Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» SDA: Rivalry Showdowns

Rivalry week has significant conference and Playoff ramifications. Should Alabama, Mississippi State, Oregon, or Florida State be worried about getting upset by their rivals?

21 Jan 2008

Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

compiled by Doug Farrar

Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2008.

San Diego Chargers 12 at New England Patriots 21

Doug Farrar: Apparently, Igor Olshansky was flipping off the Foxboro crowd before the game. I find it interesting that A) The Chargers seem to have a predilection for taunting people they don't have to physically face on the field (Philip Rivers messing with Jay Cutler; guys messing with crowds everywhere, though after this game, I should probably give them credit for shooting their mouths off all the time no matter what) and that B) If they keep this up, the impossible could happen and popular sentiment might revert to the Pats.

Mike Tanier: Norv Turner lets the boys be boys, you know. That sort of thing has a way of snowballing. It didn't hurt them this year, but it shows a lack of professionalism that could spill into other aspects of the Chargers' play next year.

Russell Levine: Is it just me or does the crowd seem kinda flat? Maybe three Super Bowls, 17-0 and a team with all three of its offensive stars hurt has led the crowd to feel this will be just another ho-hum win? There's no noise at all evident on the broadcast.

Mike Tanier: Clapping with gloves on sounds pretty muffled.

Aaron Schatz: If you listened to the Simmons podcast this week, you heard me and Bill talking about the noise in Foxboro. There's no question that it is one of the quieter stadiums in the league and Simmons is of the opinion this has to do with the architecture of Gillette, it just doesn't amplify the crowd noise like a dome, or like Qwest Field does.

Will Carroll: Philip Rivers couldn't set on his first throw; his knee buckled due to the lateral push. I don't think he should go much more. Note it's the lateral movement that's the problem and that he's wearing a brace that should limit lateral movement. I don't think any possible ACL problem is affecting things.

Doug Farrar: If the Chargers are able to get a defensive push up the middle on Tom Brady as they were able to do to end New England's first drive, things could get very interesting. I don't think defenders from the side affect him that much, but he really relies on being able to step up in the pocket before he makes the throw under pressure.

San Diego is doing a great job with their blitzes early on in frequency and creativity. They're giving Brady different presnap looks, and they have the confidence in their corners to play up. Laurence Maroney has nothing available to him.

Vince Verhei: On the Patriots' first possession, the Chargers rushed five and got a three-and-out, but Brady had open receivers downfield both times -- once Brady threw a bad pass, once he didn't see the open man. Chargers have been rushing four most of the time since then, and on the touchdown to Jabar Gaffney, they only rushed three. So they're mixing up their fronts, and it seems to be working.

Ben Riley: CBS graphic just said, "Merriman: Big-Time Him." What does that mean? When did "Big Time" become a verb?

Doug Farrar: About the same time "Melty" became an adjective.

Ben Riley: Antonio Gates wandering toward the locker room already (though that was apparently an "equipment" issue). Philip Rivers looking shaky in the pocket. Igor Olshansky taunting aside, if the Chargers win today, it will be the biggest upset in sports history. Not football history. Sports history.

Sean McCormick: True, but it would still fall nicely into line with the running theme of dominant teams slipping up in the playoffs and then making up for it the following year by winning on the road.

Doug Farrar: I dunno, a lot of people thought that Jacksonville could win last week, and the Chargers finished sixth in DVOA while Jacksonville was fourth. If San Diego had a different coach, it wouldn't be seen as such an impossibility, and the Chargers are on a pretty hot streak of their own. Given the perceived AFL-NFL talent disparity (inaccurate, of course), it'd be tough to top Super Bowl III.

Stuart Fraser: I don't buy that San Diego over New England here, even with San Diego's injury situation, is a larger talent disparity than Stanford over USC or Appalachian State over Michigan.

Russell Levine: Count me in the group that thinks there's no such thing as a pro sports upset that can rank with some of the all-timers in college or the Miracle on Ice. There are no comparable talent gaps in pro sports.

Ben Riley: Russell, you make a good point, but I think a Chargers win would be more impressive than the Miracle on Ice, for three reasons. First, the Chargers' three best players are playing with one leg, four toes, and whatever else is wrong with LaDainian Tomlinson; I'm pretty sure Team USA was completely healthy. Two, this game is being played in New England; the Miracle on Ice took place in Lake Placid. Three, I'm not sure who Team USA had to beat to play USSR, but the Chargers are taking on arguably the best team in pro football history after beating a great Indianapolis team ... in Indianapolis.

Patrick Laverty: Actually, a football equivalent of Miracle on Ice would be something along the lines of Ball State beating the Patriots (in Muncie), not another NFL team. Russia was a bunch of professionals against a bunch of college kids. One also has to think that Stanford +52 beating USC is a bigger upset than the AFC's #3 seed beating the #1.

(After Brady throws a first-quarter interception to Quentin Jammer...)

Russell Levine: I'm going to look stupid when New England wins 35-7, but not only does the crowd sound flat, the Pats look flat on offense, and Brady is struggling with his accuracy and has been hit a few times. They don't look very Pats-like in the first 10 minutes.

Stuart Fraser: The Chargers are doing most of the traditional keys to limiting the Patriots: Stop the run with your defensive line, pressure Brady up the middle, play in high winds (or as close as you can manage,) smack the crap out of the New England receivers, and accept the occasional flag. It seems to be helped by Brady's bad day.

Ben Riley: Is there a shakier kicker in important games than Nate Kaeding? He manages to make 25-yard, first-quarter gimmes exciting.

Doug Farrar: Perhaps not an American kicker. Canada's got the champ.

Michael David Smith: The Chargers' decision to de-activate Dave Rayner was a huge mistake. Kaeding's kickoffs have been terrible.

Will Carroll: I don't believe in clutch, but I do believe in choke.

Kelly Washington: +1 for the slap on the ball that kept the punt out of the end zone and put the Chargers deep in their own territory;
Kelly Washington: -2 for the stupid dance.

I still think one of the big advantages a team could find is using more starters on special teams.

Doug Farrar: The last play of the first quarter –- that short pass to Stallworth –- was a perfect example of Brady's acumen under pressure. Everything's collapsing all around him, but as long as he can step up, it's almost as if the defenders aren't there. Is there anyone better in the NFL at taking one step out of trouble?

Aaron Schatz: Phil Simms keeps talking about Philip Rivers looking comfortable out there, but I'm with Will; it does look like things are sailing a bit and they're getting a lot of yardage with runs. Clearly, Tomlinson was nowhere near as healthy as we thought, because this is now two straight drives he has not been on the field.

Once again, the Chargers are doing some up-the-middle pressure here with Stephen Cooper. They did that in the first game, but they hardly did it against any other team this year.

Vince Verhei: I don't know if the wind was playing havoc with Brady's accuracy early, but it looks like the Pats have adjusted by getting the ball to Randy Moss on the reverse, and throwing to running backs in the flats -- short passes that don't get blown away. This also gets the ball to running backs around the Chargers' front -- which is crucial, because they were having no luck trying to go through it.

Doug Farrar: Going into the second quarter, it looks to me as if the mid-zone of that New England defense -- the 5- to 12-yard area -- is open for business. Rivers has a lot of time, and there are times when his options are shot down, but I've seen some iffy play underneath. Linebackers bumping into each other, hanging close to the line on fake blitzes, leaving huge holes in the zone. It looks like they need a reset.

Ben Riley: Do you think Vincent Jackson is aware how badly the 75,000 people who had him on their fantasy teams this year resent his playoff success? I mean, the guy has been an absolute beast the past two games.

Stuart Fraser: That was an interesting variation on "no holding in the playoffs" on that second-and-goal to Gates with 10 minutes left in the second quarter.

I'd agree that passes are sailing on Rivers, but they're sailing on Brady too. Of course Brady often can't step in due to pressure and it seems Rivers won't step in, probably due to injury. Or it could be the wind.

Russell Levine: The Chargers need to stop kicking field goals if they're going to have a shot.

Sean McCormick: I was thinking that the Chargers might want to try one or two onside kicks today, and if they can't do better than giving New England the ball on the 40, they might want to try more than that. When in doubt, do as Jeff Fisher would do.

Ben Riley: The Patriots can continue to avoid Antonio Cromartie by throwing at Quentin Jammer, but Jammer seems determined to turn his career around tonight. He's playing out of his mind right now, and if Brady keeps throwing in his direction, he's going to get picked. Again.

Sean McCormick: Phil Simms just made a good point (and the world briefly stopped turning on its axis): San Diego is able to play tight and effective man coverage on both sides of the field. That's the kind of coverage that Miami used to play very successfully against Brady, and even though this Pats team is far more loaded at wide receiver, to the point where you'd expect them to find a good matchup somewhere, it hasn't really happened yet.

Doug Farrar: That tackle by Brandon Meriweather on Pocket Hercules II with 18 seconds left in the first half might wind up being the play of the game. The Chargers don't get the first down, they have to take their last timeout, Rivers has to heave the ball out of bounds on the next play, and though Kaeding broke his postseason 40-plus schneid, Meriweather's tackle may have prevented what I suspect will be a desperately-needed touchdown down the stretch.

Aaron Schatz: The Chargers are getting insane pass protection. That's why this game is still close. Rivers is getting tons of time to throw.

I've called Quentin Jammer overrated a lot in the past, but there's no question this was his best season, and he is playing very well today.

Mike Tanier: I think he is destined to have a long second career in the Charles Woodson/Shawn Springs sort of way. Some of these high-talent cornerbacks are very erratic early in their careers, then figure it out after several years, when their exceptional athleticism has faded a bit but their brains have caught up with their bodies.

Stuart Fraser: Add mine to the cavalcade of Jammer praise; he's playing really well. That said, Cromartie isn't being thrown at at all -- which is about the ultimate sign of success for a cornerback.

Bill Barnwell: On one hand, Jammer's having a great game. On the other, it's pretty amazing that the Patriots simply aren't going at Cromartie. It looks like he's officially their No. 1 corner, and he's absolutely taken Moss out of the game. They're doubling Moss on most every play, of course, but other teams do that, and he still gets his catches.

By the way, Matt Light's a dead ringer for "Wolf" from American Gladiators.

Will Carroll: So, you're the one watching that show.

Doug Farrar: He was a dead ringer for the best left tackle in football on that long Maroney fourth-quarter run. Damn, that's some killer downfield blocking.

Aaron Schatz: They keep talking about the Chargers feeling good about themselves, confident, because they are still in this game. I think the Chargers have outplayed the Patriots so far and they are still losing. The Patriots get the ball first in the second half, and the Chargers defense has a trend of playing worse in the second half all season long. I think that's a reason for the Patriots to be the more confident team coming out for the third quarter.

Mike Tanier: The Chargers played a lot of Cover-3 or quarters on first-and-10 and early in drives. The corners would drop way back and allow little 5-yard smash routes in front of them. Kevin Faulk, Heath Evans, and I think Donte Stallworth all caught first-and-10 passes that netted 7 to 12 yards without a defender anywhere near them on smash routes. Several Patriots drives stalled after that (or ended with turnovers) but it is hard to win the field position battle when you spot your opponent a first down to start every drive.

Vince Verhei: Dan Marino's cell phone going off was the greatest halftime act I've ever seen -- until I realized the whole thing was sponsored by Sprint. Oh boy.

Most unlikely one-on-one matchup of the day: Tedy Bruschi finds himself isolated against Antonio Gates at the goal-line -- and knocks the pass away.

Benjy Rose: Can someone tell me why Gillette Stadium plays "Hell's Bells" after the Brady tipped interception?

Stuart Fraser: I don't know, but that was clearly a makeup call by Fate after last year's divisional round.

Bill Barnwell: That interception looked like miscommunication with Stallworth and Brady, where Brady maybe thought Stallworth was changing his curl into a go, and Stallworth was still going to run a curl.

I like what the Patriots are doing with Kevin Faulk and Maroney, motioning them out so that the Chargers both announce their coverage and, if it's man, narrow down who's going to be rushing by getting one of the linebackers out of the box.

Doug Farrar: Junior Seau makes the second huge third-down tackle for the Patriots, on Michael Turner with nine minutes left in the third quarter from the New England 4-yard line. Another Kaeding field goal, another opportunity bites the dust.

Is it my new TV, a footing issue on the field, or is Maroney always this slow out of the blocks? He looks like Shaun Alexander from the handoff to the line, and that's not necessarily a good thing with this quick defense.

(After Brady throws interception No. 3, right to Cromartie in the middle of the end zone...)

Russell Levine: The Keep Choppin' Wood award will go to Cromartie, for running that pick out of the end zone, if this leads to a three-and-out.

(It actually leads to a four-and out -- the Chargers get one first down and have to punt.)

Mike Tanier: I have no problem with him doing that because he is Antonio Cromartie and is incredibly dangerous with the ball. He got tackled at the 7, but if he runs it out 20 times he is going to score four or five times and take it past the 20-yard line another eight or nine times.

Russell Levine: Still, what gives with Brady? He has been ordinary to bad today.

Michael David Smith: I would argue that "ordinary to bad" is being extremely generous. He's made some horrible throws out there.

Patrick Laverty: I don't know if Will or anyone else can confirm, but WEEI in Boston was saying that Brady had a little bit of the flu/cold thing going on. That definitely wasn't the Brady we saw all year.

Will Carroll: I don't do colds. I'm an injury guy, not an illness guy.

Patrick Laverty: The radio guys also kept ranting about Brady's performance the game after a bad game. Guess that could be something to check. Does he really have a great game after a bad one?

Mike Tanier: When I re-watch this game, I want to see how Brady leads his receivers. The diving catch in the final drive by Kevin Faulk is a great example of a touch pass. Brady did it early in the game on a short pass to Moss: With Moss about to release, Brady threw the ball about 8 yards upfield. On one pass to Wes Welker near the goal line (just before the Cromartie pick as I recall), Brady through to Welker's back shoulder, almost shoving him into the end zone with the throw. Those are great throws, and a few of them go a long way: If Brady just throws to Faulk in stride in the fourth quarter, the Patriots may not convert that third-and-10.

Doug Farrar: The next killer third-down stop -- Harrison blitzing left on third-and-10 with nine minutes left in the game. He forces the poor throw from Rivers, which keeps the Chargers out of field goal range, still down by nine, at the Pats' 36-yard line. New England's predictable ability to make these plays when they absolutely must, and to prevent the opponent from doing the same, really defines them as a team.

Stuart Fraser: And Norv Turner realizes he's down by two scores in the fourth quarter, and goes pass-wacky. Norv, there are 10 minutes in the game and all you need is a touchdown and a field goal. A few running plays won't kill you. (A cynic watching the game with me suggested that Norv knows he needs four field goals, so all the drives have to be in hurry-up from here on).

Ben Riley: Wow, I couldn't disagree more with Norv's play calling there. You've got first-and-10 in New England territory -- that's four-down territory! So run the ball, man! Instead it's three incomplete passes and a punt. And Easterbrook just started scribbling in his notebook...

Aaron Schatz: The Chargers are playing really well, but that's now two big mistakes running balls out of the end zone. First, on Cromartie's interception, he should have just gone down to a knee; instead he tries to run it out and the Chargers get it on the 4 instead of the 20. Then, after the Wes Welker fourth-quarter touchdown, Stephen Gostkowski booms it with the wind 5 yards deep in the end zone, and Darren Sproles takes it out and gets drilled at the 15. Sometimes, it's better to not try to make the big play.

Stuart Fraser: One situation in which the Chargers aren't playing well is when New England has third-and-short. I don't think San Diego has managed a stop on third-and-less than about 6.

And, in the end, (actually, throughout most of the second half), the Chargers couldn't stop the run. This is unusual, because normally when teams go one-dimensional to kill the clock it becomes a lot easier. I don't know enough about San Diego to accuse them of lacking depth along the line and at linebacker, but that's the usual cause of being unable to hold up against the running game in the second half.

It is, of course, possible that nobody in San Diego prepared for a running game out of two-TE sets. But they should have done so -- New England loved it last year, and the personnel are still there (or they've been improved).

Russell Levine: Kevin Faulk gets the Pats' MVP today for those two drive-extending catches. On the other hand, that was a brutal decision by Norv, punting from the New England 36 down two scores.

Vince Verhei: To those who say the Patriots high ranking in rush offense DVOA is merely a product of the threat of their passing attack, I present to you the second half of this game. Playing with the lead and to run out the clock, they go to a one-wide receiver offense, alternating between an I-formation with two tight ends and a single-back, triple-TE approach, and run over the Chargers over and over again.

Mike Tanier: Anyone see the Richard Seymour shot on Philip Rivers after the whistle?

Stuart Fraser: Yes. In rulebook terms, I thought it should have drawn a flag. In personality terms, I suspect Rivers probably had it coming. It wasn't a particularly vicious shot.

Aaron Schatz: What do people think about Philip Rivers today? He did look pretty good considering the injury, and yet at halftime, Bill Cowher was saying that he thought the Chargers should take him out, and early on Will pointed out how the knee was seriously limiting him.

Russell Levine: Is there a quarterback in the NFL that throws an uglier-looking -- yet still effective -- ball than Rivers? The ball never seems to have anything on it, yet usually finds the mark.

Sean McCormick: Rivers is what Chad Pennington would be with top level personnel around him.

I was just about to post that the Chargers are being successful for the second week in a row at working the deep outside. Then Philip Rivers promptly put that wounded duck up for Ellis Hobbs to grab near the end of the second quarter. Of course, it's possible that the Chargers called the old "Let him intercept it, then strip him" play, but they don't execute it as well as the Pats.

Doug Farrar: That wasn't as bad as Rivers' other early interception, the "I'm falling down, but I don't want to eat the ball" pick by Samuel. I'm sure many people yelled "Pick!" while that one was in the air.

Stuart Fraser: Rivers reminded me of Pennington at times, though I'll let people who watch more Jets ball than me comment on that analogy. The first interception was all on Chambers, though -- almost as bad as the hook-and-lateral-via-a-defender the Patriots pulled off in this fixture last year.

Ben Riley: It was damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't for the Chargers there. Rivers was clearly struggling throwing anything deep, but even on one leg, I think he's a better option that Billy Volek. And if the Chargers had managed to punch a few touchdowns in, we might have been talking about one of the "gutsiest" playoff performances of all time.

Stuart Fraser: In general, I'm not taking Cowher's word for anything when it comes to quarterbacks. He's far too inclined to wrap his quarterbacks in cotton wool and not let them do anything bad. Which isn't all that bad an idea when you've got the Steelers defense, but it will only take you so far. I don't think Rivers played great, but he did more than I'd have expected from Volek. There seemed to be too much air underneath many of his passes -- but I could say the same about Brady.

Mike Tanier: Both Rivers and Brady made some great throws and some really bad ones. Rivers was wildly off target at times but threw some absolute strikes, like when he hit Chambers with his tippie-toes on the sidelines. Rivers never looks good when throwing on the waddle, so when the Patriots forced him to run a little in the second half they were at a big advantage. But after being outside for 15 minutes today, I don't know how anyone was gripping a football.

Russell Levine: I don't know what to make of the Pats' last three outings. They've looked beatable all three weeks. What does it mean for the Super Bowl? Anything? Who knows, but it's been a while since they've looked dominant.

Doug Farrar: It probably means that the team they're facing will put a few good things together, maybe even take an early lead, and everyone will be writing all this stuff about how this is where it all ends. Then, the opposing team will make one imperceptible mistake. Because of that, and before anyone knows what happened, the opposing team will find itself under a really huge boulder as the Patriots do what they've done all the way through the second half of the season, or at least since Rosevelt Colvin got hurt. Death by a thousand paper cuts, bend-but-don't-break, whichever cliché you care to employ. They seem to have forgotten how to lose.

Tim Gerheim: It is incredibly impressive that the Patriots ran a drive that lasted over nine minutes AT THE END OF THE GAME? Sure the words "game over" were written in TMQ's notebook when Turner punted at 9:13, but there's no way even Easterbrook thought the Chargers wouldn't even see the ball again. How often does a nine-minute drive even occur? I would be surprised if it was even once a weekend during the regular season. And the Pats did it, against a good Chargers defense, during the last nine minutes of the game.

Ned Macey:Sure Brady didn't play well, but he was playing the second best pass defense according to DVOA and the best overall defense in weighted DVOA. Might that not have something to do with the 3 INTs and overall mediocre performance? Also, the Chargers run defense ranked 19th in DVOA, so the Pats' second-half strategy was extremely sound.

Of course, Brady also suffered from the weather. One of the next major breakthroughs for FO is weather-adjustments for offensive and defensive play. I know Aaron has written a few times about doing that for the 2008 book.

The Chargers coped impressively with the losses of Tomlinson and limitations of Gates, but the fact that they lost this game in the red zone, where those two players excel, was unfortunate.

Aaron Schatz: I feel really bad for LaDainian Tomlinson. Here is a guy who is one of the best players of his generation, former MVP, class act. Here he is, finally, one game from the Super Bowl, and he's forced to sit on the sidelines, unable to help, watching his team lose. I am guessing that Norv Turner made the right decision, given the quality of the other San Diego running backs, but it had to be so emotionally hard for L.T.

Although the Patriots struggled in this game, the way they won demonstrated why they are the best offense of all-time and probably the best team of all time. When I was on WEEI on Tuesday, we had a caller who talked about how, if the Patriots were running an offense as good as the 99-01 Rams, why couldn't a team come in and beat them just like the 2001 Patriots beat the 2001 Rams? My response was this:

First of all, people don't understand just how big the 2001 upset was, possibly the greatest upset in NFL history, greater than Super Bowl III. It's not the class of upset that happens all the time.

Second, the difference between the 2007 Patriots and the 1999-2001 Rams is flexibility. The Mike Martz offense is what it is. If you can figure out how to stop it, you stop it. He doesn't want his quarterback to call audibles to adjust at the line. He doesn't come in with power running. He runs what he runs. The 2007 Patriots are flexible. Brady audibles whenever he wants. If they can't pass the ball -- and they could not today, due to the wind and Brady having perhaps his worst day of the year -- they bring in two tight ends, three tight ends, and they stuff it down your throat with a power running game. Not that Laurence Maroney is better than Marshall Faulk, since he certainly is not, but the 2001 Rams could not have adjusted to do what the 2007 Patriots did in the second half of this game. That's why the 2007 Patriots have the greatest offense in NFL history.

New York Giants 23 at Green Bay Packers 20 (OT)

Doug Farrar: Everyone gets excited for conference championships! Why? Because in the words of Emmitt Smith, "If the Giants win this game, they could possibly go to the Super Bowl."

Mike Tanier: He didn't really say that, did he?

Doug Farrar: I don't think he meant to say it (i.e., he knows that a win would put the Giants in the big game and he just verbally gets in his own way a lot of the time), but he said it.

Michael David Smith: He said it.

Aaron Schatz: I just have to point out that the advertisement on the side of Gmail for this message was "Green Bay Packers Zubaz: We're Back!" OK, who decided that Zubaz was back?

Will Carroll: The halftime shot of Lambeau looked like they were heating the field. I couldn't find anything on a quick Google, but isn't there some kind of melting tech under the field there?

Doug Farrar: They've had coils/rails under the field for decades. If I remember correctly, they didn't work (or weren't turned on) before the Ice Bowl, hence the name.

Bill Barnwell: One of the things I've been lamenting about the Giants from the preseason on is their tendency to overpursue on defense. The first two plays in this game from the Packers totally exploited said tendency.

I have a man-crush on Justin Tuck. I just wanted to say that.

Ben Riley: "Eli, hi, this is Matt Hasselbeck. The Dropped Pass Support Group meets at 7:30 on Monday. See you there."

Aaron Schatz: This game is definitely backing up the charting numbers showing Al Harris as no longer playing at a superstar cornerback level.

Stuart Fraser: Did Troy Aikman really just describe the Al Harris-Plaxico Burress matchup as "a good matchup for both teams"? If he did, does anybody know what the blazes he meant?

Ahh, the Giants are showing how wide receivers should really let a quarterback down. Anybody can drop a pass, but having your split end and your slot guy run into each other requires skill and true dedication to screwing up. Wonder how many reps it took in practice to perfect that?

(After Green Bay's return man very nearly flubs a Giants kickoff...)

Doug Farrar: Anyone who had "11:33 left in the first half" in the Koren Robinson Dropped Football Pool, you're a winner!

Ben Riley: Last week, Doug and I were talking about which team had a better wide receiving corps, Packers or Seahawks. I argued for Seattle, but Doug argued -- and I quote -- "the Packers' yards after catch numbers are insane." One 90-yard Donald Driver touchdown with 85 yards after the catch later, I think we can score that one Farrar 1, Riley 0.

Doug Farrar: It would be a lot closer to a tie if D.J. Hackett could stay healthy and Deion Branch didn't keep turning into a pumpkin. But the Packers have invested in those big guys who can bring in a quick slant and just blaze upfield. They're built for the spread offense, and they can all block like monsters.

Bill Barnwell: Ben and I are debating here on Atari Bigby's play: Is it good that the Bigby laid the huge hit on Burress in the first half, or was it his responsibility to have anticipated the slant and have covered it in the first place?

Also, forgetting that Corey Webster was absolutely manhandled by Driver on the line on the 90-yard touchdown, the angle that Gibril Wilson took on the tackle was absolutely unforgivable. Just atrocious.

Aaron Schatz: The Giants keep looking for flags on the Packers defensive backs for illegal contact. Bigby led with his helmet when he laid out a Giants receiver and got no flag. MDS did a research article back in the first year of FO showing that officials really do call fewer penalties during the postseason, except for Ed Hochuli for some reason. The "let them play" ethic is really obvious this year.

In the Patriots-Chargers game, there was basically no holding (only one offensive holding penalty, which was declined on a sack). No holding so far in this game either.

Doug Farrar: This has been an exceptional postseason for the "let them play" thing, and I don't mean "exceptional" in a good way. I think it will go through the Super Bowl, and there will be some silent offseason adjustments directed at next year's postseason, which is what the NFL seems to do whenever the officials keeping flags in their pockets seems to benefit one especially physical secondary. Call it the Bill Polian Rule.

I'll say this, though: Mike Pereira can't talk on one hand about how he's pushing for consistency in officiating and watch stuff like this, and even the graphic crew-by-crew swings in the regular season for certain penalties, on the other. If there was consistency, scouting crews ahead of time wouldn't be necessary, but it is. I also wonder how much of this has to do with the postseason all-star crews.

Stuart Fraser: Wow. I think Antonio Pierce's play in blowing up a screen despite having three blockers between him and the ball carrier, and forcing the Packers to settle for a field goal, is the best individual defensive effort in this year's playoffs.

Bill Barnwell: That was a great freaking play. I don't know if it was the best individual effort of the playoffs, but it was a great, great freaking play.

Ben Riley: Wow. The Joe Buck-to-Troy Aikman frigid-broadcasting-booth chest bump just raised the bar on man-on-man awkwardness. High comedy.

Doug Farrar: Terry Bradshaw's "I'm going to talk no matter where my microphone is" halftime analysis was wonderfully reminiscent of Larry "Bud" Melman.

Vince Verhei: Bradshaw did that in the pregame show, too. You've got to give him a break though, he's only been doing TV for 23 years.

Ben Riley: "That makes me feel like a real sissy." -- Joe Buck, as Fox comes back from commercial showing the three attractive girls who live in Green Bay wearing bikini tops.

Aaron Schatz: The biggest question going into tonight's game was: "Are we getting the Giants' passing game from the regular season, or the Giants' passing game from the last three weeks?" At halftime, I would have to say that Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress are still drinking the '03 Panthers juice, but the other guys on that offense have reverted to normal.

Bill Barnwell: I will say that as improved as Eli Manning has been this postseason, he still panics when the clock is running down. He has one or two "OH S**T -- TIME OUT!" moments per game.

Vince Verhei: The Packers seem to be running a lot of play action from draws. So they fake pass, then fake run, then really pass. It seems to be slowing the Giants pass rush down even more than normal play action, but it also takes longer to set up. If the Giants ever start blitzing, that tactic could backfire big-time for Green Bay.

For the Giants, they've got to be feeling good about themselves. On that last drive, they've got the big dropped pass by Burress, plus the brainfart Manning had when he tried to scramble with no timeouts; otherwise they've got another field goal, maybe a touchdown. But Harris clearly can't cover Burress, Eli's had plenty of time to throw, they've had some success running the ball, and if the Giants can stop beating themselves, they've got a great chance to win this game.

Ben Riley: What's that famous logical paradox? Zeno's Paradoxes? The Packers seemed determined to make it real by making it half the distance to the goal twice. From within the 1-yard line.

Stuart Fraser: I'm guessing that either the Packers decided that "half the distance to the goal" isn't much of a deterrent from the 1, or alternatively whatever they thought was the Giants' snap count wasn't.

By the way, if the Giants win, do we need another irrational Brady-Manning thread?

Ben Riley: So, Plaxico Burress just ran past the Packers bench yelling, "He can't cover me!" while pointing at Al Harris. It's true. Harris can't cover him. Should be interesting to see how this plays out.

Vince Verhei: After the Packers scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter, they gave up on the Harris-Burress matchup, putting Charles Woodson on Burress instead.

(One play later…)

Vince Verhei: OK, forget what I said about Woodson-Burress. It lasted exactly one play, a completion. I guess the Packers figured Woodson can't cover Burress either.

Aaron Schatz: On the first drive of the third quarter, we learn that the officials' "let them play" postseason attitude simply is no match for the most-penalized defense in the NFL. Eventually, the flags had to come out on the Packers.

Well, so much for keeping the flags in the pockets. Did the officials just hand the Packers a touchdown with a ticky-tack 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Sam Madison that easily could have been a no-call or offsetting penalties on Madison and Vernand Morency?

Stuart Fraser: I don't know. And the reason I don't know is that the replay cut off partway through their contretemps, with my compliments to FOX. It's probably my biggest hate about NFL coverage: when there's a major penalty and the replay cuts off halfway through the action, missing off all sorts of things that might have moved the zebra to get his flag out.

(Early in the fourth quarter, Brett Favre is intercepted by R.W. McQuarters, who fumbles. The ball is recovered by Mark Tauscher...)

Mike Tanier: I just witnessed Favre's interception and Tauscher's fumble recovery. I am glad the season is almost over. I can't make sense of this stuff anymore.

Ben Riley: OK, so some plays just require a classical name. The Catch. The Music City Miracle. And now we have R.W. McQuarters picking Brett Favre, and then fumbling. Divine Intervention?

Doug Farrar: Tauscher might be the Packers' Most Valuable Player this postseason. Patrick Kerney was negated against him last week, and Michael Strahan (with a nod to Sal "That won't happen to Strahan!!!" Paolantonio) has two tackles and no sacks through the third quarter.

Stuart Fraser: That's a play from the New England playbook, isn't it? DB hook right Brown lateral?

Vince Verhei: On that failed third-down screen that led to the game-tying field goal: Was that meant to be a double-pass? Looked like a lateral to me. Odd time and place for that call.

Ben Riley: I'm totally confused as to why Mike McCarthy accepted that penalty with nine minutes to play. Isn't fourth down with a potential 52-yard field goal attempt better than giving the Giants another chance at making the first? (And as it turns out, the Giants gain 12 yards on third down and get a questionable pass interference call to convert on fourth. Just sayin'…)

The cognitive dissonance happening within Tom Coughlin's mind after Lawrence Tynes shanked that field goal was truly breathtaking. Coughlin's internal monologue: "I've revitalized my team and my self-image. But my kicker is still complete [rhymes with spit.] Do I scream at him? Or do I pretend to be supportive? Ah, whatever, I'll scream and clap and hope Favre throws a pick."

(After Green Bay goes three-and-out midway through the fourth quarter...)

Doug Farrar: Favre didn't throw a pick there, but if the Packers lose this, he'll spend the offseason wondering about the drive that ended with six minutes left in the game. Two bad throws, a short dinker to Morency for 7 yards on third-and-10, punt. That's the Favre from 15 years ago that Mike Holmgren still yells at in his sleep.

On the late Manning sack, it looked to me that the center was making a football move, as they say, before KGB took off from the line. Brought his head up and looked to be starting the snap. Probably a good no-call, though it was close.

Bill Barnwell: Regardless of whether Gbaja-Biamila was offside or not on that pass rush, Ahmad Bradshaw's blitz pickup was abysmal. He just totally ignored the outside rusher.

Doug Farrar: Outstanding job by Jeff Feagles to bring the high snap down on the missed 36-yard field goal attempt to end regulation. I understand that the snap threw the rhythm off, but Tynes had a foot angle on that ball like Garo Yepremian on acid.

Brett Favre in the second half: 9-of-16 for 21 yards. Can't wait to see those DVOA splits!

And literally one second after I wrote that, Favre barfed all over himself and airmailed a pick to Corey Webster in overtime. Eeek. People are going to say that the Packers lost this game more than the Giants won it, but when you offer up a game to the home team that many times and they won't accept the gift, that has something to do with your team as well. And I'm very happy to welcome Eli Manning to the Quarterback Club inside my head, because I was tired of the extreme dichotomy between the performances and the hype. He wasn't what they thought he was before, but he is now.

Sean McCormick: The Giants were just better, and they were better in conditions that did a lot to negate their pass rush. Eli was better than Favre, the receivers played completely out of character and came up with big catch after big catch, and Bradshaw was the best running back on the field. Their kicking game could well undo any chance they have at an upset, but they deserved to win the game.

And I'm happy for Eli, too, even though it guarantees there are going to be about 600 uncomfortable shots into whatever luxury suite Peyton is sitting in. They should just give him a field pass and let him stand on the Giants sideline.

Any early guesses on the line? Does it come down some because of the way the Giants played the Pats in Week 16, or does it balloon up because of the AFC-NFC imbalance? I'm saying 14 to start.

Aaron Schatz: Green Bay only has itself to blame. Missed kicks, fumbled interceptions and punts... the Giants kept trying to hand the Packers a trip to the Super Bowl and they just wouldn't take it.

Mike Tanier: Don't forget penaties. The Packers defense killed itself with penalty after penalty. The drive that ended with the Zeno-paradox-half-the-distance fouls and the Jacobs touchdown started with an illegal contact and a roughing the passer foul.

Aaron Schatz: The Giants have done their best 2003 Panthers impression, but if they win it will be a far greater upset than it would have been if the 2003 Panthers had beaten that Patriots team. That Patriots team ranked third in DVOA in a compressed league without any really great teams. This Patriots team just finished the greatest regular season in league history. If the Giants win the Super Bowl, it will rank as the greatest championship upset in the history of American professional sports.

Sean McCormick: In theory, that's true. But the Giants actually look a lot more dangerous than that 2001 Pats team did going up against the '01 Rams. They have a legitimate elite receiving threat, a quarterback who is actually throwing downfield and winning games rather than managing them, and they have the best defensive line in football. The Pats were better this year than the 2001 Rams, but they kind of staggered down the stretch and have not been particularly impressive. If the Pats had put up that effort today against Indy, I think they would have lost.

No one should expect the Giants to win, mind you, but I'll be less surprised than I was in 2001.

Vince Verhei: All credit to the Giants: They won, on the road, even though it seemed like every single break went against them. They were clearly the better team today. That said, it sets up the biggest mismatch in the Super Bowl we will ever, ever see. If they beat the Pats, then it will certainly be the biggest championship upset in sports history.

In both games today, the inconsistent young quarterbacks significantly outplayed their MVP/Super Bowl Champ/future Hall of Fame counterparts, and the best of them all was clearly Eli Manning. Weird, huh?

Aaron Schatz: I've been comparing the Giants a lot to the 2003 Panthers, but I realized there are a couple of other good historical comparisons. The question is: What other wild card teams have gotten red-hot in the playoffs, and what did it mean when they hit the championship?

One of them isn't really that historical, and it isn't even in the same sport. The Colorado Rockies went 15-1 down the stretch this year. They went 7-0 in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Then they went to take on the team with the best record in baseball during the regular season. They got crushed.

The other team snagged a wild card, won three straight playoff games on the road, and headed off to the Super Bowl to take on a team some people considered the greatest of all time. That team was the 1985 New England Patriots. They got crushed.

This isn't to say that the Giants will get crushed -- the 2003 Panthers only lost by a last-minute field goal -- but there are plenty of indications that playoff momentum runs out when it faces regular-season dominance.

Bill Barnwell: You know, I didn't even get excited when the Giants won. Everyone in the room was hooting and hollering and I just kinda sat there, mouth agape, a mix of confusion and astonishment.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Your team doesn't make it to the Super Bowl after you predict they'll finish with the worst record in football, or when they're the least-likely team to make the finals according to your own Secret Sauce (which we can now officially say has gone bad, I think). Not with a secondary like that, not with a crippled star wideout and a questionable starting quarterback.

And yet, we are.

It took a couple of hours for it to sink in and for me to shut the analyst side of me down. I never believed, for one moment during the game, that the Giants were going to win this game. The Tynes miss at the end of regulation was ordained from above. I'm surprised Feagles even got the snap down. After Trey Junkin a few years ago, it seemed natural that we'd go through that again.

I don't care if this team isn't great. I know they're not. I know they were mediocre for 15 games and had four great games in a row at the end of the season, and that the former 15 are likely much more indicative than the final four. I know that they're flawed in many ways, that they simply weren't close to the best team in the NFC at any point this year, that there's no real indicator that they're a significantly better team outside of their passing attack, that they've been subject to some incredible luck with injuries and bizarrely poor performances, but it doesn't matter. I don't care.

My team -- my stupid, ugly, crummy, klutzy, divorce-riddled team -- is in the Super Bowl. And I'm just happy.

Ned Macey: I probably don't match a Peter King in this area, but I've always really liked Brett Favre. That being said, he just played really badly in the second half. I don't understand what goes on in his head, but he just stared making terrible decisions much like the Dallas game in the regular season. Who would have thought as late as Week 10 that the sound defensive strategy was to stuff the run and make Favre beat you?

Mike Tanier: Explanation of Giants: Decent, Wild Card-caliber team gets better late in the season, gets a boost from some rookies (Ross and Bradshaw), faces a Wild Card opponent on its last legs, beats a flat Cowboys team that looked shocked to discover they were expected to actually show up for the two games before the Super Bowl, then wins an Ice Bowl against an opponent determined to beat itself with interceptions and penalties.

The Giants deserve their due. They really stepped up in the last month and particularly the last 2 weeks. But sorry, I am not going to break my back explaining why they are winning despite a low DVOA figure, and I am not going to start overrating some of their players/units because they have won a few games. They aren't who I thought they were at the start of the year (a joke), but I still think they are only slightly better than the team I figured to go 9-7 and lose in the first round of the playoffs.

Aaron Schatz: I don't think I can run out of "how incredible is it that the Giants got this far?" facts. Can you guess how many regular-season wins the Giants had over a team that finished the regular season with a winning record?

One. Week 3, 24-17 over Washington. Philadelphia was 8-8 and the other seven teams the Giants beat had losing records.

The whole thing is just nuts.

(Ed. Note: Just to let readers know, we won't be running an Any Given Sunday on the Green Bay-New York game. We've pretty much said everything that needs to be said, either here or in the NFC Championship preview. Eli Manning is playing much better, Al Harris struggled this year, the Packers get lots of penalties, etc.)

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 21 Jan 2008

400 comments, Last at 04 Feb 2008, 5:09am by James

Comments

1
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:14pm

Tsk-tsk -- you guys missed perhaps the most important thing about the NE/SD game -- after the Peyton "well, see you in the fall" pep talk commercial, THERE WASN'T A SINGLE MANNING COMMERCIAL FOR THE REST OF THE GAME. Glory be!

2
by footballprofessor (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:18pm

Come on, 01 Patriots are the greatest upset of all time? Give me a break...three words for you:

AFC
DOMINANT
ERA

3
by ammek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:22pm

I had barely seen the Giants this season and what surprised me more than anything was the secondary, which, apart from a blown play on Driver's td, was very, very solid. Favre had some time in the pocket, but there didn't seem to be anyone to throw to. Aaron Ross, in particular, looked mighty competent.

4
by ammek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:30pm

"People are going to say that the Packers lost this game more than the Giants won it..."

The sentiment in Packerland so far is that Green Bay was simply outplayed in all aspects of the game. Less a case of the Packers throwing it away, more that the Giants wouldn't let them win it.

None of you have addressed the Pack's playcalling, which was a tad eccentric. Fourteen runs in a game where they led at halftime? All those screens that didn't work? It was as if McCarthy had said: "Let's just keep doing this until we break one, it's bound to happen sooner or later." And it didn't, of course.

GB dropped more and more players back to protect Favre in the second half, in spite of the Giants' pass rush having relatively little success at getting to the QB. I'd like to know what that was about. I am sold on Grant, but it really wouldn't hurt to train him to be a better blocker and receiver.

5
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:32pm

"That tackle by Brandon Meriweather on Pocket Hercules II with 18 seconds left in the first half might wind up being the play of the game."

On that play Gates lined up left and the nearest defender was playing waaay off (not even in the frame of the TV screen). If the Chargers had wanted it, there was an easy 6-7 yard completion there, and Gates could have stepped out to stop the clock.

It really seems like the difference between the Pats and other teams (well, ones of comparable talent, anyway) is the Pats just miss way less easy/obvious stuff like this.

6
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:35pm

Can someone explain to me why everyone is saying the superbowl is going to be a blowout? The Giants were beating the Pats before Madison got injured, and they surrendered that long bomb to Moss right after. You'd have to think a healthy O'Hara and Madison might have made the game even closer than it was.

7
by Andy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:36pm

I just don't ever want to see Peyton and Eli's whitened tongues again. That's not asking for too much right?

Didn't the Oreo people get a focus group together to find out that commercial is totally gross?

In football related news, congrats to the Patriots. I hate them, but they continue to roll.

8
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:36pm

Check your sources Professor. The Rams (NFC) had won the BS two years prior, and the Bucs would the next year. Wining 3 of 4 after losing 13 in a row is not established dominance. You can make an argument thats its not the biggest upset of the SB era, but it was a major upset and not-yet formed conference dominance is not a sufficient counter-argument.

9
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:39pm

#6 Because the Patriots didn't gameplan for the Giants. The Patriot had clinched everything and so had the Giants. They played very vanilla on both sides of the ball, except for defense in the last third of the game (when they took over).
Plus, there's very little reason to believe the lesser team will beat the better team when the better team has one of the best post-season QBs in history and one of the greatest coaches in history.

10
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:43pm

No, the Patriots are not the greatest team of all time. The greatest team of all time is one of the one or two loss teams which simply crushed playoff opponents like bugs, in games which didn't even begin to approach being competitive. The Pats ain't it, although I'd say their offense may be the best of all time. Randy Moss just had the two best successive playoff games any receiver has ever had while catching two balls. There are double teams, and then there are double teams, and Moss tends to attract the kind of double team which entails two guys doing absolutely nothing else but selling out to prevent Moss from making the big play. That the Chargers would do a lot of this in the wind conditions which were prevalent yesterday was quite revealing.

Regarding the way the Patriots were able to run in the 2nd half, it was again my impression that Cottrell does less than most coordinators in reaction to power running formations. It makes a lot more sense, of course, when he is facing the Patriots, as opposed to the Vikings or Titans, but when it gets to the point that the Patriots run out the clock like they did in the fourth quarter yesterday, it was probably a mistake.

I'd say the odds of Brady having a second poor game in two weeks, in warm weather, are pretty small, so if the Giants hope to win, their pass rush and running game will have to be outstanding.

11
by RoyFlip (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:44pm

#1 Forget no more Peyton commercials. How great is it watching the "truth stranger than fiction" Diet Pepsi Max commercials with the Cowboys sleepwalking and the Giants crushing them while Jerry Jones literally takes over. Did we not actually see that happen. Is Diet Pepsi a Super Bowl sponsor? Please. Please. Please.

12
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:44pm

A lot of Patriots man love here. The team is a 14.5 point favorite but somehow them losing would be a greater upset than a 52 point dog winning outright? THAT is why people cry Patriots bias.

Barnwell- Corey Webster clearly had shallow zone on the driver play. He did get a bump but the real muff was our weak link on defense, James Butler. Just look at Webster and Wilson run towards Driver while Butler ran in what looked like slow motion ( or Mike Rumph speed).

Manning has an "oh shi@ moment per game because he was busy calling audibles. Something many quarterbacks in this leage aren't even ALLOWED to do.

Vince- Every break went to the Giants? Really? That Sam Madison penalty hurt. So did the TD called back on Chris Snee for bulldozing the Packer DT. The Seuburt penalty was a penalty, but Brand Jacobs was already 5 yards downfield. It was an unneccesary call.

Here is my question to the FO staff. Can you guys FINALLY admit the Giants are better than an average team? I am not asking you to say they are the 2nd best team, but can you at least say the are above average?

Can you admit they DESERVE to be in the super bowl?

13
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:51pm

Aaron Schatz- Eli Manning DID have a typical day, and the Giants DID win. He had right around a 50% completion percentage, and threw for around 250 yards.

With that 50% completion percentage you have to look at the 2 easy Amani toomer drops, the Kevin Boss and Steve Smith passes that " should have" been caught, along with that deep ball by the endzone that Plax should have had.

Eli might have had around a 50% completion percentage but he did have his dropped balls ( which was typical for the Giants), and he WAS throwing the ball downfield.

Unlike say the Redskins and their screen pass offense filled with 1 yard passes to fullbacks, halfbacks, and WR screens.

His QB rating might not have been good because of the low comp. percentage but he did have his dropped balls and he handed the ball off in the redzone instead of the token 1 yard TE touchdown passes that boost QB ratings.

This game was another perfect example of how the DVOA and even QB rating system underrates Eli Manning.

14
by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:53pm
15
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:54pm

re: 9

Wow, I didn't realize you had access to all the coaches film and each team's gameplan from week 17. Its good to know definitively that the Pats didn't try all that hard to win that game and the Giants did.

Another factor to consider is that Bradshaw didn't get any carries for the G-men during the Pats game also.

16
by superfly05 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:55pm

"05-06" steelers were a championship winning wild-card team, right?

17
by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:59pm

I'm wondering if the reason that the Giants are playing better is because Jeremy Shockey isn't there to screw things up on offense. Things seemed to get better for them when Boss came on the field.

18
by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 12:59pm

Off-topic: Aaron was just on ESPN FirstTake violating the cardinal rule of FO! As to Aaron's parting comment, let's just say I'm pretty hardcore. :-)

19
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:01pm

The Giants are also playing without Jermey Shockey and their now forgetten stud D-Linman Mathias Kwinuka.

Even when Strahan retires the Giants pass rush will still be amoung the best in the league with Osi, Tuck and Kiwi.

You have the single season sack leader on one side, a guy that got 6 sacks on one game on the other. Then you have a DT who got 10 sacks in a season, followed by a 1st round pick DE who WILL be a double digit sack artist for years to come.

Give Gerry Reese a lot of credit for NOT drafting a RB in round 1, NOT drafting at tackle, but beefing up the roster with promising young players such as Aaron Ross at CB, Steve Smith at WR, Jay Alford who rotates at DT, Kevin Boss who has taken over the starting TE spot, Standout Ahmed Bradshaw, Michael Johnson has started at S and comes in on dime, and Craig Dahl has even started a few games.

20
by Mike W (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:03pm

Either the beat-up Giants secondary played a whole lot better than the Packers DBs, or Favre and the playcalls were terrible, or both. Where were the short passes to the WRs, other than the quick sideways passes (usually to Koren Robinson, no less, instead of Driver or Jennings)? Why the long-throw screens to Grant? I was looking forward to Giants DBs trying to make tackles one-on-one in the open field, and for most of the game they didn't have to. It was all medium-to-deep patterns over the middle and poorly designed crap at or behind the LOS. RUN YOUR OFFENSE!

The Giants outplayed Green Bay. They ran the ball more effectively and their QB played better.

21
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:04pm

It would have been sad if the Packers had managed to win. The Giants dominated the NFC Championship.

That said, Eli Manning's growing up or whatever you want to call it has more to do with his blocking, receivers and playcalling than with any improvement of his own. It seemed like almost every completion last night went to a wide-open receiver, with plenty of time to find him.

Bill Belichick specializes in attacking opposing quarterbacks, and he has two weeks to prepare. It's been a great run for the Giants, but they didn't have the 2005 Steelers' good fortune of never really running into any dominant opponents. The Patriots are going to blow them off the field.

22
by Stuart Fraser (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:06pm

14 - the difference between the 05(/06) Steelers and the 07(/08) Giants is that Pittsburgh were a legitimately top-three team (or so sayeth DVOA, anyway) who had a serious wobble midseason (caused by losing both starting and backup quarterbacks, and then rushing Roethlisberger back too fast) which dropped them down to a sixth seed. The Giants were a more or less average team most of the year who've suddenly gone on a tear.

Also, Pittsburgh didn't meet a "best team ever" at any given point - the '05 Colts were good, but not that good.

23
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:06pm

If I were the Patriots, I would use Wes Welker underneath to attack Kwika Mitchell and Antoinio Pierce in pass coverage ( who guys that are horrible vs the pass), and I would try and get James Butler covering Randy Moss deep.

The Pats did this to a certain extent in week 17. James Butler was TORCHED by Randy Moss so bad you don't usually see that in an NFL game. He isn't fast enough to play deep half, and he was torched by Donald Driver this week. Either start Michael Johnson or give that bum some more help. I guarantee you the Giants will be drafting a safety and a linebacker in 1 or 2 of the first 3 rounds of Aprils draft next year.

24
by Arkaein (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:09pm

Just want to point out that the Giants didn't have all the breaks go against them. They fumbled 5 times and only lost one (the Packers recovered their single fumble).

On the fumbled punt returns Jarret Bush had a great shot at recovery but tried to pick the ball up and run with it, then Brady Poppinga tried to fall on the ball to have it squirt away. At the goal line Jacobs dropped the ball right between Kampman's knees, only Kampman didn't realize it until it was too late.

The recovery of the intercption fumble was certainly luck for the Pack, but in all the fumble luck actually went in the Giants favor. Not too surprising, given that they were just a little bit better in essentially every phase of the game, except FG kicking.

25
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:11pm

21- The Patriots are going to kill the Giants just like in week 17, right? You know, when Eli Manning had 4 touchdowns passes and nearly slayed the Dragon.

Despite what the DVOA says, the Giants were the 3rd best team in the NFC this year, and they just happened to beat the best and 2nd best. They may have been a wild card, but that is because the best team in the NFC was Dallas, who happens to be in their same division.

If the Giants played in the NFC West or NFC South, they would have been the #3 seed.

THAT is why in college football you don't have to win your conference to go to the BCS National championship game. Because theoretically the 2 best teams could be in the SEC, ACC, or big 12.

Dallas was the best team in the NFC this year, and THAT is why the Giants were a wildcard team. Enough about them being a "wild card" team and "average".

26
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:13pm

Gosh, what Packers/Giants game were you guys watching? Yes, the Giants won because Manning played really well, but he played really well in large part due to the fact the the Giants' offensive line just whipped the Packers front seven, in both the running game and passing game. No, Favre didn't play well in the second half, but I guarantee you that if the Giants had called only six rushing attempts in the 2nd half, Manning would have made some ill-advised or poor throws.

However, before going overboard with praise of the Giants, or talking about how they overcame all the bad breaks, let it be noted that the Great and Terrible God Fumbleluck was actually a Giants fan yesterday. Reverse the fumble recovery outcomes, and the commentary today would be far different.

27
by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:13pm

Jeez, that game took a few years off my life. Agonizing.

I was glad Green Bay won the coin flip after regulation - I figured the Giants had a better chance of picking off Favre than they did of driving 70-80 yards to get into field goal range.

28
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:14pm

Wild Card competitiveness is the reason the Giants are in the Super Bowl

The 2002 divisional realignment has radically changed the competitiveness of teams playing on wild card weekend and has brought the situation back to the 78-89 results for playoff rounds. Just look at the numbers for 3 and 4 seeds winning in the wild card round and for 1 and 2 seeds winning in the divisionals.

Wild Card Round Home Team Wins
78-89 - 59%
90-01 - 73%
02-present - 58%

Divisional Round Home Team Wins
78-89 - 68%
90-01 - 81%
02-present - 67%

Championship Round Home Team Wins
78-89 - 73%
90-01 - 58%
02-present - 58%

People are still living in the mindset of the 1990-2001 results, but the reality is different.

There have been 48 wild card round teams since 2002, and 9 have made the Conference Championship and 4 the Super Bowl. This is like the situation from 1978 to 1989 - 40 wild card round teams 8 in the Conference Championship and 2 in the Super Bowl (or if you include the #3 seeds who generally did not get a home game but did get a bye week, 60 teams, 11 in the Conference Championship, 3 in the Super Bowl).

There were 96 wild card round teams from 1990 to 2001, and 9 made the Conference Championship and 4 made the Super Bowl.

Chances have doubled with the realignment for the #3 through #6 seeds.

Combined with reducing the chances of the #1 and #2 seeds in the Conference Championship, the changes to the divisions and the 6th Wild Card team have meant the NFL Playoffs have never been more competitive than they have been in the past 6 years.

29
by jetsgrumbler (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:18pm

"Rivers is what Chad Pennington would be with top level personnel around him."

Um, Rivers throws an ugly ball, but at least it gets to his recievers. Pennington truly has no arm strength left. He really can't throw a 10 yard out to the flat and Jets fans know it, even if they don't want to admit it.

We've had this debate elsewhere, but it's simply false to say Pennington has arm strength equal to Phillip Rivers.

30
by John Doe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:20pm

I think the reason for the Giants success is that they actually hit on a few draft picks recently.

Brandon Jacobs - 4th rounder
Barry Cofield - 4th rounder
Kevin Boss - 5th rounder
Ahmed Bradshaw - 7th rounder
Justin Tuck - 3rd rounder
Aaaron Ross - 1st rounder

Aaron Ross is already the best CB on our team in his rookie year. Justin Tuck is better than Strahan at this point. Ahmed Bradshaw looks like Tiki 2.0. Kevin Boss is barely a step down from Shockey. Barry Cofield has started every game since he was drafted. Finally, Brandon Jacobs is just a beast.

FO was correct when they said we needed to rebuild, they just didn't realize we'd do it so fast. The Giants are a linebacker, #2 wide receiver, and another reasonable secondary player away from being a top 5 team for years to come.

31
by JCRODRIGUEZ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:24pm

Kudos to the Chargers for making this a contest, the LdT and Gates asbence was an absolute killer fot the Red Zone perfomance, yet another proof that character without talent only get you so far...

32
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:38pm

30- Steve Smith will be that guy. He already has better hands than Amani Toomer. We also have Sinorice Moss who can be a decent slot/screen pass guy if he can ever stay healthy.

The Giants need to replace the weak link on defense. James Butler. Gibril Wilson is either a pro bowl safety or only a hair below. He has been so important to this defense and they MUST sign this mid/late round draft pick turned stud.

I guarantee the Giants will draft a LB or S or both in the first 3 rounds of the draft next year. It should be that hard to find those positions even when drafting at 31. We already have a lot of the harder positions to find, QB, WR, DE etc.

33
by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:44pm

Aaron was just on ESPN FirstTake violating the cardinal rule of FO!

Don't talk about FO?

34
by Johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:50pm

10- Yeah it looks like the Epstein formula that Aaron wrote about a few weeks ago is going to knock the Pats for some less than dominating post season wins. Unless they super destroy the Giants I get the feeling they don't end up the Greatest team of all time using the Epstein standard.

35
by admin :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:52pm

I was comparing Brady and Manning. I was stuck because the segment was originally supposed to be about comparing peak value (Brady) to career value (Favre) but then Green Bay lost and we had to completely re-work it. My segment is no reason to break the cardinal rule of FO in this discussion thread, so please don't break into an argument about it.

36
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:53pm

Do you ever feel that there is a synergy effect with the pass rushers. That if you are playing opposite Osi, it makes life easier. If you have Strahan on the opposite side, it makes life easier. If you are Justin Tuck and you are playing with 2 stud ends, it makes life easier.

I am glad that former Giants GM Ernie Accoursi felt that you could never have enough good pass rushers. At worst, you have a strong rotation that can press the quarterback later in games.

but you also have insurance for injury. Osi, Strahan, Tuck and Kiwi have all been hurt and missed signifigant time in the past 2 years, but the Giants have still been able to make the playoffs because of that pass rush depth.

Having the depth is fine, but having all 4 to rush on 3rd and longs is a thing of beauty to watch. I look forward to the Giants pummeling quarterbacks for years to come!

37
by sam (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 1:54pm

#12, I'm going to say this one time: I you want to keep posting here, stay off the drugs.

38
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:05pm

Great win. SD played a much better game defensively than I gave them credit for, but NE morphed into the team that no one thought they could become - winning with power running and stingy defense. I'm thrilled as can be that the game was decided by the players on the field rather than a boneheaded official. As always, here is my collection of semi-coherant ruminations on the game. :blahblah:

* I went through all the TOs after the SD/Indy game and concluded that Indy was more responsible for them than SD. I honestly feel that I could do something similar with this game, but at some point I have to recognize that flukes don't have such consistency. SD makes you make mistakes. I don't know exactly what they were doing because I still think that Tommy helped their cause somewhat, but their defense clearly disrupted NE's passing game. Much credit needs to be tossed their way.

* The trifecta is now complete. I have been pointing out the parallels between this year's playoffs and the 2003 run since the Jax game ended. Every week it seemed that the opponent was similar to their 2003 counterparts. Well, this might be the closest example of all, with the biggest difference being that the 2003 Cats actually won their division. Aaron actually ran though the similarities prior to the NCFFG in last week's DVOA article.

* I may get skewered for saying this, but I thought that Brady was pretty lousy. Of course I understand that guys aren't going to play at their peak level when playing in single digit temperatures with wind. For all his grit, it isn't as if Rivers was lighting it up either.

That said, Brady was just off all night. Normally, even if the weather is a factor you can count on Tommy to make good decisions and protect the ball. To me, I didn't see that same crispness that he usually displays. Even when he made the right decision he was often off. Hell, even when a catch was made the ball was regularly off. Kevin Faulk made at least three amazing catches collecting a few of these potential misfires. K. Brady being overthrown by 10 yards on the first play was huge because that was a 20+ yard reception of the ball was anywhere near him. Had NE scored on that drive, I think that game would have gone much differently. My buddy and I were chuckling about another throw after the game where Tommy overthrew Moss on the right sideline by nearly 20 feet, despite Moss being open only 5 yards past the LOS.

I can't help but think that it was more than the weather. Brady just didn't seem himself the entire game, and I'm not just talking about passing either. I wouldn't be surprised if it is leaked out later that he was battling the flu or something.

* One thrown that looked off at first glance was the diving and rolling Faulk first down. It looked originally like Brady underthrew a ball where Faulk was wide open, but I think he made a good play here. If you watch a replay, you can see a defender coming into the play who, IMHO would have hasve had a kill shot on Kevin if Brady had led him in a normal manner.

* For all the talk about the tremendous play that Seau made prior to SD's 4th FG, I thought that Hobbs deserves just as much credit for his open field tackle of Chambers earlier. Hobbs had to make a nice play going under a blocker and then take out Chris by his legs, and no one was stopping the TD except for Ellis.

* Was it just me, or did LdT look like Darth Vader on the sideline?

* Kaeding may have made several FGs, but NE dominated the game on special teams. Aside from Washington's tremendous play that set up Asante's int, Kaeding's kicks were extremely short and NE was still able to get consistent return yardage to boot. NE's kick offs AND their KO coverage were both better than SD's by a good margin and the punt games played to about a draw.

* IMHO, that was Maroney's best game as a pro. He ended up with the exact same rushing yardage as last week, but SD wasn't running guys backwards at the snap like Jax did. Obviously the OL deserves much credit for dominating the LOS in the second half, but Maroney was able to consistently get extra yardage - even in traffic. I still think that Laurence was closer to this guy all year than his numbers or playing time would indicate, but it must be nice for him to be getting some vindication when the games count the most.

* I understand why everyone is giving LdT so much grief, but I'm not sure that it is really deserved. On the screen play that was his final play of the game, he clearly had nothing. I don't know if he reaggravated the knee or if he was hurt worse than anyone knew, but he was not the same guy. And it isn't as if SD was without anyone else to run the ball. If Turner had gotten hurt, I would bet that LdT would have seen the field again, but Turner was clearly the bigger threat at that point.

* I have heard several commentators (I don't like to call them "analysts" ;) ) refer to the pressure that SD was able to get on Brady, but I didn't quite see it. Frankly, I thought that the Giants were in Brady's face quite a bit more than SD was. The only int where Brady was under pressure was the second one near midfield when (Phillips?) beat his man and was careening towards Tommy. Other than that, most of the times that Brady was off - be it an int or just an incompletion - he had time and just missed.

* As always, the Big Uglies need to be given credit for their performance. Watching last year's game earlier this week and then seeing this matchup was remarkable. Last year, the Chargers looked like they were all 8 feet tall and NE had to work hard to just keep from being eaten alive.

Fast forward to yesterday and you see a group that essentially stoned SD's pass rush all game and blew them completely off the ball running in the second half.

Since we have two weeks to kill before the next game, I'll withhold all comments on the Giants and the SD for a later date. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

39
by David (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:06pm

So, if New York pulls it off, can we get an Irrational Manning-Manning Debate thread?

40
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:14pm

In my post #31, that is supposed to say "SB" - as in short for Superbowl - not "SD" in the final sentence.

Sorry for that and the handful of other grammatical errors.

41
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:17pm

A Giants over Pats might be the biggest NFL championship upset, rivaling Super Bowl III, but I think the 1985 Villanova Wildcats over the Patrick Ewing Georgetown squad still would be the biggest championship upset in sports history.

(Note before anyone brings it up who forgot: Miracle on Ice was the semifinal, not the championship)

42
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:17pm

My favorite moment of the NYG-GB game was the Green Bay crowd celebrating like crazy when they won the overtime coin toss. Congrats on winning the OT coin toss. To me that ranks somewhere up there in schadenfreude... I don't want to say up there with Hasselbeck's prediction, but it was funny to see how that all worked out for them... especially since their team had zero offensive momentum.

I would've been made had Green Bay won that game given:
1) Sam Madison's phantom penalty.
2) "Offensive holding" on Chris Snee to negate a beautiful TD run by Bradshaw. Sure it was holding, but officials have swallowed the flag the whole year... it was a spurious time to throw the flag.

Also, early in the game Al Harris was jawking/fighting Plaxico Burress. I have no idea why he would do that as Plax seems like the type of player that would turn that hostility into some extra motivation. It seemed like Plax looked over to the GB sideline after every catch.

43
by footballprofessor (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:18pm

#8

I think it's pretty clear that the NFC of 2001 was NOT as dominating as the NFC of the 80's and 90's. Don't just look at Super Bowl wins - look at teams over .500, inter-conference play dominance.

44
by Kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:25pm

Mike Tanier comes off as if he is in denial.

"I am not going to break my back explaining why they are winning despite a low DVOA figure, and I am not going to start overrating some of their players/units because they have won a few games. They aren’t who I thought they were at the start of the year (a joke), but I still think they are only slightly better than the team I figured to go 9-7 and lose in the first round of the playoffs."

The translation of this paragraph: the numbers and the actual results are wildly different, but there is no way in hell I will bother to explain such an event, because there is absolutely no chance that the numbers are incorrect. Rather then giving a very modest admission that the system is not infallible and in fact quite capable of being wrong on occasion, I will blindly adhere to the website I write for and paint the anomaly as no such thing. The system is right, this team is mediocre, ignore the past four weeks! In fact... they did not happen!

Given the excellent quality of the rest of Tanier's work, this is even more appalling..

45
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:26pm

I think Eli will be dangerous in the Super Bowl. Call it the Peyton factor.

In Week 6 of 2007 Peyton had a bye, and Eli absolutely torched the Falcons (yes, it was the Falcons). Also during Week 17 Peyton barely played so he had some free time to go over some pointers with Eli against the Pats. Same thing during the Wild Card round and now this week I'm sure Peyton was right by Eli's side as he watched film.

It stands to reason that during the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, Peyton is going to try even harder and will probably fly wherever Eli is going in order to vanquish the Patriots.

46
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:29pm

I dunno, Houston managing to lose to N.C. State, depsite not just having a future HOF center, like Georgetown also did, but also Clyde Drexler, is a pretty big upset.

47
by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:35pm

The Packers did get a lot of penalties but for the most part I don't think they were playing any different than they did most of the year, they just didn't get flagged for it as much during the regular season IMO.

I kept getting that "here's another Favre storybook ending" vibe pretty much from midway through the 4th quarter on, he kept getting another chance and it kept not happening. Maybe he shouldn't have tried to get that last pass there, but the way things were going he had to try something.

soo... Bellichek with two weeks to scheme up Eli. Right. Even if this weren't the greatest pats team in... well, ever, I wouldn't like the Giant's chances.

I guess the closest parallel to the Giants I can think of would have to be the Steelers wild card run, can't recall if they had a home game in there somewhere or now. But the parallel would end if you tried to compare the Seahawks of that yeare to the Pats.

Have we ever previously had a superbowl between teams that met on the last week of the regular season? I was looking at the list of previous rematches, all the ones I remembered happened earlier...

48
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:35pm

42- What about the KGB jump offsides, and also the penalty with about 6 minutues left in the first half that took away a Brandon Jacobs 1st down and instead pinned the Giants back deep. I will admit that it was holding, but 90% of holding is never called, and the fact that Jacobs was already 5 yards downfield makes the call even more obscure. I am sure you could have pulled a whole lot more calls like that, but that call isn't usually called.

44- I am glad somebody else sees it. Go read the NFC Championship preview where it was clearly stated yet againg that you aren't reading the numbers wrong, but DVOA still says the Giants are a below average team in the NFL.

Is it interesting that Eli and the Giants beat their pythagarian win total and older brother Peyton has been doing it for years?

Their QB play is somehow being underrated.

49
by Sean McCormick :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:37pm

Re 24: Rivers throws to receivers who are 6'6"(Jackson, Gates) while standing behind a quality offensive line and with the defense always needing to respect the run. Pennington throws to sub 6'0" receivers while standing behind one of the worst pass blocking lines in football and with defenses not respecting the run at all. It's true that Rivers probably has a stronger arm at this point, but he also has more time for routes to develop and much bigger passing windows. I think it's a valid comparison.

50
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:38pm

Fergasun, when a guy extends his arm as much as Snee did, while latching on, the call has to be made, unless you just want o-lineman flat-out tackling defenders on every play. The Giants definitely played better, but when a team fumbles five times, and loses only one, that is a team which definitely should not entertain thoughts that they overcame bad breaks to a significant degree.

51
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:38pm

Re: #40

Since the Steelers a couple of years ago were the #6 seed, they had all road games by definition.

The rematch thing has only happened once before -- Dallas and Denver met in the final game of the season in 1977 or so, and then met in the SB.

52
by Mike W (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:41pm

Yeah, Will, but any time a Guy Lewis-coached team loses, that's not an upset.

53
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:42pm

Have we ever previously had a superbowl between teams that met on the last week of the regular season? I was looking at the list of previous rematches, all the ones I remembered happened earlier…

Denver- Dallas 1977

54
by trifecta (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:43pm

Exhibition Finale: NE 27 NYG 20
Regular Season Finale: NE 38 NYG 35
Post Season Finale: ??????

55
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:50pm

#52, Mike, one thing I will assert definitively is that Lewis' performance in that game represents the worst single game coaching performance in the history of team sports, and it isn't even close. Well, pulling Tretiak in the Lake Placid semi-finals was pretty bad too, but still, Lewis taking the air out of the ball, despite having five times the talent, is the absolute worst.

56
by MikeB (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:58pm

No one on TV mentioned how uncomfortable Favre looked with the cold after it was supposed to be a huge advantage. He wouldn't wear a glove on his left hand, but had a spiderman suit over his whole upper body. He was running back to the sideline to get a coat and put hand warmers on his face. TMQ will say cold quarterback = loss.

I also think that with all his post season meltdowns, he is just a couple of Desmond Howard kick returns away from being the next Dan Marino.

57
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 2:58pm

"I never believed, for one moment during the game, that the Giants were going to win this game."

Really Bill?
Why?
halfway thru the second quarter I thought the Packers were in big trouble.
Outside of the 90 pass, what were they doing on offense?
I am not saying I knew the Giants would win, I didn't think that.
But it seemed like it was going to be a very close game, and the Packers were not impressing me.

58
by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:02pm

Re: 35 Oh, I get it, Aaron, "Do as I say, not as I do." :-) Sorry, I shouldn't even have brought it up. I figured few enough people saw it and I kept it coy enough to avoid discussion while still managing to give a plug. I just found it... interesting, and I happened to see it while I was reading Audibles.

What were you going to say about peak value v. career value? I remember you mentioning that Favre has been above average every year over a long career while Brady has the four Super Bowls in a short amount of time and maybe the best season ever, but we don't know how good he'll be in his 30s. That sounds like the set-up to the discussion, not the conclusion.

59
by Tball (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:02pm

"The Pats were better this year than the 2001 Rams, but they kind of staggered down the stretch and have not been particularly impressive."

To be fair, I think the 01 Rams staggered down the stretch as well. Warner injured his finger, I believe, during those playoffs, which hampered the Greatest Show on Turf. His two other playoff games were fairly pedestrian (total 430 yards, 3 TDs, 1 Int, 63% completion) by his regular season standards. The Rams would start the following season 0-5 and bench Warner due to lingering injury issues. The Pats did not catch Warner at the peak of his ability.

I am a Pats fan and I'd be happy to acknowledge the 01 upset was the greatest upset in Championship history, but I think a Giants upset in this Super Bowl would be a bigger upset.

60
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:03pm

MikeB, reverse the Packers' and Giants rushing performances, and I suspect the qb performances would be be pretty close to being reversed as well. The key element of the game was the performance of the Giants offensive line, and the fact that the Packers' coaching staff thought it was futile to try to run, in 25-below wind chill.

61
by SoulardX (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:07pm

Aaron,

On the 99-01 Rams and 07 Pats comparison, you say the Rams couldn't ever "stuff it down your throat with a power running game." I'd have to say that is horribly wrong. I'm sure I can find many more examples, but the one that sticks out immediatly is the STL/PHI NFC Championship Game. The only reason the Rams won that game was the power running of Marshall Faulk in the second half. The Rams offense was incredibly flexible. It was the headcoach that wasn't.

Lastly, when the Pats offense keeps it up for three years--as the Rams did--then we can truly compare The Show and the Pats. That's what made The Show so great. It was a three-year run.

62
by Nathan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:12pm

If the Giants beat the Pats, this season will have redeemed itself for it's complete insanity.

63
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:13pm

I am puzzled why Rivers didn't yell at LdT to get back into the game. Seriously, for the second week in a row, LdT got injured and then did absolutely nothing other than watch the game.

Don't you work with a trainer to try to get back in? You are one game away from the Super Bowl and you don't even try to get back in there?

I know that I have no idea the extent of his injury - but he didn't even attempt to get back in, that I could see. It is strange that I have more respect for Rivers' effort than for LdT's. Have fun at the pro bowl, Ladainian!

64
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:14pm

Yeah, if Martz hadn't been so hell-bent on demonstrating his genius, and merely hands off to Faulk more in the 2nd half against the Pats, I doubt the upset takes place. Most huge upsets require coaching blunders, which is why the Giants aren't very likely to join the list. The Giants can win, but Belichik isn't going to give an assist, so that means, just like the Giants win yesterday, if the Giants pull it off, it will be due to fundamental domination of the line of scrimmage.

65
by goheels22002 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:16pm

The Giants did everything asked of them - make win #16 for the Pats a great football game, run through the best the NFC had to offer on the road and win close games with that which wins championships - defense. Season-long statistics start to get somewhat unreliable when you get to this point. The competition is fiercer, the referees better, the game plans more conservative due to better defenses and the elements as we saw yesterday, etc. Did you, can you or will you run the PVOA stats for the the playoffs and the NY-NE game only? Individually the quarterbacks will even out a lot and the teams should look pretty even. I suppose you'd toss out the Tampa Bay WC game since the Pats had a bye, but what would that data suggest other than an even matchup? Any nonsense about the Giants not being the best is moot. As Coach Parcells always said "you are what you are." The Giants are the NFC champion and the Pats best all time.

66
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:18pm

JohnR., unless you watched the game from the San Diego bench, what you saw of Tomlinson's effort has little relationship to Tomlinson's actual effort, except coincidentally.

67
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:23pm

It’s true that Rivers probably has a stronger arm at this point

Probably? Rivers obviously has a stronger arm at this point. That second INT he horribly underthrew? Pennington throws that far in his bestest dreams.

68
by Dan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:23pm

That personal foul on Madison was outrageous. That may or may not have been a horrible call by the officials, especially given how they've swallowed their flags for most of the postseason, and for Morency to not get a flag for his role in the altercation could possibly be the sort of thing you'd expect to see from biased officials, or not. For Madison to do whatever it is that he did, at that point in the game, might have been incredibly boneheaded - the sort of thing that can make someone a goat, depending on their actions and the outcome of the game.

69
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:29pm

Stuart Fraser: Wow. I think Antonio Pierce’s play in blowing up a screen despite having three blockers between him and the ball carrier, and forcing the Packers to settle for a field goal, is the best individual defensive effort in this year’s playoffs.

A great effort by Pierce, no doubt. But did anyone else think that Grant made a blunder? Looking at the replay, he catches the pass and immediately heads for the lead blocker's outside shoulder. It seemed to me that had he hesitated a beat, he would have cut inside and still had two blockers out in front of him. I know it's easy to criticize sitting from the comfort of my couch with all the time in the world to watch a replay, but it looked like a mistake from an inexperienced running back. Maybe I'm seeing it wrong?

70
by ammek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:31pm

13: "Eli Manning DID have a typical day, and the Giants DID win. He had right around a 50% completion percentage, and threw for around 250 yards."

But no picks. Look at the difference in Eli's DVOA between weeks 1-16 and 17-19 (in the preview, Chris). Aaron explicitly points to the source of NY's improvement as the passing game. It's not a question of an error in the numbers. It's that Eli has finally become the qb you've long been claiming he was, and the Giants hoped he was when they picked him #1. But until week 17, he was not that qb.

The question now is: is this permanent? Or is it a streak, exaggerated by a long run without turnovers? There are good reasons to suppose that it's the former, but for the moment, we only have four games' worth of stats, and that is not enough to rush to a judgment.

Finally, you may be the first poster to accuse DVOA of underestimating Peyton Manning in the history of these boards. Congratulations.

71
by Ben V (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:31pm

#65- In the end I highly doubt the Giants care how good they were in the regular season but that "you are who you are" stuff isn't sound logic. In a short series anything can happen and when you are talking single round elimination the results can be even more drastic.

The classic case is George Mason in the 2005 NCAA tournament. Does anyone really think George Mason was one of the best four college basketball teams in 2005? They made the final four, but they were not better than any of the teams they beat. If they played any of those teams in a series, they'd lose every single one of those series. They happened to win four games in a row at the right time. It's good for them. But anyone who thinks that George Mason was better than that UConn team just because they beat them in March doesn't understand what the nature of playoffs are. The better team does not always win.

Again, the Giants won't complain. But don't take three single games as proof of any team's dominance over any another.

72
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:32pm

As a Packers fan, all I have to say is congrats to the Giants. They deserve the win. Go Giants. Beat the Evil Empire Patriots.

73
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:32pm

Lastly, when the Pats offense keeps it up for three years–as the Rams did–then we can truly compare The Show and the Pats. That’s what made The Show so great. It was a three-year run.

Que? the Pats have had a top team for five straight years now. That dynasty beats the Rams', hands down.

74
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:34pm

Chris #48:

Is it interesting that Eli and the Giants beat their pythagarian win total and older brother Peyton has been doing it for years? Their QB play is somehow being underrated.

I don't think you understand what you are talking about. Pythagorean wins have very little to do with the Quarterback. The major factor is prevention of scoring by the defense, since "Points Against" goes into the denominator of the equation, while "Points For" is in both the numerator and denominator.

The Giants "Points For" and "Points Against" tallies for the season certainly gave one no reason to suppose they were poised for a Super Bowl run. They only had a net of 22 points in 16 games, and this was actually the lowest total of the four teams in the NFC East.

The Giants were 14th in scoring offense and 17th in scoring defense. I.e. normally a middle of the road team, not a Super Bowl contender.

There was nothing numerical to indicate the Giants would make the Super Bowl except silly stats like road wins that don't correlate well to anything.

75
by Otis Taylor 89 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:43pm

I just have this feeling that the SB will be much like last year's SB, close for awhile, but the high powered offense can't be stopped when it counts.
It think NYG was helped bigtime with the weather yesterday as GB was built for the run-slant-bomb offense that wasn't going to work.
Do I remember correctly that along with Bradshaw and the NYG secondary injuries week 17, NE was missing two starting OL?

76
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:47pm

71- A lot of those interceptions were not entirely his fault. Eli has suffered more drops than any other QB this season, and other bad luck.

I hate to break it to you but Eli Manning has been the same person. The fact of the matter is that his teammates around him have stepped up and played better. Much of a quarterbacks success is dependant on his teammates.

75- So Peyton Manning doesn't have an impact on Pwins? So you mean to tell me that Manning engaging in long, efficient drives that keep your defense off the field there by reducing the number of possesions doesn't deserve any credit?

77
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:48pm

#71:

Sure, but single elimination in football is much more like a series in other sports. I don't remember where this comparison came up (might have been FO), but each football play= half-inning in baseball, for instance. So one football game corresponds quite nicely with a seven-game series, and the better team will win a higher percentage of the time in each individual game.

This is not to say that the Giants' haven't been defying the numbers and beating teams that were objectively better then them all year long. Just that you can't blame it on it single elimination, as if that somehow makes the NFL uniquely upset-prone.

78
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:49pm

"Doug Farrar: That wasn’t as bad as Rivers’ other early interception, the “I’m falling down, but I don’t want to eat the ball” pick by Samuel. I’m sure many people yelled “Pick!” while that one was in the air."

It's hard to blame Rivers for that one. The reason he wasn't able to get anything on that pass was because of a leg whip by the defender. That should have been a penalty on New England, not an interception.

79
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:51pm

Minor clarification: Of *course* you can blame single-elim when compared to the whole season. (Though at some point four straight strong games is going to have to become statistically significant.)

Just not in comparison to MLB, NBA, NHL playoffs, etc. That's all I'm trying to say.

80
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:54pm

49: I'd like to see Pennington make the same throw Rivers made to Chambers in the Indianapolis game.

81
by Tom (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 3:59pm

Can we start to call Tom Brady the ultimate system QB now?

82
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:05pm

80: You trying to nuke this comment thread or something?

83
by lyford (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:09pm

* I may get skewered for saying this, but I thought that Brady was pretty lousy. Of course I understand that guys aren’t going to play at their peak level when playing in single digit temperatures with wind. For all his grit, it isn’t as if Rivers was lighting it up either. That said, Brady was just off all night.
Brady was bad (awful for Brady.) That said, there's still support in his performance for the "just wins" contingent.

"When he threw his third interception of the day, to Antonio Cromartie in the end zone, he was 14-25 for 133 yards, with 1 TD and 3 picks (passer rating of 44.67) and the lead was 14-12. From that point to the end of the game, the Patriots had two more drives. One of them covered 67 yards on 8 plays and ended in a touchdown. The other covered 65 yards on 15 plays and consumed the last 9:13 of the game, finishing with the Patriots taking a knee. Over those two drives, Brady was 8-8 for 76 yards with a touchdown pass and no interceptions (passer rating of 145.83)."

84
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:12pm

I wonder if there is a disconnect between "essence" and "existence" here. According to DVOA, the Giants do not have the "essence" of a great team. But as Sartre says, "existence precedes essence." Regardless of whether the Giants have the essence of a great team, their existence shows the accomplishment of reaching the Super Bowl. DVOA may show what a team's "essence" is, and that essence may be a good indicator of what will happen in the future. However, what the team actually does in terms of wins trumps whatever its essence is shown to be.

85
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:15pm

I am somewhat puzzled by the fact that no one has commented on Vrabel's trip on Rivers when he threw the pick to Samuel. It was fairly blatant hack at River's bad leg, why the officials missed it is beyond me. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that if Phillips had done the same to Brady he would have gotten flagged.

If it is called it cancels out the pick, it should have been called. It was a cheap dirty play and I was pretty pissed to watch Vrabel get away with it. Can't say it suprised me though.

86
by Aerogopher (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:24pm

I live in the Boston area and am a Vikings fan.

Several comments:
1) I was surprised the Pats didn't go to the running game earlier considering the success Peterson and the Vikings had on the ground against the Chargers earlier in the season.
2) Extra games against a quarterback in a season gives NE more of an advantage. In general, I feel like NE struggles against teams they don't know well.
3) Vikings can beat the Giants 41-17. I know it was in New York, but don't you think that Bill will find a way to rattle Eli?

87
by Peter (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:25pm

Watching the Patriots v. Chargers from last year's playoffs, I'm a bit shocked to see how similar this game looked to that one. The major difference was the absence of the Chargers' premiere skill players (Gates & Tomlinson) in the red zone. If they're playing at anywhere close to peak ability, the Chargers probably translate a couple of those field goals into TDs and shock quite a few of us. Hard to think they won't be back to make a dent next year. And, depending on their off-season moves, they'll probably go in to 2008 as favorites.

That being said, congrats to the Patriots on a wonderful run. They truly are a great team.

88
by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:28pm

#82 - In other words, the Giants didn't contaminate their precious bodily fluids, and maintained their purity of essence.

89
by mush (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:32pm

To get a DVOA snapshot that really matters, you have ignore the early part of the season. I'd say that in any year; applied to this season, it will consider where the Giants defense is today versus where it was in early September, adjusting to a new scheme. Those September games (and maybe even into October) don't mean a thing now. In a sense it's similar to the 2006 Cowboys; DVOA kept holding Bledsoe's stink against them, but it was clearly a different, more dangerous club with Romo.

I'm a NE fan and rooting for the Pats, but I strongly disagree that a Giants win would be the biggest upset in NFL history, let alone in all of team sports. This line should be in the 7-9 range, at most.

90
by nat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:33pm

82 lyford:
Very good point. Despite a terrible game overall, Brady's fourth quarter play was almost perfect. Of course, Maroney was really rolling at that point, putting the Chargers in a real bind.

I wonder if Brady's DVOA is inflated by the respect teams have to give the Patriots' #1 rated running game....

91
by stravinsky (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:41pm

What I liked about the Giants-Packers game was that the longer the game went without a patented Favre heave-ho, the greater the odds were that the next play would be the one and, as a result, the greater the tension in the Packer players and fans. I mean, you could see the pressure building in Favre’s face every time the camera focused on him in the second half. I could almost hear the discussions between Favre and the coaching staff going sort of like the fashion show scene from Slapshot:

Favre: I don't care. Enough is enough. Nowhere in my contract does it say I gotta throw nothing but screen passes. Am I right?

Coach: Just run the play that is called, Brett

Favre: I'm gonna do it, man, I’m gonna do it. I'm gonna go on the field, close my eyes and lob the ball underhanded down the field.

Coach: You will not.

Favre: Yes I will, Coach, and you know why? Because I want you to have a heart attack and die so we never have to run another screen pass again. F’in' screen passes.

Coach: It's good football. You fellas have not been completin' 'em down the field the way you have in the past.

Favre: I'm gonna fling it at 'em, you cheap scumbag. Be prepared, because when I yank it out and fling the ball down that field every sportswriter in the country from here to Peter King is going to go into palpitations of ecstasy about what a competitor I am! And if I complete my blind lob pass they’re all gonna talk about ME and MY balls! Not you and your weenie game plan! ME!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHA

92
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:44pm

#88:

Well, Weighted DVOA does exactly that. The thing is, for all the talk of the Giants' 0-2 start, they were pretty good for the first half of the year- their real tough patch came in the second half, with clunkers against Washington and Minnesota. I suspect WDVOA will finally surpass DVOA this week, but it still probably won't be Top 10.

93
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:45pm

#89, I mean. Gah. Sorry for the double posts.

94
by Peyton Manning (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:51pm

Boy I sure wish my #1 ranked scoring defense only gave up 12 points to the San Diego Chargers in the playoffs. I've won 50 straight games when the opponent has under 20. I lead the team to 24 points, throw for over 400 yards, 3 TDs and my receivers tip 2 INTs they should have caught, yet I go home early. Brady gets picked off 3 times on awful throws and bailed out all day by his RB's. Did my RB's even play last Sunday? Oh wait, I remember Kenton Keith at the goal line. One more play like that and I'll have him out of here like I got Vanderjagt out of the league. Guess I'll just never have that Brady luck.

Great job Eli, see ya for some film study.

95
by Jeremy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:53pm

My brother had an interesting reaction to yesterday's AFC Championship Game, and I think it's pretty telling. He asked: if you're AJ Smith, how do you improve your team?

Seriously, think about it. The Chargers are loaded. Maybe a slot receiver type, maybe a little more depth in the secondary -- but in general, the Chargers have excellent talent at almost every position. Great team.

96
by Jeremy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:54pm

94:

You left out "I played in a dome."

97
by Sean McCormick :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:54pm

I'm not going to turn this into a Pennington thread. That said, he can throw the ball deep- he threw a touchdown against Cincinnati that went 57 yards through the air and was on the money. He just doesn't do so very often because circumstances don't allow it. Those circumstances are why Kellen Clemens, who has a much stronger arm than Pennington (or Rivers, for that matter), barely cracked 5 yards per attempt.

To bring things back to the actual games that were played yesterday, Rivers' velocity was clearly impacted by his balky knee, especially on the deep throw that Hobbs picked. He just couldn't step into his throw at all. Also, it seemed like Rivers was deteriorating as the game went along. I thought we might get another Billy Volek sighting in the fourth quarter, but Norv never pulled the trigger.

98
by mush (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:55pm

92. Thanks for the heads up, appreciate that.

Everyone else: Take the points. This game reminds me so much of the Packers and Broncos when Elway got his first ring; Green Bay was seen as invincible for silly reasons (the NFC is dominant, Elway can't win the big one, Denver's OL isn't big enough, yada yada yada). The Pats should be favored by a touchdown or maybe slightly more, but to be getting in the neighborhood of 12-15 points (depends on where you shop) with a solid New York team, that's an amazing value. The Patriots investment bubble burst a while ago (largely due to a sluggish back seven), but anyone who wants to back them still has to pay a huge tax in the line. Take advantage.

99
by Jeremy Billones (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 4:56pm

Re 77: I dunno where you saw that argument, but it's a pretty silly one.
The team that scores the most runs over a 7 game series is not the one that wins the series. Usually, but not always. Similarly, the team that outscores the other team in the most quarters is not the one that wins the game. Usually, but not always.

100
by mush (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:00pm

97. Those circumstances are why Kellen Clemens, who has a much stronger arm than Pennington (or Rivers, for that matter), barely cracked 5 yards per attempt.

Quarterbacks with no real pro experience generally get hammered their first time around the league. Very few exceptions to this rule. I don't blame the support cast for the crummy Clemens results - puppies have a lot of accidents in the pros, that's just the way it is, part of the learning curve.

As for Pennington's arm strength, it's telling that everyone in my living room immediately thought of No. 10 when Favre threw his lollipop interception in overtime Sunday. Maybe that's unfair, but that's the connection we made.

101
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:02pm

Does anybody remember when ESPN was talking about how USC was the best college football team ever in their quest for the 3 pete? They were stocked with first round talent, multiple Heisman trophy winners etc.

Then they met Mr. Vince Young and the rest is history. Sometimes the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

102
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:06pm

I believe what Tom meant to say is Tom Brady is among the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Not sure who QB's Tom's team, but there seems to be a problem. His QB doesn't follow the rules. He's a rebel. (Cue Kenny Loggins music) He's going to Miramar...He'll go up against the best for 16 weeks. And if he screws it up, he'll be throwing passes on a cargo plane full of rubber dog crap out of Hong Kong.
He'll sing Righteuous Brothers songs to one of his coaches (code name:Charlie);he'll play an odd game of shirtless volleyball with other men; he'll kill his best friend by spinning out in some linebacker's jetwash and crashing; lose his confidence only to get it back at the very end of the season. Then he'll join a cult and dance on Oprah's couch, proving once and for all, Superbowls arent what matters to success in the NFL...it's playing by your own rules. (fade Kenny Loggins music - Highway to the, DANGERZONE! Keep Choppin Wood, Tom)

103
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:13pm

Gallo has managed to dig up The Contract:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=contract/080121

104
by mush (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:18pm

Will Carroll: I don’t believe in clutch, but I do believe in choke.

I guess it depends on how one defines the terms, but that stance doesn't make sense to me. As I see it, pressure has different effects on people - some people wet their pants in a key spot, while others maintain their focus and don't get rattled. Just because it's hard to quantify clutchness doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

105
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:19pm

Sean (#97 )--

I thought we might get another Billy Volek sighting in the fourth quarter, but Norv never pulled the trigger.
To be fair, Norv didn't get much of a chance: the Chargers only had the ball for something like three minutes in the fourth quarter.

106
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:20pm

Pacifist Viking #84:

I wonder if there is a disconnect between “essence” and “existence” here. According to DVOA, the Giants do not have the “essence” of a great team. But as Sartre says, “existence precedes essence.” Regardless of whether the Giants have the essence of a great team, their existence shows the accomplishment of reaching the Super Bowl.

Egads! St. Thomas Aquinas and the Summa Contra Gentiles comes to FO!

Perhaps the NY Giants have been transubstantiated in the past 4 games. So while their outward accidental form remains that of a crew of malcontents lead by Eli the Bumbling Interceptee, their inward essence is now that of an efficient champion.

Or to paraphrase Folgers ... "Shhh! We've secretly switched the 2008 NY Giants with the 1986 NY Giants. Lets see if anyone notices!"

More seriously, the question then becomes who performed the change and what the change consisted of. Right now, the focus is on Eli Manning not throwing interceptions. Don't we remember that storyline about Jeff Garcia this year, and David Garrard this year as well, and Jake Plummer in 2005, and Donovan McNabb in 2004, etc. right before they had their big game meltdowns? Heck we just saw what happens when you combine Tom "Least Intercepted Quarterback of 2007" Brady with the San Diego "Most Interceptions in the League in 2007" Chargers. We are about to witness New Eli "I don't throw interceptions anymore" Manning meet up with Asante Samuel, Rodney Harrison, and Tedy Bruschi of playoff interception fame.

What do you think is about to happen?

I smell blood in the water, and a Patriots blowout like the 2000 and 2002 Super Bowls. Belicheck finally wins one by more than 3 points.

107
by MCS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:21pm

Nearly a decade ago, Favre injured his thumb on his throwing hand. Ever since then, he has had issues gripping the ball.

Cold balls are hard to grip. Even if you have good hands.

The pass by Favre in OT was terrible and I blame the grip, not the arm strength.

108
by mush (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:22pm

Ben Riley: Do you think Vincent Jackson is aware how badly the 75,000 people who had him on their fantasy teams this year resent his playoff success? I mean, the guy has been an absolute beast the past two games.

The same theme is even more true of Lawrence Maroney, who was a first or second-round pick in most leagues. He showed up in December, but it was far too late for fantasy owners to get anything out of it. At one point in 2007 everyone in New England short of Liz Walker had a touchdown . . . except for No. 39.

109
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:23pm

#86... I think at this point it's fairly safe to call that Giants' game against Minnesota a fluke. That's unless you think it's perfectly normal that the Vikes beat the Giants MUCH worse than the Patriots, Cowboys, and Packers did?

110
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:27pm

#105... Weren't you one of the same people underwhelmed by the Steve Spagnuolo hiring because he couldn't get Dhani Jones to be any good?

111
by mush (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:32pm

Aaron Schatz: I feel really bad for LaDainian Tomlinson. Here is a guy who is one of the best players of his generation, former MVP, class act.

How classy *is* Tomlinson, really? He's normally saying the right things when the Bolts win, and that certainly means something, but you show more when you can be classy in defeat. Was he last year? Nope. And Sunday I'm pretty sure he ducked the media, post-game - how classy is that?

I'm starting to think LT is a front-runner who gets pesky when the situation goes south. Not that he's really a punk or a jerk, but his reputation as Mr. Class seems a bit overblown IMHO.

112
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:33pm

107
I was pissed when the refs overturned Liz Walker's touchdown at the Redskins game. I lost my fantasy matchup that week by 3 points.
I dropped Walker the next week.

113
by Jimi (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:36pm

If we're going to hear stuff like #12 and #25 all the way until February 3, it's going to be a looooooooong two weeks.

114
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:41pm

kevinNYC #109:

Weren’t you one of the same people underwhelmed by the Steve Spagnuolo hiring because he couldn’t get Dhani Jones to be any good?

He couldn't do anything with a string of other candidates as well. Keith Adams, Matt McCoy, Nate Wayne, Mike Labinjo, Mark Simoneau, etc.

I'm not sure I see coughing up 351 points in a season as a mark of greatness, nor do I see a high number of sacks based in part off the Winston Justice Experiment as such a mark.

As a coach, he is getting too much credit for the talent of Strahan and Co. that was there before he showed up. Its not as though these guys never brought pressure before this year.

115
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:43pm

105:

If the point is to try project what will happen in the future, then examining the "essence" is useful--it's an indicator of the team's quality and what it can do in the future. If the point is to recognize what a team HAS ALREADY accomplished, then I find it pointless to say something like "but the DVOA finds New York mediocre." When looking at what has happened, what matters to me is the "existence," what the team has accomplished, the actual wins.

116
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:48pm

95: We have a slot receiver type. His name is Eric Parker and he missed the entire season due to injury.

117
by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:57pm

108 - on top of that, Minnesota and New England are now the only two teams that the Giants have played and not beaten.

I don’t think I can run out of “how incredible is it that the Giants got this far?” facts. Can you guess how many regular-season wins the Giants had over a team that finished the regular season with a winning record?

One. Week 3, 24-17 over Washington. Philadelphia was 8-8 and the other seven teams the Giants beat had losing records.

You know it's a bad sign when you're cribbing talking points from "Packer Pete".

It's a fraudulent stat. The Eagles went 8-6 against everyone else, as did the Redskins. Should the Giants have split with the Eagles, to make the Eagles 9-7 and give the Giants another win against a "winning" team?

Another way of looking at it is, the Giants are now 13-6, and 15 of the 19 games were against teams that went 7-9 or better. After the Super Bowl, they will have played seven games gainst teams that finished the regular season 13-3 or better. Anyone who thinks the Giants had an easy run and fattened up on the Little Sisters of the Poor is kidding themselves.

118
by lyford (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:00pm

#12
"Here is my question to the FO staff. Can you guys FINALLY admit the Giants are better than an average team? I am not asking you to say they are the 2nd best team, but can you at least say the are above average?

Can you admit they DESERVE to be in the super bowl?"

Has anyone denied it? Clearly they deserve to be in the Super Bowl. You deserve to be in the Super Bowl if you a) make the playoffs and then b) don't lose once you get there. They've won three playoff games on the road, and earned the Super Bowl berth. No doubt about it, no question.

#25
"Despite what the DVOA says, the Giants were the 3rd best team in the NFC this year, and they just happened to beat the best and 2nd best."

Well, they were tied for the third best record in the conference. On the other hand, their point differential was 8th out of 16. Pythagoras thinks that they should have won 9, they won 10. They played 6 games against teams that finished with a better than .500 record, and lost 5 of them. DVOA is saying the same thing that other metrics say - the 2007 Giants are an average team, a team that couldn't win against good teams, but beat bad ones and made it into the playoffs as a Wild Card, then went on a hot streak. (And they'd not have played yesterday had Patrick Crayton actually run his pattern inside the 2-minute warning last week, instead of stopping for a minute...)

119
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:04pm

Here is the sum total of what FO needs to say about the NYG IMO:

DVOA is a DESCRIPTIVE SYSTEM. It is telling you how good the teams HAVE played, based on what a huge number of past results say about such play.

It works as a decent predictive system as well because the evidence most people use for their predictions is rather inconsistent and flawed.

DVOA was right in describing how the NYG had played. And these numbers were strong evidence that the NYG were not that great this season and would do poorly in the playoffs.

Unfortunately for the accuracy of FO predictions, the quality of teams is a moving target and the NYG are playing much better now.

:::::::::::::::::::

I don't think anyone "missed" anything vis a vis the NYG. They are just a talented team (as probably 2/3s of the NFL teams are) who put it together at the right time. Best of luck to them!

120
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:05pm

I'll add to my point in #114.

If your favorite team loses an early season game, you might take comfort if they lost despite good DVOA. The good DVOA would be an indicator that the team could have more success in the future.

But if your favorite team loses in a Conference Championship Game, it will be little comfort to you whether DVOA says your team played a better game, or whether DVOA says your team is the better team. At this point, what matters is the actual accomplishment, whether your team won or lost the game. So "essence," the inherent quality, is a future indicator, but it means little in recognizing already accomplished acts. As Sartre also writes in "Being and Nothingness," we're defined by our acts. What matters is not what your inherent essence is (which doesn't exist anyway): what matters is how you choose to act. "Existence precedes essence." So teams are defined by their acts, whether they won the game, not by their essence, whether advanced metric shows them to be a quality team.

None of this is to disparage DVOA, which I find useful. But it doesn't really matter when looking back at a team's playoff run.

121
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:08pm

I guess it depends on how one defines the terms, but that stance doesn’t make sense to me. As I see it, pressure has different effects on people - some people wet their pants in a key spot, while others maintain their focus and don’t get rattled. Just because it’s hard to quantify clutchness doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I think what Will means is that "clutch" doesn't generally mean that a player "maintains focus." That's expected. If you average .300 in regular situations, and .300 in pressure situations, that's normal, not clutch.

"Clutch" is generally applied to a situation where a player improves in pressure situations. That they always come through. That they "raise their game". A player that batted .250 in regular situations, but batted .400 in pressure situations, would definitely be considered "clutch."

The opposite, of course, is to "choke", the situation where a player is noticeably worse when under pressure.

I think what Will is saying is that he definitely believes there are players that can lose their cool in pressure situations, and can't handle it, and get worse (i.e. choke) but he doesn't believe that there are players that necessarily get better - they simply don't get worse - they aren't rattled by the situation, etc. - and because of that, they may perform better against people who do get rattled.

122
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:10pm

66:
Thanks, Will - but I thought I gave enough qualifiers that it was my *opinion*, this being an opinion board and all. I know I can't get in his head - but it didn't look like he was doing much to try to get back in the game. Contrast his effort to that of Antonio Gates, Willis Reed, Curt Schilling, etc.

fwiw - I watched the game just behind the SD bench, not that it matters too much.

Of course, if he has surgery to repair his knee, I will stand corrected. I just thought that he would want trainers to exhaust all possibilities rather than to sit idly by with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

123
by Dylan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:11pm

Reading this thread has me longing for the days of raiderjoe. Let me try ...

pats 16-0 only because they not play raiders. asomugha shut down moss, intercept t bardy 3 times. l maroeny lucky to get 2 yards on tough raiders d

belichek good but no match for kiffin. wait till j russell take league by storm next year. sat out year just like C plamer, take raiders to super bowl next year.

... it's just not the same.

For what it's worth, I think that we can all agree that the Giants may be going to the Super Bowl, but the REAL NFC champions are the Vikings (remember 42-17?). Right? Or do I not want to start an irrational Manning/Brady/Tarvaris thread here?

124
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:12pm

also Sartre is incomprehensible/inconsistent nonsense (Even modern Sartre scholars admit this), please stick to Anglo-American philosophy, Europe became philosophically unhinged 150 years ago...

125
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:31pm

JohnR, my point was that having an opinion on what is happening on the sideline of an NFL game you are watching on T.V. is kind of like having an opinion of what brand of toothpaste Terry Bradshaw uses. There isn't any information available with which to form an opinion. You are right, this is an opinion board, so by all means let it rip. However, saying that a guy didn't give full effort to return to the game certainly implies that he might have been able to contribute if he had simply tried harder, which is a pretty damning comment on a professional athlete's character. I simply prefer that a lot more proof be made available before implying that such a thing has happened.

126
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:31pm

FootballOutsiders.com... where it's never easy to admit one was wrong.

#113... You do realize that without that 12 sack game, still only 4 teams would have more sacks than the Giants?Earlier you remarked on the lack of correlation between road wins and the probability of the Giants to getting to the Super Bowl. Yet, you honestly believe there's a complete correlation between points allowed and the performance of a defense? Judging strictly on the basis of non-offensive TDs and drives in which the opponent didn't move the ball 10 yards and STILL scored, the Giants gave up 55(!) points.

127
by MdM (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:38pm

Football Outsiders,
where if DVOA doesn't like your team, it is flawed and should be blasted with Peter King-like hellfire.

JohnR,
while LdT didn't seem to do much to try to get back in, wouldn't he just be lambasted as one of those angry young black men who should respect their coach's decision and keep their mouths shut? I know he would be getting hammered if he was yapping to get in...

128
by walthamolian (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:41pm

Great live commentary! Even read the day after, it's interesting.

As a Pats fan, I have to hand it to the Chargers defense, who played far better than I expected. Gotta give credit to Rivers too, who managed to make quite a few good plays, knee brace and all. But I do think something was up with Brady - he just wasn't throwing very well, and while I'm sure part of that was the great Charger pressure, some of it had to be him. The Pats defense did its job, mostly, but it would sure have been a much scarier game had the Chargers not been beaten up as they were. In the end, the most impressive thing from the Pats point of view was probably that 9 1/2 minute grinder of a drive at the end.

As for the NFC game, you have to be impressed with the Giants winning on the road, but GB seemed to be lost most of the time. I agree with whoever said that Favre looked cold and out of sorts - I kept hoping for some glory from him in the second half, and he just couldn't seem to do much of anything. So much for home-field advantage at icy Lambeau! It's probably better to be young and hungry --

129
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:43pm

Pats offensive participation numbers (by Mike Reiss):

A look at the snaps played by offensive skill position players in Sunday's win over the Chargers:

WR Randy Moss -- 61 of 65 snaps
TE Benjamin Watson -- 54 of 65
WR Wes Welker -- 40 of 65
RB Laurence Maroney -- 37 of 65
TE Kyle Brady -- 35 of 65
RB Kevin Faulk -- 28 of 65
WR Jabar Gaffney -- 27 of 65
FB Heath Evans -- 17 of 65
WR Donte' Stallworth -- 14 of 65
TE Stephen Spach -- 8 of 65
TE/LB Mike Vrabel -- 3 of 65

(snaps include one illegal contact penalty, but not the final two kneel-downs)

ANALYSIS: The difference between tight end snaps played in the first half vs. the second half was most revealing. Kyle Brady had 10 first-half snaps and 25 in the second, Benjamin Watson was 20/34, while Stephen Spach was 0/8 ... That will lead into our positional groupings update later today, which will show a heavier emphasis on tight end packages in this game, which was a key in-game adjustment. ... FB Heath Evans also had a wide split, with four first-half snaps and 13 in the second half. While some of that was based on the team running out the clock in a four-minute offense -- and also having more second-half plays -- it also highlights the in-game adjustment to tighter, bigger personnel packages. ... RB Laurence Maroney's 37 snaps were his second highest total of the season (39 vs. Jets, Dec. 16). ... WR Donte' Stallworth played only two second-half snaps, which might have been a result of the focus on tight ends, but could have been due, in part, to a third-quarter interception on a pass that was thrown in his direction.

130
by Not saying (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:43pm

Re: 126
FootballOutsiders.com… where it’s never easy to admit one was wrong.
Yeah, because you see people admitting their wrong everywhere else on the internet. Off of it, too. Can't turn a corner without people telling me how wrong they were.

Re: 124

Them's fighting words.
(I'd also say much of "Anglo-American" philosophy of the 20th-21st centuries would be incomplete without Frege and Wittgenstein, both of whom were from Central Europe.)

131
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:43pm

Pats positional grouping numbers (Reiss again):

A look at the positional groupings utilized by the Patriots in Sunday's win over the Chargers:

# 3 WR/1 TE/1 RB -- 20 of 65
# 2 WR/2 TE/1 RB -- 11 of 65
# 1 WR/2 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- 11 of 65
# 4 WR/1 RB -- 9 of 65
# 1 WR/3 TE/1 RB -- 8 of 65
# 3 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- 3 of 65
# 2 WR/1 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- 3 of 65

(snaps include an illegal contact penalty, but don't include the final two kneel-downs)

ANALYSIS: In the first half, the Patriots ran 9 of 29 plays (31 percent) with multiple tight ends on the field. In the second half, the Patriots ran 22 of 36 plays with multiple tight ends (61 percent). The numbers are reflective of an in-game adjustment in which the Patriots decided to put "heavier" personnel on the field to establish the run in the second half. It seemed to be a case in which the Patriots realized the passing game wasn't having the desired success -- the Chargers were causing some problems with pressure both on the edges and up front -- so they decided to focus on the ground game. ... The Patriots usually go to a 3 TE package at the goal-line, but it was utilized in all areas Sunday. After not calling on a 1 WR/3 TE/1 RB package in the first half, the team used it eight times in the second half. ... The Patriots did not run one snap with 4 WR/1 RB in the second half.

132
by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:44pm

Re: 95

The Chargers could use a slot-receiver type? Perhaps Eric Parker will do.

You're right, they really don't have much to improve except secondary depth.

133
by kc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:45pm

Just saw a story on espn.com that Rivers had knee surgery Monday, the day after the Colts game, to clean out his right knee cartilage.

134
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:52pm

No, #128, it is better to run the ball 39 times for 134 yards, instead of 14 times for 28, on day when the weather will make it much more difficult to throw. I don't think relative appetites made much of a difference.

135
by Brooklyn Bengal (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:56pm

I'm genuinely shocked that so many FO writers were CONVINCED that the Packers were going to win. Seriously, Aaron? The show didn't encourage you to have any back-up dialogue? Really Bill? You didn't see how well your team has been playing down the stretch?

Wow...it's just...wow. I've long been a critic of Eli "there's no crying in baseball, but there is crying in football on draft day" Manning. But I saw a big Dallas upset coming and I was torn on the Packers game because...well, because I ACTUALLY WATCH THE FOOTBALL GAMES.

We can talk about valid predictors all we want, but football games are not clinical trials. Lots of factors play into the result of a football game, and the Giants have had a talented roster and a solid head coach all season. It's obvious that the Jints underperformed their capabilities this whole year. Part of it was Eli's immaturity, and perhaps part of it was adapting to the loss of Tiki and mismanaged coaches' expectations. Who knows? But only a real idiot would have gone into Sunday night not giving the G-men a legit shot. Maybe the FO staff could be a little less snooty and throw the dogs a bone when they deserve one...

136
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 6:56pm

133: That Rivers is one tough bastard.

137
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 7:09pm

The only way Tomlinson gets back into that game, regardless of who makes the decision, is if he can be more effective than his backup(s). On a lot of teams, he's back in there. But with his limitations, and when you have Turner and Sproles, what's the point? He'd have only hurt his team.
The Rivers surgery / Volek healthy thing, that's a completely different and interesting argument.

138
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 7:18pm

Re: 135
Don't you know. No one posting here actually watched the NYG-GB game because everyone just assumed Green Bay had won. They were all busy playing Madden 2008 with the special DVOA sliders... since we all know that Madden 2008 simulations are actually the true results of the Football Season... what happens on the field really doesn't matter. As far as the Patriots, we can just crown their *sses, in fact I think the 4th week of the preseason and the 17th week of the regularly season are bull**it, BULL**it!

139
by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 7:39pm

"Judging strictly on the basis of non-offensive TDs and drives in which the opponent didn’t move the ball 10 yards and STILL scored, the Giants gave up 55(!) points."

Wow, Kevin. Great stat.

I have a feeling it is going to be an ugly few weeks here.

So let me jump into the mud. I've been spouting a consistent mantra all year regarding the Giants. When they play well, they are as good a team as any in the NFL (well, excepting possibly the Patriots who have seemed to be on a different stratosphere for much of the year).

For the purposes of my context here, by "play well" I mean avoiding what are most commonly identified as mental mistakes or discipline mistakes. Foolish decisions. Penalties, particularly at the worst possible times. Abject stupidity. Taking eyes off of balls. Not bringing Vince Young to the ground when sacking him. Things like that.

What made the Giants a mediocre team, and what DVOA was seeing, was the fact that the Giants played poorly (in the above definition) often. In fact, they consistently did not play well in the above manner.

But what DVOA has been "missing" (my way of phrasing it-- there may be a better one) is that a team that is mediocre because of stupidity is at least physically capable of rising above mediocrity by somehow stopping being stupid. A team that is mediocre because they don't have the physical talent cannot make the same jump up in quality.

The Giants, yesterday, played well. They did not play great-- there were still some brain farts on their end. Dumb penalties. Not protecting the ball at right time. Things like that. But, for the most part, they did not go overboard in stupidity. They mostly remembered their assignments. They mostly avoided penalties. Eli mostly avoided making poor decisions. And lo-and-behold, they beat a team most thought was superior than them.

I do not think that most mediocre teams could have accomplished what the Giants have over the past four and one half weeks. The Giants may rightfully be identified by DVOA as mediocre, but they are a significantly more talented, and in my eyes "better", team than most mediocre teams.

They have a good offensive line. They have a deep running back corps that provides variety as well as quality. They have a game-breaking wide receiver. They have a decent safety-valve at tight end. They have a great defensive line. The back 7 on defense isn't outstanding, but they have been playing better of late and at least two of them are players (Pierce and Ross). And they have a quarterback who has been a disappointment so far but has shown flashes throughout his career of having the ability to be better than he's been so far. He makes some throws that quarterbacks with his numbers generally cannot make. His bloodlines are impeccable. He could be better, he should be better, than he has been, even if he rightfully should be labeled mediocre at this point career to date.

Not a bad football team. Not at all.

Now they go to the Super Bowl, and they face a team many think is the best of all time. If the Giants win, it will be a great story. If they lose, or even get killed, it won't change these two conclusions:

1) Taking their entire season into consideration, including the playoffs, this is an above average team overall.
2) Their season has to be considered a monumental success beyond the expectations of just about everyone.

Some will look at #2 and denigrate them, saying their expectations were right and the reality is just a fluke. Others will think they might have had their expectations too low. Some will have a little of both.

Me? I didn't expect them to do this. But I knew they could-- it is what has been frustrating me about them for the last three years.

140
by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 7:44pm

As a Chargers fan, I didn't really have a problem with Norv's decision to keep LT on the sidelines. I'm pretty sure he said that he got hit on the knee during one of those first few plays, and it was obvious that he wasn't capable of playing as well as he needed to. The combination of Turner and Sproles at 100% was a much more attractive option, as it also kept LT from suffering any further damage, and would have given him the opportunity to get healthy for the Super Bowl if the Chargers has managed to pull it out.

I was impressed with the effort the Chargers gave but losing like that is almost worse then getting blown out. The Chargers came very close to upsetting the Pats with injuries to their (arguably) top 5 players:

Rivers - both knees
LT - knee
Gate - toe
Merriman - knee
Williams - ankle

I'd love to see what they can do next year if they have some better luck when it comes to injuries.

How do the Chargers improve the team? It's going to be hard because they don't have very many picks in this year's draft:

No 2nd rounder (Chambers trade)
No 3rd rounder (Weddle trade last year)
No 4th rounder (drafted Oliver in last year's supplemental draft)

Defense:
They need help in the secondary (weak safeties) and on the defensive line (little depth after the starting 3). I expect them to draft a big nose tackle type with the first rounder, to help out Jamal Williams and take over for him eventually.

The Chargers will almost certainly cut ties with Drayton Florence and Michael Turner. Igor Olshansky might be out if he gets a better offer elsewhere. The Chargers have the second-most space under the cap for next year and will most likely sign a couple of veteran back-up types to help the defense.

Offense:
Eric Parker will return from injury to a suddenly crowded wide receiver corp (Chambers, Jackson, Davis, and Parker). Osgood takes up the sixth spot as the special teams ace so there's not much room for movement/improvement.

The o-line is fairly young and solid, they might draft a late project for the right side of the line. If Olivea can't reclaim the starting right tackle spot from Clary, he will almost certainly be moved inside to challenge Goff for right guard.

The Chargers may draft a RB to replace Turner but I doubt it. They expect Pinnock to replace him as the bruiser-type runner. This may be complicated by Neal's age and injury however, since Pinnock is also the backup FB.

141
by JohnR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 7:51pm

I don't know how else I can say it. I didn't say that LdT should have been screaming at Norv to let him back in. I sat behind the Chargers bench at the game and - while I admit - I was watching the on-field action most of the time - I also spied looks at LdT sitting on the bench in between plays.

I might have missed it, but I only saw him speak to a trainer once briefly. If he doesn't have some sort of injury requiring something other than "rest" to heal it -- I will question his heart -- given the many, many examples of other athletes stepping up to want to win big games. His post-game comments don't seem to indicate anything other than a sprain and the fact that he felt he lacked "explosiveness" -- he takes himself out after 2 attempts and makes no effort with the trainers to come back? That is all...and really, it is more than needs to be said. Sorry for the noise.

142
by goathead (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 7:51pm

So, I'll write as someone who saw every Giants game this year, and in all honesty he hasn't played much better in the playoffs than he did in the regular season - BUT his receivers have played much better. OK, he stunk up the field against the vikings, but more typical was the game they lost against the redskins. Eli was throwing the ball well at the start, they had a drive end due to 2 dropped passes that should have been caught easily. Then, with the game still close, Moss catches the ball on an 11 yard pass on a 3rd & 10, and runs backwards away from a hit giving up the 1st down (anyone see Moss on the field after that game?). Eli goes on to have an epic number of incompletions, but the reality is that his receivers deserted him that day.

The only thing that surprised me yesterday was how well he threw the ball in the cold. Plaxico & Toomer both dropped easy and very important passes in the 1st half, but in both cases they made up for it, and frankly THAT is the difference in the post season and is probably the reason the DVOA is so far off - hard to account for a team suddenly deciding to start making the easy catches!

143
by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 7:53pm

What is the infatuation with Levine and his constant commenting on Stadium noise? Every NFL stadium has loud PA systems and plays loud music and obnoxious sound effects to get the crowd going! Some franchises like to pump up the volume when hte opponent has the ball and some like to video the opposing teams signals? Who cares about your noise factor. The NFL watching world is waiting for someone, in this case the Giants to defeat the 18-0 unbeaten Patriots! The Giants will have a second chance to stop the greatest team in NFL history and they will fail once again on February 3rd. Another Manning meltdown!

144
by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 7:55pm

SDUT: "Rivers played on knee with ACL 'totally gone'"

Three questions:

1) How the hell is your ACL 'totally gone'?

2) Why the hell would Norv still play him and how could he play like that?

3) How the hell is he going to be 100% by the start of next year?

145
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 8:14pm

144: About the ACL issue, Hines Ward has purportedly played without an ACL in one of his knees for his entire career. That comparison, if anything, solidifies Rivers' "bad-ass" credentials.

But that said, your questions #2 and #3 are what I was wondering. Don't get me wrong, I have admiration for Rivers' gritty performance, but it seemed to me that he was (understandably) physically fading as the game went on - and, if the Chargers want Rivers to be a franchise QB, isn't allowing him play on a torn knee ligament a hell of a risk? (Particularly as the approach with LdT was much, much more conservative?)

146
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 8:29pm

Since this thread is going in the direction, I'll jump in and say I didn't like the Chargers playing Rivers without any knees... and I felt that way before the game. I fully expected Volek to play the whole game, and was surprised to see Rivers in when I turned it on. He looked like he was in a ton of pain...

Volek lead a TD drive vs. the Colts... I thought he was more than capable of coming in and playing as a decent fill-in.

147
by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 8:46pm

#44: The translation of this paragraph: the numbers and the actual results are wildly different, but there is no way in hell I will bother to explain such an event, because there is absolutely no chance that the numbers are incorrect. Rather then giving a very modest admission that the system is not infallible and in fact quite capable of being wrong on occasion, I will blindly adhere to the website I write for and paint the anomaly as no such thing. The system is right, this team is mediocre, ignore the past four weeks! In fact… they did not happen!

Given the excellent quality of the rest of Tanier’s work, this is even more appalling..

Very well stated. One of the reasons I really like FO is because the writers are usually willing to admit that the numbers aren't perfect.

Looking at it from a purely statistical standpoint, which of the following is more likely:

A. The Giants are a below average team that had three fluke wins in a row all on the road, with two over very good teams.

B. The Giants are actually a better team than DVOA rates them.

148
by Scott (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 8:46pm

Since 2001 the Patriots are 23-7 in games where they are playing a team for the 2nd time. They're 17-5 in the rematch when they already won the first meeting. And one of those 5 losses was week 17 2005 against Miami, a game where they basically just mailed it in with back ups. I don't like Coughlin's chances with Belichick having 2 weeks to prepare and fix what went wrong the last time.

149
by Kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 8:56pm

Re 148:

Misleading statistic. They have the teams in their division twice every year since 2001. That alone accounts for 18 or 21 (depending if you count 2001) of the 30 games.

I doubt beating the Jets, Fish and Bills twice this year qualifies as evidence of Belichick's excellence. Slamming teams in the playoffs after playing them in the regular season, fine, but your statistic lacks any context whatsoever.

150
by Aerogopher (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 9:06pm

#109

The Vikings at that time were playing very well. They beat San Diego by more than two touchdowns. I don't think it was a fluke. It is what it is. See FO article on San Diego-Minnesota. I think the Vikings match up well with the Giants. I see the strengths of the Giants being similar to the Chargers - pass rush, running game, tight end talent, big wide receivers.

However, I think that the Patriots are probably better at changing schemes than any other team and being effective at it. They may try to duplicate what worked for Minnesota did in that game.

151
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 9:24pm

Re #147
How about
A. The Giants were a slightly above average team in the regular season.
B. The Giants have been a well above average team in the postseason.
This is, you know, entirely consistent with (A) what DVOA has been saying and (B) what I've seen from the Giants, so I think it's a good explanation. Plus, as FO has mentioned before, we've seen a slightly above average team play really well in the playoffs before, so it's not like the Giants are doing something unprecedented. Plus, well, (C) your team is in the Super Bowl, so enjoy it while it lasts. In fact, if you really want to whine about being disrespected and risk incurring the wrath of Rodney Harrison, King of Talking About Being Disrespected (NFL), talk about Special Sauce being wrong.

And lay off MikeT. I think that like many FO writers, he believes DVOA is an incomplete yet valuable tool. He's written about the good things the Giants have done this year (check out his Four Aces TDZ piece if you haven't), so it's not like he thinks they're terrible. Plus, he has to put up with Philly media coverage and people, and that could drive even the best of us insane.

As a fan of one of the other 30 teams, let me just say I can't wait for the Pro Bowl.

152
by jetsgrumbler (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 9:46pm

140: why not just trade tomlinson (assuming anyone wants him) for lots of picks and a ton of cap space? they were very close to a superbowl appearance without him, and arguably only need a healthy rivers and gates.

49/97: I appreciate the reluctance to turn it into Pennington thread. Sorry--didn't mean to hijack.

153
by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 10:13pm

I've never, ever written anything about FO Pats bias, mostly because I never saw any indication that it existed (and because I can understand being both a fan and an analyst).

But the consistent calling the Pats the best team ever and an upset of them the greatest upset in sports? The first of those is pretty clearly debatable. The second is absolutely ridiculous. WRT the first, as Will Allen points out early in this thread, it's time to start considering some of those 1 and 2 loss teams who cruised in the playoffs in this greatest team ever discussion. I've thrown out the '91 skins for sake of discussion earlier. They won their two playoff games by a combined 65-17 before winning the SB 37-24 over the team with the third best point differential in the league.

Or how about the '85 bears who won their playoff games by a combined 45-0 before crushing the Pats 46-10.

In other words, outside of FO and NE, the greatest team ever question is far from settled.

154
by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 10:16pm

If the Outsiders won't say it, I will: The Giants are an average team that is very fortunate to have made it as far as they have. I don't even need to look at DVOA to say that; I've watched enough of the Giants this year (including their last four games) to be thoroughly unimpressed with the team. I believe that the Giants have outplayed all of their opponents this postseason, but they have by no means been dominant, and they have benefitted from the fact that their postseason opponents have played some of the worst football they have played all year in their games against the Giants. I know people want to believe that the Giants have made their opponents look bad, but, honestly, I don't buy it. If the Giants replayed any of the teams they've beaten this postseason, I would pick their opponent without hesitation. As I wrote last week, the lesson here is not that everybody was wrong about the Giants but that the better team doesn't always win. You can say I’m being disrespectful if you want; I’d say I’m just being realistic and not kowtowing to the sensitivities of the naïve “you have to give them credit” crowd.

Who knows? The Giants may even win the Super Bowl. That would be the biggest postseason upset in modern NFL history. It would entail one of the worst teams ever to play in the Super Bowl beating one of the best teams ever to play football, but it could happen. After all, the better team doesn’t always win.

155
by Lyford (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 10:24pm

#126
"Judging strictly on the basis of non-offensive TDs and drives in which the opponent didn’t move the ball 10 yards and STILL scored, the Giants gave up 55(!) points."

I've tried, and failed, to make sense of that line, because what I read it as saying isn't true, and I can't find another meaningful way to read it. Do you suppose that you could re-phrase for those of us too dim to get your point here?

156
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 10:27pm

re 153
Carlos,
I am a Cowboys fan who lives in DC.
I saw almost every skins game in 91.
They were awesome.
Dallas beat them once but was very lucky to do so.
I think it was just past midseason when they absolutely demolished the Steelers and Falcons. After that I don't think anyone doubted they would win the Super Bowl.

157
by foos (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 10:47pm

I've watched (and re-watched) all of the Giants games this year. There are some key differences in the makeup of the team this postseason that are reasons for their success.

^Ahmad Bradshaw is getting carries instead of Reuben Droughns.
^Steve Smith returned from injury, giving Eli an actual #3 receiver.
^Shockey got hurt, which was a blessing in disguise. Without the guy complaining about not getting the ball all the time and then running sloppy routes, Eli is not forcing the ball to him and having him not be where he is supposed to be. Fewer interceptions. His blocking is missed sorely, however.
^Corey Webster learned to play cornerback. I don't know how, or when, but this guy was completely useless all season, and all of a sudden he has turned it on.

Moreover, the Giants are clearly feeding off of being the underdog. Against Dallas and Green Bay, hardly anyone picked them to win, and it will be the same against the Pats. The Giants are a motivated bunch and they are showing it by making plays on raw effort. They're not the best team, that's true, but up until now they have clearly wanted it more. Maybe that's nebulous sport-speak, but look at them out there. Look at Antonio Pierce going through a guard to make a tackle on a screen, or Justin Tuck scraping hard down the line to kill another screen pass, or Brandon Jacobs smashing Charles Woodson into next week to set the tone. This team has found something in the underdog role and they are going to give maximum effort in the Big Game. They may not win, but there is no way in hell they are going to lay down for the Patriots.

158
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 10:49pm

"Sartre is smartre, but Camus can do" --Jay Sherman

But seriously, Sartre provides a pretty coherent worldview when he writes about existential freedom, as in "The Age of Reason," "The Flies," the section of "Being and Nothingness" on freedom and action.

But that conversation is for another time and place--Tom Coughlin has no room for existential freedom.

Actually, with relevance to what Aaron writes about New England's flexibility, I once wrote that the Patriots were the ultimate post-modern team: rather than having a fixed identity, they're willing to beat you with whatever offensive and defensive strategies they need to (link in my name if you're interested).

159
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 10:52pm

Re Dennis #147 (and others). Why is it so hard to believe that a basically average team can play well for three or four weeks in a row? The 1980 Oakland Raiders were an above average team (at best) who won the superbowl by beating a massively superior team (and I'm a Raiders fan)...and missed the playoffs next year. The 1995 San Diego Chargers were a mediocre team who played well in the playoffs until the Superbowl...and missed the playoffs next year. The 2001 Patriots were an average team who won the Superbowl...and missed the playoffs the next year. The 2003 Panthers were an average team who played great in the playoffs...and missed the playoffs the next year. It is nothing like unprecedented for a not great team to make the Superbowl. It does not mean that anyone who has doubted their credentials all year is "wrong" or "biased" and it does not mean that DVOA is fundamentally flawed for not recognising this obvious juggernaut in waiting or that FO writers are "in denial" for not admitting they are a great team. All it means is that the G-men have played above their established level for a few weeks. Which happen to be the most important few weeks of the season.

#46, #52, #55. You forgot to mention about how the coach left Drexler in to pick up his fourth foul before halftime. Savvy.

160
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 10:55pm

153: the 1984 49ers were 18-1, and their one loss was by 3. They had the #2 scoring offense and the #1 scoring defense, and they won their playoff games 82-26. I've often wondered why I don't hear about them more often in the "greatest ever" discussions.

(info in link in my name)

161
by James (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 11:13pm

Or the '94 49ers?

I'm surprised they don't come into these discussions. Once upon a time they were called the greatest offense of all time... Steve Young, Rice, John Taylor, Ricky Watters, Brent Jones, and a very good offensive line.

And the d wasn't too bad either-- B.Young, Dana Stubblefield in the middle, Rickey Jackson & Richard Dent coming off the edges-- LBs- Ken Norton Jr, Gary Plummer. Plus a useful secondary, Merton Hanks, Tim McDonald, Eric Davis, and some guy called Deion Sanders.

Put 38 points on a fairly useful Cowboys squad in NFC championship game.

I reckon they could hang with these Patriots.

Don't get me wrong, these Pats are a great team-- but best of all time? As posters have said, keep this up for another couple seasons (and could they if Moss goes?) and then I'll believe it.

162
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 11:30pm

Can an average team play decent for a quarter of a season? Sure, but against
A) The greatest team of alltime
B) A playoff Tampa team
C) A legit 13-3 Cowboys team
D) A legit Packers team in -1 degree temp

With the last 3 all being on the road. Can an average team win those last 3 games and take the Pats down to the wire, or is it more likely they are NOT just an average team?

Remember, Postseason DVOA has the Washington Redskins at #7, and the Giants at #18. NOW do you see my point?

163
by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 11:33pm

"Why is it so hard to believe that a basically average team can play well for three or four weeks in a row?"

It's not hard to believe.

What some people seem incapable of believing, though, is that while a basically average team can play well for three or four weeks in a row, a good team can play poorly in 5-6 games over the course of a season. The frequency of each occurring might even be pretty close to equal, since the latter doesn't have the 'in a row' criteria.

I think we can safely exclude the more extreme possibilities. The Giants are almost certainly not a poor team. They are almost certainly not a great team. That leaves good and mediocre. Which would it be?

You look at just the regular season, you would say mediocre. You look at just the post season, you would say good. I am just as skeptical to those who only want to look at the regular season as those who only want to look at the playoffs.

But we have more data to look at-- namely that the Giants have been in the playoffs three straight years. The only significant loss they had personnel wise from last year-- Tiki-- was replaced by people who performed well. They added quite a few players in the draft who played well this year. If they were an average-to-above-average team the past few seasons, then it is very likely that they are somewhat better than that this year. That puts them closer to the 'good team' classification than the 'average team' one.

I'll tell you one thing- the Giants won't be psyched out going against the Patriots. They know they can hang if they play well. Will they? I hope so, I would not bet on it, but that is what I would say about most of the teams who were in the playoffs. I think it reflected very well on the Chargers that they played the Pats so tough. It didn't shock me that they had a pretty easy time with the Jags. The Pats are a great, great team.

And the Giants are a good team.

164
by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 11:41pm

Adding more...

"Why is it so hard to believe that a basically average team can play well for three or four weeks in a row? The 1980 Oakland Raiders were an above average team (at best) who won the superbowl by beating a massively superior team (and I’m a Raiders fan)…and missed the playoffs next year. The 1995 San Diego Chargers were a mediocre team who played well in the playoffs until the Superbowl…and missed the playoffs next year. The 2001 Patriots were an average team who won the Superbowl…and missed the playoffs the next year. The 2003 Panthers were an average team who played great in the playoffs…and missed the playoffs the next year."

You know what else all of those teams have in common, that is not common with the Giants?

None of those teams made the playoffs the year prior to their Super Bowl run. And only one of them (the Chargers) made the playoffs two years before their Super Bowl run.

The Giants have been a playoff team for three straight years.

Those teams came from nowhere, and went back to nowhere. The Giants came from being a playoff team in the admittedly weaker of the two conferences to being a Super Bowl team (in the weaker conference, that was not as weak relatively excepting the Patriots).

If a team comes from nowhere, I would argue the chances of them being a fluke average team getting hot at the right time rather than a good team are greater than the chances when the team has been pretty good for a few years.

165
by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 11:45pm

Bah. Bad editing.

"If a team comes from nowhere, I would argue the chances of them being a fluke average team (getting hot at the right time )rather than a good team are greater than the chances of them really just being average when the team has been pretty good for a few years."

166
by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 11:49pm

154 - Yes, how fortunate and lucky the Giants have been these last three weeks, when the referee flipped a coin and awarded the Giants each win. Why would anyone give them credit? It's not like they accomplished anything; they just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Perhaps you could fashion a sure-to-be-coveted "Who Impressed CA the Most" trophy out of whtever materials are handy and send it to the most deserving team - I'm sure Mike McCarthy or Wade Phillips or whoever would be delighted.

167
by langsty (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 11:58pm

re: #60 - "MikeB, reverse the Packers’ and Giants rushing performances, and I suspect the qb performances would be be pretty close to being reversed as well. The key element of the game was the performance of the Giants offensive line, and the fact that the Packers’ coaching staff thought it was futile to try to run, in 25-below wind chill.

:: Will Allen — 1/21/2008 @ 1:03 pm"

I agree with this. Favre's pick in OT was ugly, but a lotta QBs in that situation are going to make some ugly throws. The Packers' offensive gameplan was probably to run at the Giants ends and work their screen packages in order to slow down the pass rush, but NYG had a great defensive gameplan and did a good job filling the gaps in the run game and shutting down the screens, and GB never seemed to come up with an alternative strategy. I don't blame them for not running more when the run game was so ineffective, but you CAN point the finger at the coaching staff for not being more prepared.

168
by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:10am

Re Duff #159: DVOA has the Giants 16th in the regular season, with a slight negative value. Dallas was ranked 3rd, Green Bay 5th and Tampa Bay 7th. I don't know how you convert DVOA into win probabilities, but I would guess based on the numbers the Giants would have maybe a 30% chance of beating Green Bay or Dallas on the road and 40% chance of beating TB. So that means if the ratings are accurate representations of the teams, the Giants hit on a 3.6% chance of winning all three.

So IMO, it is much more likely that the Giants are actually an above-average team than it is that they hit on a 3.6% chance.

You can spin it as "they are an average team that played well for three weeks" if you want. I'll spin it as "a team that plays well for three weeks in a row on the road against good teams is probably a better-than-average team."

And for the record, I'm not a Giants fan so I don't have a personal stake in this discussion. It just bugs me when people don't seem to be willing to consider the possibility that they might be wrong.

169
by CA (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:13am

Re: 165 Oh, Giants fans! Why can't you just enjoy your team's improbable run to the Super Bowl? Why must you ignore the role of chance in the game and insist against best evidence that your team is in fact elite? I suppose loyalty overwhelms logic in passionate times. I refer you to Aaron's introduction to Pro Football Prospectus 2006.

170
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:19am

Elite, to me, implies great.

Not seeing too many people arguing that.

Top 10 team this year, though? A good team? Yeah, I'll make that argument. We've got our record and our Super Bowl appearance and our performance against the Pats and the fact that we are a playoff team three years running to back it up.

171
by Doug (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:19am

I don't think DVOA or any metric on this site was ever intended to be the one true way of measuring a team, so it's not surprising that DVOA and actual results don't match 100%

172
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:27am

168

You misunderstand me - while I am impressed by your airtight logic, I think you give the Giants entirely too much credit. "One of" the worst Super Bowl teams? Honestly, who else is even in the discussion? The Giants were the worst team in football this year. Sure, some people might say the Dolphins were 1-15, but everyone knows the best team doesn't always win. I watched the Dolphins lots of times, and was very impressed! It's a shame *they* couldn't be in the Super Bowl, after all the bad luck they endured. I refuse to kowtow to the "dude, the Dolphins really sucked" crowd! I am a brave and courageous truthteller, and very very logical!

173
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:31am

160: I agree the '84 niners belong in the mix

174
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:38am

Since the rule changes of '78, I'd say the best teams have been, in no particular order, the '84 49ers, '85 Bears, '89 49ers (outscored their playoff opponents 126-26), and '91 Redskins (played 11 teams with 10 or more wins). Heck, one shouldn't ignore the '86 Giants, who outscored their playoff opponents 105-23. Adjusted for era, and with Belichik's younger self scheming against the older version, I'd bet Lawrence Taylor and Co. could cause problems for the '07 Patriots passing attack.

The Patriots have perhaps the greatest offense ever, and they had perhaps the greatest regular season ever. They have issues on defense, however, which are somewhat masked by their offense, and they played in a weak division. They have not dominated yet at the highest level of competition, playoff football. They are a great offense, but if you want to watch the greatest teams of the past 30 years, watch a Bears, or 49ers, or Redskins teams, on NFL Network when they show old games, start clubbing playoff opponents like baby seals, from the opening kickoff.

To say that these Patriots are the best team ever, based upon a probable perfect record, ignores the element of luck which is part of every game, and a very important part of close games. The Pats have had enough close games this year where a little bad luck could have meant a defeat, and most tellingly, their playoff games have been close enough where bad luck may have given them a severe scare, if not an outright loss, and prevented a championship. Trust me, short of a meteor hitting the team bus on the way to the game, there is no way luck could have stopped, say, the Bears in the '85 playoffs, or even made the games competitive. They simply crushed their opponents as if it were an afterthought.

175
by DCD12 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:47am

No comments here, really; this thread has basically said anything I could have possibly added. Just wanted to say that I think 173 is absolutely dead-on.

176
by mryeti (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:04am

For me, the story of NYG-GB is three things: ridiculous playcalling, a subpar performance from Favre -- oh, and getting whipped in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

Additionally, Al Harris cannot cover Plaxico. This was plain to see in the first quarter, yet no safety help was ever in evidence.

GB's offensive line got no push in the run game, and despite what Aikman and Buck seemed to think, Favre was feeling like there was pressure every time he dropped back. On the first possession of the game, McCarthy came out with two play-action roll outs. My thought at the time was that I liked that game plan. It was, however, the last time that particular wrinkle made an appearance.

On the next possession for GB, here are the playcalls: WR screen to Koren Robinson, a shovel pass, and then another screen to Robinson. Even if you had not seen the game, it's not hard to imagine a punt following a sequence like that.

Abandoning the run despite leading at halftime, getting too cute for no discernible reason, and...

Ugh. It hurts.

177
by vikinghooper (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:08am

#159, Point of fact Guy Lewis left in his athletic swingman Larry Micheaux to pick up his 4th foul in the NC state final loss. Funny thing how he and Drexler were equals in college but the bottom fell out of Micheaux in the pros.

As a Viking fan in Seattle, Tom Coughlin proved the axiom you can make the same mistake over and over again and still occasionally be right. The Giants lost an OT game 1-2 years ago in Seattle where Jay Feeley missed 3-4 field goals. Instead of going for it on 4th and 5 to give Feeley better than a 52 yard try, Coughlin trotted Feeley out and he missed again and the Seahawks won.

Fast forward to yesterday and it's -30, and he trots out Tynes to make a never made before field goal in January at Lambeau over 40 yards, actually FORTY SEVEN yards.

Tynes should get some kind of medal, because Vinatieri's snow game kick and this kick are clearly the two best playoff kicks in NFL history ( Gould's OT winner last year in Chicago is an honorable mention ).

Coughlin sent him out to fail, because the blame then would squarely fall on Tynes. Terrible decision, immortal result. Just because it worked doesn't mean it was right, and in a more sober environment, Coughlin's flailing, yelling at the kicker, red-faced ( I mean, I know TMQ says cold coach=victory but now Coughlin needs a face transplant ) ineptitude is now being serenaded as great coaching. Some people can never see what's right in front of their face. COughlin is an anchor and his team wins despite him.

178
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:09am

The '85 Bears lost a game, won two games by one touchdown, and three by ten points or less.

The '07 Patriots lost no games, but won four games by four points or less, and one game by ten. They have a second win by less than ten in the playoffs. I don't think it's unreasonable to say that these teams dominated by around the same level.

179
by CA (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:10am

Re: 171 The 2007 Dolphins are a very good example of a team whose record fails to match its intrinsic quality, with one actual win against 4.1 estimated wins. Aaron has written extensively about how the 2007 Dolphins were better than they appeared on the surface. Despite your best efforts to the contrary, you're helping me make my case.

Re: 173 Speaking of estimated wins, Will, the Patriots did have 14.2 estimated wins, the most of the DVOA era. I don't know how many estimated wins the Bears would have had. The Patriots were outplayed in only one game this season (against the Ravens). All of their other close games weren't particularly close by VOA, if I recall correctly. I suspect that on the off chance the Patriots win the Super Bowl (As if they have a chance against those mighty Giants!), the Outsiders will run some statistical comparisons against the other (pre-DVOA era) contenders for best team of all time. It will be interesting to see what they find.

180
by DCD12 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:11am

177: Tynes insists that he ran out onto the field immediately after the incompletion and would have had to have been pulled off the field by the coach to have not attempted that last kick. I think you can take that for what it's worth, but that's an awfully tough situation for a coach to be in.

Oh, and for my previous comment (the numbers keep moving), I meant I agreed with Will Allen's post on the "best team ever" classification.

181
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:14am

CA, you are some piece of work. You argue that the Giants are awful, and when others say "no, they are good" you act like they are claiming they are the second reincarnation of this year's Patriots.

182
by CA (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:34am

CA, you are some piece of work. You argue that the Giants are awful, and when others say “no, they are good” you act like they are claiming they are the second reincarnation of this year’s Patriots.

I argued no such thing. I certainly don't think the Giants are awful, although I don't think they're particularly good. I'm simply saying that the Giants' postseason success alone is not good evidence that DVOA or any other uncomplimentary pre-playoffs take on the Giants is flawed. I have also implied that there is a natural bias on the part of Giants fans to think otherwise. The great thing for Giants fans is that, in many ways, it doesn't matter that the Giants aren't very good; they're in the Super Bowl, and, for most fans, that's what's important. That essentially was the point of Aaron's intro to PFP06.

183
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:40am

178: wait a minute, I thought you wrote for a site that launched itself as the Bill James' of football? '-)

How about a little recognition that the quality of opposition matters. On this front, the '91 Skins completely outclass the '07 Pats (with the '85 Bears coming in between). The '91 Skins had three teams in their own division that finished at or above .500. The '07 Pats had zero.

I ran the numbers in another thread last week, but I think the opponents records for the Skins was something like 16 wins better than the Pats' opposition. The aggregate record of Pats opponents this year was a LOSING record.

Also, in '07 you've got 4 more teams, diluting talent of the competition vs. '91.

184
by 26554 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:56am

How about throwing the '78 Steelers into the mix as well?

For starters, their Super Bowl opponent was tougher than the SB opponents of the aforementioned teams (and tougher, at least on paper, than who the 07 Pats will face).

185
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:10am

#181:

I think that was sarcasm.

#182:

I am in 100 percent agreement that, for most of the year, the Giants were not particularly good. They beat up on bad teams in the first half, and struggled in the second half, like they've done every year of Coughlin's tenure. I do believe, however, that a) teams change over the course of a season, b) the Giants have legitimately been changing for the better, mainly due to an improved Eli and a bumper crop of useful rookies that are finally seeing the field, and c) because of the very real second-half slide, Weighted DVOA isn't quite picking this up yet.

I am not, repeat not calling them elite. Objectively, they're still probably behind the Cowboys, Packers, and the AFC top tier. But I do think they're good, and hopefully getting better.

(I will also note that when Aaron picked NYG to have the #1 pick in the draft this year, I thought he was exactly right. It's not like I was sold on this team all year, and even now I'm still waiting for the other shoe to fall.)

186
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:42am

Really now. The Patriots are going to be 19-0 because Rex Ryan called timeout and it was granted. Any other team I think loses that game, so they would have been 15-1 in the regular season, and likely finish 18-1. They'd still have several of their scoring records, and that's great for them. But they would still be on the same level of the 84/89 49ers teams and the 85 Bears (minus postseason domination which is important). An all-time great, certainly, but only a team Patriot fans would try to call the best ever.

Rex Ryan "should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell".

187
by Sean McCormick :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 3:49am

The reality is that people need to be prepared in the event of a New England win that the conventional wisdom will overwhelmingly agree that this Patriots team is the greatest of all time. 19-0 is going to be good enough for many people, and the fact that it represents the fourth Super Bowl win for the team will convert many more. If the Pats win, the baseline position is going to be that they're the best ever, period.

We stick to our numbers and what our numbers say is that this Patriots team has clearly had the best season of any team since 1995. (That would be just as true had they lost to Baltimore, which was the only game of the regular season where DVOA suggests the Pats were outplayed.) That's an impressive achievement in and of itself, but most of the real power teams of the modern era- the '91 Redskins, the '84, '85 and '94 49ers, the '85 Bears- haven't gotten the DVOA treatment yet. I know I'm really looking forward to seeing how all manner of teams match up, including teams like the '90 Bills, the '83 Redskins and the '87 49ers, all of whom failed to convert tremendous regular seasons into championships. But at the rate we are able to input PBP data (one season a year), we're still a ways off from matching this Pats squad against those great teams. I will say that the relatively unimpressive way that the Pats have ended the season and their less than dominant form in the playoffs opens the door wide open for some of those other teams to lay claim to being as good or better than them, 19-0 notwithstanding.

188
by Sean McCormick :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 3:52am

Er, the '89 49ers are supposed to be in there, not the '85 squad.

189
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:07am

Another thing to consider: the 07 Pats have lucked out of playing the #2 seed in the AFC and the #1 or #2 seed in the NFC. I went back and looked, and only the 03 Pats (def. #5 & #3 in the AFC, #3 in the NFC) and 79 Steelers (def. #3 & #4 in the AFC, #3 in the NFC) played no #1's or #2's in their championship run. I know they already beat Indy and Dallas in the regular season, but it'd be more impressive to have beat those teams again in the playoffs.

And it's probably just a coincidence, but the 03 Pats/79 Steelers rank among the weakest of championship teams for those franchises. This will be the best Patriot team regardless, but it's still something to always look back on.

190
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:10am

187 is a fine post. None of the core readers here doubts your contention in paragraph 1: that "conventional wisdom" will be that the Pats are the best ever w/ a 19-0 season.

Understand, however, that none of your core readers are here b/c they're fans of conventional wisdom!

I love this site, but I love it for the analysis and insight. The loose and, frankly, lazy assumption that's crept in to too many articles recently -- that the '07 Pats are the best ever -- is the stuff of ESPN and my local paper. In other words, it's the kind of unanalytic fluff that drives me here.

Just to reiterate the strength of schedule weakness of this Pats team: in the 2d half of the season, they played 3 teams that had winning records. How'd they do?
+4 vs Indy
+21 vs. Pitt
+3 vs. NYG

Then the crushed the bad teams in their division. And outside their terrible division they also played the non-winning record Eagles and Ravens:
+3 vs. Philly
+3 vs. Balmer

Then vs. a couple excellent teams in the playoffs:
+11 vs. Jacksonville
+9 vs. SD

So when you say their tepid albeit winning play of late has been an issue, heck I think their schedule all year has been an issue.

191
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:31am

183, 190: The problem I have with "best team" ever discussions is that the criteria vary so widely.

Someone upthread suggested that the Pats had not "dominated" their opponents sufficiently. However, Washington would have that same problem, if not worse: 2 losses, and 5 other games within a TD or less.

And in terms of who had tougher opponents, I think it depends on how you slice and dice the numbers. Each team played 6 playoff teams, I think, and the distribution looks similar. NE played the top three AFC seeds (other than itself) and top NFC seed, as well as the #5-6 NFC seeds; it looks like Washington played the top 3 (other than itself) and #6 NFC seeds, and #3 AFC seed. Those teams seem like pretty much a wash.

In terms of sad-sack games (teams with 4 wins or less), Pats had 4 (Jets and Dolphins, 2x), while Skins had 4 (Cards 2x, Bengals and Rams). You could argue that the Bengals and Rams at 3-13 were stronger than the 1-15 Dolphins, but this site's stats suggest that likely wouldn't be the case.

Remaining games: Pats played 10-6 Browns, 8-8 Eagles, 7-9 Bengals, 7-9 Bills (2x) and 5-11 Ravens. Skins played 10-6 Eagles (2x), 8-8 Giants (2x), 7-9 Steelers, and 6-10 Browns.

So, it looks like the schedule strength amounts to: 1) the lower-ranked playoff teams Washington played won one or two more games than the Pats' opponents, although it can be argued that Pitt tanked week 17 and should have had one more win; 2) the highest-ranked teams the Pats played had one or two more wins than the Skins' highest-ranked (and Indy and Dallas arguably tanked week 17 too); 3) the Dolphins lost a couple more games than the Bengals/Rams; and 4) the Pats played two 7-9 teams instead of a 10-6 team and an 8-8 team.

...I think.

None of this is to denigrate the 1991 Skins, but I just don't think that the differences in schedule alone (with the data we have) is enough to offset two losses. Mileage varies, of course.

If more advanced stats come in on the Skins, I'm willing to change my mind...I still think that such a project will inevitably raise more questions. Does weighted DVOA count more than DVOA? Does having more games with consistently high DVOA count more than having higher peaks and lower valleys? Does playoff dominance count more than regular season dominance?

I also think the dilution vs. parity issue will color people's perceptions; it is a bit of a different era from even the early 90s.

Anyway, this is FAR too premature (as Pats have to win the Super Bowl first, a far from certain proposition), but I just wanted to add some food for thought.

192
by BDC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:32am

174:

"Trust me, short of a meteor hitting the team bus on the way to the game, there is no way luck could have stopped, say, the Bears in the ‘85 playoffs, or even made the games competitive. They simply crushed their opponents as if it were an afterthought."

I don't know, some might argue that they were lucky the Dolphins forgot to show up for the AFC Championship game :)

193
by Keith (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:42am

"I also think that with all his post season meltdowns, he is just a couple of Desmond Howard kick returns away from being the next Dan Marino."

Honestly, 56, this is just BS. Sure, Brett's had his clunkers in the playoffs, but let's not play revisionist historian. He accounted for 3 TDs (2 throwing and 1 running)and no INTs in the Super Bowl win over the Pats. And if GB's defense could have stopped Terrell Davis, he very well could have a second ring. Brett threw 3 TDs and 1 INT in that Super Bowl.

194
by gmb (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:48am

My top 3 teams are 84 49ers, 85 Bears, and 89 49ers. The criteria may overemphasize post season dominance, but I view the regular season as primarily a means to the end goal: winning the Super Bowl. A strong case can be made that the Patriots had the best regular season ever, though.

For me, the 1989 49ers left the least room for debate regarding which team was best by the end of the season. Their playoff run:
41-13 over Vikings. 27-3 by halftime.
30-3 over Rams. 21-3 at halftime.
55-10 over Broncos. 27-3 at halftime.
Avg score. 42-8.7, 33.3 MOV.

Each of these games was a serious beat down. They defeated the other 2 NFC playoff teams (Giants and Eagles) in the regular season by 10 points each.

195
by Nick (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:53am

"The question is: What other wild card teams have gotten red-hot in the playoffs, and what did it mean when they hit the championship?"

How about the '05 Steelers? They had a lot of the same elements: a questionable young QB (Roethlisberger) who picked up his game in the playoffs, one legitimate stud WR (Ward) who drove the offense, a strong blitzing defense, and an old-school coach.

I'm just throwing it out there, someone else may already have said it.

196
by Gil (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:19am

"if the Chargers win today, it will be the biggest upset in sports history. Not football history. Sports history."

I know "Audibles" is unedited, but I am shocked that this and Riley's comments re: The Miracle on Ice actually made it to the site. Just a complete and total whiff on that one.

197
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:58am

He asked: if you’re AJ Smith, how do you improve your team

Hire a sports psychologist. The Chargers are a talented team. They played the Pats tough. But, they ain't right in the head.

198
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:47am

197: Or you say, " Well with LdT and Gates our red zone offense has been among the best in the league for three years now. A big TE and a HOF runner would probably have converted at least a couple of those red zone attempts and mighht even have helped us score a few more."

199
by lyford (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:55am

#190
"So when you say [the Patriots'] tepid albeit winning play of late has been an issue, heck I think their schedule all year has been an issue."

They are now 9-0 against teams with winning records and 8-0 against teams that made the playoffs. They've played 11 of their 18 games against the top 16 DVOA regular season teams. They're 11-0 in those games. They've beaten the second (IND) and third (DAL) best DVOA teams on the road. They beat the fourth best team (JAC) by double-digits in the playoffs. They've beaten the sixth best team (SD) twice.

By Jeff Sagarin's ratings, they're 8-0 against the top 10. Only two teams have played more than 8 games against the top 10, the Cowboys with 9 (5-4) and the Giants with 10 (5-5).

Concern about their schedule has been vastly overblown, primarily because Miami and the Jets were so bad. If those two teams had each been 6-10, the Patriots schedule would look much tougher, but their record probably wouldn't be any different.

200
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:59am

Looks like the Giants catch a big break (so to speak) -- Brady spotted in a walking cast:

http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/sports/patriots/index.php/2008/01/21/b...

201
by Jeremy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:25am

189 (Scott) -- "And it’s probably just a coincidence, but the 03 Pats/79 Steelers rank among the weakest of championship teams for those franchises."

The '03 Pats ranked second of their three championship teams. So while they "rank among the weakest" I would say they also rank among the strongest.

190 (Carlos) -- "Just to reiterate the strength of schedule weakness of this Pats team: in the 2d half of the season ... So when you say their tepid albeit winning play of late has been an issue, heck I think their schedule all year has been an issue."

I see what you did there!

202
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:35am

"I argued no such thing. I certainly don’t think the Giants are awful, although I don’t think they’re particularly good. I’m simply saying that the Giants’ postseason success alone is not good evidence that DVOA or any other uncomplimentary pre-playoffs take on the Giants is flawed."

Fair enough.

I do think, however, that the regular season combined with the playoffs with the context of it being a team that had been solid for a few years indicates they are probably a pretty good team. Not great, but not just some random fluky average team. YMMV.

203
by Doug (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:45am

If the Pats go on to win the SB, and conventional wisdom has them as the all time best, but FO wisdom has them in the mix of the top 3 or 4....well is that really so different?

204
by TracingError (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 11:06am

Re: postseason dominance

The Jags and Chargers are teams of high enough quality to win the Super Bowl in most years. That makes the Pats wins as impressive as some of the "dominant" teams they are compared to.

You can't say the same about the Bears playoff opponents in '85, or the 49ers in '89 [looking at the stats you might give the Broncos some credit, but that team got destroyed by the NFC two years in a row, plus just watching them they never looked like a Super Bowl team.]

Take the '85 Bears. They beat a completely one-dimensional Rams team starting Dieter Brock at QB, and a pretty one-dimensional Giants team, with Phil Simms of 22TD/20INT, and then a one dimensional Pats team whose QB had 67.5 rating. These were mediocre playoff teams and the Bears luckily avoided Montana and Marino. [If you look at the Bears four year run as a top team, 1984-87, teams with good quarterbacking were the ones who beat them.] That's just the way it is--the NYG had something against SF and WAS, SF and WAS had something over the Bears. Usually, the SB winner doesn't have to slay all the dragons in the playoffs.

205
by Herm? (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 11:12am

I'm mostly enjoying that a team can be in the argument as best ever. No group consensus is ever going to 100% agree one team is the best ever. As in #191 and others, no one will even be able to agree on what they're actually arguing about.

I do get a little confused that "undefeated" is getting dismissed by some as if it's passe or belongs in the same category as an easily obtainable event.
It's better than a Superbowl. It's only happened one other time! Weird.
So, since this is so easily dismissed by people, I say I'm happy at least that they're in the argument.

206
by Waverly (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 11:15am

Perhaps I missed it, but I thought Football Outsiders were just claiming that the 2007 Patriots were the best team of the DVOA era, not of all time in the NFL.

But if they do want to compare seasons from before available DVOA statistics, I suggest they do so by as many criteria as possible. Then people can argue about which criteria should carry the most weight, if they want to argue.

207
by Nick Evans (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 11:29am

If the definition of "world" and "sports" encompasses things other than the big 4 American sports, then the 2004 Athens 4*100 relay has to be a contender for greatest upset.

The US, who had 3 of the top 4 finishers in the individual event, were beaten by the UK who hadn't had a single finalist, and had been defeated by the USA by a good 5 metres in the semi-final.

Also there was the time that the Soviet Union won the basketball in Munich.

208
by Eric P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 11:45am

I'd just like to mention that the 2 lowest ranked teams in "Special Sauce" are now facing off in the Super Bowl. Back to the cherry picker, I guess.

209
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:03pm

Giants fans should stop whining about their team not being average (which is mainly is because of poor Quarterback play throughout the season by Eli - 55% completion percentage, almost equal numbers of touchdowns and interceptions) and enjoy their chances as an underdog.

Its not like we haven't seen pitiful teams make the Super Bowl before, and some even won.

How about the 9-7 Rams in 1978 (#3 seed as worst division winner)? The 11-5 Raiders of 1980 (#4 seed of 5)? The 11-5 Patriots of 1985 (#5 seed of 5)? The 11-5 Patriots of 2001 (a not very good #2 seed out of 6) The 11-5 Panthers of 2003 (#3 seed of 6)?

The 9-7 Colts of 1995 (#5 seed) were winning with 3 minutes to go in the 4th Quarter and were one just dropped Hail Mary away from going to the Super Bowl.

One might also argue to include the weak 10-6 1988 49ers (#2 seed).

You guys are acting like this has never happened before and so therefore we need to conclude the Giants are good or even great. Sorry, they aren't.

210
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:07pm

On 10-6 team chances.

Someone mentioned the probability of 3.6% for the Giants accomplishing what they have, and saying that it is more beleiveable that they are not mediocre than they converted this chance.

There've been 96 10-6 teams since 1978, 85 of them made the playoffs, and 2 have now made the Super Bowl.

2 in 85 is 2.35%. Sounds about right.

211
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:14pm

"Then vs. a couple excellent teams in the playoffs:
+11 vs. Jacksonville
+9 vs. SD

So when you say their tepid albeit winning play of late has been an issue, heck I think their schedule all year has been an issue."

Hold on, so beating two +25% DVOA teams by two scores is poor play?

212
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:19pm

I certainly wasn't dismissing 19-0. I said the Pats had perhaps the greatest regular season in history. I put great weight on the playoffs, however, because the opponents are usually well above average, and playoff football is played at the highest intensity. The Patriots simply have not dominated in the playoffs as of yet, and if we are going to recognize the issues with the '85 Bears playoff opponents (btw, whatever his stats were that year, Phil Simms was a good qb, and the Giants defense had Hall of Famers lining up), let's recognize that the Chargers were essentially without perhaps the best rb and tight end in the league, and their qb was playing with a torn knee ligament, and that the Jaguars have Division I level receivers. If one wants to be considered the best team of all time, in my opinion, one has to crush all opponents in the playoffs in completely non-competitive contests, taking luck completely out the equation, in terms of winning the championship. This year's Pats just don't clear the hurdle.

213
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:43pm

Andrew,

You don't need to conclude anything. Believe what you want, and stop whining about what other people think about the Giants or anything else. Honestly, the way some people protest too loudly around here...

214
by Mack (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:52pm

re: 211/Will Allen

Uhhhhhhhhh, the Jags, with their Div 1 wide receivers, had the third best offense in the league by DVOA this year. By both DVOA and conventional wisdom, Jacksonville was playing as well as any team in the league entering the playoffs and a very good case can be made that they were either the second or third best team in the league overall when they played the Pats. Beating the Jags by two scores and dominating the second half is actually an argument in New England’s favor.

The best team ever debate will be a fun one if NE wins the SB.

Re: Sean McCormack’s point about Conventional Wisdom on the greatest ever.

I think it will go something like this:

1. Giants win – Debate over, Pats out of the argument. Many rejoice.
2. Pats win unimpressively (two scores or less), CW will probably anoint Pats best ever but arguments will be made in fairly short order for other contenders to the title. Basically, let the debate commence!
3. Pats win impressively, CW will anoint Pats best ever and it’ll be an uphill battle, at least in the short term, for arguments on other team’s behalf to gain traction.

215
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:11pm

Yes, Mack, their defense, offensive line, running backs, and qb are well above average. Their wide receivers are below average, my hyperbole notwithstanding.

216
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:21pm

179 - I actually think the Dolphins were a very good team this year. I watched them and was very impressed, and I've learned that I can simply dismiss any game results that contradict my preexisting worldview with a wave of a hand. Like a lot of people here I view football like ice dancing or rhythmic gymnastics, where style points reign supreme and nothing is more important than who I deem "impressive".

217
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:22pm

#204, Tracing Error

You could also argue that the Bears were unable to win in the playoffs when McMahon got hurt. Flutie's play in the game against the Giants got himm exiled to Canada for ten(?) years. Take Brady off the Pats and how do you think the Matt Cassell show would roll in the playoffs?

Also the Bears beat the 49ers in the regular season, and that Montana kid was quite good. If you look at the Giants stats for that year they were an excellent team, I think you are being a bit churlish in condemning them in the manner you have.

As for the Miami game, yeah the Bears got beat but Sula himself says that it was the best half of offensive football he ever saw (and he must have watched more football than just about anyone else around) and freely admits that if the game were replayed he would not expect to win. If the timeout had been called in the Baltimore game then the Raven would have won, does that really affect how good the Pats are? You could also argue that Philly and Baltimore gave the league a blueprint of how to play the Pats, they haven't been as dominant since (IMO, I have no DVOA split to offer). Whereas after the Bears' loss in '85 they still hammered everyone senseless.

One of the things I love about the '85 Bears is that they gave every team in the NFC the best bulletin board material possible. After their first defeat of the season they went back to Chicago and straight to a recording studio where they recorded 'Superbowl Shuffle' (admittedly the worst record of all time) in WEEK 13. So before the playoffs even began they had a song bragging about how they were going to win the Superbowl. Rodney Harrison talks about disrespect.

218
by Doug (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:26pm

Re: 217

Jimmy, the worst recording of all time is not "Superbowl Shuffle", but the Patriots ultra-lame response "New England, the Patriots, and We" Look for it on Youtube if you want to laugh/cringe.

219
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:32pm

Add me to the list that's hardly ignoring (the assumed) 19-0. Further, note that I'm not arguing that the Pats aren't the best team ever. Instead I'm asking for a little room for analytical sanity and consideration of some other very dominant teams (that lost a game or two).

The Pats played opposition with an aggregate losing record.

They played in a league with 4 more teams than the other great teams that have been thrown out there, so talent has been diluted.

These are the arguments against simply declaring the Pats the best team ever.

Their lack of dominance in the playoffs has added another interesting dimension.

220
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:33pm

"They played in a league with 4 more teams than the other great teams that have been thrown out there, so talent has been diluted."

I strongly disagree with this statement. Players who were starters 20 years ago wouldn't even be drafted today.

221
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:44pm

Andrew, so now the Giants have been downgraded to pitiful?

This is a team that has beaten every team they have played this year, excepting two-- and they get another shot at one of them.

On that basis alone I think we can eliminate the adjective "pitiful."

222
by BM (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 1:54pm

159, 164:

“The 1995 San Diego Chargers were a mediocre team who played well in the playoffs until the Superbowl…and missed the playoffs next year."

Actually, you're thinking of the 1994 Chargers; they made the Super Bowl, and DID make the playoffs the following season (1995), where they lost in the Wild Card round to the Colts. Just clarifying...

223
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:07pm

yeah, #217, before someone dismisses the Bears accomplishment of crushing the Giants in the '85 playoffs because Simms didn't have great stats that year, they should remember that the Giants rushed for 2451 yards that year, at 4.2 yards per carry. More importantly, they should remember the Giants had guys like Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Leonard Marshal, Jim Burt, and others on defense. Smacking that sort of personnel around like a punching bag, to the tune of 21-0, should not be discounted.

224
by LaJolla Greg (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:31pm

RE: 219
The Pats played opposition with an aggregate losing record."

This seems to me like a case of confusing the average with the variance. No team plays the equivalent of the aggregate. They play individual teams each week and these individual teams have a large degree of variance in terms of how good or bad they might be. Yes, they played some bad teams. Everyone does. They also played many of the very best teams from this year including every AFC playoff team except Ten (and a Cle team that was a tie breaker away from being in the AFC playoffs). And, they played the number 1, 5, and 6 seed from the NFC. Discussing their oppositions aggregate record fails to accurately represent the schedule they played just like saying an average running play gains 4 yards fails to accurately represent an individuals or teams running ability. I expect better on this site.

225
by Kyle (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:39pm

Andrew is an Eagles fan, is he not? If so, his posts addressing the bias nature of Giants fans on this subject amuses me greatly.

226
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:43pm

LaJolla, you make a good point, but I still think playing in a very weak division is quite helpful, given that divisional games tend to produce more upsets on average, it seems to me. Look at the divisions the '91 Redskins and '89 49ers played in, for comparison.

227
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:50pm

219: Some statistician will probably come and clarify this, but I don't see an "aggregate losing record" with a sample size of 16 games to be that meaningful.

For instance, if a team played three 13-3 teams, a 3-13 team, and two 2-14 teams the teams would have an "aggregate losing record." Yet, I don't think many people would deny that they played three very high caliber teams, and to go 3-0 against those teams is impressive.

With the exception of Green Bay, the Pats played the top teams as perceived by conventional wisdom, DVOA, and wins: Dallas, Indianapolis, SD, Pittsburgh, Jax (in the playoffs), as well as some other solid playoff teams (9-7 Skins, 10-6 Giants) and non-playoff teams (10-6 Browns, 8-8 Eagles).

Sure, the Redskins played more 11-5 and 10-6 teams. But, they didn't play so many more as to make the issue a slam dunk - especially as they lost to two of those teams.

And I don't think it's a slam dunk to say "well, there are more teams, so there's talent dilution." The "different era" argument cuts both ways. There's also a salary cap, which means that the Pats' talent is also diluted (they can't just hoard the best players). In addition, a number of coaches and players have commented about how the talent imbalance in the league isn't that great, and no games can be taken for granted.

Without more advanced stats, it's difficult to determine whether the 10-6 1991 Eagles were much better than the 2007 Eagles - the 1991 Eagles did, after all, have the benefit of playing Phoenix twice (in addition to the three playoff teams in their division, like this year).

And sure, I'm being devil's advocate about the Skins, but my point is that if the Pats' record is heavily scrutinized, so should the other comparitor teams.

228
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:54pm

Gerry #220:

This is a team that has beaten every team they have played this year, excepting two– and they get another shot at one of them.

That's wonderful spin and talking points. Where do you guys come up with this nonesense?

If the Giants beat every team they've played, how then do they have six losses?

What you really mean, it seems, is that the Giants split series with their better opponents (1-1 vs. 9-8 Redskins, 1-2 vs. 13-4 Cowboys, 1-1 vs. 14-4 Packers). Of course, putting it that way doesn't sound nearly as impressive.

One could say the same thing about the 2003 Panthers. Two of their 5 losses prior to the Super Bowl were to the Cowboys and Eagles, who they proceeded to beat in the playoffs. But that doesn't mean they only ever lost to 3 teams. They lost to 5 teams, they simply had a shot at redemption against some of them and pulled off the trifecta in the playoffs by playing above the level thay had played at all year long.

Its why you guys need to dispute DVOA as well, since it is nothing more than comparing the Giants play-by-play results vs. league average and finding the Giants are, well, league average. What exactly do you fellows want to dispute here? That the plays Aaron is crunching in his DVOA formula didn't actually happen? That Eli Manning didn't tie for the league lead in interceptions in the regular season? That the Giants didn't fumble 27 times or have a net of -9 in takeaways? That the Giants didn't really give up a Super Bowl team record of 351 points?

Its really a simple story. A mediocre Giants team stumbled into the playoffs after and 0-2 start, got to 6-2 beating a bunch of punchless teams like the Falcons, Jets, 49ers, and Dolphins, then had a 4-4 home stretch with 3 of the wins being nail-biters against mediocre teams like the Lions, Bears, and Eagles to allow them to edge out the likes of the Vikings and Eagles for a playoff berth. Then they came together for 3 games so far, made fewer mistakes and won, getting them to the Super Bowl.

Why not just be happy with the wild improbability of it all, and be happy that the Giants probably have a shot against a wobbling but undefeated Patriots team, instead of arguing that the Giants are really a misunderstood team of greatness when they clearly are not?

If getting to the Super Bowl is a measure of greatness, were the 9-7 1979 Rams a great team?

229
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 2:59pm

patriotsgirl #227:

And I don’t think it’s a slam dunk to say “well, there are more teams, so there’s talent dilution.”

I think this is a bogus claim. In 1990, the US had 249 million inhabitants. In 2007, thre is 301 million. That's a 21% increase in potential talent vs. a 14% increase in the number of teams.

230
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 3:00pm

#161
"Don’t get me wrong, these Pats are a great team– but best of all time? As posters have said, keep this up for another couple seasons (and could they if Moss goes?) and then I’ll believe it."

Let me preface this by saying my comments that follow only count IF the Patriots win the SB.

You say you want them to keep this up for another couple seasons. If the Patriots win the SB, this will be their FOURTH SUPER BOWL WIN IN 7 SEASONS. How many more SBs will it take?

And what makes these Patriots more impressive than any of the aforementioned teams is that the NFL has never been more popular and there's never been this much scrutiny via more types of media.

They are the first dynasty of the internet era. The first dynasty in which every single step or misstep is broken down and analyzed every which way (both on and off the field). IF they win XLII, they will have done so while being under the microscope moreso than any other team to ever play the game, and they'll have done so while working within the confines of the salary cap.

231
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 3:38pm

"If the Giants beat every team they’ve played, how then do they have six losses?

What you really mean, it seems, is that the Giants split series with their better opponents (1-1 vs. 9-8 Redskins, 1-2 vs. 13-4 Cowboys, 1-1 vs. 14-4 Packers). Of course, putting it that way doesn’t sound nearly as impressive."

Your mileage may vary. No doubt, there are 4 teams who the Giants have split the season series with. This does not change the fact that every team, excepting the Vikings and Patriots, that the Giants have played this year, they have beaten.

You used the word pitiful. My argument with you is pretty straightforward-- a pitiful team does not finish the year with at most two teams played that they never found a way to beat, or with a maximum of three teams against which they had a losing record. An average team does not end up in that state, either.

I do not overstate it. The Giants are not a great team. They are not an elite team. They are a good team. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less.

232
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:17pm

Oh, and to continue with your later argument:

"Its why you guys need to dispute DVOA as well, since it is nothing more than comparing the Giants play-by-play results vs. league average and finding the Giants are, well, league average. What exactly do you fellows want to dispute here? That the plays Aaron is crunching in his DVOA formula didn’t actually happen?"

I'll gladly take this on. I have been consistently, since before the Giants went on their run, been saying that DVOA does not have them 'pegged' right. DVOA is what it is, and it is a pretty darned accurate system for evaluating teams, but it is not infallible. I am pretty sure Aaron does not think it is perfect. He's been pretty open to the idea that there are some teams that, for whatever reason, it overvalues or undervalues. This is one reason they did not completely trust the numbers this preseason on the Bucs.

So given that it is not a perfect system, but rather just a good (or even very good system), it stands to reason that it won't have every team pegged perfectly. I believe it is the case with the Giants. Heck, Aaron and other writers for FO have said that they underestimated the Giants-- and this is while the last weighted DVOA numbers had the Giants as below average. That sounds like they accept that DVOA is what it is and says what it says, but that the Giants are probably better than that.

Think of it this way. Over the course of the season, there are just 16 games. Some teams get a few more if they make the playoffs. That is a small sample size. You can get variation. Barry Bonds can start the season in baseball struggling in his first 20 at bats. Or if you want to use plays as the unit rather than games, we probably have what would amount to the equivalent of a single season's worth of at-bats for a batter. There can be a LOT of variability for a batter between one season and another (Brady Anderson, call your office). So there is an inherent fuzziness in measuring football due to sample size matters, and we are never going to be able to get around it. You will have cases where good teams play average for a season, and where average teams play good for a season. The best we will ever be able to say is that a team played average for a season-- maybe they were an average team playing as they should, maybe they were an above average team playing below their capabilities, maybe they were a below average team playing above their norm levels.

If you take the Giants entire season, including the playoffs, and do not use weighted DVOA but just DVOA, they will likely show up as an above average team at this point. Maybe not; we'll have to see when/if they publish those numbers.

But what I know is that, having watched this team for a few years now, they have the talent to play with any team, even when that other team is playing well. They have a habit, a repeatable, predictable habit, of beating themselves. DVOA clearly sees this.

However, I believe it is more possible for a team to figure out how to stop beating themselves than it is for a team to suddenly be able to run faster or to judge balls better or to be stronger.

Which brings us to the Giants. As you mentioned, they were -9 in turnover differential, and Eli had a lot of interceptions. Those are facts. Those are why the Giants were a 10-6 team (and 10-6 is an above average record). But the potential was there for them to be much better-- if they could figure out how to stop turning the ball over, they would have been better than 10-6. Some of their avoidance of turnovers in the playoffs has been good fortune, no doubt. But some of it has been Eli making better decisions and being well protected. The Giants have gotten better because the things that were keeping them from performing at a higher level were things that are actually correctable during the season.

Or, as you believe, it could all just be a fluke.

Which is why I presented the other argument I made above. This has been a decent-to-above-average team for a few years now. They have made the playoffs three years running. Which do you think is more likely- a team making the playoffs three straight years including the Super Bowl in the last of them being 'pitiful' and 'mediocre', or being pretty good (but not great)? I think it is obviously the latter.

233
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:20pm

Re: 217 "If the timeout had been called in the Baltimore game then the Raven would have won, does that really affect how good the Pats are"

In terms of "best team ever", yes, it does. That was probably the worst Baltimore team since their first year (1996). Losing to them after being pretty much outplayed for 60 minutes would not make them the greatest team ever. They would be 18-1 (assuming the SB win) and that's been done before, and with better playoff domination.

234
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:24pm

232-

If the Queen had balls she'd be the King.

235
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:30pm

This seems to me like a case of confusing the average with the variance.

No, it's actually not that at all. The aggregate is the aggregate. Who said anything about the average? Do you know how strength of schedule is typically measured?

Some statistician will probably come and clarify this, but I don’t see an “aggregate losing record” with a sample size of 16 games to be that meaningful.

Maybe one will come along and correct your math. It's 16 games times 16 teams = 256 games.

By the way, since you think a "sample size of 16" cannot be meaningful, then I guess you would think it impossible to have a meaningful opinion on best team ever.

236
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:38pm

Carlos,

You said in a previous thread we should start to consider some one or two loss teams in the debate for greatest team ever.

That would discount the mounting pressure that comes with being undefeated.

There have been previous teams that started off around 12 or 13-0 and have subsequently admitted to the pressure being overwhelming and that they're just glad to get the loss out of the way.

I'm not sure people are taking that aspect into consideration.

237
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:52pm

"then I guess you would think it impossible to have a meaningful opinion on best team ever."

You weren't replying to me, but I will state that, given the sample size, I do not think we can have anything other than opinions on the best team ever. The stats can help us, but given the fuzziness inherent in dealing with small sample sizes, they cannot be definitive.

238
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:52pm

I think this [dilution] is a bogus claim. In 1990, the US had 249 million inhabitants. In 2007, thre is 301 million. That’s a 21% increase in potential talent vs. a 14% increase in the number of teams.

I'm not sure if you're serious, but just for grins I'll say you are.

1991: 253MM people, 129MM Men, 31.7MM Men between 20-34 (the closest the Census data fits the NFL population).

2007: 301MM people, 153MM Men, 30.7MM Men between 20-34

The US population is growing primarily due to aging. Someone should send Lou Dobbs a memo.

Median Age for Men in 1991: 31
Median Age for Men in 2007: 35

That is the huge demographic story.

Anyway, back to your attempted parry, there's been a 14.3% increase in teams but a 3.2% decline in the relevant population from 1991-2007.

All data available on the census website.

239
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 4:59pm

Gerry, you have the patience of a saint. While the people who regard DVOA like Tom Cruise regards scientology will never even entertain the possibility that you might be right, you state the case very well.

240
by Sean McCormick :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:00pm

There may well be rising pressure that comes with being undefeated, but I'm not sure I see how that necessarily factors into the discussion. If the debate is over which team has accomplished the most difficult task, then clearly you'd point to this Pats team, as no one has managed to go 19-0 before. But that's not the same thing as discussing which was the greatest or most dominant season. If the Pats successfully translated the pressure of being undefeated into squeaking out a few games at the end of the year and a ho-hum playoff run, that doesn't mean that they have therefore been more dominant than a team like the '85 Bears or '89 49ers, who lost a close game or two before taking out their playoff competition out behind the woodshed. Handling the pressure of expectation is a red herring when you are looking at actual performance.

241
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:25pm

Sean,

The mounting pressure matters because perhaps it was indirectly leading to some ho-hum performances.

Or what about the Kitchen Sink Theory - once the Patriots went about 10-0 teams did everything in their power to be the team to stop the unbeaten team? Had the Patriots lost a game, I'm not so sure we'd see performances anything close to what the Ravens, Eagles, et. al put on the table.

And I'm not so sure I'd call the current playoffs performance of the Patriots ho-hum anyhow. Their offense scored just about every time they touched the ball vs Jax. And vs SD, I'd say having the versatility to completely change things up and run out the last 9:13 of that game is pretty dominating.

Finally, the '85 Bears and '89 49ers did not have a salary cap. That has to factor into the discussion somehow.

242
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:48pm

"Finally, the ‘85 Bears and ‘89 49ers did not have a salary cap. That has to factor into the discussion somehow."

Neither did the rest of the league. What's your point?

And looking at this Patriot team roster, I don't even know how they're under the cap right now. There's no way they'll be able to bring back a lot of these key players next year.

243
by Eric P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 5:59pm

Re: 242
Not to speak for Nicky, but isn't the point rather obvious? There was no salary cap. There was limited free agency. When you got good players, you were able to keep them for their entire careers pretty much at your whim. As for it being the same for everyone... That's true, but was the lack of cap helping the Cardinals or any of the other poor teams from that era?

Free agency and the salary cap combined are a great force of parity in the league. Losing teams want the winning teams players and can usually afford to spend more than the winning teams because they aren't already paying so many good players. Theoretically, at least. It doesn't always work out that way, but for the most part I think it's true that winning teams are much more difficult to keep together now than they were in the '80s.

244
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:03pm

242: In the pre-salary cap era, the NFL was more like college football or the current MLB system, where the high-spending teams had a significant talent advantage of the small budget teams. This would make dominant teams appear more dominant, at least in the regular season.

245
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:04pm

Gerry #232:

Over the course of the season, there are just 16 games. Some teams get a few more if they make the playoffs. That is a small sample size.

Its a small sample size of games, but not of plays. There are usually some 60-70 plays on offense and defense, plus 10-20 plays on special teams (kickoffs, punts, field goals, extra points) in each game. For the year that works out to around 1000 plays each of offense and defense and perhaps 300-400 plays on special teams. That is a big sample size, not a small one.

Some of their avoidance of turnovers in the playoffs has been good fortune, no doubt. But some of it has been Eli making better decisions and being well protected. ... Or, as you believe, it could all just be a fluke.

Eli has done it once before - Weeks 2-4 of 2005, he went three games with no interceptions (the only other time he has done it in his career). It just didn't happen to be 3 games that truly mattered in a win-or-go-home manner. So I'll go with fluke in terms of it not being his usual performance, but also not being outside his previous repretoire.

They have made the playoffs three years running.

Last year as a barely 8-8 #6 seed. This would be more impressive if it was a string of 11+ win seasons. Again, look at the 1979 Rams. Their 9-7 fluke entrance to the Super Bowl was preceeded by playoff seasons of 12-4, 10-4, 10-3-1, 12-2, 10-4, and 12-2, with conference championship appearances in 4 of those 6 seasons. In that context, perhaps they really were better than their pitiful 9-7 record and so less surprising to see finally make it over the hump. OTOH, the Giants really haven't shown anything since 2001 that lead one to believe they were right on the cusp of going to the big game again despite making the playoffs 4 of 7 years.

If this was really the outcome to be expected after Week 17, how come no one was suggesting the Giants were poised to knock off everyone standing in their path?

246
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:09pm

The salary cap hasn't helped the Cardinals the last two decades either.

Every team played in the same league with the same rules. Why are we not giving credit to teams like the 70's Steelers and 80's 49ers for building great teams?

The Steelers drafted 4 HOF players in one draft. That's a record and kind of drafting no team can match. Teams today can't even draft 4 players in the same class that will go to one Pro Bowl in their carer. They built through the draft better than anyone. Better than the Cowboys, Dolphins, Raiders, Vikings, Rams, etc.

Joe Montana was a 3rd round pick, Jerry Rice was the 3rd WR taken in his draft, they grabbed Ronnie Lott with a #8 overall, and Roger Craig was a late 2nd rounder. That team isn't loaded with HOFers, but they made great moves to get their best players that ran that ship.

247
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:12pm

I don't get the "ho-hum playoffs" thing.

The Pats put up a 70% DVOA against Jacksonville, a great team, and scored on almost every drive. They won both playoff games (against a +27% and +31%) team by two scores, and neither game was in question at pretty much any point in the 4th quarter.

If New England had run an 8 minute drive, and given the ball back to San Diego with 1:20 left, down 28-12, would people be talking about "ho-hum" playoff performances?

248
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:14pm

Carlos #238:

1991: 253MM people, 129MM Men, 31.7MM Men between 20-34 (the closest the Census data fits the NFL population).

2007: 301MM people, 153MM Men, 30.7MM Men between 20-34

Okay, good point. Actually, from that vantage maybe its even worse since most football players are black or white.

2000 Census - 24.7MM white or black men 20-34.

1990 Census - 28.3MM white or black men 20-34.

249
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:15pm

When deciding which team was the best ever, no, the salary cap and free agency are not factors which need to be considered. Those are factors pertaining to WHY a certain team may have been able to be assembled, but they have no bearing on WHICH team performed the best.

If somebody wants to say that the best team of all time won a playoff game on the way to hoisting the trophy, by playing excellent red zone defense, and by running the last nine minutes of the game off the clock, fine, it's just football, so anybody can say anything. It seems to me, however, that the best team of all time won their playoff games on the way to hoisting the trophy by making red zone defense, and last nine minutes of the game, completely irrelevant. If a team didn't have a playoff game completely out of reach by the fourth quarter, and had to play excellent red zone defense to maintain the lead, sorry, they just weren't very dominant in the first three quarters, and they just weren't dominant defensively overall. That doesn't sound like the best team ever to me.

249
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:15pm

"Every team played in the same league with the same rules. Why are we not giving credit to teams like the 70’s Steelers and 80’s 49ers for building great teams?"

Thats absolutely not true.

Are you trying to say the Yankees/RSox play by the same rules as the Marlins? They sure as hell don't. The Marlins have a $20M salary cap. The Yankees spend $250M a year.

251
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:16pm

My point is back in the day you could stockpile talent by outbidding other teams and have an advantage over the rest of the league.

You can't do that now.

As for how the Patriots are under the cap this year - they made mgt decisions to let some popular players go to other teams in order to not overpay, like Branch and Givens. They were significantly under the cap in 2005 and 2006, and because of that, had the money to make some moves this past offseason.

I think the Patriots will be able to bring back most of their core next year. Stallworth will be a cap victim. And it appears the Pats will have two very big decisions in this coming offseason:

1) Moss or Samuel, not both
2) Keep the #7 pick (at high $) or trade

252
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:19pm

Let's not blame the salary cap for the Jets winning one playoff game from 1983-1997. They are the ones drafted Ken O'Brien over Dan Marino, Al Toon over Jerry Rice, and Blair Thomas over Emmitt Smith. (Sorry Jets fans, I had to do it)

Almost every great team that sustained success can point to several draft picks they nailed as the source of their succes. Those Buffalo teams that went to 4 straight SB's are another example. Got Jim Kelly in the QB Class of 83, spent a #1 overall on Bruce Smith, Andre Reed was a 4th round steal, Thurman Thomas in the 2nd, etc.

Even though this 07 Patriot team basically came out and bought a championship with their FA's, they've done a great job of drafting too over the years to make SB teams with Brady, Bruschi, Seymour, Branch, Watson, Light, Mankins, Koppen, McGinnest, Law, Milloy, Faulk, Maroney, Wilfork, etc.

253
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:28pm

If this was really the outcome to be expected after Week 17, how come no one was suggesting the Giants were poised to knock off everyone standing in their path?

Well, there are four basic explanations:

1. The Giants were a great team, and were better than their playoff counterparts, though nobody saw this in advance;

2. The Giants were a good team, as plenty of people have been saying on this site for months, and were close enough in quality to the teams they played that if they played well, they had a chance to win each game, and did;

3. The Giants were a mediocre to pitiful team, as plenty of people on this site have said all year, and played out of their minds for three straight games;

4. The Giants were a mediocre to pitiful team, and three opponents in a row hapened to play worse.

Beleive what you will, though I have a hard time seeing what expectations have to do with it. Before the season few people expected Dallas to go 13-3; does that mean it didn't really happen, and/or they just were the beneficiaries of one fluke after another?

254
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:29pm

Andrew, I'm not a huge Giants fan, but I did predict they would beat the Bucs and Cowboys. I predicted that the Packers would win, because I didn't think it likely that the Giants would dominate the line of scrimmage, which of course is exactly what happened.

When Manning plays well, the Giants are good, when he doesn't they are mediocre. Manning may be going through a period of improvement that is not uncommon to qbs with his time in the league, or we may be witnessing an aberration. Anyone who says they know for sure one way or another is lying, and the people best at making these assessments study film for hours on end and are getting paid extremely large sums of money. I have no idea how good Manning is likely to be in the future.

255
by erik fast (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:30pm

#61 "Lastly, when the Pats offense keeps it up for three years–as the Rams did–then we can truly compare The Show and the Pats. That’s what made The Show so great. It was a three-year run."

Not sure how long you have been watching football for, but this is the Pats 4th Super Bowl in 7 years (second only to the Steeler's 4 in 6 years), 5th AFC Championship game in 7 years, and have only missed the playoffs once in 7 yrs. I am not sure how you call a 3 year run great, say you need more than 7 yrs from the Pats. This team rivals the Steel Curtain for the greatest team of all time (if the Pats win the SB this year, they will be on the only 2 teams to win 4 with one regime - the 49ers and Cowboys had 2 separate regimes for their 5 SB wins).

256
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:32pm

253, he's talking about their offense. You can't compare their offenses until the Patriots show it's more than a one year thing (like the 98 Vikings were). Can they score over 500 pts 3 years in a row like the Rams did? We'll see. If the o-line is able to provide absurd pass protection again, I like their chances.

257
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:38pm

Scott,

They came out and bought a championship with their FA's? Really?

They got Randy Moss for a 4th Round pick. They are paying him $3 million this year, with incentives that could bring it up to $5 million.

They traded a 2nd and 7th for Welker.

The only players they "bought" were Adalius and Stallworth, and both of those guys haven't exactly been the cornerstones of the team.

I'm not exactly sure how this is buying a championship. BTW, they haven't bought anything yet except an 18-0 record.

They drafted their QB in the 6th round, they drafted their top 2 RBs, they drafted their OLine and DLine. They drafted 3/4 of their secondary.

I'm not exactly sure how that adds up to buying anything.

Like I said before, the reason they could "buy" these players this year is because they held onto their money in 2005 and 2006 (Reche Caldwell anyone?) and were still very successful those years.

Will,

If the Pats didn't have to worry about a cap and could go out and buy a few impact LBs, some help for the secondary and a backup QB like Steve Young, maybe it wouldn't come down to the final 9:13.

258
by vis (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:42pm

Perhaps this is a question for the FO mediators, but what says DVOA must be correct (or explained away) 100% of the time? This site is devoted to stats, and the existence of statistical outliers should be expected, no?

It seems insane to me that a perennial playoff team can go and beat the consensus #1 and #2 teams in its conference, back to back, on the road, in the playoffs, and we've wasted 150+ comments on whether or not they're any good? Whether or not they "deserve" to be there? Seriously?

This is absurd.

259
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:45pm

"That is a big sample size, not a small one."

A bigger sample size, but not a huge one. I mean, if we were looking at baseball, you could say that a season's batting stats for a player is a big sample size (generally around 600 for a full time player) but even with sample sizes like that you get rather large variance from year to year. And if one were to use as a unit, instead, each pitch rather than each at-bat, you could expand the sample further. However, it probably would not add precision.

Further, with football, each of the games, which means 100 plays (roughly) happens on the same exact day-- meaning the impacts of things such as 1) weather, 2) opponent, 3) injuries, 4) non-injury things we never hear about such as minor illnesses or bad nights' sleep, etc all can have significant impact on a rather sizeable portion of the sample set. On some of these, such as quality of opponent, we can mathematically adjust, but such adjustments have only a certain level of precision. Others, we cannot adjust for.

Football statistics are better than no football statistics, but they are still going to be, by the very nature of the small number of games played, be inherently fuzzy. It is wise to use them to think in terms of probability, IMO, than to think of them as definitive measures.

"Their 9-7 fluke entrance to the Super Bowl was preceeded by playoff seasons of 12-4, 10-4, 10-3-1, 12-2, 10-4, and 12-2, with conference championship appearances in 4 of those 6 seasons. In that context, perhaps they really were better than their pitiful 9-7 record and so less surprising to see finally make it over the hump."

Yes, I would say that was an indication that they might have been better than their NOT pitiful 9-7 record (that's an above average, barely, record). As I asserted earlier, I believe that a good team can have an average season and still be a good team. The Rams there may very well be such an example.

"OTOH, the Giants really haven’t shown anything since 2001 that lead one to believe they were right on the cusp of going to the big game again despite making the playoffs 4 of 7 years."

I would say that every single team that is consistently in the playoff hunt is on the cusp of going to the big game, since the number of games that need to be won once in the playoffs (2 or 3, depending) is so small. Hell, this very attribute of the playoffs is what makes it possible for an average team to make the big game, if they get on a hot streak. The question is, are the Giants such an average team, or were they a good team that had a very-slightly-above-average-to-mediocre season? I think when a team has made the playoffs three straight years, and had a 10-6 record, and had a losing record against only 2 or 3 teams, and played 3 pretty strong games (DVOA recognized the wins over the Bucs and the Cowboys as being pretty good wins, and I am confident that will be the case again this week) in the playoffs, that there is sufficient evidence to say that while it is possible that it is a mediocre team flukily getting to the Super Bowl, that the more likely situation is that they are a good--not great-- team that beat out some other good--not great-- teams for the right to play in the Super Bowl.

"If this was really the outcome to be expected after Week 17, how come no one was suggesting the Giants were poised to knock off everyone standing in their path?"

Isn't this some goalpost moving on your part here? The argument I am presenting is not "it was obvious after week 17 that the Giants were going to the Super Bowl." The argument I am presenting is that after week 20, with the context of the last few seasons in mind, there is enough evidence to suggest the Giants are a pretty good football team. Most years, at least one of the teams in the Super Bowl fits that designation-- a pretty good, not great, team.

It is you who are trying to make the case that they are 'pitiful.'

260
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:48pm

Nicky, again, you are making arguemnts that have nothing to do with which team actually was best. You are instead arguing about WHY a team was able to be assembled. That's not what I am contending with. I am disputing Aaron's statement that this year's Pats are likely the best team ever. To me, a team which needed to play excellent red zone defense in the playoffs, and had a fourth quarter in the playoffs in which the outcome was not yet settled, is definitionally not the best team ever, and that has nothing to with how teams could be assembled.

If you want to argue about which personnel departement has performed best given the rules of their era, fine, but that isn't what I'm talking about here.

261
by vis (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:52pm

What defines the "best" or "better" team? I don't think even this site's creators and contributors would claim DVOA is the end all be all. It is a predictive tool based on statistical analysis.

God forgive Peter King his numerous annoying inconsistencies, but his ranking of teams by "who wins on a neutral field," should be the ultimate designator of the better team. Simply put, all things being equal, the better team TODAY is the one who wins TODAY.

TODAY the Giants have beaten the best of the NFC on decidedly less than neutral conditions. How on earth are they not TODAY the best team in the NFC? Everyone else has lost.

262
by erik fast (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:53pm

RE: The Greatest Team of All Time

I won't say the Pats are the greatest team of all time yet, but if the win the SB? Then they are. Yes the Dolphins did it too, but 2 less games ( a world of difference) and no salary cap. The lack of shut outs and blow outs in the playoffs is irrelevant. Great teams find a way to win, even in bad games. And this crap about doing it for a few more years? First off - is been 7 freaking years. how long before you admit that maybe they have been great this decade? And second off, I believe most people are calling them the greatest team ever for THIS season (although one could make an argument for the last 7 years too).

263
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 6:59pm

247 Andrew: great point. That's why playing with data is so much fun!

264
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:04pm

Erik, unless you wish to contend that luck has no role in the outcome of football games, it is specious to say margin of victory or ease of victory should not be examined in deciding which team has performed best. Aaron has done a fair amount of work which surely indicates that margin of victory has strong predictive value in determining which teams will perform best in the future. In the Pats favor is the blowouts they have had, mostly earlier in the year. What works against them is that on the stage with the highest stakes, the playoffs, several past teams have exceeded the Pats' performance by a wide margin, while only losing one or two regular season games. For those of us who put much greater value on playoff performance than on a game in mid-September, or even mid November, this suggests to us that this year's Pats are a great, great, team, but not the best ever.

265
by Herm? (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:07pm

The phrase "buying a championship" is definitely not applicable in a hard salary cap league.
But there is a phenomenon to this team having the clout, rather than cash, to be able get a player to come play for them for 50%-75% of their worth. It's called winning. It's success caused by success.
Who the heck is going to play in Atlanta for that kind of discount next year?

This is definitely a case where attempts at parity have created the opposite effect...And I love it.

266
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:10pm

Will,

In any given season, a great team will have a number of blowouts, and a number of closer games. Your criteria for "greatness" seems to be that a team happens to have it's blowouts in a three game stretch at the end of the season (i.e. the "playoffs"). I don't see why this matters.

Whether or not a team blows out another team on any given day isn't really a measure of how good the teams are...the "any given Sunday" principal is that any team can have a good day or a bad day, and if your good day happens to correspond to the opponent's bad day, you'll get a blowout, if you are the better team. If you're an exceptional team, then you can win even when your bad day corresponds to the opponent's good day, and you're less likely to have a bad day, which is why exceptional teams win more often than not. But the greatest team in the world isn't going to get a blowout every game. I would argue that the talent level in the NFL, even when considering "elite teams" is too close (and has been too close for years) to blow out an opponent if they happen to have a good day. So the occurrence of a blowout is a relatively random event. A random event who's likliehood increases the better your team is, yes, but still a random event.

So why hold it against the Patriots that their ELEVEN blowouts this season happened to all occur in the first sixteen games, and not in either the seventeenth or the eighteenth game (although both those games, though not blowouts, were won handily with the opposing team losing ultimately by two scores and with the game decided by the middle of the fourth quarter). The mere fact that the Patriots had 11 blowouts (out of 18 games so far), with only three really narrow wins, and no losses, speaks powerfully in favor of the Patriots being one of the greatest teams.

Now, maybe you could argue that playoff blowouts are blowouts against playoff calibur teams (duh), but then I would point out that four of the Patriots eleven blowouts occured against playoff teams. They just happened to occur before the playoffs.

If you want to use blowouts to measure whether or not a team is great, go ahead, but you have to look over the course of a season, not cherry-pick a specific two-to-three game stretch and say whether a team is great or not depends on whether its blowouts happend to occur in that window.

267
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:14pm

Will,

This is a question that cannot be answered without putting it into context.

I understand what you're saying - you are arguing the bottom line of the actual results.

But how can one compare a team with no cap to a team with cap restrictions? It's apples to oranges. The team with no cap SHOULD be the better team, but it has to be explained with a caveat.

We'll never know what kind of output this Pats team would have had under the old system, or how those SF or Bears teams would have performed with less cash to acquire and keep players.

If the Patriots do win the SB, Aaron's statement might have to be amended to "The Pats are the best team ever to win a SB during the salary cap era," or something along those lines.

Arguments like these are why it's always tricky to compare teams from different eras, and really can't be proven definitively.

I happen to think the 2007 Marlins would beat the bag out of the 1927 Yankees - better conditioning, bigger and stronger players, video technology, etc. But what difference does that make? It can't be proven.

268
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:18pm

those of us who put much greater value on playoff performance than on a game in mid-September, or even mid November,

Will,

Is there statistical evidence that blowouts occur at a lower frequency in playoff games than in regular season games between playoff teams? If so, then I'll buy that it's harder to blow someone out in the playoffs, and hence that blowouts that occur in the playoffs are more indicative of a great team than blowouts in the regular season.

But if not, if playoff blowouts occur with similar frequency to blowouts in the regular season between playoff teams, then I don't understand how one can infer that team A, which had three blowouts against playoff teams in the regular season and two comfortable, non-blowout wins in the playoffs, is not as good as Team B, which had two comfortable wins and a blowout against playoff teams in the regular season and then two blowout wins in the playoffs.

269
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:21pm

Will,

One more thing - you keep coming back to performance in the postseason.

If a team goes 9-7 and sneaks into the playoffs, but somehow wins every playoff game and the SB 52-0, would they be the greatest team of all time?

270
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:24pm

MJK,

A few years back, the NYJ beat Indy something like 44-0 in the playoffs.

That Jets team must have been a great, great team.

271
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:27pm

Playoff teams can probably be considered to be better than random regular season teams by the simple fact that all the bad teams have been eliminated. Please tell me you got there on your own.

272
by erik fast (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:29pm

#258 I think you are missing the point about the salary cap. People have made they point that the other "greatest team of all time" candidates have blown out the competition i the playoffs, but that the Pats haven't (and that would be haven't in 7 years). This is due to parity of talent. You have to judge each team for greatness based on their accomplishments and their contemporary competition. In this regard, it isn't really possible to judge the greatest team ever. The different dominating teams of their era's most likely could not compete in other eras. Perhaps we should confine deeming the greatest team of the different eras? I would say that their are probably 4 different modern eras of the NFL: 1) The era of the Steel Curtain (70's), the era of 49ers/Bears (80's), the era of the Cowboys/49ers (early to mid 90's), and the current era (late 90's to present). In the current era. This is just food for thought. I would argue the same about other professional sports. Advances in equipment, training, diet, longevity, and drugs (some legal, some not) just have changed the sport too much over the years.

273
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:32pm

MJK, I choose to put much greater emphasis on the games which are absolutely critical to winning the championship, because the most important goal is winning the championship. A team which has played in a manner which could have allowed for some bad luck on a couple plays, especially in the 2nd half, in games which are absolutely critical to achieving the season's main goal, to reverse the outcome from victory to defeat, simply isn't the best, in my view. I prefer a team which, in those absolutely critical games, simply destroyed their opponent, completely removing luck from the equation, even if such a team lost a game or two in the regular season. If this is cherry-picking, so be it. Playoff games certainly appear to me to be played at a different intensity level, which to me is a better indicator of a team's value.

274
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:33pm

Re 260: Erik, the 72 Dolphins are routinely discarded in discussions about the greatest team despite their undefeated season. Why should the Pats receive different treatment?

275
by vis (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:35pm

On the CAR/NYG comparison...

It should be pointed out that the regression in the following year by Delhomme (and thus, CAR) was largely attributed to a change in success rate on close and ill-advised passes. Where in 03, Delhomme was throwing into double-coverage and making completions, in 04 and since, Delhomme's same types of passes were getting defensed (or picked).

In other words, Delhomme's (and ultimately, the Panthers') success then failure had much to do with a better-than-expected rate of return on the same types of attempts, followed by a regression to the mean.

Eli's increased success seems primarily from an improvement in decision-making and timing (or, a "maturing" if you prefer), a change that is presumably more resistant to regression.

Or so Giants fan's would hope.

276
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:38pm

235: I meant to make clear that I think that "best team ever" discussions will always have a lot of questions in my mind, even once we have more data.

From post 190: "The problem I have with “best team” ever discussions is that the criteria vary so widely. and

"If more advanced stats come in on the Skins, I’m willing to change my mind…I still think that such a project will inevitably raise more questions. Does weighted DVOA count more than DVOA? Does having more games with consistently high DVOA count more than having higher peaks and lower valleys? Does playoff dominance count more than regular season dominance?"

Sorry for any confusion.

And 245: The "sample size" discussion was in relation to a point that Carlos made about the 1991 Skins having a tougher schedule by virtue of the 16 games that they played. (And there are issues with the aggregate 16 games times 16 teams metric, as you would be "double-counting" the schedules of the teams that each team played twice - for example, the 1991 Giants or 2007 Dolphins - and then further double-counting the teams they played that the Redskins also played - like the Eagles-Giants games, which would be counted both as part of the Giants' schedule and the Eagles' schedule. It would still not be a huge sample size in any event, particularly if the only criterion is "win" and, as seen in Week 17, that criterion is often not terribly reliable.)

But, even though DVOA would help with the sample-size issue, the methodology of what makes a team the "best" would still be up in the air - regular, weighted, game-by-game, or playoff DVOA? Is a team with 15 games of higher DVOA than their opponent better than a team with 13 games of completely dominant DVOA and 3 games of poorer DVOA? Or, is the aggregate what we're looking for? You could also end up with a situation where one team dominates another in the regular season, but the other had a slight (or larger) playoff edge.

Ultimately, then, the whole conversation may end up being somewhat subjective, even once we get additional data. And right now, it's REALLY subjective, because we don't even have the larger sample size that DVOA provides.

And Will, I disagree with your assertion that context of the era (like salary cap or not) isn't relevant. It's very difficult to compare a team situationally with another team that faces fundamentally different obstacles - like the salary cap, variance in pass offenses, and rule changes to encourage offense. (This is one of the reason why I think "best team of their era" is a more appropriate discussion than "best team ever.")

277
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:42pm

Nicky, that won't ever happen, so it is not a hypothetical I feel any need to examine.

erik, you seem to be making my point, which is that this year's Pats don't outdistance their competition to the degree that past champions have. We agree.

278
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:47pm

patriotsgirl, the obstacles don't change the outcomes of the plays which occurred in the game. They affected which players were available to make the plays.

279
by Dan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 7:56pm

are we seriously listening to mike tanier????

heres his write up pre season on the giants. from this so called expert who knows A LOT MORE than me, or the average fan—because OF COURSE, he uses this foreign thing called statistics to back up his generally wrong analysis..

32 Giants (Last Year: 14)

Howlin’ Tom Coughlin alienates veterans and terrifies rookies with his abrasive style and obsession with picayune rules. Coughlin promises to be a mellower fellow this season; he’s reached Stage 3 of Coaching Cluelessness (”bargaining”) and should reach “acceptance” sometime soon. Kevin Gilbride is a refugee from the run-and-shoot era who specializes in getting his quarterbacks flattened. He thinks Max Protect is a 1980s cartoon superhero, so Eli Manning had better be ready for the blindside blitz. The Giants fired defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, their best coach, after his injury-plagued defense fell apart last season. Replacement Steve Spagnuolo is a longtime Eagles assistant who plans to install a more blitz-oriented attack. When the whole staff is fired on January 7th, Spagnuolo will land on his feet.

I will link you guys to a forum post that pretty much says everything that needs to be said about this write up BUT BUT BUT i find it VITAL to bring up the fact that he said TIM LEWIS!!! HAHAHAHH TIM LEWIS was our best coach. TIM LEWIS RUINED OUR TEAM. he installed a read and react defense that DOES NOT WORK…haha this site is a lot worse with writers like tanier.

heres the thread: http://corner.bigblueinteractive.com/index.php?mode=2&thread=270368

280
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 8:16pm

About the 1984 49ers...

They lost one game, 20-17, and it was to a 9-7 Steeler team that made it to the AFC-C that year. In that game the 49ers trailed 10-7 at the start of the 4th quarter. They tied it with a FG then later added the go ahead TD. The Steelers would tie it again at 17 with a TD, then Montana was intercepted and Gary Anderson kicked a 21 yard FG. But Montana led the team 54 yards down the field only to see Ray Wersching miss a 37 yard FG with 7 seconds left. Seriously, how much more awesome would football be if we pulled down those god damn goal posts? No FG's, no XP's, play for TDs like men. It'd be great. But rant aside, the 49ers had an off day and their kicker screwed them up from going to OT and possibly winning. The 49ers outgained the Steelers in yards and were even in turnovers (1 each).

Just further makes me believe Belichick/Brady are the luckiest SOB's in NFL history and so much of it is FG/kicker dependent. Remember who the defensive coordinator was on the winning team's sidelines when Scott Norwood missed that FG in the SB? Yep, Bill Belichick. Even though Buffalo only had the ball for under 20 minutes in the game, they still scored 17 pts of offense, ran at will on them with Thomas, and Kelly played an efficient, turnover-free game with no one in his face all night. They marched down the field with time running out, down by one, and Norwood blew it.

Remember why the Snow Game happened in 2001? The Jets made a 53 yard FG in week 17 to beat the Raiders and give the Pats the bye. Remember Walt Coleman's awful tuck rule reversal? Right after that the genius coach and his golden boy QB moved the ball just 1 more yard, and saw Vinatieri kick one of the greatest FG's in NFL history. Not a bad job on the SB winning kicks against the Rams and Panthers either. That kick out of bounds by Kasay sure helped in the latter game. Also Vinatieri was pretty great on a frozen night, kicking a 41 yard game winner against the Titans. Gary Anderson missed one from 31 yards earlier in a game decided by 3 pts.

21 game win streak? Look no further than Week 7, 2003 in Miami. Olindo Mare had TWO chances to win the game on just a 35 yard FG and couldn't make either. Patriots win that game. Or look at Mike Vanderjagt on opening night 2004. Shows the money sign toward the Patriot bench and goes on to choke another FG. Patriots win that game.

The Chargers choked away the game miserably last year to NE, but they still had a chance for OT at the end. The league's newest Vanderjagt, Nate Kaeding, couldn't hit from 54 yards on a good weather day.

If Lawrence Tynes goes out to kick a crucial FG in this year's Super Bowl, I already know exactly how it's going to turn out.

281
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 8:19pm

Perhaps if I define "best ever" more specifically, that may illuminate my thinking better. To me, "best ever" means the team which performed at a level which best guaranteed a championship, that is, best removed any chance of on the field bad luck preventing a championship. The team that best removed the random nature of football. Out goes any team which went 9-7, or 10-6, or even 11-5 or 12-4, no matter the playoff performance, since such a team likely could conceivably have had a string of bad luck which led to enough defeats that meant missing the playoffs. 10-6 teams have done so, after all. Also out is any team, even though undeniably great, which didn't dominate well enough in the playoffs to make it extremely unlikely that bad luck in the playoffs could have derailed them. Thus the Patriots of this year are out, and we are left with the teams I and others suggested above.
i

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by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 8:55pm

But Will,

The teams which "best removed" any chance of bad luck preventing a championship are the teams for which bad luck did not strike until the game was out of reach. The only difference between a blowout and a solid, 11 point win (or so) is whether any bad luck strikes, and when it does.

You could be winning handily, say, 21-10 early in the third quarter. Not a blowout yet, but maybe on it's way to being one. Opposing QB throws a quick out, which bounces off a WR's hands, richochets of another WR's foot, foot, and lands in the arms of a CB who runs it 50 yards back and now you're winning 28-10. Way down, the other team becomes one-dimensional, goes for it on 4th and goal and fails, and you get the ball back and score an insurance FG, and ultimately win 31-10. Essentially a blowout.

Now suppose on that same play, the ball lands in the hands of a WR, instead of bouncing off his foot, and he does an amazing matrix move and no one tries to tackle him till its too late because everyone thinks he's down. He scores a TD to make it 17-21, and because the other team is not trailing by all that much, they keep a balanced attack and manage take the FG when facing 4th and goal, before you get the ball, run an 8 minute drive to kill all remaining clock, and score an icing FG to win 24-20. Close game, right?

I guess the team in the second case was not as great, because luck didn't favor them early in the third quarter.

See my point about blowouts being essentially random? Obviously, you want to win in the playoffs because that's how you win a championship, and hence you try to win as hard as you can, and to blow the team out as early as possible. However, with a few narrow exceptions, you try to do that in the regular season as well. Maybe you try harder in the playoffs, but so does your opponent. So inferring that a team is better than another team because it had better success in one particular game than another (against equivalent compentition) is not possible.

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by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 8:59pm

Will Allen (#279 et al)--
Also out is any team, even though undeniably great, which didn’t dominate well enough in the playoffs to make it extremely unlikely that bad luck in the playoffs could have derailed them.
So, for example, winning your playoff games by two scores and killing the clock at the end should suffice, since you are at that point in no danger of losing on a fluke play, but only on a series of fluke plays (quick score, recovery of expected onside kick, additional quick score).

Which would rule the Patriots of this year back in, if you were actually being objective about the whole thing. :)

284
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:03pm

Will,

But how would luck have brought down the Patriots in this postseason?

At the moment any supposed form of bad luck could have affected the Patriots, the game would have forever been changed.

We'll never know because the bad luck never happened (yet - knock on wood).

Who's to say the Patriots wouldn't have responded like they've done so many other times in this and prior seasons?

And you're not placing enough emphasis on this salary cap thing. Notice how the teams you're suggesting are all from the old era?

Times have changed. Give me three more All Star players and I guarantee you'd see this Patriots team dominate in the playoffs, leaving no further debate.

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by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:05pm

Sorry for the double post, but I didn't want any post to be gargantuous in length.

I just did some checking. Since 2004, there have been 131 games that took place in the regular season between two teams that ultimately would be playoff teams that year.

Defining a blowout as a game in which the winning team scores at least 21 points, and wins by at least 14 points, then 38 of those games were blowouts. (I used a fairly loose definition of "blowout" to ensure a large enough sample size). Note that some of these 38 occurred in Week 17 when one team had nothing to play for, so the ratio is probably even smaller, but neglecting that, the ratio of blowouts between playoff-calibur teams in the regular season is 0.29.

In the 43 playoff games since 2004, there have been 16 blowouts, using the above definition. This is a blowout rate of 0.37.

So it actually looks like it's HARDER to blow out a playoff calibur team in the regular season than in the playoffs (of course, small sample size in the playoffs makes this statement less certain). So inferring that blowouts in the regular season mean less than playoff blowouts when judging how good a team doesn't hold weight.

Also consider the sample sizes involved. 37% of playoff games are blowouts (in the past four years), on average. For an elite team facing a non-elite playoff team, it's chances of getting a blowout are probably somewhat higher...say 50% or so. Just because, in two games, a team didn't get a blowout does not imply that it's not an elite team, just like flipping a coin and getting tails twice does not imply that the coin is weighted towards tails or has no heads.

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by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:08pm

Oops...

Slight correction. In any given playoff game, if there is a 37% chance of a blowout occurring, that doesn't mean that any given team has a 37% chance of WINNING a blowout, jsut that the chance Team A blows out Team B, plus the chance that Team B blows out Team A, equals 37%. So figure an elite team has even less than a 50% chance of a blowout in any given playoff game.

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by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:16pm

I don't think anyone is expecting the 56-10 or 52-7 type beatdowns by NE in the playoffs, but what about the 38-14 type games they played at the beginning of the year? In fact this team has only scored 38+ pts in one of their last 8 games after doing it in 7 of the first 10. After the Buffalo pounding, they've basically been the 2004 Patriots with better WR's.

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by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:36pm

Nicky P. it would have taken gargantuan bad luck for the '89 49ers to lose a playoff game; did you see what their halftime scores were in the playoffs? If they had experienced bad luck in the first quarter, it likely would have meant winning by thirty points instead of forty points. The Bears did experience some bad fumble luck in the first quarter of their Super Bowl. They won by 36 anyways. In contrast, the Patriots were much, much, much closer to having a bad break or two cost them the game in the past two weeks. They have not removed randomness as an impediment to a championship nearly as well. If you are only winning playoff games by 11, instead of by 45, that is
a truism.

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by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:40pm

No, starshatterer, a two score win does not objectively remove randomness nearly as much as a six score win.

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by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:51pm

Nicky, really, I am taking no position on the degree of difficulty in fielding a dominant team now, as opposed to 20 years ago. I fully concede that the ability to stockpile talent may have made the task easier before. My point has nothing to with how teams were assembled, and only to do with how definitively the players on the field achieved the primary goal of teams in the NFL, which is to win a championship. In my view, a team which experienced competitive moments in the 2nd half of playoff games, while going 16-0 in the regular season, has not won a championship as dedfinitively as a team which essentially ended their playoff games before halftime, while going 15-1 or 14-2 in the regular season.

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by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 9:58pm

Scott,

Their last 8 games were outdoors in the Northeast. Plus just from a pure stamina standpoint, it's more difficult to exert similar beatdowns week in and week out, for the entire season. For one, you're more tired. For two, you have to leave a little gas in the tank for the final playoff push.

And for the record, the 2004 Patriots finished up with back to back 14-2 SB winning seasons. Last I checked they were pretty good - better than any team since the 90s Cowboys.

If they finish off this year with another title, they may not be the best team ever, but remember, they're only hitting their prime right now.

This team is not going away anytime soon.

292
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:00pm

Re: "Patrick Laverty: The radio guys also kept ranting about Brady’s performance the game after a bad game. Guess that could be something to check. Does he really have a great game after a bad one?"

I think this is a Simms/Nantz created thing. All depends on how you want to define bad and great. A lot of times he'd just get a good matchup the following week.

2001 Bad Games (Next Week in parenthesis)
- vs. Denver, L 31-20, 4 picks (vs. Falcons, W 24-10, 3 TDs, 124.4 PR)
- vs. St. Louis, L 24-17, 2 picks (vs. Saints, W 34-17, 4 TDs, 143.9 PR)
- vs. CLE, W 27-16, 2 INTs, 61.3 PR (vs. Bills, W 12-9 OT, 54.3% completions, 0 TD, 1 INT, 63.6 PR)

So I'd say 2 out of 3 times he delivered the next week

2002 Bad Games
- Had a 4 game losing streak where he really didn't play well in any of the games
- Didn't play that well in the last 3 games of the season either (a total of 488 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, 4.44 YPA)

2003 Bad Games
- vs. Buffalo, L 31-0, 4 INTs, 22.5 PR (vs. Eagles, W 31-10, 3 TDs, 105.8 PR)
- vs. Washington, L 20-17, 3 INTs, 73.2 PR (vs. Titans, W 38-30, 0 TO's, 88.0 PR)
- vs. Giants, W 17-6, 8/21 for 112 yards (vs. Miami, W 19-13 OT, 283 yds, 2 TDs)

Good bounce-back games all 3 times

2004 Bad Games
- vs. Miami, W 24-10, 7/19 for 76 yards (vs. Seattle, W 30-20, 231 yards, TD, INT, 84.2 PR)
- vs. Steelers, L 34-20, 2 INTs & fumble (vs. Rams, W 40-22, 2 TDs, 103.4 PR)
- vs. Miami, L 29-28, 4 picks (vs. Jets, W 23-7, 264 yds, 2 TDs, 112 PR)

2 "great" follow-up games

2005 Bad Games
- vs. Carolina, L 27-17, INT, fumble (vs. Steelers, W 23-20, 372 yards)
- vs. Chiefs, L 26-16, 4 INTs (vs. Jets, W 16-3, 271 yards, 93.4 PR)

Played noticeably better each time

2006 Bad Games
- vs. Colts, L 27-20, 4 INTs (vs. Jets, L 17-14, TD, INT, 84.6 PR)
- vs. Miami, L 21-0, 78 yards, fumble (vs. Houston, W 40-7, 109 yards, 2 TDs, 108.8 PR)
- vs. Chargers, W 24-21, 3 INTs, 57.6 PR (vs. Colts, L 38-34, 79.5 PR, game ending INT)

Really just average at best in all 3 cases. The Houston game has decent stats, but 16/23 for 109 yards is some serious dink and dunk.

2007 Bad Games
- vs. Jets, W 20-10, 0 TD/1 INT, 51.5 PR (vs. Miami, W 28-7, 3 TDs, 3 TO's, 79.7 PR)

Miami game was probably his 3rd worst of the year, with the San Diego game sandwiched between those two. Hmm, 3 of the last 5 games this season are his worst performances.

I think it's just another way of Nantz pointing out the team almost never loses two games in a row, rather than Brady never having two below average games in a row.

293
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:00pm

Will Allen --

I'm getting the impression that you started with a conclusion, then cherry-picked the data you prefer to support it. Which is fine, this whole argument is basically about deciding which team you like or dislike more, then flogging whatever argument best supports your position, as often as you can type it. You and I both seem to enjoy wasting our time this way.

The data I would prefer (assuming the Patriots win the Superbowl, of course) is, "not losing." Also objective, though it sadly rules out some otherwise-excellent teams.

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by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:03pm

Playing outdoors had little impact. The only games where weather did anything was the Jets and Baltimore. Yet the opposing QB had better passing stats than Brady each time. They just didn't play well those games, simple as that.

03-04 Patriots weren't better teams than the Broncos that went back-to-back in the 90's.

295
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:11pm

Will,

How can you not include the degree of difficulty in the reasoning here?

Conceding that it's demonstratively harder to assemble a great team due to the salary cap, you should judge this year's Patriots accordingly.

Not using a degree of difficulty in this matter is tantamount to not including opponent adjustments to adequately assess a team's performance.

296
by Mack (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:11pm

In the 1985 divisional round, the Bears led the 10-6 Giants 7-0 at halftime, and 21-0 (the eventual final score) after 3 quarters.

They led the 11-5 Rams 10-0 at halftime and 17-0 after three quarters on their way to a 24-0 victory.

First, the two shutouts followed by the SB blowout over the Patriots are an extraordinary playoff run and form a big part of their argument for best ever. Credit where it's due, etc.

However, by Will's definition, they didn't really remove luck from the equation until probably the middle or late stages of the third quarter in their first two wins. An edge over this year’s Pats, but how much of an edge? The Pats basically removed luck from the equation at roughly the midway point of the fourth quarter against a pair of what we fairly objectively know are two very good 11-5 teams. If we can establish that there’s reason to believe this year’s Jags and Chargers are better than the ’85 Giants and Rams, does Chicago’s advantage in playoff dominance really overcome whatever other advantages this year’s Pats have over the ’85 Bears? Not that we can prove New England’s opponents are better but if we could……

Basically, if you have an historically great team in a year with relatively little elite competition OR you’re fortunate enough to get a relatively easy slate of opponents in the playoffs OR you avoid games against teams that match up well with yours, it’s conceivable that you could look better (or worse) than you really are in the playoffs, no?

On the other hand, Will, if you’re determined to come up with a set of criteria sooner rather than later to exclude the 2007 New England Patriots from the best ever discussion it can certainly be done.

297
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:33pm

296:

And the 78 Steelers were up by 19-10 over Denver at the half; and only beat Dallas in the SB by 4! They're out.

The 1984 49ers beat the Giants 21-10 (less than two scores) and were up 28-16 in the Super Bowl at halftime. (I can't seem to find the breakdown for the NFCCG that ended at 23-0.)

The 1991 Redskins were up 14-7 over Atlanta at halftime in the Divisionals, and 17-7 after the third quarter. They were up 17-10 at halftime against Detroit in the NFCCG. They also "only" won the SB by 13 points. (Which seems ridiculous - I certainly remember the Skins dominating that game.)

So, if our criteria are "wins by more than two TDs" and "over after halftime," congratulations, 1989 SF 49ers! I guess that ends the conversation. :)

298
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:39pm

245- The Giants won their division 2 years ago, and they were the 3rd playoff team in a strong NFC East. There were also 3 playoff teams in their division this year.

I am not calling the Giants elite, I'd still say the packers/Cowboys are better, but the Giants are not the 18th best team with the Redskins as the 7th best. That is what gets me. The Redskins didn't beat Green Bay, they didn't beat Tampa, they beat an injured Dallas team that at least partially rested their starters once, and they got KILLED by the Patriots.

I don't think that you could use the salary cap as an argument FOR the Patriots as the best ever. They manage their money well, and if some other teams did, they might not have Adalias Thomas, Donte Stallworth, Randy Moss, Wes Welker etc.

Also remember that these Patriots also almost lost games to Kyle Bollier, AJ Feeley. and were lit up for 4 touchdowns by an Eli Manning who is deemed average at best around here at FO.

Even if the Patriots lost 1 game, my opinion of them would not have changed. It just seems like that variance hit the 85' Bears, where as it ALMOST hit the Patriots.

I would also say that Ideally the best team in NFL history would have a better defense than the 07' Patriots. Their offense is sick, but I am not so sure that the best all around team in NFL history almost losses to Kyle Bollier, AJ Feeley, or Eli Manning.

The 85' Bears may have losta game, but their defense was sick. Randy Moss might have broken receiving records this year, but I am not sure he would have time to go deep with that blitzing 46 defense in Bradys face.

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by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 10:51pm

Will,

Looking at the '89 Niners--they had 17 wins and two losses. Of those seventeen wins, eight were blowouts (using my definition above). However, only three of those blowouts came against playoff teams (all three times in the playoffs).

In all, those Niners faced playoff teams seven times that year. Three times they won in blowouts, three times they won in a more ordinary fashion, and once they lost.

Now that is certainly indicative of a good team. But unless you can convince me that it was something other than luck that made the three blowout wins happen in the playoffs (as opposed to the three ordinary wins or the one loss), I don't buy your argument.

The '89 Niners went 6-1 versus playoff teams, with three blowouts. The 2007 Patriots have gone 8-0 versus playoff teams, with four blowouts. If you're using blowouts versus playoff calibur teams as your metric, they look pretty even to me, and maybe the Patriots have a bit of an edge.

300
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 01/22/2008 - 11:05pm

Also, I don't know of any Giants fans that called the team Elite. I said they were the 3rd best team in the NFC and I don't think anybody has them any higher than that but for chrissake don't put the Redskins at 7 and the Giants at 16.

I'll settle the GTOA debate.

85' Ditkas 79
07' Patriots 0
MVP = Mike Ditka