Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Jan 2006

2005 Quick Reads: Week 20

More on Pittsburgh's spectacular third-down turnaround, Big Ben's place in history, and the awesome football factory that is the Hockomock League.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 23 Jan 2006

76 comments, Last at 26 Jan 2006, 1:03pm by Vash

Comments

1
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 7:52pm

Not an orphan. Heh.

2
by ABW (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 8:13pm

Ah, that would be me that Drew Carter helped make an over/under parlay. Thanks Drew! I'm your #1 fan!

3
by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 8:30pm

So, if Drew Carter moves up to the #2 spot, whither the Inanimate Carbon Rod? Slot receiver? Punt returner?

On a more serious note, given their relative depth at cornerback, was there any serious discussion of trying Chris Gamble out at receiver? Should there be?

4
by tunesmith (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 8:40pm

funny, funny article this week. :)

5
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 8:42pm

You may have missed this, but Bettis is also apparently from Detroit. Did you know the Big Game is in Detroit this year? By amazing coincidence, Bettis will be playing in the Big Game in his home town. It is unknown whether Brady Quinn's sister, Kurt Warner's wife, or Bubby Brister's mom will attend.

6
by Craig B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 8:57pm

I might be the only person to notice this, but why doesn't Verron Haynes have a team listed with his name?

Re #3:
Gamble hasn't played WR full-time in 3 years, but that is a good suggestion. I wonder if the Panthers gave it a thought.

7
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 8:59pm

Question, Aaron - what other QB seasons have simmilar YPA and attempts as Roethlisberger (i.e., anybody simmilar if you neglect age)? An absurdly high YPA with low attempts smacks of sample size issues. I'm a Pittsburgh homer, and agree that Ben is ticketed for greatness, but the "nobody has this high YPA with so few attempts" somehow doesn't seem like good evidence of such ticketing to me.

8
by pawnking (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 9:03pm

I am confused. I thought that DVOA adjusted for game variables, position, etc. In other words, if a Wide Receiver lost a fumble that was essentially meaningless, he wouldn't be penalized for it. And yet Steve Smith was. What gives?

9
by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 9:08pm

RE: #8

FO's Quick Reads are done using DPAR, not DVOA. From the FOXSports explanation:

"Punishes players not only for turnovers, but for all fumbles, because research shows that jumping on a loose ball is entirely random. (We all know that the officials just award the ball to whichever team is pointing more strenuously.) Different fumbles have different penalties depending on how often that type of fumble is recovered by the defense."

10
by Theo (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 9:33pm

What monkey does JP have?

(click link)

11
by strooski (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 9:46pm

I don’t look for comment spots usually. But, had to say "We thank", you Aaron for following the numbers for your predictions, analysis and placement of our beloved Steelers. Boy, you nailed it down. Holding them between 5th and 6th spot on your rating scale. I hope no one lost any significant amounts of hard earned money from utilizing this strategy as a way to bet. I myself don’t bet, but for those who do instead of going by Aaron’s design for #1 and so on... You could try a 900# to a phone psychic. It could possibly tell you
Who will win it all!!!!!!

12
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 9:48pm

Is it me or did the 100 cut away shots of the family Bettis replace the 100 cut away shots we usually get of the family Cowher.

13
by TheWedge (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 10:03pm

RE:11
DVOA is based on the entire year which includes the games that Tommy Maddox started. Furthermore, Aaron pointed out the disparity in Pitt's ability to convert third-and-longs between the regular season and the playoffs which also effects DVOA but I realize that trolls are illiterate and it is too much to as for you to actually read anything on the site.

14
by admin :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 10:14pm

Hey. In response to 7/8. DPAR and DVOA use pretty much the same rules, so that isn't the issue. It does adjust based on the time of the game, but that doesn't mean it doesn't count plays at the end of the game, it just means that the system understands that teams are trying to run out the clock when they have fourth quarter leads. A fumble near the end of a blowout is still a fumble, it still gives the ball to the other team, and it still is indicative of a player's ability to hold on to the ball when we want talk about his future performance based on what we know about the past.

A particularly annoying aspect of the trolls and, worse, the constant angry e-mails to me about how I didn't pick Team X to win the Super Bowl and how dare I not be perfect with a 100% accurate ability to tell the future, is that I thought King Kaufman had established that Football Outsiders has offered the most accurate preseason predictions anywhere for two straight seasons? The goal is not to be perfect, just to be better than other analysts, and better next year than we were this year, and even better the year after that.

15
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 10:59pm

Strooski, its not made for betting. This might shock you, but some people actually enjoy just watching the game.

Anyway, I think its sort of sad that it took until the NFC Championship game to realize that if you triple cover Steve Smith at all times, the offense has nothing else. Carolina needs to draft a running back.

On a more serious note, given their relative depth at cornerback, was there any serious discussion of trying Chris Gamble out at receiver? Should there be?

Well, I don't think the WR problem is just that Steve Smith is a very good receiver, so much as Jake Delhomme has WR tunnel vision. Last year with Muhammed, same thing.

16
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 11:00pm

Uhhh... am I the only Steeler fan getting a bit nervous about the FOMBC, with all the Steeler trolls being all "nice picks Aaron"... nocursepleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease...

17
by Vash (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 11:05pm

6: 563 isn't exactly a small sample size.

18
by DGL (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 11:09pm

I think if other Steelers fans come down on the Steeler fantrolls, that should help counteract the FOMBC.

Bonus points for posts that suggest new reasons why DVOA rated Pittsburgh lower at various points of the year and modifications to the DVOA algorithms that would counteract that.

19
by DGL (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 11:12pm

I would say that this supports my Verron Haynes theory*, but his DPAR points came from receiving, not rushing. Perhaps I should modify it to track DPAR.

* Verron Haynes is the key to the Steelers' success, because every time he rushes for more than 35 yards in a game, the Steelers win.

20
by Björn (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 11:16pm

"Here's a strange question: If Champ Bailey is such a great cornerback, why doesn't he always cover the other team's best receiver? Bailey was covering Wilson when Wilson caught his touchdown -- and got beat."

Bailey got beat by the pump fake. Denver was blitzing on the play, so the secondary was expecting a quick pass. Bailey was covering 2 receivers. When Bailey saw the pump fake, he took the inside receiver, but since the blitz didn't actually get close to Big Ben, Wilson was wide open for the lob.

21
by Israel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 11:18pm

The Steelers did not recover Parker's fumble. It went out of bounds, so possession did not change.

22
by admin :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 11:39pm

Ah. I am corrected. It says "FK" (fumble kept) in my data, so I just assumed it was recovered.

Perhaps having one cornerback cover two receivers is not a good idea.

There's really no mystery to why the Steelers were ranked lower earlier in the year. Backup quarterbacks and inability to do anything on third downs. We knew the first problem would be solved. There was no way to expect the second problem to be solved (this season, anyway) but Steelers fans can be pleasantly surprised.

I think the angry Steelers fan thing is a response to the midseason ranking of the team, not the game preview for Denver-Pittsburgh. It was clear that I was really not sure who would win, right? I hope that it was clear that I felt much stronger about Seattle than I did about Denver.

23
by Yaxley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 11:42pm

Re 18:

Steelers troll-fans are clearly ranked too high because they do not respect the FOMBC. Intelligent discussion without personal insults and multiple exclamation points is way better than this. Both the Steelers and the Seahawks are good teams and their fans should look forward to a good game.

Also, as Aaron has said before, DVOA does not predict injuries, so obviously there is a Maddox Effect on the Steelers midseason ratings. I would add that there may also be a Wilson Corollary to that, given that the Steelers suddenly discovered in the playoff that they have recivers not named Ward or Miller.

24
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:14am

Again, I say Aaron was correct that the AFC better watch out if the Steelers figure out their third down problems next year and rebound from 11-5. He wrote the article in December 2005, the Steelers are converting third downs much better in 2006...next year...in the literal...see ya next year! kind of way that you used to say to people before winter break.

Remember, anything can happen in the playoffs, as Don Cheadle will often remind you. The Steelers are peaking at the right time finally, so pardon me if I don't really get too worked up that they were 6th or whatever in regular season DVOA.

25
by SJM (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:28am

Aaron,

You actually expect trolls to analyze your predictions vs. the rest of the national media? Just take the hate mail as a sign of your rising profile, and give up your dream of educating all NFL fans in the mysteries of advanced statistics.

Bjorn,

I agree with Aaron that having one CB responsible for covering two receivers on the same play might not have been such a brilliant idea.

26
by jason (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:28am

"The best quarterback in the NFC. He was still winning games and putting up numbers at midseason with D.J Hackett as his second receiver, while Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb struggled this year without Randy Moss and Terrell Owens."

Why the potshot on McNabb (besides hims being a popular target)? Actually, McNabb played all of two games without Owens. Hard to say if he struggled without him based on a 2 game sample.

Would anyone argue that Todd Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell are a better starting tandem for the winning team in an NFC championship compared to Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram?

Yes, McNabb did struggle this year, but do you believe that it had nothing to do with the sports hernia? I know you don't because you consistently mentioned his injury in the weekly quarterback ratings during the regular season. Attributing his struggles now to being "with Terrell Owens" was just lazy. In fact, his stats against Washington in the first game without TO were actually better than the average for the year.

Hasselback is the quarterback of the best team in the NFC this year, congratulations. No need to misrepresent other players in light of his accomplishment.

Yes, I'm a bitter Eagles fan, but I'm just tired of people taking shots at the guy.

27
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:30am

"There was no way to expect the second problem to be solved "

Maybe. Maybe there is.

It has always seemed to me since seeing the evidence that teams that over-perform or under-perform on 3rd down one season tend to struggle or improve markedly (respectively) that this effect had all the earmarks of being nothing more than 'luck', good or bad, not continuing.

I guess what I am saying is, I would like to see a study. Look at teams that have either over performed or under performed on third down compared to on other downs through a certain number of games (8 games? 10 games? dunno), and then seeing how these teams tend to do in the next game (or games), to see if the trend continues or not.

I suspect that the trends do not tend to hold up-- meaning that if a team has really been underperforming on third down compared to other downs, one might be able to predict improvement for them in the remaining games and not just in the subsequent year.

Or has such a study been done that has demonstrated in-season persistence of these trends?

28
by SJM (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:41am

Hey Jason,

I hear McNabb has bad breath.

29
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 1:09am

Re: 27

I think Aaron's explanation has always been that its part luck, part scheme, part personnel. How much of each is a good question, but the first can obviously change on a dime, and there's no good reason why a team can't correct the second mid-season. The third is a bit more interesting, but I don't see the Steelers as a team with a glaring roster weakness (well, maybe third string QB) that would make them no good on third down, so I'd guess for them it came down mostly to the first two. Luck has obviously changed, and Wizzer's been en fuego this offseason.

30
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 1:23am

In addition to the Maddox adjustment, I think there is an adjustment to be made for Ben-is-playing-but-really-not-healthy-yet. When I saw him against the Vikings and the Colts he really wasn't attempting to do things he is doing now, and I think it likely was due to the fact that, although he was still a vast improvement over Maddox, he just wasn't 100% yet.

Don't get me wrong; he didn't suck in those two games, but he couldn't really attempt to be the player he is right now.

31
by BC Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 2:05am

The Hockomock reference is the greatest thing ever. Go Canton!!!

32
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 2:09am

"How much of each is a good question"

Indeed-- but I would imagine that the 'luck' cohort should be calculable, by seeing how consistent or not the effect is over the remainder of a season. In other words, if there is no correlation between "the delta between 3rd down performance and other down performance in preceding games in a season" and "the delta between 3rd down performance and other down performance in subsequent games" when spread over many teams over many seasons, then one could say that it is almost all luck. The stronger the correlation, the more it would be the other factors.

33
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 2:37am

Will - The other thing that I find short-term scary and long-term encouraging is that Ben's still not totally healthy. He's playing with a bad right thumb, which has clearly affected the distance and velocity on some of his longer throws. He's gotten away with it because (a) his receivers have often been very open (q.v., the throwback lateral play in the Bengals game -- Ced Wilson just about stopped and came back two yards for the ball, and there were still no defenders on the screen when he caught it); (b) his receivers have made good plays to either outfight the DB for the ball or at least break up an interception; and (c) he's gotten lucky.

So in the short term I'm worried that (c) will stop, although I'm still pretty comfortable that (b) will continue and, given my analysis of the Seahawks pass D against the Steelers receivers, I'm fairly confident that there could be a couple cases of (a) in two weeks.

But in the long term, look out, world. With a healthy thumb, I think Ben can be even better next year.

34
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 3:01am

You know, there was an interesting study done by Baseball Prospectus in which they found that players who reach all-world status at a very young age (e.g. Albert Pujols) tend to plateau early rather than keep improving... sort of like, you can only get so good, so once you're that good, there's no room to improve.

This doesn't neccessarily carry over to football, and I'm not saying Ben's at that level yet, but he might not improve as much between now and his peak as most 2nd year QBs would... not that that's a bad thing, since it would imply he's hitting the highest possible mortal ceiling... and since he PFJs, maybe he's got some superpowers to get past that :)

35
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 5:25am

Yeah, DGL, I still think the thumb injury is hindering him, although not nearly to the degree it was when I
I saw him play the Vikings.

I'm getting more interested in this game as I write about it, but then I've done the same for most of the playoff games this year, only to be a little disappointed afterwords (the positively weird Steelers/Colts contest excepted, of course), so I hope this one lives up to my expectations. I really want to see a good offensive line try to attack Pittsburgh on the ground for four quarters, so I'm hoping Big Ben doesn't stake the Steelers to a big early lead, although I certainly wouldn't be bothered by a Pittsburgh win. It'd be nice to see Bettis go out in style, and shut up the "can't win the big one" yammering in regards to Cowher.

36
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 6:01am

RE: #14

Come on Aaron, isn't perfection in the back of your mind somewhere? Might take many years, and the oblate spheroid does bounce weird (plus injuries, weird ref calls, etc. mucking things up), but you gotta think that in the back of your mind, there's perfection for DVOA out there somewhere. As Woody Allen once said (in "Manhattan" I think when accused of NOT being God) "I gotta model myself after somebody."

So maybe you can't say it out loud for fear of troll reprisal ("he not perfect. Me eat his cranium now."), but shoot for perfection, not just being better than Jay Novacek.

RE King Kong II: Is there anything better than the innocent pleasure of a simple monkey knife fight?

37
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 9:53am

I don't get it. All season long, FO ranks the Steelers in the top-10, and all the Steeler fans on the boards tell us that they're not as good as DVOA makes them seem. Now, suddenly, they're at the Super Bowl, and the Steelers are harping on FO for misunderestimating them. WTF? Is it just a bunch of new Steeler fans coming over from Fox?
Having rooted for the Steelers all season long, let me echo #16's concerns. The FOMBC rules all. Where are all the Seattle trolls? Come on, they're 4 point underdogs! That's disrespect! Aaron's from Massachussets! He's never seen a Hawks game in his life! Let's hear it! Pretty please?

38
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 10:14am

The Steelers have been otherworldly on third down in the past two games (particularly early in the games). Can they do it again or will they regress to the mean? I can't believe they are really this good, but they may be good enough.

Re: 35

I'm suffering from 'Jerome Bettis going out in style' overload (already). No way to avoid the certain backlash. Go 'Hawks.

39
by James Gibson (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 10:34am

26 - I don't think anybody would say that Mitchell and Pinkston are as good as Engram and Jackson, but I think the point was Hasselbeck still did really well when his receivers were Jurevicius and Hackett instead of Engram and Jackson.

Aaron - Your article was clear that you thought Denver and Pittsburgh were evenly matched, but the headline was "Denver by a Mile (High)". Although clearly a reference to home field, it does seem like you picked Denver by a lot if you only read the headline.

40
by JMM (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 10:45am

One of the reasons there is no historical precedent for Ben's season is Cowher's 2nd half "with the lead" philosophy. (I'll say most although I can't think of any) Most other coaches who have a QB with the capability to take over a game allow them to do just that. They build the offense around the QB and throw much more than 20 times a game.

This leads to diminishing returns in the passing game. That is not what drives Cowher, but it is a result. Of course Ben also has exceptional 1st Q stats, but I attribute that to the league being slow to understand that the Steelers are not a "run first" offense. Cowher has on several occasions indicated he wants a balanced offense until the game swings one way or the other. Then he goes to pound it and run the clock or throw it to catch up.

It is this increase in focus on time rather than yards (as was discussed by several on this site last week) that may be part of the disconnect between DVOA and the Steelers.

41
by Art Rooney\'s Ghost (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 10:54am

The spectre of the FOMBC is paging Larry R; Larry R will you please report to the FOMB immediately and make disparaging comments about all and sundry.

42
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 10:56am

I think this is going to be a heck of a Super Bowl, FOMBC or not. Both teams were neck-and-neck in both full season and weighted DVOA and both just put up 100% or so in the conference championship.

Hopefully, Seattle residuals will cancel out recent Pittsburgh trolls and the best team will win.

43
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 11:28am

Isn't any Steeler fan a little worried that Marino is one answer that the similarity score comparison coughed up (I know it wasn't a close similarity, but similarity scores are far from exact anyhow)? I mean, Big Ben compared to the best QB never to win... you know.

Of course there are big differences: Ben is much more mobile and Marino got sacked a lot less (if I remember correctly) to name two that spring to mind.

Was I the only one to miss the shot of the Bettis family after the fumble? Where was that reaction shot?

44
by Luz (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 11:34am

#43

i'm not really worried about the marino comparison because cowher is cowher. i don't have any firm recollection but i think the knock on marinos teams was, "not much running, even less defense." seeing as running and defense are cowher's staples i don't think they will ever be an issue.

45
by admin :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 11:40am

26: I didn't mean to knock McNabb. I figured if I said Hasselbeck was the best quarterback in the NFC, people would say, "Hey, what about Culpepper and McNabb" so I wanted to give the reasons I didn't choose them. Considering that we don't know how Culpepper will play after losing his mobility to the knee injury, I think McNabb is clearly the second best QB in the NFC. I do think highly of McNabb, I just happen to think highlier of Hasselbeck, which is not actually a word. Oh, and when I talked about McNabb without Owens, I was thinking of McNabb pre-2004, not McNabb this year.

Besides as 31 would know, my high school was the Eagles. I couldn't believe it when I found out the high school Tatupu played at was King Philip in Wrentham. That's why he's so good at defending the outlet pass.

46
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 11:47am

I'm going to second Bjorn's comment in #20... faulting Bailey for the TD totally misses what actually happened on the play... it ws a 6-man (Wilson & Lynch both coming) blitz that didn't get there.

Champ jumped the quick read, and got burned on the 2nd move... had the blitz done its job and gotten anywhere close (BTW: great block by Randle-El on the outside blitzer after coming in motion to the left side of the line), Ben would've either had to throw it away, throw the pick, or take the sack.

If you can't get pressure with 6 guys, your CBs are gonna get burned all day, regardless of how good they are.

More disturbing was Foxworth's inability to cover the quick outs/ins when Denver blitzed, meaning everytime Ben just had to get it out even when pressure was coming. Don't know if it was risk aversion and playing too soft, or simply not having the jump he showed earlier in the year in getting up on those routes (rookie jitters?), but it was ugly.

47
by calig23 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 11:52am

Isn’t any Steeler fan a little worried that Marino is one answer that the similarity score comparison coughed up (I know it wasn’t a close similarity, but similarity scores are far from exact anyhow)? I mean, Big Ben compared to the best QB never to win… you know.

Why should we be? Similarity scores only look at individual stats. Team accomplishments (which is what winning or losing Super Bowls are) aren't looked at. Nor are they relevent.

48
by David (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 11:57am

Regarding the future brilliance of Big Ben:

If Bettis does indeed retire at the end of this year, does Big Ben get a lot more passing attempts next year? I know how Pittsburgh likes to play smash-mouth more than anything else, but without Bettis, they'd just have Parker and Staley, who's been MIA this year and is in his early 30s. They may want to run, but be forced to throw because of their personnel, like they were during Maddox's big season...

If that happens, even if Roethlisberger does plateau next year, his counting stats may obscure that fact for most of the popular commentary.

(And I'll bet that most Steelers fans would be fine with any plateau that remotely resembles the one that Albert Pujols has been on. It's like a mesa or something...)

49
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:09pm

39: Unfortunately, Aaron can't control the Fox headlines. It's gotten him what I'm sure is far worse angry fanmail than this.

50
by admin :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:17pm

No, no, that was my headline. That was my pun.

51
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:28pm

Oh, OK, then it's your fault. I'll stop defending you, then :-).

52
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:30pm

And if Steven Colbert can get "truthiness" as the American Dialect Society word of the year, then I think FO can do the same for "highlier".

I also propose that every Seneca Wallace comment refer to him as Seneca "Slash" Wallace.

53
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:47pm

There's only one problem with Ben Roethlisberger going forward, at or above his current level. Unfortunately, it's the same one he had this year and last year: the thumb.

It's only his second season, and he does have a game or two yet to play, but I'd worry about an eerily similar injury to the same digit on his throwing hand, two years in a row.

It might not be anything, and even if it is, it might not be Kurt-Warner-bad. But it *is* something to watch.

54
by James Gibson (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:47pm

I liked the headline. And got the pun. I think I implied otherwise in 39. But, I think some people may not have.

55
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 12:49pm

RE: #37, this should not shock you, every team has a breed of fans known as 20-20's. When the team is doing well, they are vocal and they "told ya so". It makes them feel better, they "knew" more than the professionals. The reason the Steelers fans seem to be cropping up now is, well they're one of two teams left. The TB, Jax, Cinci and Giants 20-20's were gone in the WC round. The Was, NE, Indy, CHI's in the Div round. The Denver and Carolina 20-20's were gone last weekend. It's really a survivorship bias that's rearing it's ugly head at this point.

I am one of the fans that thought DVOA may have been pegging the Steelers just about right, if not giving them too much credit during the regular season. I also realize that DVOA in the regular season had no way of knowing that the Steelers would play so well in the Playoffs. Many 20-20's don't get this. Like all matters related to a forecast the best way to settle it would have been a bet. I'm not sure what odds the 20-20's would have given at the start of the playoffs for the Steelers to beat the 3,1 and 2 seeds on the road, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been even odds.

56
by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 1:17pm

Re: 37

This Seahawk fan is too shocked at the fact that the 'Hawks actually won the NFC Championship to contemplate trash talk. I felt relatively confident about Seattle beating Carolina going into the game, but we've blown too many 17-point fourth quarter leads recently to feel like a lead pipe lock for any game.

I feel like the 'Hawks match up well against the Steelers, but I also feel that the Steelers will be the toughest matchup that Seattle has faced all year. Someone here at FO made reference to the Dallas/Seattle game as a template for this game, and I'd agree with that assessment. Only I don't expect Big Ben to throw a killer INT in the final minute a la Bledsoe, so the 'Hawks need to have a better showing on offense earler in the game.

57
by blackwater (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 1:51pm

WTF does FOMBC stand for?

58
by admin :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 1:52pm

Remember that Bobby Engram and Darrell Jackson were both out for that Dallas game, and Leroy Hill still had not replaced Jamie Sharper as strong side linebacker.

59
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 2:19pm

FOMBC is the Football Outsiders Message Board Curse. (I didn't come up with the idea, but I think my contribution was to be the first to put it in its abbreviated form.) The FOMBC strikes a team when that team's vocal supporters show up en masse on the FO message boards, usually as a result of a Power Rankings article on Foxsports.com that rates their team lower than they would like to see, and irrationally rail on DVOA, Aaron, Aaron's parentage, etc., because they think their team is being "disrespected" by DVOA.

The team then proceeds to demonstrate that DVOA was right after all, usually by losing several games in a row. The FOMBC strikes again!

While I think the first team this happened to was Denver, the Denver fans redeemed themselves later in the season, enabling the Broncos to reach the championship. (Washington was in there somewhere, too; not sure if it was before or after Denver.)

The canonical FOMBC case, though, was the Atlanta Falcons, rabid fans of whom showed up here as a result of a pointer from a Falcons fanboard, totally trashing the Week 10 thread. The Falcons then proceeded to lose to Green Bay, and reel off a run of 6 losses in their last 8 games to miss the playoffs.

Some of the Falcons fans saw the light and stuck around, and have made rational contributions to the conversation since then; the vast base of loonies tend to go away and not come back.

60
by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 2:45pm

Aaron, excellent point about the Seahawks' personnel at the time of the Dallas game. I'd actually forgotten about that, since I was so used to seeing guys other than Jackson and Engram do well at WR this year. Yeah, focusing on the run and jamming the WRs worked for Dallas, but with Engram and Jackson back in the lineup that gameplan may not work so well . . .

Of course, not all of the WRs picked up the slack: I still remember the INT that Warrick coughed up to Dallas down in the red zone. The ball was thrown where only Warrick could catch it, until it bounced off his hands into the surprised Dallas defender's breadbasket. That was the first drive, which had been like clockwork up to that point, and it absolutely killed Seahawks' momentum until they found their mojo again in the final minutes of the game.

That Dallas game was also the game that convinced me that the Seahawks could play some "D" this year. Not sure if Hill is an upgrade over Sharper, but the 'Hawks don't lose anything at the position by having Hill in there.

Wow, I really like the matchup for the 'Hawks now.

61
by jeff t (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 3:00pm

Big Ben has the highest QB rating (Steve Young = #2) and highest winning percentage of all-time (#2 = Tom Brady). I know he doesn't have enough passing attempts/games played to officially qualify for these records, but it's still pretty impressive. I also think he has the 3rd highest post season QB rating, behind Bart Starr and Jake Delhomme (even after Sunday's performance).

[Note: Yes, I know QB rating is a goofy stat]

62
by steelershomer (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 3:41pm

If Bettis does indeed retire at the end of this year, does Big Ben get a lot more passing attempts next year? I know how Pittsburgh likes to play smash-mouth more than anything else, but without Bettis, they’d just have Parker and Staley, who’s been MIA this year and is in his early 30s.

Look for them to trade up on draft day and pick LenDale White. You heard it here first! (Or trade their number 1 to Miami for Ricky Williams! More wild speculations!)

Seriously, ball-control offense is important to the Steelers' *defense* -- it keeps them off the field so they are fresh, which is important for an attacking defense. For this reason, no matter how good the QB is, they aren't going to build the team solely around him.

63
by Nog (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 4:08pm

Re 56
Keep in mind that the Seattle game against Dallas was without Jackson and Engram, They will be alot better at getting off the blocks than the young (2nd & 3rd)receivers that were in the game at that time.

64
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 5:43pm

#61 - I had a really enjoyable time trying to explain the QB ratings to my wife. She got home while I was watching the NFC Championship, and it showed the graphic comparing the QBs. Jake had a 1.6 or so, Hasselbeck was over 100. She asked me what the number meant and I did my best (all incomplete=40, runs from 0 to 158.2), but the whole discussion devolved into jokes about whether Delhomme's final rating would be higher than the number of Skating with Celebrities promos.

65
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 5:54pm

While QB rating might be a goofy stat, it's not nearly as stupid as winning percentage. Kyle Orton has an absurd winning percentage (as an example) - does anyone think that this means he's a good QB?

The corrolary to this is saying 'QB 1 beat QB 2'. Unless they were both playing against the same defense and with the same offense and coaches, I'm going to say wrong.

66
by Joon (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 5:58pm

what's most amusing to me about the steeler troll-fan griping is that the gist of the complaint seems to be that the team performed worse in the regular season (when they were ranked around 6th) than they are playing right now (when they are one of the top two teams). if you are fan of the team, shouldn't it make you happy, rather than bitter, that they are healthy and peaking during january? whence flows the bile?

67
by DJAnyReason (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 6:17pm

Re: 44

I could see in the next few years Cowher switching focus to passing from running on offense, just because of personnell (i.e., Big Ben). Kinda like how Parcells was always a run-first coach, then he drafted Bledsoe and led a passing-oriented team.

As for Cowher losing focus on defense... not so much

68
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 6:27pm

Yes, shockingly FO's analysis of a team that wasn't doing well was to say that they...weren't doing well. I KNOW! It's crazy. Apparently FO's divining powers should have been able to predict the Steeler's success despite their doing very different things in the regular season and the playoffs.

Also, FO should be blamed for not predicting Carson Palmer's injury. You FOOLS!

Ahem.

69
by Catfish (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 10:39pm

Re: 59

The Washington Incident happened after week 3, when the Skins were 3-0 and ranked ~23rd. FO ran an article saying that Washington wasn't as good as their record and that they weren't clearly the better team in any of their wins. There were several people who were quite angry about it (including the since repentant james). Washington promptly lost 2 straight in which they arguably played better, and the trolls weren't heard from again until the Skins DVOA was ironically much better than their record (5-6, but in the top ten).

I hope to remember all of this stuff for a long time, so I can be the crotchety old-timer in several years and reminisce about The Great Atlanta Troll Rush of '05.

70
by dave crockett (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 11:15pm

#65 - a resolution...

ahem...

whereas... it drives me bonkers when I hear about a qb's "record" when baseball doesn't even evaluate pitchers that way anymore; and pitchers at least have a minimum performance requirement;

and whereas... a qb's "record" is among the truly monumentally stupid things ever uttered in sports, but so seductively simple that people who should know better just cannot resist.

and whereas... some cases dramatize the stupidity of this notion so perfectly that they become synonymous with it;

be it hereby resolved that the ridiculous notion that a qb shall be credited with a "win," despite his own wretched his performance, shall henceforth be referred to as...

"the kyle orton fallacy."

71
by jeff t (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 11:39pm

65 and 70,

Yes, I know wins are not the best way to judge a QB in such a team dependent sport. I was just pointing out an interesting/cool fact.

72
by mathesond (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 11:45pm

I seem to recall that the Redskins unnaturally high 3rd down conversion rate as being a reason why DVOA predicted them to be headed for a fall. That is probably a gross generalization, if not an outright error in memory, but if it is in fact true, what does it bode for the Steelers?

73
by Catfish (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 5:58pm

Re: 72, I think the Skins really high conversion rate was seen by DVOA as a fluke of small sample size, which it turned out to be. As for the Steelers, up until the playoffs, their performance on 3rd down was much worse than their performance on the first two downs (even if you drop all of Maddox's games). In the playoffs, however, they've been performing much better on 3rd downs than they did during the season. I know that Aaron's research has shown that while 3rd down performance tends toward the performance on other downs from year to year, it stays fairly consistent within the season. I guess this means that it is entirely possible that the Pit's 3rd down performance in the Super Bowl will regress to the levels we saw in the regular season. However, it could also be possible that they made some changes in between the regular season and the playoffs and their recent performance is more reflective of their "true" abilities.

74
by Jerry (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 7:22pm

Re #67:

Before Cowher looks to be pass-first, he may remember 2003. Having said that, I think their success has been taking what the defense gave them; throw against eight in the box, run against seven.

75
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 11:49am

Re:#74

The problem in 2003 was that the offensive line was terrible and injury-plagued. And they had Maddox at QB and Amos Zereoue(sp?) at RB.

The O-line hasn't been great this year, but it's a lot better than it was in 2003. And going into next year, Trai Essex has gotten some experience and could be decent, and Chris Kemoeatu is a very intriguing guy.

And Ben and Parker are universes better than Turnover Tommy and Famous Amos.

76
by Vash (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 1:03pm

I can see Cowher drafting another halfback, maybe even two for a better shot at getting a good one, to keep the running game going.

The Steelers don't seem to be losing all that much talent. There are good young receivers, linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties, and a quarterback. The only aging positions are the lines and offensive backfield.

I can see Cowher drafting 1-2 halfbacks, a fullback, and a bunch of lineman this year.