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11 Jan 2008

2008 AFC Divisional Round Preview

by Aaron Schatz

With all four AFC teams currently ahead of all four NFC teams in our ratings, the NFC playoffs are the undercard and the AFC playoffs are the main event. In one corner: the undefeated 16-0 New England Patriots. In the other corner: three very good teams that want to knock them off.

The Jacksonville-New England preview below looks a lot bigger than the San Diego-Indianapolis preview, but the material at the beginning regarding historical teams with large second-half declines applies to both games.

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 open discussion thread for that game.

Remember that any stats from game charting are incomplete and fairly subjective. Also, the trendlines in the week-to-week charts are somewhat influenced by the wacky "sitting our starters" Week 17 games.

Jacksonville at New England


Jaguars on Offense
  JAC OFF NE DEF
DVOA 20.8% (3) -6.1% (8)
WEI DVOA 24.7% (2) 0.9% (18)
PASS 37.2% (3) -6.9% (6)
RUSH 6.9% (6) -5.2% (15)
RED ZONE 11.2% (11) 3.3% (16)
Patriots on Offense
  NE OFF JAC DEF
DVOA 42.8% (1) -3.3% (12)
WEI DVOA 39.5% (1) -8.7% (3)
PASS 61.9% (1) -6.8% (8)
RUSH 18.2% (1) 1.1% (22)
RED ZONE 40.2% (1) 0.1% (13)
Special Teams
  JAC NE
DVOA -0.4% (15) 2.9% (7)
JAC kickoff 4.9 (11) 11.0 (5)
NE kickoff 0.3 (15) 7.3 (3)
JAC punts -3.8 (20) -1.0 (18)
NE punts 0.1 (13) 0.2 (13)
FG/XP -3.9 (25) -0.2 (19)

During the game, please join the discussion in the Jaguars-Patriots Game Discussion Thread, for which we absolve ourselves of all responsibility. All vows, obligations, and oaths we have made to keep that discussion thread from drifting into complete insanity are hereby deemed annulled, void, and made of no effect. Read at your own risk.

Based on our weighted DVOA formula which lowers the strength of earlier games to give a more accurate view of how good teams are right now, this game matches up the two best teams in the NFL.

As most fans know, the Patriots haven't dominated over the past few weeks the way they did in September and October, but they still outplayed 15 of their 16 opponents with only one win the system considers "lucky" (against the Ravens). The Patriots offense has been spectacular for the entire season, but the defense has faltered a bit. Through midseason, our DVOA ratings ranked the Patriots fourth in pass defense and 10th in run defense. Since that game, the Patriots rank just 22nd in pass defense and 21st in run defense.

Jacksonville has improved on both sides of the ball since Week 9 -- the week they were blown out by New Orleans with backup Quinn Gray at quarterback. During the first eight games of the year, the Jaguars ranked 10th in pass offense and 14th in run offense. Since Week 10, the Jaguars rank first in pass offense and second in run offense. Yes, that says "first." Contrary to public perception, the Patriots' running game has been more efficient than the Jaguars' running game over the past eight weeks, while the Jaguars have enjoyed the more efficient passing game. The Patriots have the better overall offense because they use the pass much more than the Jaguars do, and teams which pass more generally score more points.

The Jaugars defense has improved as well. Through Week 9, Jacksonville ranked 13th in pass defense and 27 in run defense. Since Week 10, the Jaguars are fourth in pass defense and 14th in run defense.

These trends are so strong that I decided to go back and look at other teams that had a dramatic shift in performance at midseason during the DVOA era (1996-2007). Would this tell us that Jacksonville's second-half surge and New England's (relative) struggles give us a good reason to expect an upset?

I went back and looked at every team with at least 10 wins -- an arbitrary figure, but I wanted to make sure we were only looking at serious Super Bowl contenders. I computed the difference between Weeks 1-9 and Weeks 10-17 on offense and defense. I left out special teams out of pure laziness. (Honesty is the best policy.)

Here are the top 10 biggest declines when we compare Weeks 1-9 to Weeks 10-17.

Year Team W-L DVOA 1-9 DVOA 10-17 Change
2007 PIT 10-6 40.3% -1.1% -41.3%
2007 IND 13-3 56.3% 21.1% -35.1%
2001 PHI 11-5 35.9% 1.0% -34.9%
2007 NE 16-0 64.0% 30.0% -33.9%
2007 DAL 13-3 40.8% 8.6% -32.2%
1996 DAL 10-6 32.9% 2.2% -30.7%
2007 TEN 10-6 25.5% -4.5% -30.0%
2002 SF 10-6 31.4% 4.3% -27.1%
1996 DEN 13-3 42.6% 16.6% -25.9%
2002 GB 12-4 23.6% -0.4% -24.0%

Notice anything strange about this list? Yes, five of the seven biggest second-half declines by teams that were 10-6 or better took place this year. Was there something in the water? The Patriots didn't even have the largest drop -- the Colts did. Obviously there are reasons for this -- the Colts went through tons of injuries and sat their starters in Week 17 -- but you could point out that teams specifically didn't rest their starters against New England, and bad teams played their hearts out, and besides, this says nothing about whatever happened to Pittsburgh and Dallas.

It may just be a case of regression to the mean, because so many teams started 2007 so strongly -- remember, at one point the Patriots, Colts, Cowboys, and Steelers all ranked among the top 10 teams ever in DVOA through that specific week.

Here's the top 10 with the 2007 teams removed, so we can try to learn something here.

Year Team W-L DVOA 1-9 DVOA 10-17 Change
2001 PHI 11-5 35.9% 1.0% -34.9%
1996 DAL 10-6 32.9% 2.2% -30.7%
2002 SF 10-6 31.4% 4.3% -27.1%
1996 DEN 13-3 42.6% 16.6% -25.9%
2002 GB 12-4 23.6% -0.4% -24.0%
2005 CIN 11-5 29.1% 5.2% -23.9%
1996 GB 13-3 46.3% 22.5% -23.7%
1999 JAC 14-2 41.5% 17.9% -23.7%
2004 NYJ 10-6 36.1% 13.9% -22.1%
2006 CHI 13-3 27.4% 6.5% -20.9%

The tenth team would actually be the 2003 Dolphins, but I left them out because they didn't make the playoffs.

There are a few teams here that suffered some surprise upsets. The 1996 Broncos lost to the Jaguars. The 2002 Packers lost to the Falcons. The 2005 Bengals don't really count because of the Carson Palmer injury. However, most of these teams just kept going in the playoffs until they lost to a team that was better than them over the entire season anyway, and the Packers won the Super Bowl despite their second half decline.

Here's the opposite list, teams with the biggest second-half improvements.


Year Team W-L DVOA 1-9 DVOA 10-17 Change
1998 ATL 14-2 -0.1% 47.5% 47.6%
2003 PHI 12-4 -10.1% 33.3% 43.3%
2007 JAC 11-5 2.2% 45.2% 43.0%
2005 KC 10-6 10.6% 48.2% 37.6%
2002 TEN 11-5 -10.4% 26.3% 36.7%
2001 SF 12-4 7.0% 35.4% 285%
2007 SD 11-5 0.6% 28.4% 27.8%
2000 OAK 12-4 9.0% 36.8% 27.8%
1997 GB 13-3 11.3% 36.3% 25.0%
2003 NE 14-2 11.5% 35.6% 24.1%

Again, if the difference between DVOA in Weeks 1-9 and DVOA in Weeks 10-17 is supposed to be an indicator of a possible upset, the numbers are strong for both AFC games, not just one.

At first glance, it looks like we've definitely hit on a list of teams won in the playoffs despite not having the highest DVOA rating for the season: the 1998 Falcons (fifth), the 1997 Packers (fourth), the 2003 Patriots (third). The problem is that those teams all won in years where the top of the ratings were extremely condensed. Atlanta was fifth in a year where the teams ranked between second and fifth were separated by a mere 0.6%. The difference between the 1997 Packers and 1997 49ers was 0.7%. The 2003 Patriots are the only team on this list to win the Super Bowl, but that doesn't really count as a surprise -- the Patriots were only 2.6% behind #1 Kansas City in DVOA, and they had the better won-loss record. After the 2003 Patriots, you have to go down this list by 25 teams or so before you hit the 2001 Patriots, who had the best "second half rise" of any Super Bowl champion. None of the other champions had a "second half rise" of more than 6.5% DVOA.

Even more surprising is the fact that a few teams with huge improvement in the second half of the year were upset by teams that had collapsed during the second half of the year. The best example is 2001. Chicago's DVOA rose by 19.7% between the first and second half of the year. Philadelphia had the largest DVOA drop of any team before 2007. The Eagles went into Chicago and beat the Bears. There are other examples as well. The 2002 49ers (-27.1% drop) beat the 2002 Giants (23.2% rise). The 1998 Broncos (-11.3% drop) beat the 1998 Jets (17.5% rise). And so on.

Numbers are useful because they tell a story, and sometimes the story is that there is no story. There doesn't seem to be any trend where a team that dramatically improved in the second half (such as Jacksonville or San Diego) should be favored to upset a team that was better over the entire season but dropped off in the second half (such as New England or Indianapolis).

And make no mistake -- no matter how well the Jaguars have played recently, New England was still a much better team than Jacksonville over the entire course of the season. Comparing each unit based on rank obscures just how dominant the Patriots' passing game was in 2007. The DVOA difference between the Patriots and the offense ranked second in passing for the year (Indianapolis) was five times larger than the gap between the top two run defenses, seven times larger than the gap between the top two pass defenses, and 15 times larger than the gap between the top two rushing offenses. Of course, the most efficient rushing offense this season also belonged to the New England Patriots.

So with all that in mind, what about the matchups? The Jaguars should run all over the Patriots, right? Aren't they built to win in northern playoff games?

Yes, the Jacksonville running game is good, but it is also inconsistent. The Jaguars were just 18th in Adjusted Line Yards and ranked second in "10+ Yards." If the Patriots want to concentrate on taking away the run, they'll stuff Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew a lot of the time.

If the Patriots stuff the run on first and second down, they still aren't out of the woods. Jacksonville had the league's best offense in third-and-long situations. However, the Patriots are likely to pressure Garrard, and they will get to him. New England ranked second in Adjusted Sack Rate, while the Jacksonville offensive line was 17th.

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. Samuel isn't necessarily covering the top receiver for the other team -- in fact, 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, which is a good thing against a Jacksonville team with no true number-one receiver.

The Pats do 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.)

Overall, signs point to a Patriots defense that forces a lot of short drives and three-and-outs, but also gives up a couple of huge, embarassing plays when things click for the Jaguars -- a big run or two, a big pass or two. That's a recipe to score points, but it isn't a recipe to hold onto the ball and prevent the Patriots offense from taking the field.

Speaking of which... The Jaguars defense is good, but there's not much reason to believe they can handle the Patriots' attack. Let's start with the secondary. Remember what I said last week about Rashean Mathis: Last year, Mathis had a 57 percent Success Rate and allowed 6.3 yards per pass. In our (incomplete) charting data so far for 2007, Mathis has a 47 percent Success Rate and allows 7.3 yards per pass. If you want standard stats instead, Mathis has dropped from 21 passes defensed and eight interceptions to six passes defensed and one interception. (Yes, Mathis had more interceptions in one playoff game than he did in 16 regular-season games.)

The Jaguars also have trouble with slot receivers. Dallas Clark ate them alive in the two Jaguars-Colts games. Guys like Maurice Stovall, Lance Moore, David Anderson, and Chris "Buster" Davis were racking up first down after first down against the Jaguars with very few incomplete passes. Good luck with Wes Welker.

If the Jaguars come out in a defense designed to slow down the passing game, the Patriots could always run the ball. The Patriots ranked second in Adjusted Line Yards on runs up the middle. The Jaguars defense was 28th. There's no Mike Peterson, no Marcus Stroud, John Henderson is hurt, and Grady Jackson is guaranteed to be winded by the fourth quarter. If the Patriots start by running the ball, and the Jaguars adjust, that opens up the possibility of play-action. The Patriots gained an average of 11.4 yards on play-action passes (or scrambles), the best figure in the league, and the Jaguars give up some big yardage when the offense runs play-action. The Jags gave up 8.2 yards per pass with play-action, higher than the NFL average of 7.4.

A few other notes:

  • 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 aren't bringing him down very often. The Patriots offense had the same Adjusted Sack Rate before and after their Week 10 bye.
  • According to the Football Outsiders Aggressiveness Index, Bill Belichick and Jack Del Rio were two of the league's four most aggressive coaches going for it on fourth down in 2007.
  • The Patriots had the league's worst defensive DVOA when the score was within a touchdown in the third quarter ... but the best defensive DVOA when the score was within a touchdown in the fourth.
  • The Patriots and Jaguars are the league's top two offenses in terms of time of possession per drive, not counting kneel-down drives. The Patriots held the ball an average of 3:16 per drive, the Jaguars an average of 3:11.
  • Here's tomorrow night's forecast: temperatures just above freezing with a wind of four miles per hour. Nobody is going to have a problem throwing the ball.

The Patriots just finished the greatest regular season in the history of professional football. That doesn't guarantee them a title, but it does mean that nobody should expect them to lose until it actually happens. If it does happen, the team to beat them will probably be archrival Indianapolis, not Jacksonville.

San Diego at Indianapolis


Chargers on Offense
  SD OFF IND DEF
DVOA 4.8% (15) -10.8% (3)
WEI DVOA 8.2% (11) -7.7% (6)
PASS 7.2% (15) -12.0% (3)
RUSH 2.6% (11) -9.5% (8)
RED ZONE 31.2% (2) -14.7% (9)
Colts on Offense
  IND OFF SD DEF
DVOA 28.3% (2) -9.8% (5)
WEI DVOA 20.0% (3) -14.5% (1)
PASS 43.4% (2) -15.2% (2)
RUSH 11.0% (3) -3.2% (19)
RED ZONE 25.3% (5) -27.4% (1)
Special Teams
  SD IND
DVOA 4.2% (4) -6.1% (32)
SD kickoff 7.3 (2) -4.7 (23)
IND kickoff 6.2 (7) -15.5 (29)
SD punts 5.1 (5) 7.4 (6)
IND punts 3.6 (9) -10.7 (27)
FG/XP 2.6 (11) -12.4 (31)

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

San Diego beat Indianapolis 23-21 back in Week 10 thanks to special teams and an injury-decimated Colts offense. The Colts played that game without their starting left tackle and three of their four top receivers. Stuck throwing with Reggie Wayne and a bunch of inexperienced practice-squad types, Peyton Manning had a career-high six interceptions. The Colts' special teams allowed San Diego's Darren Sproles to return both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown. Despite all this, the Colts nearly pulled out the game with a last-second drive -- until Adam Vinatieri, Mr. Clutch, missed an easy 29-yard field goal.

This time, the injury problems belong to San Diego, not Indianapolis. Left tackle Tony Ugoh, wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, and tight end Dallas Clark are all healthy for the Colts after missing the first game. The Colts say even future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison is healthy again after missing 11 games this year.

Clark's return may be the most important. Clark does not actually play tight end most of the time -- he's the Indianapolis slot receiver on virtually all first and second downs. That makes him very important this week, because San Diego's defense ranks seventh against number-one receivers and first against number-two receivers, but 30th against "other receivers." The Chargers gave up big games to guys like Detroit's Mike Furrey, Green Bay's James Jones, and Denver's "Friends of" Glenn Martinez. Nickel corner Drayton Florence is not having a good year, and lost his job to Antonio Cromartie at midseason. Rookie Eric Weddle is a hard hitter, but in general, safety is the Chargers' weakest position.

Meanwhile, the Chargers will probably be without their great tight end, Antonio Gates, due to a toe injury suffered during last week's win over Tennessee. Without Gates, quarterback Philip 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.

On first and second down, the Gates injury will affect the Chargers' running game more than their passing game. The Colts were the second-best team in the league at stopping tight ends, thanks in large part to Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders. With Gates in the lineup, the Colts would need to use Sanders more in pass coverage. Without Gates, the Colts are free to make Sanders the eighth man in the box on anything that isn't an obvious passing situation. That makes life hard for last year's MVP, running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

(I should note that our injury expert, Will Carroll, believes that the chances of Gates playing are a lot better than the media is reporting.)

Bringing Sanders up to the line of scrimmage also helps the Colts with one of their main weaknesses: short-yardage situations. The Colts rank 30th in defensive DVOA on both second-and-short and third-and-short. While the Colts have shown a lot of improvement on defense this year, the front line can still be pushed back when the offense needs just a yard or two. San Diego had one of the NFL's top three offenses on third-and-short.

Despite all the Colts returning from injury, one thing has not changed since the first game: San Diego's dominance on special teams. The Chargers rank fourth in the Football Outsiders special teams ratings, above average in every aspect of special teams. Indianapolis ranks last, well below average in everything except punt returns. Adam Vinatieri may be the highest-paid kicker in the league (total contract value) and a possible Hall of Famer, but this year the Colts ranked 29th in net kickoff value and 31st in field-goal kicking.

Other notes:

  • According to the Football Outsiders game charting project, San Diego and Indianapolis were the two NFL defenses that blitzed six defenders the least often in 2007. Look at blitzing five, however, and things are very different. San Diego sent exactly five pass rushers more often than any defense in the league, while the Colts still ranked last.
  • The Colts had the best defensive DVOA of any team on the road, but they ranked just 19th in defensive DVOA at home. San Diego, on the other hand, ranks first in defensive DVOA at home but just 20th on the road. If you like offense, be happy this game isn't being played at Qualcomm Stadium.
  • Marlin Jackson of the Colts ranked fourth among all cornerbacks in run tackles. Kelvin Hayden was tenth. Miami was the only other defense with two cornerbacks in the top ten. On top of that, Bob Sanders was fourth among all safeties in run tackles. So the Indianapolis secondary is certainly ready to take on Mr. Tomlinson.

The Chargers have been hot lately, but remember what I said above in the Patriots-Jaguars preview, and then remember how much of the Colts' second-half decline was tied to all those injuries. Sure, he'll have his usual occasional problems deciphering a 3-4 blitz, but all his weapons to work with, Manning should be able to pick apart that San Diego secondary. If this game is close, the Chargers could definitely win it on a big special teams play. But I think of the four games this weekend, this one is the least likely to be close.


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 unless noted, with the exception of 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) and includes the first round of the playoffs.

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." The trendline is there to help understand the chart, and shouldn't be seen as a prediction that the team will follow the trendline exactly in the next game.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 11 Jan 2008

100 comments, Last at 14 Jan 2008, 10:48am by Brett

Comments

1
by Richard (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 6:10pm

Not one mention of the Chargers being w/o Jammer, Castillo and Hardwick when they played the Colts? The Colts may have had more injuries, but it's not as though the Chargers were especially healthy for that game either.

2
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 6:10pm

Let's go Pats.

3
by Richard (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 6:13pm

1: That sounded overly critical. Overall, great analysis as always, Aaron.

4
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 6:44pm

Here's the Pats' injury list. Hope it represents BB gamesmanship, not reality:

Questionable
S Willie Andrews (elbow)
TE Kyle Brady (foot)
FB Kyle Eckel (stomach)
S Rodney Harrison (thigh)
CB Ellis Hobbs (groin)
OT Nick Kaczur (foot)
G Stephen Neal (shoulder)
TE Stephen Spach (knee)
DB Antwain Spann (hamstring)

Probable
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)

5
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 6:51pm

The AFC games look especially promising. Two of the top teams in the league overall vs two teams peaking at the right time.

6
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 7:14pm

Not terribly surprised by the Pats' trend chart (well, the steepness of the negative slope surprises me) but the Jags are also showing a bit of a downturn--damn, it's the Week 17 effect. never mind. Still, take out that one Oakland game and they're not exactly looking like world beaters (in the trend chart alone, that is). A very consistent cluster in the 30-40 range. Each of the other three teams has way more noise in the trend lines. Surprising.

Charts are fun for an overall impression, but the text is super. Thanks.

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

This may be the superstitious part of me talking, but as a Colts fan I find it very unnerving that everyone is not only picking the Colts, but picking them to cover, and easily at that. It just feels like 2005 all over again.

8
by Nathan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 7:24pm

"The Jaugars defense has improved as well. "

9
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 7:34pm

This may be the superstitious part of me talking, but as a Colts fan I find it very unnerving that everyone is not only picking the Colts, but picking them to cover, and easily at that. It just feels like 2005 all over again.

In that case...

GO INDY!!!! YEAH!!!! INDY WILL COVER!!! ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM!!!!!!

:-)

10
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 7:48pm

Just wanted to point out something about one difference between the Pats 1st and 2nd half of the season (first 8 games, second 8 games).

First half: Outscored opponents by 204 points.

Second half: Outscored opponents by 111 points.

This is a team that is not nearly as dominant as it once was, or at least hasn't been for half a season. The Pats were already outplayed by the Colts for 50 minutes the first time they played, and needed a late comback to get the win. I don't think its fair to say that we shouldn't expect to see the Pats lose until they do. With three tough games ahead I would definitely say the odds are they don't win all three. Plus this team is the greatest of all time mostly because of what it did in the first half, for whatever reason they haven't been the same team, in fact they haven't really been better than the Colts or any other top team.

Now maybe those trends don't matter, but I think it would matter more for the Pats than say the Colts. For one, the Pats wont get guys like Sammy Morris or Colvin back; but the Colts will get Harrison and the Cowboys will get back TO plus Romo's health. It would be one thing if the Pats DVOA drop was because Moss had been out for a while or Brady got hurt, but the team just overall declined as far as I can see.

Could all this mean nothing, sure. Did the Pats have the best regular season of all time, I think so. But is this still the best team of all time, no way in my opinion. With that said I'll just repeat my prediction; the Pats will lose to the Colts by at least 7, everyone will be shocked but the signs were there. Now if I'm wrong obviously I'll admit it, but it should be interesting to see.

11
by Jonathan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 7:51pm

re: #1 — I was watching the NFL Replay of the Colts vs. Bolts in November, and one thing I noticed was that on at least one of Antonio Cromartie's picks, Reggie Wayne seemed to have given up on the play and didn't bother to defend against the pick.

The loss of Jammer was bigger than most non-Charger fans realize; he IS better than Cromartie at almost everything except for running fast, jumping high in the air and intercepting the ball with one hand ;) His coverage skills are pretty impressive this year, save for some early games such as against the Pats...

Hardwick was also out with an injury, and the Chargers had a bad time against the Colts and Chiefs, I think, in getting the ball from backup Withrow into Rivers' hands.

Plus the Bolts played better without Gates in the lineup in the second half, but that's not really analysis; just one fan's hope that the Chargers win for my dad's birthday ;)

12
by dsbaser (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 7:54pm

I'm curious if removing Dwight Freeney from the Colt's defense has actually improved their run defense or even really cost them all that much in terms of pass rush.

Also, I'm curious about blitzing overall...do teams that blitz less, all else being equal, do better in pass coverage but worse in rush defense? Or is it the other way around? Or does blitzing not do a whole lot of anything?

13
by AD Pats Fan (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 8:05pm

Dude, 111 points over 8 games is 13.875 points per game - or an average of 2 touchdowns per game. I would call that a dominant team, wouldn't you? I think the odds are good they will win all three. Maroney has actually been running better than Morris did in the 2nd half of the year. I think we'll see you back here again when they are 19-0 to retract your words.

Maybe I'm a typical arrogant NE fan, but I'm much more worried about the Colts and than the Jags.

Much love dude.

Just wanted to point out something about one difference between the Pats 1st and 2nd half of the season (first 8 games, second 8 games).

First half: Outscored opponents by 204 points.

Second half: Outscored opponents by 111 points.

This is a team that is not nearly as dominant as it once was, or at least hasn’t been for half a season. The Pats were already outplayed by the Colts for 50 minutes the first time they played, and needed a late comback to get the win. I don’t think its fair to say that we shouldn’t expect to see the Pats lose until they do. With three tough games ahead I would definitely say the odds are they don’t win all three. Plus this team is the greatest of all time mostly because of what it did in the first half, for whatever reason they haven’t been the same team, in fact they haven’t really been better than the Colts or any other top team.

Now maybe those trends don’t matter, but I think it would matter more for the Pats than say the Colts. For one, the Pats wont get guys like Sammy Morris or Colvin back; but the Colts will get Harrison and the Cowboys will get back TO plus Romo’s health. It would be one thing if the Pats DVOA drop was because Moss had been out for a while or Brady got hurt, but the team just overall declined as far as I can see.

Could all this mean nothing, sure. Did the Pats have the best regular season of all time, I think so. But is this still the best team of all time, no way in my opinion. With that said I’ll just repeat my prediction; the Pats will lose to the Colts by at least 7, everyone will be shocked but the signs were there. Now if I’m wrong obviously I’ll admit it, but it should be interesting to see.

14
by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 8:34pm

I think Pats fans (myself included) would do well to remember that, just from a probabilistic standpoint, if the Pats have the same probability p of winning any given game, then in order for the probability of them winning the Superbowl to be greater than 50% (i.e. high enough to bet straight up on Pats as opposed to "not Pats"), p has to be greater than 79.4%.

In other words, the Pats would have to be expected to beat the Jags, Colts (or Bolts, if they upset), and whatever NFC team comes out 8 out of 10 times. Maybe versus the Jags... not versus the Colts.

Realistically, even if you're an extremely optimistic Pats fan, I don't see how you can put the probability of beating the Jags higher than about 70%, the Colts higher than about 60%, and the NFC team again at 70% (and that is, in my opinion, quite optimistic). Then the Pats chances of winning the SB would be about 29.4%. Those aren't great odds...

15
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 8:43pm

#10:
Let me put it this way: for the Pats to win against the Colts, they will need to play better than they have in the last month of the regular season, and if they don't, the Colts playing how they have been playing in the same period should be favorites on the road. Either scenario could happen, and unless the outcome is a meltdown/humiliating blowout (e.g. a 20-3 repeat/payback), no one should (and would) be surprised, let alone "shocked".

16
by chargerjoe (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 9:16pm

charger pass rush make life difficult for manning again, he can throw INTs in a dome as easy as outside. LT best back in league, if neal not back at fb pinnock can put a stick on sanders no problem. philip rivers top 3 nfl quarterback by 2008, continues development against worse d than he ripped up last week second half. chargers win by three touchdowns baby

17
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 9:28pm

FTR, I registered for the message board way back when NE faced Indy yet my account still has not been activated.

18
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 9:30pm

MJK,

I think the Pats would beat the Jags 80-90% of the time. I think it is closer to 60-40 for Indy and 70-30 for whoever ends up emerging out of the NFC.

That is still only 35% odds

19
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 9:39pm

I think it should be perfectly obvious that NE really did virtually nothing complex defensively over the final 3 games of the season, and possibly even earlier. That is a large contributor to the "terrible in the 3rd quarters of close games but excellent in the 4th" pattern.

They also were running extremely basic schemes in the second halves of 10-11 games as well.

Offensively, Brady said something yesterday that gave me pause. I can't recall the exact quote, but reading between the lines, he insinuated that NE has been doing things over the second half of the season to specifically work on counters to possible defensive measures.

Said another way, in some of the close games that NE played, they could have just kept doing the same things that they had been all year, but the wanted to develop other options in case their early season strengths were shut down.

I have the feeling that we are going to see a more early-season-like Patriots team now that the playoffs are here.

20
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 9:58pm

What about the contention that the Patriots' performance declined because every crappy team they faced was hyped up and giving everything they had to beat them?

21
by Thok (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 10:09pm

The Patriots "decline" has to be taken with a grain of salt, at least on offense, given that New England was at least as concerned with getting Brady and Moss the season TD marks as they were with playing sound football.

Granted, the decline on defense is something New England needs to worry about.

22
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 10:43pm

Is anyone else surprised that Jax's DVOA was very good last week? It looked to me as though Pittsburgh outplayed them and deserved to win. Guess not.

23
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 12:46am

13,

Yeah, definitely a dominant top team. I'm just saying they had the best reg. season ever mostly because of the 1st half, and that they are aren't playing near that level anymore. They outscored opponents by twice as much in the 1st half of the season than the 2nd!!! Wouldn't you say there's a bit of a difference there, especially when injuries aren't a huge factor? And I'm not sure what you mean in your last sentence but if you mean you're more worried about the Colts than the Jags then I agree with you there.

14,
Agreed. Even the playoff odds report only give the Pats a 28% chance of winning the SB. But read Aaron's comments saying we shouldn't expect them to lose. I'm thinking, Why? Your own system says three out of four simulations they lose, why shouldn't we think they will lose? No team has good odds of winning the SB, not just the Pats.

15,
Completely and totally disagree with the last part. All you hear in the media is how shocking it would be for the Pats to lose. And then you have Ben Riley's comment like 2 weeks ago in Audibles (i think) (paraphrasing) "Hate to break it to you people, but the Pats are winning the SB". Thats prett much been the standard we've heard all yeat, and if you hear that on a site like this you can only imagine how much more ridiculous it gets at other places. I think its naive to say the least to think, no one would be surprised. It sounds more like a Pats fan trying to downplay the fact that they could very well lose and then they will be remembered as chokers.

19,
I disagree but thats not really something i can objectively argue against. It was certainly not perfectly obvious.

20,
Sounds like a poor excuse to me. Maybe the just weren't playing as well but because of what they had done before people were determined to make up a reason for it.

24
by BDC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 1:22am

20: I would expect a team of highly paid pro athletes to be "hyped up and giving everything they had" during every game, regardless of circumstance. While I can understand that in some situations a "crappy" team might not be motivated to win when they are out of playoff contention, and so might not give it their all, I can't see what difference playing NE would make. You either are, or are not, motivated to win a "meaningless" game when out of contention. Outside of maybe a hated division rival, I don't see how it would matter who your opponent was.

Really, this just sounds like an invention that sports analysts sometimes come up with when they can't otherwise explain the outcome of a game.

25
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 1:46am

# 23 - what about the fact that the Patriots played each of their games after their bye outdoors in the Northeast? Though injuries didn't impact the Pats as they have in prior years, maybe the weather had something to do with the decrease.

Also, maybe the decrease is due to the "kitchen sink" theory, where opponents threw everything they could at the Pats to steal a win (see my comment on #24 below).

My final comment for you: In certain games, I feel the Patriots were performing a little in-game testing - what kind of plays will/won't work with high winds? What plays will/won't work in wet weather? And most importantly, what kind of plays can they get away with vs. a particular type of defense.

#24:

I completely disagree with you. Once ANY team gets to about 10-0, the intensity of opponents increases. Everyone wants to be the team to beat the unbeaten. Then, once a team gets to be around 12 or 13-0, teams know that if they can knock off the unbeaten team, they will probably be remembered in history, like the 85 Dolphins, or even the 05 Chargers. Nobody would remember those teams otherwise.

So THAT is what they're playing for, and THAT is what takes the "meaningless" label away from those games.

26
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 1:48am

star,

Trust me when I tell you that NE ran incredibly basic defensive schemes for the 10 quarters that immediately followed the Pitt game. They only made adjustments when it became clear that the Giants were playing for keeps.

27
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 1:54am

Can someone explain to me why anyone would contest the fact that teams were decidedly more amped up to face NE than they normally were?

Seriously, how can anyone deny this to be the case? Philly clealy played their best or second best game of the year against NE. Baltimore went as far as to shelve all of their injured players (who oddly enough despite missing the games prior to and following the NE game somehow were healthy enough to face the Patriots) and essentially give up on the rest of the season. This was in spite of the fact that they faced the 10-2 defending champ the next week. The Giants played harder than they had in any game prior.

It isn't excuse making, it is stating a fact. Several teams approached that matchup as if it were the Superbowl.

28
by BDC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 2:20am

25: But both of the examples you provided were good teams to begin with, not "crap" teams. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I mean, either you have pride in your performance or you don't. If you don't, then yes, maybe you stop playing hard when you are out of contention. If you do have pride in your performance, then you don't. Either way though, I can't see a person changing in the middle of the season just because they are playing an undefeated team.

Really, this sort of thing happens every year, where a very bad team beats a very good team. Obviously, in this case, the bad teams didn't actually beat the Pats, but they could have.

I really think the simplist explanation is just that the disparity of talent in the NFL isn't that large, and so bad teams can and do beat (or play close to) good teams from time to time. But instead, we invent reasons such as "well they had more intensity" or some such.

I think the Pats are mortal. One of the best teams I have ever seen, but still beatable, and I think teams like Baltimore demonstrated this.

Think of it another way. Pretend that you are correct, and that once a team gets to 10-0, the intensity of their opponent goes up (one would question why the intensity of their opponent wasn't that high to begin with, but whatever). Wouldn't the intensity of the undefeated team go up as well, thus negating any advantage the bad team has? Certainly the desire to BE undefeated is at least as high as beating an undefeated team?

Secondly, the fact that some of their late games weren't even close tends to negate this theory as well. Miami got blown out by NE in the second to last game of the season. Certainly, if their is any team that would get "fired up" to end an undefeated streak, it is Miami, and yet they got killed. The Pitt game wasn't particularly close either. Were these two teams not fired up enough? If so, that negates the argument. On the other hand, if they were fired up and still got killed, that negates the argument as well.

Really, to me it just seems that the most likely explanation is that sometimes, good teams have bad games, or the opposition gets lucky. Of course, if you are an analyst, you can't say that, you instead have to come up with some insightful reason as to why it happened. And of course, if you are fan, you just want an excuse.

29
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 2:23am

23: Do you really think even a bare majority of commentators/knowledgeable fans think that the Pats are so superior to the Colts that a defeat would be a "shock"? I really don't see it (heck, not even CHFF and Simmons think that). The underdog Pats beating the Rams in 01 was "shocking", but Colts-Pats this year is even less of a mismatch that Pats-Chargers last year, and that was at best a mild surprise (other than to LT).

Unless unexpectedly the Pats dominate tomorrow and the Colts seriously struggle, I can easily see the picks going 50:50 for the AFCCG (assuming the Colts and Pats both make it, of course).

30
by BDC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 2:57am

27: Perhaps I should clarify. I don't neccessarily question that they might have been more amped up as you say, just whether or not that makes a difference. And besides, shouldn't we believe that NE was also "amped" up about the possibility of going undefeated? Take a look at two games. No one expected the Miami game to be close, and it wasn't. So no one says anything about it because the expected result happened. Then look at the Baltimore game. No one expected that game to be close, but it was. So we have to come up with a reason for the unexpected result, even if their isn't one.

I think an even more important point though is this. Assuming for the sake of argument, that this "amping" up exists, makes a difference, and gives the weaker team an advantage (or rather, less of a disadvantage). Why should this be ignored when looking at NE's recent games?

After all, one could only expect this to continue into the playoffs.

31
by Dave (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 3:04am

That's a nice observation but thats probably more of a function of other teams selling out on defense to stop each teams true strength.

"Since Week 10, the Jaguars rank first in pass offense and second in run offense. Yes, that says "first." Contrary to public perception, the Patriots’ running game has been more efficient than the Jaguars’ running game over the past eight weeks, while the Jaguars have enjoyed the more efficient passing game."

32
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 3:37am

BDC, the differences between the Miami game and the Baltimore game:

-Miami was one of the all time brutal teams

-Baltimore, when healthy, still had a very strong D

-Baltimore was playing at home on a Monday night - with pretty much all their key D starters - Reed, Lewis, Scott, Rolle, McAlister, et. al. playing

-Miami was playing in Foxboro, with Jason Taylor representing the "names" on the Dolphins D

And the reason the "amping up" factor should subside in the playoffs is that every team that is still alive is now undefeated. Now it's "win or go home" for everyone. So while Jax, SD, or Indy will be "amping up," so will the Pats, because this is the playoffs.

There's also the big game factor. How many clutch drives have there been where Brady drives his team to put them in position to win? How many other QBs have come close to that production? How many teams have that much playoff experience, for that matter?

I'm guessing (and this is a guess, as I'm a casual fan) the Pats have saved a scheme or two, a play or two, for when the games really matter.

But I guess time will tell.

33
by Jsaon (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 4:49am

"How many clutch drives have there been where Brady drives his team to put them in position to win?"

Brady has had many "non clutch" plays that people tend to conveniently forget about

-The int vs Carolina in the endzone in the SB when NE could have almost iced the game

-The INT he threw to Indy last year to seal the loss

-The INT he threw to Champ when Den eliminated NE from the playoffs

-The Tuck Rule game- having to have a season saved by a rule nobody had ever heard of isn't very clutch

-Against the Colts when all NE had to do was run out the clock and Brady fumbled (which again fortunately for Brady was overturned)

-Even almost all of his most famous "clutch" moments invloved him merely having to get his team into FG range instead of having to score a TD, a task far more difficult (for example see end of last years AFC Title Game)

34
by Tom D (formerly just Tom) (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 4:57am

Don't forget the int vs the Chargers, which he was lucky to have fumbled back.

35
by BDC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 8:34am

"BDC, the differences between the Miami game and the Baltimore game:

-Miami was one of the all time brutal teams

-Baltimore, when healthy, still had a very strong D

-Baltimore was playing at home on a Monday night - with pretty much all their key D starters - Reed, Lewis, Scott, Rolle, McAlister, et. al. playing

-Miami was playing in Foxboro, with Jason Taylor representing the “names” on the Dolphins D"

Exactly my point! Being "fired up" had nothing to do with it. The fact is, Baltimore is a better team then Miami, and hence performed better against NE.

"And the reason the “amping up” factor should subside in the playoffs is that every team that is still alive is now undefeated. Now it’s “win or go home” for everyone. So while Jax, SD, or Indy will be “amping up,” so will the Pats, because this is the playoffs."

This makes no sense at all. First, no, all of those teams are defeated, except NE. Why would a playoff team who needs to win NOT get fired up when teams did who had nothing to play for? Or more importantly, this part right here, "...so will the Pats, because this is the playoffs." So, they weren't fired up to become the first unbeaten team since the Dolphins? But now all of a sudden they will be?

"There’s also the big game factor. How many clutch drives have there been where Brady drives his team to put them in position to win?"

Who cares? Points scored in the first quarter count just as much as points scored in the fourth. And if you need to score points in the fourth to win, it just means you fucked up earlier in the game and didn't get the job done.

"How many teams have that much playoff experience, for that matter?"

What difference does that make? How much playoff experience did the first PAT SB team have? The best team will most likely win, and that will most likely be the Pats, but it won't be because of "Playoff experience".

36
by Jeremy (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 9:57am

33: You're right. He's not clutch. The examples you gave clearly outweigh all the wins, other than the one against Indy last year which essentially desperation time. The interceptions against Carolina and Denver were, indeed, awful -- so much so that as a Pats fan, I'm starting to wish for the days of Drew Bledsoe again.

37
by Glenn (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 10:18am

Jeremy, don't worry about what #33 thinks. He can't even spell his own name right.

38
by johb (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 11:20am

INSANE 20-PAGE COMMENT DELETED.

39
by Purds (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 11:25am

Jeremy: Sarcasm is such a foolish venture. It gains nothing other than making the writer think he's witty. Why not respond and engage in debate, or would that be too much to ask?

But on the clutch drives argument, I think it's much more rare to look at the times Brady, or Manning, or any QB, has started a late 4th quarter drive behind by 4 or more and HAD to score a TD, a la Montana against the Bengals in the Super Bowl. Those, to me, define a clutch drive. In that light, very few drives require such greatness.

To me, being tied and driving for the winning FG is nice, but it's not nearly as pressure-packed as when you're losing, and if you don't get the job done, you lose the game. So, I am more impressed, for example, by Brady's drive to beat the Colts this regular season (down 3 with 4 minutes to go) than I am by his drives in the SB's where they were tied, and he drove them to the winning FG. (Obviously, a SB is much more intense than a regular season game, but I am looking for two drives by the same guy for comparison sake.)

40
by Waverly (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 12:42pm

OK, I hope no one wants to provide a line-by-line critique of johb's (#37) comment.

41
by Yaxley (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 12:54pm

#37 looks like every single person to ever post on the FOX message board got together to write a book.

42
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 1:07pm

BDC,

You are ignoring one of the basic realities of the human condition: you can't be "amped up" for every single game.

Again, all one has to do is watch the games to tell that several teams *clearly* put more into their games against the Patriots than they did in 14-15 of their other games. Your question about why NE can't get amped up themselves every week is answered by those same opponents. How did they do the following weeks? Philly was beaten at home by Seattle. Baltimore was obliterated by Indy. Not only did they lose, but they clearly didn't have the same intensity that they displayed in their prior games. Why is this so? Because it is an absolute fact that teams motivate themselves better under certain circumstances than they do others. They are human, after all. Isn't the same thing true for you?

Wondering why NE isn't completely fired up every week is the same thing as wondering why a marathon runner can't sprint the whole time. NE's opponents only need to play extremely high for 60 minutes to "salvage" their season. They can afford to sprint.

43
by ammek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 1:37pm

#39: I only read the first paragraph, but apparently it took him one week to write it since the topic appears to be the Steelers' loss to Jacksonville, which he says took place "yesterday".

44
by TracingError (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 1:39pm

Wow, Johb. I don't like your attitude but you are right about the Steelers' weakness.

Unfortunately I don't know if anyone will read beyond your post.

But, here is my main point about this thread.

Why are (some of) you guys talking about NE's decline in the second half as if it is significant or predictive? The article just proved it's not. To reiterate, it shows that overall DVOA is going to be the best predictor of playoff performance even in Jeckyl/Hyde situations where performance in one half of the year was very different than the other half of the year.

This makes sense on a ton of levels. First of all, 16 is a very small sample size and making predictions based on subsets of 16 is foolhardy (hence I'm not a big fan of weighted DVOA in general). Second, we know it's the nature of human motivation to relax when you have an early lead in anything. [And with the Pats going 16-0, we know that they are very good even at resisting that.] Third we can surmise that teams play above their average strength, which is what DVOA attempts to glean, when they play an undefeated team late in the year. Fourth, most teams in a dominant situation will go into a shell, playing base schemes while they "decline"--or as the Pats may have been doing, using games as a laboratory for future situations.

So, here is my assessment.

Based on this very interesting study, there is little reason to suppose the Jags true strength is represented by their second half, nor the Pats. Based on direct analysis of the teams, the Pats should score easily, the Jags will score some--just like most of the Pats games. Then looking at matchups it's hard to see the Jags having more than a 20% chance.

The Pats issue, IMO, is that this Colts team is by far their best ever when their receivers are healthy. Not as good as the Pats, but with a few bounces they could have been going for the perfect record. [Though only the officiating made their first game as close as it was.] The Pats are probably 60% to win that game.

As far as the NFC fodder, none of those teams is better than Jacksonville. NE went down to DAL early in the year and creamed them, despite some fluky plays going Dallas' way, and losing their tight end. They beat WAS, who played even with DAL, GB, and NY, 52-7. In the fourth quarter, Their chance of losing the Super Bowl is no more than 20%, and would depend on a couple of return TDs and a lot of really bad calls and luck.

You multiply that out and you get something close to the "playoff odds" assessment of 28% (though if IND tanks, it's more like 50% IMO). So it's not time to count chickens until the Colts are defeated.

45
by ammek (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 1:39pm

I correct myself. It seems the subject of this gargantuan post is what the Steelers need to do to knock New England out of the postseason.

Have I missed something?

46
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 2:04pm

Oswlek, thanks for that post. I couldn't agree more.

#33 and 38

I never said Brady always drove down for TDs. I said "Brady drives his team to put them in position to win." Sure, he's had a couple of instances where he threw costly picks, but who hasn't?

There's still no other QB I'd rather have leading my team in those close and late situations.

More often than not he's going to be successful.

Another way of looking at it: if your team is playing the Patriots, and Brady is driving for the win late, do you think he's going to fail, or do you think the end is near for your team?

47
by Purds (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 3:11pm

"Another way of looking at it: if your team is playing the Patriots, and Brady is driving for the win late, do you think he’s going to fail, or do you think the end is near for your team?"

Depends on the score. If the game's tied, I think Brady will not force the ball, and he's likely to get into FG range to win (see SB win over Carolina in 2003-4, SB win over Rams 2001-2, division wins over Titans in 2003-4 and Riaders in 2001-2).

If NE's behind, Brady likely will force a ball or two (see 2006 AFCC, 2006 playoffs vs. Chargers, 2005 playoffs vs Denver), so I like my team's chances to beat him.

Don't forget, he's human:

2-10-NE 11 (3:08) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass intended for A.Davis INTERCEPTED by J.Lynch at DEN 34. J.Lynch to DEN 39 for 5 yards (A.Davis).

1-10-IND 45 (:24) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass short middle intended for B.Watson INTERCEPTED by M.Jackson at IND 35. M.Jackson to IND 41 for 6 yards (N.Kaczur).

4-5-SD 41 (6:25) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass short middle intended for T.Brown INTERCEPTED by M.McCree at SD 31. M.McCree to SD 34 for 3 yards (T.Brown). FUMBLES (T.Brown), RECOVERED by NE-R.Caldwell at SD 32. Play Challenged by SD and Upheld. (Timeout #1 by SD at 06:16.)

And, as a Colt fan, I'd say the exact same thing about Manning. If he's behind, he'll need to force a ball or two. If it's a tie, he's likely to get within a FG.

Nothing is automatic, even Tom Brady.

All that said, I think they win easily over Jax tonight. The weather is incredibly good today (I want to buy lottery tickets with Brady some time -- he gets an amazing amount of good fortune in events outside his control, like tonight's weather for a pass-dependent team), Jax's QB is young and was exposed last week, and NE's just a better overall team.

48
by BDC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 3:14pm

42: But won't NE have to face that in the playoffs? So how is it not relevent to see how they performed in games against "amped up" teams?

49
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 3:58pm

Purds,

I already admitted Brady's human. I'm not refuting that he's thrown a few big picks and had a few bad games.

Like I said before, who hasn't? Like you said, even Peyton's not perfect. In the Pats game this year, the Colts had the ball with three minutes left and a chance to win and Manning fumbled it away.

These things happen.

While you choose to remember the pick Brady threw to McCree, I'll point to him bringing his team back from 21-13 with six minutes left and putting up 11 unanswered points to win that game.

Brady's pick in last year's AFCCG came with 24 seconds left on Indy's 45. The whole drive started with 54 seconds remaining. The Pats needed a TD and Brady HAD TO take the chances of forcing some balls because there really wasn't much time left. It's not exactly an easy feat to drive 80 yards in 54 seconds for a score - with Reche Caldwell playing a key role mind you. A TD there would have been otherworldly.

I'm interested in what it will take for everyone to finally shut up about the guy? 4 SBs? 5 SBs? 6? What's the magic number?

The guy has already done it 3 times and he's 30 years old. If that doesn't get you some points for being clutch, I don't know what will.

As for his good fortune, I guess you could say the same thing for Manning. Getting the PI calls in last year's AFCCG, in which the league apologized to the Pats afterwards, is good fortune.

The Polamalu fumble from the Divisional Round in 05 was good fortune.

In their home game vs Jax this year, he threw a pass to Utecht in which the TE ran about three steps and fumbled, giving Jax possession. Indy had the play reviewed, and the question was whether his knee was on the ground. The refs eventually ruled it an incompletion. What???? I watched the play over and over, and CBS never even showed a replay of why it was an incompletion. None of the highlight shows mentioned it. Next pass? 48 yard TD to Wayne. I would say that sequence represents good fortune.

And all three of those events happened at home. Could the crowd bring the Colts some good fortune? I don't know.

It works both way Purds. One man's tragedy is another man's comedy. As a Pats fan, I've been saying for years how the Colts have been pretty fortunate. I'm sure you'd say the same things about the Pats.

Maybe they're just good.

50
by hwc (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 4:11pm

42: But won’t NE have to face that in the playoffs? So how is it not relevent to see how they performed in games against “amped up” teams?

The unique thing about the final stretch of the Pats season was that their opponents had nothing to lose! They could be amped up for a prime time national game against an undefeated team, generally with no playoff consequenses. Thus, they could throw everything but the kitchen sink at the game plan. If they lost, they lost. Amped up plus no pressure.

The Pats had pressure (from the undefeated season) but no particular reason to be amped up seven weeks in row.

The playoffs are different. One and done for every team. The Pats will be under pressure, but (unlike the end of the regular season) so will their opponents.

51
by Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 4:55pm

"Like I said before, who hasn’t? Like you said, even Peyton’s not perfect. In the Pats game this year, the Colts had the ball with three minutes left and a chance to win and Manning fumbled it away."

Ah yes, the Roosevelt Colvin vs. Charlie "not a starting left tackle" Johnson factor.

52
by BDC (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 6:22pm

50:

I guess this is the part I don't get. If "they could throw everything but the kitchen sink at the game plan. If they lost, they lost." would improve their chances of winning, why wouldn't every team do this, every time? Not just in regards to NE, but in general?

Imagine a scenario where being "amped up and throwing the sink at your opponent" helps you. Why would teams not do this in the playoffs? The only reason I can think of is because it might not actually help them, but then if that is the case, doesn't this defeat the whole argument? If they believe it does help them then, won't they do it?

53
by mla2131 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 10:21pm

As a response to the “Is Brady clutch” argument on this thread:

Brady is clearly a terrific quarterback. The overall record of success, the postseason record (12-2 as a starter!), the leadership skills on the field … his record of success stands on its own.

Clutch: Understand that the argument whether Brady, and any quarterback for that matter, is clutch (notwithstanding the difficulties in determining "clutch" play – a whole other discussion) is an argument largely based on perception.

Perception: Brady benefits from positive (deservedly so) media coverage, favorably affecting the general perception of his play. However, Brady also lacks, well, let’s call it a “legendary status” enjoyed by some of the all-time greats.

Far from an exhaustive list, the following is a list of examples that contribute to one’s status as a legend. Of course, it is assumed that the QB must also meet a certain baseline level of extraordinary success before the conversation regarding legendary status can begin. The following have a direct correlation (and perhaps causative relationship) to the perception of a quarterback as “clutch” … performances that resonate in the minds of all football fans long after the game has ended.

1. A career defining drive known by name. The Catch (Montana), The Drive (Elway).

2. 4th quarter comeback drives requiring a TD. (Elway, Favre, Marino, and Montana).

3. Spectacular athletic plays on game winning drives. (Elway, Favre).

Now, a perfect season would probably belong on the list. Note, however, that the perfect season is also an achievement of sustained performance (where Brady has already demonstrated success), more than it is a spectacular play or game.

As a football fan, I would enjoy seeing Brady put in a “clutch” situation this postseason that requires a TD to win the game.

54
by Bobman (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 10:43pm

#51 Allen, You might amend that to the "Charlie Johnson not a member of the NFLPA next year" experiment; or

Charlie "I know he's alive because he's fogging up this mirror" Johnson; or

Charlie "Would you like fries with that?" Johnson....

But injuries happen and the next guy has to step up. If he's not good enough, the coaches have something to answer for. I'll just describe it as "protection problems"--everybody shares in the blame. And Colvin, as they say, gets paid to play, too.

NickyP, the "magic number" is when the worshippers shut up. You know how much abuse Peter King gets here for his Brett Favre tongue-baths? Imagine that one man's opinion multiplied by about half the population of Pats fans--that is how fans of other teams perceive it. Perception may not equal reality, but until the noise out there quiets down, say 10 years after TB's retirement, that is how it will be perceived. I am pretty sure you feel that way about Manning, though he's taken much more abuse in the media and forum of public opinion due to his lack of post season success.

55
by bowman (not verified) :: Sat, 01/12/2008 - 11:34pm

4. Questionable is around 50% probability to play, right?

2 of those 9 players aren't inactive, and I'll check the gamelog to see how much they've played.

Has the NFL ever fined/penalized a team for blatent misrepresentation of the injury report. To me, this is much more serious than "spygate", and there is easily collected objective evidence for such a reaction.

56
by Scott (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 1:30am

For the guys talking about Brady needing to deliver a signature TD drive when the team needs it in the playoffs, I agree. But to clarify how good he is when he's in that situation period (down by 4-8 pts in the 4th quarter), I have that worked out already.

Successes (8):
10/14/01 vs. SD - down 7, led TD drive to force OT, won in OT w/FG
11/10/02 at CHI - down 5, go ahead TD and 2pt conv. pass (though he was intercepted and it had to be reviewed from the booth in the last 2 minutes)
11/23/03 at HOU - down 7, led TD drive to force OT, won in OT w/FG
12/3/06 vs. DET - down 8, led TD drive w/TD pass and 2pt pass to tie, later led go ahead drive
1/14/07 vs. SD - down 8, tied w/TD & 2pt (though don't forget he threw the pick before this and got the lucky fumble)
11/25/07 vs. PHI - down 4, led go ahead TD drive
12/3/07 vs. BAL - down 4, threw GW TD pass (thanks Rex Ryan for the timeout)
12/29/07 at NYG - down 5, game winning TD pass to Moss on the wide open bomb

Failures (8):
9/23/01 vs. NYJ - down 7, 4 straight incompletions at NYJ 29
10/28/01 vs. DEN - three 4th quarter drives down by 4: INT, INT, INT returned for TD
9/29/02 vs. SD - three 4th QT drives down by 7: combined 11/17 for 127 yards, no points
10/27/02 vs. DEN - down 8, a 3 & out and an incompletion on 3rd & 22
10/16/05 vs. DEN - down 8, 3 straight incompletions
11/5/06 vs. IND - down 7 on two drives that ended in INTs
11/12/06 vs. NYJ - down 4, sacked on 3rd down. down 4, INT
1/21/07 at IND - down 4, game ending INT

Somehow I think Joe Montana would have looked better in this situation. Too bad there's not any pbp data out there for his career.

57
by Doug (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 1:50am

#56, what about the colts game from earlier this year?

58
by Scott (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 1:58am

57, it gets lost in the shuffle of analyzing one possession games in terms of needing 1-8 pts, and in this case, 4-8. They were down 3 on the winning drive. We know you can't overcome a 3pt deficit if you're down 10, but like I said, it gets lost in the shuffle of things.

Either way, Brady's going to be right near the top of the list, but I don't think anything suggests he is the undispusted #1 QB you would want leading a crucial drive if you have to get it in the endzone. History does suggest he'd be your #1 guy (probably of all-time) if you just need a FG, especially if the game is tied.

59
by Scott (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 1:59am

To clarify that, I mean you can't overcome a 3pt deficit if you're down 10 without scoring twice and one of the scores needing to be a TD.

60
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 2:12am

56: Eh, I'm not sure. Montana had a number of playoff games where his team wasn't even within 4-8 points within the fourth quarter; I would think that those should count against him.

For instance, 1985 playoffs: Niners lose 17-3 to Giants. I can't find the pbp, but I'm assuming that 3 points is not a stellar offensive performance.

1986 playoffs: Montana throws pick-6 to LT (original) to go down 28-3 before being injured in a 49-3 loss.

1987 playoffs: 13-2 Niners lose 36-24 to wild-card 8-7 Vikings; Montana plays poorly enough to be benched. (It's so funny that if that happened now, he'd be seen as a huge choker.)

Don't get me wrong, I think Montana was one of the (if not the) best QBs ever, but if you cherry-pick the worst stats of any QB, they'll look mediocre. (And even the most successful QBs have at least one failure in the majority of years, as even the dynastic QBs win 2-4 Super Bowls in 10-16 year careers.)

Also, half of those games were in the first two years of Brady's career, including the game against the Jets that was Brady's first NFL game. I wonder how other QBs would fare at that stage of their careers...

61
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 2:16am

60: And to clarify, I wasn't trying to refute Scott's general point, but to say that perception of the most "clutch" QB is often relative.

62
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 2:39am

Bobman,

Do you think Brady is worthy of the tongue bath from his own fans? With 3 SBs, he's the most successful current QB in the game. What type of attention do you think he deserves? Should we just say Brady sucks, just so everyone finally respects him and the hype dies down?

I don't understand.

How should fans and non-fans alike be reacting to his career?

Tonight he was 26 of 28, setting a postseason record for completion % in a game. Yet one of the questions Moss faced in the press conference was something along the lines of "since many of Brady's passes were checkdowns, do you think his performance tonight was overrated?"

What else can this guy do? Dude can walk on water and win the SB every year til he retires and there would still be plenty of haters making some sort of case about why he's overrated.

I firmly believe that he needs another 3 SB victories to silence the naysayers.

Scott, #55 - the first failure you listed was from his first game ever, when he took over for Bledsoe. Your first four failures were from his first two years as a starter. Caldwell and Gaffney were his top two targets in 06, and as I've highlighted in a previous post, his failure vs the Colts in last year's AFCCG was while he was trying to drive his team 79 yards in 54 seconds, with those same two stalwarts leading his receiving crew. He was trying to force balls to make a play when all hope was just about lost.

I noticed there were hardly any 03 or 04 games in your analysis. I'm willing to bet there were a couple more successes and failures than you have noted along the way.

Like I said before, there's no other QB I'd rather have leading my team.

63
by Mike (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 2:41am

This isn't quite the right forum for it, but with Hasselbeck and Garrard knocked out today, none of the remaining QBs in the playoffs have ever missed a start since they won the job.

Granted this is more impressive for some of them than others.

64
by Purds (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 2:52am

Nicky P:

What I personally find "clutch" about Brady is that he very rarely has a bad complete game in the big games. I do, however, disagree that he's any more clutch than the other great QB's in the 4th quarter. Again, it's one thing to score when it's tied, a very different thing to score when you're behind.

As to fortune, I am talking about events where the guy (Brady, Manning, Farve, etc) has literally no influence at all in the event or situation, like the weather, that very positively affects him and his fortunes. For example, we'll know Brady has his fortune mo-jo really going if it snows like hell next Sunday. In other words, if he gets to play a big defense (Jax) on a perfect carpet, and a fast defense (Indy) on a slippery one. That's what I mean. Like getting your first start not because the coaches saw great talent in you, but because the franchise QB, behind whom you were destined to sit a couple more years, was too stupid to step out of bounds and got his lungs ripped apart.

Now, don't get all angry and tell me how, "Yeah, but Brady took advantage of those situations!" I agree there, he did. But, look at other events beyond control, like your FG kicker making or missing FG's at the end of playoff games. Brady (vs Oakland in snow, SB, SB). Manning (Vander-shank in two playoff games, Miami and Pitt).

Why is it so awful to say Brady has led a charmed career, and made it better?

65
by Purds (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 3:04am

Nicky P:

No one says Brady's a bad QB. No one says Brady is not a great QB. What critics like me chafe at is the praise that goes over the top. For example, did you listen to ESPN after the game tonight? Shlerith, or whatever his name is, began his analysis like this: "Brady was just so patient today."

I agree completely, but then his next line was this: "He was so cool in the pocket, staring down the blitzes." What? I think Jax blitzed twice the entire game, and this ESPN bozo thinks Brady was brave all night in the pocket.

Brady was very, very patient, and very, very accurate, and very, very good at audibles. He could have been 28-28. But, the fawning doesn't need to be in odd places like courage. There was no blitz tonight. ESPN and some fans try to make it that Brady walks on water.

(Of course, he did walk on water tonight.)

My view of Brady is this: he is a great QB, and what I most admire about him is that he so often puts his team in position that they don't need to have a late comeback. He routinely starts big games very well, and he puts pressure on opposing coaches because of his fast starts. But, I honestly don't think of him as any more clutch than any other great QB.

66
by Scott (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 3:13am

Like I said, I don't have pbp on Joe Montana but I do know of 18 games where he had to lead the team to a win by scoring a TD (and then maybe another score later) in the 4th QT/OT. And 5 of those were in the postseason.

I just get annoyed by the Brady to Montana comparisons since Brady doesn't have hardly any special drives/comebacks like the ones I'm familiar with of Montana. And it's not just playoffs, but regular season even.

- Montana's first ever comeback was a 28 pt one against the Saints. Still the biggest in NFL regular season history. That's special stuff and that's something he did his 2nd year in the league.

- Then you have a MNF duel with Elway his last season (1994). Threw the GW TD pass at the end.

- Against the 89 Eagles in Philly, they're down 21-10 in the 4th quarter, no running game and he's been sacked 8 times on the day. In the 4th quarter alone, 4 TD passes. Numbers for the day: 25/34 for 428 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT.

- Down 26-20 to the Bengals with seconds left in 1987, he somehow finds Jerry Rice with a 25 yd TD strike to win the game.

That's the stuff of legends. Throwing safe checkdowns to set up 40+ yd Vinatieri FG's...not so much.

67
by Scott (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 3:22am

To go off of what Purds was saying, if I turn on ESPN, am I going to hear more about Brett Favre's excellent performance in the snow in a game where his team quickly fell behind 14-0, or am I going to listen mostly about how Brady "calmly stayed cool in the pocket all night" even though he had 5 seconds to throw every down? It's that kind of ballwashing that annoys the non-fans.

68
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 3:31am

Purds,

How did the "fortune" scenarios I laid out for you not represent things that are out of Manning's control? They all relate to some sort of officiating call. How can Manning control that?

I understand you're speaking of the weather and things of that nature, but what's the difference? How about this - Manning is fortunate his dad was an NFL QB and he grew up in a football family. Isn't that fortunate? Sure is, but it's kind of a silly point.

I'm sure I can sit here and do weeks of research and come back with some dissertation highlighting Manning's fortunes - just like that dude in the thread above that laid out the history of the Steelers franchise (what was THAT all about???), but there's not enough time in the day, ya know?

I understand your point about the FG kicking. Vanderjerk could have changed everything. But how can you ignore Manning's fortune in that same Pitt game with the Polamalu "fumble?" At the end of the day, it's wins/losses that count, not necessarily a fortunate play or two.

The only thing that really matters is the bottom line.

69
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 4:05am

66: We may have to agree to disagree, and I don't feel super strongly about this (or feel that we have adequate data), but I just don't see why driving for a winning FG is much worse than a TD.

According to the site linked in my name, Montana had 31 career comebacks while trailing in the fourth quarter, and 5 in the playoffs (2 with the Niners, 3 with the Chiefs). I don't have the breakdown or pbp, but a number of the games inevitably involved FGs at some point (you can tell by comparing the 3rd Q score to the final).

In his Niners career, the only two playoff games that would seem to meet the "driving for a TD while down by 4-8" criteria would be The Catch and the Taylor play.

And, WRT to the Chiefs playoffs games, one (v. Pitt) required a 9-yard drive for the tying TD, and was won with a Lin Elliott FG in OT (heh).

You're also missing some Brady regular season games. I just picked these two from memory, and I haven't looked up every game:
12/30/02 v. Mia - Down 11 points with 5 minutes to go, Pats tie the game (and win by 3 in OT);
11/23/03 v. Hou - Throws TD with 48 seconds left to tie the game (and win by 3 in OT).

I just think that any discussion of "clutchness" ends up with fairly arbitrary criteria. I would argue that, for instance, a QB driving the field with a smaller deficit at the end of the game may have done a better job, as they may have put their team in the best position to come back in the vast majority of cases.

It would be silly, in my opinion, to criticize David Garrard (or consider his performance at the end of the game was less "clutch") for "only" driving to the 3-yard line for the game-winning FG, rather than throwing a TD. (Any criticism of Garrard kind of illustrates my point above - if it weren't for a Jax offensive meltdown, they likely wouldn't have had to do a game-winning drive to win...)

67: I've been watching Sportscenter in the background, and there seems to be coverage of both games. [Note: if you're saying Brady is overhyped, comparing him to Brett Favre of all people may not be super effective. :)]

70
by Purds (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 4:47am

Nicky P: "How did the “fortune” scenarios I laid out for you not represent things that are out of Manning’s control? They all relate to some sort of officiating call. How can Manning control that?"

Well, I think when players are in the game when the play happens, well, they actually influence things. Kind of crazy, I know. Didn't you ever see a QB or WR talk a ref into a call?

In contrast, my examples are removed from even the merest hint of involvement, because Brady/Manning aren't even on the field. I didn't talk about refs, because those are always debated without a clear winner. (And by the way, the AFCC PI calls and the "official" apology. Has anyone ever confirmed that, other than the Pats player? Any confirmation at all? I never saw anything other than the Pats player telling to a Boston media guy, but I'd be happy to see something from the NFL or some other objective source if it's true.)

I didn't talk about the Charger fumble of a interception in 2006/7 playoffs.

Anyone can come up with fortunate officiating calls. Anyone, if they think they're side is iron proof. You could say the NE defenders mugged the Colt WRs in the 2004 AFCC. I am not talking about those situations, where Brady (or Manning) is on the field.

Let me put it this way: give me examples of great fortune when Manning wasn't on the field? I'll grant the Bettis fumble, but that's pretty negated by two things: Jason David couldn't out run Big Ben and score, and then Vander-shank missed a dome FG.

Show me the fourth quarter, "clutch" FG kick in a big game that went Manning's way (either good by Indy, or no-good by the opponent). Heck, even this year's relatively meaningless Chargers/Indy game was decided by a 29-yarder, and Manning's guy missed.

71
by Purds (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 4:50am

"I’m sure I can sit here and do weeks of research and come back with some dissertation highlighting Manning’s fortunes"

And here, you've made my point. No one has to do weeks of research to think of charmed events in Brady's career. It's too easy. With most others, you need to do research.

72
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 1:01pm

Purds,

I understand you're a little bitter because Manning's kicker always missed the big kick. You gotta let it go my message board friend.

My point is that there are different kinds of fortune out there, but the only thing that really matters is the bottom line of wins and losses.

I think it's fortunate that Manning grew up in an NFL family. It's fortunate that he's had two filthy WRs and a sick RB on his team for a while now. He's fortunate that he gets seemingly every borderline call to go his way (from a Pats fan perspective).

As for having fortune with weather - if the Colts don't want to chance playing on a slick field in Foxboro in January, they should have won the game in November. Consider it a penalty for losing that game. Same thing goes for 03 and 04. In 03, they had 4 chances to score from the goal line to win and ultimately get homefield, they didn't. In 04, yes, Manning's kicker missed a FG vs the Pats that would have tied the game and given them a chance to win that season opener. However, on the play before that, Manning audibled Edge James to his other side, and then McGinest sacked Manning for a big loss - applying the pressure from the area James vacated. That audible cost the Colts valuable yards and pushed them out of Vanderjerk's FG range.

Sometimes you make your own fortune.

As for Brady, the point about him getting lucky that Bledsoe got hurt - that's the NFL (I suppose Kurt Warner was pretty fortunate too). I would argue that Bledsoe was within a few games of getting benched anyhow, as he was costing the Pats games because of his immobility and penchant for the big turnover.

Was Brady fortunate when injuries forced the Pats to use 42 different starters in 03 (NFL record)? Was he fortunate when injuries forced the Pats to use 40 different starters in 04?

Good and bad fortune have a way of evening out Purds.

Finally, there are other examples of good and bad fortune that can be applied to most QBs. Brady's are more evident because of his success, because he was able to hit the ground running and simply become a winner. He's more criticized than most because he's on a big stage more than most.

73
by Drew (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 1:12pm

In response to 52: I think there is a clear effect in throwing everything plus the kitchen sink at the patriots in that teams are 4-10 the week after playing the pats and these teams records are well over .500 for the rest of the season. Teams have played exceptionally hard against the pats and it has clearly drained them for their game after, so it is not a good overall strategy to go all out against a team during the regular season as it hurts your future success. This of course isn't relevant in the playoffs.

74
by AndyE (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 1:44pm

I'm still trying to figure out why some people think that maintaining a consistent, high energy level for 60 minutes of 16 straight games is trivial, all evidence to the contrary.

And Purds, most people leave out the second half of your statement. All NFL quarterbacks lead a charmed life, the best of them take advantage of this. The worst blow it.

75
by BDC (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 3:35pm

73:

"Teams have played exceptionally hard against the pats and it has clearly drained them for their game after, so it is not a good overall strategy to go all out against a team during the regular season as it hurts your future success."

No, no it hasn't. Who played them tough? Well, lets see. Philly, who went on the following week to lose a very close game to a good Seattle team. That doesn't really tell us much. There was Baltimore, who got killed the following week against Indy but then, that isn't really surprising is it? And there is NYG, who killed a, by DVOA standards anyway, very good TB team.

76
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 4:11pm

75: Don't forget Indy, who played their worst game of the year against SD.

And why is it "not surprising" that the same Baltimore team that almost beat NE was completely destroyed by Indy (at home)? Unless you think that Indy is greatly superior to NE, I'd argue that the result is somewhat surprising.

77
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 4:32pm

This game is being horribly officiated.

-#32 crushed the colt, it wasn't holding on the Cromartie INT return for a touchdown.

-That early phillip rivers interception, Bethea or whoever tried to intercept it clearly didn't have possession.

- Bob Sanders isn't alowed to pat the kicker on the back after a missed kick.
The play before that Norv was livid from too.

There was a play where Phillip Rivers scrambled and ran out of bounds and the Colt jumped on his legs in the cheapest of cheapshots.

I've never seen Norv Turner with so much emotion. The refs are clearly favoring Indy so that they could meet the Pats next week.

78
by mrparker (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 4:38pm

Nicky P is bill simmons

But then again all Pats fans sound alike. Bastards have only existed since November 01 anyway

79
by someone (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 6:18pm

So last week the Giants v Bucs was the most obvious call, but you got it wrong.

Now the Chargers v Colts is the most obvious call, but you've got this one wrong too.

I would say your analysis is so worthless as to be a contra-indicator, but at least you're good for predicting a win for the 16-0 Pats. Congrats, great site.

80
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 6:18pm

Peyton Manning will get blamed for "choaking" for throwing 2 picks and failing to convert his last to possessions but in reality it wasn't his fault.

He had 2 tipped ball interceptions, and had his last 2 passes dropped by Wayne, Clark and had that Adai drop on the goalline in the 2nd to last possession.

RIP Tony Dungy, you got served by some Norv Turner.

81
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 6:19pm

Someone- I understand they were horribly wrong 2 weeks in a row, but if you don't like the site then go back to your ESPN message boards and type in all caps.

It isn't just about the outsiders, there are a lot of quaility posters that are just fans here.

82
by someone (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 6:24pm

Yes Chris, anyone who criticizes this site is obviously an idiot. Keep up the groupthink.

83
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 6:43pm

I'm more critical than 99% of the people on this site and to the point where I often times look like an jerk.

Yes, they were horribly wrong on these playoff games but their analysis isn't "worthless".

DVOA needs some work but it's better than a lot of these conventional stats. I'd still rather listen to a good handicapper or scout but dvoa isn't pointless.

I especially take offense to "someone" who doesn't post around here very often and then just bashes the creaters of this site.

84
by Ben (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 7:17pm

#55, I believe the changed the injury reporting rules this year since 50% chance to play and such is too hard to judge. I think they categories are now based on how much players miss practice during the week.

85
by Purds (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 7:39pm

Okay, Nicky P. You're right. Brady never has fortune smile on him. Never gets a break like having the AFCC game being planned against a team that lost it QB and top RB to injury in the previous game! (And, I hate sarcasm, but, "it is what it is.")

I was very much looking forward to Colts-NE (even rooted for NE over Jax), and I was saying to a friend this morning (who is a Pats fan and wanted the Colts to lose today) that NE needed to get to play and beat Indy so no one could say NE was perfect this year but never played the Colts at full strength. But, the Colts that lost today would not have beaten NE next week, full strength or not, so that line of thought is bunk. Good luck to them.

86
by Shalimar (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 7:59pm

79: "Now the Chargers v Colts is the most obvious call, but you’ve got this one wrong too."

Sure it's obvious to you now that the game is over, where were you this morning with your wonderful prognostication skills? I'm a Charger fan and I didn't think it was obvious though I am certainly happy with the result.

87
by Scott (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 8:28pm

The game today is another good example. The Colts were down 4, facing a 3rd and 9, and Manning hit Gonzalez for the big TD. Was it "clutch"? Sure, I guess. But right after that, the defense allows a GW TD drive to a back up QB and RB and the Colts are back down by 4, and they didn't get it done (some bad drops towards the end too). So I guess a lot of people will write this down as a "choke" for future reference.

Meanwhile everyone that knows anything about the NFL the last 7 years knows what would have happened if it was NE in this situation. After that TD to Gonzalez, that's exactly the spot where Brady never would have to worry about falling back down by 4 again. His defense would stop Volek (and not just force a punt, but probably come up with a takeaway like they have for years) and Brady would get credit for the win and the game-winning drive.

Colts defense choked it up in the second half, no question about it. And Marvin Harrison had a negative impact on the game like I thought he would, and Kenton Keith has hands of stone that even Ike Taylor wouldn't know about.

88
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 8:29pm

#

Okay, Nicky P. You’re right. Brady never has fortune smile on him. Never gets a break like having the AFCC game being planned against a team that lost it QB and top RB to injury in the previous game! (And, I hate sarcasm, but, “it is what it is.”)
LOL, I wonder if Indy had squeaked by, you would be calling Peyton "lucky" for playing a large part of the game without either.

Regardless, even assuming Rivers and LT will be missing next week, the back-ups were able to dominate Indy's top D, so they should be a challenge anyway.

89
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 8:35pm

88 - Slo Mo Joe:

You took the words out of my mouth. Had Manning won, I'd have been on here talking about how fortunate he was to operate against an undermanned team. But he couldn't capitalize, which speaks to my earlier point about making the most of your luck.

If the Patriots win out, 19-0 pretty much speaks for itself, regardless of who they played. And they HAVE played just about all the teams considered "elite" in the NFL.

90
by Pat on the back (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 9:10pm

Just as a fun "counting chickens before they hatch" note, if the Pats win the SB over GB (which I think would be the best storyline), the 19-0 would include wins over:
AFC 2, 3 (twice), 4, and 5 seed
NFC 1, 2, 5, 6 seed

a 10-6 non-playoff team
and an 8-8 team that was still pretty damn good (Philly).

Of course, according to the playoff odds, the Pats still only have a 45% chance of winning the superbowl. Oddly, in the decomposition I quickly ran from the playoff odds page, they have 67.0% chance of winning the next game, but a 67.5% chance of winning the superbowl if they make it there. Interesting.

91
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 9:16pm

During the game they said that Ron Meeks would be interviewed by the Redskins to "fill out their interviewing process". Are you freaking kidding me? RON MEEKS?

Grew Williams, your 2008 coach of the Washignton deadskins.

92
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 9:19pm

Regardless if the Giants beat Dallas or not, does DVOA still want to rank them 16th or whatever the heck they had them at?

3 point loss to Indy, beating the beloved Tampa on the road, and maybe beating dallas now on the road. They are 8-1 on the road pending this game. How many quarterbacks/teams could do that?

I'd hope that there aren't lots more "giants jokes" and pot shots in PFP next year.

93
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 9:50pm

Is it official that they need to redo DVOA since the Giants are going to the NFC championship and they are 9-1 on the road?

94
by brandon (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 10:17pm

does anyone know when the final game charts come out for the cornerback metrics for the full season?

95
by ifthen (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 11:16pm

Stick to the present because your not prophetic and that is obvious. The colts lost because all of you ignored the chargers and look what happened. Ha ha.

96
by Richard (not verified) :: Sun, 01/13/2008 - 11:22pm

Last time the Chargers met, both were banged up and the Chargers won. This time only the Chargers were banged up and they still won. I have to say, I'm a little surprised. I thought we'd win, but that was when I figured our only injuries were to Gates and Neal. Crazy stuff.

97
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:28am

78 - Nope, I'm not Bill Simmons, just Nicky P.

I've been a lifelong Pats fan, through good and bad.

To suggest we all sound alike and we're all bandwagon jumpers is to make a misinformed comment. There are plenty of Boston sports fans that sound like idiots. I am not one of them.

98
by mrparker (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:23am

It was a semi-joke.

Everytime I read a kitchen sink comment I make a bill simmons joke.

You write like a journalist.

I was in college with alot of boston kids 98-02 and I'm telling you I never heard any of them claim the Pats until Nov01'.

99
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:50am

98 - I'm an accountant stuck in a journalist's mind. It's a shame.

Those kids you went to school with are disgraceful Pats "fans." They sound pathetic to me.

100
by Brett (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:48am

Hey Number #10. Now is the time to admit (as you said you'd be the first to do so) that the Pats would lose to the Colts by at least 7. I guess since that can't happen because your Colts lost yesterday, you may want to reconsider the Pats as the best team ever. You can wait to see the Pats dominate the Chargers this weekend, or wait til they win the Super Bowl but it is coming and the Colts can't stop it.