Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Jan 2007

Scramble for the Ball: Not Too Amused

by Bill Barwell & Alex Carnevale

Bill: There are eight teams left. Can we rule any of them out as utter pretenders, or is anything possible?

Alex: Some of those teams are in the NFC, so ... yes. The four best teams in the league are in the AFC. The only thing certain is that the NFC champion is going to be a massive underdog in the Super Bowl. You can bet on the AFC winner now if you want to give up a touchdown, and it's more than a solid bet.

Bill: You don't think the Saints could match up well against, say, the Colts or Patriots?

Alex: I know you're joking because you're whimsical like that, but the Saints went 1-3 against the AFC, and didn't do much after sneaking out an opening week victory against the Browns.

The remaining NFC teams are a combined 6-for-16 against the AFC, with Seattle clearly the team that had the most success. They beat Denver and played San Diego and Kansas City tough.

Bill: Yeah, but Seattle is also down to posting Craigslist ads for defensive backs.

Alex: Pete Hunter is a god!

Bill: Does God not need knee ligaments, either?

We might as well start with the Seahawks, then. You like them to upset the Bears in Chicago?

Alex: After the Bears had a bye week, they beat the 49ers 41-10. It was about this time that the Bears stopped playing meaningful games. Since then, their quarterback situation can only be described as grotesque, and they haven't stopped the run well all season. Do I like the Seahawks? Kinda. With the points? No question.

Bill: Their quarterback situation isn't grotesque. They have Kyle Orton on the bench. He just wins. The Seahawks were also a Tony Romo moment away from losing to the Cowboys at home. I don't know. I think I'm with neckbeards and shotguns on this one. Also, the Bears were fourth in the league in stopping the run from Weeks 1-9, and 16th in stopping the run from Weeks 10-17. So maybe the Tommie Harris injury has hurt them. Still, though, I just don't see how the Seahawks are going to be able to run the ball 30 times against the Bears. In fact, they might want to employ Rex Grossman as their offense and just punt away over and over again.

Alex: They gave up 157 yards to Ronnie Brown. Are you sure their initial high ranking wasn't just a function of playing ahead so often their opponents gave up on the run?

I doubt we'll see much of Grossman in this game, even if he starts. Julius Jones was able to run pretty easily through the Seahawks, and when the Bears played the Seahawks in Week 4, Thomas Jones went off for 98 yards and two TDs. Hasselbeck was repeatedly rushed in this game because of the lack of a Seattle running game, while a lack of a passing game now may prevent the Bears from succeeding with the run. The Seahawks are more consistent in all phases of the game right now with a healthy Hasselbeck and Alexander.


Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.

Alex: Are the Eagles or the Saints contenders? Do you think the Eagles are the live-r dog? What did you make of all the dropped New Orleans passes?

Bill: This was the fifth-ranked passing attack over the last half of the season. One game, stuff happens. I'm more concerned about the Saints secondary versus Jeff Garcia.

Alex: Which team has better corners right now?

Bill: Good point. I think the Eagles' safeties are better, though -- Brian Dawkins goes a long way. I don't think this is too quantifiable, but the Eagles are used to guarding a Reggie Bush-type back in Tiki Barber, so they don't have to change their scheme around dramatically to account for him.

Alex: If it is going to be up to the AFC to win the Super Bowl, there are four teams. The Ravens only played three playoff teams this season, and one of these "teams" was coached by Herman Edwards; through margin of victory they've made themselves #1 in DVOA. The Colts eked out some close ones. Whether this helps them in a tight game is for the talking heads to decide. To me the matchup with the most number of possible outcomes is Baltimore-Indianapolis, due to the big play nature of the Colts offense and Ravens defense. (You get the feeling that Schottenheimer is going to play a certain kind of game on both sides of the ball, and Belichick is going to match it, and no team has the strength on either side of the ball to blow a team out or shut a team down.) Conventional wisdom suggests Peyton Manning redeems himself and leads his Colts to the promised land -- I'm going to instead put my faith in margin of victory and pick the Ravens.

Bill: I think the Ravens are going to win the matchup because their weakness -- running the ball offensively -- is mitigated by the Colts' weakness, stopping the run. Of course, they did a good job last week, but that team was coached by Herman Edwards.

Alex: We know Bob Sanders is one of the best tacklers on the Colts, which isn't saying much. Against the Chiefs, isn't it clear Sanders was the difference maker?

Bill: If you are a second-round pick and you're willing to hold out, you are gangsta, but I don't know if you are truly a difference-maker. Even if he is a huge difference-maker, he's not at 100 percent. Correlation's not necessarily causation. It could be a schematic switch or, alternately, the utter incompetence of Trent Green, too. Poor, poor bloomless rose.

Alex: Your refusal to give the Colts defense any credit is truly unmatched among analysts, and that's why you ended up with Larry Johnson in fantasy. How'd that work out?

Bill: Still three weeks to go my friend. Besides, they were playing against Herm! You should've warned me.

Switching games, do you think the Patriots can scheme up something to stop LaDainian Tomlinson?

Alex: I think the better question is, do they even have to focus on stopping LT? I won't invoke Belichick's catchphrase, but LT ... he's not what he isn't. When Philip Rivers has played poorly this season, the Chargers haven't been the offensive juggernaut we're used to. When Rivers struggles, so do the Chargers do, including a close game against the Raiders at home. This season did nothing to tarnish Bill's reputation for game-planning against young quarterbacks, as no quarterback 25 or under threw for more than 15 completions in a game against the Pats this season.

Bill: Yeah, but how many times did Belichick play against a quarterback under 25?

Alex: That's one of those "stats" you hear on TV. I was hoping your brainpower was diminished by your trip from Vegas.

Bill: The stars are slowly fading away.

Alex: The fact-checking is strong in you, Barnwell. Vince Young and J.P. Losman didn't fare too well. Of course, age wasn't much of an asset against Bill either.

Bill: Precisely. I'm a little kid. Rivers gets to play at home, with a better offensive line than either of those teams, and with a far better running game. Here's my problem for the Patriots this weekend: Who's going to stop Antonio Gates? Is Tedy Bruschi going to create a grit pile and hope that will slow him down?

Alex: Don't underestimate Bruschi's grit. The bottom line is that they will knife Gates in the thigh if it's what Belichick wants. He may not have to, though -- the Patriots have usually been terrific against the tight end. With defenses as healthy as the 2006 iteration, they were second in DVOA vs. tight ends in 2003, and fifth in 2004 before slipping to 22nd in 2005. This year, they're fourth, and the performance itself is absurdly good.

Bill: What if he offers up a virgin to Rodney Harrison on the bench? Will that gain him entrance in between the hashes?

But look at that number versus running backs! On the other hand, the Chargers are 25th against #1 wide receivers, which should bode well for Jabche Gaffwell. Oh wait.

Alex: You can say that again -- I refer to the continuing fountain of knowledge that is PFP 2006: "If the Chargers miss the playoffs again, you can bet it will be because the defense failed to hold leads against passing teams." Just eyeballing their schedule, the Chargers haven't faced many top quarterbacks all season, and Carson Palmer picked them apart for 49 points.

I know you love my Reche Caldwell fantasy draft pick now.

Bill: Oh yeah -- because Reche Caldwell's been real consistent this season. I'm concerned about the Chargers pass defense, too, but I don't know if the Patriots have the kind of attack to exploit their weaknesses. And, besides, the Chargers had the 11th-best pass defense in football this year; against the run, they were 22nd!

Alex: Against the quarterbacks they faced, 11th is pretty mediocre. Pop quiz hotshot -- what's the Covers.com over/under on the number of points scored in this game? No peeking...

Bill: But -- but -- DVOA accounts for the oppo ... ok fine. 46.

Alex: You cheated!

Bill: Never. I did, however, spend a week in Vegas. Not necessarily at a Holiday Inn Express, mind you, but 46 just felt right.

Bill: I like the over there. As for the result? I'm gonna say Patriots. I think they can run on the Chargers and keep their offense off the field, and that the game will end up looking like a late eighties Giants-49ers game.

Alex: As most people know, the way the public bets on a game can move the line on a game over the course of a week. Current lines:

New England at San Diego (-5)
Seattle at Chicago (-8.5)
Philadelphia at New Orleans (-5)
Indianapolis at Baltimore (-4)

If you had to guess, which team is getting the most action with respect to their line according to Wagerline.com?

Bill: Well now everyone knows, thanks for ruining it Alex. I gotta say Seattle. Everyone and their mother knows Rex Grossman can't be trusted.

Alex: Easy enough -- Seattle's getting 62 percent of the action on their line. But who's No. 2?

Bill: Hmmm. Indy?

Alex: That's what I would have thought, too. They're third with 57 percent of the action on their line. Care to wager one more guess?

Bill: Well, I've narrowed it down to one out of four. I'll trust in your topicality, say the Pats and that people don't trust Philip Rivers?

Alex: Good guess -- the Pats are definitely winning their line, and deservedly so considering Belichick's playoff history and Schottenheimer's playoff herstory. When you think about it, there's nothing that Vegas bettors love more than a team with an inspirational story. The Saints and their high-octane offense are No. 2.

I love Philadelphia with those points -- their offensive line is continually impressive, and there's as much chance of them putting serious distance between themselves and New Orleans as the other way around.

Bill: I have a saying, Alex. People who bet with their heart need to sell theirs on the black market. Because they don't have any money left. I'd be hesitant to bet for or against the Saints throughout the playoffs because they can be two very different teams. It'll be interesting. The Saints are 32nd against #1 wide receivers, but will Reggie Brown or Donte' Stallworth be the guy for Jeff Garcia?

Alex: Brown did have six catches for 121 yards and a TD when they played in October.

Bill: That was with McNabb, though.

Alex: They didn't have Stallworth, either. Poor little McNabb believer. When will you buy the Jeff Garcia jersey and drink the Kool-Aid? For all the talk about the Superdome advantage, the Saints were just 4-4 at home.

Bill: I'm not shaving my head and posting pictures of violent Playboy playmates on my wall to gaze at. So you want to bet against them at home?

Alex: Five points is too much. They only won by a field goal last game, and much like the Bears, they haven't looked good lately. I think the Saints will probably win, and I wouldn't bet on the game, but if I did, I'd take the points and grab the Eagles, who have been there before. They have "playoff experience".

Bill: And "veteran presence"! Say the Eagles win outright and fall in the Championship Game, as is their birthright. Is there a QB controversy in the off-season?

Alex: With another organization, you'd have to say wholeheartedly yes, but Andy Reid's a smart guy, and Garcia's already attracted the gaze of a half-dozen braniac GMs across the league, so McNabb will be the quarterback in 2007.

Bill: I didn't mean for the Eagles, I meant for Campbell Soup. They've already shown a predilection for bald white men, what with the Hasselbeck signing. Why not Garcia? And if he does leave, where does he go?

Alex: Don't force me to search his trashy wife's MySpace for clues. He played in cold weather in the CFL, and the list of contenders with an off-season quarterback vacancy begins and ends with the Bears.

Bill: Don't hate her because she's ballin'. Stay focused. Um, the Bears have three quarterbacks they're committed to already. They couldn't get rid of all of them. Right? What about Kansas City?

Alex: Trent Green will go down with a concussion around Week 3, Damon Huard takes over and performs capably, Herm brings Green back and he leads the team to a playoff loss. When you have a formula that works...

Bill: Yeah. That will be a little more difficult to do this year with Larry Johnson on half of one leg and Will Shields on his recliner. I'm calling Huard to Miami right now.

Alex: Who's the player no one knew before this Sunday that we will know after this Sunday?

Bill: "We" being the communal Football Outsiders we or the "I watch football but I don't really pay attention" we? The former, I can't say. The latter, Mark Clayton.

Alex: I think Jim Sorgi becomes the next hot young thing after he rushes for 70 yards and throws three touchdowns to Reggie Wayne.

Bill: I don't get it. Did you join a scout team fantasy league or something?

Keep Choppin' Wood Award

"In the span of a week, Trey Junkin had gone from pensioner to player to pariah. For 19 seasons, he had been a solid if marginal NFL journeyman who reveled in his anonymity. 'You have one shot to get a snap right, one split-second,' he says from his home in Winnfield, La. "The reward for getting it right is that nobody knows your name." He had made more than 2,000 snaps in nearly 300 NFL games, getting it right nearly every time."

--Franz Lidz, SI.com

The year is 2020. Romo sits, staring deeply into a picture of himself circa 2010, doing ecstasy with Renee Zellweger. "It's gone," he moans, drool wetting the space bar on his computer. "It's all gone." Despite the presence of his wife, a former Playmate, and his two sons, both named Tony, Romo doesn't get much sleep. Late at night during the NFL playoff season, you can usually find him posting on messageboards under the handle 'ballwuzslick69,' or photoshopping Jessica Simpson's head on the faces of his children.

"Junkin's career was practically a hymn to the work ethic. The oldest son of an exacting Navy flyer, he took infinite pains to achieve precision. Even in retirement, his daily eight-hour workouts included rope curls, bench presses, leg presses, rice grabs, medicine-ball sit-ups, hitting railroad irons with a sledgehammer, yanking nails out of boards with his fists and lugging weighted buckets with his fingertips."

Romo rises at 5:30 a.m., when he makes his sons produce macaroni models of their father. "Why did you stop playing football, daddy?" the younger Tony says. Romo grabs his younger by the arm and angrily upbraids him with a dried ziti noodle. Finally, Romo seems to want to teach his son an important lesson based on experience. "Go long!" Romo shouts, and his son tears off across the Romo family estate, 20 acres designed in the shape of the signature Dallas Cowboys star, waiting for a football his father now refuses to throw. "Go long, son," Romo breathes, nearly whispering now, "and don't come back."

"The most infamous long snapper in NFL playoff history was at a New Orleans bistro contemplating the Chilean sea bass at the end of his fork."

The man who used to be known as Romo is now Tony Nomo. He'll always have his Keep Choppin' Wood Award, though. He'll always have that.

FO Staff Playoff Draft Update

Aaron's in trouble. Tim and Alex are riding high. We'll begin to update the "Best of the Rest" teams next week when we know which first-round teams actually made it through two games.

2007 Football Outsiders Playoff Fantasy Teams
  JASON 31 RUSSELL 25 TIM 80
QB Garcia, PHI 12 Brees, NO 0 Rivers, SD 0
RB Tomlinson, SD 0 Lewis, BAL 0 Westbrook, PHI 21
RB Barber, NYG 14 Jones, CHI 0 Addai, IND 20
WR Harrison, IND 4 Muhammad, CHI 0 Colston, NO 0
WR Jackson, SD 0 Horn, NO 0 Stallworth, PHI 10
WR Berrian, CHI 0 Mason, BAL 0 Branch, SEA 4
TE Smith, PHI 0 Clark, IND 10 Heap, BAL 0
K Kaeding, SD 0 Vinatieri, IND 15 Gostkowski, NE 14
DEF Philadelphia 1 San Diego 0 New England 11
  AARON 15 ALEX 57 BILL 52
QB McNair, BAL 0 Manning, IND 11 Brady, NE 19
RB Dillon, NE 9 Alexander, SEA 6 Johnson, KC 5
RB McAllister, NO 0 Bush, NO 0 Maroney, NE 6
WR Owens, DAL 2 Wayne, IND 9 Clayton, BAL 0
WR Glenn, DAL 4 Brown, PHI 7 McCardell, SD 0
WR Henderson, NO 0 Caldwell, NE 5 Burress, NYG 20
TE Gates, SD 0 Stevens, SEA 19 Watson, NE 2
K Carney, NO 0 Stover, BAL 0 Gould, CHI 0
DEF Baltimore 0 New Orleans 0 Chicago 0

Posted by: Bill Barnwell & Ian Dembsky on 10 Jan 2007

69 comments, Last at 12 Jan 2007, 7:38pm by DenverMatt

Comments

1
by Antonio Gates (not verified) :: Wed, 01/10/2007 - 11:30pm

The Patriots sure faced the murderers row when it comes to TEs...

Robert Royal (2x), Chris Baker (2x), Steven Alexander, Randy McMichael(2x), Reggie Kelly, Jermaine Wiggins, Dallas Clark, Bubba Franks, Desmond Clark, Dan Campbell, Owen Daniels, George Wrighster, Bo Scaife

They should feel really confident in the 4th best against the TE rating

2
by David (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 12:24am

"Julius Jones was able to run pretty easily through the Seahawks, and when the Bears played the Seahawks in Week 4,..."

Shouldn't that be Thomas Jones?

3
by Jim (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 12:31am

No. It reads "Julius Jones was able to run pretty easily through the Seahawks [last week when they played the Cowboys], and when the Bears played the Seahawks in Week 4, Thomas Jones went off for 98 yards and two TDs."

4
by Randy S. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 12:41am

Hopefully the Seahawks can beat Chicago and go 2 for 2 against the Jones family. Then they can beat the Eagles with the long-lost third Jones brother, Dhani.

5
by bsr (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 12:42am

#1 - I guess so since they faced top 10 TE in terms of DPAR 4 times. 6 if you go top 12.

6
by asg (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 12:50am

Post if you think today's cartoon, or indeed any of those cartoons, are funny.

7
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 12:57am

Regarding this weekend's lines, I like Philly and Baltimore quite a bit. I like Seattle despite (gulp) their low DVOA ranking. I think Grossman makes 8.5 points way too many to lay. I don't have much feel for the west coast game, although I guess I'd lean towards takiing the Belichikians and the points against a still-inexperienced qb.

8
by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 1:01am

#6

Do not complain about that which is free.

9
by dbt (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 1:15am

#6
Post.

Also, I'd only take Seattle if you like them to win outright. The Bears have rarely won by less than 10 points this year.

10
by Light Todd (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 1:23am

#6:

The first two panels of the cartoon were amusing, even somewhat comical. Alas, the joked was continued and it quickly turned horribly, horribly bad. For another example of this, see the thread regarding Romo's slip up in Seattle and pay attention to how the thread continually touches upon Alex Smiths slick balls.

11
by the K (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 1:32am

#6. I think they're funny.

Sorry Aaron. I think I jinxed your team in last week's Scramble by commenting I thought it was solid and looked like the strongest.

12
by C.I. Dreyfus (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 1:46am

Those cartoons are hilarious.

13
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 2:58am

Post if you think today’s cartoon, or indeed any of those cartoons, are funny.

Jason Beattie is damn funny.

14
by Tom (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 3:08am

All these new advanced stats and you use traditional stats to critique the Bear's run defense? DVOA has them at 5th, even with the all the bad games they have had recently. I don't don't think run defense will be a big worry.

15
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 8:01am

Even if the cartoon isn't laugh-out-loud funny, it's good to see that Elway is keeping busy in retirement.

16
by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 10:07am

Wait -- Conventional wisdom says that Indy is going to win in Baltimore? I haven't read or heard anybody who thinks so.

17
by Calbuzz (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 10:49am

"The Fact-Checking is strong in you..." "Let Grossman be their offense," pretty damn funny, and any mention of Pete Hunter is cool (in this case both awe and sarcasm?).

Much is made of the (lack of) Seahawks defensive personnel. One thing about the Seahawks D I don't see mentioned much, is the job that John Marshall has done as DC in the playoffs. Held Dallas to 13 points this year. Look at Rbergers QB rating in the SB. Look at Carolina last year. He manages to find schemes that work with the personnel he has. That's of course no guarantee vs. Chicago, but now with a full season of tape to review on Grossman, I don't doubt the Seahawks will beat the 8.5.

18
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 10:51am

Wait — Conventional wisdom says that Indy is going to win in Baltimore? I haven’t read or heard anybody who thinks so.

Check the Vegas line.

19
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 11:09am

-5 for the Birds? Take that and run with it. The Saints are a bad home team, their best players have no experience in prime time or the playoffs, and the Eagles covered that last time playing in much more challenging circumstances.

Yeah, Lito's out, but Rod Hood's a better cover corner anyway. The D-line has finally understood life without Kearse. Joe Horn is limited or out.

I'm going to go put about 100 where my mouth is.

20
by Jeremy Billones (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 11:32am

Re: 18

The line that says the Ravens are going to win by 4 points?

21
by Not saying (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 11:40am

Re: 11

Well, considering that 6 of the 9 players Aaron picked haven't played a snap yet (and he still has 1 of the other 3 left), I wouldn't count too hard on that jinx yet. If the Saints and Ravens play well, he'll be set in later rounds.

22
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 11:47am

20:

He means check the MOVEMENT on the line. The Colts have been narrowing the spread all week.

23
by dmb (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 11:48am

19: Don't do it! You ought to know to never wager for your team -- if you lose, the double whammy makes Simms's ruptured spleen sound downright blissful.

24
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 11:56am

23:

I live near Philadelphia. Every playoff loss is a double-whammy anyway. It's like the whole city collapses emotionally.

In financial terms, I can't magnify my downside risk any further than it is already, but I can make my upside a little better by wagering on the Eagles. See? I can ALWAYS justify gambling on them!

25
by mm (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 12:52pm

#6... Coffee out my nose funny, dood. Do not mock what you do not get.

26
by theory (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 1:33pm

Re: #5 bsr

Randy McMichael: 6-84, 3-31
Dallas Clark: 2-42
Chris Baker: 5-68 in the playoffs

Congratulations Pats on shutting down Evil Rex to Desmond Clark and the juggernaut Texans offense, I guess.

While the Chargers didn't face many elite QBs, neither did the Pats. They shut down an injured Palmer but got lit up by Peyton Manning and the immortal Jake Plummer. Pennington moved the ball and put up some pretty solid DPAR against them last week.

Much like the Chargers, the Pats have also struggled to stop the run in the second half of the season. MJD single-handedly kept the Jags in that game, and Travis Henry had a big day on a day when VY completed 42% of his passes. So as long as Rivers doesn't turn it over and LT2 doesn't trip over a pile of grit, the Chargers can run over them all day.

27
by Al 45 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 2:16pm

MJD single-handedly kept the Jags in that game

He had one lucky/fluke run where Warren absolutely blew up the guy blocking him, which knocked MJD on the ground. Rather than being smart and touching him down, Banta-Cain simply let him go and, when he still had a chance to wrap him up, he didn't do it. If you subtract that one play, MJD's line would look as follows:

18 carries for 57 yards for a stellar 3.16 ypc average. Yep, he sure ran all over them.

NOTE: Vince Wilfork did not play in this game.

Travis Henry had a big day on a day

Travis Henry had two big plays (59 yards total) against a Wilfork'less defense with Eric Alexander and LeKevin Smith playing LB/DE immediately after Rodney Harrison went down. Other than those two runs, which wouldn't happen if Wilfork was there (both were inside the tackle runs) his line was 19 carries for 43 yards for a stellar 2.26 ypc average.

It would help if you had watched the games rather than simply looking at the end stats.

28
by Kthulhu (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 2:17pm

#6:

asg = Alexander Simon "Rex" Grossman?

29
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 2:20pm

Re 22

I still don't see how that means conventional wisdom says the Colts will win. It just means that people think they will win OR lose by less than 4.

Or if you're a hardcore degenerate gambler, you could look at it this way -- it's been 2 years since the Colts failed to cover in a game where they were getting points.

It's the same thing with Seattle +8.5. I don't think Seattle will win. But if I were to hypothetically place a wager on this game, I'd take Seattle. That's too many points.

30
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 2:36pm

#26

I think you are exaggerating NE's struggles against the run just a tad.

1) NE was without Wilfork for the time in question.

2) MJD has one fluke play that accounted for over 50% of his total yards. Aside from that he didn't even average 3 yards a carry.

3) Do you really think that TN's success with Marquise Hill matters for this game?

4) The Jets ran for 19 yards in the first half with 7 coming on a Pennington scramble.

LDT is on another level than the competition that NE has faced recently. I fully expect him to cross the 100 yard barrier. That said, you have totally manipulated irrelevent stats to make an argument that is entirely false; that NEs run defense is going to be anything less than one of the best on the league this Sunday.

31
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 2:38pm

Correction of #30: MJD just barely went over 3 ypc, not just below. Sorry for my misinformation.

32
by Nathan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 2:40pm

#6: I've found one funny. However, I have absolutely no negative feelings about them existing, and glad someone else who has a craft gets a chance to use it.

Play on player.

33
by bsr (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 3:25pm

#26 - Good thing NE will again not be facing an elite QB on Sunday.

34
by b-man (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 3:38pm

33: Rivers had a higher DPAR than Brady this year.

35
by b-man (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 3:39pm

6: Love the cartoon, should be more of them. Why not one in each article?

36
by Laurence Maroney (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 3:42pm

Coach told me I'll be touching the ball 25 times this week.

37
by Fire Millen (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 3:43pm

#6 Some are better than others (how's that for insightful commentary).
If I was a bettin' man , Oh wait I am. If I was a bettin' man with access to a bookie or Vegas I'd take the points in every game. The only "mismatch" I see is CHI vs. SEA and even in that game there is a chance evil Rex shows up and loses the game for CHI.

38
by bsr (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 3:43pm

#34 That doesn't make him elite. He is basically a rookie quarterback. He is still learning how to read defenses and the like. He may one day be elite but certainly not on Sunday.

Oh and while we're at it, how did the chargers do against elite QBs like that injured Palmer?

39
by Laurence Maroney (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 3:48pm

I have Dillon in my playoff fantasy league (someone else took me in the 1st round); he'll get one TD, and I'll get 2.

Mark it. Hibachi!

40
by PersonallySpeaking (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 4:14pm

I'd stick to the stats and stay away from the humor. SERIOUSLY.

41
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 4:47pm

I like the cartoons. This wasn't one of the best though. My favorite one was Eli-to-NY-instead-of-SD.

42
by theory (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 4:54pm

#38

You mean the game against a healthy Palmer in which they were without Merriman, Castillo, and Godfrey?

You mean that inexperienced QBs can't win in the playoffs? Funny to hear that one coming from a Pats fan...

Other Pats fans that responded - I'll concede the points about MJD and the Jags game but seriously, if Travis Henry is breaking long runs on you, you've got more problems than just missing Wilfork. They're #19 in rush defense DVOA weeks 10-17 (from the Polian's Sh-t article). I'll take the Chargers' mediocre run D against Dillon and Maroney (5.2% and -1.9% DVOA) to play better than the Pats' mediocre run D against Tomlinson and Turner (24.1% and 46.7% DVOA). Chargers are also much better in offensive ALY.

43
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 5:16pm

#42,

59 yards rushing were against a DL of Hill-Wright-Green and with Alexander at ILB.

I am not disputing the fact that the Chargers are phenominal at running ball, but let go of trying to get any meaning out of the TN game.

44
by bsr (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 5:43pm

#42 Yeah that game against Palmer. How did they do? Oh and by the way, I dont think Palmer ever showed up on an injury report and has been healthy all year.

Good thing nobody said that "inexperienced QBs can't win in the playoffs".

45
by theory (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 5:45pm

#43

Sad to see it go, but I'll let go of the Tennessee game. Sorry, guess the TEN and JAX games weren't the best examples.

So what happened when Ron Dayne went 18-94, Sammy Morris went 23-125, Jones/Benson went 33-145, and Kevan Barlow went 17-75?

The Chargers at least earned their crappy rush DVOA against Rudi Johnson, the Broncos twice, Shaun Alexander, and LJ before Herm Edwards killed him.

46
by Paul (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 5:52pm

So, I guess Chicago blasting a typically cagey AFC team (Buffalo), shutting out another playoff team on the road (Jets), losing by a possession with a chance to win against another (Pats), constitutes being competitive vs. the AFC? It seems that's what is being implied. Granted, they lost to the Dolphins in a disastrous game, but if expecations for Rex were closer to what they should be, we'd be praising the fact that nearly half of his games have seen him register a rating of 100 or better. If Rex plays well, this is the only team in the entire NFL that has no weaknesses, if you look at their personnel by position.

47
by Captain Obvious (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 5:56pm

#44

A good QB with the best WRs in the league is not the same as a good QB with the worst WRs in the league

Hope this helps

48
by b-man (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 5:59pm

47: and a donut without a hole is a Danish

49
by bsr (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 6:10pm

#47 No they aren't the same. Apparently they are only about 4 places in passing offense rankings. Not sure it's so obvious what that helps with however?

50
by ElTiante (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 6:38pm

Apologies in advance for using conventional stats (still getting my feet wet with FO stats). Many examples are cited in this discussion of easy games or easy matchups that might have inflated a team's ranking. I was looking at SD, BALT, and NE (my opinion of the true contenders) to determine how legit certain stats were. Here are a few things I found:

Games vs. defenses allowing less than 200 yards passing/game:
McNair = 4
Rivers = 5
Brady = 7
Total sacks by defense:
SD 61, BAL 60, NE 44
Games vs. teams allowing 40+ sacks:
SD = 9, BAL = 8, NE 7
Games vs. teams allowing 30 or fewer sacks:
SD = 1, BAL = 3, NE = 5

51
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 6:39pm

#45

So what happened when Ron Dayne went 18-94, Sammy Morris went 23-125, Jones/Benson went 33-145, and Kevan Barlow went 17-75?

1) Most of Dayne's yardage came after they were down 20-0. No Wilfork.

2) Most of Morris' yardage came after Wilfork went out.

3) Barlow's yardage was proven to be a complete fluke. The Jets caught NE napping with Warren and with a hampered Seymour.

4) A lot of Chicago's yardage came after Seau was lost, particularly in the second half after NE adjusted to stop the pass.

The best conclusion that you can come to is that if NE does not seem to adjust well when they lose a player during the game. Other than that, I can only hope that San Diego is looking at those games and coming to the same conclusion that you are.

52
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 6:57pm

"So what happened when Ron Dayne went 18-94, Sammy Morris went 23-125, Jones/Benson went 33-145, and Kevan Barlow went 17-75?"

Ron Dayne:

You're running looks great when your team is down by 30 points, and you start running draw plays.

Sammy Morris: Had about 60 yards on 20 carries with about 2 minutes left in the game. He broke a long run on the last play essentially.

Barlow: 17-75 is impressive? 45 of those yards were on one drive. Which just happened to be when Ty Warren was out, and they tried switching Seymour to the opposite side.

53
by ElTiante (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 7:19pm

Another interesting trend I found is that Brady and McNair started the season slow (44% and 55% completions, respectively, in 1st 4 games). Brady was breaking in all new WRs and McNair was learning a new offense. Rivers started out 70 for 105.

In the past 4 games, here are their numbers:
Brady 81/120 (66%) 6 TDs, 0 INTs
McNair 91/136 (65%) 5 TDs, 3 INTs
Rivers 54/100 (54%) 5 TDs, 4 INTs

Any theories for the drop off in production by Rivers?

Passing plays of 20+ yards:
NE = 55 (in 527 pass attempts)
SD = 46 (in 466 pass attempts)
BAL = 44 (in 524 pass attepts)

I found it surprising that Baltimore lags badly in number of big yardage pass plays (and in percentage of big plays to pass attempts). It makes me wonder if they'd be able to overcome a 10-point lead if Indy put a few successful drives together. My view of NE was that they didn't have any "big play" receivers; that seems incorrect.

54
by Joel_in_NOLA (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 7:43pm

I have to say that anyone going near the Saints-Eagles game with even a 10 foot pole is crazy. The saints are as bipolar as they come, and have been for YEARS. While their deviation was relatively average this year, they had several games where they just couldn't put it together. However, if they do manage to put it together, they are a point making machine that can hang or outstrip anything in the NFC.

Their Run defense is one dimensional, i.e. if a team has a runner that can hit the outside well and either the same runner or a different one that can go up the middle, the Saints run defense looks like swiss cheese. Their secondary is slow. Their only saving grace has been decent linebackers playing better than their past says they are. I doubt that they will be able to manage well against the WCO that the eagles are running now.

My personal prediction is a defensive collapse by the Saints, and Philly managing to get enough heavy pressure up front to contain the run and upset drew enough to contain the passing plays. The Saints will loose by 14-17 points. I just don't see a world where a well coached Eagles team gets beat by the Saints. I don't know why they are favorites when almost everything points to them not being the better overall team when both sides of the ball are weighed against each other.

55
by Captain Obvious (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 8:11pm

#53: Rivers

Week 13 vs Denver
15 for 23 279 yards 2 TDs 0 INTs
Week 14 vs Kansas City
8 for 23 97 yards 0 TDs 2 INTs
Week 15 vs Seattle
10 for 30 181 yards 2 TDs 0 INTs
Week 16
19 for 24 for 231 yards 2 TDs 1 INT

That doesnt look like a trend to me. Two bad games sandwiched between two great games.

Brady sure has had some stinkers as well

Against Indy:
20 for 35 for 291 yards 0 TDs 4 INTs

Against Miami:
12 for 25 for 78 yards 0 TDs 0 INTs

56
by Captain Obvious (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 8:39pm

You also took away a TD and added a INT to Rivers numbers for some reason..

Perhaps you can change the window to just week 14-15 then you would have a solid case.

Hope this helps

57
by ElTiante (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 10:03pm

#56: Sho' 'nough. I've got Rivers for 6TDs/3INTs in my notes but copied it wrong. Thanks for spotting that.

My ulterior motive is to figure out how to (or whether to) hedge against a few live Futures tickets I have going. I've only seen Rivers play once this year. He looked great, but the Seattle game really was disconcerting. Two good games and two bad games to end the year also doesn't seem like a good (Super Bowl level) finish. Still, I'm biased toward 3-4 defenses, and once upon a time made money betting Trent Dilfer to win it all... I'll keep shaking out the stats. Thanks for your input (the Denver/SD stats are especially notable).

58
by theory (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 10:14pm

#51

Thanks for a pretty reasonable response, but doesn't FO say that yards in "garbage time" are still meaningful? I guess it's hard to make any judgements without game-by-game DVOA, but those are still a lot of yards to some pretty weak backs. I guess I can say NE's depth on the front 7 isn't that great (neither is SD's, at least when it comes to run stoppers).

#53 ElTiante

Rivers' bad games coincide with injuries to their WRs. McCardell and Parker were out or ineffective due to injury and Malcom Floyd has been on IR. Ben Watson is NE's big play receiver.

Post #50 of yours doesn't tell us a lot because it leaves out sack rate and pass DVOA. If strength of schedule is what you're getting after, FO has the Pats playing against the #19 schedule. A little tougher than the Chargers' or Ravens' opponents, but not exactly difficult.

59
by Don M (not verified) :: Thu, 01/11/2007 - 11:13pm

Re: 46... You meant to say "When Rex plays well the Bears are one of the many teams with no weaknesses when their weaknesses suddenly turn into strengths" Like the Colts when their D looks good, the Ravens when they suddenly start scoring TDs on offense and moving the ball the Pats when their defensive backs aren't being exposed as somewhat slow, the Saints when they play as if they were experienced. Etc.. Etc..

60
by ElTiante (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 2:32am

#58: The injury situation you described is exactly the type of info that might explain why Rivers suddenly struggled at a point (late in the season) you'd expect him to be gaining consistency or improving. I'm info-challenged when it comes to the Chargers, so I appreciate the insights you and others have offered here.

Regarding your observation: "FO has the Pats playing against the #19 schedule. A little tougher than the Chargers’ or Ravens’ opponents..." That agrees with the rough stats analysis I came up with; I was simply comparing the schedule of the 3 teams, not suggesting anyone coasted or got especially shafted schedulewise.

Assuming we have arrived at the same conclusion (that NE had a slightly tougher schedule but put up comparable or only slightly lower stats) using either FO stats or more traditional stats, then SD, BALT, and NE can be seen as having pretty much an equal shot at the Super Bowl. Then give SD and BALT a bit more weight for home field advantage. Presented with the opening playoff odds choice of SD at 2-1, BALT at 4-1, and NE at 7-1, what is the smart play? The on-field analysis comes down to splitting some rather fine hairs, but the choice among odds does not.

61
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 12:09pm

#58: Er? Not really. I don't really get your point, anyway - NE's run defense isn't that mediocre - it's 10th in the league by DVOA (SD's is 22nd).

The difference between SD and NE's passing offense, though, that's pretty big. San Diego will be running better than New England in all likelihood, but they won't be running over them.

62
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 12:11pm

58: DVOA says that garbage time is meaningful, but remember that DVOA takes game sitation like score, down and distance, and time remaining into account, which pure yardage doesn't consider. So saying "garbage time is meaningful in DVOA" is not the same as saying "garbage time is meaningful in total yards."

63
by b-man (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 12:19pm

58: According to this article, SD had one of the healthiest teams this season. Maybe they have some depth issues.

64
by bsr (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 1:31pm

#61 Did you mean to say running offense in stead of passing offense? The passing offenses look fairly close.

65
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 3:09pm

#64: oh, hell. Yeah, that should've said run offense.

66
by DenverMatt (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 5:32pm

One comment on New England - they did beat the Bears and Jags (barely) and Cincinnati (convincingly) - however, they played in a weak division and 4 games against the NFC North.
San Diego did play 4 games against the NFC West, but I consider their division far superior. I'm basing this on games viewed, I haven't looked into the numbers. I'd be interest what FO stats say about each teams strength of schedule? I think strength of schedule is underrated as a predictor (I'd be interested in what FO stats say about that also).
Another thing - has Brady faced a pass rush this year like the one he's facing Sunday? He's a tough QB, but that seems to be the way to throw him off his game. I'm not sure what Chicago's injury situation was when they played - was Tommie Harris in that game? I didn't get a chance to watch it.
That being said, I hate to bet against Belichek or for Schottenheimer - based on their histories. This game has some great storylines, the coaches, QBs, etc. Should be alot of fun.

67
by Jeremy (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:06pm

66:

According to DVOA, the AFC East houses teams 5, 16, 17, and 19 in the league. By comparison, the AFC West has 2, 13, 18, and 32. To me, that looks like the AFC West is an easier schedule than the AFC East, but that's just me.

As for Brady facing strong pass rushing teams, I don't know. I do know that the Pats beat the #2, #3, #4, and #6 (twice) ranked pass defenses by DVOA.

68
by bsr (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 6:08pm

#66 According to football outsiders NE played the 19th hardest schedule while SD played the 30th hardest schedule. With regards to the pass rush they will be facing, it is hard to say if they have faced one like it before. The pats have played five games against teams in the top 10 of sack rate. In those games Brady was sacked an average of three times per game. He was not sacked by Chicago and they did have Harris but they were not one of the top sacking teams either.

69
by DenverMatt (not verified) :: Fri, 01/12/2007 - 7:38pm

67/68 - thanks for the information. I guess I'm not taking into account that the Raiders were horrible, and both Chiefs and Broncos had off years.