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25 Oct 2006

Every Play Counts: Booger McFarland

by Michael David Smith

The Indianapolis Colts traded next year's second-round draft pick to acquire defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it didn't take long for him to make an impact. McFarland was in the starting lineup against the Washington Redskins Sunday, and on his first play in a Colts uniform, he stopped Redskins running back Clinton Portis for no gain at the line of scrimmage.

That was the play everyone talked about the next day, but a review of McFarland on every play of the Colts' 36-22 victory shows that he can be an active player, that he understands the role of the nose tackle in Tony Dungy's Tampa-2 defense, and that against the run he's a major upgrade over anyone the Colts had on their roster before they acquired him.

Indianapolis originally intended to ease him into the lineup, but McFarland was on the field for most of the Colts' defensive plays after starting defensive tackle Montae Reagor was injured in a car accident on the day of the game. McFarland looked like he was playing to prove the Bucs were wrong to give up on him, getting that stop on the first play and then disrupting the middle of the Redskins' line on the second play, making room for linebacker Gilbert Gardner to tackle Portis for a loss of three yards.

McFarland played nose tackle for Dungy when both were in Tampa Bay, and on a third-and-1 on Washington's second drive, he showed that he understands the nose tackle's role on short-yardage plays, penetrating across the line of scrimmage and keeping the offensive linemen from opening a hole. At the snap McFarland submarined Washington center Casey Rabach and left guard Derrick Dockery and took them both out. Portis still picked up the first down by running to the other side of the line, but McFarland showed the kind of aggressiveness we haven't seen enough of from the Colts' defensive line this season.

McFarland is strong at the point of attack but slow in pursuit. On a first-and-10 Portis run around the right end on the Redskins' second possession, the Redskins didn't even bother to block McFarland because they knew he wouldn't be quick enough to make an impact on an outside run. You might say that's the case for all defensive tackles, but the best tackles in the Tampa-2 defensive scheme that Indianapolis employs don't just tie up blockers and let the middle linebacker make the plays, the way tackles operate in the Marvin Lewis defense. Tampa-2 tackles like Chicago's Tommie Harris and Ian Scott are quick enough to make plays even when the running back isn't heading in their direction. McFarland won't do much of that.

However, it's important to remember that Dungy is asking McFarland to play the nose tackle position that he played when Dungy was McFarland's coach in Tampa Bay from 1999 to 2001. McFarland excelled there, but when Warren Sapp left Tampa for Oakland in 2004, McFarland switched to the three-technique tackle, and he wasn't as effective a player. Now he's back to playing the nose, and that's where he's best suited. The difference is that the three-technique tackle, also known as the under tackle, lines up farther from the center and is expected to cover more of the field, while the nose tackle lines up closer to the center and is responsible mostly for what is directly in front of him.

On a first-and-10 handoff to Portis in the second quarter, Washington's play called for Rabach to pull to the outside and block linebacker Cato June. But McFarland ran directly into Rabach at the snap and held on, keeping him from pulling. That's exactly what the Colts need McFarland to do -- win his individual battles with the linemen in front of him. Technically, McFarland probably should have been called for defensive holding, although the officials hardly ever enforce that penalty to the letter of the rule.

Rabach got called for holding McFarland once, on a second-and-10 in the second quarter, when Portis ran up the middle and Rabach wrapped his arm around McFarland in an attempt to force him to the outside. Rabach is a good center, but he had trouble with McFarland and held him regularly.

McFarland's best play came on a first-and-10, when Betts took a handoff off the right tackle and McFarland fought through a double-team of Rabach and guard Randy Thomas. He squeezed between Rabach and Thomas using a textbook arm rip -- the kind of play high school defensive line coaches should show their players to teach good technique -- and tackled Betts after a gain of just two yards.

Those run-stopping plays are what the Colts need from McFarland because he isn't much of a pass rusher, having recorded only 20 sacks in his eight-year career. When he rushed Mark Brunell on Sunday he looked like he was hustling, but he didn't quite have the agility to get around the linemen in front of him. On a first-and-15, McFarland tried a Dwight Freeney-style spin move, and it got him exactly nowhere against Thomas. If I never see McFarland try a spin move again, I'll be happy. I suspect Dungy feels the same way.

McFarland wasn't totally useless on passing plays, though. On second-and-10 in the fourth quarter, Rabach and Dockery doubled McFarland, and when Freeney chased Brunell outside the pocket, it was McFarland's continuing pressure that forced Brunell to throw the ball away. On a previous first-and-10, McFarland stunted to the outside while Freeney rushed to the inside. McFarland never got close to Brunell as both Dockery and Clinton Portis blocked him, but he did show a good first step and got to the outside quickly. Having McFarland around should help Freeney, who has yet to record a sack and has been one of this season's biggest disappointments. (Indianapolis's next opponent, Denver, should also help Freeney because the Broncos will be without starting left tackle Matt Lepsis. One of the NFL's most underappreciated players, Lepsis tore his ACL Sunday.)

Still, McFarland's lack of mobility can be a problem. On a Ladell Betts run over the right tackle, Thomas had no trouble sealing McFarland off in the middle of the line. A more active defensive lineman might have been able to get around Thomas and make the tackle. But the Colts are adequate against runs to the outside because of fast linebackers like Cato June, who played a very big part in holding Portis in check on Sunday. The way teams have succeeded against the Colts is running up the middle. That's where McFarland helps.

So was McFarland worth the price the Colts paid for him? For a typical team, trading a second-round pick for McFarland would be unwise. He's probably a better player than a typical second-round pick, but he's 28 years old and makes more than $5 million a year, whereas a typical second-round pick is 22 years old and makes about $1 million a year. But the Colts aren't a typical team. They're a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations and one glaring weakness, the run defense. A team in that situation should do what it can to shore up that weakness, and the Colts have done just that.

Each week, Michael David Smith looks at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game. Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 25 Oct 2006

87 comments, Last at 30 Oct 2006, 7:29pm by doktarr

Comments

1
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 12:20pm

Good stuff, MDS. Love it when the spotlight falls on the bigguns in the trenches.

2
by J.D. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 12:22pm

It's true, his acquisition only makes sense for an immediate contender. But despite the salary cap ballooning, I can't help but think that the Colts are now in a situation where their stars (Manning, Harrison, Wayne, Glenn, Diem, Freeney, and now McFarland) are making so much that they will lack the depth necessary to stay at the top. Are we going to see a Titans-style rebuilding process in a few years to get the Colts out of salary cap hell, or have they done a better job than that? I can't help but think that for a team like the Colts, who need to find young, low-priced players, a 2nd round pick would be more valuable, no matter how good Booger is. The current model for consistent winning is depth (Patriots, Eagles), not overpaid stars and minimum-wage rejects (Redskins).

3
by Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 12:31pm

I wonder how Freeney will do against a lefty QB, though Plummer might actually do better when he doesn't know there's a rush coming.

4
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 12:38pm

not overpaid stars and minimum-wage rejects

Well, overpaid players are rarely a model for success, so the second part is moderately redundant. If the Redskins had done better in free agent pickups, the fact that they have free agent depth probably wouldn't hurt them all that much.

5
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 12:39pm

It all depends on HOW the big star contracts are structured. You can structure a big contract to give you cap flexibility down the road (although players don't like that because "flexibility" usually means "the ability to cut them when they start to slow down"), restructure deals (which players do like), or play accounting games that can make cap life a lot easier. The Titans weren't very good at these games. The Redskins are, which is why they consistently are able to spend big in F.A., despite the fact that it doesn't get them anywhere. But the Patriots and Eagles are also good at those games, which is why they're able to build depth.

One good example of a cap game was illustrated by the Patriots this past week. The Patriots have free cap space this year, but are likely to need some next year, because they have a bunch of important players coming up on FA. They just signed an extension with their center. They included a big incentive bonus for playing on special teams. By the letter of the law, this bonus is "likely to be earned" so it counts against the cap this year and uses up some of their excess space. But centers don't play on special teams, so the bonus won't be earned, and the cap hit will be refunded to the Pats next year, giving them more space.

I don't know if Polian is good with those games or not. But it does seem that the Colts business model is to spend heavily on offense and use young, fast, non-prototypical (nad hence cheap) players on defense. McFarland maybe doesn't fit that mold, so players like him probably will not stick around the Colts for many years. But he certainly fills an immediate need.

Why oh why do the Broncos pick up an major injury AFTER they play the Pats, and the Colts improve a major weakness BEFORE they play the Pats?

6
by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 12:43pm

#3

Washington, with Brunell, held him mostly in check (as I recall), although he did a decent job against the run and I don't think he took himself out of the play too often.

7
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 12:49pm

I always assumed teams would line up thier best DE on the other side when facing a leftie QB. And, of course, the RT for a team with a leftie QB would be the premiere position.

8
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:00pm

But, since the problem for the Broncos is left tackle (not being as up on their depth as Kibbles or Kaveman), you would have to think possibly that this time, the left/right switch wouldn't happen, to get Freeney on the best possbile matchup, right?

9
by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:03pm

Re 2: The difference is that the Colts are paying players who are the best at their positions, while the Redskins are not. You can't really compare the two.

10
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:13pm

#7 yeah, but like a lot of things in life, some guys are better right- or left-handed. They learn techniques ambidextrously, but how many MLB switch hitters can hit 300 from both sides of the plate? Usually they are better from one side and presumably it's the same for pass rushers too with swim, rip, and spin moves. The bull-rush seems "square" to me but the others come from a staggered stance. You see the same thing a lot with wrestlers--everybody has a preferred side.

They've moved Freeney from side to side and even inside in past years to get him away from the double/triple team thing. None too successfully, IIRC.

BTW, I did not see Sunday's game but the Indy Star writers indicated Freeney was in the backfield as much as Brunell and brought a lot of pressure. If it leads to a mental error/INT (cough-Plummer-cough) it's just as good as a sack, if not better.

11
by dbt (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:17pm

You mentioned Ian Scott, who was benched before the Arizona game in favor of Tank Johnson. I'm wondering now if that was a mistake by the Bears staff or if that was just a learning curve game for Tank. Plus Adawale was out.

12
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:18pm

MDS,

This was a really helpful article. Thanks.

Small typo in the middle:
"Those run-stopping plays are what the Bucs need from McFarland."

Understandably you thought "Bucs" but meant "Colts." Sorry, trying to be helpful. I was an editor for 9 years.

13
by turbohapy (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:21pm

Noticed a typo..."Those run-stopping plays are what the *Bucs* need from McFarland"...wanted to let you know ;o)

This article was great. Seemed very much in line with what I saw watching the game, but MUCH better analysis ;o)

So will McFarland take snaps from Reagor or Brock (assuming Reagor is healthy soon)? Will Brock move back to DE on some obvious running downs since Mathis has shown to be a pretty sizeable liability there?

14
by turbohapy (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:27pm

I honestly think Freeney is working on a new style that keeps him from being quite the run liability he has been in the past. His old style basically got him a sack or rendered him useless, this season he has done a lot of harassment while still keeping somewhat reasonable positioning for the run. Initially I thought it had to do with his leg injury, but now I think it is intentional. Time will tell if it is more successful.

15
by Ned Macey (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:28pm

Considering the Colts have 10 or more wins every year but once since 1999, I'm not sure Polian really needs advice from the Eagles or Patriots on building a consistent winner. As for constructing a successful playoff squad, he may take those calls.

16
by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:31pm

Regarding Ian Scott, I'm not sure why the Bears have benched him for Tank Johnson. He was initially listed on the injury report as having a hamstring injury, but then he said his hamstring was fine and he didn't know why he was benched. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Lovie Smith was trying to "send him a message," whatever that means. In any event, I've always thought he's a very good player. If he and Smith weren't seeing eye to eye, I wonder if the Bears and Colts talked trade.

17
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:33pm

#2 JD
Which team has the most wins since 1999? Indy. SB or not, that's consistent success. Look at what those three teams have in common? Manning, Brady, McNabb. Their teams started being dominant (even though two were primarily D teams for a few years) when the superstar QB emerged. Look what happened when McNabb got hurt last season. I suspect Indy and NE would have similar years if their QBs went down. Overall, the teams are really good. But it's their QBs that make them great. And somehow combined with rational mgmt (not Dan Snyder's Steinbrenneresque buying sprees) and long-term drafting, this ties in with the sustainability model as well.

I am not a huge fan of heaping praise on the glory boys--they get their due--but damn, we're not just talking stats here. We're talking consistent playoff runs year after year, despite injuries, FA losses, evil nemesis games always in New England (okay, so I am a Colts fan), and year after year, they are among the best--all three teams are legit top 5 teams almost every year. Maybe the QBs don't get enough glory? Hard to believe. Don't really like to even think it.

18
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:49pm

17

All those teams are also very good at evaluating cheap talent.

The QB thing is correlation without causation.

19
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:49pm

Good article MDS. It shows how a player who may seem ineffective can be really useful if put in a position that maximizes his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses.

For the record, that's 27 consecutive playoff-position-affecting regular season wins for the Colts, dating back to the Kansas City loss in 2004.

20
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:52pm

19

I'd argue that the loss to Pittsburgh last year was a "playoff-position-affecting" loss.

21
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 2:00pm

17/18:

I think I agree with 17, and don't see any support for 18's argument.

How can you say that at least two Hall of Fame players (Brady and Manning) and one potential one (McNabb) are correlation and not causation? What arguments and evidence do you have to back that up?

You can hardly say it is finding "cheap talent" with respect to the QBs: McNabb and Manning were the highest of draft picks and both Pioli and Belichick are on record of saying they had no idea what they were getting in Brady in the 6th Round.

Flesh out your causation/correlation argument, Rich, and maybe I could be persuaded otherwise, but I think Bobman makes an excellent point.

22
by Purds (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 2:04pm

I did see the game on Sunday (in fact, I still have it on TiVo), and I agree that Freeney played well -- very well for someone without any sacks.

Nice article, MDS. After reading some Tamp boards after the trade, my biggest question about Booger is will he be able to sustain the effort? Most Tampa fans seemed to question his effort. As a Colts fan, I can't say I watched him closely, so I don't know.

23
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 2:09pm

For the record, that’s 27 consecutive playoff-position-affecting regular season wins for the Colts, dating back to the Kansas City loss in 2004.

I'd also argue that the loss to San Diego during the regular season hurt their playoff position, considering they injured a starting player that game.

24
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 2:21pm

JJCruiser, there are pgoo QBs out there stuck behind bad lines. Brady would be a failure behind houston's line, or Arizona's line, etc.

Yes, QB talent matters, but is mitigated by offensive line strenght. Yes, Tom Brady is a hall of famer. Would he be a hall of famer had Houston drafted him? I doubt it. Would Drew Bledsoe be a hall of famer if he played behind a stud offensive line his whole career? Without a damn question.

The reason Phi/NE are succesful is simply good cap management. They manage to get the most talent possible because they spend their money well, and dont give away cap space.

Indy brings up an interesting use of talent/cost analysis. Their offense is full of high price studs, their defense on the other hand, is built out of generally fast, undersized cheap guys. They've built their entire defence based on the premise that they really only need to be able to stop the pass, and they've been able to save money that way.

I dont think the Pats are as good with Matt Cassell, but I still bet they win 9+ games with him. Why? Because the line is good enough to give him time, and the rest of the team is good enough to win games as long as he doesnt play awfully.

Do you guys remember Rich Gannon in Oakland in 2002? How good he was? And how he fell off the map in 2003? That was because his line fell apart. A quarterback can't win games on his own, he needs to be surrounded by talent.

25
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 2:24pm

RE: 20/23

I don't know why people keep attacking this record. I'm not claiming that they are undefeated since 2004. I'm claiming they've won every game that had a theoretical impact on what seed they may get in the playoffs. It's a fact, not an opinion.

Yes, guys may have gotten players hurt in other games that did not affect seeding. Yes, they have lost in the playoffs (twice in that span Rich, not just once). That doesn't make this fact any less true. And as far as I can tell, it's unprecedented.

26
by Don Quixote (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 2:32pm

The Booger McFarland acquisition is interesting indeed.

But it's the John Abraham acquisition that makes us Jets fans giddy!
Has that dude ever played a 16 game season ?

27
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 2:35pm

But it's also pointless. It's cherry-picking. Brett Favre, under 34 degrees at home, not playing an African American quarterback with the number 7, is also undefeated.

The only reason it would make sense is if you said "well, but teams only play their hardest during the regular season, so we're only going to look at games where they're affecting their playoff seeding" but that fact just isn't true. So it doesn't actually mean anything.

28
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 2:38pm

If you have a great quarterback available, do you take him, and pay him accordingly? Sure. Unfortunately, there have been all sorts of guys who were thought to be great quarterbacks, were paid accordingly, and then turned out to be rather less than great. Of course, the same could be said for every position. The moral? Be good at evaluating talent, and paying it accordingly.

Yes, I often am quite insightful.....

29
by Lotherian (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 2:49pm

Best pro football article, period.

30
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 2:51pm

Don of Iberia actually does raise an insightful point; too often teams take excessive risks on guys who have not shown themselves to be durable. Yes, there is a random factor to injuries, and some guys just have crummy luck, but there are also guys whose bodies just don't hold up as well to the the tremendous strain of professional football. Flexibility is often an indicator, and I've wondered from time to time if NFL personnel guys don't pay enough attention to flexibility when evaluating talent.

As an example, Jim Kleinsasser of the Vikings really has been a good player for them, but it was pretty obvious to me from the first time I watched him play that he was going to miss significant time to injury; the guy is extraordinarly strong, and has decent speed, but he is also stiff, and stiff in most sports usually translates into above-average injury risk, as it has for him.

I've never watched Abraham play enough to form an opinion, but I do know that some guys really are more prone to injury, and I think sometimes that is overlooked when evaluating talent.

31
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 3:01pm

The Favre stat was cherry-picking, but "undefeated below freezing" was at least marginally intersting before it stopped being true. I think this stat is a whole lot closer to that than the one you cite.

The only reason it would make sense is if you said “well, but teams only play their hardest during the regular season, so we’re only going to look at games where they’re affecting their playoff seeding� but that fact just isn’t true.

Well of course teams aren't playing harder than they do in the playoffs. But we have all sorts of "regular season" records that don't include the playoffs. And yes, most teams don't approach regular season games the same way when their playoff position is assured. Do you really think Robert Mathis sits the SD game if the Colts are 9-4 in stead of 13-0? I don't.

32
by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 3:04pm

RE: 13

They'll be using all 3. DTs need to be rotated. My question is how they got by Sunday without Raegor, after losing Simon weeks before. Who was backing up Brock and McFarland?

33
by feeshta (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 3:08pm

Everything with line, QB, and running game play is intertwined. they are all codependent, and it's very hard to say what is the cause and what is the effect.

A good line can make a decent QB or running back look great, a great QB or running back can also make an average line look like a great one. In the case of a Manning or Brady, those guys most definately make their lines look better than they really are. They both are very good at anticipating what a defense wants to do and directing traffic into place to stop them, and they both understand how to beat a blitz and nearly always get rid of the ball quickly. Those things help make make their lines look great.

Conversely, you have a guy like Brunell or Bledsoe, and they make their lines look worse than they actually are.

There is very little that can truly be nailed down as accurate. But I'd be willing to bet good money that if you gave Peyton Manning a little time to work with them, even Houston's line would suddenly appear adequate. Look how good New Orleans suddenly is with Brees under center.

34
by bsr (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 3:15pm

They’re a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations and one glaring weakness, the run defense.

Can you have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations when you can't stop the run? When was the last time a team won a superbowl that couldn't stop the run? I am having a hard time thinking of one.

Also it isn't as if Indy has one weakness. Their special teams are dreadful and their pass defense has also been subpar. While thier running games seems to be picking up steam and rated as 8th according to DVOA, it is still a below average running game according to that metric. I would say their running game is average at best but probably sufficient enough when you have a passing offense that will be the focus of opposing defenses.

And speaking of the passing offense, is it me or does Peyton look to be facing alot more pressure then in years past. That hit he took the other game was probably the worst I have ever seen him take and he was had some other licks before those. I wonder if this is a result of the offensive line having more trouble in protection, or with defenses not respecting the run as much with Edge gone.

If anything I would say that Indy, as they currently stand, are a marginal contender for the superbowl at best. If McFarland can improve the run D to even an everage one, only then can I say they are a legitimate superbowl contender, what ever thats worth.

35
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 3:38pm

Rich C and JJCruiser, I was not trying to say that stud QBs and good talent evaluations are separate issues--you need both and all those teams have both. They spend differently, as we know. But the season before Indy drafted Manning, they spent their first two picks on good OTs who helped keep Manning vertical for his formative years. Thank God.

I know Indy better than other teams, but I suspect what the top teams do (remember, we're talking consistent success here) is take the right guys for the right position, at the right spot in the draft. Tougher than it sounds. It goes hand in hand with value--many said Indy reached and overspent on Freeney as a rookie, but for them, like McFarland, he was the right guy for their specific need. Same with Bob Sanders--just 5-9, but damn is his impact on their run-D significant.

They traded out of the 1st round once or twice the past few years when they didn't see any guys who met their criteria, but did like guys likely to be around in rounds 2 and 3. Now a lot of teams that have draft busts could have them for multiple reasons, one being the player (not motivated, not too sharp, peaked at age 21, injury-prone), and the other being the team (they are not using his talents in the right place, fitting a square peg into a round hole, keep changing coordinators and schemes which stunts development, etc.).

Here's one way Indy has been superior (lucky? knock wood?) to the vast majority of other teams: the same OC and OL coach for about 9 seasons. Only 2 HCs in that span. When you end up changing schemes every couple years (Mr Snyder, I'm looking in your direction), it's tough to end up with the right personnel, tough to teach and train rookies, tough to maintain leadership roles. The trick is to keep "the same thing" from getting stale and predictable.

Pitt has been pretty steady that way under Cowher, despite some significant turnover in their OC/DC staffs.

36
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 3:39pm

When was the last time a team won a superbowl that couldn’t stop the run? I am having a hard time thinking of one.

Saying "couldn't stop the run" = "bottom half of the league", off the top of my head, there's:

2001 Patriots, who gave up 1855 yards rushing at 4.3 yards a clip. By DVOA they were 25th in the league at rushing defense.
1997 Broncos, 1803 yards at 4.7 yards a clip.

But point well taken.

37
by Frick (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 3:40pm

I would argue that Polian and Pioli are both great talent evaluators. I'm a Colts fan and while Polian has gotten hammered numerous times on draft day, he has been right more often than he has been wrong. A couple of the biggest choices he was booed for were Manning over Leaf, Edge over Ricky and taking Freeney earlier than people thought he should go. He also took Reggie Wayne in the first round, when the defence was atrocious, I also remember him doing an interview predicting the Colts would go offense based on how they had players ranked on their board.

Polian was crucified in Indy after the play-off loss to the Steelers and in his typical fashion was abrasive and basically told fans they were idiots if they thought the Colts could switch to a power running game in one off-season. I think he would like to compliment that aspect and Addai could definately help the Colts with that.

38
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 3:42pm

Do you really think Robert Mathis sits the SD game if the Colts are 9-4 in stead of 13-0? I don’t.

Wait, so you think they sat Robert Mathis for the playoffs, but instead, they left Peyton Manning in to get sacked 4 times, including once in the fourth quarter? Yeah, I'm not going to buy tht. They weren't treating that game any differently than any other game. They wanted to win that game.

39
by rollo (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 4:11pm

I too wonder if Booger will keep up this effort for an entire season...especially with nada in the realm of run stuffing backups. Can he become, an interior Army of One? All the Colts need is for him to become a very large and physical One. Of course, all this is really only relevant for the playoffs thanks to Indy's easy schedule - maybe Indy should have sat him until Week 17!

40
by blahblahfalcons (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 4:29pm

"But it’s the John Abraham acquisition that makes us Jets fans giddy!
Has that dude ever played a 16 game season ?

:: Don Quixote — 10/25/2006 @ 1:32 pm "

haha :-(

sigh.

41
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 4:41pm

Strictly from a DVOA perspective, I would have to agree that the Colts might not be considered to be a Super Bowl contender based on their performance through this point in the season.

A strong running game is helpful, but not required, as we all know that winning leads to running and not vice versa. In the DVOA years, fully half the Super Bowl champions had a rushing DVOA nearly or below zero. The Colts' rushing offense, 8th as bsr mentions, is at -0.6%, definitely not a double-digit-level attack like the '98 Broncos or '04 Patriots.

However, run defense does seem to be a requirement. The '01 Patriots are the only team to have a positive DVOA on run defense (3.7%, 25th in the league). The '99 Rams were "only" -6.8%, but had a stellar offense (6.0% rush, 43.3% pass, 26.3% overall, pass and overall both 1st), and the '02 Bucs were "only" -7.6%, but had the number 1 pass defense by far (-55.8%). The other five teams were better than -10%, topped by the Ravens at -41.6%.

So you could win a Super Bowl without a great run defense, but you probably need a really, really good unit to make up for it, or you need to be the 2001 Patriots. The Colts do have a good unit (the pass offense), but it couldn't carry them in either of the last two seasons, so I think it's reasonable to suggest that McFarland's play will be vitally important to a January run.

42
by bsr (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 4:45pm

#36 - I wonder if even those two hold water. The 2001 Patriots were an example of a team that dramatically improved defensively during the season. I can't find the statistics to support this but I would guess that their run defense improved tremendously over the year with the emergence of Seymour.

As for the 1997 Broncos, I think there run defense is better then their YPA allowed would indicate. They were after all the number one team in run attempts against. As has been noted on this site in the past, that is the best indicator of a teams run defense then some of the other statistics.

43
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 4:47pm

Doktarr and Pat,

I love Indy but side with Pat here--they played that SD game to win (ahem, well, sort of, I mean, if you ignore forgettig to block juice-boy or forgetting to tackle Turner in the 4th qtr, they attempted to play it to win... okay, what I mean was they were not treating it as a "clinched" game or a preseason game. Whew).

Indy sits guys when they need rest, esp before the playoffs. They've done it with Freeney in BIG reg season games and guess what--they've won. I was pulling out my hair asking what the hell they're thinking and the answer is, they know more than I do. If Mathis was dinged and needed rest, they'd rest him regardless of the game.

Pat, good point about PM being in there. I think he was practicing getting bruised. After the Redskins game, he's now an expert at it. I better see a fine coming as a result of the beheading.

Pat, thanks too for the note about the 01 Pats and 97 Broncos... you give me hope.

Frick, Polian's funny, ain't he. He's like the Dick Cheney of the NFL: if you're on his side, you love what he does, but probably still don't like him personally, and if you're on the other side of the field, you can't stand the big bully. So he has a temper, big deal. With Bob Knight in TX, Indiana needs somebody to throw all those damn chairs, just sitting around all smug and seat-like.... But he is good at what he does.

44
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 4:48pm

As long as the Colts offense continues to function as well as they did last Sunday, they don't need to stop the run, just slow it down a little.
Anyways, for winning in the playoffs, what's really important is stopping the pass.

45
by bsr (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 4:51pm

#41 - A strong running game is helpful, but not required, as we all know that winning leads to running and not vice versa.

I would only disagree with this part of your post to say that a decent running game is important in converting 3rd and short situations, which is a very important aspect of a succesful team.

But while Indy is less then average in power running and stuff ranks, Manning has an other-wordly ability to convert 3rd downs via the pass which compensates for it.

46
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 5:55pm

Yeah, as Seymour emerged in 2001, the Pats run defense improved dramatically, however I will always maintain that Martz played a huge role in the Rams' loss, by not handing the ball off to Faulk more often. I guarantee that Belichik was very pleased with Martz' playcalling.

47
by Bob Cook (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 6:07pm

Before I get accused of self-promotion, I will say, first, that this was an excellent article, and second, this is relevant to the topic at hand: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15408091/

It's a look inside the Colts' stats to figure out how, with a hopelessly shoddy run defense (statistically speaking), they manage to overcome it.

The short version:

1. The run defense's awful numbers are exacerbated by the fact most teams' defensive strategy against Manning is playing keep-away. (I know Washington got stuffed early, but they gave up on running way too quickly, especially running Betts, who got some good runs in.)

2. The Colts' pass defense is the ultimate bend-but-don't-break -- a league-low 9.7 yards per reception, a league-low five completions more than 20 yards and a league-low zero completions more than 40.

3. The Colts' offense is operating at a mind-boggling efficiency level. For example, it's converting about 57% of its third downs. Last year the Colts led the league in the same stat -- with a rate about 10 points lower. The Colts also have only committed four turnovers, lowest in the league. Indianapolis has scored on half of its drives -- including counting kneel-downs or end-of-half time-kills as drives.

4. The Colts' opponents have found ways to self-destruct, thus scoring on only 17 of its 60 drives. Think of the Jags game, where Jacksonville would have run keep-away to perfection, if not for Leftwich's interception deep in Colts' territory, poor punt-return coverage and two missed fields goals (kickers are only 3-for-8 against Indianapolis).

I hate to say it, but it looks like 14-2 and getting eliminated by the Patriots again. But this analysis did lead me to come to the non-emotional conclusion that it's not that Peyton Manning "can't win the big one." It's that there is always some fundamental defensive flaw that kills the Colts. The one saving grace could be that Manning is showing less panic when plays break down and he gets pressured.

48
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 6:17pm

They were after all the number one team in run attempts against. As has been noted on this site in the past, that is the best indicator of a teams run defense.

Er, wha? It's usually the indicator of a strong offense, which Denver had. Denver had 9 two-score victories in the regular season, where the opposing offense barely ran because they were always behind.

Denver really had only two close games that year to teams that could rush: versus Oakland, and versus Pittsburgh. In those two games, Denver gave up 243 yards and 186 yards rushing (and then another 161 in the playoffs to Pittsburgh). Fair to say that they could be run on.

49
by bsr (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 6:32pm

My bad, you are correct Pat. I confused the correlation between run attempts against and wins with run attempts against and run defense.

50
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 7:19pm

Bob C, you left the Dutch tulip bulb insanity out of your FO post??? For shame! That's such a great piece of trivia and a early B-school lesson.

Now HOW did you get a URL into the body of your post and not as an underlined name...?

OMG, what a great line: "If you’re going to clog the nose, you need more than one Booger." A work of art.

I must say, though, that you have to look at the records of the "most rushing yards allowed" and "most run against" teams and ask why the opponents are rushing. In no particular order: (1) Because they can, (2) because the subject team is bad at stopping the run and (3) because the running team is winning.

We know winners protect their lead and shorten games by running--it leads to the broadcaster canard of "they're 21-4 when RB X has 100 yards rushing." Well, that might be confusing cause and effect--he's probably running for 50 yards in the 4th qtr when they are ahead. THAT is one trap Indy will rarely fall into--being behind by a bunch late. Which leaves the other two valid reasons.

However, if Indy gets a 10 point lead--not unlikely on anybody, really--the other team would still be wise to run run run, but they are also battling the clock and running shortens the game.

In short, I am not concerned about the run D weakness. I hate it, but am pretty sure they could win it all despite it, or if it's firmed up to allow, say 125 per game instead of 158. What if they play Chicago right now--who can't seem to run at all? They're the consensus pick as the best team in football, or were before Matt Leinart. There, the run D weakness might not have hurt at all.

Also, you state that their conversion rates and scoring rates are difficult to sustain, yet haven't they sustained them from last year, even improving on them? At this rate, shouldn't we EXPECT them to get even better next year as Addai matures? (cough cough) Probably not, but the point is, if last year's 3rd down dominance was hard to sustain and they managed to blow it away this year, maybe it's not hard to sustain. Let's see what they do against better D's the next few weeks.

Loved the piece.

51
by Bob Cook (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 9:04pm

Thanks, Bobman. (Great name!) When I say that 57% conversion rate is difficult to sustain, I'm speaking historically. According to NFL.com, the Vikings in 2004 (I believe) were the only other team in the last five seasons to have a third-down conversion rate greater than 50%. (It was 52%, I believe.) Usually the league leader is anywhere from 43-48.

Also, I thought I had on the way home was that the Colts' tough per-completion average might be a result of keep-away, and less a result of an unwillingness to test the Colts' D. After all, a long pass has a greater failure rate, so if you want to kill the clock, you don't want to spend too much time going long. However, as I said in the article, you've got to test this defense long, especially if it's playing up against the run. You would think the Colts' safeties could be easily suckered with a play-action, though perhaps in the Cover 2 they're expected to hang back for a minute before making their move, thus reducing the chance to get behind them.

I would agree with you, Bobman, that a team down 10-0 should keep running against the Colts. Actually, a team down 10-0 (except the Cardinals) should continue running against anybody. It's stunning how quickly teams give up on the run.

52
by Kal (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 9:18pm

I'd be more curious to see what Indy's 1st and 2nd down conversion rate is than their third down conversion rate; that, I would guess, would be lower than prior years because they've been actually getting stopped more and having to go into 3rd down situations.

53
by Purds (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 10:24pm

The one hope a Colts fan like me has going for him is that the Colts defense has really been hampered by injuries. Bob Sanders is a great safety. Injured often, I agree, but when healthy, a difference maker for that defense, especially against the run. Also, until this week, Simon was out (I count Booger as Simon v2.0), but then Reagor was out this week, so the Colts have yet to have a solid three-man rotation for DT's (Brock, Reagor, Simon/McFarland). Finally, while Freeney appears healthier now, he was not 100% even though he played at the start of the season.

So, the Colts D COULD improve if those three areas solidify (SS, DT, Freeney), but there are no guarantees. Doss is a fairly decent back-up, but he's now out for the season, so again the depth is thin.

It's possible the Colts run D will improve, but not today, and not tomorrow. Maybe, maybe by season's end.

54
by Ben (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 10:29pm

Re: 47 That's a good article, Bob. As a Colts fan, it's hard to argue with your conclusions. Another 12+ win season and flameout in the playoffs.

The Colts defense is designed to give up yards in small chunks, assuming the other team will make a mistake somewhere along the 10-12 plays it takes to go down the field. It's also designed to play with a lead. That theory works great in the regular season. However, in the playoffs, when you're actually playing good teams who can handle 10-12 play drives and won't give up easy early points, it falls apart. Of course, this will all be blamed on the fact that 'Manning can't win the big game'...

55
by Paul (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 11:00pm

As an Indianapolis resident, it's worth a 2nd round pick just to be able to go to the home games and chant, "Boo-GER, Boo-GER, Boo-GER!"

56
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 12:15am

Somehow I believe that one of these years, the Colts defense will still be terrible, and they will go to the playoffs anyway, and win the Superbowl by a score of 55-42.

57
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 12:43am

Whew, where to start? 51: Bob C, I think you're right in that they haven't been tested much through the air--why-oh-why? They've done okay, but if somebody with a decent QB (Brady) decided to throw throw throw like they did at the start of the reg season game 2 years ago (empty backfield and about 8 straight passes for a first drive TD), things could get real ugly. Of course if there is some Colt success there (a sack/int) then the other team may never throw again. Until that time, it looks like their pass D is pretty good, I guess. Jury's out. 52: Kal, not sure where to get that data. I know where to find Manning's stats per down, and each RB, but coming up with their success as a team is way beyond the time I plan to spend on anything. 3rd down stats are easy to compile and find. Purds and Ben... yup. Especially on Ben's last comment. Jeez. Paul, I'll be sitting back in Seattle with three preschool boys chanting "Boo-ger!" at the TV. My wife will skin me alive, but hey, it's worth it.
Yaguar, why not?! It's not likely, but neither were the 2001, 02, and 03 SB winners (I may have the years wrong, but I mean NE#1, Balt, TB). I'd be pleasantly surprised, but not shocked at all.

58
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 1:12am

sorry for sloppy post--major problems with browser.

59
by hwc (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 6:07am

RE: #46

I guarantee that Belichik was very pleased with Martz’ playcalling.

Two key points:

a) Belichick knew when he was preparing the game plan that Martz' ego wouldn't allow him to give up his vaunted passing offense and run the ball

b) The entire game plan was keyed on hitting Marshall Faulk before he got out of the backfield on every play -- pass, run, didn't matter. According to the book, Patriot Reign, it was the Pats' invisible coach, Ernie Acorsi, who identified Faulk as the key to the entire Rams offense.

60
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 7:29am

I think a lot of people could have told you that Faulk was the key to the entire offense. 2400some yards from scrimmage is kind of a giveaway.

61
by bsr (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 12:15pm

Tell that to all the people that voted for Kurt Warner as MVP.

62
by PackMan (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 1:34pm

2, 17,
Your points are related. In #2, you mentioned the colts possibly having a titans-like cap purge in the near future, and 17 mentioned the colts winning more games in the last several years than anyone. I remember in about 2003, it was the titans who had won more games in the past 6 years or so than anyone, so being this good for so long doesn't mean you are in the clear. But if Harrison retires in 2 or 3 years, that could be the reprieve that the Colts need. But I'm not sure how exactly that works, but I would imagine there is no cap penalty for players retiring with years left on thier contract.
Also, the Titans were able to make a SB in that time, which helped build a strong fanbase in their new city, which was probably worth having a few terrible years of rebuilding. If the Colts could make a SB, I say it is worth it. And I think any team would think that 4 straight years in the playoffs, with the final one a losing SB effort, is well worth 5 years or so of suckage.

63
by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 2:03pm

33,

You wrote "There is very little that can truly be nailed down as accurate. But I’d be willing to bet good money that if you gave Peyton Manning a little time to work with them, even Houston’s line would suddenly appear adequate."

We don't have to speculate on how Manning does with a bad O-line. I have argued for a long time that the Colt O-line isn't good. But we have a sample of Manning's play when everyone has to agree that the line was unquestionably bad -- 2004.

In the 2d half of 2004, the Colts had 3 line starters go down with serious injuries. It got to the point where they were starting a rookie 5th round pick and an undrafted rookie that they had picked up after someone else cut him. The protection was awful. When Manning set the record against SD, he was sacked four times and on the run any time he didn't get rid of it within 2 seconds. If anyone gets a chance to see the actual record-setting TD pass to Stokely, watch the DT toss aside the left OG like a rag doll and get in his face. Manning is sliding left and backpedaling to buy time and throws long before Stokely even makes his break. It was like that all day.

Bottom line -- we know what a QB like Manning is capable of with a bad O-line. Now when things get totally out of hand like SD and Pitt in 2005, nobody can muster much success. When all 3 D-linemen and a couple of LBs have a meeting on top of you within 2 seconds of the ball being snapped, you're toast.

64
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 2:43pm

Packman, you are scaring me. stop, please. The parallel is horrible and nothing mitigates 5 years of suckage, not even a SB win, IMHO.

I think the difference is things like Eddie George and McNair--Indy said goodbye to Edge sooner than that, as well as many of their good young LBs who would command too much for them on the FA market, and is not into paying older guys fat salaries. Also, Tenn was more balanced offensively/defensively with talent and cap weight, so they were top-heavy with dead weight on both sides of the ball. If you are overweightd on only one side, you will always be at least somewhat competitive without total suckage (unless that side totally falls to crap).

65
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 3:50pm

but I would imagine there is no cap penalty for players retiring with years left on thier contract.

No, it's exactly like the team cutting the player.

66
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 4:02pm

Not exactly. When a team cuts a player, any signing bonus he got, he keeps. When a player chooses to retire, he has to re-pay a prorated portion of his bonus, and that is then credited to the team's salary cap. There are exceptions depending on how individual contracts are written, but that's basically how it works.

67
by Pete (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 5:19pm

While the Colts are converting a record number of third downs, I think they are struggling more on 1st and

2nd down. Sure, they miss the Edge in his prime. He was the best premier overall back (running,

coordinated receiving with QB, pass blocking) since Emmitt or Marshall Faulk.

A bigger issue is the detioration of the Offensive Line. I believe they are still one of the top O-Lines

around, but I think they are aging and losing some of their consistency. There is so much money in those

skill positions that they cannot afford to have 3 really good backup Offensive Linemen.

Somethings that do favor the Colts:

1) Manning - most prepared QB to ever come out. He could have been drafted #1 a year earlier, but stayed

for the "college experience". He is the definition of QB royalty.

2) Offensive Line - Easily one of the best. Most of these players have been together for a while, which

makes a huge difference.

3) Coaching consistency - Everyone knows what most of the plays are. Same as last year. Of course,

Coaching consistency can also be an effect of a good team.

4) Receivinig consistency - It has been said that Peyton and his receivers (formerly including Edge) had

years of experiencing knowing how each other would react. If you include Stokley and Wayne, what other QB

had his 3 top receiving threats on the same team for so long? With a top receiving TE this could be

absolutely scary.

5) Extra effort - I remember seeing Marvin and Edge working hours together during off periods and before the

game to go through and strive for perfection.

Indy doesn't stress their Run defense, because usually they have not needed it. If they can get ahead in score (often the case), they know that most teams will abandon the run (mostly).

68
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 5:52pm

Packman, you are scaring me. stop, please. The parallel is horrible and nothing mitigates 5 years of suckage, not even a SB win, IMHO.

I completely disagree with that. If I could choose between 5 playoff years with no SB victory or 1 SB win and 4 years with a combined 3 wins, I'd take the parade in a heartbeat. The whole "We're always competative, and one of these years we might get lucky" crap is really starting to wear thin.

69
by Scott (not verified) :: Thu, 10/26/2006 - 6:47pm

Having sat and watched some truly bad football teams in Indy for numerous years I am enjoying the current success. Sometimes it is frustrating when you think your team is good enough to win the Superbowl and they don't get it done, However all in all I get much more enjoyment out of watching a pretty good team week in and week out compared to watching a pretty bad team week in and week out. At least now there is hope, For far too many years then I care to remember there was no hope. After about 4 weeks all the talk centered on the draft.
As far as the Colts and the often predicted "salary cap hell", It has been predicted ever since Manning signed his huge contract. Obviously the addition of McFarland wasn't factored into the plans, I'm glad they made the move though, Will it be enough, Who knows, I do think the addition helps and gives them a shot to improve the run defense, Without his addition I think they really had very little chance this post season.

70
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 11:27am

It has been predicted ever since Manning signed his huge contract.

Not to be a downer, or anything, but I think that's what they said about the Titans and McNair's contract, as well. :)

71
by Frick (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 11:47am

Re: 68

Look at it from the owners perspective. If you have a huge fan base that will sell-out any game (the Cubs as a baseball reference) you can take the approach of 1 SB and 3 wins the following 4 years. For other franchises if you aren't competitive for a year or two, those season ticket sales start to drop, you don't sell out games, merchandise, food and beverage sales start to drop. Even teams in a large market can run into this (look at the Bulls, post Jordon).

72
by Jacob (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 1:38pm

Some of you Colts fans need to get a couple simple facts thru your heads.

First, there is no record for winning non-consecutive games. I'm sure that every team in the league has won NON-CONSECUTIVE games. Just a stat cherry-picked right out of Adam's butt, at the expense of the 72 Dolphins. Get over it.

Secondly, the Colts have had a crap divison and several years of easy schedules. So beating the Texans in the regular season is not the sign of a champ. Winning a game in the playoffs is what counts. Unless you can play with the big boys, you just aren't a top team. PERIOD.

Third, the Competition Committee clearly has bullied the refs in your favor, time and time again. Where would you be without your ringleader, Napolian? I suppose all teams could try to whine and bully their way to a HOLLOW VICTORY. But that would seem a lot less meaningful, unless your fan base was such a bunch of homers that they don't care about meddling with the rules of the game.

73
by Jacob (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 1:45pm

The Colts have been the 'All-Mascara' team since 2000. Big Deal.

74
by doktarr (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 2:25pm

"Jacob",

There are records for everything. There are records for hotdog eating. You don't have to regard a particular record highly if you don't think it amounts to much, but that doesn't make it not a record.

The Colts have had a fairly easy division lately, sure. So have the Pats and the Seahawks. So have many teams with good records. I'm not sure what your point is. The Colts do always seem to have to travel to Foxboro to play the Pats, though.

As far as the rules go, it was the Pat's strategy of bumping receivers off of their routes that led to the point of emphasis (NOT a new rule). The Colts may have benefited but so did every passing offense. As far as enforcement of a rule benefiting a team, this doesn't rate as highly as, say, the 2001 tuck rule, or the holding call late in last year's superbowl.

As far as "all-mascara" goes... I don't see any rational argument why you could say the Colts have played "softer" than teams like Houston or Arizona or Oakland or the Jets or St. Louis or Minnesota or Detroit, et cetera, et cetera, over the last couple years. Scoring a lot of passing touchdowns does not make you "soft". Neither does running the ball a lot and getting lots of sacks.

75
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 2:42pm

I'll bet Brett Favre holds the record for participation in most games won by Brett Favre. I'm also now worried that this record will be mentioned by Joe Theismann in Green Bay's next Monday Night game.

76
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 3:59pm

Of course he also holds the record for most games lost by Brett Favre. I wonder which number is higher, these days.

77
by Purds (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 5:44pm

So, the Patriot fans have finally come out to play! Yeah! This will be so informative from now on.

Let's face it, Jacob, the Pats and the Colts have played in very easy divisions the past two years. The AFC LEast, I would guess, has been even worse than the South.

Take this test:
1) Quick, name one AFC East QB from last year, other than Brady?
2) Name one AFC East team you'd consider a varsity NFL program, other than the Pats, this year.
3) What was the Pats record outside their divison last year?4) What is the Pats winning percentage outside their division this year?

78
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 6:25pm

No need to limit our study to the last two years. Let's go back to 2002 (Can't go back beyond that, cause then the Colts and Pats were in the same division). 2002, the Pats didn't make the playoffs, but the AFC East teams won 35 games, AFC South won 31. IN 2003 the AFC East won 36, AFC South won 34. In 2004 AFC East won 37 games, AFC South won 34. IN 2005, the AFC east won 28 and the AFC South won 32. So the only time the AFC South was better than the AFC East was last year.

79
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 6:32pm

Pats Record in 2005 outside their division: 5-5
Pats record outside their division this year 1-1
Pats record outside trier division 2003-2004: 18-2. It's not true to say they benefited from easy division opponents during those super bowl runs.
Incidentally, AFC East teams not named Patriots have won one more game than AFC South teams not named Colts so far this year.

80
by Purds (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 7:06pm

B:

I should clarify. I agree, the AFC East has been dreadful for just 2005-2006. But, this is directed at Jacob, who wants to claim that only the Colts have enjoyed easy schedules. The Pats have been fortunate as well.

AFC East is 5-8 outside the division in 2006 so far.
AFC South is 8-8 outside the division.

Finally, you wrote: "Incidentally, AFC East teams not named Patriots have won one more game than AFC South teams not named Colts so far this year." True, but 3 of the East non-Patriot wins have been against other East teams; only 1 non-Colt win was against its own division.

81
by Scott (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 7:23pm

Re: 72, Jacob, Where exactly is it in the rule book that you are allowed to grab, Hold, Tackle and generally mug receivers past the 5 yard contact point? What rule did Bill Polian get changed? I thought the rule was already in place, For some reason it just wasn't enforced in that game. If I'm a "homer" because I thought the rule wasn't enforced and should have been in that game, So be it. Good defense is one thing, Grabbing and holding is another, That wasn't good defense I saw that night.

82
by doktarr (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 7:52pm

Purds, B,

You guys have been dancing around this, so here it is. Out-of-division records of AFC East less Pats, and AFC South less Colts, since '02:

Bills+Dolphins+Jets:

2002: 18-12
2003: 15-15
2004: 16-14
2005: 11-19
2006: 3-7

Jags+Titans+Texans:

2002: 13-17
2003: 15-15
2004: 14-16
2005: 12-18
2006: 5-8

It's easy to see how the Pats could miss the playoffs in 2002. But after 2002, both sets of three teams have been pretty equally mediocre, collectively. One notable difference, though, is that no other AFC East team has cracked 10 wins, while the Colts have had other 12-win clubs to contend with (albeit paired with a couple stinkers).

83
by Purds (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 8:47pm

Thanks, Dok!

Brings up a good question: As a fan rooting for your own team, would you rather play in a division with one worthy rival and two stinkers, or three mediocre teams. I'd be tempted to take the 4 stinker wins and hope to split against the other good team (a la South).

84
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 10:08pm

I'd rather have one good team and two stinkers, because that is 4 free wins & a split against the good team. But with tree mediocre teams, you're looking at thee home/away splits or if you're lucky, one sweep, which is 3-4 wins, as opposed to 4-5. I guess the difference between the Colts and the Pats division rivals is the 2nd best team in the South is better than the 2nd place team in the East, but the last place team in the East is better than the last place team in the South.

As for the Colts having other 12 win teams, those teams (Both of them) got to play the same easy schedule the Colts got. Easier, really, because of out of division conference opponents.

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by Purds (not verified) :: Fri, 10/27/2006 - 11:03pm

You know, B, I guess I haven't been convinved by any teams, yet, that they are great. Every team seems to have an obvious hole (Denver QB play, Colts D, Philly/SD/NYG too many losses this early to be "great", NE opponents have been too weak to judge NE very well)

I just think parity, even at the top, is the mantra this season. We've had parity in the top half, but not at the top (think NE going 24-8, INDY's 13-0 start, PIT 2005 regular season 15-1). I guess my best proof of that top-heavy past is that the Colts won 24 regular season games in 2 years (2004-2005) and didn't have a playoff bye.

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by Miguel (not verified) :: Sat, 10/28/2006 - 1:24pm

I'm a Patriots fan but I am surprised by how much talk there has been that the Colts will be facing cap hell in the near future. Please note that I have yet to see one post pinpoint the exact year of the Colts' demise.

The Colts have nothing in common with teams that have faced cap hell in the past -
1.) The Colts are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Teams about to go into cap hell are usually one of the oldest teams in the NFL. Based on Week 1 rosters, the Colts were the 3rd youngest team in 2005 and the 3rd youngest team in 2006
2.) The Colts with the largest cap numbers (Manning, Glenn, Harrison, Wayne) are still playing at a high level and are still among the best at their position. Teams that have gone into cap hell had several highly paid players not playing to their cap level.

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by doktarr (not verified) :: Mon, 10/30/2006 - 7:29pm

Hey Pat, looks like I'm not the only one in thw world impressed by this record. See link: