Jake’s Takes: NFL Week 5’s Biggest “What?” Moments

October 13, 2023

Jake’s Takes: NFL Week 5’s Biggest “What?” Moments

Jake Moszkowski is back this week with his latest "Jake's Takes".

Week 5 of the NFL season has come and gone, and we’re left with some interesting moments to think about. Jacksonville and Buffalo kicked off what I jokingly call the first week of Q2 of the NFL season with a game in London. The Jaguars left victorious, and the Bills left with a major injury to yet another key defensive contributor in middle linebacker Matt Milano. Week 5 concluded with a star-studded matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys – though the game itself was a blowout in favor of the Niners. 

There were two games (or rather, two instances) that I thought were particularly peculiar, so I went over to chat with one of Huddle’s traders – Graham Eversden. Typically, when I bear witness to a major “huh?” decision or moment, he’s one of the first people who hears from me. And he did not disappoint this week.

We’re going to be looking at two bizarre coaching decisions from two Week 5 games. The first will be a breakdown and “Huddle Review” for the AFC North rivalry game between the Pittsburgh Steelers, who emerged victorious, and the Baltimore Ravens, who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The other matchup featured the Las Vegas Raiders and the Green Bay Packers, both of whom turned this potentially exciting matchup into a “who’s more likely to blow this game” affair.

Let’s dive into it.

The Ravens had every opportunity to put this game away and start their year 3-0 in their division. Clinging to a 10-3 lead late in the first half, the Ravens (or rather, head coach John Harbaugh) made a patently bizarre decision to not kick a field goal on a 4th and 2 from the Pittsburgh 23-yard line. Despite having arguably the best kicker in NFL history, the Ravens went for it… and promptly turned the ball over on downs. 

From Graham, Huddle’s system gave the Ravens a 13% chance of scoring a touchdown on that drive. In no way was that worth the ~40% chance that they fail to convert and end up with 0 points there. Basically, they were more likely than not going to have to kick a field goal even if they had converted their fourth down try. There was realistically no added benefit to not doing it then. After the game, the Ravens HC John Harbaugh said that they went to the line to pretend to go for it to see if they could get the Steelers to jump offside and never meant for the ball to be snapped. Regardless, it was a bad decision, compounded by the Ravens’ receivers and tight ends taking turns sabotaging the offense with miscues and dropped passes. 

The Ravens have one of the NFL’s better defensive units, but it’s going to be nearly impossible for star QB Lamar Jackson to find success with players like Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews dropping perfectly placed passes in the end zone. 

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Raiders and the Packers. Neither one of these teams (apologies to fans of these teams) appears to be very good, but the Raiders decision to attempt a 52-yard field goal on a 4th and 1 on the Green Bay 34-yard line ranks up there with “what?” decision making. 

The Raiders were up 14-13 in that situation. Had they opted to go for it (with under 2 minutes remaining in the game), they would have had a 90.5% chance of winning. Our model estimates that 70% of the time, they’d get a first down and win the game immediately. Choosing to kick drops that win percentage to 83% (a 7.5% swing). That field goal attempt was blocked, dropping their win percentage down to 66%. 

The Packers seemed intent on making the Raiders pay for that decision, only for Jordan Love to throw an interception in the Raiders end zone with 44 seconds left in the 4th quarter. Oof.

If you have any other “What” moments that you want to bring to our attention, let us know and we’ll be happy to tell you why that team made the wrong (or perhaps, the right) decision!