Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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18 Jan 2008

2008 AFC Championship Preview

by Aaron Schatz, with injury report by Will Carroll

During the game, please join the discussion in the AFC Championship Game Discussion Thread.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Football Outsiders stats, they are explained at the bottom of the page. Scroll down or click this link.

WHEN THE CHARGERS HAVE THE BALL

Chargers on Offense
  SD OFF NE DEF
DVOA 4.8% (15) -6.1% (8)
WEI DVOA 11.1% (8) -6.4% (8)
PASS 7.2% (15) -6.9% (6)
RUSH 2.6% (11) -5.2% (15)
RED ZONE 31.2% (2) 3.3% (16)

If the Chargers want to outscore the Patriots, the most important factor is not the game plan or some statistical trend; it is the health of three important offensive players: quarterback Philip Rivers, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, and tight end Antonio Gates. For that, we turn to Will Carroll, who sends in this report:

With Philip Rivers, it is an open question whether he will even take the field. After last week's walk-off performance, Rivers kicked up some rumors that his knee was worse than originally noted, perhaps a torn ACL, but the Chargers quickly dismissed these reports. The evidence isn't on the reports' side either; Rivers has been wearing a type of brace that limits lateral instability. It would do almost nothing for an ACL. No, Rivers is just dealing with a loose knee, one that's just unstable enough that he can feel it when he plants -- and on those occasions when it opens up, it's uncomfortable enough that he can feel the pain in his future.

There's no change in the status of Antonio Gates. Just like last week, he's expected to play by the grace of Xylocaine. Once again, he's more decoy than weapon, but it's a powerful decoy. He should be a bit more effective at the start of the game (and perhaps second half) than the end, but he will occupy a safety when he's in.

LaDainian Tomlinson got a bit lucky. A mild hyperextension and some bruising on the internal aspect of his knee is all he came away with. Slow motion replays show just how close it was to something worse, as his cleats weren't quite down and didn't quite catch a seam. If he's affected at all -- and there's some debate on how completely he could heal in a week -- it will be on stops more than any other part of his game. The Chargers are expected to sub in for Tomlinson more than normal due to weather and offensive packages, so the injury's impact will be dulled.

Will has a good point here -- as talented as Tomlinson is, his injury actually affects the Chargers the least for two reasons. First, it is the least painful of the three injuries. Second, Tomlinson's backups are much better than Billy Volek or whatever third tight end would come into two-tight end packages alongside Brandon Manumaleuma.

It doesn't seem that way if you look only at the 2007 numbers, but it is safe to say that Michael Turner's poor 2007 stats suffer from small sample size. He's neither the best running back in the league, as his 2006 stats showed, or the worst, which is what his 2007 stats show.

We like to think of San Diego has an up-the-gut running team, but the Adjusted Line Yards numbers show they were much better this year when running around the ends. They ranked 12th and 11th running around the sides, but 22nd or lower running left tackle, middle, or right tackle.

Normally, a team known for its running backs would build its offense around consistent first-down gains, but that's not the case in San Diego. The Chargers gained an average of just 4.7 yards on first down -- only Chicago, Kansas City, and San Francisco were worse. (The Patriots allowed a league-average 5.4 yards per first down.)

Of course, if there aren't a lot of yards on first down, you end up with second-and-long. And in that situation, the Chargers offense was very good (ninth in DVOA) and the Patriots defense had problems (20th in DVOA). The Chargers gained an average of 8.7 yards when throwing the ball on second-and-10-or-more, more than any other offense.

Another surprising stat about San Diego: Although opposing defenses fear the run, the Chargers were surprisingly mediocre when they used play-action fakes. They averaged just 6.3 yards per play with play-action, 23rd in the league. The Patriots defense was good at sniffing out fakes, allowing just 6.2 yards on plays with play-action fakes, eighth in the league. (Note: I don't have DVOA on the charting spreadsheet yet, which is why I'm giving yardage and not DVOA here.)

The Chargers won their last two games with a lot of deep passes, particularly deep outs and other routes along the sidelines. The Patriots were a fairly average defense against deep passes this year. When it came to short passes, the Patriots were worse than average against passes up the middle, but better than average against passes marked "short left," or "short right." Taking advantage of this would mean a change in San Diego's general offensive game plan. During the regular season, the Chargers threw only 21 percent of passes to the middle of the field, one of the lowest percentages in the league.

Don't be surprised if the Chargers have trouble getting long drives going, because their offense was much better in 2007 when it started with a short field. When they were in their own territory, the Chargers ranked 23rd in offensive DVOA. From the 50-yard line onwards, they ranked fifth. The Patriots defense was the exact opposite: it ranked second in defensive DVOA when the opponent was on its own side of the field, but 25th in defensive DVOA in Patriots territory.

It's pointless to go into a long, drawn-out discussion of Billy Volek vs. Philip Rivers, because we just haven't seen much of Volek over the last couple years. If Volek starts and the announcers talk about all the yardage he put up back in 2004, click on our 2004 quarterback stats and notice the COLOSSAL difference between Volek's numbers with and without the opponent adjustments.

A couple other notes from last week's previews, which might come into play here:

  • Asante Samuel allows just 4.5 yards per pass when listed as the main defender in coverage; the only cornerback who did better (minimum 40 passes) was Roderick Hood of Arizona. Ellis Hobbs' numbers are close to league average for cornerbacks.

  • The Pats need to watch out for situations that leave Tedy Bruschi in pass coverage, where the aging linebacker is a major liability. Our incomplete charting data (through Week 14) has 18 passes listed with Bruschi as the main defender. 15 were complete, and the other three were dropped. Bruschi's Success Rate is 22 percent. (Bruschi has two "official" passes defensed; one was a ball tipped at the line of scrimmage while he was pass-rushing, while the other came against Miami in Week 16.)

  • This was the first season since 2003 where the Patriots did not constantly give up huge games to their opponents' number-two receivers. The quality of the Pats' coverage was spread much more evenly between the receiving positions.
  • If Gates is still hobbled, or can't play, Rivers loses his security blanket on third down. The Chargers threw to tight ends 38 percent of the time on third down -- more than twice the league average of 17 percent.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL

Patriots on Offense
  NE OFF SD DEF
DVOA 42.8% (1) -9.8% (5)
WEI DVOA 40.1% (1) -9.9% (3)
PASS 61.9% (1) -15.2% (2)
RUSH 18.2% (1) -3.2% (19)
RED ZONE 40.2% (1) -27.4% (1)

What is left to say about the Patriots' offense? They do everything well, and whatever the defense stops, they'll do something else. They can beat you deep, they can pick at you with short passes, they can run at you. The question becomes: Where are San Diego's defensive strengths and weaknesses, and how will they use those to counter the Patriots' offense and keep them from scoring another 38 points?

The first thing we're going to hear about is the Chargers' ability to pressure Tom Brady. I'm not so sure about that. There is a sense that teams were doing a much better job of pressuring Tom Brady in the last few games of the year, but even if that's true, they still weren't bringing him down very often. The Patriots offense had the same Adjusted Sack Rate before and after their Week 10 bye. In addition, although we think of San Diego as having a strong pass rush, it was only slightly-above average in 2007, 12th in Adjusted Sack Rate

The Chargers' blitz is also remarkably predictable. Usually, one of the strengths of the 3-4 defense is the ability to hide your pass rushers -- you never know which one or two linebackers are coming, and that's before we include the possibility of zone blitzes. But the Chargers don't use their 3-4 this way. In general, we know who is coming: outside linebackers Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. The Chargers rush five more often than any other defense, but rush six or more less often than any team except Indianapolis. Through Week 15, our charters had marked only seven plays where either Merriman or Phillips was the defender in coverage, compared to 45 plays with either Matt Wilhelm or Stephen Cooper in coverage. Coverage responsibilities for 3-4 defenses like Pittsburgh or New England were much more evenly distributed among both inside and outside linebackers.

(I should note that the first San Diego-New England game was one of the few games where the Chargers clearly did bring pressure with the inside linebackers; there were a few plays where Merriman and Cooper rushed Tom Brady while Phillips dropped into coverage.)

One of the big questions will be how often the Patriots make sure to leave a running back or tight end in to account for those five pass rushers, and how often they send five receivers into patterns and trust the offensive line to take on the defenders one-on-one. Our charting data says that when the defense sent five, offenses only left five back to block 22 percent of the time. When the defense sent five against New England, the Patriots left just five back to block 38 percent of the time, almost twice the league average.

Ron Jaworski has talked a lot this year about Tom Brady being blitzed more often than any other quarterback in football. Our charting numbers disagree. This could have something to do with the difference between our definition of a blitz and the definition used by STATS Inc. (where Jaws gets his numbers). Since we ask charters to mark strictly the number of pass rushers, a lot of zone blitzes don't count as blitzes. (I plan to add a "zone blitz" check-off category in 2008.) Anyway, by our numbers, New England faced five or more pass rushers 36 percent of the time, which ranked eighth among offenses. Here's how Brady did against the blitz compared to a normal pass rush. I don't have DVOA here, but I do have offensive "success rate," based on the usual FO benchmarks. This includes sacks and scrambles:


  Pct of Passes Suc Rate Yds/Pass PYD in Air YAC
3 pass rushers or fewer 10% 63% 8.9 9.6 3.3
4 pass rushers 54% 58% 8.1 8.2 5.8
5 pass rushers 26% 59% 7.9 8.5 5.2
6 or 7 pass rushers 10% 66% 7.3 5.8 4.2

In case you needed evidence that Tom Brady knows how to check down and keep the chains moving when the defense blitzes, well, there you go. The more pass rushers you send, the fewer average yards the Patriots gain on the play. But when you send a big blitz, Brady will throw shorter passes and gain more first downs.

The Chargers ranked seventh in DVOA against number-one receivers, first against number twos, but 30th against "other receivers." The San Diego pass defense dramatically improved at midseason against the starting receivers, but only slightly against "other receivers." None of San Diego's many interceptions came on passes to "other receivers." These "defense vs. receiver types" stats are often the result of scheme, but here it seems very clearly to be an issue of personnel. When Shawne Merriman does need to drop into coverage, he generally looks lost. Safety is clearly the biggest weakness on the team -- Marlon McCree, Clinton Hart, and Eric Weddle are hitters, not cover guys. And while starting cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer had reasonable years, Drayton Florence, did not...


  Suc Rate Rank Yd/Pass Rank
Antonio Cromartie 52% 38 7.8 51
Quentin Jammer 51% 44 6.1 18
Drayton Florence 42% 68 9.7 72
(Rank among 75 CB, minimum 40 charted passes)

(To answer your question: Yes, I am also surprised that Cromartie's charting metrics are not better.)

New England's advantage over the San Diego defense may be bigger on the ground than it is through the air. The Patriots led the league in offensive Adjusted Line Yards, while the Chargers were 29th on defense. However, San Diego's run defense improved significantly over the second half of the season. Through Week 9, the week the Chargers gave up the NFL single-game rushing record to Adrian Peterson, their defense ranked 30th in ALY. Since Week 10, they rank 20th. Also note that it is easier to run to the left against the Chargers than it is to run to the right.

All that running leads to play-action, but this is where San Diego really shines. The Patriots offense averaged 11.1 yards using play action, best in the league. However, the Chargers defense allowed only 4.1 yards on average, also the best in the league. Teams only used play-action on 15 percent of pass plays against San Diego; the only defenses to see it less often were Baltimore and Arizona.

Additional notes:

  • The Patriots and Chargers were the league's top two offenses in the red zone, according to DVOA. The Chargers also had the league's top defense in the red zone, which is astounding considering they had the league's worst red zone defense in 2006. The Chargers also had the league's best defense in the next 20-yard area, when the opponent was between 21 and 40 yards from the goal line. New England's offense ranked fourth between the opponents' 21- and 40-yard lines. The Colts, who the Chargers beat last week, ranked first in that area.
  • The Chargers were average in penalties on both sides of the ball, while the Patriots were one of the league's least-penalized teams (28th). The only specific thing to look for is that Randy Moss, as most people might guess, led the league in offensive pass interference. Moss was flagged five times, as was Kellen Winslow of Cleveland. No other player was flagged for OPI more than twice, so perhaps the league needs to figure out if it was holding Moss and Winslow to a different standard than everyone else.
  • If the game is close at halftime, that doesn't mean it will be close at the end. San Diego's defense ranked second in the first half of games, but 16th in the second half of games.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Special Teams
  SD NE
DVOA 4.2% (4) 2.9% (7)
SD kickoff 7.3 (2) 11.0 (5)
NE kickoff 6.2 (7) 7.3 (3)
SD punts 5.1 (5) -1.0 (18)
NE punts 3.6 (9) 0.2 (13)
FG/XP 2.6 (11) -0.2 (19)

Both special teams are strong, although the Chargers are superior both on punts (with Mike Scifres) and punt returns (with Darren Sproles). Of course, the Patriots don't plan on actually using their punter very much. It's also worth noting that while these teams ranked second and third in net kickoff value, they did it in different ways. The Patriots have Stephen Gostkowski, one of the top two or thee kickoff men in the league, and good coverage. Nate Kaeding (and Dave Rayner) were average on kickoffs this year, but the Chargers had exceptional kickoff coverage.

WEATHER

Forget any talk about the weather being a positive for the Chargers and a negative for the Patriots. First of all, the Chargers are still the warm weather team that isn't used to playing in cold temperatures; offensive style isn't going to change that. Second, the Chargers' passing game has been heavily dependent on the deep pass in recent weeks, and any wind strong enough to hamper the Patriots' deep passing game is strong enough to hamper the Chargers' deep passing game as well.

OUTLOOK

Like I said on the Bill Simmons podcast: I'm trying to not wear my Patriots-colored glasses here, but this game looks like the most likely blowout on the Patriots' way to 19-0 -- particularly if Billy Volek or a hobbled Philip Rivers throw a couple of early picks. The Chargers' pass rush will get to Brady a couple of times, but most of the time he's going to have time to throw and some big holes in the secondary to throw at. The biggest reason to believe it won't be a blowout is the Chargers' red zone defense, which could force Stephen Gostkowski onto the field numerous times.


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. 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). All numbers are regular season only except for WEIGHTED DVOA, unless noted.

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 18 Jan 2008

79 comments, Last at 21 Jan 2008, 11:46am by Herm?

Comments

1
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:05pm

Let's go Pats.

2
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:23pm

If the Chargers D can hold the Pats to FGs in the red zone they have a chance. Not an impossible task, given they are the best in the league at red zone defense.

Also, not only did they rank 1st vs. #2 WRs, but doubled the DVOA of the next closest team at -95%. I'll still contend that, for a team to beat NE, they have to shut down the run game and Moss. Jax couldn't do the former, but maybe SD can. Welker can't beat them single handedly, and at least the stats show that Stallworth won't go wild. If you can pick your poison, its gotta be Welker/Gaffney.

3
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:24pm

As I said in another thread, while I don't doubt the DVOA numbers on the Pats' running game, and don't doubt the Pats are successful running when they run, I still think much of that success comes from the threat of the passing game.

If high winds (the NWS has significantly backed off the earlier 40-45mph gusts forecast) shutdown the NE (and SD) long passing game, I think it'll hurt the NE running game more than it's hurt the SD running game.

I hope I'm wrong :)

4
by joe c (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:25pm

I wonder if you guys have any explanation for the chargers astounding success on second and long. It would seem that with a back as dynamic as LDT that running is still viable option. Teams without a quality run game will probably be forced to pass in those situations and therefore the defense can scheme for it. If, in the chargers' case, a defense still has to account for the run, bringing 8 into the box is not out of the question. So if a team is still attempting to minimize LDT's effect it will in turn open up the passing game for Rivers. This is all speculation but i would like to hear what everyone else thinks. A comparision of the chargers' third and long and second and long dvoa's might be helpful.

5
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:26pm

"No other player was flagged for OPI more than twice, so perhaps the league needs to figure out if it was holding Moss and Winslow to a different standard than everyone else."

Ha, or maybe Moss needs to stop shoving DBs out of his way while running down the field. I'm surprised Moss has only gotten caught 5 times.

6
by Sean D (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:44pm

A couple points from someone who has seen a lot of Chargers.
-Anyone who has seen a play action fake by Rivers knows why they are not successful. He needs some lessons from Favre and Brady on this one.
-Why even mention Kaedings kickoff numbers,? I'm pretty sure Rayner will be handling kickoffs.
-I also think it's worth mentioning that assuming the Chargers regular season tendencies will be the same as their post season tendencies seems a little flawed. In the last two games I have seen formations, blitzes, and route combinations that I had not seen in any of the 16 regular season games. My ongoing theory as to why A.J. picked Norv over Marty is that Marty treats playoffs like regular season games, and Norv is willing to save his best stuff for the playoffs.

7
by nat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:47pm

Minor nitpick:

The DVOA charts are not centered the same way. As a result, SD's last game looks as high on the chart as NE's, while it is really almost 20% lower. Same goes for their best games, etc.

8
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:49pm

My impression from the small number of Charger games I watched is that Cottrell consistently puts fewer guys in the box than most teams do, which may explain why teams don't employ a lot of play action against them. Generally speaking, I think there is wisdom to this, in this era, depending on personnel, of course. Unfortunately, Cottrell seems to think it makes as much sense when the Chargers are playing the Vikings or Titans as it does when the Chargers are playing the Pats or Colts. It shouldn't hurt this week, of course.

9
by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:51pm

If this is really going to be a blowout, why do the current playoff odds show NE to have a 65-35 chance of being in the Super Bowl? I'd think they would get higher than 2-1 odds, no?

10
by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:53pm

RE: #6 and kickoff duties - Kaeding looks like a good bet to kick off, based on local reports out of the SD U-T.

11
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:55pm

Considering how A.J Feeley and Kyle Boller did against the Patriots defense this year, wouldn't the Chargers be better off with Bily Volek? Not to mention the karmic benefits of not starting Marmalad.

12
by Ryan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:55pm

I find it next to impossible that Cromartie's numbers aren't better. I don't know if the charters just got it wrong or if maybe some of his HUGE games haven't been charted yet, but from watching every Chargers play this year I just refuse to believe that 52% of passes thrown his way were completed. I mean he had 10 interceptions and 18 PD's this year. That's already 28 passes right there, so he directly accounted for the most incompletions in the league. How then could somehow 37 other db's have better success rates? Did they just get lucky with incompletions? Did Cro get picked on a ton? He never got picked on, I'll tell you that, Drayton Florence is the one that gets picked on, which was evidenced by last week's game where Cro and Jammer barely saw any balls go their way and Florence was continually targeted. I just don't understand at all how those numbers can be correct. I guess I should hold off until the rest of the games are charted to really have a problem with it, but it is a head scratcher that he is rated that low and it makes me for now question the charter's. Maybe that's unfair, I'll hold off judgement until I see the final numbers, but that just seems odd.

13
by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 3:58pm

RE: 12 and Cro - He did get beat in the Raiders game for a TD by Porter (I think). He's been beat on a couple of TDs come to think of it, when he thought he had safety help. Maybe it's more McCree than Cro??

14
by Doug (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:01pm

Maybe the really bad numbers were for Warren Cromartie instead

15
by Ryan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:03pm

Also, it's a crime to call Weddle a hitter and not a cover guy. That is COMPLETELY backwards. Weddle played both corner and safety in college, and some considered drafting him to play corner. He's an undersized safety who is a GREAT and SURE tackler, but who really shines in coverage. He is our dime back who matches up man to man with opposition's TE or 4th receiver often, and he sees most of his action on the field as either a dime corner back playing man to man coverage, or to blitz. He is a good cover man,and certainly not a big hitter.

16
by Jumpin Jahosofat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:10pm

If folks are under the general impression that the Pats are the best team to ever play the game -- well, if san Diego beats them -- does that make San Diego the greatest team that has ever played the game ?

17
by Eric P (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:13pm

RE: 16
No, it would make them the team that beat the best team to ever play the game.

18
by Doug (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:14pm

If the Pats lose, they will no longer be thought of as the best team to ever play the game

19
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:21pm

The Patriots graph is just so elegant and beautiful. This really is Bill Belichick's masterpiece if they win it all. Their graph is a cosine graph right now implying this team has come full circle.

However, San Diego's graph is also beautiful in that they are rising and peaking, playing their best, into the Playoff's.

It's sad that San Diego isn't at full health. But it's also not New England's problem. I expect New England to win this game unless we get some heroic effort from San Diego's defense.

As an impartial observer, I can only hope for a great game. Two teams look to be colliding at the right time.

20
by Doug (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:30pm

Off topic, but could someone point me to an explanation of how weighted DVOA is calculated?

21
by footballprofessor (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:30pm

#19

The DVOA charts are interesting, but for a true technical analysis click my name and you'll be directed to my site.

22
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:30pm

16: Why would the transitive property be applied there? The better team doesn't always win, especially in a single game tournament. The Giants showed that last week for instance.

Clearly the Patriots are better than San Diego. There's simply too much evidence to date to deny this. But this tournament isn't set up to find the best team. It's set up to put the leagues best teams against each other in a tournament of high variance, hence excitement. Beating the Patriots at this stage only says that a team was able to beat one of the best teams, statistically and relative to the league they play in, of all time.

Winning and losing will add and subtract from their eventual legacy. But you can't take away what they've done over an entire season to date. They have played 6 of the 8 teams in the division round and beat them all. If them and the Packers meet in the SB and the Patriots win, they will have beaten 7 of the final 8 teams in the playoffs.

I'm not a Patriots fan, but that's impressive. More impressive than beating the Patriots in a 1-time game.

23
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:32pm

16:

People think of the 85 Bears as the best team to ever play the game, and they lost to the Dolphins. Were the 85 Dolphins the best team?

The Ravens played the Patriots closer than the Cowboys, Chargers, Steelers, Jaguars, Giants and the Colts. Are the Ravens better than those teams?

24
by chargerjoe (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:44pm

called game (if not score) last week, thanks refs for tickytack holding call on cromartie's return where colt obviously flopped vlade divac-style to draw call

this week, world will be shocked as chargers offensive speed too much for pats overrated defense. if lt cant go, slow linebackers will eat sproles dust. chambers has the jets, vjack is about eight feet tall, and samuel can't cover them both by himself. hobbs and harrison are toasted up in pass coverage. bolts line continues to improve, gives qb time to check down and opens big holes for turner.

chargers d best in nfl, mans up against pats o, bolts win by at least a td. do yourself a favor and put a lot of money on it, and all patsies fans don't say i didn't warn you next week.

25
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 4:55pm

Aaron, in regards to the weather, you're missing the point. It almost doesn't matter how much it also effects San Diego. The worse the conditions are (especially the wind), the closer the game comes to a coin flip. And you can't really ask for better odds that that against the Pats.

26
by JV (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 5:03pm

#9

2 to 1 odds gives a 33% chance of winning. Conversely a 65% chance of winning equates to 5 to 9 odds if I did the calculation correctly (1/(1+5/9)).

27
by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 5:03pm

When do raiderjoe mock posts jump the shark?

28
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 5:10pm

Re: 12

I think you're misunderstanding at least some of those stats. The 52% doesn't represent the completion % that Cromartie gave up, it represents (I think) the % of time he was able to prevent a pass he was dending from being a 'success' (Success being variable based on down/distance). So a higher number reflects better DB play.

29
by JV (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 5:11pm

The forecast is for temperatures around 20 degrees and wind between 14 and 21 mph, which is par for the course. Wind will likely not be a big factor. The cold will be for San Diego. West coast and Florida teams do not play well in temperatures below 40 degrees. This is a long observed phenomenon. It takes concentration and preparation to play in very cold weather. All things equal, the team that plays and practices in it has a distinct advantage. It might not come into play Sunday, but the odds are it will. Anecdotally, SF beat Chicago in '89 and TB beat Philly in '03. Add to the weather the coast to coast flight and SD has significant non football hurdles to overcome. Sometimes home field advantage isn't all it's cracked up to be. I think this time it is.

30
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 5:12pm

Does anyone know the last time the Chargers played in the type of weather that is forecast for Sunday?

What was the result?

I know they played at KC in the mid 30s this year and won, but how are they going to perform when it's 15 degrees with gusts of wind 20 mph+?

The Patriots have been playing outdoors in the Northeast since their bye week.

31
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 5:16pm

Re: 30

Well, I can remember a time when they played an AFC championship game in really cold weather (1982 @ Cincinnati). I sure as heck hope they play better than they did that day. They were terrible.

32
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 5:24pm

For everyone who wants to track the weather, Weather Underground has a neat stadium forecast link.

33
by Phil (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 5:30pm

I have the SD Super-Chargers song in my head and I can't get rid of it.

It's really quite infectious.

And I'm a Pats fan!

That is all.

34
by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 6:00pm

From today's SD U-T (link on my name):

The Chargers have won their past three cold-weather games dating to Dec. 19, 2004, when they defeated Cleveland 21-0. The conditions in Ohio that day were 18 degrees, snow flurries and a minus-10 wind-chill factor.

Last Dec. 2, the Chargers defeated the Chiefs 24-10 in Kansas City, where the temperature was 34 with a wind-chill of 24 degrees. It was snowing Dec. 3, 2006, in Buffalo when the Chargers defeated the Bills 24-21.

35
by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 6:02pm

FWIW, I think that the wind gusts up to 20mph that are being forecast aren't that big a deal.

36
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 6:11pm

#34

So SD does a good job of playing against brutal teams when it's cold out.

Are there any other games we can look at?

37
by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 6:14pm

However, what IS a big deal is that the SD U-T is now reporting a partial ACL tear.

38
by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 6:14pm

RE 37: oops ... for Rivers, I mean.

39
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 6:18pm

If you watched the Chargers/Colts game, you see Rivers come back to the sideline from the locker room. He says something to LT, and LT appears to say something along the lines of "For real???" And he has a shocked look on his face and turns away while Rivers just nods and is not looking too thrilled.

I happen to think he was telling LT that he's hurt worse than most people are thinking.

Obviously that's just a guess from watching the body language.

A healthy Volek is probably better for SD than a gimpy Rivers.

40
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 6:58pm

Re: #39

Supposedly, "sources in San Diego" are saying Rivers has a partially-torn ACL.

41
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:02pm

So (seriously), how do you sprain an MCL and partially tear an ACL when throwing a pass? Was he hit?

42
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:11pm

41: It was a screen pass. Rivers jumped up to get the ball over the approaching D-lineman, and landed awkwardly on one leg, as his other leg was already injured.

43
by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:12pm

42- It wasn't on the screen pass - after the game he said it was a few plays before that, he felt something weird and the knee was 'off' after that.

44
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:23pm

43 - That at least makes more sense. Was he hit on the previous play?

45
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:26pm

I fond this article on the SD Union Tribune. According to their sources, Rivers is doubtful.

46
by Alice Brown (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:48pm

Here's how the Chargers win, fueled by their desire for revenge from last year:
1. Who cares about the penalties? Merryweather ??? will use his steroid-fueled body to destroy Brady in the 1st quarter.....no matter what the cost to him personally. If he can take Brady out, doesn't matter if he's thrown out of the game for doing it.....same for any other Charger.
2. Bottle up Randy.
3. Intercept the ball.
4. Strip our runners...force fumbles.
5. Take advantage of our weak defense in the Red Zone.
It will be a nasty game

47
by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 7:53pm

RE 44- I don't believe he was hit, but didn't see it.

RE 46- When did Belichick trade Merryweather [sic] to the Chargers?

48
by Judy B. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 8:02pm

#27-#46 would probably have been better as a raiderjoe mock post, so not quite yet. Getting there, though.

49
by walthamolian (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 8:14pm

OK, so I'm not a football guru like y'all, but I did watch that NE-SD game back in September and it wasn't even close. So why ARE the Chargers so much better now? Their rating curve is pretty flat throughout the season, but looks good at the moment - could it be adrenaline and opponents who weren't playing well in the last few games? Sure they beat Indy, but I can't see Bill Belicheck calling 3 short passes in a row to get the ball into the endzone at a crucial moment --

Prediction: Pats 30 - Chargers 13

50
by Scott C. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 8:24pm

"Marlon McCree, Clinton Hart, and Eric Weddle are hitters, not cover guys"

Well, true for McCree and Hart, but Weddle IS also a cover guy. A pretty good one too. Your claim about that for Weddle is unsubstantiated.

Note what happened last week. Hart was matched up against Clark at the start of the game and was getting burnt bad. Later in the game Cottrell adjusted and put Weddle on Clark much more often. After that point, Clark was much less successful. Weddle versus Welker isn't nearly as bad a matchup for the chargers as Florence or (worse) Hart versus Welker.

Against Indy, its pretty clear after watching each play over again that the three top liabilities in the Charger's Secondary are:

McCree, Florence, and Hart. McCree is very poor close to the line against the pass. Hart is better but not by much. McCree is generally a gambler and is often late in deep help. Hart is rarely late when assigned deep help, but not good underneath. Early in the game, the Colts' basically just threw it to whomever Hart was lined up against at the snap. Lining Weddle up at the line instead prevented that (putting Hart back in a zone).
Florence is fairly acceptable on the edge, or in double coverage on the underneath stuff on the edge. He has problems in the middle of the field in space and is not a good tackler.

Weddle, Cromartie, and Jammer are good. They are all relatively versatile in coverage (man or zone) and all are good tacklers, with Weddle and Jammer being very good tacklers.

Another note on Weddle, in Training Camp he spent a lot of time one on one with Antonio Gates in drills, and was the most effective DB against him. This is the guy who was one on one with Calvin Johnson in college and shut him down...

Note the following as well: In the last 6 or so games of the season, Weddle is now splitting time at Free Safety with McCree in the base defense. He is also the nickel back half the time instead of Florence. The "base" defense the Chargers used against the colts was a 3-3-5, taking out a middle linebacker (Wilhelm) and putting in Weddle. Obviously, a Dime was used often as well, bringing Florence in and removing the Nose Tackle.

51
by Scott C. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 8:28pm

#49 --

Different people are starting now than then. Rookies and young guys are better now than then. The defense in particular is a lot better now than then. Just look at the average score against the chargers after week 10 than before.

You admit to not paying attention to them, so don't expect them to be the same team that they were in week 2. If you were paying attention you would note many changes, both in terms of the quality of play of the players (and different guys on the field) and the quality of the playcalling, especially on defense.

52
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 8:29pm

If Rivers is actually able to play, his injury won't hurt him and this game is as much a crapshoot as any gamein the NFL (for all people talk about how great the Pats are, I can't help but think the diff between them and the Bolts is smaller than the difference between the Giants and Cowboys). If no Rivers, I can't help but imagine the Chargers crossing their fingers and hoping for 40mph winds.

53
by Judy B. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 8:58pm

#52-But why do you think there's a bigger difference between the Giants and Cowboys than there is between the Pats and Chargers? I'm not saying there isn't, I'm just wondering what it is that makes you think it.

54
by randplaty (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 9:30pm

The Chargers are not as good as the Patriots any way you slice it. Especially not in Foxboro with injured players.

But there are so many positive things about this Charger team that a good argument could be made that the Chargers are the 2nd best team in the NFL this year and have the best chance at beating the Patriots.

They beat the Colts and showed that they were a better team than the Colts in the process. Most gave the Colts at least a chance to beat the Patriots but most are not giving the Chargers a chance to beat the Patriots.

The thought after beating the Colts was, "The best chance at taking the Patriots down is gone." "The Colts are not as good as we thought they were."

Rather than thinking that way, why not think, "The Chargers beat the Colts, so maybe the Chargers have an even better chance at beating the Patriots than the Colts did?" or "The Chargers are better than we thought they were."

55
by sdguy (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 10:16pm

"So why ARE the Chargers so much better now?"

Getting Chris Chambers made a big difference, and Vincent Jackson has been great in the playoffs. Chambers is not Randy Moss or Reggie Wayne, but he is a quality wideout, and the team needed one. Nick Hardwicke makes a big difference as well, and he was out for awhile.

I agree with what Schatz noted about the game plan. I would use some short stuff, and also try take advantage of the size advantage of the Chargers' wideouts. In addition, I would use Sproles a bit to take advantage of the Pats' slow LBs, although obviously Belichick watched the tape of the Colts' game and will be ready for that.

I am a lifelong Charger fan, and as I see it, the team has about a 10% chance of winning, in the sense that if they played ten times with this setup, (cold weather in NE, SD with injury issues) the Chargers would win one. They will need:

1. To adjust the game plan and use short passes--slants, outs and swing passes to the big WRs.
2. NO turnovers--not one, zero
3. One huge, game-changing takeway from Cromartie
3a. One big return or big play by Sproles
4. A way to slow down Moss

All that happens, and it is a close game, which tells you how hard it will be for the Chargers.

56
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 10:55pm

51

Just look at the TEAMS the Chargers have played since their turnaround.

They've beaten two good teams - the Colts, whose number they seem to have, and Tennessee, who were a marginal playoff team.

The rest were pretty awful.

57
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 11:14pm

When the Pats played the Jags, they were able to get pressure on Garrard, but he could scramble away from the pressure and make plays. I don't think Volek or a gimpy Rivers will be able to replicate that.

58
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 11:46pm

B,

I think Volek is actually pretty mobile.

59
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 1:15am

So, is Norvalicious going to again only reveal the opening drive script on Saturday night, and only orally, like he did back in September?

60
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 1:14pm

My (always) longwinded thoughts on this game.

* I keep hearing about this fabulously opportunistic defense that the Chargers possess. Despite some impressive numbers over their final 6 regular season games (even according to the points for/against) I haven't been all that impressed with their defense in the playoffs.

First, the Chargers allowed three long red zone drives to a completely neutered TN team - at home. I have to admit that the fumble was a very nice defensive play, but what the hell were the doing allowing that much yardage in the first place? TN was playing without their top 2 WRs and with a hobbled running QB. It was probably the worst 6 point performance I have seen in a while. I said at the time that Indy would drive all over that defense and put up 35 points on them. Obviously this prediction came out wrong, but I don't think I was far off at all.

Indy moved the ball almost at will against the Chargers, but were ultimately undone by their own errors. I'm sure that someone will counter this by saying that SD is great at forcing TOs, but that simply was not the case.

Harrison fumbled on the most benign of hits.

Wayne was open for a big gain and Manning just missed him. For all the accolades that Cromartie gets for making this int, he wasn't in any position to make a play if this is a better throw. This is similar to a C making a key rebound at the top of a key. Sure he made a nice play to get the ball, but why wasn't he under the basket where he was supposed to have been?

{see the next post for more detail on this one}

The worst one was Keith's drop. Every relevent defender was sealed off from the play and Keith would have strolled into the EZ had he made the catch. The reason Weddle's catch was so amazing was because he was blocked completely out of the play!

* Further along these lines, it wasn't just the TOs themselves that killed the Colts, it was the lost time. In a game where the TOP was basically even, Indy wasted 12 minutes of their offensive possessions by driving all the way down the field only to turn it over. Add in another 70 yard drive that ended in downs inside the 10 and you get a whopping 14:17 TOP and 223 yards on 4 drives that ended in 0 total points. 35 of Indy's 66 total plays were on these non-scoring drives.

No matter what my feelings about the TOs are, SD definitely deserves credit for the final drive. But Indy could easily have kicked a FG had they chose to, even under those circumstances. So, for all intents and purposes, Indy put up 27 points on SD in effectively 18 minutes of possession. Why should I fear this defense again?

Hell, even Indy's final drive could easily have ended in points had Clark made a relatively easy catch.

My point here is not to make excuses for anyone. I am just pointing out that opportunities were more prevelent than the final score may have indicated. And this isn't "the guy was open and Manning didn't have time to see him but I saw him on the replay" type opportunities.

* Last year, with less healthy TEs, an OL playing at a lower level, signifacantly worse WRs and a less effective running game NE still kept SD's pass rush at bay. And, frankly, their pass rush was quite a bit more fierce at that point than it is now. In fairness to SD, both Philips and Merriman left that game at various times.

* All that said, the biggest reason why I am extremely confident that NE's offense will not be thwarted by SD's defense is.........

Ted Cotrell.

Ted Cotrell is a terrible scheming DC. I'm sure that he might be a fabulous guy at teaching schemes or motivating guys or something, because I can't see how else he would keep getting jobs. The guy just doesn't scheme for various offenses well at all. Some of this showed with a reluctance to put more than 6 guys in the box against the team that ran the ball the most in the entire league, but it was never a hinderance against Indy because Indy just doesn't alter their objectives much. Fortunately for SD, they run a defense that happens to give Indy trouble without mixing stuff up.

Against NE, however, this just won't work. Even if SD's defense comes out with a few packages that NE wasn't expecting, Cotrell will keep running them long after NE has adjusted and he will not readjust until it is too late. NE's weapons are as plentiful as Indy's, but NE has the edge because they have more diversity of strengths, allowing them to tailor just about any type of offense needed.

* I am worried about SD's offense. Regardless of whether NE has been playing extremely simplistic schemes, I don't see NE holding SD under 17 points, and frankly I can see them going over 20. However, I think this might be the first game in a while where NE takes a few pass rush tricks out of the bag. Rewatching some of those plays from Jax, it seems as if NE was focusing on keeping Garrard in the pocket.

Against SD, no matter what QB plays, this won't be nearly as much of an issue against SD, but it is particularly so if Rivers plays. Scrambling and throwing on the run with two bad knees isn't exactly a winning formula.

Additionally, in the past couple games, NE has basically sent AD and Vrabes on outside rushes every passing down. This is the game that I can see them being more exotic and disguising where the 4th and 5th rushers are coming from.

* Many people have brought up the issue of the weather and how it affected the Baltimore game. I would like to point out a couple things:

1) The wind was much gustier against Baltimore than it projects to be this weekend.
2) Despite that and Baltimore's defensive tactics, NE was two dropped TDs - neither having anything to do with the defense - away from slapping down 35 points. On the road. In their 3rd straight night game.
3) Watson's drop was the worst because it was both the most eggregious and because it gave Baltimore some life after NE drove right down the field on their opening possession.

Against Philly, NE again did themselves in with a handful of drops with, amazingly enough, three of them coming on perfectly set up screens. Two of these happened on the same drive!

Again, just like the Indy/SD paragraph, if NE makes several unforced errors then SD will most certainly capitalize. The past has shown that they aren't above having a few drops, but make no mistake. It wasn't the weather that stopped NE from putting up 30+ against Baltimore.

* After the Jax game, I made a comparison to the TN playoff game if 2003. Well, this game is pretty damn close to the next one in 2003 as well. You have a #3 seed that plays extremely well down the stretch that wins a rematch in the first round and then takes down the #2 seed on the road. After the game, feeling a little too good about themselves, one of the players makes a (jestful?) comment that the NE could interpret as disparaging. Whether you take Olshansky's comments as a joke or not, you can be sure that NE took them very seriously. Just like last time.

So, all that said, what is my actual prediction?

For some reason the number 35-24 keeps jumping out at me. I don't particularly like it because I can't see NE scoring a TD every time they score, but I'm going to run with it anyway.

61
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 1:15pm

Here is a response in my original thread that I think deserves to be posted here:

1) I specifically said that I wasn't making excuses for Indy. Believe me, I saw as much as anyone else that SD got jobbed on numerous calls and I think that SD played the better game. My point was that Indy had oportunities, saw them, acted on them and then just screwed them up.

FTR, I said the exact same thing to Pitt fans in 2004 and Indy fans in 2006. Both times their teams had supposed good defensive games based on TOs and/or point allowed, but I saw flaws that NE could expose. You have to understand, NE isn't like Indy and TN, they don't "do what they do", they attack a weak spot. SD, IMHO hasn't been quite as good defensively in the playoffs as their points allowed and TOs would suggest. You can disagree, but that is my opinion.

2) I didn't mention SD's offensive positives because we all know what they are. You saw how long the post was anyway, should it really be longer?

FTR (again), LdT had probably the greatest RB season that I have personally witnessed last year. NE fans can call him what they will, but he is a fantastic running back. Gates is clearly the best TE in the game and scares the daylights out of me. SD's OL dominated NE's front 7 in the running game in last year's playoffs and they are playing a lot better than they were earlier this year. SD's pass rush is fierce and it is no fluke that they led the league in TOs.

This is why I said that SD's offense worries me. NE's defense hasn't proven to be able to stop anyone of late and is leaning heavily on NE's offense right now. Fortunately for them, the offense is more than up for the task.

3) With regard to SD's pass rush, while it is excellent, I see it as moderately predictible. From what I have seen, they basically just rush Merriman and Phillips on the outside all the time, with an occasional play where one of the two drops into coverage. This is why I think that NE has had, and will have success against them. Sure there are plenty of examples where NE's tackles break down and I expect SD to get a couple sacks, but I don't think that they will be the everpresent force that they often are. NE's OL is very good at pass pro this year and they have an exceptional blocking TE and RB to go along with it.

{BF80 - the next one is to you}

4) On the Wayne play, my analogy wasn't perfect and I realize that. I didn't mean to say that Cromartie *should* have been closer to the play, just that he was a nonfactor if the pass is complete. The catch was a great play, but the int was unforced. I didn't see the safety having much of an impact on the play either, but I could be wrong.

5) I fail to see when I said that SD doesn't belong on the same field as NE. They are a very good team. Clearly you did not read my points for/against analysis that showed that SD has outperformed NE down the stretch. The 24 points that I predict them to get is the third most anyone has gotten on NE all year and more than Jax - who has a very good O themselves - got this past week. I just am not sold that SD's defense has what it takes to slow NE's O down. SD has a solid defense with some exceptionally gifted talents. But you have to understand that NE's offense is one of it not the best that I have ever seen. There isn't a defense in the league that I see holding NE under 30 more times than not.

6) You may notice that I didn't list Rivers in the SD Plusses part earlier. I am not sold on him yet. I can see why you would be. He led the Chargers to the best record in the league in his first year starting and to the AFCCG in his second. I get it. But I just think he can be had. I will point out one play that I think typifies him.

In this past week's Indy game, just prior to Indy getting the ball and scoring their final points, SD had a 3rd and 6 deep in their own territory. Rivers was flushed out of the pocket and was rolling to his right. Despite not one defender being within 10 yards in front of him, he inexplicably tip toes to the LOS and let loose a terrible pass that was way behind the intended receiver. Had he just tucked and run right away, there was no way he doesn't get the FD and SD is rolling.

I just see Rivers as a hypercompetitive guy who tries too hard to be a hero. That is a play that most of the better QBs make - you can be certain Brady just keeps the chains moving there - that could have cost them the game.

Obviously he made a bunch of other fantastic throws. If NE gives him the time that Indy gave then I expect him to make his share of plays against them. But everything I have seen indicates to me that he will make a mistake. NE isn't quite a forgiving of those as Indy was.

Look, I legitimately am worried about this game. If NE plays a game like they did against the Giants or the Jets, they will likely lose. SD is a very good team and deserves to be here. But there is a reason that NE is 17-0 and this is Brady's 5th AFCCG appearance in 7 seasons. They know how to get it done.

62
by Eric J (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 1:18pm

Yes, you can tear your ACL without being hit - Oklahoma's quarterback from earlier in the century, Jason White, actually tore both of his ACLs in separate years without being hit on either play. I think Dennis Dixon from Oregon did the same thing earlier this year.

63
by Hemlock (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 1:43pm

How are the Chargers going to respond when NE floods the field with 4 and 5 recievers? First of all, it takes away players from that fearsome front 7. Second, regardless of whether SD's top corners can stop Moss and Welker, SD simply doesn't have the coverage men to stop the Pats' other threats; EVERYONE in the secondary after Cromartie and Jammer are coverage liabilities.

SD's safeties are young and aggressive, and that's exactly the type of player BB loves to eat up. And I do think the Pats have to score from deep; once that field shortens in the red area, NE's advantages are minimized and SD's strengths are maximized. I would bet on SD stopping the Pats in the red area at least a couple times.

Look for the Pats' recievers to run alot of stop-and-go routes and other trickery early to get SD to bite down a little and stay tight. Then NE will try and use that space to score from deep with big plays. I think this has the potential to be a great game, let's hope so!

64
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 2:36pm

"For some reason the number 35-24 keeps jumping out at me. I don’t particularly like it because I can’t see NE scoring a TD every time they score, but I’m going to run with it anyway."

Excellent analysis, but....
24 points?
well maybe if NE turns it over a few times.
But how often does that happen?
It seems to score 24 points you need a better than average passing attack.
It is hard for me to imagine that with a qb with two hurting knees.
Who knows how bad Rivers is hurting but I think a healthy Rivers might do it, might.
Hurt Rivers?
Volek?
eh, maybe but I don't see it.

65
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 2:56pm

NE could esaily give up 24 points even if it was to a Volek/Turner combination, look what happened to NE vs Felley and Boller.

66
by TomC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 3:20pm

re: #62 et al. -

Bears' WR Wendell Davis blew out both knees on one play just by going up for a ball and landing (feet-first) on a seam in the Veterans' Stadium turf.

67
by Ryan (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 3:25pm

63, looks like you get your Chargers information from the same place as Schatz does, as you both butchered your characterizations of Chargers safeties. "Young and aggressive" are not two words I would use to describe Clinton Hart and Marlon Mcree, the two solid, not very agressive and 30 year old veterans. Weddle is the only young safety we have, and he plays as a dime cornerback for us, and is actually our 3rd best cover man.

68
by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 5:39pm

#50 - Scott C, #63 - Hemlock, #67 - Ryan: The Chargers coverage will be very interesting given the mix of abilities they have in the secondary. I think the key is if they can bottle up Moss with the worst double team they can. I'm thinking have Florence man him up and have McCree over the top threatening to hit him every time he catches it. That way the double team SHOULD work, and you won't be using up your best cover guys to keep Moss quiet. Sure Florence won't be good, but he may do enough with McCree's help to silence him.

Then you can assign Cromartie and Jammer to Welker and Stallworth (whichever way you like), hopefully blanketing both of them in single coverage. Get Weddle on Watson/Gaffney and play Clinton Hart as the deep safety on the 2/3rds of the field that Moss isn't on. Before you know it Brady can't find anyone open and cops some big sacks :D That would be my master plan against the pass if I'm just sitting back in coverage.

Of course that means you have 6 DBs meaning you'd have a 3-2 or 4-1 front so this is a formation you'd only use if Kevin Faulk is in the game as they are more likely to pass in that case. When Maroney comes in you might need the 3-3-5 look to give extra credence to the run threat - since Maroney is a poor pass blocker and the Pats tend to run more when he is in the game.

69
by Hemlock (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 7:22pm

Ryan & Matt (67,68): Thanks for the info on SD's secondary, yeah I don't know alot about their personnel, and I should know better than to trust Aaron's assessment of a Patriots opponent.

70
by Scott C. (not verified) :: Sat, 01/19/2008 - 8:59pm

#68

Yeah, a double team on moss of one of two types should work:

Florence under, McCree over.
Florence over, and a faster LB under (see the pats-giants game, or the "blueprint" article).

Obviously, if you have to have single coverage on him in a pinch, you pick Cro or Jam. But IMO Jammer would be the better guy -- primarily because he's played ~10 games across from the guy in the past and should be familiar with him. Its hard to know just how well he has done against Moss in the past since it was mostly the Raiders version of Moss, and the deep ball wasn't an option with their O-line.

We'll see what the SD coaches do to hide their weaknesses and best use their strengths.
Note: Cottrell isn't the only defensive coach and I'm sure Bill Bradley and Ron Rivera will contribute.

71
by sdfan (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 1:26am

I'd like to see the Chargers put Jammer on Moss. Quentin cant run with Randy, but he's a big corner who can give him a tough time getting off the line of scrimmage. Brady likes to throw those quick slants to Moss and Jammer might be able to neutralize those. Of course, you'd have to leave a safety over the top because Jammer cant run like Cromartie.

On the other hand, ive noticed that Cromartie usually plays off his man and protects against the deep pass. i would be ok with Moss getting some short gains underneath if it meant no huge plays.

As a Charger fan, im already pretty pleased with the season, but im not expecting much tommorrow. 28-10 Pats.

72
by BigB (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 1:30am

I'll say this...if the Patriots win this game then they have less than a 20% chance of losing to the NFC winner. It's all very similar to Super Bowl III. If you look at the facts, the Colts would've won SIII 80%+ of the time and it will be a similar miracle for the Pats to lose in a fair weather venue.

73
by Jason (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 3:38am

"I’ll say this…if the Patriots win this game then they have less than a 20% chance of losing to the NFC winner. It’s all very similar to Super Bowl III. If you look at the facts, the Colts would’ve won SIII 80%+ of the time and it will be a similar miracle for the Pats to lose in a fair weather venue."

80% has to be way too high of an estimate. If Green Bay wins they will likely be the Best team NE has faced all year (a point backed up by GB in the #2 spot in the most recent DVOA ranking)

Additionally, with as many games as GB has played this year around 60%+ DVOA it wouldn't be a shock for them to throw out another great performance in the Super Bowl.

74
by James (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 10:39am

On Nov 19 2006 the Patriots beat the Packers 35-0 in Lambeau. Since then they are a combined 42-7.

75
by Scott (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 8:11pm

Well write it down, Patriots will be 19-0 and champions this year. I like GB's chances in the NFC-C and playing well against them, but it's already over. Brady had his annual choke day, yet they still won the game because of great redzone defense and Maroney/Faulk making plays. Nothing will stop them with one game left.

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by brandon (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2008 - 10:20pm

asante samuel is the most overated CB in the league.. I dont care what his metrics say.. he sits back 10 yards off the line of scrimmage every play, and LB or the SS plays a flat zone in front of him allowing him to gamble and get int's... when in man coverage he gets beat a lot.. The jaguars beat him time and time again, and today against SD, they torched him numerous times as well.. His INT was only because rivers chucked up a ball while falling down.. Al harris is also getting absolutely killed by burress right now

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by Tom (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 5:30am

Tom Brady=System QB

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by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 10:56am

Tom Brady=System QB
But it's a very complex system...

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by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/21/2008 - 11:46am

Every single quarterback in the NFL is a "system QB". They all have coaches and coordinators and teammates. I interpret the statement as "Tom Brady follows gameplans and executes reads and passes"
It would be a pretty open ended pointless observation, but I see what you did there. You tried to belittle him. Ooooh.
Or am I missing some inside information where coordinators are calling in plays to a secret legion of antisystem qb's:
"1st down, 10..let's see...My last paycheck already cleared, Favre...do whatever the hell you want."
(guess I'm just waiting for audibles)