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Our look at play-action pass in 2017 flips to the defensive side of the ball. Carolina was historically good, Houston was historically bad, and a long-standing question about year-to-year correlation gets cleared up.

05 Jan 2007

2007 AFC Wild Card Preview

by Aaron Schatz

You know that conventional wisdom about how important it is to stop the run in the NFL? Don't tell the teams that made the AFC playoffs. The two worst run defenses in the league will both be on display this weekend. One team has an offense that can overcome this weakness, the other does not.

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

Kansas City at Indianapolis

Chiefs on Offense
DVOA 5.5% (10) 11.3% (27)
WEI DVOA 10.5% (10) 10.5% (28)
PASS 15.0% (9) 5.3% (18)
RUSH -2.7% (17) 15.6% (31)
RED ZONE 24.4% (9) 18.6% (29)

Colts on Offense
DVOA 33.8% (1) 2.7% (18)
WEI DVOA 35.8% (1) 8.8% (26)
PASS 56.7% (1) 5.9% (20)
RUSH 7.5% (6) -0.4% (18)
RED ZONE 25.1% (7) 6.3% (19)

Special Teams
DVOA 1.2% (13) -3.1% (26)
KC kickoff -3.2 (27) 0.1 (15)
IND kickoff -2.7 (17) -15.7 (30)
KC punts 14.4 (2) 2.5 (8)
IND punts 2.2 (10) -9.7 (29)
FG/XP -3.6 (24) 4.8 (8)

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

You also may want to read Every Play Counts about Larry Johnson and Booger McFarland as well as today's Too Deep Zone with play diagrams showing how teams run on the Colts.

NFL broadcasts are promoted with simple, easy-to-hype storylines. Most of the time, these storylines focus on meaningless personality issues and dumb down the complicated strategic battle on the field.

This is not one of those times.

The Colts have the best offense in the league, but the Chiefs love to run, and the Colts defense couldn't stop the run if you let them put 20 guys on the field. That's it. That's the whole game right there.


Kansas City's Larry Johnson set a new NFL record by carrying the ball 416 times this year. He started slow, in part because Kansas City made a number of changes on the offensive line, but he averaged 4.5 yards per carry over the final 11 games. He's both large and agile, able to pound into defenders to gain extra yardage or nimbly cut back into an open lane.

Johnson presents the worst possible matchup for a Colts defense that allowed 5.3 yards per carry this season. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only the 1996 New Orleans Saints allowed more yards per carry. In fact, the Colts are only the fifth team since the merger to allow more than five yards per carry over an entire season.

Everything people say about the Colts defense is accurate. They are undersized. They cannot wrap-up on tackles. Defensive end Dwight Freeney is a great pass-rusher whose spin moves take him out of every running play, and teams run into the hole Freeney leaves behind. True, true, all true.

(Yes, despite all those yards allowed, the Colts did not actually have the worst DVOA run defense in the league. They don't even have the worst DVOA run defense on this page, because of opponent adjustments. They played the NFC East this year, and all four NFC East teams ranked among the top dozen run offenses.)

The Colts are counting on the return of run-stuffing safety Bob Sanders to help shore up their defense, but Sanders may not have the effect that the Colts are hoping for. Sanders missed most of the season to injury, but he did play in four games. In those four games, the Colts allowed 5.6 yards per carry -- worse than the 12 games with Sanders on the sidelines.

The Chiefs won't be using any trickery to try to fool the Colts defense. They aren't going to come in and shock everyone by going empty-backfield on their first two drives. They are going to run and run and run some more.

At some point, the Colts will manage to actually tackle Johnson after just a yard, and the Chiefs will have to throw the ball. But that's okay, the Colts' pass defense isn't very good either. The Chiefs mostly throw to their number one receiver, Eddie Kennison, and to one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game, Tony Gonzalez. The Colts were an average defense against tight ends but were awful against number one receivers. The Tampa-2 thing is also huge problem against a team whose two main weapons are the running back and the tight end. If you put that middle linebacker back to defend Gonzalez in the seam, you're just giving away yardage to Johnson. And if you bring the safety and middle linebacker in to stop Johnson, who is going to cover Gonzalez on a play-action pass?

Also, note this FO FOX blog post on our early game charting stats. Although the data compilation is still incomplete, so far the Colts lead the league in passes marked with "Hole in Zone" rather than with a specific defender. Most of those "Hole in Zone" passes end up as first downs.


And yet... as virtually every Football Outsiders writer has pointed out this week, just as Johnson is a terrible matchup for the Colts defense, so too is Peyton Manning a terrible matchup for the Chiefs defense. No matter how many points the Chiefs can score, the Colts can probably score more.

The Colts had the best offense in the league by any measure. We have DVOA for every team since 1997, and the only team with a higher offensive DVOA than the 2006 Colts was the 2004 Colts.

Kansas City's defense played reasonably well over the first few weeks, but they've been one of the worst in the league since the middle of the season. In Weeks 10-17, Kansas City ranks 30th in defensive DVOA.

The Chiefs primarily play a man coverage scheme, which is a problem because they only have one good cornerback, Patrick Surtain. Veteran Ty Law is a shadow of his former self, and nickel back Lenny Walls is subpar as well. The Chiefs rank fourth in DVOA against number one receivers, but 25th against number two receivers and last against slot receivers. No quarterback is better than Peyton Manning when it comes to patiently going through his reads and finding the open man among multiple targets.

The Chiefs also don't get much pass pressure. Ends Jared Allen and Tamba Hali are pretty good, but the defensive tackles are nothing special and the Chiefs ranked 28th in Adjusted Sack Rate (sacks per pass play, adjusted for situation and opponent). The Colts' offense ranked second in Adjusted Sack Rate, and first in fewest sacks allowed.

But wait, there's more! Do you know what part of the Kansas City defense really fell apart in the second half of the year? The run defense. In Weeks 1-9, the Kansas City run defense had a DVOA of -15.6%, 10th in the league. In Weeks 10-17, the Kansas City run defense had a DVOA of 15.2%, 30th in the league. Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai aren't Larry Johnson, but they'll be getting some yards out there too.


The Colts have a good kicker in Adam Vinatieri and a good punter in Hunter Smith, but the Indianapolis coverage teams are terrible, which is why the values above for net kickoffs and net punts are so awful. On the Kansas City side, Dante Hall really isn't anything special anymore and Lawrence Tynes has never been anything special. Dustin Colquitt is an excellent punter, but that won't matter if this game is anything like the last time these two teams met in the playoffs -- and neither team had to punt even once.


If the Texans can beat the Colts by running the ball and limiting Manning's possessions, the Chiefs can do it too. But "can" does not mean "will," and in general, a dominant passing game will outscore a dominant running game.

New York Jets at New England

Jets on Offense
DVOA 2.7% (15) -8.4% (8)
WEI DVOA 3.7% (14) -12.5% (5)
PASS 9.3% (12) -9.9% (7)
RUSH -3.8% (18) -6.5% (10)
RED ZONE -2.7% (18) -35.3% (3)

Patriots on Offense
DVOA 12.2% (7) 10.7% (26)
WEI DVOA 12.2% (8) 8.3% (25)
PASS 20.6% (6) 5.9% (21)
RUSH 3.8% (8) 16.0% (32)
RED ZONE 37.4% (2) 11.7% (26)

Special Teams
DVOA 3.2% (5) 2.6% (8)
NYJ kickoff -1.1 (21) 16.6 (1)
NE kickoff 14.3 (2) 5.3 (11)
NYJ punts 7.9 (7) 4.9 (4)
NE punts -5.9 (25) -2.6 (24)
FG/XP 0.4 (15) -5.5 (28)

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

You also may want to read two of this year's Every Play Counts, on the Jets' offensive line and the Jets' overall defense.

Full disclosure: I'm a Patriots fan. I've announced that before every Patriots playoff preview I've written during the four years of Football Outsiders. It didn't stop me from picking against the Patriots at least once in each of the past three postseasons, but I know some people still might feel there's a bias here. C'est la vie.

Nobody expected the Jets to be 7-9 this year, let alone 10-6 and in the playoffs, but here they are anyway. Their most emotional win of the year came when they beat the Patriots in Foxboro back in Week 10. It was one of just three Jets games with a DVOA rating above 20%, and one of just three Patriots games with a DVOA rating below -20%.

Overall, the Jets rank 19th in DVOA this year, behind six different AFC teams that didn't make the playoffs, including Buffalo and Miami. Some readers have asked how much the 41-0 blowout loss to Jacksonville in Week 5 skews this rating. The answer is "not much." Remove that game entirely, and the Jets would go from 15th on offense and 26th on defense to... 11th on offense and 26th on defense.


The offense, not the defense, is the unit that bears responsibility for the Jets' magical season. We were all so busy before the season worrying about Chad Pennington's shoulder that we all forgot what a good quarterback he is when actually healthy. Jerricho Cotchery had a breakout year as the second receiver opposite Laveranues Coles, Nick Mangold was a Rookie of the Year candidate at center, and late in the season, the Jets even found a running game -- or, at least, one-third of a running game.

The Jets have used three running backs this year. Leon Washington ranked ninth in DVOA among all running backs with at least 75 carries. Cedric Houston ranked 35th. Kevan Barlow ranked 48th. Barlow averaged less than three yards per carry. He looked so good in San Francisco back when he was paired with Garrison Hearst -- what the hell happened to this guy?

Barlow had one good game this year: against the Patriots in Week 10, when he gained 75 yards on 17 carries. It was his only game over 50 yards all year. It was a complete fluke, and the Patriots are praying that the Jets will use Barlow against them again this week. They probably won't.

Washington will have to face a defensive line that is fully healthy for the first time in weeks. Ty Warren was recently awarded AFC Defensive Player of the Month for December; he missed just one game all year, but it was the loss to the Jets. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork will play for the first time since he was injured in the loss to Miami Week 14. With the line healthy, the Patriots may show a 4-3 look more often than their usual 3-4 -- something they did with success in the first game between these two teams.

As for Pennington, he'll go to Cotchery early and often. Cornerback Asante Samuel has enjoyed a standout year, and the Patriots are an excellent defense against number one receivers, but they have a habit of giving up huge games to number two receivers (29th in DVOA). Chad Scott just isn't very good anymore, and Ellis Hobbs has struggled with injuries this season. In the two games against the Patriots this year, Cotchery combined for 191 yards and two touchdowns, catching 80 percent of intended passes. Coles had just 129 yards and one touchdown, catching 48 percent of intended passes.

The Jets were a top five offense in "close and late" situations this year, but the Patriots were a top five defense in those situations.

One more note: The Jets will do something funky with wide receiver/running back/option quarterback Brad Smith, and I have no idea what it will be. Bill Belichick probably has about 25 ideas about what it will be and there's a good possibility none of those ideas are actually correct.


This is where the Patriots win this game -- not because Tom Brady has magic beans that make him indestructible in the playoffs, but because they have a balanced attack with a slew of weapons, and the Jets are not as good as they look on defense.

Yes, the Jets ranked sixth in the NFL in points allowed, but that doesn't mean they had a good defense. They ranked 20th in yards allowed, which is a little closer to reality. In this week's DVOA commentary, I ran through some of the reasons why the Jets did not allow many points despite a subpar defense: easy schedule, good luck recovering fumbles, and strength in areas that have nothing to do with the defense (like points allowed on turnover returns). They also allowed fewer points because they faced fewer drives, with opponents running the ball and slowing down the clock.

And why did opponents run the ball? Because it was the Jets, not the Colts, who had the worst run defense in the league according to DVOA. Certainly that defense has improved, but not much -- the Jets rank 26th in run defense DVOA since their Week 9 bye. The Patriots will run the ball and have success with both Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney.

Weakness against the run is a big reason why the Jets had the NFL's worst defensive DVOA on first downs. But they have the worst DVOA on first downs against both rushing (18.8%) and passing (19.0%). That number has improved since midseason against the run, but not the pass. The Jets were much better on third down, ranking ninth in DVOA.

The Patriots, however, were strong on both first down (19.6%, fifth) and third down (31.4%, third). Weirdly, they're one of the worst teams in the league on second down (-9.5%, 25th). I have no idea why.

The Patriots get tight end Ben Watson back from injury this week, so there will be a lot of two-tight end sets rotating Watson with Daniel Graham and rookie David Thomas, who had a big breakout game against Jacksonville two weeks ago. However, New York's strength on defense is covering tight ends (sixth in DVOA), which makes sense since the two best players on the defense are middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and free safety Kerry Rhodes.

One final note: The Patriots' offense gets it done in the most important situations. They were the best team in the league running the ball in "power" situations (third/fourth down with 1-2 yards to go) and rank second in red zone DVOA. The Jets were below average in both areas.


If you enjoy kickoff returns, boy, this is the game for you. The Patriots (Laurence Maroney and Ellis Hobbs) ranked number one in kickoff return value by our metrics, and the Jets (primarily Justin Miller) ranked number two. Stephen Gostkowski was the best kickoff man in the league, but the Patriots don't have a good coverage team, so Miller could bring one back. Then again, Jets don't have a good kickoff man or a good coverage team to stop Maroney from bringing one back himself. When the Jets punt, strengths will even out, and when the Patriots punt, weaknesses will even out.

That leaves the whole Stephen Gostkowski rookie field goal thing. Does anybody think Gostkowski is somehow less "clutch" than Mike Nugent? This morning on Fox Sports New England I saw perhaps the dumbest statistic of the year: Gostkowski is 1-for-5 in the third quarter. You know, since third-quarter field goals are so unique and five is such a gigantic sample size.


The two worst teams to make the playoffs during the DVOA era were the 1998 Cardinals and the 2004 Rams. Both of those teams actually won their first playoff game on the road against a familiar division rival. The Jets are much better than those teams, so a New England victory is by no means guaranteed. But when you look at DVOA combined with home-field advantage, this is easily the biggest mismatch of the first round -- unless you really believe that Eric Mangini has some sort of psychic hold on Bill Belichick.

Stats Explained

DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) breaks down each play of the season and compares it to the NFL average based on situation and opponent. You'll find it explained further here. Since DVOA measures ability to score, a negative DVOA indicates a better defense and worse offense, and a positive DVOA indicates a better offense and worse defense.

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

WEI DVOA is WEIGHTED DVOA, which is based on a formula which drops the value of games early in the season to get a better idea of how teams are playing now (explained here). This is the same formula used in this week's FOXSports.com power rankings.

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

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

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 05 Jan 2007

56 comments, Last at 08 Jan 2007, 7:48pm by B


by Dennis (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 3:50pm

As a Jets fan, I think it's good analysis of the Jets-Pats game. I'll be very surprised if the Jets win, but stranger things have happened.

by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 3:52pm

I think if the Chiefs can pull a +2 or better turnover ratio, they'll win. Anyone remember that one great game they had in the playoffs where neither punter punted?

by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 3:55pm

Perhaps the Patriots lack of success on second down has to do with uncreative play calling at that point? It seems to me, anectdotaly, that they run bland off-tackles when in 2nd/10 and only pick up a couple yards; and if they have picked up a good chunk on first down, that they go for deep passes that haven't been very successful this year on 2nd/5 or less. But I haven't looked at these statistics so it's just a guess.

Fun article.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 4:04pm

Someone someday is going to have to convince me the defense vs. #1 and defense vs. #2 numbers are significant. Almost every team in the NFL keeps the cornerbacks on the same side of the field, regardless of the receiver on that side. I can understand shading a safety, to one side or the other, but typically that's always to the strong side. Secondaries don't even necessarily always stick a double team on the other team's #1 WR (Denver, for example). So unless I'm missing something (better than even), saying the Patriots struggle against #2 receivers is curious, since some games he'll be covered by Samuel, some by Hobbes, some by (God help us) Scott.

Wouldn't the stat make for sense by position? Rank vs. Split End, Rank vs. Flanker, Rank vs. slot? It won't be perfect, but since most NFL offenses run a base set of SE left and flanker right, it should be closer to reality.

Anyway, thanks for the analysis. In the "When the Colts Have the Ball" last paragraph, I believe the sentence should read "In weeks 10-17". It might be correct the way it is, but that wouldn't seem to reflect what you were leading up to.

by Ray (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 4:16pm

dryheat, I think they don't do "vs split end", "vs slot", etc because the NFL play-by-play doesn't log where the reciever lined up. All they have to go on is the name of the reciever, and by that they judge whether he is the #1 or #2, etc. Otherwise I'm sure we would see the splits you said you'd prefer to see.

by dbt (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 4:16pm

I'd like to see rankings vs. fast or slow WRs. I know the Bears, in general, have a guy (Peanut Tillman) who matches up well with "possession" receivers like Plaxico but doesn't do as well against burners like Steve Smith. Of course, you'd have to categorize every WR...

by Richard (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 4:25pm

As awesome as the graphs are, is there any chance we could get the tables that go with them?

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 4:27pm


"I think if the Chiefs can pull a +2 or better turnover ratio, they’ll win. Anyone remember that one great game they had in the playoffs where neither punter punted? "

I remember that game well. I also remember screaming at the TV that the Chiefs should onside kick every single kickoff, because there was no way in hell they were ever going to stop the colts offense....

We know Herm isnt going to do that though.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 4:44pm

Almost every team in the NFL keeps the cornerbacks on the same side of the field, regardless of the receiver on that side.

Aaron's previously said it's not really about the cornerbacks. It's about coverage schemes. #1 receivers typically run deeper patterns than #2 receivers, so really, the #1 vs #2 is "deep vs underneath". Doesn't work for all teams, but it does work on average.

by MRH (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 4:50pm

I have to agree that the Colts will likely win the game. The Chiefs O vs Colts D is in favor of the Chiefs in every caregory in the table above, about a 15% differential in favor of the Chiefs in every case but one (Red Zone 43% differential). The Colts similarly have an advantage in every category by a 30-60% differential - except rushing (8%). I know you can't just take the DVOAs and add them and subtract them, but it's the magnitude of the advantages/disadvantages that I'm looking at. The Colts on offense have a greater advantage than the Chiefs' offensive advantage.

How the Chiefs CAN (not will) win:
1. "Shorten" the game - Indy rushing the ball may help the Chiefs here - as Aaron pointed out somewhere on FO this week, a game with fewer drives/plays increases the inferior team's chances that a break, fluke, turnover will swing the contest in its favor.

2. Score TDs, force a FG. The one place the Chiefs O has an O vs. D differential advantage is in the Red Zone. The Chiefs must score TDs when they get there and at least once force an Indy FG.

3. Make a big play on ST - the Chiefs have an edge here. Dante isn't a stud but he has had some nice returns. Pollard has three "non-predictive" punt blocks (one crossed the line of scrimmage so it doesn't count as an "official" block). Of course, it would help if the Colts actually have to punt...

I have not seen the Chiefs run any 3-4 formations this year, but they did some in 2005 when their D-line got banged up. I wonder if Gunther will pull that out of his hat?

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 4:56pm

Herm will wait until the Chiefs are down by four points with 1:30 left in the game and then he'll run the clock out.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 5:06pm

Nos. 5 & 9, Thanks for responding. I appreciate the explanation. It's nice to know the logic behind it. However, I'm not sure that explanation works either. I mean, Hines Ward, Reche Caldwell, Terrell Owens, Joe Horn, Muhsin Muhammed, Darrell Jackson....you would have to call them the #1 WR (at least heading into the 2006 season), right? They certainly aren't known for deep routes.

I'm really not trying to be a wise guy, just trying to understand just how relevant these numbers are.

by Jimbo (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 5:11pm

Going through the awesome new stat database, I saw that Indy's first half offense is #1 in the NFL and KC's first half defense is #31.

If Indy gets up by a couple of early scores, this game could be a blowout. Interestingly, KC's D is #3 in the second half. I wonder what accounts for that difference -- is Gunther Cunningham a genius of halftime adjustments?

FYI, New England's first half offense is #3 and the Jets' first half defense is #23.

by Paulo Sanchotene, Brazil (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 5:22pm

KC-IND will be weird. When the Chiefs has the ball will be a 23-play-8-minute drive resulting in touchdown or field goal; when the Colts has ball will be a 7-play-2-minute drive resulting in touchdown or field goal. The teams will have the ball 3 times each and the Colts will win by 3 points...

by Ray (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 5:38pm

Here's my question. In this game of overmatched defenses, will the Chiefs be able to slow the game down enough to keep the scoring below a 51pt over/under? And even though the Colts probably will be able to score at will, won't they want to drag a couple of drives out just to rest their defense?

by MRH (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 5:52pm

Re #13 - I think it was 1997, in Gunther's first term as DC in KC, that the Chiefs D set a record for fewest 2nd half points (maybe it was TDs) allowed. Not sure if it still stands, or if it's been true in other years. But that defense was good (1st in PA, 4th in DVOA).

by dryheat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 6:19pm

According to this Slate article, the playoffs will largely be determined by Center Play.

It's a good read, if somewhat simplistic. It does raise some undeniable points. It reads like a poor man's (insert name of educational series that ran here occasionally last offseason)

by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 6:29pm

Regarding the Pats on 2nd down:
I wonder if being really good on 1st and 3rd down could affect playcalling and account for some of it. If you regularly end up in 2nd and 3, and know you're pretty good in 3rd down situations, then you're more likely to try low percentage, high reward plays like playaction deep passes on 2nd down. NE has tried throwing deep a lot this year, but Brady and the recievers haven't been on the same page to pull it off much except for last week (also, with Chad Jackson on the sidelines, the Pats haven't had anyone with the speed to go deep).

Regarding the defense against #1 and #2's:
Others have commented that it's the scheme, and I agree. I've said before that Belichick's fundamental philosophy is to deny the other team their strength. The #1 reciever presumably has the best hands on the team, so if you're going to sell out and cover one guy and hope the other guy drops the ball or is out of sync with the QB, you sell out to blanket the #1. It's much worse for the #1 WR to have a "big day" against you than for the #2 WR to do so.

Fun fact: I'm sure that NE and college football fans know this, but other people may not have realized it. If backup WR Bam Childress (questionable) is inactive on Sunday (very likely), than FOUR OF FIVE Pats WR's will be Florida alums! Yes, practically the entire recieving corps. Chad Jackson, Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, and Kelvin Kight. Is Florida supposed to be a good school for turning out WR's?

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 6:37pm

"Fun fact: I’m sure that NE and college football fans know this, but other people may not have realized it. If backup WR Bam Childress (questionable) is inactive on Sunday (very likely), than FOUR OF FIVE Pats WR’s will be Florida alums! Yes, practically the entire recieving corps. Chad Jackson, Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, and Kelvin Kight. Is Florida supposed to be a good school for turning out WR’s?"

IIRC, Reche and Jabar were the #1/#2 under Rex Grossman.

by hwc (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 6:44pm

So unless I’m missing something (better than even), saying the Patriots struggle against #2 receivers is curious, since some games he’ll be covered by Samuel, some by Hobbes, some by (God help us) Scott.

As a matter of fundamental philosophy, the Pats aren't going to allow you to beat them with their best guy. So, in most cases, they will do whatever it takes to contain your #1 wide receiver. It makes sense, the #2 guy is probably #2 because he makes more mistakes and might help the defense out with a drop or a bad route adjustment on a crucial play.

The Pats defense is all about trying to shift the odds just slightly in their favor. It's not the "all in" gambler's philosophy of a "shut down" defense, but rather a defense that tries to rake in just few chips at a time, so at the end of 60 minutes they have a bigger pile of chips than the opponent.

by football otaku (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 6:52pm

That "one-for-five-in-the-third" statistic is strange. It's like they dug around for some numbers that would make Gostkowski look bad, and that was the best they could come up with.

But it is a well known fact that any silly statistic can be refuted with even sillier statistics. Therefore:

1. The Patriots lost one game by three points or less this season, a 14-17 match against the Jets. The game did not involve a 3rd-quarter field goal attempt by Gostkowski, so we can conclude that his peculiar shortcoming is not costing his team victories.

2. New England won two games by three points or less this season: 19-17 versus Buffalo, and 24-21 versus Jacksonville. In both games, Gostkowski successfully kicked one field goal, and thus provided the decisive margin of victory.

So there you have it: irrefutable proof that Stephen Gostkowski Just Wins Games. He may turn out to be the next Adam Vinateri.

by admin :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 7:19pm

RE: 13. That's one of the fun things about the database. No matter how much time I spend culling through stats and picking things out for these previews, I'll bet you guys can find a couple of interesting things that I didn't even get to. Glad everybody likes it.

by MLA (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 7:52pm

I haven't paid much attention to the Chiefs this year, so perhaps this is a dumb post, but I'm curious as to why Aaron calls Larry Johnson "the worst possible matchup for the Colts defense" when DVOA says the Chiefs are a below-average rushing team (-2.7%, 17th). The article really doesn't go on to elaborate on this point, as the Chiefs are talked about as a premier rushing team in spite of their middling rushing DVOA (the end of the article implies that the Chiefs have a dominant running game). Is this a case where it's assumed DVOA is wrong? Is there something special about the Chiefs rushing style that would make them a worse matchup for the Colts D than other teams? Are there other factors dragging down their rushing DVOA? I did a (very) quick search and I couldn't find any FO articles that covered the Chiefs rush DVOA.

by Ferg (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 8:14pm

23: I think the Chiefs were lousy at rushing early in the season, then really good in the second half, which works out to about average overall. I guess the assumption is that they will continue their latter performance into the playoffs.

by Randy S. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 8:50pm

23 - I thought that was odd too, especially since today's TDZ says that a player like LDT would terrorize the Colts due to cutbacks and counters. Wouldn't the Chargers and LDT be the worst possible matchup for the Colts?

by dryheat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 9:12pm

#20 hwc, well if you were correct 100% of the time, that would explain the Patriots, but I just used them as an example. What about the other teams, some of which have a good ranking against #2s and a poor one against #1s? Should we infer that those teams go out of their way not to be beaten by their opponent's #2 WR?

But you know as well as I do that the Patriots defense tries to neutralize what the offense does best. Sometimes that's bracket the #1 WR all over the field (Driver, Chad Johnson). Sometimes it's knocking around a #2 guy that poses matchup problems (no better example than Wayne Chrebet circa 2000). But when they play Kansas City, we know damn well they're not trying to shut down Eddie Kennison.

by Tim Gerheim :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 9:52pm

Re 23:

I would suggest, and this is just off the top of my head, that the Colts are more vulnerable to a good running back than a normal team, but that's not the same as being susceptible to a good running team. Larry Johnson is a superb runner but the KC line isn't as great as we're used to it being. But against the Colts that's not as important because they make so many holes on their own, without much help from the line, that a back who can exploit them by breaking tackles is the hardest thing for them to stop.

The Chiefs, basically, aren't necessarily a great running team against most teams because of the line, but against the Colts they may be one of the very most dangerous running teams around.

Sure, all things being equal a better line would present the Colts more trouble, but the only AFC playoff team with a runner as good as Johnson is San Diego, and the Chargers aren't a potential first-round matchup. Plus the Chiefs are more likely than any other team to run Johnson on every play and not be tempted to pass.

by hwc (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 11:10pm

What about the other teams,

I can't answer for other teams. It takes watching a team week in and week out over several years, following the press conferences, etc. to really understand fundamental coaching philosophies. Belichick is quite clear:

a) Don't give up cheap big play points.

b) Take away what the other team does best and make them beat you with what they don't do best.

Other teams may have different defensive philosophies.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 11:34pm

I see the degenerate asking about the O/U 51...

It seems like the Chiefs are a public dog, but I expect the 8-0 at home Colts to win and probably cover against the 3-5 road chiefs...

I do think the Ravens pound the colts like a little brother next week though. Jamal will slice through that defense like a hot knife through butter. Peyton will be hung out to try dry as a "choak artist", and Dungy won't be called out as a guy that " can't win the big one". It will once again be " poor dungy".

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 11:38pm

AFC playoffs for you poor degenerates...

KC at Indy... COLTS...
Jets at New England... PATS...

Pats at San Diego... PATS...
Colts at Ravens... BALT...

Pats at Ravens... PATS...

ESPN is really hyping up San Diego, but Martyball will once again get wiped out of the playoffs early.

by Jon (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 12:11am

I'm a Chargers fan and having watched all of their games, I can tell you, ESPN is really overhyping the Bolts. They find ways to win, but their only dominant game in the last quarter of the season came against Denver. They snuck by Oakland at home, Buffalo, KC, and Seattle in the 2nd half of the season.

The Ravens and Pats should really be the teams to beat in the AFC and thus the entire NFL. New England has the best playoff QB to go along with a solid running game, a great defense and a genus of a coach. Plus they get a cakewalk in their WC game against the cinderella Jets. Meanwhile, Baltimore has just been stomping on teams. Great defenses trump great offenses in the playoffs. In fact, the 1999 Rams are the last team to win a Super Bowl relying heavily on offense. I'd have to give the Ravens the edge over NE, but you never know what Belicheck has up his sleeve.

That said, the Chargers are a team to be reckoned with. They run the football and are solid in every aspect of the game save the pass defense which relies on the front 7 pressuring the QB. Rivers played well against Arizona and he can do more in the passing game than McNair can. I think he'll surprise some people. Most people forget that even when Rivers was struggling, he still came up with the clutch plays when it counted.

And btw Chris, Martyball is dead and has been for a while now. Cam Cameron, the offensive coordinantor calls all the plays. Marty gives him suggestions from time to time, but Cameron has the power to overrule those suggestions. The Chargers were more conservative their first 3-4 games of the season because they had a 1st year starting QB and a rookie left tackle. Once McNeil and Rivers got acclimated to their positions, San Diego has become one of the more daring offenses in the NFL in terms of playcalling. Don't be surprised to see a halfback pass around the red zone.

by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 12:27am

Jon -

I know Martyball has been dead for a few years. The bolts really run a more aggresive offense than most teams. The reason you can tell is what they would do on a 3rd and 1 play where they pretty much have nothing to lose on field position ( a punt is virtually the same).

The Chargers will often throw it long on 3rd and 1 from the 40, as opposed to trying to grind out 1 yard. I like how Cam Cameron keeps the big picture in focus and is willing to take chances...

ESPN has been really hyping up the chargers and colts as you mentioned. The ask if the colts will go undefeated, and then tell us that the chargers are for real. Then they tell you Baltimore's offense is no good, and the Pats are rebuilding...

My person odds to win the AFC...

Pats 33%
Ravens 33%
SD 20%
Indy 10%
KC 1%
Jets 1%

I also have a blog at blogspot that is about Pfootball

by David (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 5:19am

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if the Colts do win tomorrow don't they match up pretty well against the Ravens? From what I've seen Baltimore relies heavily on blitzes to disrupt the passing game, and if there's one QB you absolutely do not want to blitz, it would be Peyton Manning.

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 5:19am

Interesting fact about the Colts ST...they plan to play more than just the scrubs on ST this week. Not sure if this means starters or just exactly who is going to be out there. This will either be successful or a colossal failure, but considering those units are nearly a colossal failure at this point anyway...

by Vyse (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 9:25am

"But when they play Kansas City, we know damn well they’re not trying to shut down Eddie Kennison."

Why wouldn't that be EXACTLY who they're trying to shut down? The WRs outside of Kennison are atrocious. That would leave Green depending solely on Tony Gonzalez.

by Nick (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 11:46am

Just reading Vic Carucci's Burning Questions on nfl.com and I find...

It's no coincidence that when the Colts rush for at least 125 yards, they have a 5-0 record

care to comment Aaron?

by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 1:07pm


Can you please explain to me how the Colts match up well against the Ravens?

Jamal Lewis slashing through that defense a week after LJ bangs up on the colts...

I think the Ravens have the most to gain with this first round bye. The Cheifs will try to pound the run and wear down the Colts. The Ravens will be an amplified version of that next week should the Colts win. Jamal Lewis will be rested, while the colts D will be licking their wounds from LJ.

Then you have Manning and the offense against maybe the best defense in the NFL, that is rested, at home, outdoors, and it will be loud.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 1:16pm

Why does everyone think Jamal Lewis is going to be so great at slashing the Colts? He's terrible. So are the Colts, of course, but shouldn't the Colts be more worried about the other playoff running backs? Like Tomlinson, Johnson, and Maroney? You know, the ones who are actually good?

by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 1:21pm

Why will Jamal Lewis slash through that defense?

Well because the Colts D made Ron Dayne looks like a probowler. It made Jones-Drew look like Barry Sanders. A few weeks ago the Jags rushed for more yards than Michelle Vick passed for in his entire career.

Jamal Lewis will rush for no less than 125 yards and could bust 200. That might not break any records but you consider Mcnair could manage the offense, and Petyon Manning will have an awful lot of pressure on his shoulders against that awsome defense.

by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 1:21pm

Why will Jamal Lewis slash through that defense?

Well because the Colts D made Ron Dayne looks like a probowler. It made Jones-Drew look like Barry Sanders. A few weeks ago the Jags rushed for more yards than Michelle Vick passed for in his entire career.

Jamal Lewis will rush for no less than 125 yards and could bust 200. That might not break any records but you consider Mcnair could manage the offense, and Petyon Manning will have an awful lot of pressure on his shoulders against that awsome defense.

by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 1:21pm

Why will Jamal Lewis slash through that defense?

Well because the Colts D made Ron Dayne looks like a probowler. It made Jones-Drew look like Barry Sanders. A few weeks ago the Jags rushed for more yards than Michelle Vick passed for in his entire career.

Jamal Lewis will rush for no less than 125 yards and could bust 200. That might not break any records but you consider Mcnair could manage the offense, and Petyon Manning will have an awful lot of pressure on his shoulders against that awsome defense.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 1:35pm

Note: posting 3 times does not help your point.

The Colts' D's main problem is with quick, cut-back runners, because they have trouble keeping assignments and reading plays. Lewis is, uh, neither. He's powerful, but Sanders hits with a lot of force, and the Ravens' passing attack is not something terrifying, so they can play him up to help in run support.

by zip (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 1:38pm

Wait Chris, what exactly are you trying to say? :)

by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 2:09pm


My bad with the 3 posts...

So you mean the Colts defense is vulnerable to quick cut back runners like Ron Dayne? He must run a 4.2 and weight about 190 right?

The Colts D is suspect against ANY running back they face.

I think your over looking Steve Mcnair. He has had a number of long bombs he completed this year, but he doesn't get the credit he deserves for keeping drives alive.

Mcnair loves throwing to tight ends, and made a career of those long 11 play drives where he converts a number of 3rd downs.

I don't think you understand how much that bye week will help Baltimore either. The Ravens will be rested, while the colts D will be licking their LJ wounds.

by Fiver (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 3:23pm


It takes watching a team week in and week out over several years, following the press conferences, etc. to really understand fundamental coaching philosophies. Belichick is quite clear:

a) Don’t give up cheap big play points.

b) Take away what the other team does best and make them beat you with what they don’t do best.

Other teams may have different defensive philosophies.

After several years of watching the Ravens defense, it appears their fundamental philosophy is:

a) to crush their enemies

b) to see them driven before them

c) to hear the lamentations of their women

(Sorry, it was on tv this week.)

by You Heard It Here First! (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 3:30pm

AFC Wild Card Weekend:

Game 1: I'll go with Chiefs 7, Colts 5, in double overtime.

Game 2: Clearly this one will end up Patriots 39, Jets 9. Gostkowski goes 7-for-7 on field goals, but 0-for-3 on PATs. The Jets pick up three safeties, all on over-the-punter's-head snaps in the end zone.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 4:30pm

#44: It's also compounded by the fact that Jamal Lewis really isn't that good. If we want to use Ron Dayne as an example, Dayne is significantly better (~5 DVOA for Dayne vs. ~-10 for Lewis).

by Nathan (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 4:51pm

If the Colts win the toss they must take the ball.

They must then score a touchdown. No field goals.

Being down 7-0, KC will run, but be willing to pass a little. This has to be their downfall. If it's not, it's 7-3 or 7-7

The Colts must AGAIN score a td. Up 14-3 is the only way you will force them to pass, and play to the defense's strength.

It's hard to say you have to score 2 tds, but understanding how bad the defense is against the run, this has to be the only goal, and going for it on 4th down (without running Addai on a stretch which never works) may be the best way to do it.

You don't want to start a game assuming you are beat, however you know how to make this game work. You have to score, and put them behind. So don't wait till the 3rd to try and do this, go hard and go fast, and hope your defense comes up with a pick when K.C. has to air it out.

by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 4:57pm

"(without running Addai on a stretch which never works)"

I'm glad someone else picked up on this. I get pissed every time they try to do this, and I can't figure out why they keep doing it. It seriously never works in that situation.

by Nathan (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 5:00pm

Never. Ever. Over and over I watch it.

If you need 1 yard, DO NOT RUN THE STRETCH. Take that DT from the Pats at full back, and run up the middle, but DO NOT RUN THE STRETCH.

The stretch is a great play anywhere else in the game. I love running it on Madden, but NEVER EVER EVER with 1 to go on 4th, I'd prefer not on 3rd either unless you plan on setting up a play action later, and are quick to audible out of it, or the other direction based on matchups.

by refchat (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 8:09pm

There were not many upsets this season for the referee of the KC-Indianapolis game (Jeff Triplette). When the home team has 25% or more DVOA advantage, the home team went 6-0. When the visiting team had 26% or more DVOA advantage, the visiting team went 4-1. Today, Indianapolis has a 15.4% DVOA advantage. (I'm using DVOA, but you get similar results with weighted DVOA, only Indy would be even bigger favorites.)

by John (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 9:56pm

#48: And you, along with everyone else, were wrong. Ain't this game great? Conventional wisdom seems so compelling.

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 11:40pm

What worries me about the Colts is that the Ravens have been vulnerable to teams with two top-flight receivers -- whether it's schemes or Samari Rolle, guys like Houshmandzadeh have been headaches for a couple of years now.

Addai won't run for much, Clark will be a non-factor, and the Ravens' stunting and mixing of blitzes should stymie Peyton most of the time, but there will be those times when Reggie Wayne gets open, and I'm gonna cringe and pray we get to Manning first.

But would I rather have played NE or NY? Hell, no. I want the Colts right in front of us, so we can grab the spear, kick the door in, and yell, "All right, where is the sonuvabitch?" (Tennessee fans will remember the source of that quote.)

Indy: Bring it. Just bring it.

by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 01/07/2007 - 11:45am

OK, so how do you explain what happened yesterday?

Sterling Sharpe and Dwight Freeney ended all discussion by pointing out that it was aggressiveness and PRIDE and not a change in scheme.

The Colts run D is considerably better at home, LJ and the Chiefs rush offense are considerably worse on the road ( only 6 rushing TDs on the road),the place was loud, and they took pride in doing what people told them they couldn't do.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 2:35pm

#54: Uh oh.

The Colts are on the road next week.
The Baltimore rushing offense is considerably better at home (Lewis has twice as many TDs at home as away).
It won't be loud when the Colts D is on the field.
Everyone is now saying they can stop the run.

The Colts are apparently going to give up 500 yards rushing next week.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:48pm

On the other hand, Jamal Lewis isn't much of a cutback runner, either. Of course, McNair is more likely to be able to exploit a defense that's selling out the run than Green was capable of.