Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Nov 2006

Week 11 Rundown: Marty Schottenheimer, Hellblazer

This week: Football Outsiders annoys more people by picking the Chargers and Cowboys to beat the Broncos and Colts. Plus, we highlight some of the bad matchups this week: Adam Goldberg vs. Julius Peppers, the Giants and Falcons vs. the injury bug, and Jacksonville vs. gamblers who want to keep from going insane.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 15 Nov 2006

66 comments, Last at 20 Nov 2006, 5:38pm by Bolt-Man

Comments

1
by cabbage (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 12:22am

Thanks for clearing up the Constantine reference.

You might have been better off calling him whatever Arnold's character's name was in that movie where to takes on the Devil with a glock.

2
by Richard (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 12:23am

"Constantine the comic book/movie character -- Keanu Reeves played him. Remember? Not the fourth century emperor who converted Rome to Christianity. Because, you know, that reference wouldn't make much sense."

I really needed that because I was lost.

3
by Bronco Jeff (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 12:49am

My question is, why are the Chargers so much better this year as to easily beat the Broncos when compared to last year, when they lost at Mile High? I just don't see a Charger victory here, but I suppose this will be a good test of DVOA, won't it?

4
by Jesse (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 1:00am

I'm a bit confused as to why DVOA indicates the Chargers should beat the Broncos this weekend. SD's DVOA is 29%, while Denver's is 10%. Isn't playing on home field worth about 17% DVOA? If so, this game suddenly becomes a lot more even.

5
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 1:28am

I preferred "Sean Considine, Hellblazer," myself.

6
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 1:30am

It would seem to me that the Broncos match up pretty well against the Chargers. If I was going to pick a game where Plummer would have a poor enough performance to cost them the game, it certainly wouldn't be against San Diego's secondary.

7
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 1:54am

I think this makes three consecutive weeks Tanier has picked against Indy. Similar to Novacek before Buffalo. Both wrong. Sweet. Keep it coming. I mean, he's gotta be right sometime, no? Blind squirrel, broken clock and all that...

While his logic is pretty sound, the generalizations are pretty sweeping and the same could have been said for the Den and NE games--both away and both better teams than Dal.

One thing MT didn't point out, but Dal is insanely balanced--look through almost all the FO stats, and they have sinister balance, so if one part is not working, the other picks up pretty well. It's a pick your poison world. Now offensively, that reflects Bledsoe for 6+ games and Romo for 2+, so it's hard to tell at a quick glance who helps more there (QB stats aside).

The 3-4 has "traditionally" bothered Manning. Oh please. Maybe, but mainly it was NE in 2003 and 2004. Yes, we've all seen those games and remember them. How about NE's 3-4 in the reg season the past two seasons? In the reg season games those two years Indy averaged about 28-30 pts and Manning has had a rating of 90 or above (too lazy to check). Some trouble. I should have such bad luck!

Going back 1.5 seasons, they lost to 3-4 D's exactly twice and beat it 4 times or more--one of those losses was the SB champs in the playoffs, so nobody was gonna beat Pitt that day. The other loss, totally dominated by SD, was just a 3 point game with about 3 minutes left (See Turner, M, 80 TD yard run on 2nd and 10 after LT was hurt). If this is a 3 point game with 3 minutes left, which team do you think will win?

MT, I may end up eating my words, but you seem to be too bold in your tweaking Indy's nose. They also play better on the road this year. If they lose, I'd assume it's the following week with Philly at home. So please, please, please, pick Philly next week, regardless of what happens this week. Your streak may be on the line.

8
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 2:04am

re: 4
Picking games isn't about adding DVOA numbers, its about thinking about how the teams match up against each other. Which is what Monsieur Tanier does in his column. My general opinion is when two serious division rivals play each other, you can throw everything out the window.

9
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 2:05am

Sorry to double-post, but I decided to un-lazy myself. In 2003, perhaps Manning's worst ever year vs the 3-4 (remember the playoff loss to NE?) he had a regular season game against them and went 29/48 for 279 yards and 4 TDs to 1 Pick for a 95.7 rating. Trouble? That was in NE. The next year, the season opener at home he went a modest 16 for 29 for 256 and 2 TDs vs 1 INT and a rating of 93.5. Trouble squared. In the playoffs he lost both of those years to a 3-4 D that won the SB. And gave him trouble, yes. But the generalization that all or even most 3-4's cause him trouble is mistaken.

And most people concur that he has improved, particularly throwing on the run, which used to be a weakness.

I'll stop huffing and puffing. Usually it's great LB lay that has caused the trouble and I do not see SD's Roid Warrior wearing a big star on his hat these days.

Now I DO agree that as things stand right now (w/Merriman playing), SD probably has a better chance than most of beating anybody in the league. Esp if the game is in CA. With Merriman out and the game in Den, I am not so sure. Of course, that's why they play them.

10
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 2:10am

My question is, if the Chargers beat the Broncos, will Shanahan reach into Schottenheimer's lungs and remove his lung cancer, thus forcing him to return and endanger his soul once more?

I think the question is relevant.

11
by Mnatr (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 2:18am

I still want to know how it is that Martyball was declared dead. I thought it referred to heavy running with a lead, not passing to make up a big deficit.

12
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 2:30am

I was actually really disappointed with Tanier's breakdown of the Denver/SD game. No mention of Merriman and Castillo, SD's real men of steroids, missing in action. No mention of the long list of injuries on defense for the Broncos, or of the fact that they benched three starters and a key backup on offense for no discernable reason whatsoever. Heck, there was almost no mention of Denver at all.

Great, San Diego scores a lot of points and Schottenheimer had trouble with Denver in Cleveland and Kansas City. If you want to breakdown the matchups, though, I think the place to start this week was obviously with who will or will not be on the field.

13
by BryanT (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 3:05am

So take the Cowboys, be wary of the over (it opened at 48), and be thankful that you won't have to listen to any "who can stop the Colts" arguments after this week.

Actually, I'm weary of the arguments of why the Colts will lose. Sure, they haven't been dominant this year and their weaknesses are obvious... apparently no one scouts or game plans against them. They've held a lead or been within one possession of a tie in every game. They've beaten three supposedly Super Bowl contenders on the road (NYG, DEN, NE). At some point you can't shrug at a team that finds a way to win consistently in league of filled with parity.

14
by centrifuge (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 3:16am

7/9: If you read closely, you'll see that the article claims the offensive line has trouble with 3-4s, not Manning specifically. How many sacks did he take in those games to go alongside his passer rating?

15
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:08am

Centrifuge, Wow, you are so right and I slightly misread the Manning/his line wording. Mea culpa. The sentence started with "Manning played well, but" and morphed into a statement about his line without my catching it. Back to 6th grade sentence diagramming lessons for me!

With Manning, sacks are not a real clear indicator of OL proficiency since he has a fast release and throws the ball away. QB pressures and hits, both not officially measured, are a better indicator.

But, since you asked, in 2003, 2 sacks in the NE reg season game and 4 in the playoffs. In 2004, it was one sack per game vs NE (and that one sack at the end of regulation backed them up 12 yards and Vandy missed the tying 48-yard figgie attempt--probably would have made a 36er). Given the disparity of his performances from reg season to playoffs, not strong correlation there. Now with Pitt last year, he had 2 sacks and a 102.9 rating in the reg season win and 5 (!!!) sacks and a 90.9 rating in the playoff loss (rating boosted by psychotic end of game come back attempt). I'd say that has a stronger correlation. But I still say it's LB quality and I don't see the Dallas guys in the same league as Merriman/Porter/Polamalu were playing last year.

Also, Manning is more or less in charge of the pass-pro calls at the line, so more of that is on his shoulders than most QBs.

If we had pressures or hits data, I bet there'd be a stronger correlation. Good point. And thanks for forcing me to read more closely; perhaps I was relying on my own presumption that it was yet another Manning attack.

16
by Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:14am

The whole "Manning has problems with the 3-4 notion is crazy" It just so happens that the teams most associated with the 3-4 have some of the Best Defensive Talent in the World. NE and Pitt have had tons of Pro Bowl defensive players and SD with Merriman can overwhelm offenses.

What a shock that the teams with the Best Defensive players give Manning the toughest time. I can't imagine why this could be true. These teams could play a 0-7 or almost any other formation and give Manning difficulty, not because of the formation but because they have so many Pro Bowlers and All Pros on Defense

17
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:25am

Plus, Jason, you fail to point out that NOBODY else has problems with these teams. They get their asses kicked all the time.

(Okay, forget about Pittsburgh this year, it's really ruining the homorous edge on my sarcasm. Actually, mostly they are kicking their own asses.)

18
by johnt (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:31am

16: It may be that but it may also be that Indy's smallish offensive line has problems with the big beef up front that good 3-4 offenses feature. I remember in the playoff loss to the Steelers, the LBs (mainly J Porter) getting all the press for terrorizing Peyton, but more often they were coming through unblocked as Casey Hampton detonated Jeff Saturday like a case of Montezuma's revenge in a portajohn.

19
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:46am

I just rethought a comment I made above, that pressures and hits would have a strong correlation to Manning's performance.

After all, wasn't NE taking up residence in the Indy backfield just two weeks ago, hitting PM like one of those inflatible sand-ballasted toys you can't quite knock flat? Result: 20/36/326 3 sacks, 2 TD, 1 INT, and a rating of 93.1. (And the win, partially courtesy of NE mistakes) Granted, it's 11 pts below his season average, but still, it's a decent outing despite the pressure.

Maybe the problem is one of perception: the Manning rating scale uses a 105 rating as its Mendoza line and most other QBs have that line around 90 to detemine if it's a good day or bad day.... Of course that might be because he has to perform like that to keep the Ws coming, in light of other team deficiencies. These 93 and 95 rating days are sub-par for him, so maybe that's the basis for the "he has troubles" theme (in addition to the spectacular blowups like SD last year, PITT and NE in the past three playoff losses.)

20
by The Ninjalectual (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 5:38am

Reason why the Cowboys will not beat the Colts: several teams in recent weeks have played the Colts close by dropping isnto coverage and forcing Manning to take short, underneath pases. The Coybows will not use this gameplan. Just a prediction.

21
by Flux (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 7:09am

Having lived in San Diego for most of the last 20 years, and worked at the stadium for half of that time, I can say I'm a Charger fan, and that SD never wins in Denver. Remember like a month ago, when SD went to KC and KC was floundering and you guys were all excited about SD's superior DVOA and etc... and yet every SD fan knows they never play well in KC, and not one of us was surprised when KC played their game of the year and won?

SD plays MUCH worse in Denver than KC. At least in KC they're usually competitive. Most Denver games are like 24-9 catastrophes of uncompetitiveness. Much as I'd enjoy seeing another 40 point effort, I will not be surprised in the least if Denver's defense rediscovers their mojo and wins about 20-9, while LT and Rivers have their worst games of the year.

22
by MikeT (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 9:45am

BTW, I didn't pick against the Colts last week. I said that they would play down to the Bills and suggested that they wouldn't cover. So I was right.

And as someone indicated, I don't just look at DVOA and pick winners based on who is higher. That would be a really dumb way to do things. And my picks don't always reflect Aaron's or the Football Outsiders consensus.

23
by kleph (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 10:07am

alan moore knows the score.

24
by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 10:21am

Somebody's going to have to talk me through that Calla Holmgren/Brandon Jacobs bit.

25
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 11:14am

24: Brandon Jacob's wife is pregnant, and Calla Holmgren is an Ob/Gyn doctor.

26
by Dennis (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 12:08pm

Mile High Stadium was knocked down several years ago. The Broncos have been playing at Invesco Field at Mile High since 2001.

27
by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 12:24pm

"Eric is probably the smartest coach I've ever been around," receiver Laveranues Coles said of coach Mangini. We immediately contacted Steve Spurrier for a reaction. "Laveranues who?" the ol' ball coach asked. 'Nuff said.

Coles went to Florida State (and was kicked off the team for the Dillard's incident, while Peter Warrick was only suspended), not Florida.

28
by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 12:25pm

Re: 27

Unless, of course, you meant the 2003 Redskins, which Spurrier coached. (slaps self on head)

29
by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 12:40pm

#26: I think you missed the part where nobody cares.

30
by admin :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 12:48pm

Regarding Manning and the 3-4, take out your PFP 2006 and read the Colts chapter. Using DVOA to adjust for the strengths of the defenses, Manning's numbers are clearly lower against 3-4 teams. That includes Houston back when they played the 3-4 (played the Colts close in three of four games in 2003-2004) or Cleveland last year (Indy won 13-6 at home, and the Browns weren't starting Bodden at that point). Ned has all the numbers somewhere, since he wrote the chapter.

31
by Curtis Esch (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 1:03pm

I have been a huge Bronco fan for 30 plus years now and can go way back in memory watching the Bronco's and chargers mix it up on the field at old Mile high and new Mile high. Before Schottenheimer ever showed up on the scene in Cleveland or KC, the broncos have owned the Chargers. I think the whole Charger team including the coaching staff suffers from oxygen depletion to the brain when they visit and I don't see this sunday being any different. Sea level California teams just don't fair well in Denver period. By the way, Denver's defense is way better than SD'S offense and that is the reason Denver will win this sunday.

32
by Dennis (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 1:09pm

Excuse me for trying to help Mike get his facts right. It hurts your credibility to talk about a coach's lack of success in a stadium that doesn't exist anymore.

33
by Tally (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 1:14pm

Denver's defense, ranked 12th, is better than SD's offense, ranked 2nd. Right.

As has been mentioned, Denver's red zone defense has been stellar, but they've given up huge yardage up until the opposing offense reaches the red zone. And the Chargers' red zone offense is one of the best in the league, especially with all their weapons. Denver's strength in defense is at least neutralized against SD.

34
by MikeT (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 1:42pm

Dennis,

I always appreciate corrections. Since the current field has the "Mile High" tag on it, and because I was mostly referring to events that happened at the old stadium, I figured it was safe to just say Mile High instead of "Marty Schottenheimer has Mile High Stadium/Invesco Field at Mile High." I probably should have just said Denver, since I try to avoid using the corporate names when I can.

35
by Bronco Jeff (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 1:56pm

I don't disagree with DVOA on this one. I believe that the Chargers on a neutral field would defeat the Broncos. But it is in Denver, and the Chargers are without Merriman and a host of other LBs. Granted, the Broncos also have a couple of holes in their D, but they have more depth.

My biggest beef with this article, as I stated before, was the statement that the Chargers should easily win. It wasn't stated that way, but that was the gist of it. If the Chargers do win, it'll be a close game in which they'll have a few breaks. Otherwise, like the Chargers fan said, SD plays terribly in Denver, and I don't think that'll change this week.

36
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 2:01pm

I have a theory why Manning's offense might tend to have more trouble against the 3-4 than the 4-3, for two reasons. (Note that I say "more trouble", not necessarily, "will have trouble", because the Colts offense is so good it will succeed against most defenses...it's just that it succeeds less against the 3-4). A lot of the potency of the offense derives from (1) the no-huddle that prevents teams from subbing defenders, and (2) the pre-snap reads to be more difficult and hence it is harder to adjust to pass rush pressure.

A lot has been written about the difficulties a 3-4 gives in the pre-snap read, because the fourth rusher in a non-blitz situation can be any of the four LB's. Most 3-4 teams know this and do what Marv Levy and Gregg Easterbrook talk about--they jump around like crazy to confuse Manning's pre-snap chicken dance. So plenty has been said about that and I don't think more needs to be said. But I wanted to talk about the other aspect...the no huddle preventing defensive substitutions.

In the 4-3, you have four designated lineman who specialize in pass rushing, and three LB's that can pass rush but also (as LB's) have to be skilled in coverage. This means that you have only seven defenders on the field who can play pass defense. Conventional wisdom implies that if/when your 4-3 forces the other team into a 3rd and longish, i.e. 3rd and 7 or more, it's a good idea to switch to a nickel defense since you expect a pass. You either replace a lineman with a DB, which gives you a total of 8 potential pass defenders, or replace a LB, which upgrades one of the 7 pass defenders against the pass. But since the Colts don't huddle, you can't sub and have to keep your base D on the field, so you're stuck with fewer skilled pass defenders than you might optimally want.

On the other hand, if you play a 3-4, all four of your LB's have to be good at both pass rushing and coverage. Therefore, not being able to sub on 3rd and long hurts you less, since your base defense by definition has more players on it (8) that are capable of pass defense (especially for short and medium passes, which are the most important on 3rd down) than a base 4-3.

37
by Independent George (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 2:17pm

Another aspect of the 3-4 which I suspect might give the Colts line trouble is the fact that the linemen are generally big, space-eating sorts as opposed to smaller, faster rushers. The Colts line is disciplined and technically sound, but also undersized - so they can match technique with technique, but struggle in a sheer physical battle against the likes of Jamal Williams or Casey Hampton. The 4-3 defenses which seem to give them problems - Baltimore and Jacksonville - had Henderson and Kemoeatu filling those roles. Admittedly, those are both pretty damned good defenses regardless of scheme, but it seems to me that the Colts struggles have as much to do with big, physical linemen as it does with the pre-snap alignments.

38
by Sam! (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 3:06pm

You know, with Terry Cousin healthy (and Scott Starks & Dee Webb playing well in his absence), I wouldn't mind seeing Jax run a 3-3-5 as their base defense against Indy again like they did one game last year. Although with Manning having seen it w/ jax, I guess the novelty wouldn't be there

39
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 3:31pm

MJK, in the "pick your poison" category, 4-3 teams can elect to run a nickel most of the time also, which means a decent running day for Indy, but lower stats for Manning. Not sure what Chi ran two years ago when Indy faced them, but Edge had 209 yards on a day when Chi was determined to limit Manning. He had only 211 yards, but 4 TDs. Jeez, James almost outrushed Manning's passing totals. That's pretty weird. (It was one of his worst rating games in a span of 9 consec games over 100)

40
by Devin (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 3:54pm

Dallas won't beat the Colts unless:

1. Dallas' offensive line is their weak spot, and they'll have to play well in both run and pass plays.

2. Dallas' defense needs to successfully pressure Manning like nobody has done yet this year. Dropping into coverage doesn't stop Manning, only hitting and rushing him does, so Dallas should make many high-risk blitzes to rattle Manning.

3. Manning generally reads blitzes well, so Dallas' defense can't just set up and let Manning read them. The Dallas D needs to keep shifting around unpredictably until the ball is snapped.

41
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:01pm

Mile High Stadium was knocked down several years ago. The Broncos have been playing at Invesco Field at Mile High since 2001.

Foxboro stadium was knocked down a few years ago, and the Patriots now play at Gillette, but everyone still says "Foxboro" (or "Foxborough" if you like--the spelling isn't even consistent within the town!)

Like Mike T, I try to avoid using corporate names when possible. As far as I'm concerned, the Niners play at Candlestick, the A's at the Coliseum, the Patriots at Foxboro, the Broncos at Mile High, and the big concert hall just west of Boston is still "Great Woods" (as opposed to the ridiculous name of "the Tweeter center" which just makes me wonder about Puddy Tats).

42
by MRH (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:09pm

Re Marty and Tony Banks. Wash Post graphic yesterday (see link) showed all 16 qbs who've started for the 'skins since Gibbs I.

Only three starters have had winning records: Jeff Hostetler (2-1), Brad Johnson (17-10), and ... Tony Banks (8-6, under Marty). The Bankenheimers started 0-5 and finished 8-3. It's entirely possible that if Marty hadn't been saddled with Jeff George as a starter at the beginning of the season he could hae worked Banks more in the pre-season and coaxed a 9 or 10 win season out of that team (the last wild card spot went to the 9-7 Bucs). I've always felt that Marty's playoff woes were about half due to his conservatism and half due to the fact that he got a lot out of marginal talent. So he made the playoffs with teams that didn't really merit their spot and/or seedings and consequently disappointed against more desrving teams.

43
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:10pm

Dallas’ defense needs to successfully pressure Manning like nobody has done yet this year. Dropping into coverage doesn’t stop Manning, only hitting and rushing him does, so Dallas should make many high-risk blitzes to rattle Manning.

Even hitting him might not work--he might go an have a career day anyway. Ask the Patriots. Two weeks ago they put more pressure on him than I've seen anyone yet put, and he still shredded them, completing throws no one has any business completing.

I think the reason why the Colts haven't lost yet is that at a certain point, being really good on the offensive side of the ball starts to count more than being really bad on the defensive side of the ball. I.e. there's essentially no difference between a bad defense and a really bad defense, but there is a difference between a good offense and a really good offense. I think this is because the better an offense plays, the more plays the offense sees, so a strong offensive team (versus an average team) tends to reinforce its strength. On the other hand, the better a defense plays, the fewer plays the defense sees, so a strong defensive team (versus an average team) tends to de-emphasize its strength.

44
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:20pm

Devin #40,

I am not contradicting you because I think a lot of what you said is right, but it looks as if you are saying nobody can beat the Colts.

(Regarding your Dal Ol comment, Indy's DL has not exactly been a strong spot this year, BTW)

It seems to all be coming down to Manning even more this year than past years, and he has been delivering--not with mind-numbing stats, but game-controlling mastery. In past years, their 6:22 clock killing drive at the end of the Buff game might have been a 3-minute scoring drive, giving Buff the chance to come back. He now knows that it's sometimes better to crawl and keep the ball for six minutes than score again.

Bucking the DVOA and Guts/Stomps tide, they do look to be the best mainly because of what he is bringing every week. He does seem to have all the answers this year, but I think SD has a good a chance as anybody to beat them because of their explosive O, their potential for ball-control as well, and their nasty D.

Is Dallas one of those multi-shift teams on D? I think the thing to beat him is a team he hasn't played often showing him something they have never used before. And of course they need top personnel. Chi, if their O is playing well, can also do it. Phil Simms, one of the NFL talking heads I like (more than Boomer at least), has an interesting take on it this week on nfl.com (see link at my name, he talks about Chi 1st, then Indy). Basically, he says, if you're not up on Indy by 21 late in the 4th quarter, you should be nervous. Perhaps he overstates it. But maybe not.

45
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:24pm

MJK,
Interesting theory. I may need a few beers to digest it, but it's akin to a runner getting better and more in rhythm between carries 20-30, than in his first 10-20 carries.

Somehow, Manning has also virtually eliminated mistakes from his game. The NE game is a prime example of where he might have thrown two more INTS a few years back forcing the ball into tight corners under the barrage of hits and pressure. But he did not. However, other guys can fumble in this team game, and they almost cost them with Buff. Though I assume he'd have found a way to get another seven if he needed it. Weird.

46
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:28pm

I figure that the way to beat the Colts is to play man coverage, give Manning a ton of looks, blitz almost every down, and hope you force some turnovers. Obviously this game plan only works if you have an aggressive, pass-rush oriented defense and a high-octane offense that can at least come within spitting distance of the Colts.

That Cowboys secondary isn't good enough to do this, so they'll probably play a variation of the zone-blitzing schemes that have failed other teams this year. I see at least 4-5 major plays on Roy Williams and Tony Romo being incapable of keeping up with the ground game they'll try to lean on. I'm going to say that Philly probably has the best chance to take them down, because they can go score-for-score with the Colts as well as pick Manning off a few times.

Just a hunch. Maybe driving by the Linc twice every day scrambles my brains.

47
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:46pm

Bobman,

Manning came close to a second INT against the Patriots, remember. There was an INT in the endzone called back because of a (correctly called, although a bit on the ticky-tack side) illegal contact penalty. Even though the penalty was against the defender who ultimately made the INT, it did not, in my opinion, cause the int or really affect the play--it happened well before the ball was thrown and about 15-20 yards away of where the ball was eventually thrown (and it didn't throw the reciever off the route and cause the INT because the contact pushed the reciever backwards, but the ball was picked off because it was thrown short, not long). It was just a terrible thow and a bad decision by Manning, who was under pressure at the time. I suppose Manning could have seen the flag and guessed that he had a free play, but that would have been kind of risky, too, so still a bad decision (it might have been for OPI). Anyway, Manning got a free one there, and I think they went on to score points on that drive (don't remember for sure). So his stats against the Patriots last week almost were a little less rosy. He still had a heck of a game, but the Pats did get pressure on him and force him into a few mistakes. That might enhance the argument that the 3-4 is more effective against the Colts offense than the 4-3.

48
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:49pm

Philly could do it. They don't scare me as much as SD, but they could.

49
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 4:50pm

MJK,
Thanks. I missed that play and assume it was first half. Damn wife's birthday and all....

50
by morganja (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 5:03pm

But back to what is really important. Fantasy football. Can LT run against this defense in Denver/Enron Mile High at Invesco?

51
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 5:14pm

#46 --

Either your brains are scrambled -- or you work in scheduling for NBC.

52
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 5:47pm

I figure that the way to beat the Colts is to play man coverage, give Manning a ton of looks, blitz almost every down, and hope you force some turnovers.

Why do you think this? Man coverage gives Manning a safe place to throw to in the case of a blitz: past the receiver. At best, the receiver will find a way to make a play on the ball. At worst, it'll be incomplete.

The best way to beat the Colts is to have a defensive line that can get pressure with their front four and have a good secondary. Fake blitzes, or zone blitz, but leave seven in coverage.

The reason Manning beat Denver is because Denver gets no pressure with their front four. The same cannot be said with both the Cowboys and the Eagles.

It's extremely, extremely unlikely that the Colts get out of the next two weeks unbeaten. They face their worst nightmares in the next two weeks - the Eagles because they have one of the best pass rushing front four in the league, and the Cowboys because of the reasons outlined in the article.

53
by Ferg (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 5:52pm

50: I don't know, but I think it's worth pointing out that Denver's defense is ranked 29th against passes to RBs and 22nd against passes to tight ends. Hmm, I wonder if any team has the tools to exploit those matchups.

54
by Kaveman (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 6:56pm

#52: The reason Manning beat Denver is because Denver gets no pressure with their front four. The same cannot be said with both the Cowboys and the Eagles.

Denver's front four haven't been consistent, but they do, in fact, get some pressure. Against the Colts too, there was a good outside pass rush, but Gerard Warren was out injured that game and there wasn't any push down the middle. Check out a replay; at least half a dozen times Manning avoided the outside pass rush easily just by stepping up in the pocket.

It was 34-31. If Warren had played... if pressure had forced one or two incompletions on 3rd down... if Darrent Williams hadn't played so far off... if... if...

55
by Richard (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 7:35pm

I've been a Charger fan all my life. The Chargers are a better team than the Broncos this year. They match up well against them. They should be favored to win this game. I fully expect them to lose because that's just what I've become accustomed to.

56
by Dan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 8:32pm

Another Bronco fan here - Personally I think the game this Sunday will come down to whether the Bronco's offense shows up with some points. I'd imagine the Denver defense can hold the SD offense in (relative) check -- so it boils down to how well the Denver O puts up the points. If they can rediscover the 30+ point performances over the Colts and the Steelers I will be able to celebrate a Bronco win.

I've been a Plummer supporter since he got to Denver, but my confidence has been a little shaken this year. It's against the law to question Shanahan as a Bronco fan, so we're left worrying about Plummer. Where has the explosive O gone?

57
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Thu, 11/16/2006 - 9:00pm

Aaron, thanks for post 30. It looks a lot more authoritative in Outsiders Red than if I was going to say it.

The numbers Aaron mentioned:
Colts Offensive DVOA, 2003-5 Against the 3-4: 21.6%
Against the 4-3: 37.6%

Only in 4 out of 20 games agaist a 3 man front have Indianapolis posted an offensive DVOA greater than 37.6%; for a 4-3 it is 18 out of 31 games (including, says Ned, all of 2004. I mention this because the Indianapolis passing VOA for 2006 and 2004 are similar - 59.8% versus 64.5%).

58
by hector (not verified) :: Fri, 11/17/2006 - 2:37am

41, loved your final graph on corporate names and avoiding them. I completely agree.

The Miami Herald can't see the forest for the trees with Joey Harrington. I dare anyone to watch every short cut snap from the upset at Chicago and give Harrington a high mark for that game. The Dolphins won in spite of Harrington that day, certainly not because of him.

59
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 11/17/2006 - 5:35am

Ilanin (and Aaron and Ned),

Point taken on Indy O vs the 3-4, because the DVOA dropoff from 38-22 is big, but if they had a 22 DVOA this year (their historic performance vs the 3-4), they'd stil be the #2 offense behind SD. Meaning 30 other teams would kill to have that kind of trouble.

So "trouble" seems a bit harsh for a descrpition. "They don't do as well" sounds a bit overly gentle, but more accurate.

(i.e "How's your dad doing? Last time I saw him he was coughing up a lung." "He's... not doing as well this morning, thanks."

60
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 11/17/2006 - 5:37am

D'oh! Sorry for doubling, but I'd love to see the rest of the NFL vs the 3-4 over that time frame. I suspect it's less than Indy's 22 DVOA.

61
by Jerry (not verified) :: Fri, 11/17/2006 - 6:41am

I’d love to see the rest of the NFL vs the 3-4 over that time frame. I suspect it’s less than Indy’s 22 DVOA.

It's like bringing in a righthander to pitch to Albert Pujols - he's still tough to get out, but a righty has a better chance.

The question of league-wide DVOA against the 3-4 and 4-3 is interesting.

62
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 11/17/2006 - 12:01pm

I don't think anyone here was saying that Payton is bad against the 3-4, but the he is worse against the 3-4 that the 4-3. The problem is that even if Indy's offense is still playing better than almost every other offense in the league, unless they're playing their normal ridiculously good offense that suspect defense of their's becomes a real problem.

That's why Dallas has a realistic chance at winning this game.

The way I see it, you beat Philly and Indy in the exact same way. You must stop the big pass play and force them to grind out drives. Philly's offense is just as explosive and Indy's, the difference is that Indy is better at taking advantage of what the defense is giving and grinding out long drives (Philly seems more impatient). Look at the three games where Indy had way more trouble than they should have.

At the Jets, the long was a 41 yarder to Wayne and then a 19 yarder to Harrison. Everything else was 11 yards or less.

Against Tennessee, the long was a 23 yarder to Stokley Everything else was 13 yards or less.

And just last week, Buffalo gave up a 23 yarder to Clark and 19 yarder to Wayne. Everything else was 13 or less.

And that's why Philly has a very realistic chance at beating Indy. Neither of the defenses will be able to stop the other team's offense. But Philly's defense has a whole lot better chance at slowing Indy's offense down just enough for Philly to out-score them.

I'm with Pat on this one (big surprise...Pat's right...again!). I just can't see them escaping the next 2 weeks undefeated. I really hope they destroy Dallas this week. Not only because they're Dallas and I hope they get destroyed every week no matter who they're playing. But because I think Indy is going to lose one of the next 2, but they're not going to lose both of them.

63
by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Fri, 11/17/2006 - 2:30pm

Re: 62-
Right on, dude. If you're an Eagles fan, you root for whoever is playing against the Cowboys, even if it's Lucifer himself. Heck, even if it's the Giants!

64
by Shalimar (not verified) :: Sun, 11/19/2006 - 6:15pm

1st rule of sports betting: Never, ever, ever pick the Chargers in Denver. Without Merriman and Castillo to keep protect the pathetic secondary, this could easily be a blowout if Rivers or LT have bad games. Denver should score frequently, I'm hoping as a Chargers fan that San Diego does too.

65
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 11/20/2006 - 3:17am

55: Occasionally, it feels good to be wrong.

66
by Bolt-Man (not verified) :: Mon, 11/20/2006 - 5:38pm

Best Article ever Written Mike...Now all you Donco fans can eat your crow ...now here's a great shot (which proves that you got it right about Vincent Jackson and putting up his photo)...and Darrent Williams got burnt bad on this play..it's one of my favorites... http://www.denverpost.com/portlet/article/html/imageDisplay.jsp?contentI...