


    Special Teamer of the Week

    Lions punter Sam Martin pinned the Panthers at the 2, 6 and 8-yard lines on Sunday, forcing them to start their average drive from the 16-yard line. The Panthers couldn't call many of their intricate, long-developing misdirection plays from the shadow of their own goal posts. 


    Mystery Touch of the Week

    Broncos punter Colby Wadman faked out the Chargers special teams with a 12-yard pass to Andy Janovich for a first down. Bet you didn't know the Broncos punter was named Colby Wadman. Bet you are not surprised at all that the Chargers cost themselves a win with the help of a special teams blunder. 


    Philly Special Imitators of the Week

    The Philly Special has spread this season like imitation Philly cheesesteaks (with weird ingredients like actual steak and cheese), but Frank Reich helped perfect the recipe, so you know his version of the play was authentic. Still, things didn't turn out all that special when the Colts tried to run the play. Eric Ebron took a reverse handoff near the red zone and floated a pass just out of the reach of Andrew Luck, proving what Reich's former Eagles employers know all too well: Super Bowl magic ain't easy to recreate.


    Buccaneers Moment of the Week 

    When Mike Evans recovered a Jameis Winston fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, it was the most 2018 Buccaneers event of the 2018 Buccaneers season. Let's check the bingo card:

    • Second-half quarterback change from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Winston? Check.
    • Sloppiness with the football? Check.
    • Ridiculous play that led to a near comeback in the second half? Check.
    • Meant nothing in the standings but caused havoc in fantasy leagues? Check. 

    The only thing that could have made it the perfect apotheosis of Buccaneers football would have been a missed extra point.


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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Your weekly debate about off-the-field issues.


    Le'Veon Bell's former Steelers teammates loot his locker after he fails to show up for his final reporting deadline.

    POINT: Nothing sends a message to a holdout about high standards, teamwork, leadership and professionalism like dividing up his collection of partially used deodorants.

    COUNTERPOINT: Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman reports that Bell signing with the Jets next year is a "foregone conclusion," because passing up $14 million to earn free agency and then nerfing your negotiating leverage by deciding five months early to sign with a team that will probably change coaches and general managers in the interim is considered shrewd career planning these days. 

    BONUS COUNTER-COUNTERPOINT: Steelers players put all of Bell's stuff back where they found it. That makes it OK, right? Take video of yourself rooting through the desks of your coworkers, fondling their belongings and then putting things neatly away. You'll see just how totally OK they are with it. 


    Danica Patrick says Aaron Rodgers initially hit on her using quotes from the movie Dumb and Dumber.

    POINT: Rodgers has Dumb and Dumber memorized after years of mastering Mike McCarthy's game plans.

    COUNTERPOINT: Patrick also says Rodgers is her first paramour who offers to pay when they go out.  Digest is above a cheap NASCAR dating joke (let's shotgun some beers and throw tractor tires in the old quarry, then Waffle House). Instead, we picture Rodgers "offering" to pay, buying time checking for his wallet but finding nothing he likes, scrambling out of the restaurant to look for it and then blaming one of his receivers when Patrick bails him out. The old Discount Double Check, indeed. 


    Patrick Mahomes reveals that he puts ketchup on both steak and mac 'n' cheese.

    POINT: Oh, good grief, just because this kid threw a bunch of touchdown passes, now he's supposed to be some cross-cultural taste influencer? Well, we're not falling for it! (Pours ketchup into morning coffee.)

    COUNTERPOINT: That's nothing. Andy Reid puts steak in his mac 'n' cheese, mac 'n' cheese on his steak and stuffs steak and mac 'n' cheese into his Thanksgiving turkey. 


    Colts issue a pamphlet on how to drive in snow to players, including advice like "never warm up vehicle in an enclosed area, like a garage."

    POINT: Slowly asphyxiating from carbon monoxide poisoning is both a terrible way to die and an apt metaphor for the Chuck Pagano era.

    COUNTERPOINT: Editors quietly removed team owner Jim Irsay's icy-road advice"Remember, the faster you go, the straighter you go"—for liability reasons.


    Adam Schefter reports that the Browns want to interview former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for head coaching job.

    POINT: (Checks to see if this is a fake Schefter account. Then a fake ESPN page. Then a Matrix-style fake reality. Then checks medications for possible hallucinatory side-effects. Then contemplates going off the grid and living in the woods to escape a society gone mad but realizes he's afraid of bears.) Definite upgrade over Hue Jackson! (Goes to lie down in bed with a cold cloth over his eyes.)

    COUNTERPOINT: Once Rice takes over as head coach, expect immediate friction between her and new general manager Henry Kissinger. 

Quitsville Digest

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Let's check in with the teams at the bottom of the standings. Are they quitting? Tanking? Quanking? 

    (Quanking is utterly quitting but playing it off to ownership and fans as a clever Moneyball tactic to get better draft picks. It's not that relevant this week, however, because the Bills and Jets are on byes.)


    Giants: Haven't quit

    With their 38-35 playground pickup-game win over the Bucs and Monday night's comeback against the 49ers, the Giants now have back-to-back victories over teams they will likely be jockeying with at the top of next year's draft order. So the wins are bad for Moneyball and worse for sober analysis of Eli Manning, who went 17-of-18 for two touchdowns on Sunday and is now enjoying a "comeback" narrative against a team led by a third-string randos and one that spots every opponent three free turnovers.

    Draft order be damned, it's great to see Saquon Barkley carving up opposing defenses, even if they aren't very good defenses, and even if it just costs the Giants a chance to draft a quarterback. Yup, great. 


    Detroit Lions: Haven't quit

    If you thought (like Digest did) that the Lions would grab their golf bags after Matt Patricia's let's practice in the snow like manly men midweek wannabe drill sergeant routine, Sunday's 20-19 win proved you wrong. Expect the unexpected with the Lions, who will either win or lose by 24 points against the Bears on Thanksgiving: No result in between is possible.


    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quit weeks ago

    Yeah, they scored 21 fourth-quarter points to make things close against the Giants. They pulled the same stunt against the Panthers and Bengals. The Buccaneers are that person at your office who never does any work but speed-walks through the corridors with a pencil behind his or her ear looking anxious and overworked. He or she will keep faking a winning effort as long as management keeps falling for it.

    Come to think of it: Do you think Matt Patricia was the guy in the Patriots organization who never did any work but speed-walked through the corridors with a pencil behind his ear looking anxious and overworked?


    Arizona Cardinals: May or may not have quit

    The Cardinals' time of possession was 23:59 in their last-second loss to the Raiders. Their season average for time of possession is 25:46. It's hard to tell if a team is really trying when it never has the ball.


    Oakland Raiders: Quit quitting

    The Raiders kept trying to give this game away. They let Christian Kirk outrun their whole defense on a 59-yard screen pass touchdown. Derek Carr and Jon Gruden got into one of their squabbles after a failed third-down conversion. They got stuffed at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter and then let David Johnson run 53 yards up the middle to set up a late go-ahead Cardinals touchdown.

    But no matter how hard the Raiders tried to quit, the Cardinals kept giving them opportunities in the form of tip-drill interceptions and fourth-quarter holding penalties. So the Raiders eventually quit quitting and embarked on a game-winning field-goal drive.

    Tune in next week when the Raiders quit quit quitting against the Ravens.