Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

12 Dec 2005

MMQB: Back from the Dead

Peter writes that the combination of the Steelers winning and the Jaguars, Chiefs and Chargers losing puts Pittsburgh right in the middle of the AFC wild card hunt.

Keep reading, and you'll get to this comment: "I think, if I weren't such a trusting soul, I might start to have some questions about the way Houston is losing these games. Some first draft choice questions." Is King really suggesting that the Texans are losing on purpose? That's an extraordinarily serious accusation to level, and it seems to me that if the Texans were going to lose on purpose, they wouldn't do it by going down to the wire three straight weeks.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 12 Dec 2005

87 comments, Last at 14 Dec 2005, 1:28am by Mikey

Comments

1
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 12:59pm

Well, they certainly wouldn't do it by missing a 30-some yard field goal. C'mon. How many kickers do you think could intentionally honk a field goal without it looking obvious?

2
by Sam B (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:00pm

Who knows what a ' Steelerfile' is?

Is it similar to a linebacking core?

3
by DGL (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:04pm

#2: Pittsburgh has traditionally been a big union town, due to the steel industry. As union membership is referred to as the "rank and file", the "Steelerfile" is the Steelers fan base in Pittsburgh.

(I just made that up. Actually, I think he just misspelled "Steelerphile", as in, "one who loves the Steelers.")

4
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:07pm

King is out of his mind, ranking the Patriots #3 -- and i'm a fan.

Yes, the Pats just spanked the Bills. The Patriots are good; the Bills are bad -- good teams are supposed to spank bad teams.

Losman is young. That was his first snow game. The Patriots blitzed the crap out of him, and he hit roughly two passes against Amateur Hour in the Patriots' secondary.

Anyone think that works against a team with a veteran QB and line, and more than one wide receiver? Me, neither.

5
by Sam B (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:08pm

#3: You had me going there but Steelerphile was what I assume he meant.. hence the common football homophone linebacking 'core' rather than corps.

6
by FizzMan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:10pm

So I'm a Patriots fan, but I think it is absurd that King should move them up to #3 on his fine 15 just because they can beat up on weak teams two weeks in a row - oh, I'm sorry, because "I just don't love anyone else". Makes me realize I'm getting spoiled by the DVOA-based Fox rankings...

7
by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:13pm

I like how his first non-football thought of the week is a. Reggie Bush, of course, was the right choice for the Heisman.

He has a weird definition of "non-football", if the Heisman is considered a non-football topic.

8
by admin :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:25pm

Mike Florio made the same accusation about the Texans this morning.

9
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:30pm

I'm honestly not accusing the Texans of anything, but if they were trying to tank games, it's very funny to think about how they'd be reacting to the near-comeback.

10
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:35pm

I don't think Dom Capers is secure enough in his job, to be throwing games in anticipation of the draft.

And the simple fact is, NFL players want to win. Yes, sometimes a team will quit, but the circumstances are rare (the Browns quit after the move to Baltimore went public, the Raiders quit after Callahan's "stupid" comment).

Even on a team as bad as the Texans, they play to win. They're just that bad, that they haven't been able to.

11
by KRB (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:39pm

Not a bad column from King, but I don't get how Aaron Brooks can make the week 14 "dis-like" list when he hasn't played his game yet!!

12
by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:40pm

The funny thing is, if you go by points scored and allowed, these last three weeks, with a point differential of minus-10, have been the three best weeks of the Texans' season.

13
by Daniel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 1:42pm

I definitely agree with #10 on the Texans definitely not throwing games. Check out today's NY Times article on the Jets win. Pete Kendall mentions that fans are probably disappointed that we're not getting Reggie Bush now, but for players, every game is an audition, and after a season like this, there tends to be a pretty serious shake up. You think guys on the Texans' offensive line care about next year's team? They care about their own jobs, and are playing to make sure they have one.

14
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 2:07pm

Ok, why is it that nobody in the world seems to understand how multi-team tiebreakers work? The first thing you do is break all divisional ties, so if your three teams are KC, SD, and Pit, the Steelers' conference record probably doesn't enter into the equation.

I understand that this is probably a bit obscure for a lot of fans to catch on to, but King does this for a living, and has editors proofing his stuff for cripessake. The least he could do is get it right

15
by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 2:24pm

I dislike when these threads turn into PK (or TMQ) bashing, but let's call this "four things I think I think."

What does the Brady speech quote show other than Leigh Montville's a pretty good writer?

I've never thought Dulles Airport was a problem. You're shuttled because the airport is large, and it's an easier way to get to the far-flung gates. Perhaps Mr. King would have preferred to walk?

Willis McGahee is the best back in football? I hate "East Coast bias" references, but unless King was being facetious...

"We better pay attention to global warming"? Way to go out on a limb.

I'll close by saying that King was on Kornheiser's radio show this morning, and he was very good.

16
by Drew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 2:32pm

New England (8-5). Slowly, methodically, they're starting to look like the old Patriots. And that might be trouble for someone the first weekend of the playoffs. Probably Jacksonville. You must be asking: How can you move New England up so far so fast. Simple answer: I'm a completely shameless homer.

17
by Sam B (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 2:33pm

#15: I think McGahee claimed to be the best running back once. And he'll never be allowed to forget...

18
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 2:33pm

JonL (#15 )--

King was being facetious. IIRC, McGahee referred to himself as the best back in football; King is mocking him.

19
by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 2:54pm

That's what I was hoping. So I only have three real beefs. I really think this season has turned me against players from The U.

20
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 2:57pm

The conspiracy theories regarding the Texans don't make much sense. Even if Brown makes the FG, the Texans haven't won. Plenty of chances to blow the game in OT.

On the other hand, that KC kicker is almost certainly on the Steelers payroll. :-)

21
by NFC Central Freak (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 2:58pm

It's pretty amusing for King to take a swipe at Madden for Favre-gushing when PK has three patents and two more pending on the process.

22
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:03pm

Drew (#16 )--

Doesn't a team have to be your home team, for you to be a homer?

King lives in northern New Jersey. That makes all the praise he heaps on the Patriots bandwagoning, not homerism.

23
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:05pm

Re: 8

I gotta believe Florio's accusation (which was far more direct than King's) comes under the heading of 'Outrageous Claim to Boost Site Traffic'. According to Florio the owner would need to trust two folks with his 'secret' plan. That's two more than are believable. Especially when one of them is a natural vagabond (kicker).

24
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:13pm

so if your three teams are KC, SD, and Pit, the Steelers’ conference record probably doesn’t enter into the equation.

Er? If it's between SD and Pitt, Pitt wins automatically because of the head-to-head.

If it's between KC and Pitt, the tiebreaker is conference record, because KC and Pitt didn't play this year. Why wouldn't conference record matter?

Right now, San Diego owns the tiebreaker over KC due to the head to head win, which means it's down to SD/Pitt, and Pitt wins due to the head-to-head win.

But if Kansas City beats San Diego next week, and Pittsburgh wins next week, Kansas City beats Pittsburgh because of conference schedule. That's all King is trying to say.

25
by Drew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:14pm

Re 22

He lives in New Jersey now, but I was under the impression that he's from Massachusetts. If I'm wrong about that, I retract my previous statement. But, as you pointed out, he's still a bandwagoner.

26
by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:19pm

How does King still have a column when he's such a terrible writer? Take this:

For anyone who ever wins an award of any kind, my advice to you is this: Get a tape of Brady's speech last Tuesday night in New York and just replace his words with yours.

OK, I know what he's tryin to say here, but only after thinking it was the stupidest thing i ever read. First interpretation of it: If you win an award get a copy of Brady's speech then....make up your own? Profound

Also, say a King reader wins an Oscar this year. Is King recommending that he should tell everyone about how he wishes he was Joe Montana and Jerry Rice?

Its not that King's an idiot, or that he spends too much time bigging up overpriced coffee, or that he makes pointless political statements to prove that he's not all ridiculous-football-and-coffee writer, or that in his eyes Brett Favre and Jerome Bettis can do no wrong..wait, what was I saying?

No, seriously, he makes some good points, just sometimes he's the Alex Smith of expression of them.

Also, you gotta give the Texans some credit. Its more entertaining for them to tank games this way, keeping it close, than it was at the start of the season just gettin blown out. Ask MDS. He knows its entertaining.

Actually, that makes me think of something. You know Saban's quote about the rest of the season being for evaluation? Was that code for "hey, guys, don't win, we could use one of them early draft picks"?

Not that anyone would ever think about trying to get an early pick. No siree.

27
by Tyler (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:20pm

RE 20:
If anything, the Chiefs long snapper is on the Steelers payroll. I know I'm over simplifying this due to the fact that I've never long snapped, but that's all the guy gets paid to do. How do you mess that up? You could clearly see in the replay that it came back right towards the body of the holder, who did a great job of getting it down, but was still adjusting it when Tynes was coming in for the kick. Tynes saw the trouble with the snap, tried to slow down his approach slightly, got out of whack, and shanked the kick.
Granted, I'm just glad the miss occured, being a Steelers fan and all, but I think much more blame should go to the long snapper than the kicker.

28
by Duane (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:24pm

Interesting dislike, picking on seventh-round OG Will Whittaker for his two false starts, one of which is listed as zero yards because it occurred on Green Bay's six inch line, while tacitly liking Shaun Roger's stupid, stupid personal foul penalty for tossing Samkon Gado while out of bounds, in OT, no less.

29
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:27pm

Drew (#25 )--

From his SI bio:
Born in Springfield, Mass., and raised in Enfield, Conn., King earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Ohio University in 1979. From 1985 to 1989, he covered the NFL beat for Newsday and from 1980 to 1985, he covered college athletics and pro football for the Cincinnati Enquirer.
So it's possible he's a homer. Though growing up in Enfield, CT sounds like a candidate for being a New York sports fan, too -- the Boston/New England Patriot teams of his youth weren't very good.

30
by Harry (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:35pm

King's not that crazy moving the Pats to #3. Basically he's saying after Denver and Indy all the other good teams have serious flaws so why not just pick the team with the best track record over the last 2 years? I agree that putting NE above Cinci is crazy, but SD just embarrased themselves again, the Chiefs would probably lose to the Pats in Foxboro, and who is really any good in the NFC? The problem with DVOA or any ranking system is that it really cannot take into account the impact of individual players being healthy or not. The Patriots are clearly a much better team than they were in week 8, the Eagles are clearly much worse but DVOA doesn't capture that. The Patriots without Dillon, Faulk and Seymore are not the same team at all yet the current team gets penalized in the rankings for games the second and third stringers lost 5 weeks ago.

31
by Daniel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 4:01pm

#15:
Dulles airport sucks. It's impossible to get to. The one security line system before breaking up for the gates means that it's pandemonium before holidays regardless of where you're going. The shuttle system would make sense if the airport wasn't twice as big as it has to be. And, for reasons I still can't figure out, there never seems to be a direct flight out of there. If I see the inside of Atlanta or Charlotte again, I'm going to go bananas.

Oh, and Peter King is a dufus. There. I fulfilled my obligation to bash PK at least once in this post.

32
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 4:05pm

Under the heading of "on any given Sunday...": the Bucs have done a great job getting back into first place in the NFC South, but two of their four losses this season have come against the Jets and 49ers! Yikes! They'll certainly regret those slipups if they miss the playoffs by one game.

33
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 4:19pm

#30: Because their secondary is terrible and any other team that would be in the top 10 would scorch them.

Just saying.

34
by Martin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 4:28pm

"The best back in football, Willis McGahee, had this rushing line versus New England: eight carries, three yards. Quite a prophet, that Willis."

I thought King predicted before the season began that McGahee would lead the league in rushing?

"Why all the empty seats at Heinz Field? Weird. Very weird. I'm looking across the field from the press box early in the second quarter and there are scores of four-seat and two-seat gaps. What gives?"

"Even in winter, I love road trips to Pittsburgh. Great town. Such passion for football."

Just bizarre to write these two quotes in the same column.

35
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 4:47pm

Re: 27

I didn't notice the bad snap, thanks for the info. I just saw the play once on Primetime (I didn't figure the Chiefs had a chance after the Dallas TD).

36
by Larry (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 4:48pm

Just to pile-on with the tiebreaking, he mentions conference record in the discussion of the NFC South, when common games is much more important. Common games (14 of them for teams in the same division) is ahead of conference games. This has been the case since the Texans joined the league, you'd think he'd know this by now. To King's defense, I've yet to find a football columnist (present company excepted, of course) who appears to know this. It's just bizarre.

And then I want to say to "4. Seattle (11-2). Do I think the Giants, on five out of 10 days, would beat Seattle? I do. This all comes down to one thing: I trust Matt Hasselbeck more than I trust Eli Manning right now." Huh-Wha?

37
by RCH (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 5:11pm

For all of the issues people have with PK's football opinions, his contradictions and sometimes wacky statements, to me the most egregious thing in there is the global warming bit. I don't care if its 45,000 words, political comment is not why SI gives him this platform. (And Dr. Z lets it seep in there from time to time as well.)

38
by Smeghead (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 5:25pm

I'm sorry ... any time the phrase "conspiracy theory" enters the conversation, it's a sure sign someone's decided to police the limits of acceptable discourse.

There are plenty of good arguments why Houston is probably not tanking, or why it would be extremely difficult to do it. There is also a tremendous incentive for the franchise as a whole to do that -- which is not the equivalent of the individuals' interests, but it's something, and if there's structural pressure within the organization it could mean a lot even without words being exchanged. The Pittsburgh Penguins probably threw games to get Lemieux 20 years ago and words WERE exchanged (click my name). The Olajuwon tanking Florio cites was real, or widely thought to be.

What, y'all are saying that parties never combine for their advantage? Or (#1) that a 30-yard field goal that comes closer to hitting a pylon than the net is evidence against the proposition that he was trying to miss it? If he missed by 5 feet, you'd say the same thing, wouldn't you?

I'm not saying they is or they isn't. I'm just saying that it's not so inconcievable that the hypothesis has to be discounted prima facie.

39
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 5:32pm

Re 30 and 33:

I'm a believer that, provided the coaching is good (as it is in NE), the quality of a secondary is only a little bit a function of how good the individual defensive backs are, and far more a function of two factors:

(1) How long the DB's have played together
(2) The quality of the pass rush.

This is because it is so focused on teamwork. You can have four "shut-down" DB's, and if they've never played with each other before, or get caught in the wrong defense, a decent QB will find the seam or the uncovered man and expose them. Or you can have four weaker players that have played together for ages with great coaching behind a ferocious pass rush, and that secondary will be far more effective. For example, last year's NE "patchwork secondary" relied on players such as a converted Troy Brown, Randall Gay, Hank Poteat, and Earthwind Moreland, none of whom (with the possible exception of Gay) were or are particularly skilled cornerbacks. And yes, they were awful about midway through last season. But after a few games, they gelled and, aided by good coaching and a good pass rush, managed to hold some pretty good passing attacks, including the Colts', to low scores. 3 points by one of the greatest offenses in recent history, in the playoffs!

So while I think #3 is a bit high to rank the Pats (I would put Seattle and Cincy higher, for starters), I don't think it's fair to say that the Pats secondary is still "terrible". It's been terrible thus far not because the players are low on talent (which they are), but because there's been no pass rush and because people kept getting injured so it was never the same two weeks in a row (plus it's been up against some of the best offenses in the league). I would agree with Harry that now that Seymour is back to bolster the pass rush, and now that they've settled on a group (hopefully without any more injuries) that is starting to gel and learn to work together, that the Pats are not the same team they've been the whole season and might give some of your top ten offenses a little more trouble. And even if they don't, DVOA backs up the fact that they have had one of the best offenses all season in the league (top 10 every week almost), and now that Faulk, Dillon, and Givens are back, the secondary won't be as exposed as much.

40
by Israel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 5:45pm

#3 - As union membership is referred to as the “rank and file�, the “Steelerfile� is the Steelers fan base in Pittsburgh.

When I was a kid, I always thought that had something to do with the suburb called Rankin.

41
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 5:51pm

Re: 38

There's a huge difference between what the hockey guys are admitting (coaches/GM's unconcerned with winning) and what folks are speculating with the Texans (players intentionally losing at the direction of the owner).

Anyone would have to be more than stupid to risk it. The owner would be trusting his franchise to a bunch folks he's got no reason to believe will keep their mouths shut for very long. In addition, most folks don't think the first pick is worth all that much anymore given the salary cap hit. Heck, even Florio has made this point regularly.

And while I gotta admit that was the ugliest kick I can remember since Landetta's whiffed punt, I do think the hypothesis is without merit.

42
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 5:57pm

I think the conference record bit is overstated. It doesn't matter for a SD/PIT tie, because PIT holds a direct tiebreaker over them. In order for KC to to have the record PIT will likely have in conference (7-5), they'll have to lose their 2 remaining AFC games (SD and CIN). But by losing two games, they'll likely drop out of playoff contention anyway, so it doesn't matter. So in the end, we're where we left off. Steelers have a better chance of running the table, and if they do, than only one team can have a shot at it anyway, since SD and KC play each other in 2 weeks. If SD wins out, Steelers go to the playoffs. If KC wins out, the Steelers don't. I think it's as simple as that.

43
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 5:57pm

And then I want to say to “4. Seattle (11-2). Do I think the Giants, on five out of 10 days, would beat Seattle? I do. This all comes down to one thing: I trust Matt Hasselbeck more than I trust Eli Manning right now.� Huh-Wha?

If the Giants would beat Seattle 50% of the time, they're even. King's saying "these two teams are identical, but I'm putting Seattle in front because I trust Hasselbeck more."

44
by MadPenguin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 5:58pm

I apologize for this inane comment, but I had to get it out of my system.. I almost always read king's article, but when did it become 8,782 pages of no more than 5 paragraphs?

45
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:00pm

New England at #3??? I guess he does not recall how they got torched by the Chargers, Chiefs, and Broncos. Does anyone here really think Seattle wouldn't hang 40 on them.

46
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:12pm

I don't think Seattle would hang 40 on them.

And they were in the games at Denver and at Kansas City (IMO the two best HFAs in the NFL) until late in the fourth quarter, so I guess our definitions of "torched" are incongruous. They got beat up by Indy and SD.

While I don't think anybody thinks the Patriots are the third best team in the NFL, their pass defense numbers will improve merely by having Dillon and Faulk back on offense and not having the defense out there 40 minutes a game.

47
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:13pm

If KC wins out, the Steelers don’t. I think it’s as simple as that.

And the reason they don't is because of conference record. That was the point.

48
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:16pm

Right, Pat, but trying to calculate conference records to figure it out is irrelevant because in order for them to lose the conference record battle, they couldn't possibly be tied with Pittsburgh. So the whole conversation is a non-starter.

49
by james (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:16pm

re 45:
raising hand

50
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:17pm

Does anyone here really think Seattle wouldn’t hang 40 on them.
*Raises hand*

New England got torched (gave up 40 points) by Indy and San Diego. They happen to be #1 and #2, respectively, in weighted offensive DVOA (as of last week). Denver and KC are #4 and #6, and they scored 28 and 26, respectively.

Seattle is #5. I'd guess that they would score 27 points against New England.

51
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:19pm

Funny...Steven Goldman at the Pinstriped Bible thinks that Soriano deal is the best trade in franchise history...for Texas. Perhaps Mr. King is better served by sticking to football "analysis."

52
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:21pm

When I say torched I am referring to the Patriots defense. In the 3 games against the Chargers, Chiefs, Broncos, the Patriots allowed 420+ yards in all 3 games and 26 or more points in all 3. I'd say giving up an average of 31 points and 425 yards is getting torched.

I totally disgaree with King saying Lovie Smith was wrong for making it 3rd and 13 instead of 4th and 1. He says how it wsa a field position game. Obviously with the best defense in the NFL odds favor that the other team will not convert the 3rd down leaving you in better shape (like a 4th and 13 or 4th and 8).

53
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:34pm

#52: Yeah. King also doesn't seem to realize that with the smaller Bears line with larger gaps and a bigger QB like Roethlisberger, 1 yard on a QB sneak is almost a gimme.

54
by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:35pm

I think it's more likely Jeff Fisher tried to throw the game by screwing up the kick return defense, than Dom Capers trying to throw the game by telling the kicker to miss the kick. The only person likely to be trying to throw games here is the owner of the Texans, who figures that having Dom Capers as coach gives the team the best chance of losing.

55
by mtf (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:35pm

#29 Peter King grew up a Giants fan as he states in his book "Greatest Quarterbacks."

56
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:41pm

Jason (#52 )--

The trouble with looking at the Pats' defense in isolation, is, firstly, these things all connect. If your offense is getting drives and controlling the clock, your defense looks better. If your defense is getting stops and turnovers, your offense scores more. The Jets last year made an average (by DVOA) defense look like a top 10 defense, by bludgeoning other teams with Curtis Martin.

The second problem is, the Patriots are not always going to play like they did in their two worst games, when they were playing musical chairs with bad and/or injured players all over the field. Leaving special teams aside, you've got passing and running, offense and defense. In all four of those games you mention, the Patriots were missing both their running offense and their passing defense. Against San Diego and Indianapolis, they lacked their run defense as well.

Now their run defense actually has a negative DVOA rating (which is better), and they have genuine NFL running backs returned from injry, they actually have three legs out of the four. Yes, the pass defense is still shaky, but they at least have something to fall back on besides asking Brady to throw 50 passes.

I simply don't think Seattle would "hang 40" on New England. Not this week. The Patriots have improved sufficiently, that they should hold even a good offense to less than that.

57
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 6:55pm

It's amazing how much the Patriots "improve" when they get to play the Jets and Bills in consecutive weeks. The Chiefs game was not that long ago. One reason the Pats could control the clock against these teams is because their offenses stink so bad they cannot sustain drives. Everytime the Pats have played against a good offense they have been lit up this year and everytime they have played a bad team they have pretty much cruised. Against good teams NE is unable to doiminate the TOP because the opposing offenses can continually convert 1st downs in addition to scoring touchdowns

58
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 7:00pm

It’s amazing how much the Patriots “improve� when they get to play the Jets and Bills in consecutive weeks.
This is the reason why I used DVOA, rather than yards or points, to judge their defense.

59
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 7:00pm

Re: #56

I also think a significant part of the Pats secondary problems is that they don't have the same DBs out there from game to game because people keep getting injured.

So not only have they had low talent in the secondary but those low-talenters haven't even had the chance to play together, which further aggravates things.

If Wilson, Samuel, Hobbs, and Hawkins can stay healthy and play as a unit the last three weeks of the season (note that actual NFL safety Hawkins was injured again, and so trash heap pickup Stone had to start -- sigh), I think the NE secondary can improve someone. Not that they'll be great, but that they could move up to "somewhat below average" from "buttock-clenchingly embarassing".

Couple that with an actual running game and a front seven that may be showing signs of life, and that takes a bit more pressure off the secondary.

All that said, putting them at #3 is ludicrous, though.

60
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 7:04pm

and everytime [the Patriots] have played a bad team they have pretty much cruised

If only that were true! One of the reasons Pats fans have taken some measure of optimism from the past two games (especially the Bills game) is that the Patriots finally crushed some bad teams, instead of merely squeaking by (like they did against NO).

61
by mshray (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 7:05pm

Maybe I shouldn't be too surprised that there aren't a lot of Bee Gees fans on this thread, but the song PK imagines Vermeil playing on KC's flight home is titled "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart", not "Help Me Mend My Broken Heart". In 1971 it was the first of their 9 #1 singles.

I have a Factoid for him (TMQ could use it too, unless I missed it being already mentioned): The Bears are the only team in the NFL this year that plays all 16 of their games on Sunday.

62
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 7:20pm

Personally, I'd rank the Patriots in the 6th-8th spot in the AFC. These AFC 4 teams would rank Clearly above them:

1- Indy-Undefeated-destroyed NE

2- Cincy- Possibly 2nd Best team in the AFC

3- Denver- Possiblly 2nd Best AFC team, chance at 1st round bye, beat NE

4- San Diego- Same record as the Pats, crazily tough schedule, hammered NE in Foxboro

2 Teams a case could be made for them being better than NE

* Jaguars- Could finish 12-4 overall and 12-2 in games not involving the Colts. Still have no idea what to make out of them

* Kansas City- Same record, harder division than NE. ALso controlled the game and beat them pretty handily when they playedjust a few eeeks ago

63
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 7:28pm

Jason (#62 )--

We're talking two different things here.

I (and pretty much everyone else in this thread) already said that #3 was too high for the Patriots.

What I objected to, was the automatic assumption that "Seattle [would] hang 40 on them." Only two teams did this year, both better offensively (by DVOA) than Seattle. And I pointed out that New England has improved since those games -- even the Chiefs game, since Diloon and Faulk were both out that game.

So there's ample room for doubt. The only way we'll resolve this, if if they meet in the Superbowl. I can live with that. 8-)

64
by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 7:33pm

I didn't read this thread so if this has been discussed or mentioned i'm sorry, but:

Right now the Pittsburgh Steelers hold the #6 seed in the AFC.

I suppose we need San Diego to beat Kansas City again (and we need to keep on winning), but right now, as we speak, the Steelers would be on their way to Cincy to play 85 and the Bengals.

And yeah, I know, the season doesn't end today.....just sayin'......

65
by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 7:33pm

Last week King claimed that Jacksonville would knock a very good team out of the playoffs. This week the Patriots are trouble for some team, probably Jacksonville. Did the Pats destroying a bad team and the Jags losing to a great team change his outlook that much? Or is this just a case of a writer taking both sides so he can say "I told you so" no matter what.

As for the Bears' not declining that penalty to force 4th and 1, Cowher claimed they would have punted. Take that for what it's worth since it said was after the game.

66
by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 7:33pm

That's a great factoid, mshray. Mind if I use it somewhere?

67
by Dan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 7:48pm

How come no one is talking about MDS's original comment here? Usually I really like Peter King, but I thought the insinuation that the Texans are tanking games was pretty low. Also, using the "If I weren't such a trusting soul" qualifier is really weak.

68
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 7:55pm

Proclaiming that team x would hang forty on team y, if one has not accounted for the effect of the return of a healthy Richard Seymour, is probably not an example of good analysis. Perhaps Seymour was factored into that prediction, but it seems a little hyperbolic. That said, I wouldn't rate the Pats as high as King did.

It'll be interesting to see the Chargers' DVOA this week. At some point a team has got to stop losing games if they are to maintain their top-tier status, don't they?

69
by putnamp (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 8:00pm

#63,

I don't disagree that Seattle would have a tough time hanging 40 on New England, but don't get too down on their offensive DVOA. Darrell Jackson is just finally coming back next week :)

70
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 8:13pm

I agree, Dan, and that sort of commentary by pundits really irks me, in that it reminds one of the sort of thing the overserved loudmouth at the end the bar says, revealing his utter ignorance of how profoundly difficult it is to win even a single game in the hypercompetitive NFL. Anybody who grasps how much sheer physical pain and drudgery that must be endured to play many of the positions in the NFL finds such a proposition laughable. I think an offensive line would lynch a kicker who they thought was deliberately playing to lose.

I remember Mean Smilin' Jack Lambert once remarking that regardless of a team's record, there ain't any cowards in the NFL; it is just too brutal an environment for that type of the human species. I wish more media meatheads would reflect upon this prior to engaging in their casual character assasination.

71
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 8:14pm

Putnamp (#69 )--

I'm hoping to find out. ;-)

72
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 9:17pm

That whole "style points" comment on Cincy irks me. I don't genreally care where people rate teams on their personal opinion ranking system, but the Browns have been a pretty feisty team this year. They have all the signs of a team that could make a lot of noise next year.

73
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 9:24pm

Well, since Jason asked for a vote, I'll raise my hand too, and say that Seattle wouldn't hang 40 on NE. I second what Will Allen (#68 said). Don't ask me where I'd rank NE. I'll let DVOA take that responsibility out of my hands. :D

And hey, at least the Patriots finally got a STOMP. 8)
Now they're up to 1 STOMP, 0 DOMINATIONS, 2 GUTS, 3 SKATES.

74
by calig23 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 10:16pm

Re:#38

The Pittsburgh Penguins probably threw games to get Lemieux 20 years ago and words WERE exchanged

That, of course, led to the NHL instituting a lottery system for the draft so that the worst team wasn't guaranteed to get the number one pick.

75
by Smeghead (not verified) :: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 11:26pm

Indeed. Which Pens fans cried bloody murder about two years ago when they posted the worst record but lost the lottery and the consensus top pick, Ovechkin, to the Capitals. (Before winning the lottery and the consensus top pick, Crosby, the next year.)

Lotteries are handy for that "appearance of impropriety" issue (uh, Patrick Ewing to the Knicks aside but then, there's nothing about the NBA with an appearance of propriety), and given the salary imbalances inhering in the top pick, "losing" the lottery to draw the sixth pick or something might not feel bad -- or might actually help a bad team.

76
by Comrade Jason (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 12:48am

I also don't think the Hawks would hang 40 on the Pats, although I do think that the, home or away, the Seahawks would win. As far as PK's rankings go, I find it confusing that beating the Jets and Bills tells PK that the Patriots are apparently back among the elite, but the fact that the Seahawks destroyed Philly and SF doesn't tell him anything. Granted, SF is historically bad, but still ...

77
by mshray63 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 3:20am

Re 66 - MDS, my man, that's exactly why I put it out there. However, I also emailed TMQ with it, so if it shows up in tomorrow's column you might have to reconsider.

Re almost everyone else - Hey, I'm gonna go out on a limb here & say that the Seahwaks could easily lay 40 on the Pats, or anybody else. I'm not necessarily predicting a win, but their offense is good enough to lay 40 on anybody (at least since the injuries to the Bears secondary). Doubt me? How's about a Pop Quiz: Yesterday against the woeful Niners Hasselbeck threw for his career-2nd-best 4 TD's in one game. Against which defense did he throw 5 TD's??? Bueller? Anybody? If you know the answer here's a follow-up question: Of the two, which is better, Seattle's offense today compared to that game or NE's defense compared to the other team's in that game? (hint that team had not one but 2 NFL Defensive Players of the Year on it).

Now before y'all start jumping up & down, remember there's a big difference between saying 'could' & 'would'. Those of you who said 'wouldn't', well that's what over/unders are for, and I ain't gonna argue with you too much. But those of you who said 'couldn't', c'mon, it's not only possible but highly plausible.

78
by mshray63 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 3:33am

MDS, fwiw, I also sent two notes on the SF/SEA game to TMQ.

1) After Week 1, the Niners, at 1-0, were alone in 1st place in the NFC West, with the 'Hawks in a 3-way tie for last at 0-1. Since then Seattle is 11-1, while SF is 1-11.

2) In their last two games, against SF & an NFC East team, Seattle has won twice by a combined score of 83-3. In their two games immediately prior, also against SF & an NFC East team, Seattle won twice by a combined score of 51-46.

If TMQ doesn't use those they're all yours MDS.

79
by Comrade Jason (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 4:31am

#77. Freaking Anthony Wright ...

80
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 9:38am

Mshry (#77 )--

Of course the Seahawks *could* hang forty on the Pats. Heck, they could do that, and lose the game, too. Football is funny that way.

It was the certainty of the original statement that I was arguing against.

81
by Michael David Smith :: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 12:49pm

Don't you guys think someone found to deliberately be tanking games would be banned from the league for life? There's nothing sports leagues take more seriously than the credibility of the competition on the field. So King is implying that someone on the Texans is doing something that would get him banned for life.

I'm positive King would never write, "If I weren't such a trusting soul, I'd think that kicker smoked pot in the locker room at halftime before missing that field goal." And yet what he's suggesting is, to my mind, far worse.

82
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 1:21pm

MDS (#81 )--
Don’t you guys think someone found to deliberately be tanking games would be banned from the league for life?
It depends.

Various coaches stop trying to win games at the end of the season, for tactical reasons (i.e., they "rest" their starters, to avoid injury). They feel that it sets them up to win later, in the playoffs.

Since that practice is widely followed, it's no great stretch to say that a coach/team should be permitted to stop trying to win games for strategic reasons (better draft position). That sets them up to win later, next season.

The thing that would justify the action, in both cases, is the interest of the team.

Point-shaving and other gambling-related playing-to-lose tricks are not in the team's interest, but rather the private interest of players and/or bettors. That's what the league frowns on.

83
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 2:33pm

All this talk about tanking games makes me want to ask a question. Does anyone here think that refs intentionally call games in a manner to increase competitiveness?

By this I mean do officials turn a blind eye on penalties for a team that is behind late in a game, or conversely call penalties on those teams that are leading?

I am not insinuating that they go into the game with any preset agenda, or that they will make up penalites. Also, I haven't noticed this phenomenon in blowouts (especially ones that get out of hand early) all that much.

This is something my brother and I have been kicking around for a while and I just wanted to see what you felt.

84
by Chris I. (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 5:01pm

I don't believe an NFL team would ever tank games just to get the No. 1 draft pick. And moral implications notwithstanding, it would be incredibly stupid if they did.

Football is the ultimate team sport; one great player simply does not have the impact that a superstar has in sports like basketball and hockey. A Jordan (or a Bird, Gretzky, Lemieux, etc.) CAN turn a bad team into a good one in their respective sports. One great football player can't do that for his team.

Heck, in the late-1960s the Bears had Dick Butkus AND Gale Sayers and never even made the playoffs.

85
by zip (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 9:00pm

I hope Reggie Bush turns out to be a huge bust.

86
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 9:53pm

Football is definitely one sport where tanking makes absolutely no sense, for the "one player can't do it all" reasons stated above. Baseball is another, largely because of the total crapshoot nature of their draft. Even the best "can't miss" prospects in baseball are almost always a couple years from even getting a September callup, and the vast majority of them wind up missing. The only time you'll see a baseball team intentionally trying to lose is when the former owner's showgirl widow wants to push attendance low enough to allow the team to move to Miami.

87
by Mikey (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2005 - 1:28am

#61 - Holy sh!t!!! Great fact! Can't believe I hadn't noticed that before!

When the Bears get smoked in the Saturday wildcard game they can chalk it up to being taken out of their routine!