Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Jan 2007

Divisional Round Rundown

In this week's Rundown, we visit the Pigskin Lyceum, reminisce about the Colts' glory days in Baltimore, and learn how the Bears plan to bore their way into the Super Bowl. Plus crab cakes, Tony Soprano, Steve Miller, and one last foray into Tony Romo's personal life.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 09 Jan 2007

70 comments, Last at 13 Jan 2007, 5:19pm by TomC

Comments

1
by Vince (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 11:16pm

John Madden once wrote about attending a coaching seminar run by Vince Lombardi. Lombardi proceeded to talk about the Packer Sweep -- how to run it, when to run it, how to use it against various defenses -- for something like 10 hours. The entire seminar was devoted to that one play.

2
by Count (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 11:46pm

"Rex Grossman also spent last week stressing the basics: shoe tying, tooth brushing, and big-boy cup sipping. Lovie Smith kept his team sharp by scrimmaging his star-studded first-team offense against his star-crossed first string offense. Cornerback Nathan Vasher emerged as the team's bye-week reception leader."

Do you mean first team defense against first string offense?

3
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Tue, 01/09/2007 - 11:50pm

I think just about everybody is picking the home teams this weakend, the question is which team is most likely to pull an upset. I say the Patriots.

And as for Colts/Ravens, everything the Colts are great at the Ravens are equally great at defending, and everything the Colts suck at the Ravens are pretty good at exploiting.
Colts are 0-4 in their most recent road games, take away the fast track and crowd noise and their defense has been burned consistently and thouroughly.
At this point the forecast calls for warm temperature and rain all weekend in Baltimore, that would be interesting.

And if remember correctly, Bart Scott's favorite movie is "Of Mice and Men."

4
by billsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:02am

"In NFL circles, only Tom Brady owns more films, but most of Brady's favorite titles didn't receive a theatrical release."

That GQ feature just won't go away, will it?

5
by theory (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:04am

#3

The Ravens running game is not good at exploiting anything, and Freeney got the better of Ogden last time they met.

The only thing that would truly be an upset this weekend would be the Seahawks winning - I don't think any of the other 3 road times coming away with a victory would be all that surprising.

6
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:21am

re: 5
The Ravens running game is built towards running up the middle, the only team that pounds it at C/G as much as the Ravens is the Jaguars (67%). Indy is horrible at defending runs between the tackles, but is strong at defending runs outside the ends, but the Ravens hardly ever run there.
Freeney may have got the better of Ogden last time, but this is a different year. Ravens O-line is 1st in adjusted sack rate, Colts D-line is 25th. McNair will have all day to throw.

7
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:34am

A little disappointed in the paucity of jokes in the Ravens/Colts (then again, when MT's figuratively kneeing Manning in the 'nads, I get uppity, so I might as well take it straight and shut my yap, no?)

Jonnyblazin, I am not sure what to make of Indy, much like Jax. Good D efforts and big wins, all at home, vs playoff caliber teams like Philly, Cin, and KC in the second half of the season. Then road wilting with 4 losses, one of them a total embarrassment. Which is not Colts football if the previous three years are any measure--last year they were 7-1 on the road and over three years, up to the recent 4-game losing streak, they have the NFL's best road record. Then again, they also had the NFL's best reg season record,and look where that got them so far.....

If you're looking for streaks, McNair is 0-5 in his last 5 vs Indy and Balt is 0-3 in their last 3. That's all pretty useless as well.

I guess what I am saying is ignore the road losses recently and focus on the matchups, the lines, the schemes. KC got better pressure on PM than I liked and even though he took only 1 sack and dumped off the ball a lot successfully, it doesn't bode too well. But hell, if those guys in blue (whoever they were last week) remember how to tackle from week to week, they might bail out the offense again. Jamal is no Larry. Then again, whoever runs KC's offense is clearly no Billick. And in a low-scoring tight contest where field position is of paramount importance, both teams have good clutch kickers (Vinatieri was kicking my car's transmission just last week), Balt has clearly superior coverage units, but Indy may have the better return man with Sams injured.

I dunno, I just dunno. I would not be surprised to see it go either way. I wonder if the old Baltimore Colts mug my folks got for me when they visited Canton about 30 years ago (yes, I still have it) will explode during halftime....

8
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:46am

#3 I agree with your view of upsets.

#6 Woah, you can measure sack rates pretty well, but not pressure rates with any reliable, objectivie accuracy. Indy's line gets very good pressure--keep in mind how rarely they are passed on. Freeney recently said in comments I read in the Indy Star that he leads the league in pressures. Well, he hasn't got too much else to talk about, so I'd take it with a grain of salt, but based on the games I've seen, he may have a point.

I've only seen a handful of their games this year, but each time there are more than a handful of those "missed him by that much" moments that make me scream Cowher-like at the TV. He's usually good for one or two solid abuses of Ogden per game, but I would not say he "owns him" by any means. But if Heap is kept in to help block, it will not be a good passing day for McNair.

You know how they say sacks (like turnovers and TDs) come in bunches? Well, when you are only passed against 20 times a game (because of your abysmal run D), those bunches are fewer and farther between. McNair is not as mobile as he once was and Indy has historically sacked him plenty (of course some of that was because he WAS mobile and a risk taker and probably tried to break for it when he shouldn't have. They also historically sack McNabb and Vick a bunch as well. Not Vince Young so much... so far.)

Running up the gut? Ask LJ about that. Yes, all season long Indy has sucked there. But last week it was actually a strength. Will it continue? Don't know. But I think if Jamal tries to break outside the speed guys get him, so he better hope for success up the middle.

9
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:18am

I know this is loathsome and horrible and the timing is terrible, but looking at the weak links in defenses and Pro Bowl receivers facing them, does Samari Rolle = Darrent Williams this weekend?

Denver was on a major defensive high in week 8, allowing historically low point totals, at home (a tough place to play), and Manning and Wayne connected over and over for 10 passes, 138 yards, 3 TDS. Now zone-D vs man-D is different, but if he has time to find a weak link, PM usually does.

10
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:20am

I don't know what to make of Ravens-Colts. As a Ravens fan, I'm nervous, because I think there are two NFL teams the Ravens don't match up well against--the Bengals and the Colts--because those teams have both outstanding QBs and a deep WR corps.

The biggest advantages for the Ravens, in descending order:

1. coming off a bye is a HUGE advantage;
2. Baltimore is a VERY tough place to play for a road team; and
3. the Ravens' defense absolutely kicks ass.

This weekend promises some of the best football of the year. Can't wait.

11
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:30am

I really wouldn't be that surprised if the Seahawks won. They are a pretty crappy team, but the Bears have not been playing good football over the last Month. And if the Vikings secondary can stop Grossman, so can the Seahawks.

12
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:19am

#10
Looking at it from the other sideline, I pretty much agree, though I'd move #3 up to #1, having flubbed a bye week last year. And (for any team other than Indy), is Balt worse than playing at Gillette, Mile High, Arrowhead? I never had that impression, but never paid much attention to it either. The Colts travel well, excluding the past 2 months, so I usually ignore the home/away stuff. Now for Indy, playing in Balt is a different story, at least for the over-40 fan base.

I hope I enjoy the game more than you do, but expect it to be pretty good.

Just read something weird: as head coaches, Billick is 0-4 vs Dungy. These dumb streaks are just mind-numbingly stupid.

Is it Saturday yet? Damn.

13
by Polaris (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 8:56am

#11

Shhh!!!! I want to keep that a suprise. :)

Fact is though that lately Seattle is playing better football than Chicago and that's what matters in the playoffs.

-Polaris

14
by Paulo Sanchotene, Brazil (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 9:33am

Temperatue in Baltimore right now: 30°F. The problem is that the weather will become hotter everyday until Sunday (temperatures forcasted between 55°F and 66°F). On Monday, it starts to get colder again! (source: http://weather.com). I don't know what Colts fan did, but worked...

15
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:02am

Tanier echoes my sentiments regarding the Eagles/Saints contest. It could even go so far as to be a blowout on their behalf. But if the Birds can somehow pull it out, I think they'll be the favorite in the NFC Champs game.

16
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:42am

I really don't have anything to add to the conversation right now, but I just wanted to say that this is probably my favorite weekend of football all year. It doesn't really get better than the Divisional round. Theoretically, next weekend should be even better football, and the SuperBowl is a circus event like none other, but this weekend we get 2 good games both days. And I've always been a quantity over quality kinda guy (at least when there isn't a tremendous dropoff in the quality department).

17
by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:47am

Re 15 - My thoughts exactly. Of course I'd be thrilled if the Eagles win, the Seahawks also somehow win and the NFC Championship game is hosted at the Linc. But it's been a great and completely unexpected ride so far, so I can't complain if the ride stops in New Orleans.

GO EAGLES!!!!

17
by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:47am

I just realized that Ty Law is the hpynotoad. Don't look at him!

Re 11:
Right, we'll take the last three meaningless games that Chicago played and compare them to a team fighting for a playoff birth with SF and STL. Bears haven't been lighting it up, but they haven't been trying and they still won two of their meaningless games.

19
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:48am

In NFL circles, only Tom Brady owns more films, but most of Brady’s favorite titles didn’t receive a theatrical release.

I didn't read the GQ article, so the only thing that popped in my mind as I read that was the "Cupboard of Patrick's Love" from the first season of Coupling.

20
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:56am

Re: 12

Bobman, I think the problem the Colts had (and the Bears have this year) is that they had an overwhelming lead in the conference and clinched HFA too early. One of the most difficult things for a team, and a coach, to do is to execute a soft landing for the last few meaningless games. The pressure is on the coaches to rest their star players and avoid injuries.

The net result quite often is the team loses its competitive edge. We're talking about people, not machines. It's really hard to regain the focus once it's been lost, and with a one-and-done format, that spells early playoffs exit.

21
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:32pm

20: So the Colts are the Eloi and the Pats (for example) are the Morlocks?

22
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:33pm

#20

The Bears slide began in week 9 or 10, before they clinched HFA. The only signs of life we've seen from Chicago since then was maybe weeks 14 and/or 15. I still do agree with you, early playoff exit, but I don't think it had to do with HFA at all. They certainly didn't rest their star players...Grossman may have decided to take a rest in their game against Green Bay, but he wasn't rested by the coaches until he had already blown the game.

Chicago hasn't had a competitive edge since their blowout win in week 8.

23
by Polaris (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:37pm

#18

Sorry Guy, but historically these "meaningless" games are predictive of future results. As smashmouth indicates, it's hard for a team to 'turn it on' after coasting a month.

Indy had that problem and it cost them. So did Seattle and Chicago. Only one of these teams managed to play through it.

-Polaris

24
by Grim Jim (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 12:54pm

RE: 13
Not according to weighted DVOA. Or any subjective standard that makes sense either. THe Bears haven't been playing well recently but with the exception of the meaningless Packers game have been winning, the same can't really be said of the Seahawks.

25
by Polaris (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:07pm

#13

Au Contraire. Seattle's DVOA while not great has been on an upward trend and above 0% for the past three games.

The Bears can not say the same. The bears also have not been winning (just ask the Packers) and had to pull out an OT win AT HOME against Tampa Bay.

Do you really want me to pull out the stats again. Fact is Seattle has objectively been playing better than Chicago lately.

-Polaris

26
by Polaris (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:10pm

Grim Jim,

Seattle beat Dallas by ALL objective measures. Seattle beat Tampa Bay by ALL objective measures (can't say that about Chicago and Tampa Bay). Seattle did lose to San-Diego but barely and only on the scoreboard.

Also Chicago didn't consider the Packer game to be meaningless and Lovie certainly didn't sit his starters.

NEXT!

-Polaris

27
by Polaris (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:15pm

Sorry to post three times in a row, but I need to add this.

I wouldn't trust weighted DVOA for playoff predictions and this might be part of the 'exotic' phenomena I alluded to in another thread.

The weighted DVOA accounts for the entire season, and for the playoffs that might not be the best measure.

It seems to me and IMX that the DVOA for the past three games or so AND the trend-line for the past five is a better indicator of playoff success in a one-and-done format. Just saying.

-Polaris

28
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:17pm

Polaris -

I think the argument is over your statement that Seattle is playing "better football" than Chicago as of late, not over the fact that Seattle has been improving, albeit in very small amounts while Chicago has been sliding. Seattle has lost three of their last four, but their losses haven't been as bad as their previous losses, so they have improved but they still haven't been playing as well as Chicago.

29
by Bob Cook (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:18pm

Samari Rolle = Darrent Williams?

That's what Jake Delhomme did when Carolina beat the Ravens in Baltimore earlier this year. The first half was almost nothing but passes to the right side -- something like 15 of his first 20 passes were to that side (including his early INT).

Then once he got the Ravens covering that direction, Delhomme hit bombs on the left side and over the middle. He finished with 360-or-so yards.

Then again, when Cincinnati beat the Ravens -- in Paul Brown stadium -- Carson Palmer kept hitting short pass after short pass over the middle, which was the open part of the field, before setting up for the flea-flicker that won the game.

Denver, meanwhile, didn't have much of an offense, but used Tatum Bell running off the tackles to try to open the field.

Interestingly, in their losses to Denver and Carolina, the Ravens got two turnovers early, but couldn't convert.

So that tells me for the Colts to win:

1. The offense must identify the weak spot early and exploit it often, jabbing like a boxer in the early rounds. More than likely, that will be passing -- just about nobody (except Bell, a little bit) can succeed running against the Ravens. That gap could come from Rolle, or it could come by Manning identifying the open space when Suggs and Thomas rush him. The slant routes to Harrison could kill Baltimore if it's too aggressive.

2. It shouldn't panic if there's an early turnover -- at least as long as the Colts defense can keep the game within a touchdown. Billick is 48-1 in games his teams lead by 14 points or more. (Granted most teams win in that situation, but the Ravens are nearly impossible to come back against, though Tennessee came close.)

3. After jabbing, the Colts have to strike over the top, preferably not to Ed Reed's side. Hopefully while catching one or both outside linebackers rushing.

4. The defense has to keep tackling like it did last week.

30
by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:21pm

Re 26:
The starters played half the game - just like preseason. You can talk about trending, but if you start out at -14 DVOA then it's going to take a lot to reach the Bears' 13. Anyway, the sheer dominance from the first meeting points towards the Bears being a better team and their performance over the rest of the season certainly looked better than Seattle's.

31
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:23pm

RE:30
"The starters played half the game - just like preseason"

Yeah, and they were down 23-0 at the end of that half.

32
by Polaris (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:26pm

Doug,

Sorry but I disagree. Seattle has won 2 of her last three. Chicago has also won 2 of her last three.

Seattle has improved over the past five games while chicago has regressed.

Not only that, but Chicago did NOT play the GB game like a preseason game (I watched the game). The starters weren't pulled because of rest. They were pulled because they SUCKED! (Pardon my french)

Also look at the stat lines and common opponents during this period of time (tampa bay esp). Seattle has in fact objectively been playing better ball AND has been improving week to week.

Hint: If Chicago played San Diego at home, they lose by more than 3 (see New England).

-Polaris

33
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 1:36pm

Right, Seattle has won two of it's last three. But they've also won two of their last five, which doesn't sound quite as good.

And my point stands - even though Seattle has improved slightly, while Chicago has decreased slightly, that doesn't mean that Seattle can beat Chicago.

34
by DWL (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:38pm

Seattle may be regressing as well.

35
by IDon\'tUnderstand (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:47pm

I understand that Grossman has been downright awful in some games this year. He's also been very good in about 8 games. Why does everyone just dismiss the chance of him having a good game? He's probably more likely to have a good game than bad, honestly. The Seatle secondary is awful and he tends to bounce back from his 'trainrex' games. I guess we'll see on Sunday.

36
by Polaris (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:49pm

#33

Doug,

Disagree. For starts, any team in the NFC can beat any other team in the NFC. That should just be a given...it's why they play the games.

Look at Chicago's last five games and the trend lines and look at Seattle's last five and the trend lines. If you do along with the single game DVOA for the past three games, Seattle has a very good chance at beating Chicago....better than most of you think.

I said some time ago that Seattle had a very good chance at beating San Diego too and I was right. True, San Diego did win, on one play with 0:37 on the clock in a game where Seattle shut L.T. down (no one else did that). In fact, I am willing to bet hard currency that Belicheck of the Pats is looking over that game film in Seattle carefully.

-Polaris

37
by Polaris (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:53pm

DWL,

That stats suggest that Seattle is improving rather than regressing.

#35 What you say about Grossman is true, but it implies inconsistancy. Admittedly Hasselbeck has also been inconsistat, but not to this degree. When you factor in the playoff pressure AND the fact that Rex hasn't played for two weeks, and I'd say there's a good chance that bad-Rex shows up....but there are never any guarantees in this game.

-Polaris

P.S. It's expected to snow in Chicago which helps Seattle as well.

38
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:57pm

Chicago's last good game was the loss to NE, which was the last time both starting corners were healthy.

You cannot overestimate how bad it is to have Devin Hester playing significant minutes on defense. Add that to Ricky Manning's ineptitude anywhere other than the slot, and you get TB and DET overcoming double-digit deficits against a usually great D.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a Bears homer and I'm worried, but that team that got lit up by TB, DET, and GB will not be the one taking the field against Seattle.

39
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 2:59pm

Polaris

Click on my name, it links to my site...it's a trend analysis site, so you should be able to figure it out.

I do think Seattle has a great shot at winning the game, depending on what Grossman does. Like #35, it's kind of a "wait and see" thing...Doug Drinen just did a great article on Pro-Football-Reference.com about how wild Grossman's fluctuations have been. I also remember an FO article about how Grossman had been playing much better against inferior opponents.

I'm right with you on a lot of this, but I dont' think it's right to say that Seattle has been playing better than Chicago as of late. They've both stunk, it's a matter of who will stink worse on Sunday.

40
by IDon'tUnderstand (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:03pm

#38: This cannot be underestimated. Hester's play on defense was horrible and coincides with the poor defensive play.

I only mentioned the possibility of Grossman having a good game because I haven't really seen in mentioned anywhere. It pretty much seems like everyone thinks the best he can do is middle of the road and I'm not sure that's true. He's had very few middle of the road type performances.

41
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:30pm

#40

I have no idea what to expect from the Bears' O v. the Hawks D in this game. Normally, I'd expect Seattle to stack the line and dare Rex to throw, but with their secondary injuries, that may not be a good idea.

Rex is at his best when he has time to throw the deep ball. He's very spotty at short and intermediate throws. So maybe the Hawks will play off the receivers, inviting the the short routes and then try to jump them. Forcing early turnovers will silence the crowd (except for the boobirds) and cause the return of TrainRex.

Any thoughts from the X and O types?

42
by IDon\'tUnderstand (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:35pm

#41 Judging from what I hear the weather is going to be like, I'm not sure throwing deep is going to be an option. 20mph winds from the N will make conditions in Soldier Field unpredictable. I think that the Bears might institute a Orton-esque gameplan with these weather conditions. At least I hope they do. They didn't for the Vikings game and I think we all saw how that turned out. No QB was going to have success throwing the ball in that wind yet the Bears continually tried to throw it, and deep.

43
by Not saying (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 3:58pm

Re: 35/40

The reason is, as Pat has pointed out many times, that Grossman's good games have all come against bad defenses. Against good defenses (and some bad ones) he just doesn't play very well.

Re: 25
#13

Au Contraire.

Can I just say that I find it great that you don't mind arguing with yourself?

44
by asg (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:03pm

THANK YOU for correctly spelling "gelled". Now if we can just pound into the heads of all these idiot sportswriters that it's good when offenses, players, etc., get ON TRACK, and not "untracked", two of my sports journalism pet peeves will be disposed of.

Thank you.

45
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:31pm

#44

I'd email it to them, but I'm out with a wrist.

46
by Jordy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:42pm

Gore references (outside of Frank) are to football columns as nose hair is to minestrone.

47
by IDon\'tUnderstand (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 4:56pm

43: That's not entirely true. He had a 101 QB rating against Buffalo which is ranked 6th in the NFL against the pass according to DVOA. The Giants were 13th (105.7 Qb rating) and the Packers are 4th (98.6 Rating). He may have done a majority of his damage against bottom feeders but he did have some successful games against better pass defenses.

Also, even if it were true that he only plays well against bad defenses, the possibility of a good game this weekend should be addressed. The Seahawks rank 23rd against the pass and are starting guys off the street.

I guess I'm saying that the Rex hate around has reached epic proportions. People are acting like this guy is incapable of having a good game which isn't true.

48
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:09pm

#47: Actually, all of those pass defenses improved significantly over the year. In the early half of the year, the Packers, Giants, and Buffalo were all pretty poor passing defenses.

You can really see that versus the Packers.

49
by DWL (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:09pm

Regressing, when used as a statsitical term, refers to moving towards the mean; hence, Seattle may indeed be regressing as well.

50
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:10pm

Oh, but you are right that Good Rex is coming around this weekend. And if NO beats Philly, Good Rex might even stick around to the Super Bowl.

Evil Rex is back for the Super Bowl, though.

51
by IDon\\\'tUnderstand (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:14pm

48: Yeah, after I wrote that I figured that might be the case.

Also, I do doubt that Good Rex will be around this weekend with the reported weather. I just hope we don't see a trainrex.

52
by dbt (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:49pm

Dear Polaris:

I find your insights fascinating and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Thanks.

53
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 6:18pm

re: 29
The blueprints you gave for beating the Ravens D I think are pretty accurate, but I'm not sure the Colts can duplicate them.

The Ravens are the only team with negative DVOA for all types of recievers, which tells me the Ravens vary their weak spot very effectively (ever see Born Invincible? Kind of like that).

The Bengals offense is the Ravens worst matchup, but even the game you mentioned they only scored 13 points. What separates the Bengals and Colts is that the Bengals have a power running game (a bruising O-line, they run often between the tackles) that the Ravens have to respect and keep the LBs close to the middle of the field, opening up the secondary for Chad, Housh, and Henry. The Colts have a finesse running game (they have the 3rd most running plays outside the ends in the NFL) , and due to the Ravens speed on D, I don't think they are scared at all of the stretch play, so the Ravens can afford to play their LBs more to the outside in coverage. Gregg and Ngata should be able to hold their own on the inside.

I thought watching the Carolina game that a lot of the passing success was due to Delhomme just chucking the ball up along the sidelines (esp. on 3rd down) and having their recievers 'outmuscle' (or commit PI) against the Ravens DBs. Then there were 2 big plays, one where Rolle just stunk it up and one where Ed Reed failed to help Rolle out in the middle vs Smith. Rolle has improved, and the secondary has been communicating much better recently so I don't expect any long bombs, and Indy doesn't have physical recievers at all.

The Denver game was 6-3, a defensive struggle, and BAL's D just got tired in Mile High Stadium because of offensive ineptitude, which hasn't reared its ugly head since Fassel was canned.

54
by Tom (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 7:05pm

I think a lot of people are downplaying the injuries the Bears have had on defense. Ogunleye missed two games, and probably wasn't %100 maybe a week off will help that. Tillman was missing, and he is very important to both the passing a running defense. Tank Johnson missed time because of legal troubles.

With all those players coming in healthier, you might see a much improved defense over the past few weeks.

And what I wouldn't give to make Mike Brown 5 years younger.

55
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 7:08pm

54: Depends on how important Harris really is.

56
by TomG (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 7:10pm

Re: 12

Over the last several years, the Ravens and the Broncos are essentially tied for the best home records in the NFL

57
by Jake (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 3:03am

The Seahawks are just physically incapable of beating the Bears? This is pretty much the same group of guys that went to the Super Bowl last year. It's fair to say that the numbers they've put up this year indicate that they should be underdogs, but I think "physically incapable of winning" takes it a little too far.

I noticed the analysis of the Hawks last year before their games was that they couldn't hope to beat their playoff opponents... after the games, the teams that they beat were patsies that anybody could have taken down. I'm looking forward to seeing the same analyses continue this year.

58
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 12:06pm

53 - that's true so far as it goes, but the problem with predicting how Colts games are going to go this year is that there is just nothing else like their passing attack. The Colts' passing DVOA (56.7%)is as far ahead of the Chargers (#2, 26.2%) as the Chargers are ahead of the 18th-ranked Jets. Baltimore has negative DVOA against all types of recievers, true, though it is "only" -7% against #1s, which hardly makes a dent in Harrison's DVOA of 28.9%

Everything we've seen so far suggests that the Ravens should be able to stop the Colts...but if the Colts play up to their regular season form (always an issue, of course), there's no way to know. Which is why they play the games, of course. Now if only I actually had a way to watch it...

59
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 12:58pm

#57: What analysis were you reading? Everywhere I read last year had the Hawks easily beating their opponents.

Aaron in particular picked Seattle in both games. The comments from the first one (WAS-SEA) were:

But after the wounded Redskins managed just 120 yards against Tampa Bay, it is hard to see them scoring enough points to overcome the Seattle offensive juggernaut, playing in front of an excited home crowd that hasn’t seen a playoff win in 21 years.

Might want to try a different tactic, there.

60
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 6:47pm

#29
Bob C, Dungy has a similar stat to Billick's record when ahead by 14--in fact I think this year is the first time his teams have lost in 50+/- games in that category. I saw it on a TV graphic, which limits the number of games it might have been--I think Tenn was the only one they lost in that category this year. Of course Dungy usually had a killer D at his disposal, but a killer O can work to that advantage as well.

61
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 7:18pm

60 - I have this suspicion that most storied coaches have a similar stat. Bill Cowher, for example, set a 112-1-1 mark when up by 11 points or more. That may be an extreme case, but that an overwhleming majority of NFL teams win once they're ahead by more than a touchdown and a field goal isn't terribly suprising.

62
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 1:27am

#47... In that game the Giants were playing without their top 3 DEs and top 3 OLBs. Plus, they lost their best CB right before halftime. I wouldn't put too much stock in that Grossman performance.

63
by Ben (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 1:30am

re:56 Going back to 2001 (picked purely because thats how far the NFL.com standings go back) the Colts, Ravens, and Broncos are tied for number of home wins. I didn't check to see if anybody else had more, however.

64
by centrifuge (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 2:55am

61: I'm gonna miss that stat.

*tear*

65
by Paulo Sanchotene, Brazil (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 8:45am

Colts, Eagles, Patriots and Seahawks. Who is likely to win away and play the Championship Game? That the home teams are favorite everybody knows, but let's see who could be this weekend surprise. I bet on Eagles (damn!) and Patriots.

66
by stan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 3:27pm

58,

It is all about protection. The colts, with just enough pass pro, can put up huge numbers. With a little less, they are shut down.

They torch the Broncos in the playoffs when they get just enough time. Steelers get better pressure and it all falls apart last year.

It's almost an all or nothing thing. If there is enough to be effective at all, they are the most efficient pass game there has ever been. But if there isn't, they are no different than any other team which can't protect the QB.

67
by PantsB (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 3:41pm

"At Pigskin Lyceum, Professor Belichick would teach Exploiting an Offense's Biggest Weakness...."

Isn't this exactly wrong? Shouldn't it be "Taking away an Offense's Biggest Strength..."? They've dropped in coverage against Manning, taken away the Rams precision, stuffed the box against the Steelers, stuffed the box against the Panthers (Delhomme still almost beat them over the top)......

68
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 4:32pm

67 Delholme only almost beat them over the top because every member of the starting secondary got hurt before the half.

You're right though, they take away the strenght, and make you use your weakness, not the other way around.

69
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 5:40pm

#67: How you "Exploit an Offense's Biggest Weakness" is by "Taking Away Their Biggest Strength".

In Bill Belichick's mind, at least.

70
by TomC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 5:19pm

re: #13, 18, 23, 24, et al.

DVOA, last 4 games of the season:

Seattle: -60%, 0%, 2%, 5%.

Chicago: 80%, 2%, -5%, -80%

I see no evidence at all that Seattle has been playing better.