Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Jan 2007

Championship Rundown

Here are Mike Tanier's previews of the two championship games. Once again, we remind you that the AFC Championship is making most people into complete morons, and therefore we have given up on policing the message boards this week. We're sure plenty of people will find plenty to complain about here -- although, to be honest, there really haven't been many bitter Bears and Saints fans around, have there?

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 17 Jan 2007

97 comments, Last at 19 Feb 2013, 5:07am by фотоапараты

Comments

1
by kleph (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:02pm

am i the only person that doesn't care about this stupid debate and just wants to see a good football game?

2
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:08pm

Yes.

3
by The Ninjalectual (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:10pm

FOMBC: the NFC will defeat the AFC in the Super Bowl.

4
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:13pm

3
So that's what the nagging premonition at the back of my head was...

5
by The Ninjalectual (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:15pm

re: 20

So what your wife dated Tom Brady when they were at Michigan, Peyton Manning is clearly the better quarterback.

6
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:24pm

Good job as always. Some nits (minor and major).

The Seattle pass defense was 23rd during the regular season. It's no surprise Good Rex showed up. That's not to say he won't play well against the 22nd ranked pass defense, but it doesn't indicate that he's figured things out.

I know this has been said before, but DVOA for the Ravens-Colts is misleading because the Colts were rewarded for playing the better team.

Watching the Colts-Pats games of years past, I always remember thinking Willie McGinest was going to make the big play.

Oh, and the Saints' weighted DVOA is 10% more than the Bears. I can understand the pick based on HFA, but you state that the Bears are the better team.

7
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:26pm

5,20
Please take that to the appropriate thread. Thank You.

8
by Stephen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:38pm

What's the point of having the playoffs or super bowl if it doesn't decide the best team? We might as well hand the season DVOA champ the lombardi trophy if the Patriots victory counts for nothing and the Chargers are still the better team.

Of course the Brady INT was not "clutch" and pundits who claim the Patriots have "it" annoy me as well. But there is something to be said for staying in a game when you're not hitting on all cylinders, especially against a quality team. The Patriots took advantage of Charger mistakes , minimized the Charger offense and won the game. In San Diego no less. Doesn't that go a long way towards proving that they are the Charger's equal, if not better?

9
by paytonrules (not verified) :: Wed, 01/17/2007 - 11:49pm

You're the first person I've seen pick the Bears all week, even on Chicago radio where they have said, "If both teams play their best game, the Saints obviously win."

So why do I feel even worse?

10
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:04am

"What’s the point of having the playoffs or super bowl if it doesn’t decide the best team?"

Money. It brings in more revenue, and generates more excitement about the league. The increased level of excitement surrounding the league brings in even more money.

11
by Stephen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:09am

RE: 10
That doesn't really have anything to do with the argument. Are the Chargers or Ravens your NFL champs? What is a better way to figure out who the best team is?

12
by billsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:24am

11:

An NFL version of the BCS, obviously.

13
by Mark (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:26am

Can I suggest that commenting on "future" posts has gotten a little stale?

14
by Adam, VA (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:30am

What happened to picking the winning road dog?

15
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:32am

Stephen:

The point of the playoffs isn't to determine which team is the best team. If you wanted to do that, you'd have teams play 7 times against each other, or something like that. Given one data point, any given Sunday, any team can win, and that team isn't always the better team (sometimes not even the better team that day). After all, even the Yankees lose to the Devil Rays now and then.

If you really "just" wanted to name the best team, we would do what the European soccer leagues do - name the team with the best record at the end of the season the league winner.

The point of the playoffs is to determine a champion so that the season can end in a manner that everyone agrees on, and furthermore to do so in an entertaining manner that produces drama, develops rivalries, stories, etc. In particular, the American psyche wouldn't really enjoy just saying "OK, Team With Best Record, you win!" and ending there. The champion doesn't have to be the best team, because they are the champion. As long as every team had a shot to make it to that championship (something the BCS does not provide), few will argue the validity of the champion produced.

16
by hector (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:43am

"Once again, we remind you that the AFC Championship is making most people into complete morons, and therefore we have given up on policing the message boards this week."

I think that's pretty much a slap in the face to your readers, most of whom, IMHO, can discuss this week's games respectfully and intelligently. But I haven't read everything on the boards this week, so maybe I'm missing some of the louts out there.

Nice work on the previews, Mike, and I enjoyed your Audibles this week as well (especially the Philly exit interview).

17
by Pete C (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:45am

Excellent article, except now i'm even more convinced of the colts. That, plus the amount of alcohol to be had during the bears game could lead to very bad things.

As a side note, if belichick wins on sunday i'm going to go out and cut the sleeves off all my shirts. clearly that is the key to success in life

18
by michael (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:53am

But I haven’t read everything on the boards this week, so maybe I’m missing some of the louts out there

I assure you - if you *had*, you'd know exactly what he meant.

And heaven forbid you read the foxblog (shudder) - positively makes me weep for humanity.

19
by Eddo (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:59am

13: I agree [moral indignation]I didn't accidentally respond to a future post initially just to have everyone overplay the joke![/moral indignation].

20
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 1:14am

Good article, Mike. And that's just how I see the Pats/Colts game going down (*sigh*). Then I'll be rooting for the Bears to keep Manning on track to be the 21st century Marino.

21
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 2:38am

#3: Nonono - FOMBC: the NFC will cover. Right now the NFC is a 7 point underdog to the AFC. I believe the AFC's going to win, but if New Orleans makes it to the Super Bowl, they'll keep it closer than 7 points. Chicago, however, that's a different story.

22
by Compucrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 3:40am

I know this site is against Magical thinking and for the most part I agree, but as a non Pats fan living in New England I really wish you'd have picked the Pats.
It just seems like every year everyone bets against the Pats, they rile themselves up with the "disrespect" angle, then kick ass and win the Super Bowl .
Just once I'd like everyone to pick the Pats and be wrong, just so I don't have to spend every season listening to how the Patriots are the greatest team of all time when/if they win/

23
by JFP (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 4:32am

Am I the only one thinking that Pats/Colts won't, and can't, live up to the hype. Someone is going to end up getting blownout.

24
by harry (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 5:03am

I thought this was a fairly crappy article. It was full of the snide know-it-all tone that seems to be infecting FO writers more and more. Does Tanier really have to tell us not once but twice that the Colts and Pats are not the best two teams in the AFC? What's the point? They won, deal with it. I can see a lot of people being upset that LDT isn't around any more, but how many non-Baltimore fans are upset they won't get to see the Ravens play instead of the Colts? 5? The Chargers demonstrated to everyone very clearly that they are a sloppy team with a lot of mental flaws, they did not deserve to move to the next round. And I couldn't let this pass without comment:"At last check, throwing an interception when trailing in the fourth quarter is the exact opposite of clutch."Well, no. It was a 4th down pass - it is smart football to force the ball if you don't see an obvious receiver because an incompletion also results in a turnover. I wouldn't say throwing an INT in that situatiion is clutch, but it is certainly not the exact opposite - the exact opposite would have been taking a sack.

When we ran the one-game DVOA score for Chargers-Patriots at Football Outsiders, the Chargers earned a rating of 71 percent, while the Patriots graded out at negative-25 percent. Boston scribes can talk about resiliency all they want, but the Patriots haven't caught a break this big since the Raiders learned that tuck is a four-letter word. Or maybe DVOA isn't perfect. The Chargers clearly dominated, but not by that much. It wasn't luck that held the Chargers to only 3 TDs despite excellent field position all day. And it wasn't luck that Marty Schottenheimer made a number of very questionable decisions - it was Marty Schottenheimer. Football is a game of strategy as well as physical play, it is not "magic beans thinking" to believe a well prepared coach like Belichick is more likely to make the right decisions in pivotal situations than a coach like Schottenheimer or Reid. I don't think DVOA really takes this into account.

25
by JMO (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 6:08am

#24 sorry to nit pick but im pretty sure if u dominate, you do it by a lot. Dominating not by much is like saying " We really destroyed that team but not by much".

26
by Rick (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 6:17am

I'll say this one last time:

The Pats didn't catch "a break" when the refs correctly interpreted the tuck rule.

27
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 6:19am

23, Or even worse, purely dominated but in a low scoring game--their first playoff meeting was close scoring, but there was no doubt as to the outcome. Just close enough, score-wise, for Colts fans to think "yeah, we got a chance, if only, right now, X happens."

As a Colt fan, I've generally been happiest when pundits pick against my team (especially after last year's mass-media-annointing)--even if they win this week and I then expect a win in the SB, all this pre-emptive talk of a 7 point fave makes me uncomfortable for the SB.

But most people have been declaring the AFCC as the presumptive SB for a few years and it has been true--not so blowout-true as many might expect, but it HAS worked out that way.

Hector, the "discussions" of Lady Luck in the Pats/SD game were a bit overblown.... with numerous conspiracy theories, griping/back-stabbing about incidents in previous years (see: officiating, apparently any game involving Seattle, Indy, NE, Oakland, or Pitt), and plenty interpretations of what luck is and specifically how it relates to fumble recoveries.

28
by harry (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 7:20am

#25, I don't know. "Dominate" is so overused in football that I think it now allows varying degrees of meaning. The Pats clearly "dominated" the Jets the week before but the Jets could still have conceivably won that game with a few breaks. To my mind a 100 percentage point DVOA differential should look more like the Pats-Texans game where the Texans never had a chance in hell of winning - which I would probably call "a stomp", not a "domination."

29
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 8:10am

There's nothing wrong with the Superbowl not deciding who is the best team. The point of the playoffs is that it's possible for any one of twelve teams, whether they're the best or not, to win. That's why it's exciting. It wouldn't be if the 2001 Rams or 2005 Colts were immediately awarded the championship.

30
by Trieu (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 9:54am

The Colts are a better team than the Pats? The Pats had one bad game (which they happened to win) and suddenly they're a worse team than the one with the tremendously bad defensive DVOA over the last half of the season? It would appear that you're letting very recent history skew your judgment, and also letting the obnoxious storylines coming out of Boston and Bristol bias your pick. Brady had a very bad game against the Chargers (God forbid) and suddenly he's a shaky QB? The Colts D is suddenly stout after two good performances?

If you are picking the Colts because of the "Postseason DVOA II" ratings, then you should have also picked the Saints over the Bears.

Go ahead and pick the Colts, but I just wish you have done so for better reasons than these.

31
by Seymour Cassell (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 10:07am

Agreed with 24 that the smug, self-congratulatory tone is making FO less enjoyable to read.

All the "we"s and "us"es get tiring, especially when it's us vs. the "scribes." (Did the thesaurus get stuck on the "scribe" page?)

Long-time football writers for major newspapers are mere scribes dribbling out stupid rhetoric and we know better. All right, enough already.

32
by harry (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 10:54am

Yeah, the smug tone is what bothers me about the whole "of course these aren't the best two teams" theme. Tanier comes off as a snob - let the plebes think this is some sort of "AFC Championship game", we sophisticates with our advanced statistical analysis know better. This is a great web site and DVOA is a fantastic tool for simplifying and comparing the myriad complex interactions and events that make up a football team but let's have a little humility please.

33
by nat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 10:58am

Mike:

When we ran the one-game DVOA score for Chargers-Patriots at Football Outsiders, the Chargers earned a rating of 71 percent, while the Patriots graded out at negative-25 percent.

This really calls for a more detailed analysis.

Most of us know that you can't expect total yards or first downs to track with VOA, because teams with comfortable leads switch to clock-chewing mode and gladly give up yards and first downs in exchange for burning the clock and avoiding big plays.

But that is NOT what happened in San Diego on Sunday. The game was within one score for all but about two minutes in the first half. It was the Patriots who went into clock-chewing mode - electing to run Dillon up the middle once they were in position for the winning field goal.

We also know that fumble recoveries and returns are valued at what happens on average, not on the way the ball bounced that day.

Still - was the lopsided VOA (you should be using VOA, but I suspect it didn't matter much this time) due entirely to the idea that the Chargers deserved to recover two and a half more fumbles than they did? Or have the Chargers come up with an innovative way to score VOA value without dominating at keeping drives alive (+3 first downs, -2 scoring plays) or moving the ball (+10 yards or so, offense+penalties)?

In other words, did San Diego really dominate the game, or did they only dominate in the might-have-been world where they recovered two and a half fumbles?

34
by b-man (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 11:34am

30: Have to agree here. Rex has a decent game and suddeny his 'a' is crowned as an above average QB? Also, NE ended up with a better WDVOA than IND for the regular season. Guess you just throw out all the DVOA analysis in the postseason.

35
by William (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 11:38am

I agree with previous commenters about the smug tone of some of these articles. FO has created kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy in its constant complaints about the jaded Brady-Manning debate and the hype that precedes Pats-Colts. Guess what guys? This is sports. It's an enjoyable release. It's fun to debate. And fans of each team may be "irrational," and maybe our opinions aren't backed up by your site's statistical analysis, but so what? That's what makes us fans. Of course some fans can go overboard (check out the video of the Pats fan on Deadspin for an example), but to tar entire fanbases as yahoos and hacks just because their opinions don't strictly adhere to DVOA is a bit ridiculous. My work days are filled a gravity and condescension that I frankly don't want or need in my football analysis. I enjoy and admire your site as an interesting alternative to football analysis; just not the be-all and end-all. Sorry for that rant, but that's been irking me for awhile, and I just had to get it off my chest.

36
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 11:39am

I disagree with Harry.
If you don't enjoy reading FO's articles, just skip them... It's that simple.
I enjoy reading them while at work :o) and am sure Aaron disagree with MikeT about the AFCC outcome (see the FO Blog).
And, yes, the Pats are the luckiest team in any sports in any era !!!!
To throw an interception while trailing just to recover the subsequent fumble and win !!!
It's maddening !!! In every meaning of the word !!!
(And yes I can use the !!!)

37
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 11:45am

You can't really define domination from the score differential. Look at the Pittsburgh/Jacksonville game. Jacksonville won 9-0, but Pittsburgh was never in that game. Same thing with the Colts/Ravens game.

38
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 11:45am

Still - was the lopsided VOA (you should be using VOA, but I suspect it didn’t matter much this time) due entirely to the idea that the Chargers deserved to recover two and a half more fumbles than they did?

I think part of it is when the fumbles happened. Rivers fumbled when the Chargers were in field goal territory. In some sense, it 'didn't matter' - but the choice to go for it on 4th and 11, rather than kick the field goal, erases the last few defensive and offensive drives, which were all positive for the Chargers. That's poor coaching, but it doesn't diminish what the Chargers did previously. So the fumble really wasn't the bad part there - it was the poor coaching choice.

Then the next fumble (by Parker, on the punt) put the Patriots in field goal range immediately, instead of giving the Chargers good field position.

And then the other major fumble (by McCree) erased a seriously negative play by New England, and put them in great field position.

That's three fumbles (and a bad coaching decision) right there that erased a lot of previous effort by the Chargers to gain field position. And gained a crapload of field position for the Patriots as well.

The VOA for that game will actually be much closer, though - opponent adjustments can push a game apart even when the opponents are closely matched. If you look at the O/D split, the Chargers were 'meh' on offense - +15% DVOA, basically their season average. But their defense was fantastic, at -59%. That's because the Chargers defense shouldn't've been able to hold the Patriots as much as they did.

39
by Pat on the Back (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 11:54am

I liked the article. Added a bit of humor rather than snobbery, in my opinion. As I've noticed from time to time around these parts, there are to things that a lot of posters need to learn to identify:

1. External vs. Internal
2. Sarcasm in the written word

DVOA is a forecasting system. The idea is that the numbers will sometimes ignore or discount the "how this particular game was won" to get a better idea of "will this team's play in this game help them win next week".

The sarcasm thing, well, you are on your own.

40
by b-man (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:01pm

38: It's funny that everyone feels SD would have won the game if McCree has just held on to that fumble. There was still 6.5 minutes left in the game! NE forced a three and out right after the score, who's to say they wouldn't have done that after the fumble? Would Marty have changed his play calling? He seemed hell bent on bucking the conservative moniker and having Rivers throw. Maybe NE forces an interception or fumble. NE semed to be able to move the ball at will for those last two drives. You could hardly say the game would have been over there.

41
by Pat on the Back (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:02pm

And, of course, I apparently need to remember the difference between "to", "two", and "too". Bah!

42
by J.D. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:28pm

The more smug, the better, I say. Let them eat cake.

43
by MWH (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:33pm

You know, I come here to avoid cliche and the repition of conventional wisdom, yet there was an awful lot of that in the Tanier analysis of the Saints-Bears game. Every week the Saints are "soft on run defense" and "succeptible to big plays." Well, they are - but why do they keep winning, regardless? That's what I want to know. As for them being a "trick play offense" - where were those trick plays last week? They didn't run a single reverse or flea-flicker style play last week against the Eagles. Beating up on Fred Thomas is easy, explaining why the Saints win despite Fred Thomas would be enlightening.

44
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:39pm

The Patriots would love to run the ball, force the Colts safeties to creep up, and create some room for their ball-control passing game. But the Colts have closed down the turnstile in the middle of their defense, and the one-two punch of Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney appeared to run out of steam last week.

They've compensated for their one weakness, run defense, at a time when the Patriots have reason to doubt their greatest strength, Brady's precision.

1) The Colts have minimized their greatest weakness by moving Sanders into the box from the first snap of the game. Unless Indy plays completely different than they have the past two weeks (which I doubt because they have been successful and they "do what they do") NE won't need any running success to move the safeties up into the box.

2) Here are the details of NE's rushing offense in the three games prior to the Chargers game:

Jets - 145 yards in 34 carries - 4.3 ypc.
TN - 154 yards on 26 carries - 5.9 ypc
Jax - 86 yards in 20 carries - 4.3 ypc
* totals only include RB carries.

Dillon and Maroney did not have the greatest of games, but don't get too swayed by the fact that NE opted not to run against SD. Actually, if a blitzing CB hadn't made a terrific tackle on Maroney, he would have gotten at least 15 yards on the play that he lost 4, and that came on the heals of a 5 yard run.

3) Going into the games this past week, the defense that was the most similar to Indy's by footballoutsiders own metrics, was the Jets. In fact, they are so similar that it is almost erie.

NYJ Passing DVOA - 5.9% (21)
Indy Passing DVOA - 5.3% (18)

NYJ Rushing DVOA - 16% (32)
Indy Rushing DVOA - 15.6% (31)

Can someone remind me, did Brady play well against the Jets?

45
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:42pm

"And while we think of the Patriots defense as the one built to punish mistakes, the Colts have been more opportunistic, both in recent weeks and in the last meeting with New England."

I'm Sorry, but its way more impressive to shut down the Jets and Chargers offenses than the Ravens and Chiefs offenses.

46
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:47pm

"Buried beneath the rhetoric are some simple truths. The Colts are the better team."

Not according to DVOA. I really think you guys are going to far with the "we can't appear to be a patriots team".

You've now picked against the pats in about 10 straight playoff games (disregarding the jets game)

You picked against them in Jacksonville last year when it was clear they were the better team. You picked against them in indy in 2004, etc.

47
by harry (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 12:55pm

#39, so when Tanier writes a straightforward sentence like "When the Colts and Patriots faced off in 2003 and 2004, they were the two best teams in the AFC, if not the league. This season, neither team can really stake that claim." you interpret that as sarcasm? I think you need to revisit your understanding of that word. Granted, on rereading in daylight I don't find the tone as irksome as I did at 5 am.

48
by Fan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 1:02pm

Finally, an FO writer nails it on the Pats/Chargers and ridiculous media, and also on the fact that demons have nothing to do with this week's game.

However, I wonder why at the end the Colts are stated to be the better team. If you look at the whole year, Pats are 7/8 in O/D DVOA. Colts are 1/30. Also, in the last weeks, Colts struggled on offense both games, Pats only in one.

49
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 1:36pm

40: Persumably, Marty would have been more likely to call running plays when leading by 8 then when tied.
38: I'd like to know what the DVOA split would have looked like if you remove the 4 Merriman-less games from their defensive DVOA.

50
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 1:43pm

46: If you count how NE played last week, thier DVOA is %10 lower than Indy. If you pretend last week didn't happen, thier DVOA is tied. Of course, Indy still gets the home field bonus of about 17%, but NE has played much better on the road than at home for most of the season.

51
by eblack (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 2:33pm

I'm going to have to disagree that the Bears are thrilling... at least to the Bears fans. I'm a 'Hawks fan and I get the jitters when I see Hasslebeck make mistakes (particularly this year). It's not thrilling, it's "big-pit-in-the-stomach" time. I can imagine how they feel everytime Grossman drops back to pass. The sighs you hear are not of people being in awe of his wonderful pass, it's a collective sigh of relief that he didn't blow another game.

A lot of people write how Grossman shows "flashes of brilliance" until he screws up the next time. It's not flashes, he's just got a good arm and his receivers can adjust to the route. If it's not a seam or a post pass, it's not getting into a Bears receiver's hands (at least in the two games I saw of his).

52
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 2:54pm

re:46: If you count how NE played last week, thier DVOA is %10 lower than Indy. If you pretend last week didn’t happen, thier DVOA is tied. Of course, Indy still gets the home field bonus of about 17%, but NE has played much better on the road than at home for most of the season.

In weighted DVOA...which also has the Packers in the top 10 in football. And the raiders not last.

53
by Al 45 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 3:28pm

Ugh, I'm tired of this "If Mcree holds onto the ball, the Chargers win" nonsense.

The Chargers forced 3 turnovers in the game (all interceptions). Two of which resulted in their offense actually gaining possession and taking the field.

The first interception occured in the first half (second quarter). The Chargers proceeded to go 3 and out and took up a grand total of around :54 seconds off the clock.

The second interception they gained 1 first down, ended upt totaling -8 yards on the drive, and took up a grand total of 3:06 off the clock.

Then immediately after the Patriots scored and converted the two point conversion to tie the game the Chargers went 3 and out, giving the ball back to the Patriots.

Sorry, but I don't see any definitive evidence that states that had Mcree held onto the ball that the Chargers would have definitely won.

The reality is that, when put against the wall, the Patriots defense continually stepped up to stop the highest scoring team in the NFL.

Great teams don't go 3 and out in the fourth quarter after they just gave up an 8 point lead with around 4 minutes left in the game.

54
by Darrel Michaud (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 3:36pm

You couldn't come up with more than 4.5 paragraphs on the Saints? They're a gadget offense, and that doesn't work against good Ds. Except for WR Reverse Passes in the Super Bowl and Flea Flickers for 30 yards against the best defense in the league. Besides, it's not like Reggie Bush scored his first rushing touchdown of the year against the #10 defense in DVOA (and #4 in rushing) on an end around. And it's not like the Saints can get by without them at all, except like, last week's game.

The Bears' problems on defense hardly garner a mention. One sentence is devoted to the woes the Bears had stopping Shaun Alexander, after Deuce McAllister posted the highest DPAR of the week against the Eagles. The Bears pass defense is ranked #2, yet they're ranked #24 against #1 WRs. Don't you think that's worth mentioning, considering Marques Colston was, before he was injured, one of the best WRs in the season?

55
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 3:52pm

52: Weighted DVOA doesn't work well for teams that finished the season strong and are now sitting at home, it gives too much weight to that last good game. However, it's a pretty accurate measure of the teams that are still alive. As I noted, however, I think WDVOA is short-changing the Patriots because there offense got beat up by a very good defense that was under-rated by DVOA because of the Merriman suspension.
53: Like I said before, if the Chargers get the ball after that Int, they probably run the ball more, and they got 5+ yards running the ball on 1st and 10 after the Pats tied the game. It's unlikely that the Patriots defense, which was unable to stop LdT all game, would suddenly figure it out.

56
by Cameron (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 4:31pm

Okay, I'm going to look like an idiot because I must be missing something really obvious, but...
The Colts fixed their run defense? Am I reading the DVOA stats correctly? It looks like The Ravens and the Chiefs were ranked 24th and 17th in run offense, respectively, in the 2006 regular season.
Holding a team under 100 rushing yards is nothing to sneeze at, but "fixed" seems like awfully strong language given the performance history of the two teams that they stuffed.

57
by mactbone (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 5:06pm

Just wanted to remind everyone that Mike T is an eagles fan. That is all - continue kvetching.

58
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 5:14pm

#87,

I wasn't claiming any favoritism, I was just pointing out some reasonable info that seems to contradict a few things that he says.

59
by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 5:30pm

In what alternative universe has Brady's precision EVER been the Pats greatest strength? He has never been that accurate a passer.

I know the NE media gush over him like he is a god, but anyone who's actually watched him play over the years without love/lust in their eyes will note that he has accuracy problems far more often than any of the other QBs considered to be elite in today's NFL.

60
by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 5:46pm

#59 That's just so untrue it's absurd. Before this season, nobody threw a more consistently accurate ball than Brady. The reason why the Patriots offense goes (prior to this season) is Brady's accuracy. He puts a short-to-medium pass exactly in the right spot for his Receiver to make a huge RAC. Just for the heck of it, watch the Pate/Eagle Super Bowl when the NFL Network replays it. Almost every one of Brady's passes hit his receivers hands in stride. The difference between Deion Branch and someone like Cedric Wilson over the past few years is Brady's accuracy.

61
by hwc (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 5:57pm

When we ran the one-game DVOA score for Chargers-Patriots at Football Outsiders, the Chargers earned a rating of 71 percent, while the Patriots graded out at negative-25 percent. Boston scribes can talk about resiliency all they want, but the Patriots haven’t caught a break this big since the Raiders learned that tuck is a four-letter word.

I don't know what DVOA has to say on the issue, but my experience says that when a team fails to capitalize on first half opportunities and allows the opponent to hang around and hang around, that team often loses.

To me, the Chargers/Patriots game was a fairly typical playoff matchup between two good teams. The team that makes the fewest mistakes over 60 minutes wins.

I think it's a little to easy to dismiss the challenge facing a wildcard week team travelling 3000 miles for a road game against arguably the strongest regular season team in the NFL. Winning that game, no matter HOW you do it, is an impressive win. Does the Giants SuperBowl win against the Bills K-Gun count for less because it was decided by a missed field goal?

By the same token, I think the Colts' win over the Ravens was equally impressive. That was a horrible matchup on the road against a bye week team for the Colts.

Honestly, I don't see how it's possible to say that the Patriots and the Colts aren't the two best teams in the AFC. Winning road games against bye week teams as strong as the Ravens and Chargers is pretty impressive, regardless of DVOA stats -- heck maybe even more impressive in light of the DVOA stats.

62
by hwc (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 6:14pm

Furthermore...

I don't know who is going to win the Pats/Colts game on Sunday. But, whichever team wins is going to get a tip of the hat from me for a pretty impressive accomplishment.

No way I can say that the winner of that game isn't the best team in the AFC. I'll say it if my Pats win. I'll say it if the hated Colts win.

Look at it this way. Do you think any team in the AFC would want to face either the Colts or the Pats for all the marbles? I'm pretty sure that I know what Billick and Shottenheimer would have to say about that. The Colts and the Pats could have cost those two their jobs this week. I'm pretty sure I know what Mangini and the Reverend Herm would have to say.

63
by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 6:19pm

60,

Brady's completion percentages from 2001-2006:
63.1
62.1
60.2
60.8
63.0
61.8

And of course, this year Brady's accuracy has supposedly suffered because of the inadequacies of his receivers.

I guess I must have some problem with my eyes, because I just don't see the drop off this year.

Reality -- he's never had one of the best completion percentages despite having open receivers and above-average pass pro his whole career. The same Brady you have seen this year making bad throws is the same Brady who has always had a lot of bad throws.

You just have to rub away the fantasy dust and bulls--- that the sports media keeps throwing your way.

64
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 6:25pm

Stan, are you a pats fan?

Hes throwing a lot more short passes this year, and a lot less 15 yarders, so pure completion percentage isnt really a good judge.

If you watch him, you'll see hes been consistenly less accurate. I actually think his recievers are BETTER than they were last year.

65
by b-man (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 6:38pm

63: Considering how he started out this year he must have been very accurate in the second half of the year to get up to 61.8. Throw in that he is breaking in almost a complete new set of receivers (some that came in mid-season) and it is pretty remarkable.64: There have been some great catches by receivers this year as well. Dave Thomas touchdown comes to mind, and some shoe-string catches by Faulk. There have also been many drops and deflections (I'm looking at you Ben Watson), more than years past. I chalk it up to growing pains with a new offense. Sometimes it looks like he might be hurt but a couple of weeks ago, I remember Brady gets nailed but then throws a rope to Graham the next play. I don't know an injury that would cause accuracy problems without taking away that power as well.

66
by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 6:57pm

64,

Rich -- no. I don't see every Pats game.

I'm just saying that he has had accuracy issues his whole career. Even when he completes passes, he often throws them to the wrong side of the receiver. Sure, he has games where he gets hot, his pass pro is solid and his receivers are open where he gets on a roll. But most games, he regularly misses open people. In 2003, he was worse in the AFC title game than Peyton (the Colt DBs just couldn't hold on). Wasn't the Miami debacle in 2004? That ranked with the worst of Bad Rex's efforts this year. I remember the Oakland game in 2005 where he opened 7-10 for big yardage and a score. Except that he all day and wide open receivers on the 3 passes he missed. Elite NFL QBs shouldn't miss 3 of 10 wide open receivers when they have all day to throw.

And his average ypa numbers are 6.88, 6.26, 6.87, 7.79, 7.75, and 6.84 from 2001-06. So I don't see the shorter pass argument holding much weight.

In my opinion, Pats fans are so full of "the greatest QB ever" stuff that they have forgotten what he was really like in years past. I.e., "he has 3 rings. He's the best. If he's the best, how come he's not playing like the best this year? Must be because he's not playing as well as in the past."

No -- he was never as good as people now make him out to have been. This year's Tom may well get another ring. And four rings will make him like Bradshaw (who wasn't all that good despite what people want to "remember" now that he is in the hall with his four rings). But the rings can't retroactively make him better than he really played.

67
by MRH (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 6:59pm

Looking back at this year's Colts-Pats game, I notice a couple of things:

Colts never trailed.
Colts twice led by two scores.
Vinatieri missed 2 FG (37, 46) and Gostowski missed 1 (36).
Brady threw 4 INTs.
Three were in/on the edge of scoring range.
Manning thre one INT (in scoring range).
IND had the ball on the NE31 after the other Brady INT and lost yardage, then punted.
IND had the ball at the end of the game wover a minute less and knelt down.

The yardage (offensive, return, and penalty) was pretty close. 1st downs were equal. The Pats ran on the Colts, the Colts threw on the Pats.

The Pats lost because Brady threw 4 INTs. He gave up 2 more scoring opportunities than Manning (one more if you blame Manning for taking the sack that took them out of FG range). Both teams lost points because of missed FGs.

The two biggest "clutch" players, Brady and Vinatieri, didn't play well.

What is different this time, that would lead me (Chiefs fan) to believe the Pats will win? Especially with HFA going the other way?

68
by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 7:06pm

MRH, (65)

Pats lost by 7 when Brady was horrible and Manning played the best game any QB played this year. The Pats were just inches from half a dozen sacks. Do you really expect that Manning will play as well and Brady as poorly this weekend? After that game, the Colts got worse as the season progressed and the Pats got better.

Pats are better in the D-line, at LB, and at DB. Their coverage and return teams are better in special teams. They are better in the O-line, at TE, and at RB. They have a much better coach.

Colts are better at WR (although not as deep) and at QB. That's it.

Talent advantage and coaching advantage clearly goes to NE. How much is home field worth? How much better do you think Peyton is?

69
by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 7:07pm

oops, shoulda been 67

70
by Waverly (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 7:07pm

Enough about Brady already.

I thought the article was well written -- without significant smugness.

But I do advise FO writers to beware any onset of smugness, lest they lose their freshness and approach the works of better known writers that are often disparaged on this site.

71
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 7:11pm

"And his average ypa numbers are 6.88, 6.26, 6.87, 7.79, 7.75, and 6.84 from 2001-06. So I don’t see the shorter pass argument holding much weight."

A drop of 1 YPA from 2005 to 2006 foesnt indicate shorter passes?

72
by hwc (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 7:26pm

What is different this time, that would lead me (Chiefs fan) to believe the Pats will win? Especially with HFA going the other way?

I don't know if the Pats can win on Sunday.

Having said that, the Pats offense (especially the passing game and pass protection) improved considerably over the course of the season. In particular, the Pats really stepped up their offensive production against Cover 2 speed rushing defenses.

Having TE Daniel Graham and RG Stephen Neil active for the game this time helps the Pats offense signficantly. The run game struggled when both were out of the lineup in November.

If they have three tipped ball INTs and a total of 5 turnovers, the Pats will probably lose again. However, most Pats games do not include three tipped ball interceptions and a total of five turnovers.

73
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 8:50pm

Here are Brady's completion percentages this year (from NFL.com):

Reg season:
Sep:
47.8
51.7
56.4

Oct:
57.7
55.2
66.7
67.4

Nov:
57.1
66.7
64.5
66.7

Dec:
71.1
48.0
69.6
71.8
62.5

74
by bsr (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 9:22pm

#66 - Stan, you are viewing him threw your manning homer glasses. Those three misses that you reference in the Oakland game were 40 yard bombs down field. Nobody, not even the ahem "great" Peyton are accurate throwing that far down the field. As for pulling bad games here and there, the same can be done for any QB, including Manning. The thing is most of Mannings come in the playoffs, where he consistently has accuracy issues especially this year. And lets not forget how many times he has been throwing on the wrong side of the reciever this post season. Collinsworth was nice enough to put the blame on Harrison but there is an equal chance that it was your boy's fault. The fact of the matter is that Brady isn't as inaccurate as you make him out to be and Manning isn't the god that you would like to believe. The only difference is that Brady doesn't have the benefit of playing with a Harrison, Wayne and Clark that consistently make highlight real catches. People want to make a big deal about all of these great catches Patriots receivers made this year, and I honestly struggle to come up with more then one or two. Sure there is the occasional diving catch, but those are fairly routine and are nothing compared to the one handed two tapping grabs (See Indy vs. Pats Harrison TD) that elite WRs like Wayne and Harrison make on a regular basis.

75
by Carlos (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 9:27pm

Is stan a troll?

Not a Pats fan here. I've probably seen 4-6 Pats games / yr the last several years, and (prior to this year) have been completely blown away at how accurate he was. If you're used to watching NFC East QBs and then you tune in to a Pats game, you just have one of those "V-8" moments where you go, "Oh... Right! That's what an NFL quarterback is supposed to look like!"

76
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 10:28pm

I think a lot of the problem with Brady-bashers from NE (or Indy for that matter) is that they're spoiled.

To my eye, Brady has regressed this year (probably due to recievers, but also maybe with some head problems) from a great QB to an above average QB. Try randomly selecting 10 of the starting 32 QB's, and compare their career numbers to Brady's. I bet he's above average in comp %, QB rating, and maybe ypa (I'm too lazy to do the math right now myself, and at work to boot). But you get used to seeing him like he played at his best--we tend to remember that, and then we see his worst and think the sky is falling.

77
by Pete C (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 10:42pm

I have pretty much come to the conclusion that I need to throw all conventional logic out the window when looking at this game. I'm analyzing schedules, and Indy owns some incredibly impressive wins (at NE, at DEN, at BALT, and cincy/philly at home). Then you realize they lost 4 of 7 to end the regular season, two of which were simply atrocious! As for New England, I'm not sure they have one impressive win on their schedule outside of trouncing the Bengals. They may have beat SD and Chi, but looked awful doing such. Then you realize that NE is 7-1 on road and owns late season wins over HOU, Jax and Ten, all of whom defeated INDY! To make matters worse, you look up and see NE's receivers are Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney. how can you pick

78
by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 11:16pm

74,

Wrong. Simply not true.

72,

Ahh, the ever-present asterisk for Mr. Brady -- the tipped ball interception. The asterisk that no other QB gets. Every single one of Brady's INTs against the Colts was a badly thrown ball (including the overthrow over the middle at the goal line, the pass right at the def lineman he saw directly in front of him, and the ball to Faulk that was at least 3 feet too high on a 8 yard pass). But somehow a poor throw is magically changed into simply bad luck if only someone can get a finger on it. In 2005, when Brady was terrible against the Chiefs and threw a bunch of picks, the NE writers fell all over themselves trying to excuse the "deflections". One of those "deflections" was thrown right at a KC DB. The ball hit him in the hands and bounced into the hands of another KC DB who intercepted. Not Brady's fault! It was "deflected".

71,
Rich -- this year's numbers are right in line with his numbers for the first 3 years. And the idea that the Patriots weren't throwing lots of short passes this year is just absurd. The Pats throw more screen passes, hitches and hooks than anyone. And have done so for years -- ever since Brady's been there.

79
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/18/2007 - 11:21pm

And if stan says it's not true (leaving aside that it's a bald assertion with absolutely nothing, as usual, to back it up) then by God (I mean, by Manning) nobody here better dispute it.

80
by bsr (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 12:25am

Stan,

Thats pretty funny considering you seem to forgive every bad Manning pass and intereception much the same way. Here is a quote from you after the Indy-KC game:

I thought he played really well on Saturday. He played against another defense that was setup for the exclusive purpose of stopping him. No other QB this weekend faced anything remotely like what KC did to try to stop him. He hit 79% of his passes (30-38) despite multiple drops and some obvious pattern screwups. For example, the Colts had to settle for FG on the first drive because the slot receiver failed to clear quickly enough on the double in which left the LB underneath Harrison). That was obvious. Manning had to throw to Marvin’s back hip and hope for a great catch.

If, as Collinsworth speculated, the two Ty Law INTs were Marvin’s fault (there was clearly a communication screwup regardless), then Manning had great numbers against a defense set up for the sole purpose of stopping him. He made a number of outstanding throws. And he clearly managed the game extremely well in getting the RBs into the right holes when the run was there for the taking.

So the KC defense was set up to defend against Peyton even though every team does this. You mention these "drops" and "wrong patterns" but fail to mention all the great catches and bad passes he threw, of which there were many. You go so far as to even claim that he PURPOSELY threw behind Harrison. Priceless. You also downplay his interceptions in much the same way you accuse others of doing for Brady. You even go so far as to say that Manning is responsible for finding holes for the RB. Please don't pretend to have some objective view of the situation.

81
by Purds (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 3:31am

I hate to be so obvious and unhelpful at the same time, but the Colts/Pats teams are so close in talent, I think the deciding factor will be the same factor it's been in the last 6 games they have played:
The first team to score wins.

2006: INDY 7-0, Indy wins
2005: INDY 7-0, Indy wins
2004 Playoffs: NE 3-0, NE wins
2004 season: NE 3-0, NE wins
2003 Playoffs: NE 7-0, NE wins
2003 season: NE 3-0, NE wins

The first team to score seems to then set the tempo, and while some of these games have been close, and some blowouts, neither has won unless they scored first.

82
by Richard (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 4:31am

40, 48: Schottenheimer doesn't call the plays. Cam Cameron calls the plays.

83
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 7:03am

Purds,
I don't know about the tempo thing. Thinking back to the two reg season games in 03 and 04. Edge fumbling on the goal line in one, getting stuffed in the other. Manning's 11th hour sack and the subsequent FG miss. A goal line pick for Manning. Bethel Johnson returning one kick for a TD and another about 70 yards.

These seemed to me to be games of big moments, momentum shifts. In 03 (IIRC) Brady threw 2 4tq qtr picks that Manning turned into TDs to bring the Colts back. I think that kills whatever tempo the first score establishes.

In fact, I posit that it's the opposite: whoever scores last wins. Often works that way in close games. (Of course if given the opportunity to get the first points, I would certainly not say, "No thanks, you take them, we'll catch up later on.")

Speaking of scoring at the end of a game, hey, I wonder what Mike Vanderjagt's golf handicap is these days. Just curious.

84
by Al 45 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 11:31am

Stan:
Re: 66

In 2003, he was worse in the AFC title game than Peyton (the Colt DBs just couldn’t hold on).

Uh, I guess you don't care to let facts get in the way of your argument:

2003 AFC Championship game

Brady: 22/37, 237 yards 6.4ypc, 1 td, 1 int, RAT 76.1

Manning: 23/47, 237 yards, 5.0ypc, 1 td, 4 int, RAT 35.5

I guess in your homerism world of Manning love, somehow those numbers really say Manning was better. Please.

I'm beginning to think that one of the posters who suggested you're a troll may be correct.

85
by bsr (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 11:34am

I think Purds makes a good point. The thing about both of these teams is that they are good front runners. And both offenses are such that it is unlikely that either will be easy to shut down. Once the first team scores the pressure on the other team to not fall behind and score immediately will come quickly. While either of these teams can erase a 10 point lead quickly they can also both expand that lead just as easily.

Honestly, I don't know how to read this game as Indy has turned into a bizarro team. Will there defense continue to be stout? Who knows. Will Peyton continue to struggle? I doubt it but who knows.

86
by dryheat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 11:35am

I think this game's going to come down to the guy who played for the Patriots the last couple of years. It's only fitting. Let me set the scene:

The Colts, down by 8, are driving in the final minutes. With 4 seconds left, Dallas Clark shakes coverage and scores on a twenty-yard catch and run.

The Colts line up for the two point conversion, down 28-26. Manning fakes the stretch play and tosses a swing pass to DAN KLECKO, who is met by James Sanders and is tackled a foot short of the Goal Line.

87
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 1:34pm

84: You really need to consider the defenses those teams were facing. Manning was going against the best pass defense in the NFL that year. Brady, well, he wasn't.

88
by Eric P (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 4:25pm

87) Only if YOU consider that Manning was throwing to the Colts receivers and Brady, well, he wasn't.

89
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 6:39pm

re:78
"Rich — this year’s numbers are right in line with his numbers for the first 3 years. And the idea that the Patriots weren’t throwing lots of short passes this year is just absurd. The Pats throw more screen passes, hitches and hooks than anyone. And have done so for years — ever since Brady’s been there."

So Brady regressing to his rookie year stats isnt a sign that hes having problems? Hes dropped off drastically from the last two years.

I wasnt saying they weren't throwing lots of short passes. I'm saying that theyre throwing EVEN more this year than they ever have.

90
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 6:46pm

88: Only if you'll consider that Brady had the Patriots line protecting him, and Manning, well, didn't.
Maybe we should just agree that the Patriots and Colts are different teams, and trying to compare two players on the teams by looking at their respective statistics in one game is misguided at best.

91
by Eric P (not verified) :: Fri, 01/19/2007 - 8:34pm

I don't know where you got the idea that the Patriots offensive line is all that in pass protection. Probably from not watching the Patriots play very much. Manning and the Colts already lead the league in giving up the fewest sacks. What more do you want?

Are you seriously going to argue that the Colts overall offensive personell besides Manning isn't better than the Patriot's besides Brady? Go ahead, but you aren't going to convince me.

92
by B (not verified) :: Sat, 01/20/2007 - 3:46am

Yea, 19 games a season isn't enough games to really understand how good the Pats O-line is. I'd watch preseason games too, but the preseason sucks.
Anyways, getting back to what I'm actually aruging, the 2003 Patriots TEAM had more talent than the 2003 Colts did, even if you exclude Brady and Manning. I'll even break it down for you.
Pats O-line: Better
Colts Receivers: Better
Colts backs: Better
Pats D-line: Better
Pats linebackers: Better
Pats secondary: Better
Pats special teams: Better.

93
by Eric P (not verified) :: Sat, 01/20/2007 - 10:51am

So, you're not a Pats fan but you watch every game they play every season? Color me sceptical.

You can say the Pats OL is better, but you really can't prove it, since virtually every objective measure of an OLs performance would surely rank them higher. Even subjectively, most would agree that both of their tackles are better, especially at pass protection, center is a push at best. Only at guard could I see the Pat's players as better. You've conceeded that the Colts receivers and backs are better. So how can you possibly site any part of Manning's supporting cast and say he would be better if he only had Brady's?

Those are just the facts. Manning may have played against a tougher defense, but he did so with a superior offensive supporting cast.

94
by Eric P (not verified) :: Sat, 01/20/2007 - 3:08pm

In the first sentence of the second paragraph, by them I mean the Colts OL.

95
by B (not verified) :: Sat, 01/20/2007 - 11:05pm

93: Why do you assume I'm not a Patriots fan? As for how I know the Colts O-line isn't very good, I saw them get destroyed by the Steelers and Chargers last year. Teams the Patriots O-line was able to handle in previous playoff games. I'm not counting the games where the Patriots O-line had significant injuries. I'll agree that the Colts (Non QB) offensive skill players as a whole are better than the Patriots, but the Patriots had the better o-line.

96
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97
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