Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

SandersEmm10.jpg

» Scramble for the Ball: Quarter Pole Projections

Mike and Tom weigh the chances of this year's class of receivers, running backs and tight ends who are on pace to break the magical 1,000-yard mark for the first time.

12 Jan 2007

2007 AFC Second Round Preview

by Aaron Schatz

According to Football Outsiders stats, the top four teams in football all play in the AFC. Baltimore and Indianapolis present the ultimate matchup of strength against strength. In San Diego, the two most balanced teams in the league face off, but only one can move on.

For those who may be visiting this site for the first time to read this preview, we explain our stats at the bottom of the page, or click this link. Each preview also includes a link to the game discussion thread for that game. We're doing separate game discussion threads for each game this year, rather than combining both games on the same day like we did last year.

Indianapolis at Baltimore



Colts on Offense
IND OFF BAL DEF
DVOA 33.8% (1) -25.6% (1)
WEI DVOA 33.7% (1) -25.2% (1)
PASS 56.7% (1) -25.2% (1)
RUSH 7.5% (6) -26.2% (2)
RED ZONE 25.1% (7) -46.5% (1)


Ravens on Offense
BAL OFF IND DEF
DVOA 2.8% (14) 11.3% (27)
WEI DVOA 10.9% (8) 5.0% (19)
PASS 13.8% (11) 5.3% (18)
RUSH -9.2% (24) 15.6% (31)
RED ZONE 12.0% (10) 18.6% (29)


Special Teams
IND BAL
DVOA -3.1% (26) 3.5% (4)
IND kickoff -15.7 (30) 3.6 (8)
BAL kickoff 0.1 (15) 4.6 (12)
IND punts -9.7 (29) -2.1 (20)
BAL punts 2.5 (8) 5.3 (10)
FG/XP 4.8 (8) 9.0 (2)

During the game, please join the discussion in the Colts-Ravens Game Discussion Thread.

Also of interest: This week's Every Play Counts on the Colts run defense and last week's Too Deep Zone on how to run on the Colts. Every Play Counts also covered the Baltimore linebackers back in November, and you can also read the classic articles on Odgen vs. Freeney I (2004 Week 15) and Ogden vs. Freeney II (2005 Week 1).

This game will be promoted as the ultimate matchup of opposites: the best defense in the league, Baltimore, against the best offense in the league, Indianapolis. But not every portion of this game presents a matchup of opposites. The Baltimore offense is much improved over the second half of the year, and last week's outstanding performance against the Chiefs does not mean the Colts' defensive problems have suddenly disappeared.

WHEN THE COLTS HAVE THE BALL

Peyton Manning picked the Ravens apart when these teams played in the first week of the 2005 season, but the 2006 Ravens are far superior to last year's model and a worthy successor to the Super Bowl champions of 2000.

DVOA says Baltimore was the best defense in the league in nearly every area. They were first against the pass and second against the run. They ranked among the top three defenses on first, second, and third down. They were the best defense in the red zone and had the best pass rush as judged by adjusted sack rate.

As dominant as the Ravens were on defense, the Colts were even more dominant on offense. Their raw statistics were limited because so many teams slowed down the pace against the Colts defense. But the Colts had the second-best offensive DVOA of the decade, behind only their 2004 counterparts. They ranked first in passing and sixth in rushing. They had the best adjusted sack rate. They were second on first down, second on second down, and first on third down by an absurd margin.

The Colts converted 56 percent of third-down opportunities. No other team converted more than 50 percent -- in fact, only one other team converted more than 45 percent. Baltimore opponents, however, converted just 29 percent.

Each team has one weakness that can be exploited by the other. For the Ravens defense, that weakness is cornerback Samari Rolle. While Chris McAlister has been one of the best cornerbacks in the league this year, Rolle has been one of the worst. He doesn't give up a lot of big plays because the Ravens are putting so much pressure on the quarterback, but when the ball does get in the air, a receiver covered by Rolle tends to catch it and run a long way. And no quarterback does a better job than Peyton Manning when it comes to identifying a weakness in coverage and picking on it over and over.

For the Colts offense, the weakness is Manning's historical trouble against the 3-4 defensive. Manning's ability to change plays at the line depends on recognizing the pass rushers. That's harder to do against a 3-4 defense, and hardest of all against the Baltimore defense, which constantly shifts players around. Sometimes it is a 4-3, sometimes it is a 3-4. Linebacker Adalius Thomas might be a safety on one play, a defensive end on the next. Last year's playoff loss to Pittsburgh demonstrated the way the Indianapolis offensive line can be manhandled by fast pass-rushing outside linebackers -- like Baltimore's Bart Scott -- if Manning doesn't set up the protection perfectly.

WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL

After six games, the 2006 Ravens looked the same as the Ravens of every other recent season: a great defense with an inept offense. But during the bye week, head coach Brian Billick fired offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and took over the playcalling duties -- and everything changed.

The Ravens ranked 26th in offensive DVOA after six games. Since their bye week, they rank eighth. Quarterback Steve McNair averaged 4.7 net yards per pass in the first six games of the year, and 6.9 net yards per pass since the bye week. Todd Heap is a great tight end, Mark Clayton a deep threat, and Derrick Mason a reliable possession receiver who has played with McNair for most of the last decade. The Ravens are also the only offense with a lower adjusted sack rate than Indianapolis.

Ironically, the one thing that hasn't improved much in Baltimore is that thing the Colts have such trouble with: the running game. The Colts allowed 5.3 yards per carry in the regular season, the worst figure in a decade. But Jamal Lewis hasn't been good since 2003, and he averaged a subpar 3.6 yards per carry this season. When McNair and the passing game got going, Lewis's average stayed exactly the same.

The Ravens run 67% of their carries up the middle or behind the guards, which makes their running game predictable. Last week, the Colts stuffed the line with defenders, knowing the Chiefs would want to run up the middle on them. It will be interesting to see if the Ravens can change their running philosophy and give the Colts something they won't expect, like counters and draws, plays that the Colts couldn't stop during the regular season.

Even if the Colts do manage to stuff the Ravens' running game and force third down, their biggest task is still ahead of them. The Ravens had a below-average offense on first and second down, but rank sixth overall on third down. They were particularly strong in midrange third downs, 4-6 yards to go. The Colts, meanwhile, ranked 30th in defense on third downs.

Selling out to stop the run leaves the Colts susceptible to the pass. Trent Green couldn't take advantage of it, but McNair will.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Both Adam Vinatieri and Matt Stover are excellent field goal kickers, and both are strong on kickoffs. But Baltimore is far better than Indianapolis when it comes to both kickoff coverage and kickoff returns. The two teams are fairly even on punts.

OUTLOOK

The Colts offense and Ravens defense will probably duel to a stalemate, making the other matchup the one that decides the game. Most people don't understand how good the Baltimore passing game has been over the second half of the season. The Colts may stop Jamal Lewis like they stopped Larry Johnson, but unless Steve McNair chokes, the Ravens should move on.

New England at San Diego



Patriots on Offense
NE OFF SD DEF
DVOA 12.2% (7) -1.1% (14)
WEI DVOA 12.5% (7) 4.1% (17)
PASS 20.6% (6) -3.2% (11)
RUSH 3.8% (8) 1.5% (22)
RED ZONE 37.4% (2) 44.1% (32)


Chargers on Offense
SD OFF NE DEF
DVOA 24.4% (2) -8.4% (8)
WEI DVOA 23.4% (2) -13.4% (5)
PASS 26.3% (3) -9.9% (7)
RUSH 22.8% (1) -6.5% (10)
RED ZONE 63.0% (1) -35.3% (3)


Special Teams
NE SD
DVOA 2.6% (8) 4.4% (3)
NE kickoff 5.3 (11) 2.4 (10)
SD kickoff 16.6 (1) 8.4 (6)
NE punts -5.9 (25) -3.4 (27)
SD punts 4.9 (4) 10.8 (4)
FG/XP -5.5 (28) 7.8 (6)

During the game, please join the discussion in the Patriots-Chargers Game Discussion Thread.

Also of interest: A November Every Play Counts on the San Diego offense and this Any Given Sunday on New England's worst game of the year, the loss to Miami in Week 14. Also, Too Deep Zone articles on running and passing from multiple-tight end sets, which both the Patriots and Chargers use frequently.

We'll start this with the same announcement that has started every Patriots playoff preview I've written during the four years of Football Outsiders: I'm a Patriots fan. If you want to look for hints of bias in the preview, you are welcome to do so.

However, it is not my personal rooting interest that leads me to say that New England is just as good as San Diego. It's the numbers. This is not like last year, when the Patriots weren't even in the DVOA top ten and Patriots fans were slightly deluded, counting on Bill Belichick's magic beans to hand-deliver them a third straight championship. The 2006 Patriots are one of the league's elite teams again. This team is not as good as the 2004 team that won the Super Bowl, but it is as good as the 2003 team that won the Super Bowl, and as good as the current Chargers.

These are the two both balanced teams in the league. Both can pass the ball and stop the pass. Both can run and stop the run (except in one important situation, as you'll see below). Both are good on special teams. The Patriots were a slightly better team over the second half of the season (higher weighted DVOA), but the Chargers were more consistent over the whole year (higher total DVOA and less variance). Home-field advantage and a week of rest makes San Diego the slight favorite, just as it makes New Orleans the slight favorite on Saturday night.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL

If the Patriots beat the Chargers on Sunday, they can thank the New York Jets. The reason has to do with New York's midseason upset, not New England's first-round playoff victory.

Back in their Week 10 win, the Jets shut down the New England offense by blitzing Tom Brady relentlessly. In response, the Patriots altered their protection schemes, leaving more blockers and giving Brady more time to throw. That's key against San Diego's hellacious pass rush, particularly linebacker Shawne Merriman, who led the league with 17 sacks despite a four-game suspension. Left tackle Matt Light has not played as well this year as in seasons past, and the Patriots can't let him try to take on Merriman alone.

The Patriots receivers have been derided all year as a bunch of no-names, but if Brady has time to throw, he can usually find one of them open. Occasionally the Patriots will go deep, but most of their passing game consists of slowly marching down the field in chunks of seven or eight yards, augmented by handoffs to Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney.

Watch for Brady to pick on cornerback Quentin Jammer; although he's the best-known name in the San Diego secondary, both Drayton Florence and Antonio Cromartie played far better this season.

A look at the numbers during Merriman's suspension shows just how important he is to the Chargers. With Merriman, San Diego was one of the top ten pass defenses. Without him, they were one of the ten worst. If we left out the four weeks without Merriman, San Diego's defense would be 10th in DVOA for the season and 12th in weighted DVOA.

Both of these teams are strong on first down: the Patriots offense is fifth in DVOA on first down, the Chargers defense eighth. The problem for San Diego comes on third down, where the Patriots rank third and the Chargers 18th. The Patriots were above-average on third down no matter how many yards were left to go, but the main issue here is third-and-short. The Patriots converted 82% of short-yardage situations, leading the NFL, while the Chargers stopped just 22% of these runs, which ranked 31st. Even a stop on third down won't necessarily stop a drive, since the Patriots converted 16 of 19 opportunities on fourth down.

These issues on third and fourth down are the sole reason why the Patriots' running game ranks so much higher than the San Diego run defense. If we only consider first and second down, New England's running game ranks 14th in DVOA and the San Diego run defense ranks 15th. On third and fourth down, New England's running game ranks second and the San Diego run defense ranks 30th.

The Chargers also need to keep the Patriots out of the red zone, where the Patriots offense is second in DVOA and the Chargers defense ranks dead last. It's more than just scoring touchdowns instead of field goals. Neither Brady nor the San Diego defense had any interceptions in the red zone.

WHEN THE CHARGERS HAVE THE BALL

Excited Patriots fans often dismiss the NFL's other teams as pretenders to the throne. But even the most obnoxious moron testing the limits of hubris on the WEEI Whiner Line has to acknowledge the greatness of the San Diego Chargers offense, led by MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and the best tight end in the league, Antonio Gates.

Young quarterbacks tend to struggle when they face a Bill Belichick defense for the first time, but Philip Rivers isn't your average young quarterback. In his first year as San Diego's starter, Rivers was one of the top quarterbacks in the league as well as one of the most consistent. That being said, his bad games were pretty much all in recent weeks, as he completed just 8 of 23 passes against Kansas City in Week 15 and just 10 of 30 against Seattle in Week 16.

Belichick will surely attack Rivers with hard-to-decipher blitz schemes, but the most important battle along the line will be one of the most simple. Left tackle Marcus McNeill enjoyed an outstanding rookie year, but it will be hard for him to handle Richard Seymour without some assistance.

The San Diego running game does the most damage on runs to the side, since both Tomlinson and his backup Michael Turner are spectacular once they get into space. Tomlinson's long touchdowns aside, the blocking up the middle is actually average. If the Patriots can somehow get the Chargers to run right up into the teeth of their all-first round defensive line, they can contain Tomlinson (contain here being a relative term).

The Chargers were number one in rushing yardage gained more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, but the Patriots don't allow a lot of long touchdown runs. The Patriots were number one in preventing such yardage for three straight seasons, and they were leading the league in preventing double-digit runs for the fourth straight season until two weeks ago. Maurice Jones-Drew's "not down by contact" 74-yard touchdown in Week 16 changed that statistic, but it's unlikely to be repeated by Tomlinson.

(Actually, New England's collapse in the "10+ Yards" stat is an interesting little story. Until Week 14, the Patriots had not given up a single run all year of more than 21 yards, but they gave up four such runs in the final four games. The first was 44 yards by Sammy Morris on the last non-kneel play of Miami's Week 14 shutout. Then came Jones-Drew. Add on a couple of long runs by Travis Henry in the final game of the year, and the Patriots dropped from first to 20th in this stat in two weeks. The first one was meaningless, the second one a fluke. It's those Henry runs that should worry defensive coordinator Dean Pees.)

The biggest area where Tomlinson can hurt New England is catching passes out of the backfield. That's a problem for the Patriots defense and an area where Tomlinson excels.

Like the Chargers, the Patriots have a strong starting cornerback, Asante Samuel, and a weak starting cornerback, Chad Scott. The Patriots often clamp down on the opposition's top receiver, only to allow a huge game to the number two option. For the Chargers, that could mean a big day for big second-year receiver Vincent Jackson. The idea of Scott or the diminutive Ellis Hobbs trying to cover Jackson or Antonio Gates is enough to make a famous fellow Patriots fan throw up in his own mouth while simultaneously setting himself on fire.

One more important note: both of these teams dial it up at the end of games. San Diego's offensive DVOA more than doubles in the fourth quarter -- while the Patriots' defensive DVOA more than triples.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Patriots had the best kickoff returns in the league, and also excelled on punt returns, but San Diego was one of the top teams for both kickoffs and punts, making this a battle of strengths. Each team's main weakness on special teams matches up as well: the Patriots ranked 25th on punts, the Chargers 27th on punt returns. Nate Kaeding was a better field-goal kicker than Stephen Gostkowski this year, but the difference is a bit exaggerated because of Gostkowski's early struggles. In the first four weeks of the season, was the worst field-goal kicker in the league who didn't also punt. Since Week 5, including last week's wild card game, Gostkowski has been worth 2.3 points more than an average field-goal kicker in the same conditions.

OUTLOOK

If you can't enjoy a game between two teams with this much talent, you probably should avoid watching football for the rest of your life.


Stats Explained

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 DVOA 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, and it includes wild card games. All numbers except for WEIGHTED DVOA and the Stephen Gostkowski field goal thing are regular season only.

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.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 12 Jan 2007

102 comments, Last at 16 Jan 2007, 2:13am by Sid

Comments

1
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:11pm

"If you can’t enjoy a game between two teams with this much talent, you probably should avoid watching football for the rest of your life."

exactly.

The scariest part? Theyre both really young teams, that have pretty much everyone locked up for the next couple of years. Both of them are going to be around, and close to this good, for alteast a couple more years.

2
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:16pm

Thanks for getting your post in before some asshole posts "first!", Rich.

The thing that makes San Diego really special is that they can legitimately claim to have the best player in the league at five different positions. (TE, HB, FB, NT, OLB.) That has to be worth something.

I'd take any of these teams over any of the NFC teams without hesitation.

3
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:16pm

The article says, The Colts offense and Ravens defense will probably duel to a stalemate, making the other matchup the one that decides the game.

But that never seems to happen, except in game previews. (Haven't researched this at all, so maybe I'm way off). Seems to me, though, that the winner wins by their strength, and the Titanic matchup ends up being one side conclusively owning the matchup. I think the Colts offense wins that matchup, and it's a shame because I think they're the 4th best team remaining in the AFC.

4
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:20pm

Fourth!

5
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:21pm

The Chargers' trendline makes the Seahawks' line look like the Sistine Chapel.

6
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:26pm

2

Thats what happens when you get about 12 high first round picks in 4 years.

(goddamn falcons/giants and their throwing around picks for shitty QBs)

7
by b-man (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:30pm

5: Except SEA is entirely below 0% where SD is almost entirely above 20%.

8
by bsr (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:32pm

What a great weekend of football! I can't wait. I just wish SD-NE wasn't until Sunday afternoon. It feels like an eternity already.

9
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:33pm

Wow, not quite enough on the Balt/Indy special teams (especially in light of Sams's I-R status--is Balt really still that good returning?), and wouldja look at that red zone disparity between NE's O and SD's D? Holy crap. Just the opposite of the old bend/don't break philosophy.

Are McNair's offensive weapons currently better than he had the last 3 years in Tennessee (when he didn't post a win vs Indy)? In one of those games he had an RB with over 150 yards and still lost. Of course Tenn's 2003 D is not Balt's 2006 D, by any means.

Colt and NE fans should like the trend lines.

Oh, and 8th! Hah! Take that, Yaguar! (you lowly, royal blue, Colt-loving... uh, never mind.)

10
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:33pm

damn, typed too slow!

11
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:33pm

One request for future DVOA charts (well, two if you count "no Seattle green" from the other thread). Can you make the line at 0% different somehow? Since the charts don't use the same range of values, it would be easier to compare them if it was more obvious where the midpoint was.

12
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:38pm

Why is it that I haven't found out that the Pats defensive coordinator is named Dean Pees until this week? So much time wasted...

I think its a good assessment that the Ravens success vs Indy will come through the air. Indy's run D is so bad you forget they are also pretty crappy in pass defense. It looks like their weakness is against #1 and #2 WRs (19.8% and 12.7% DVOA), and to a lesser extent TEs (3.8%), but they are strong vs RBs and other WRs (-14.3% and -10.2%), which is great for the Ravens because hardly ever pass to J-Lew, and spread it around eqaully to Mason, Clayton, and Heap (68, 67, and 73 catches).

Maybe the Ravens will run roll-outs, slants, and passes in the flats to try and get the Indy LBs to vacate the middle of the field. I don't think Jamal Lewis really has the ability to do anything more than pound it up the middle. Last year the Steelers came out throwing the ball all over the field to built a lead, maybe the Ravens will employ the same tactic.

The advantage the Ravens have is that Indy plays a pretty predictable defense. Indy doesn't even know what Baltimore's base defense will look like.

13
by admin :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:41pm

Yo, White Rose: If anyone knows how to make one horizontal line different than the others in Excel, let me know. I've wanted to make the 0% line look different since I started putting these graphs together, but I don't know how.

I do love being able to pick team colors, though. You miss that in the book.

14
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:42pm

7. Was talking color schemes, but the difference in that regard is truly remarkable. See the NFC Div. preview for my thoughts (questions?) on the trendline, though. It may be simplifying the results to the point that it's not a great tool for analysis.

15
by Jimbo (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:48pm

Baltimore Special Teams rating should be thrown out the window. I've done a punt-by-punt breakdown of what Corey Ross has done since coming in for BJ Sams -- the Ravens would literally have been far better off having two guys back there simply fair catch every punt. The punts Ross got to, he returned for an average of 3 yards, along with one muff and one fumble. The punts he didn't get to bounced and rolled for more yards than all his returns combined.

That being said, I don't think Indy fans would feel too good about the trend line if they looked at just the Colts' road games. They have been really bad lately and the Ravens have the NFL's best home record since 2000.

16
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:53pm

Also of note, seeing as how conventional wisdom says how to beat the Colts is by keeping their offense on the sideline: Ravens lead the league in time of possession (Jacksonville is 2nd).

17
by Fiver (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:58pm

McNair doesn't strike me as much of a choker, but something else entirely may end up making him play poorly. The forecast is for rain in Baltimore tomorrow, and that's going to affect the QBs. McNair hasn't played well in the rain this year (his three worst games this year were all rain-affected), and Manning is used to playing in a dome.

18
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:06pm

"but unless Steve McNair chokes, the Ravens should move on."

Interesting comment here. If the Ravens lose I seriously doubt anybody will say that McNair choked. On the flip side, if the Colts lose I guarantee that people will be jumping on the "Manning choked again" bandwagon. Not fair in my opinion, but people like to re-inforce their preconcieved notions.

19
by b-man (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:09pm

13: As long as the y-axis crosses at 0, you can just click the x-axis and then select "format axis" and have at it. If you select the y-axis you can select what value you want the y-axis to cross the x-axis.

20
by Jonathan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:18pm

I'm definitely excited for the Chargers' chances on Sunday. All four starting LBs want to prove something (Merriman wants to back up his words, Phillips wants to maintain that "Scottie Pippen" feel he likened himself too in regards to Merriman, Godfrey has been wanting a Ring for years, and Edwards wants to prove it'd be a mistake to cut him after the season). Rivers is a competitor who actually shows emotion when he fails at something and has proven to have the ability to learn from his mistakes quickly, LT is awe-inspiring to watch, Gates has a good match-up against a Harrison-less safety corps, the line has been pretty good at protecting Rivers and opening holes for LT, and Neal "just hits, baby". Not too mention a defensive line that should be healthy and back to true run-stopping form.

Yeah, I'm not a Charger fan at aaaaall, lol

21
by Jonathan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:20pm

Crap, on Phillips I meant "...he likened himself TO...."

I hate mispelling.....

22
by stan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:21pm

I have never thought that McNair was very accurate on the deep ball. I watched him play a lot of games as a Titan and for years his game was based on scrambling and finding his TE. His down field throws were all over the place.

Billick clearly has him playing a different game now. He doesn't run much and it looks like he is throwing lots of short stuff.

I think the Colts shouldn't blitz (even to stop the run unless they can't hold up), but should bring everyone up to take away the short throw and have more tacklers in the box than the Ravens can block.

They can take away the run, take away the quick short throw and challenge McNair to win the game throwing downfield. This would take him out of his rhythm and force the O-line to maintain pass pro much longer than they normally have.

I just don't think McNair can consistently make the tough longer throw.

23
by Jimbo (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:24pm

Do people think this is the best group of four teams ever to reach the divisional round in a single conference? All are Division champs, and all won their divisions by at least 2 games.

Putting it another way, is the first time that the top 4 teams in DVOA are together in the same conference's divisional round?

By a historic measure, the 1986 NFC divisional playoffs featured the teams that combined to win 10 of the 11 Super Bowls from 1981 to 1991. But that year's 49ers were a mediocre 10-5-1, and the only interesting game in the divisional and championship rounds was the 12-4 Wild Card Redskins' divisional win at 14-2 Chicago, depriving the world of a clash between the defending Bears and the Giants.

24
by Jonathan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:30pm

23--Those are excellent questions....which I have absolutely no answers for....

So I'll patiently wait for someone with more knowledge than I to enlighten us =)

25
by Jimbo (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:31pm

#22 -- good points. That's exactly what Cincinnati did in the Thursday night game when they held the Ravens to a last-minute TD.

I think McNair has really lost a significant amount of arm strength. Interestingly, his arm seems to bounce back significantly after a bye, or extended layoff. Some of his very best games (@ New Orleans, @KC, @Pittsburgh) have come after a bye, a 10-day layoff, and a game where he left after one series, respectively, when he seems to have more zip. He was very effective throwing over the top vs. Pittsburgh.

26
by Jonathan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:40pm

22/25--The Chargers did the exact opposite of what you suggest (they blitzed [to no effect], putting more stress on their remaining linebackers and leaving gaps in the short game)

If Indy can focus on neutralizing any run game quickly and then not get blitz-happy, Baltimore will be forced to find different ways to beat them offensively.

27
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:47pm

McNair is no choker and like a wild animal, seems more dangerous when injured. After Brady, he may be the QB the Colts respect the most. But here are his last 5 games vs Indy's D (which hasn't changed a whole lot over the years):

2005a 28/37 220 yds, 1TD, 1INT, 2 sacks
2005b 22/33 220 yds 0TD, 0INT, 1 sack
2004a 25/39 273 yds 0TD, 1INT, 2+sacks
2003a 15/24 138 yds 1 TD, 0INT,?sacks (got hurt)
2003b 22/38 235 yrd 2TDs,0INT, 1 sack

That includes 1 MVP year and 1 year when Indy's D was above average, and zero wins in the lot. So in 4.75 games, he's thrown for 4 TDs, 2 INTs, been sacked at least 6 times, and averaged under 250 YPG.

His run support in those games has been (in the same order as above) 109, 53,153, 53, 93 yards. My first thought is, holy crap, what happened to Tennessee's ground game! My next is he's been consistently good, no better, no worse. Good % completions, modest yardage against a below-average D. Careful with the ball, susceptible to being sacked (at least he used to be). Not likely to carry the team on his shoulders. Luckily he used to have a good D and now has a great D to help him.

Hi stats this year in Balt are somewhat similar--good ball protection (though not as good as the past Indy games), good completion %age, 1 TD per game, and fewer sacks.

Will that kind of performance (say Jamal Lewis gets 125 rushing, his biggest game of the year by 15%) be enough to win it? Looks like about 17-20 pts for Balt's offense to me. I know Balt's D CAN hold Indy to 17 or so, but WILL they? I wouldn't count on 3 more Manning INTs. Will the D score once or twice? Maybe, which could seal the deal. Balt's return teams probably won't, but then again, neither will Indy's.

All in all, looks like a good game.

28
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:48pm

re: 22
I don't know, can the Colts really take away both the short passes and the runnnig game? Their defensive metrics suggest they have a tough time taking away anything from anybody. The closer their LBs are to the line of scrimmage, the easier it will be for McNair to hit Heap in the seam down the middle, which should be a major source of concern for the MLB. And he's been quite accurate in his throws between 10-20yds, I'm sure the Ravens will take those chunks any time they are given if the LBs are too close.

And McNair's arm strength is ok, if he has time he can certainly throw it 50yds down field, but the Ravens run a west-coastish offense, so he doesn't do it often, only when the back line of the defense starts cheating forward too much.

29
by The Ninjalectual (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:49pm

Aaron, 13: You can always post-process the .gif in photoshop. It's an artistic solution, not a mathematical one, but it would get the job done, if you don't mind the extra 120 seconds of work.

30
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:49pm

For better or worse (or for no apparent reason), Indy blitzes the least of any NFL team, fyi.

31
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:51pm

#25 - you suggest McNair has lost his arm strength. On Bill Polian's weekly radio show he went on and on about how well McNair throws the deep ball. Even stated that McNair was the most accurate deep ball passer in the game, including Peyton Manning (those were his exact words, I'm not kidding!)

I now wonder if Polian was just posturing, sending smoke signals about what the Colts perceive as the Ravens strengths and weaknesses?

32
by theory (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:54pm

Anyone know why the Chargers' D has been so bad in the red zone? Or why they can't stop the run in power situations? I've watched almost all their games and have no idea. Did Wade Phillips' Bills teams have this problem too?

33
by ToxikFetus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 8:03pm

13: You could always import the Excel data into Matlab and post-process the data there. It's easily scriptable and Matlab plots look better than Excel ones, IMHO. Of course, this assumes you know/own Matlab...

34
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 8:14pm

31 Don, I suspect that is just how the Colts organization speaks (like NE); they throw heaps of respect and praise on their opponents, before and after games. And it probably all starts with the GM. I read Polian's comments and recall thinking "hunh?" Steve's a big strong guy, but there's a difference there.... and thanks for throwing your own QB under Jerome Bettis.

Polian also said something along the lines of McNair "has had great success playins us." If a 2-5 record is great sucess, you have pretty low standards, Mr. P.

Link at my name if anybody cares.

35
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 8:19pm

Don #31, The Colts, like NE, always seem to heap praise on opponents before and after games. It's organization-speak and probably starts with their GM.

He also said that McNair "has had great success against us." Hey, if 2-5 with 5 straight losses is great success, Mr. P. your standards may be slipping.

Link at my name.

36
by Colin (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 8:19pm

re 13,33 Add another series of zero values for each week (including the bye for continuity), then remove the data point shapes and color/weight the line. (You're not styling the grid line, you're styling another data set overlaying the grid line.) It won't extend edge-to-edge, but does the job.
Thanks for another stellar preview, the comparison tables are terrific!

37
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 8:20pm

Does anyone out there HATE Word Press more than I?

38
by lannychiu (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 8:50pm

If you right click on the Y-Axis on the graph, you should see a format Axis option. You can then change the weight (thickness) or format (Dashes) to make the different Axes more distinct.

39
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 8:51pm

Show of hands: Who hates Word Press? Arrrgh, matey!

Lost my last three posts, regarding Polian's glowing comments of McNair. See link at my name.

40
by billsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 8:57pm

13:

0% should be the axis by default. Just double click on it and pick a color that's not Seahawks Blue, Seahawks Green, or the other shade of Seahawks Blue.

41
by Dean (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 8:59pm

Don Booza-

As a die-hard Colts fan I make sure to catch the Tony Dungy and Bill Polian interviews every week and I couldn't help noticing exactly what you are suggesting. Polian is often very complimentary of an opposing team's players, but this time he made it sound like McNair was the most elite signal caller in the league. He even describes the rivalry with McNair on the Titans saying "He had the better of us for a long stretch there." If I'm not mistaken, I believe McNair only won three of those contests (however, the most important probably being the playoff victory).

Anyway, even though it sounds like I am selling McNair far short of Polian's words, I do believe he will guide his offense well and I can only hope for a stellar performance from Peyton to get us a win. Go Horse!!

42
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 9:03pm

Most of the thinking on why the Chargers have red zone problems is that they don't tackle very well. They are very aggressive, and break up a lot of plays, and rush the passer very well, but, to borrow someone else's line, their kids all knew what they got for Christmas, because Dad can't wrap anything up.

The most cited example of this is Merriman's hit on Todd Heap at the end of the first (hopefully) Ravens-Chargers game. Heap was able to stumble for about 8 yards after the hit, which proved to be the winning score.

43
by Smartmonies (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 9:13pm

Is it me or did Aaron forget to mention that the Pats are pooress against Pass receiving Backs? Don't the Cahrgers have a little guy names Tomlinson? and wouldn't that be a perfect way to Get Rivers into the flow of the game?

44
by Scott C. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 9:41pm

One big thing that I was hoping would be mentioned for the first time in a Chargers-Pats preview, but was once again neglected:

The Chargers have a healthy D-Line for the first time in 10-ish games.

Having Luis Castillo or Igor out or injured is NOT good for their run stopping or 3rd and short.
Luis is a superior run stuffer and very good pass rusher. Igor is a very good run stuffer.

With Castillo back, I expect the Charger's D to improve significantly against the run. Is there any DVOA splits for chargers run defense with him in / out? Unfortunately, he was out for some partial games as well and played injured once so that will be a bit tricky.

45
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 9:42pm

#39:

The biggest area where Tomlinson can hurt New England is catching passes out of the backfield. That’s a problem for the Patriots defense and an area where Tomlinson excels.

It's just you.

46
by RCH (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 9:58pm

RE 13

Aaron, the grid lines are a collection in Excel, meaning that you can't change one individually.

However you can get a different color line by creating a dummy series w/values of 0. Remove the data markers and (using the "Scale" dialog of the X axis) de-select the "Y Axis Crosses Between Categories" option.

47
by W. Shedd (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 10:23pm

Aaron, I was going to suggest that you just draw on a different colored line right over the X axis with the Excel drawing tools.

Less work than a dummy data series. Just a couple of clicks of the mouse.

48
by Ben (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 10:30pm

He doesn't have to change the grid lines, just right click on the axis and hit format axis. For the Y axis, right click it and make sure the the 'value that x axis crosses at' is set to 0. Then on the X axis set the weight to something heavier, and make sure the 'Tick mark labels' is set to Low to get the opponent names back on the bottom.

49
by admin :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 10:44pm

OK, I tried it. Check out the Colts graph above. Now I need someone to tell me how to make it so the week numbers in the bottom labels aren't cut off slightly, and we're in business. Excel is fun!

50
by BDA (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 12:20am

RE: Colts/Ravens (from a Ravens homer). I hope that Billick sees what happened to the Chiefs using the Herm Edwards game plan. Do NOT run JLew up the middle on the first 17 plays of the game!!! :D

Hope the Ravens try to occassionally open things up with long throws to Demetrius Williams. Should at least help keep the Indy D from stacking the box. At best, could lead to some points.

BTW: can't belive FO takes ad money from PETA!

Bruce

51
by Sep (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 12:22am

Aaron, the graphs look very professional. I teach middle school science, and the first thing I tell kids is to look at the values, that tells you the scale. The addition of the different colors is great, but my 8th graders would still be OK without it. In other words, don't sweat it, the graphs are fantastic already!!!

P.S. I think the linebackers are the key to the SD/NE game, to chase down LDT.

P.P.S. Go Pats!!

52
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 12:40am

A sad commentary: in 45, Aaron said "check out the Colts graph..." I scrolled up and, when I got to the graph headed "BAL," I stopped and wondered what the heck he was talking about--the x axis looked unchanged...then the light bulb over my head went on. "BAL" hasn't been the Colts since I was really a young curmudgeon. Sigh...

53
by dbt (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 1:23am

We’ll start this with the same announcement that has started every Patriots playoff preview I’ve written during the four years of Football Outsiders: I’m a Patriots fan. If you want to look for hints of bias in the preview, you are welcome to do so.

Clear sign of bias: posting the AFC preview second so it has the marquee spot all weekend. :)

54
by refchat (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 1:37am

If Bill Leavy indeed refs the Colts-Ravens game, that probably is a little bit of a good sign for the Ravens -- Bill was the third-best for home teams who won 60% of his games (even though on average the visiting teams were stronger). But based on season-long DVOA, home teams that were stronger went 5-1. The only home team to lose was the Saints in week 17 when I think the Saints had already locked up their playoff spot. We'll see if these trends hold up...

55
by RCH (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 2:01am

RE 48 - I did the exact same thing.

56
by farkerzulu (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 3:09am

Aaron -

Were you at the Dunkin's on 135 in Natick around 1:30 today? I read you mention somewhere that you live in the area, and saw a guy there who looked just like your picture on foxsports. I almost said hi.

On topic - good work, as always.

57
by Bobman (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 3:52am

48/51 I can recall TV announcers doing that for a solid decade after the move, maybe longer. Joe Namath, who was in the booth in his pre-Suzy Kolber days for NBC I guess, was notorious for it. I assume whoever was in the booth with him kept covering his face the 5-6 times per game it slipped out.

Willing to bet that's not too uncommon, depending on one's age, but in 10 years or so will be mostly gone. By then, of course, it'll be the Anaheim Ravens vs the Glendale Colts....

58
by PantsB (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 4:16am

(Actually, New England’s collapse in the "10+ Yards" stat is an interesting little story. Until Week 14....It’s those Henry runs that should worry defensive coordinator Dean Pees.)
I think you may be overlooking the absence of Vince Wilfork from weeks 15-17 due to injury. No disrespect to Mike Wright but he's the better part of a bill lighter.

#23 - Re: best final 4 in a conference:
It might not be the best final for in either conference, but I think there's at least a very strong argument that its the strongest final 4 in the AFC.

59
by James C (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 4:19am

Aaron / FO writers

Great job on all of the previews. Not just the stats and the blurb but also the in depth articles you are able to link to. I would be suprised if there were another website with as much applicable information or commentary on the internet. Stats, X & Os whatever, you guys provide it all. Just like to say cheers.

60
by Richard (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 4:28am

47: What's with adding the D?

61
by Bobman (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 4:54am

A lot has been made of Balt's O leading the league in TOP (at least in the brain-dead and slightly less brain-dead press), but it should be pointed out that their average drive is about 2/3 as long as Indy's per FO's stats--they don't necessarily have long, time-eating, keep-it-away-from-Manning drives as the pundits like to imply, but they had 180 this season compared to Indy's 148, meaning two more drives per game--even if they are only modest 3 minute 6-and-outs, that's a lot of extra time to pad the TOP stats. How do they get so many? Their D shortens the opponents drives with 3rd down stops and turnovers.

Indy leads the league by a vast margin on 3rd down success. So if Indy sustains drives and does not get careless (they are the best in offensive drive stats by a good margin and good at taking care of the ball--even if Balt reduces their effectiveness Indy's O is still drive-efficient), this straw man TOP advantage for Balt goes away.

62
by Jeremy Billones (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 9:54am

Re: 23

"Putting it another way, is the first time that the top 4 teams in DVOA are together in the same conference’s divisional round?"

It's going to be hard to compare apples to apples, because if you go by the End-of-Season DVOAs, it didn't happen this year, either: PHI and CHI both dropped out of the way due to adjustments.

But it probably just happened in 2004.
NE, PIT, IND, NYJ were 1-2-3-5, with
BUF at #4 and missing the playoffs. A similar first-round adjustment may have pushed the Jets (winners over #8 SD) over the idle Bills.

63
by tim (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 10:03am

i'm trying to remember the eagles/chargers game in 05, and i can't really recall what the eagles did to hold tomlinson to 17 carries for 7 yards with a long of 7, no TDs. I vaguely remember them being out of position to stop many of the intermediate passing routes, so it's likely they just crashed the line like madmen and hoped the corners could hold, and during that game brees had 299 yds for 2 TDs and 2 picks. Does anyone offhand remember what the eagles gameplan was?

64
by stan (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 11:13am

I don't recall saying that McNair lacked arm strength. When he first came in the league, his arm was almost like JaMarcus Russell's. He just wasn't very accurate on the deep and intermediate routes on a consistent basis.

65
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 11:23am

#54,

Also, two of those long runs vs. TN came on consecutive plays with a DL of Jarvis Green-Mike Wright-Marquise Hill and with Eric Alexander at ILB.

If these 4 are a prominant set in NE's run defense than I expect LDT to have a good game. ;)

66
by Jimbo (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 1:59pm

#58 -- I was talking about the AFC's divisional round this year. The top 4 DVOA teams in the NFL are also the 4 AFC divisional round combatants. I was wondering if any prior divisional round ever matched up 4 better teams.

67
by Alex DL (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 2:50pm

56
LT - was and is Lawrence Taylor's nickname. One of the most dominating players to ever play in the NFL. Calling LaDainian Tomlinson "LT" would be like calling Albert Pujols "the Babe".
Hence, Tomlinson is known as "LDT" to differentiate.

68
by admin :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 3:17pm

Re: 54/61. I'm thinking more of the poor play of the defensive backs on those long Henry runs. But I pointed this out because that rank of "20th" bears no relation to how the Patriots have played most of the season.

Re: 52. No, that wasn't me, but the funny thing is that I know exactly what Dunkin' Donuts you are talking about. Mirinae's pediatrician is around the corner from there.

69
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 3:41pm

52,64: farkerzulu, I wish that you had said something. I can just imagine it
farkerzulu: "Oh my God, Aaron Schatz! Can you sign my excel sheet for me?"
Some random guy at Dunkin Donuts: "What? I would sign it but I'm not nearly hot enough and I really have to eat something to get my swagger back..."

70
by perryao (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 4:16pm

Hmmm, excellent article...but, you are making excuses for certain plays that affect YOUR team's stats. Every single team could say that. A Charger fan could say Merriman was out for 4 games, that affected their ratings. Or they were without Castillo for the second half of the year, that affected their ratings. Another example of cherry picking plays...Cardinals get a 65 yd gain on a broken play that, allowed to proceed normally, would have resulted in a TO and possibly a TD. There is only one stat that means anything right now between these two teams...W/L record. It determines where a game will be played and who gets the bye. Between these two teams,all the rest goes out the window. They are just too even, each has strengths and weakness that balance out the game. Money says Chargers, history says Pats. Here's to a great game and no injuries.

pao

71
by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 4:25pm

#56: Someone else in football already used LT, for one. It's not that crazy to add another letter when you've got a second capital in the middle of a word. I always thought LDT sounded better than LT, anyway. More distinctive.

72
by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 4:32pm

#58: That only happens if you include the last two throwaway games from Philly. Philly's postseason DVOA was much more in line with their regular season DVOA - actually higher (they killed Minnesota and Atlanta - something like 50% vs Minn, and like 70% vs Atlanta).

Philly in 2004 was equal to the top-flight AFC teams - those last two games just skew things a little (they do for other teams as well, but not quite so much).

73
by RCH (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 4:49pm

#66 - A great game, no injuries and no BS pass interference calls.

74
by fromanchu (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 4:50pm

re 56, others

also, LDT sounds way cooler. the fact that several people have independantly started calling him that despite constant media use of LT is proof of.. well something.

75
by Richard (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 6:15pm

70: I haven't seen it used anywhere other than here. Also, nobody calls him LDT. His teammates and coaches and other players and coaches around the league all refer to him as LT.

76
by Kyle (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 9:51pm

He's not LT damnit. LT was the greatest defensive player to ever walk slash rampage this Earth. LT made people afraid to leave the hotel for the stadium on Sundays. Of all things, its the fact that Tomlinson is a running back - a running back! - that makes me so angry they use the nickname on him. Maybe if LDT was a bad ass defensive end or safety, but an offensive football player? I have called him LDT since others first started referring to him as "LT" because I am a bitter, bitter Lawrence Taylor worshipper (minus the coke; I could do without the coke).

77
by ChrisV (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 10:01pm

Ok get over it people it is LT. His teammates call, him that, the san diego fans have been calling him that for years. The only people that use LDT are Giants fans.

Well its over, the name LT stuck long before Giants fans decided to start using LDT. So LDT is not going to run. One will have to differentiate between the two in context.

78
by Sid (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 10:07pm

The Patriots were above-average on third down no matter how many yards were left to go, but the main issue here is third-and-short. The Patriots converted 82% of short-yardage situations, leading the NFL, while the Chargers stopped just 22% of these runs, which ranked 31st. Even a stop on third down won’t necessarily stop a drive, since the Patriots converted 16 of 19 opportunities on fourth down.

All short-yardage situations or runs only? When it refers to NE, it doesn't say.

79
by Kyle (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 10:11pm

Why get over it? There should be more outrage, not less! Imagine if Sidney Crosby started calling himself 'The Great One'. 'Pistol' Steve Nash. As someone suggested, Albert Pujols christening himself 'The Babe'. Ichiro, 'The Splendid Splinter'. Johan Santana is 'The Rocket'. Hell, Vinny 'Rocket' Lecavalier. The same initials is no excuse, people!

80
by fromanchu (not verified) :: Sat, 01/13/2007 - 10:24pm

re 71. well i started his rookie year. it appears several other fo posters have thought of it. and bill simmons started doing it either last year or the year before.

81
by Identity (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 1:29am

73: If the nickname has already been used in the sport and is still remembered at all, it is off limits. If you decide to go against this, you have to accept that some people will protest.

BTW, it is not just Giants fans. I am a Pats fan who never liked LT or the Giants. It actually annoys me more that I end up thinking about him every time they misuse the nickname in the media.

82
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 4:16am

RE: 56

He is LDT. LT retired over 13 years ago.

83
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 4:28am

RE: 73

I've been calling him LDT since he broke into the league, and I'm not a Giants fan. Any NFL fan with any sense of history wouldn't call another player "LT".

84
by Richard (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 5:36am

79: LT isn't a nickname like "The Babe" or something. It's his damned initials and it's what everyone calls him except for a select few who think it's an insult to a famous cokehead.

85
by Identity (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 11:00am

80: It's not about whether it is an insult to Taylor or not. Re-using someone else's handle is confusing and lazy. I don't go around correcting people but I can't bring myself to contribute to the mess.

86
by name appropriation (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 12:18pm

I usually see LdT or LDT in print, and it is used by the multitude of (not only Giants') football fans who respect football history and see something wrong with reusing the initials associated with Lawrence Taylor. Everyone says LT when referring to Tomlinson because LDT sounds awkward and it doesn't roll off the tongue. It really only become important this year with the rise of Tomlinson (in the perception of the national media) from being a very good running back to Jim Brown comparisons. I'm sure that if Mr. Tomlinson goes on to continue his string of success for long enough to be remembered as an all time great/be inducted to the HOF then he will be referred to in posterity as LDT for reasons of differentiation. Richard, I'm not sure why you need to take potshots at the original LT over a nickname, since he seems to have cleaned up his act.

87
by Kyle (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 1:58pm

80: You obviously have no sense of history for the game of football. Despite the MVP and touchdown record this year, LDT still couldn't hold LT's jock. It's downright embarrassing to the greatest defensive player to ever play the game that his nickname has been reused. It is exacerbated when people like yourself don't even have the knowledge of why its an issue. LT is a nickname like The Babe, because when you say the letters "LT" to any football fan above the age of 12, the first person that comes to mind is #56 terrorizing a quarterback, not a running back. Just because LT came from Lawrence Taylor's initials is no excuse to use the same nickname for LaDainian Tomlinson. Like I said, using LT for Tomlinson is lazy and unoriginal.

You Chargers fans are just ignorant people who offend football legends and piss all over the history of the game. Its okay, I understand :)

88
by theory (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 2:19pm

#83: Does Shawne Merriman wearing #56 make you mad too?

LDT is awkward as hell. LT2 is ok I guess.

So does anyone have an "original" nickname for the new LT?

89
by Kyle (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 2:39pm

Only one man ever had his jersey retired league wide, and that man played his sport on ice.

From what I heard, some San Diego newspapers and local sports analysts have called him "LTD" because of how many TDs he scores. I like that. One, it's not stealing LT's nickname. Two, it adds a personal element to the nickname that Tomlinson does not have at the moment, making it truly his. Three, well something with scoring TDs just makes sense for Tomlinson.

90
by tanner (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 6:36pm

Underdogs 3-0 vs. the spread so far...this league is crazy.

91
by adwred (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 8:55pm

Or y'all could just chill out and accept that Lawrence Taylor will certainly be remembered. LaDanian is pretty good, too.

92
by Count (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 11:36pm

I'm sure people here will complain a lot over the next week about hype and media coverage. Just sit back and enjoy the game (disclaimer: i'm a pats fan) and don't worry about what the media says.

93
by J.D. (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 11:43pm

Kyle - or on a diamond. Jackie Robinson's #42 is retired MLB-wide (Mariano Rivera is the last player to be grandfathered in.)

Helluva game. But I think Brady's going to reveal after the season that he has a lingering arm injury - he just didn't have any mustard on a lot of his passes today.

94
by Richard (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 11:46pm

82: I'm hardly insulting the man by referring to the fact that he was a cokehead. If he didn't want to be remembered for that, he probably shouldn't have been one.

83: Tomlinson has been LT most of his life. People should stop calling him LT now because he's in the NFL? That doesn't make any sense.

95
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 12:35am

you can't enter a league and steal someone's nickname. It doesn't work like that.

96
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 12:38am

91: Are you serious? Do you really think his teammates and coaches and other players and coaches in the league should stop calling him LT?

97
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:05am

Hey, my trendline comment above (way above) looks pretty prophetic now. Indy and NE trending up, SD and Balt trending down.

I hate "momentum talk" but sometimes maybe it has something to it. Just glad for Indy that NE won; as tough a game as Sunday's will be, it's better than being in SD vs LT and Turner.

98
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 2:49am

RE: 92

Are you serious?

99
by Kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:04am

RE: 92
YES. You're stupid for asking that question, as its very apparent, given the usage of LDT by many people here, that yes, that is the desired end-result: people not calling LaDainian Tomlinson "LT".

RE: 89
Really? Neat. I'm a football and hockey lover myself, never got into baseball so I know very little about baseball's past. I never knew Jackie Robinson's 42 was retired leaguewide. Makes perfect sense of course, but just never knew it happened. You learn something knew every day.

100
by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 3:57am

I mean... the original LT did give Tomlinson permission to use the name. This is the risk run by people who have unoriginal nicknames based upon their actual names; someone might repeat them. To go into another sport, my friends and I have begun referring to Kevin Martin of the Kings as K-Mart, partly in jest at the original Initial+Last name player's demise (Kenyon Martin, to the unintiated), partly becaue it sounds cool and he fits it too.

I always SAY LT (if I don't use his actual name, which I tend to), and would first think of Tomlinson if I heard it used in an ambiguous football context (you can raise that minimum age thing to 21) because he's still playing. When typing, I sprinkle in LDT, which I think is a perfectly fine way to do it as well. Kind of like LeBron James being LBJ, probably not out of respect for Larry Johnson (the basketball player, not the soon-to-be-dead RB).

101
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/15/2007 - 12:27pm

So does anyone have an “original� nickname for the new LT?

As a matter of fact, I do. Because I speak Spanish, I've called Mr. Tomlinson by his English translation since he came into the league. In my house #21 is "The Dainian".

102
by Sid (not verified) :: Tue, 01/16/2007 - 2:13am

RE: 95

You do realize you're making a fool out of yourself, don't you?