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» Scramble for the Ball: The DVOA Schism

Mike and Tom try to figure out what kind of secret sauce Arizona is feeding the media to sit at the top of the power rankings and in the middle of our DVOA rankings.

13 Jan 2006

NFC Second Round Preview

by Aaron Schatz, with additional analysis by Michael David Smith

This week, four teams will fight it out for a place in the NFL's "No Brady or Manning Championship Game." Do you like defense and hate offense? Well, then, the NFC playoffs are clearly for you -- as long as you go to the bathroom or raid the refrigerator whenever Seattle has the ball.

For those who may be visiting this site for the first time to read this preview, some explanations for our statistics. DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) breaks down each play of the season and compares it to the NFL average based on situation and opponent. You'll find it explained further here. Since DVOA measures ability to score, a negative VOA indicates a better defense and worse offense, and a positive DVOA indicates a better offense and worse defense.

Each team is listed with DVOA for offense and defense, total along with rush and pass, and rank among the 32 teams in parentheses. (If the DVOA values are difficult to understand, it is easy to just look at the ranks.) Red zone DVOA is also listed. These numbers are all regular season only.

WEI DVOA is WEIGHTED DVOA, which is based on a formula which drops the value of games early in the season to get a better idea of how teams are playing now (explained here). This is the same formula used in this week's FOXSports.com power rankings, which means that it includes last week's playoff games but does not include portions of meaningless Week 17 games for Seattle and Chicago.

SPECIAL TEAMS numbers are different; they represent value in points of extra field position gained compared to NFL average. Field goal rating represents points scored compared to average kicker at same distances. All special teams numbers are adjusted by weather and altitude; the total is then translated into DVOA so it can be compared to offense and defense.

Each team also gets a chart showing their performance this year, game-by-game, according to total DVOA. In addition to a line showing each game, another line shows the team's trend for the season, using a third-power polynomial trendline. That's fancy talk for "the curve shifts direction once or twice." Note that even though the chart appears in the section for when each team has the ball, it represents total performance, not just offense. While all the games are on the charts, the trendlines do not include Week 17 for Seattle or Chicago.

In past years, these preview articles have also served as the in-game discussion threads for playoff games. This year, we've created separate discussion threads for Saturday and Sunday on our open discussion threads page. 

Washington at Seattle



Redskins on Offense
  WAS OFF SEA DEF
DVOA 6.1% (12) -1.0% (18)
WEI
DVOA
-0.6% (14) -3.1% (15)
PASS 8.3% (10) 10.0% (25)
RUSH 4.2% (9) -14.9% (7)
RED
ZONE
-5.3% (15) -24.5% (6)


Seahawks on Offense
  SEA OFF WAS DEF
DVOA 26.4% (2) -15.5% (2)
WEI
DVOA
23.4% (5) -23.8% (2)
PASS 33.8% (4) -14.8% (7)
RUSH 19.7% (3) -16.3% (5)
RED
ZONE
74.0% (1) -36.2% (3)


Special Teams
  WAS SEA
DVOA 1.0% (14) 0.9% (15)
WAS kickoff -3.2 (25) -4.2 (22)
SEA kickoff 2.8 (11) 10.7 (6)
WAS punts 19.9 (2) -14.2 (24)
SEA punts -15.7 (28) 8.6 (19)
FG/XP 1.8 (18) 3.9 (14)

During the game, please join the discussion in the Saturday Second Round Discussion Thread.

You also may want to read this week's Too Deep Zone about the Seattle offensive line and this week's Every Play Counts about Washington's front seven.

It's been quite a ride for the Washington Redskins. Six weeks ago they were 5-6 and seemingly done for the season. Six wins later, they are headed to Seattle, hoping to knock off the NFC's number one seed.

But all those hard-fought games have taken their toll on the health of the Washington players. Numerous starters on both offense and defense are either out of action or playing hurt. And the Seattle Seahawks are "not only healthy, they're almost pristine," according to our injury reporter Will Carroll. The well-rested Seahawks wait at home, ready to avenge their 20-17 loss in Week 4 -- a game where Seattle kicker Josh Brown missed a last-minute field goal to win the game, and the Seahawks never saw the ball in overtime.

WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL

Washington kept that game close by converting 13 of 18 third-down opportunities, a 72 percent rate. On the winning drive in overtime, Washington converted two third-and-10s and a third-and-9.

Don't expect that to happen again: this was both the best third-down conversion rate for Washington in any game this year, and the worst third-down conversion rate for the Seattle defense. Washington only converted half its third downs in two other games, and Seattle allowed an opponent to convert half its third downs only one other time -- in Week 17, with the starting defense on the bench.

The Washington offense has been dominated this season by Santana Moss, who had 1,483 receiving yards during the season while no other Washington wide receiver had more than 217. Moss has been tough to stop because the offensive scheme uses motion and multiple-receiver formations to prevent double coverage. The only other Washington receiver of note is H-back Chris Cooley, with 774 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.

For Moss and Cooley to gain yardage, however, Brunell has to find them, and he's looked terrible since re-injuring his knee in the penultimate game of the regular season. Last week, Brunell only threw to Cooley twice, and while he threw to Moss six times, four were incomplete. The Seattle pass rush, which led the league in sacks and ranked sixth in adjusted sack rate, will make his job even tougher. The Washington offensive line is playing 43-year-old Ray Brown at right guard, and he began to show his age against Tampa Bay -- particularly on stunts, when his lack of quickness was apparent. Left tackle Chris Samuels is also hurting, though he will play despite a knee injury.

If Brunell struggles, the offensive load falls on the shoulders of running back Clinton Portis. But Portis is also banged up, with two shoulders and his wrist hurting. Injuries put him on the sidelines during important parts of last week's game, and Will Carroll's contacts say Portis has even reported "losing the feeling in his arms." The Seattle defense is stronger against the run than the pass -- in fact, it is number one in adjusted line yards, but slightly lower in DVOA because it gives up some long runs.

Portis gains the most yardage when he runs around right end. That's where the Tampa Bay defense was weakest -- but it is also where the Seattle defense is strongest, ranked second in the league according to adjusted line yards. You probably don't know the name LeRoy Hill, but you will after Portis runs into him a few times. He's the other rookie linebacker who starts for the Seahawks, alongside the heralded Lofa Tatupu.

WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL

Seattle's offense starts on the ground, with 2005 MVP Shaun Alexander running behind a line that includes two Pro Bowlers. The Seahawks excel no matter where and when they run: they are the top team in converting carries on third-and-short, and they are second in the percentage of their yards gained over 10 yards. The latter is more important in this game, because Washington, despite being strong against the run overall, is the league's worst team at preventing long runs. You can guarantee that Shaun Alexander will break at least one huge run. (In the first game, he had a 34-yarder and a 17-yarder.)

Seattle's passing game is just as good, led by crafty and accurate quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. With the addition of veteran Joe Jurevicius and the promotion of Bobby Engram to the starting lineup, Hasselbeck no longer is stuck watching his receivers drop his perfectly placed throws. Last year Seattle wideouts caught just 56 percent of passes; this year, that number is 66 percent. And Seattle's offensive line will fight off the Washington pass rush much better than Tampa Bay could.

Seattle's offense dominated the NFC without its number one receiver, Darrell Jackson. Jackson injured his knee against Washington and missed the next nine games, but he's back healthy. The same can't be said for Washington's defense. Top cornerback Shawn Springs missed the last two games with a groin injury, but will try to play. Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin has a sore shoulder. Defensive end Renaldo Wynn is out after breaking his arm against Tampa Bay.

Washington's defense is above average against every kind of receiver except number two receivers. The first game between these teams provides an example, as Bobby Engram set season highs in catches (9) and yards (106). The Seahawks don't often go to three- or four-receiver sets, but with all their receivers healthy and the Washington secondary banged up, they might want to consider it.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Josh Brown missed two 47-yard field goals when these teams first played, but he's actually one of the better long-distance kickers in the league, hitting 5-of-7 field goals this year between 50 and 55 yards. He was also very good at kickoffs this year, but Washington was strong on kickoff returns. (Meanwhile, Seattle was poor at kickoff returns, and Washington was poor at kicking off.)

Washington would seem to have an advantage when punting, as Seattle was 24th in punt returns and the Redskins were second in field position gained from net punting. Derrick Frost doesn't kick it far, but he kicks it high, and the Redskins get great coverage. On the other hand, Frost also shanks it every so often, with horrible punts like last week's 14-yarder and the seven-yard punt he launched from his own two-yard line when he was on Cleveland last year.

OUTLOOK

If Washington was at full strength, this would be an intriguing matchup between powerful offense and powerful defense. 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.

Carolina at Chicago



Panthers on Offense
  CAR OFF CHI DEF
DVOA -5.7% (18) -24.6% (1)
WEI
DVOA
0.5% (13) -27.5% (1)
PASS 7.7% (11) -32.8% (1)
RUSH -17.6% (29) -14.9% (6)
RED
ZONE
10.4% (10) -55.4% (1)


Bears on Offense
  CHI OFF CAR DEF
DVOA -18.0% (29) -14.8% (4)
WEI
DVOA
-12.5% (24) -22.4% (3)
PASS -33.9% (30) -17.6% (3)
RUSH -4.1% (14) -11.3% (12)
RED
ZONE
-12.2% (17) -22.5% (8)


Special Teams
  CAR CHI
DVOA 3.8% (7) 0.4% (18)
CAR kickoff 12.5 (3) -2.2 (18)
CHI kickoff -8.2 (26) 8.9 (8)
CAR punts 18.1 (3) -7.0 (16)
CHI punts -5.6 (15) 11.2 (10)
FG/XP 4.4 (13) -8.7 (32)

During the game, please join the discussion in the Sunday Second Round Discussion Thread.

You also may want to read Any Given Sunday's original review of the first Chicago-Carolina game.

When the Bears topped the Panthers in Week 11, they announced to the football world that their stifling defense and their 7-3 record were for real. Now the Panthers are back, and they are red hot. In the last two weeks, Carolina outscored the Falcons and Giants by a combined 67-11 and outgained them by a combined 395 yards. They picked off four interceptions and caused five fumbles, not turning the ball over themselves a single time.

Can Carolina use this momentum to overcome the problems they had in their first visit to Chicago?

WHEN THE PANTHERS HAVE THE BALL

For most of the year, Carolina's offense has consisted of one player: wide receiver Steve Smith, who led the league in receiving yards and touchdowns. Chicago's solution to the problem posed by Smith was to let him have his yards, while completely shutting down everything else.

On eight of Smith's receptions, he gained seven yards or fewer, and only one of those was good for a first down. The Panthers offense had become so futile that they simply threw Smith short passes and screens in the desperate hope that he could single-handedly create a big play.

When the Bears got an early led, the Panthers abandoned the ground game, running just four times in the second half. Chicago defensive ends Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye embarrassed Panthers tackles Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton and ended up with a five sacks between them. Brown and Ogunleye both have very good first steps when rushing around an opposing tackle, whereas Gross and Wharton have more success when they're able to engage in a sustained block and overpower their opponent. In the rematch, look for Panthers tight end Michael Gaines, a 280-pound blocking specialist, to help out on double-teams.

Carolina has finally had a running game recently, with DeShaun Foster gaining over 130 yards in three of his last six games. But this week he's not facing the porous Atlanta defense or a Giants defense missing its top four linebackers. Remove their meaningless final game, and the Bears allowed just 3.7 yards per carry to opposing running backs.

WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL

But while you can question the improvement of the Carolina offense against a bad defense and an injured one, it is hard to question the improvement of the Carolina defense that has shut down two of the league's best running backs in successive weeks. Tiki Barber and Warrick Dunn each ran for over 1,400 yards this season. Against the Panthers, they combined for on 66 yards on 22 carries.

Carolina also led the league in preventing success on short-yardage runs, while the Bears converted just 55 percent of these carries, 28th in the league.

Don't be surprised if second-string running back Adrian Peterson has more success against Carolina than starter Thomas Jones. Peterson looked tremendous when he got on the field for one series the first time these teams met, with 37 yards on just four carries.

The Panthers already ranked third in pass defense DVOA for the season, so this improvement by the run defense makes them the stingiest defense this side of, well, the Bears. And the quarterback they face, Rex Grossman, is one of the least-experienced quarterbacks to ever start a playoff game. He has just seven career starts.

We know that Chicago's passing game was completely impotent with rookie Kyle Orton at the helm, squandering all the great field position provided by the defense. Does Grossman improve things? He seemed to bring a spark when he entered at halftime against Atlanta, but he's played a total of six quarters this season, so it is impossible to gauge his influence. Our best estimate is based on previous years. In bits of playing time over the last two seasons, Grossman was a replacement-level quarterback, and since Orton's 2005 season was worth roughly 39 points worse than replacement level according to our calculations, Grossman should be worth about a field goal per game.

Offensive success is often decided by what happens on third down, but that is especially true in this game. DVOA ranks the Carolina defense sixth on first down, first on second down, but 25th on third downs. Chicago's track record doesn't suggest they can take advantage of this, since the Bears ranked 28th in offensive DVOA on third down. But third down is when you bring in your multiple-receiver packages, and Carolina is a top five defense against starting receivers but 20th against slot receivers. If any Chicago receiver makes a big play in this game, it is likely to be the little-used speedster Bernard Berrian.

SPECIAL TEAMS

A clear advantage here for Carolina. The Bears rank last in field goals above average because Doug Brien was so poor early in the year, but rookie Robbie Gould would still be just 23rd if ranked by himself. Gould has hit just two of seven field goal tries above 40 yards, and has yet to try a field goal of 50 yards or more. The Bears defense may rival great defenses of the past, but those teams had great field goal kickers, so that the team could still put three points on the board when the offense inevitably stalled out after being given good field position. The Bears don't have that luxury -- they need to get the ball at least to the 25-yard line to feel comfortable.

OUTLOOK

Carolina's defense is playing better now than it was a few weeks ago, so this will be a defensive battle, probably decided by a timely turnover or the lucky bounce of a fumble. When the game-changing break goes your way, you want the best field position possible, and a field goal kicker you can trust. Special teams rarely decide a postseason game, but this could be the exception, and that means Carolina has the best chance of the four road teams to pull an upset victory this weekend.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 13 Jan 2006

65 comments, Last at 16 Jan 2006, 10:20am by posy

Comments

1
by WesM (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 2:18pm

Not a lot of content here, but:

Look at that Panther's trend line! Wow.
(It's also interesting that even with week 17's removal, the Bears are the only team trending down.)

2
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 2:28pm

Yeah, the more I look at it, the more I see Bears/Panthers coming down to the bounce of a ball, or which kicker has the worst of it. It just struck me as silly the way people were overrating Carolina's offensive performance against Atlanta and New York. I do think the Panthers are going to ask a lot more of their QB when deep in their own territory, which could lead to their demise.

3
by spenceKarl (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 2:46pm

Aaron, the WEI_DVOAs seem off to me. Well for Washington and Carolina anyways. Are you sure they include last week's playoff games? Because the values are much different than those you posted in yesterday's Playoff Power Rankings article...Also, you have Carolina and Chicago both listed with a (1) ranking for WEI_DVOA Defense.

4
by Clod (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 3:12pm

You heard it here first:

Carolina 33
Chicago 31

With every single prognosticator saying 6-3 it has to be a shootout right?

Gen-

5
by admin :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 3:18pm

Yes, the weighted DVOA are now fixed. And some spelling errors. I've never understood why people take such glee in point out spelling errors. Yes, we know we are human.

6
by jUSTIN (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 3:33pm

A playoff team is a balnced team. Carolina right now is playing beyond their expectations of the 2003 march to the big game. balanced on both offense and defense. The last Chi-Carolina game, carolina should have stayed on the bus. After the 6 game streak they were over confident and under estimated their opponent. We're going to come to play Sunday, and we will settle the score.

7
by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 3:52pm

It is interesting to note that at the end of the year Carolina was and up and down team until they beat up the Falcons and followed it up with a big win over NYG. Both teams have had five games where they played worse than their last game - discounting Chicago's meaningless Minn. game.

If special teams are going to win it I don't think the Bears are going to do all that horrible. Bobby "Fumbler McGee" Wade was finally cut after dropping the ball nine times and the Bears have someone who will actually catch the ball and secure it on punts. Maybe Azumah will show some of the stuff he had before the neck injury in preseason, but hopefully he only has one opportunity to show his moves.

8
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 4:15pm

Azumah won't be returning kicks for the Bears. Former Arena League star Rasheid Davis will handle kickoffs, and he did say something to the effect of "I'll have to take the first one all the way, because they'll only kick it once."

Oh, and Robbie Gould hit a 52-yarder in the MIN game, but it was wiped out by holding.

9
by JonL (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 4:16pm

Your Washington-Seattle breakdown doesn't factor in the Redskins' swagger.

10
by Daniel (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 4:23pm

I expect to see a lot of people eat crow when Washington wins. Yea thers hurt, but Seattle hasn't played in a meaningfull game in a month. Also in a coaching matchup between Joe Gibbs and Mike Holmgren I think we can all see who's got the edge.

11
by MRH (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 4:29pm

Re #10 - last year, PHI and ATL hadn't played meaningful games in at least as long as SEA this year, and both those teams won in the divisional round.

12
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 4:33pm

(Genuflect)

Playing in meaningful games is overrated compared to playing in meaningless games. I'll take the meaningless game instead of the one where half my players get injured.

13
by Daniel (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 4:34pm

Re #11 Yea but last year PHI only had to play the constantly undercoached Vikings and ATL got the inept Rams.

14
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 4:34pm

Chances that the NFC preview will garner more than 20 posts before the AFC Preview goes up: 10%
Chances that with a similar 2 hours of hang time the AFC Preview will garner more than 50 posts: 75%
Chances that in those two hours someone at the AFC Preview (most likely an NFC fan) will whine about how it's always all about the Patriots: 100%

15
by Mikey (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 4:38pm

Isn't it almost always true that the #1 seed hasn't played a meaningful game in a month going into the divisionals?

Yet the top seed is 16-4 in the divisional round over the last ten years.

The rustiness angle gets dragged out every year. Doesn't seem like there's much to it.

16
by HLF (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 4:39pm

(genuflect)

I like the Bears (and the Seachickens) in a rout(s). We'll see.

17
by Smeghead (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 4:58pm

14: Disrespected Falcons home for the playoffs: priceless.

18
by admin :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 5:04pm

I'm busy writing a New York Times article about the Indianapolis defense and the AFC preview will go up when that's done. We're all sick of the AFC anyway. Yay, NFC!

19
by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 5:15pm

I agree the Bears would benefit from being more creative mixing their RBs because I do see Carolina as a formidable run D, especially if the Bears are predictable and stubborn in their play calling. Other than that, I see no reason to think the Bears' D is anything but healthy and rabid to completely manhandle the Panthers. With the "anything can happen" caveat, I seriously foresee a shutout for the Bears' D. I'd peg the Bears for 13 points, too. And that's artificially lower than I think they can produce due to expected conservative calls once they are up and in control. Even if the Panthers can come up with as many as 10 points, which I would say is their best case, the Bears are going to be fine.

20
by Queequeg (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 5:34pm

The DVOA Game-by-Game trend lines show that both the Redskins and Bears suffered a monumental drop-off in DVOA the week after a performance that scored over 100%, weeks 2 –3 for the Bears and 7 –8 for the Redskins. Is this merely a coincidence or is there evidence to show a team is likely to suffer the week after posting a score much higher than their overall DVOA? If so the Panthers could have a tough time versus the Bears.

21
by KenTaylor (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 5:39pm

re #14
past 20 posts, now the AFC is on the clock!

22
by Lance S. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 5:47pm

Re. #1

The Carolina trend line is massively influenced by the NYG outlier. Without that it looks pretty flat.

23
by Moses Taylor (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 5:53pm

Re: #1

If you ignore the meaningless week 17 game, 1 down week doesn't make it a trend. However, considering it was Rex's only start I am concerned.

Re: #19

I'm going to grow old and die before Ron Turner becomes anything other than predictable and stubborn in his play calling. I've had to deal with him for 12 straight years now (any 3rd down over 10 yards is a guaranteed draw play).

24
by jebmak (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 5:57pm

Re:#10-13

If only we had some way of looking back and seeing how these teams did that includes opponent adjustments...

Philly ~ 55%
higher than their average game last year

Altanta ~60%
WAY higher than their average

25
by Mikey (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 6:01pm

"I’m busy writing a New York Times article about the Indianapolis defense"

Summarizing their plans for the off-season I presume?

Here we go, Steelers, here we go!

26
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 6:15pm

Should the cold-weather factor be a consideration in the Car/Chi game? I know Carolina won a playoff game in Philly in 2004. However, this game will be an afternoon game between a cold-weather team at home and a warm-weather team on the road. It's a perfect example of the System, and may be enough to give Chicago the edge in what should be a close game.

27
by Jerry (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 6:23pm

An interesting point about the Panthers trend line: those two points below the average at the end of the season where both home games while all the points, except one, above the average are all away games As a Panthers fan, I can honestly say I feel better with them playing away than at home. Go Seattle!!!!

28
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 6:39pm

RE#25

Depends on when that offseason starts. For example, in one week, a Mr. Joseph Porter will be hosting an AFC Championship Game party ("Don't try to trick the dip, man. You want to dip that chip, you stand there and you dip it straight on, like a man..."), and a week after that he and the missus will be shopping for towels or something ("This is a finesse towel, honey, it's not strong like me. Little prissy cotton loops. The very name terry cloth sounds girlie to me. I don't want a towel that sips water; let's get a 5 horsepower wet-vac to dry us off after showers, that's what real men do."), while the week after the Pro Bowl, a Mr. Dwight Freeney will finally get to unpack his golfing gear with his team mates.

29
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 6:40pm

Mikey,
Notice how we made it an AFC thread anyway, even before the article is posted? We'll have to make sure these comments are carried over tot he AFC thread when it opens up....

30
by Matt (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 6:45pm

-#26
I don't think weather is going to be a factor in the Car/Chi game. I may be wrong, but I heard that it is going to be sunny and at least 40. The weather in Seattle is going to be the most interesting. I know it is supposed to rain fairly hard and there should be some wind. Is Sea or WAS better in the rain?

31
by Mikey (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 7:30pm

Bobman -

Dwight Freeney is a gentleman and a great player and it will be fun to watch him use his superior speed to chase Willie Parker down the sidelines on Sunday.

As for Porter, even I can't spin his stupid comments. The guy hasn't been the same since he took a bullet in his brain.

I'll stop posting AFC stuff in the NFC thread. Poor ettiquette on my part. Just don't start planning your Champ Game tailgate yet, Bobman.

32
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 7:38pm

In theory, inclement weather conditions favor the offense, especially the offense with a good running game. Passing is harder, but it's not as hard as being a secondary player attempting to cover a player that is making cuts that you can't match because you don't know where they're going.

I'd probably favor the Hawks a bit because of weather here.

33
by yorktank (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 7:58pm

Ditka!

34
by Mike (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 8:22pm

15: Rust factor is overrated but one thing to look at in the Bears/Panthers game.

Rex Grossman played a half game in week 15 and a full game in week 16. The Bears rested their starters in week 17 and despite having a chance to get a guy who in 3 seasons has had less game experience than Kyle Orton, they sat him as well. Now he has not played a game in 3 weeks after having not played a game since preseason and before... well, you get the point.

I think they should have risked injury and sent him out in week 17 to get more game experience. In fact, the entire offense should have started and played the entire game (sit the defense, I agree with that). Lovie may have made a terrible error, because this isn't just the rust factor anymore. This is the inexperience, first playoff appearance factor compounding with the rust factor topped off by a team that just played the best game of the year the week before.

The Bears may win, but Grossman will be terrible.

35
by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 8:34pm

Grossman was league average in his half against the Falcons, I don't see ay reason why that would change. In fact, since he's been getting all instead of half or less of the snaps for the past three weeks he should do even better.

I also the Moose will have a better game this time around against Car. He looked pretty jittery the first go around and dropped some easy passes.

36
by putnamp (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 8:43pm

#34, I still have yet to see anybody quantify what, exactly, "rust factor" is. Until I see that, my assumption is that there truly is no "rust factor".

37
by TomC (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 8:47pm

If Grossman is awful on Sunday, it won't have anything to do with rust.

38
by TomC (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 8:51pm

Oh, and I'll go out on a long limb and wager that Grossman's DPAR for the game will be greater than -2.0. Takers?

39
by dd (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 9:34pm

Should the cold-weather factor be a consideration in the Car/Chi game? I know Carolina won a playoff game in Philly in 2004. However, this game will be an afternoon game between a cold-weather team at home and a warm-weather team on the road. It’s a perfect example of the System, and may be enough to give Chicago the edge in what should be a close game.

I don't understand why people keep calling Carolina a warm weather team. Its not like they are the Dolphins or the Chargers. Sure its going to be colder on AVERAGE in Chicago than in Charlotte, but it does get cold in Charlotte. It even snows once or twice a year. Until Carolina hosts a Super Bowl I don't think you can call them a warm weather team. As for Sunday it looks like its going to be about 10 degrees colder in Chicago than in Charlotte. And thats unseasonably warm in Charlotte for this time of year. 43 degrees is much more normal for this time of year, which is what the forecast is for Chicago on Sunday.

40
by Sara (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 9:40pm

#35 - no, that's just Moose.

41
by NF (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 10:19pm

Why does no one note that the only home team this week with a serious flaw is the Seahawks, who may have great pass rush but have a pass defense 10% below average?

Why can't Brunell, Moss, and Cooley take advantage of that and keep Washington in the game?

42
by Phil (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 10:20pm

Another thing to take into account. A lot of people look at Seattle as having weeks off to rest and more time to study Washington. I must say that in that respect, Seattle and Washington are even. In fact, Washington knew that if they beat the Bucs they were playing Seattle. Seattle could have played Was, Carolina or New York. So no one got a head start, however Washington knows this was going to be their path.

Injuries or not, the Redskins are legitimately one of the best teams against NFC competition. Seattle was in a cake division. It's arguable that if the Redskins didn't have that mid-season slump that they'd have a #1 seed (easily the #2 seed). They are playing like that 1/2 seed team now. They won't play like they did last week on offense. These players want to do well for Gibbs, and they'll be playing in the 4th quarter with a chance to win the game.

43
by Phil (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 10:24pm

one more thing, I find it funny how most of the professional prognosticators were high on the Redskins last week (and mostly picked right) and because of 120 yards and a team that carries a #1 seed they all of a sudden have nothing great to say about them.

This team knows how to win in any situation, Gibbs finally has a handle on things, and do we forget a Brunell-led 6th seed Jags team in '96 that went into a hostile Denver during the divisional round to face the hottest team in the NFL and beat them? Brunell has been here before.

44
by thad (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 10:42pm

re 41-43,
If Brunell did not have a sprained knee I would agree.
To the best of my knowledge, it is still bothering him, that seems to be the reason why his numbers are down recently.
But hey, I'm not a trainer, it could be fine on sunday.

45
by squintsp (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 11:20pm

Bearssssss by ten touchdowns, my friend.

46
by putnamp (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 11:35pm

#42/43

I think the reasons people are down on Washington is that Portis has been reported as saying that he lost feeling in his arms at one point, Brunell's been playing poorly since his injury, and otherwise Washington has a one-player offense in Santana Moss, who is less likely to be getting good passes since the QB is limping.

47
by Lynn (not verified) :: Fri, 01/13/2006 - 11:59pm

Thanks for all the help this season!
Go Pats!!

48
by NF (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 3:06am

Joe Gibbs needs some magic beans.

49
by Alex (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 4:56am

#42: If any of the 3, 4, or 5 seeds had won one more game (for example, if the referees had ruled that Peppers had touched the Dallas kick at the end of that game), they would be a locked in 2 seed. Saying that the 'Skins would be a 1 or 2 seeds if they hadn't lost a few games makes no sense.

50
by Martin Collinson (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 7:08am

Everybody is picking against the Skins because they are 1. banged up and 2. had an awful outing last week on offense.

Add that to the Seahwaks being rested and having home field and it is fair enough to say they are favourites. But 10 points??

I would just say the Skins had poor outings offensivley in the regular season - but never back to back. Factor in the confidence they have from winning 6 on the bounce - and 6 games they HAD to win to progress - versus the weak schedule Seattle had and I think this game will be a lot closer than all the so called experts are picking.

Brunell has to have a good game and Portis has to stay healthy. If that happens I'll take the Skins straigh up never mind against the spread.

A lot of people will be eating a lot of crow!

Martin

51
by Luke (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 10:32am

a weak schedule is actually another thing in Seattle's favour and a major reason they are so fresh for this game. Hasselback is the key to this game. If he doesn't make mistakes the Seahawks crush.

52
by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 11:39am

#50: I am certainly not picking the skins to lose because of injuries and last week! I'm picking them to lose out of spite. In addition to that injury/bad games/magic 3rd down beans-inflated record thing. That and the Seahawks are pretty darn good.

53
by mactbone (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 12:48pm

I'm rooting for Seattle to win because they haven't won a playoff game in 22 years. As pathetic as some teams are that's got to really mess with a fan. It's not like Seattle is Detroit or Arizona bad, they've just been thoroughly medicore.

54
by Ashley Tate (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 1:03pm

Hope for Skins in Seattle? Seattle has third-weakest schedule strength in past five years; Washington has the 16th toughest over that span. Read a full summary...

55
by Walt Pohl (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 1:12pm

I'm picking the Seahawks and the points because each time a fan uses the term "eat crow", the football gods deduct 3 points from their team's final score.

56
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 2:57pm

This game is really going to be the true test of Shawn Alexander and the Seahawks offensive line. I haven't heard media argue that Alexander is overrated because his team plays a weak schedule and he gains massive amounts of yardarge against the Rams, Cardinals and 49ers.

It will also be a true test of the Redskins defense. In their 6 game winning streak the QBs they beat were... (drumroll): Ryan Fitzpatrick (or is it Fitzgerald?), Kurt Warner, Drew Bledsoe, Eli Manning, Mike McMahon/Koy Detmer, and Chris Simms. None of those QBs are in Hasselbeck's league.

I think the Seahawk's win, because no 6 seed has ever made the NFC championship, but I'm not going to underestimate Joe Gibbs... he had the magic beans before Belicheck ever did.

57
by big_adventure (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 3:04pm

36 - (3x genuflect)

Actually, rust is inversly proportional to swagger. The correlation of rust to loss-of-swagger is something like .857.

Thus, the Bears and Seahawks will not have their usual amount of swagger. Add in the "phone-it-in" swagger-robbing nature of their final regular season matchups, and you can clearly see that they come into these games with a positive dearth of swagger.

Of course, they are each playing at home, after a bye week, against flawed 5-6 teams. I'm sure I'm not properly Respect (tm) -ing their depleted swagger levels, but I'd have to go with Seattle and Chicago wins. Chicago covers, Seattle may well fail to cover, but I doubt the financial futures of the respective players has anything to do with the point spread on these games.

-Sean

58
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 3:34pm

I put this thought on the open thread already, but it might be of interest here, as it also applies to Carolina.

Here is a thought to keep in mind for the Washington Redskins. Not only are they banged up, they are going to be playing their third straight road game. Not only that, but now they have to fly all the way to the west coast to play Seattle. Tall order, chaps.

59
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 3:34pm

Except for the whole flying to Seattle thing.

That's next week.

60
by jacko (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 5:02pm

From TMQ,

"Since the current playoff structure was adopted in 1990, home teams in the divisionals are 49-11. In all professional sports, no subset of teams enjoys the advantage known by NFL home teams in the divisionals round. Usually they are the best teams to begin with. They're playing at home. And they just finished a bye week, relaxing in hot tubs as their opponents were out in the cold being pounded."

Are either the Skins or Panthers good enough to overcome historical 5-1 odds?

Panthers = No

Skins = No Way.

61
by putnamp (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 5:50pm

#57,

Interesting point. Perhaps the National Swagger Institute would be willing to do a guest column on FO?

Also, since you covered me last time, I feel obligated to prove that I am more than willing to...

62
by putnamp (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 5:52pm

#62,

(Genuflect x 5.16667) (Clearly a better looking number than if I had genuflected at #61, and I would hate to disrespect the Great Tom Brady with an ugly genuflection.)

63
by Magic Beans (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 8:02pm

Wow, one decent joke has sure gotten a lot of play here. It's like a hit song that is played waaaaaaaaaaaay too often, and ends up being used in Arby ads five years later.

64
by putnamp (not verified) :: Sat, 01/14/2006 - 10:34pm

It's not so much a joke that says "Ha ha, aren't we funny!" but more one that says "This is what we think of the Patriots complaining about a lack of respect." At least in my eyes it is.

65
by posy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/16/2006 - 10:20am

#60

Panthers- Yes.