Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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11 Jan 2009

Audibles at the Line: NFC Divisional Round

Compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei

Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2009.

This week, we'll be splitting Audibles in two, one for each conference. This edition discusses only the two NFC Divisional games. Discussion of the AFC Divisional games can be found here.

Saturday, January 10

Arizona Cardinals 33 at Carolina Panthers 13

Doug Farrar: Larry Fitzgerald this year and Randy Moss last year are the two receivers in my recent memory who can be double-covered and make me feel sorry for the defensive backs.

Vince Verhei: The amazing thing about that Fitz catch is that it should have been a touchdown, but the ball was underthrown. So he just outjumped everyone and grabbed it. I'm starting to think we need to add this guy's name to Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Peyton Manning, etc., when we talk about not just the best player at his position, but in football.

Bill Barnwell: Weird end zone sign: "John Fox is a Fox."

Vince Verhei: Arizona kicks a field goal to go up 20-7. The good news for Carolina is that they're playing the Cardinals. Most teams would take a two-score lead (assuming it goes into the second half) and start to exploit the soft Carolina run defense. But the Cardinals don't even bother with "running" out the clock. They have had success on the ground here in the first half, but if they fall into their usual habits, they'll give Carolina time to come back.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like I'm watching a replay of that Carolina-Chicago playoff game in 2005 where we all learned that you shouldn't play Cover-2 against a team with Steve Smith on it. Earth to Carolina: STOP PLAYING ZONE ON LARRY FITZGERALD. Gee, he seems to be finding holes in the zone, what a shock. I know he's going to make some sick catches against the best man coverage you throw at him, but damn, at least that way you are making him work for it, and he can't make those catches every single time, right?

Meanwhile, I know our research has shown there is no such thing as drive momentum, but my god, Jake Delhomme has just melted down out there. And being down 20 is going to make it hard to use tons of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in the second half.

I really found it hard to believe that Arizona's total collapse after midseason was simply a very good team that stopped caring when they were guaranteed to win their easy division, but after watching this week and last week I'm starting to wonder about that kind of stuff.

Vince Verhei: Well, think about this team in particular: For like five years in a row, they've been the team everyone picked to go back to the playoffs, and then never did. So when they finally made it in this year, it was a HUGE deal for them. I think it's natural for a team in that scenario to have a massive letdown. I mean, mission accomplished, right? And then they clinched so early they were able to coast for a while, then used the Seattle game in Week 17 as a good practice, and were ready to go for the playoffs like it was Week 1 of a brand new season. Mind you, I don't think this explains ALL late collapses by teams that clinch playoff berths early. I just think this is a unique team in a unique set of circumstances.

Arizona's first drive of the second half, up 27-7: Five passes, two runs.


With eight minutes to go in the third quarter...

  • Carolina receivers: five catches for 39 yards (none by Steve Smith).
  • Arizona defenders: three catches, returned for 72 yards.

Aaron Schatz: Best line belongs to the New York Times' Fifth Down Blog:

"I hope there wasn't a big surprise birthday party planned at the Delhommes' after the game."

Yes, it really is Jake Delhomme's 34th birthday today.

Bill Connelly: Well ... at this rate, he should have a lot more time on his hands on his 35th birthday ... he can make that a good one.

Doug Farrar: Fifth pick goes to Rod Hood. Double-coverage again. One Cardinal ahead of Muhsin Muhammad, one behind. This is unreal.

Bill Moore: Maybe Ken Whisenhunt's comment after the New England game that they wanted to work on the running game wasn't typical coach's BS.

I'm tired of the talking heads saying, "we shouldn't change the playoff system just because teams like New England don't make the playoffs at 11-5, and teams like Arizona and San Diego make it." I haven't heard any legitimate source calling for a change. I don't know anyone in New England, for instance, calling for a change. The only people talking about the system changing is the idiots who keep saying, "we shouldn't change the system!" NO ONE IS CALLING FOR THE NFL PLAYOFFS TO CHANGE THEIR SELECTION PROCESS!

Bill Barnwell: I'm surprised at how bad Delhomme played, obviously, but not necessarily that he was inaccurate. He's looked bad all year. I've charted a bunch of Panthers games and mentioned in both Quick Reads and in Audibles that Delhomme has had some serious issues with his accuracy -- not even leading guys on routes or something like that, just hitting open receivers who aren't even in motion, usually overthrowing in the process. I assumed that had something to do with an unreported injury, since a mechanical thing would seem easy to fix.

It's hard to pin any part of this on anyone but Delhomme, but for what's supposed to be a very good offensive line, man, did Carolina look bad tonight. It's the freaking Cardinals pass rush. You can handle it.

I think I need to get on the NFL Game Rewind and see what was happening in Weeks 13 to 16 that isn't anymore (or vice versa).

Sean McCormick: In the preseason, I picked Carolina to be the team most likely to underperform their DVOA projection this year, based on the fact that I didn't think Jake Delhomme was very good and I didn't trust their personnel whenever they had to run traditional passing plays instead of play-action. The Panthers spent all season making that prediction look terrible, but then their structural problems caught up with them all at once. Give Arizona credit for playing hard on defense, but they weren't doing anything particularly exotic out there. They blanketed Steve Smith, flowed to the ball whenever DeAngelo Williams tried to go outside, and they schemed some A-gap blitzes to get pressure quickly in Delhomme's face. Mostly they played to the score of the game.

Mike Tanier: I can't believe I picked the Panthers this week. I can't believe I put any faith in Delhomme. First interception: It's quarters coverage. I don't have a good replay to watch 40 times, but I am almost certain it's quarters, and that it isn't a hard read. The guy just doesn't bother to read defenses sometimes.

Second interception, there's a safety deep in the middle, so it is either Cover-1 or Cover-3. Either way, you have to account for at least one, if not two linebackers in the middle of the field. If you are throwing into the middle, you have to drop, plant, and throw: no looking at the receiver and waiting. Bad timing, bad pick. Once he gets into Jake the Mistake zone, that's all she wrote, his brain just seizes up like an old engine.

Like Aaron said, the zone coverage on Fitzgerald was ridiculous. He ran the same crossing route four or five times and Warner just waited until he crossed into the far-side linebacker's zone. I remember the Monday night game Aaron and I went to last year, Eagles-Cowboys, where that seemed to be the Eagles' strategy against T.O.: Just let him work the zones. It's a crazy strategy when you don't have Anquan Boldin to worry about, when you could run a zone-man combo and just shadow Fitz everywhere and make Breaston and Stephen Spach beat you.

I figured the Panthers would run the ball early, get a few stops on defense, then walk away with the game. It might have turned out that way, if Shaky Jakey hadn't fumbled in the red zone. Then, you have classic Panthers when the opponent has the lead: They are trying to throw the ball, but Brad Hoover and Jeff King are still on the field, and they aren't trying anything clever like DeAngelo Williams in the slot (if they did try this, it was after the beers kicked in for me. Sorry). The Cardinals played well, certainly deserved to win, but what an egg the Panthers laid.

Ned Macey: I'm not sure that eliminating Week 13-16 for the Cardinals will really help. I'm afraid we've got a third straight year of absolutely unexplainable performance. If the Cardinals were winning 50-40, you could sort of explain that, but that is two damn good defensive performances in a row. During the regular season, they had games with better than -10% DVOA defense only four times. Now they've had two in the playoffs.

I've been down on Delhomme for years, mostly because he has been somehow considered a game-managing type quarterback. Darryl Johnston was parroting that line again yesterday. Delhomme has always turned the ball over a lot. He is a league-average quarterback who does well when the rest of his team does well.

Also, I'm secretly happy that Carolina laid an egg because the Panthers under Fox were a team that had consistently played better in the playoffs, and all Colts fans have to believe that is a small-sample fluke. Now that the Panthers have blown a home-field game, we just need the Pats to take a couple first-round exits.

Sunday, January 11

Philadelphia Eagles 23 at New York Giants 11

Sean McCormick: Is it safe to say that the NFL offices are pulling hard for the Steelers and Giants today? Not only would that matchup be by far the most attractive draw for the Super Bowl, but it would save them the embarrassment of a Championship weekend where three of the four teams were 9-7 or worse and the top regular season team remaining was a sixth seed.

Russell Levine: I think that's safe to say, but for the former reason, not the latter. If the Giants and Cowboys got in at 8-8 and 9-7, the NFL would rather have either in the Super Bowl than, say, 14-2 Carolina.

Bill Barnwell: Looked like Correll Buckhalter overpursued on that opening kickoff return by Ahmad Bradshaw. Also a facemask on the play on Bradshaw, uncalled since offensive players apparently can't commit facemask penalties.

Ben Riley: Well, after the inevitable Asante Samuel interception, we now get to see how many attempts it takes for the Eagles to pound the ball in from the one-yard line. Answer: three, after two failed Westbrook attempts, a defensive holding penalty, and then a perhaps ill advised ball lunge by McNabb.

Bill Barnwell: Why are the Giants running Steve Smith on go patterns? I mean, you have Sinorice Moss right there. The only thing he's good at is being fast!

Ben Riley: This is obviously premature, but have road teams ever gone 4-0 during the divisional round of the playoffs? How about 3-1? Easterbrook always writes that home teams have a 75 percent winning percentage during this round -- seems like this is shaping up to be a very unusual weekend.

Bill Barnwell: The Giants defensive line is having an awesome half. The Eagles offensive line is getting absolutely no push, and the guys at the second level are getting clear paths to the ball. I'm going to say that has absolutely nothing to do with the Eagles having communication issues with their radio.

As much as Corey Webster has risen this year, it's surprising to see how far Sam Madison has fallen. He was the team's top corner until the end of the regular season, was replaced by Webster when he got hurt, and then never got his job back. He's their dime corner now, with Terrell Thomas moving ahead of him. Thomas is going to end up on our Top 25 Prospects list next year, as he's a dynamite special teams guy and a good blitzer off the edge (swear I wrote that before he just forced a Donovan McNabb pick), but he's not much of a cover corner yet.

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles are really having trouble covering tight ends today. Mostly Kevin Boss, but also Darcy Johnson earlier.

Bill Barnwell: This is a lot like the first Giants-Eagles game. The Giants are moving the ball on the Eagles with ease, and every yard the Eagles get seems to be a small miracle.

Aaron Schatz: The officials' decision to take away Brandon Jacobs' five-yard run because the clock had hit 2:00 is absurd. First of all, in the slow-motion replay I think the snap is before the clock hits 2:00 anyway. Second, if the snap was after 2:00, it was milliseconds. The officials let the play happen and didn't blow the whistle -- then they change it? What the hell? Talk about your ridiculous technicalities.

Ben Riley: I'm with you, Aaron -- I wasn't aware you could have "do-overs" in the NFL. Moreover, if the Giants had failed to gain any yardage, presumably Tom Coughlin could have asked for a do-over himself. Weird decision from the normally reliable Mike Carey.

Doug Farrar: "The normally reliable Mike Carey"? You, sir, are a comedian.

Bill Barnwell: Aikman: "Akers is 8-of-17 on field goals in Giants Stadium, and I'm willing to bet a few of those misses were in this direction." No s**t, dude. As far as I know, you can only go two ways.

(The Giants kick a field goal with 1:38 to go in the second quarter; the Eagles respond with a field goal of their own on the last play of the half.)

What the Eagles did here on this drive is exactly what the Giants did to the Cowboys last year in the Divisional Round -- the Cowboys scored with a minute left, and the Giants just ran some underneath plays and scored with a few seconds left.

Ned Macey: I suspect somebody was watching the non-called delay of game yesterday, but even so, really weird (although irrelevant after the offsides) call.

Mark Zajack: Any chance that eventually a receiver makes a play in this game? I like the creativity of Kevin Curtis trying to catch the ball with his face ... but perhaps he should just stick to tackling 350-pound guys by their shoelaces.

... and immediately Domenik Hixon answers my call. Huge catch on third down.

Aaron Schatz: Remember all our talk at the end of the season about how the rules allow writers to vote for a unit instead of a specific player for MVP? The Philadelphia defensive line is the MVP of this game.

Doug Farrar: The Giants are getting traction late with blasts up the middle with Derrick Ward, but it seems that any play taking a while to develop on the ground doesn't stand much of a chance. Caveat emptor to any team looking to make the free agent Ward a member of your team: Best bring an offensive line this good, as well.

And with 6:28 left in the game, Philly's front seven (eight?) wins the fourth-and-short battle for the second straight drive. I think it bears mentioning again that this team had the best defensive run DVOA in the second half of the season.

Will Carroll: I remember having this discussion, but i think Eli Manning *needs* tall receivers, not because he likes throwing up the jump balls, but because there's something intrinsic in his mechanics that causes him to throw the ball high. I'd be curious to know how many of his interceptions or even his incompletions are because he went too high.

Doug Farrar: Kenny Britt of Rutgers? 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Tri-State Player of the Year. Projects as a mid-second- to mid-third-round guy.

Aaron Schatz: Boy, Eli just had a lousy game today, didn't really seem to be able to adjust the force of his throws to control for the wind. Now that he has thrown the ball right to Quentin Mikell, I hereby request that we hold back on DVOA triumphalism until we know for sure that the Arizona Cardinals are not representing the NFC in Super Bowl XLIII.

Ned Macey: I agree that the Eagles were great on the short-yardage stops, but for the game, the Giants ran the ball pretty well. Plus, Manning had decent pass protection. I actually think the Philadelphia secondary played better, but that could just be the wind and Manning's crappiness. Even the big play they gave up was pretty decent coverage by Joselio Hanson (I think that's who it was).

Bill Barnwell: Exactly, Ned. I would say the Eagles offensive line deserved the MVP for a fantastic second half -- the Giants had little pressure on Manning. Just a fantastic game.

Thinking about this before the game, I decided that I could choose to be happy or angry about the outcome of this game regardless of what happened. I chose happy, so I'm going to say that the Eagles played a very good game, got some key stops and some lucky bounces, and that they made smarter decisions than the Giants did. Carrying John Carney and Lawrence Tynes infuriated me. Infuriated.

Aaron Schatz: Well, Carney was just abysmal on kickoffs this year. If they felt they had to carry him to kick the field goals, I don't think having a guy who could actually kick off was a bad idea. I just think it should have been, you know, someone who actually was really great at kickoffs, someone more like Rhys Lloyd, not Lawrence Freakin' Tynes.

Bill Barnwell: Having the guy who could actually kick off kick the field goals would have maybe allowed the Giants to carry someone like Dave Tollefson, who would have been a fresh body in the second half when the Giants couldn't get any pressure on McNabb.

Aaron Schatz: We've now got three teams seeded fourth or lower moving on to the championship games. Depending on what happens in the Steelers-Chargers game, it might be four. Each of the last few years, as some unexpected team won the Super Bowl, we've talked about the fact that a couple of random games do not mean a trend. Well, at this point, is this a trend? Can we say that home-field advantage and the bye week in the playoffs are no longer as important as they were prior to 2005 or so? If so, can we think of a reason why this may be the case?

The other question would be: Are teams now more tightly packed when it comes to their chance to win in the playoffs? Some of these wins make sense based on our DVOA ratings -- Pittsburgh was third in 2005 despite being a Wild Card team, obviously Philly and Baltimore were 1-2 this year. Others are wins by teams that clearly were inferior in the regular season -- the Giants last year, the Cardinals this year, the Colts (on defense, certainly) in 2006.

Bill Barnwell: I can't say that it's a trend. How many of those games rested on a random play here or there (I'm thinking specifically of that Jerome Bettis fumble and the return that Ben Roethlisberger stopped)?

Ned Macey: On the other hand, the Colts needed one of the worst officiating calls in recent memory to even get close in the fourth quarter (against the Steelers in 2005). To be honest, I tend to write that particular game off to the extremely unfortunate suicide by Tony Dungy's son. It was entirely understandable for the Colts to be underprepared and out of sorts, and that's exactly how they played.

Vince Verhei: For today, I find it ironic that Philadelphia won because New York suffered from the same ills that plagued the Eagles all year: short-yardage woes, sloppy turnovers, poor clock management (down to one timeout with more than 12 minutes to go in the game). On top of that, they missed two field goals, which Philadelphia opponents never do.

On those late short-yardage plays, the Giants had third- or fourth-and-3 or less four times in the closing minutes. They ran four plays, all runs. It says a lot about the day Eli Manning had that they never trusted him to pick up those first downs. When I look back at this era, I think I'm going to swap Eli's 2007 and 2008 postseasons in my mind. It will jibe better with his regular seasons that way.

As for the NFC Championship game, think about where these two teams were just three weeks ago. Arizona lost 47-7 to New England, had lost four out of five, were 8-7 and sneaking into the playoffs because of their putrid division. Everyone figured they would lose to Atlanta or Dallas in Round 1. The Eagles lost 10-3 to Washington, were 8-6-1, and needed losses by Chicago and Philadelphia just to have a chance to beat Dallas to get in. Now, one of them is going to the Super Bowl.

I think the best prediction I've seen this year is one Bill Simmons made around Week 8 or so: This is just a weird year, and something crazy is going to happen. Weird like the above paragraph, weird like the MVP and Coach of the Year being knocked out of the first round, weird like road teams going, at worst, .500 in the playoffs.

Finally, I would like to note that my fantasy playoff team is screwed. The divisional round isn't even over, and I'm already down to Anquan Boldin and Heath Miller.

Ned Macey: Teams that won the first regular season match-up are now 1-4 if you count the Giants as having won the first one. Even excluding them, the teams are 1-3.

Will Carroll: Can we at least say that the regular season is getting about meaningless given the results here?

Bill Barnwell: Pretty much. Anything can happen in a small sample. America's really the only country who believes that their sports need to have a playoff system. This is what happens.

Aaron Schatz: I don't think it makes the regular season meaningless. That's why I pointed out that some of these "weird results" aren't really that strange when you see how teams played during the regular season using DVOA instead of just wins and losses.

Pittsburgh's DVOA rating was barely less than Indianapolis and Denver in 2005, and higher than Seattle's. The Eagles and Ravens are only upsets when we consider home-field advantage, because they were 1-2 in DVOA this year. Plus, obviously the regular season still means something because it determines who gets into the tournament.

The CFL has playoffs. The Japanese baseball league has playoffs. The Russian Super League in hockey has playoffs. So no, we aren't the only country that believes in playoffs.

As for things like soccer and rugby, it isn't that they don't have playoffs. It is that the playoffs aren't actually connected to the regular season. What is the FA cup if not a playoff tournament? The best team has one bad day, and it can lose to some team from the second division.

Bill Barnwell: Replace America with "American sports." The FA Cup and the NFL playoffs are two very, very, very different things contextually.

Aaron Schatz: Don't tell any Canadians that hockey counts as an "American sport," OK?

Ned Macey: Random stat: I'm not sure this means anything, and the "except" below is a big one, but Super Bowl champion coaches since 1998 except Bill Belichick are now 2-13 in the playoffs since their win.

Russell Levine: I only saw the second half and the final few minutes of the first, but a few observations.

Obviously very unimpressed with Eli today. He was sailing the ball all over the place. Visions of the bad Eli from years past. He was pathetic on the critical fourth-and-inches sneak in the fourth quarter. How can you not get six inches there? Just burrow up the center's ass cheek and it's practically guaranteed.

I have lots of issues with Tom Coughlin as well. Why is Eli sneaking it when you have Brandon Jacobs? Why are you running the tricky direct snap to Brandon Jacobs running wide on another critical fourth-quarter third down? Why do you challenge a third-down spot that you have no hope of winning, costing you a critical timeout? Why are the Giants ALWAYS in jeopardy of burning the play clock? Is that enough questions for one Audibles submission?

What a weird, weird, weird year. The Arizona friggin' Cardinals are hosting the NFC championship against that same lost Eagles team that tied Cincinnati. Might be time to head for that underground compound after all.

Mike Tanier: A big day for an Eagles fan, of course. Which makes typing a bit of a challenge.

The Eagles run defense has had some excellent weeks, but they just controlled the game today. The Giants were very stubborn about sticking to the run, and I think they reached diminishing returns. The Eagles were in the same boat early in the game ... I think in the two-minute drill, Reid decided to go back to old Andy and start throwing the ball again. It helps that Donovan also became old Donovan and starting running to make plays.

The Eagles should beat the Cardinals next week, hands down. The matchup should be no closer than the Thanksgiving game was. I write this knowing how "in the bag" NFC Championship games went for this team from 2001-03, but that's the way next week's game looks to me. And it feels odd to be back here, in the NFC Championship game again, after the TO blowup and the Garcia year and the fiasco seasons. This Eagles team feels connected to those teams: flawed, to be sure, but tough and capable of beating anyone.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 11 Jan 2009

134 comments, Last at 20 Jan 2009, 3:26am by Alex51


by Rick (not verified) :: Sun, 01/11/2009 - 11:41pm

I hate to pick a winner in next week's game. As much as I love my Eagles, I have never really picked them to win a game outright. 2 times I have - the NFC Championship against Atlanta, and today. I told all my friends (and I live in NYC) that Philly was the better team and would prove it. They did.

Arizona is VERY hot, and their defense looked very good against Carolina. Now I didn't think Carolina was all that good - I had little respect for NFC South teams, despite all their wins - so maybe it was more Carolina sucking than Arizona looking good. However, any team with Warner, Fitzgerald, Boldin, and Breaston on it is going to be very tough to beat.

I'm iffy about next week's game. Philly could win, probably SHOULD win. But it's one of those games that is more about trending than it is about stats - which team is hotter? I've always believed/known DEFENSE wins championships, and Philly's is red hot...so I hope that is what carries them through.

by thewedge :: Sun, 01/11/2009 - 11:51pm

Yeah, as an Eagles fan I agree with your take. I really wish the game could be in Philly, I feel like there would be no way Arizona could come in there and win, especially if the weather is bad. Alas, alas

by Dave51 (not verified) :: Sun, 01/11/2009 - 11:56pm

Cold Hard Football Facts has a measure they call the Defensive Hog Index. http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/Articles/2_1135_Def._Hog_Index.html

So far it's been perfect predicting playoff winners his year (the team with the better defensive hogs wins).

by Jay Gloab :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:13am

Pleased with the Eagles' win as I am, I have to wonder, what the hell was LJ Smith doing starting the game AGAIN? He actually acquitted himself fairly well, but once again, it was Celek who made most of the good TE plays.

by Mig (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:32am

Is it my impression or all 4 teams that scored FIRST this weekend wound up losing ?


by Jiashey Schneider (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:48am

You are so right, Gloab. Hard to understand how LJ has a job still. Celek has played better all year. He has been a boon.

Perhaps some of my earlier comments were not entirely clear. Allow me to clarify. My Planet is surrounded by three (3) levels of Rings, each of which consists of different Properties and Relevant Elements. The Outermost Ring is exclusively comprised of particles of ice; it is therefore of little interest to us at this time. The Intermediate Ring is comprised mostly of small chunks of rock and metal. It, also, does not bear directly on our present topic, albeit directly. But the Innermost and most Virtuous of the Rings is made of something else entirely: Microparticles filled with Macroparticles. And as we've come to expect from recent experience, each Macroparticle contains a microscopic, fully-functional, life-sized instance of the Human Brain.

I hope that I have now made my previous comments sufficiently clear.

Birds def. Cardinals, 31-17

by TomC :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:57am

I have only one small comment on your wise and illuminating post: Are Cardinals not birds?

by Robo-Hochuli (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:32am

Can the Cardinals also not self-destruct?

by billycurley :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:11pm

You see, the difference between this guy and raiderjoe is that rj is funny without trying to be funny. When someone tries this hard and fails this badly, it's just a little sad.

Just my two cents. And if Jake Delhomme is reading this, I hate you.

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:59am

I was afraid of this. If you think about it - the Giants haven't won a game in regulation in over a month. They were a wind-aided missed Field Goal from being 0-4 to end the season.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:17pm

Is it coincidental that their best WR shot himself in the leg just over a month ago. Removal of only real downfield threat leads to less effective running game? Uncanny!

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:20am

1:55 left in the half, Giants have 1st and 5 on the 21-yard line.

Incomplete pass from empty set
Incomplete pass from empty set
Screen pass from shotgun for 4 yards
Field Goal

So, not only could they not pick up 5 yards in 3 tries with the best rushing attack in the league, they leave Philly with 1:40 and 2 timeouts after the kickoff.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:37am

I was hoping someone would mention this in the Audibles, because, yeah it was a huge sequence. It drove me and everyone in the living room absolutely nuts the Giants didn't run there, especially since they did have really good success running the ball. The Giants should have gone into halftime with at LEAST a one point lead - and that was the turning point of the game

And on the Giants' offensive gameplan in general: when they lined in Jumbo or I and ran it between the tackles - the Eagles had no answer for that. Even Troy effing Aikman said it was those offensive packages that Jim Johnson was most concerned about. So how come Gilbride (or Coughlin, or whoever was calling the plays) didn't know it? They were running the ball out of freakin' shotgun in the fourth quarter. Also bad: calling a sneak with Eli on 4th and 1 (obviously) - did anybody remember the Super Bowl last year?

Regarding play - You might be inclined to think the Giants' losing was in big part on Eli, and he wasn't great, but the QB play was a complete wash - completion percentage was about the same (52 for Eli, 55 for McNabb), yards per attempt was neck and neck (5.8 for Eli, 5.4 for McNabb), and both threw 2 picks. The wind was bad, and neither looked particularly good, so I'd call it a washout. But to me, the biggest play of the game was when McNabb completed a 3rd and 20 pinned deep in his own territory - and that was a big part on bad safety coverage - the Giants gave the receivers way too much of a bubble at times (I know it was 3rd and 20, but christ, the receiver caught it like 6 yards in front the marker and made it), esp. given the wind factor - the deep ball was not a threat for either side.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:16pm

I think the biggest reason people are going to pin the blame on Eli is because of the difference in the "why" the two QBs didn't look all that great. McNabb didn't look that great because the Giants' front seven/blitz packages were getting pressure on McNabb all game (particularly in the first half). Eli didn't look that great because he wasn't able to throw a spiral. It seemed like every pass fluttered in the wind. I'm obviously exaggerating, but that's the way it seemed watching the game.

by Joe :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:40pm

Regarding play - You might be inclined to think the Giants' losing was in big part on Eli, and he wasn't great, but the QB play was a complete wash - completion percentage was about the same (52 for Eli, 55 for McNabb), yards per attempt was neck and neck (5.8 for Eli, 5.4 for McNabb), and both threw 2 picks. The wind was bad, and neither looked particularly good, so I'd call it a washout. But to me, the biggest play of the game was when McNabb completed a 3rd and 20 pinned deep in his own territory - and that was a big part on bad safety coverage - the Giants gave the receivers way too much of a bubble at times (I know it was 3rd and 20, but christ, the receiver caught it like 6 yards in front the marker and made it), esp. given the wind factor - the deep ball was not a threat for either side.

Don't fall for the trap of making statistics tell a story that isn't true, you need to place the interceptions in context, especially the first INT by both players. They are certainly not equal. Manning overthrew a receiver into double coverage on first down from his own 13 yard line, which resulted in Eagles possession inside the Giants 5 yard line. Terrible play, just throw the ball away. It cost the Giants 7 points. McNabb threw a pass to a covered receiver on 3rd and 9 from the Giants 41 yard line, which resulted in the Giants taking over at their own 20 yard line. Had he thrown the ball away, the Eagles would have punted from 40 yards out, let's assume a good punt pins the Giants at the 10 yard line. So McNabb's pick "cost" the Eagles maybe 10 yards of field position. McNabb's INT was not only more justifiable given location and down, but also didn't impact the game as much.

McNabb's conversion on 3rd and 20 wasn't the result of poor secondary play, the Giants ran an overload blitz from that side of the field, the safety had to play off because he was the only defender in coverage on that side. McNabb made a great play to avoid the rush and complete the pass, and Avant made a nice run to convert the final 7 yards. The safety could have cheated up but if the blitz doesn't get to the QB I think it's tough to blame the safety.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:00pm

I don't know that's it's fair to factor in Asante Samuel's return into Eli's performance. But I also think you're underselling how big McNabb's INT's were. The first one prevented the Eagles from having an opportunity to pin the Giants near the goal line. The second one gave the Giants possession in Eagles territory and the lead in the second half: McNabb was "fortunate" enough that the slowest guy on the opposition caught it, rather than say, Tuck, Kiwi, or a even a linebacker. But yeah, Asante Samuel is a better return man than Fred Robbins. Just not sure what that has to do with Eli or McNabb.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:04pm

Eli's first INT was a bad throw into double coverage from his own endzone. McNabb had one tip-drill INT and an INT on 3rd and long outside of fieldgoal range that would have resulted in a punt had it not been intercepted. The Robbins INT hurt, and it's on the QB if his pass gets tipped at the line, but that ball just so happened to fall right into Robbins hands too. And the other one was very likely no worse than a punt. I bet the chances of them giving the Giants significantly worse field position after a punt there isn't a very solid bet. If you're ever going to take a chance, that is the absolute perfect situation to make that mistake.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 6:05pm

I've got a feeling that interceptions like Eli's are a fair amount worse than, say, McNabb's tip drill pick. I don't tremendously blame tipped passes on QBs in general: I think some QBs are better than others at it, but I think it's just a frequency thing. On any given pass from a short drop pocket, I think there's always a chance for a tipped/batted ball.

Eli's pick, though, was just a bad decision, and a ball ending up in a DB's hands (who knew he was going to make the pick) is a lot worse than a DL (who didn't).

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:33pm

I don't even object to calling a pass necessarily (though their first objective really should have been to get the clock rolling again), but the fact that all three passes were from the shotgun, and the first two were with an empty backfield. The empty set is the one formation that the Giants should never, EVER snap from.

by Jack (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 7:17pm

I believe in statistical analysis as much as anybody and I have little patience with the legend of the athlete with poor numbers who "just wins." But statistics should be analyzed in context. Anybody who watched that game and says the quarterback play was "a wash" is delusional. Perhaps the Giants' defense had something to do with it - playing soft coverage on the last drive of the first half helped McNabb look good. But, on the whole, McNabb was clearly more effective than Eli.

by markschepp23 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 9:34pm

Well, maye it's all some delusion, but conventional statistics say its a wash and DVOA says Eli was (slightly) better. But some people here are seemingly giving McNabb credit for having some sense about when the most opportune time to throw an interception is. Sorry, I don't buy it.

So much of the context that you describe is circumstantial. For example, if the Giants hadn't been flagged for a personal foul on the punt before Eli's first pick, the Samuel interception would have been in Eagle territory, not the Giants'. Eli's second pick came when the Giants were down two scores late in fourth quarter and were forced to throw every play - does that context not count?

by Bill_2120 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 10:40am

Sorry, I don't buy it.

Because you're thick as a brick. You don't have to be friggin Einstien to realize that putting an INT where you have to get rid of it or take a sack on 3rd and long outta FG range, giving the ball to the opposition on thier own 20 (instead of what? their own 10 a play later) is less destructive than throwing a pick deep in your own territory that get returned to your own 2-yard line.

This is why we dislike Giants Fans. How freaking hard is it to say WE LOST. The conditions were horrible, but McNabb made better plays than Manning. Instead let me invent some fiction...

by Quincy :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 6:21pm

Since we are talking about putting QB play in context and this thread was originally about playcalling, I'd just like to add that I think Gilbride wasn't doing Eli any favors out there. I'd like to see a breakdown of pass distribution in case I'm wrong but it seemed to me that on a day where the wind was obviously affecting both quarterbacks, the Giants stubbornly tried to throw deep and outside the hashmarks like they always do, while the Eagles made much more effective use of crossing routes and slants, passes that were easier to complete under the conditions because they are shorter and over the middle. Gilbride doesn't seem to have any understanding of how to use the short passing game to move the chains and sustain drives, and during a defensive, field position game in adverse conditions, like the one Sunday, I thought his playcalling increased the degree of difficulty dramatically for Eli and the team as a whole. That's not to excuse Eli, who was poor. I just think the blame for the Giants' offense needs to be shared with the guy calling the plays (and the Eagles D obviously deserves credit).

Also, the Giants' pass rush was nonexistent on the last drive of the first half, and for most of the second half. I think the argument about McNabb playing in the face of pressure has been a but overstated.

by markschepp23 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 1:01am

Thanks for the absolutely fascinating input on why you personally dislike Giants fans, as well as the clever thickness-as-metaphor-for-stupidity zinger. I'll try to remember that one...let's hope it sinks in! The fact that it rhymes so beautifully does serve as a great mnemonic, so I like my chances.

Here I thought the dislike for Giants fans was because they were rooting for a divisional rival in close geographical proximity to your own, but in actuality it's that we refuse to acknowledge defeat, regardless of final score! I'll keep that in mind before inventing fictional statistics next time.

In fact, what we're discussing is WHY the Eagles won, not if - which, and I'm going out on a limb here, some people on a stat-driven football analysis site might find interesting. I contend, and the stats support the position, that output from the QB position didn't favor either side. And just in case you forgot: McNabb did throw more than one pick in the game, one of which was extremely damaging, and even if the first one didn't cost them much more than 10 yards of field position, it also killed a drive that could have resulted in points - but that seems to be getting glossed over by those who want to label an INT as not a very big deal. Or maybe I'm just being thick as a...stick? No that's not right...

by Wanker79 :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 11:11am


by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 01/15/2009 - 3:22am

Some people think turnovers are essentially random events.


by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 7:17am

"What is the FA cup if not a playoff tournament?" -Perhaps a boring and irrelevant competition? Not as valued as the league or as lucrative as a place in the European Cup. A better question would be, "What is the European Cup if not a playoff between Europe wide divisions?"

by Kulko :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:27pm

But nobody did say that Liverpool was the best english team, when they won the champions league in 2005, but where beaten in the Premier League by 37 points.

Playoffs are a great marketing thing with a bit of competitive background, but whoever believes, that the super bowl winner must top all preseason rankings is blind to reality.

by Tom Nawrocki (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:02am

In case you guys were wondering, since the NFL went to the 16-game schedule, the only team to make the Super Bowl with fewer than ten wins was the 1979 Rams. Either the Eagles or the Cardinals will be the second.

by morganja :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:16am

Anyone else noticing that the media is now listing the playoff teams total records, regular season and playoffs combined? The Eagles are actually 11-6-1 and the Cardinals 11-7. See, those aren't too bad. It's nice to see the NFL marketing arm say something and have the media snap to. It's not like they're journalists or anything.

by perly :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:10pm

It's not new this year, though. Recall last year's 18-1 Patriots team.

What I can't remember is whether that was the standard treatment for team records in the postseason before last year. But it certainly wasn't designed to obscure poor regular-season performance.

by B :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 7:54pm

It's been used for years.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:18am

How fluky has this offseason been?

Well, given that Baltimore and Philly are listed as the best two teams by DVOA, I would say it's not that fluky. Before the playoffs started I picked them to both make the Super Bowl (thanks to DVOA's influence) and it wasn't suprising to see Baltimore beat Miami and Tennessee, nor to see Philly beat the Vikings and the Giants.

Let's remember that the upsets in the first round were when the home team won!

The really fluky thing here is Arizona's run, but it's not that odd for one team to ride two lucky wins to the conference championship game. The real factor there is Delhomme, who had a historically bad game.

Would it be weird if Baltimore and Philly made the Super Bowl? Well, they both have very strong teams, in spite of their low seeds. Both have Super Bowl experience in recent years.

The real way to look at this is
a) the divisional format makes the 'seedings' a bit ridiculous. 8-8 teams were seeded #4 and a 12-4 team was seeded #5 in the AFC.
b) There is an elite group of 8-10 teams, and none of them is strong in all areas of the game. When the one that looks the strongest (the Giants) loses too many players, they can still be beaten.

Oh, and the real Eli was back today.

by TGT2 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:03am

Would it be weird if Baltimore and Philly made the Super Bowl? Well, they both have very strong teams, in spite of their low seeds. Both have Super Bowl experience in recent years.

There are like 2 active Ravens left from their Super Bowl team: Stover and Ray Lewis. The headcoach and coordinators are new. I believe all of the position/unit coaches are new since then, too. I'm not sure that counts as recent Super Bowl Experience.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:18pm

Are there "like two" or are there two?

by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:10am

The Giants were the #1 DVOA offense after 14 weeks (top 10 in passing), but this is the "real Eli"? Please be serious.

I must admit that Eli played awful Sunday and simply wasn't the same without Plax. Oddly enough, many Giants fans were complaining that Plax was having a bad season despite the Giants having their best offense in years. Gilbride didn't help matters any with his ridiculous play-calling. The three passes on 1st and 5 were mind boggling considering the success they were having running on the drive.

I still can't explain what happened to the defense. Spagnuolo ratcheted up the blitzes, but not enough for my liking. I thought they needed to be far more aggressive on third downs. The defensive line pretty much wore down and the LBs were exposed. Corey Webster finished off a GREAT year with a stinker.

I don't get the Tynes-Carney complaints. Even if Tynes is slightly below average on kickoffs, he was replacing a guy who was probably one of the leagues' 3 worst on kickoffs. Don't complain about Tollefson being inactive... complain about Jerome McDougle, who showed little to nothing all season, being active over him.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:53am

I have to agree on pretty much all accounts. I realize people love to rag on Eli and pretty much salivate every time time he looks shaky, but throwing in that wind to and undersized receiving corps and the corpse of Amani Toomer against one of the league's best defenses.

Gilbride WAS ridiculous, but realistically he's always been an awful, awful playcaller (I still think he's a good at desgining the playbook). It's just that the Giants offense was so beautifully balanced the first 12 weeks (with Plax), that it disguised the fact that he's absolute crap at playcalling and gameplanning for an opponent. Despite losing our star wideout and making the offense a more lopsided, we still had enough offense to beat anybody, but that was entirely dependent on Gilbride recognizing our strengths (power running) and the opponents' weaknesses (for Philly, power runs between the tackles! should have been a fortuitous matchup) and calling those plays. I'm really, really, really hoping Al Davis hires him away.

As for the defense, it's hard to complain about Spags, given how great he's been the last 2 years, but yeah he should have called more blitzes, and as I mentioned elsewhere, the secondary was giving the Eagles' receivers way too much cushion in 3rd and long and at the end of the half. Because of the wind, neither QB could really get the ball downfield effectively - absolutely no reason then to give the opposing receivers that much room underneath.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:36pm

The biggest knock on Eli has always been that if he didn't have the safety blanket that Plax provided with his sheer size advantage on most secondaries, Manning wouldn't even be as good as most people give him credit for. And he'd be far from great. And since Plax shot himself, that's exactly what's happened. Jimmy Johnson even came right out and said that the Giants are a completely different team to defensively scheme against with and without Plax. He's always been the one guy on the field that's killed the Eagles. Without him there's nothing in the Giants' offense to be scared of. But their defensive front is ridiculous enough to keep that game the really close matchup most people I think thought it would be.

If the Giants had Plax yesterday, I have zero doubt in my mind that they would have beaten the Eagles. And they probably would have been a juggernaut all the way to another ring. As an Eagles fan, the last thing I want to see is for NY to go out and get a big sure-handed receiver (be it Plaxico or anyone else). There isn't another team in the NFC that scares me either this year or next.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:14pm

All that does is bring up the same age-old argument though: how good is a QB when you take away his top wideout (and the subquestion: how good are the other receivers in the corps when the #1 isn't drawing the defensive attention?)? Even the top QB's need dangerous weapons to get the ball to.

by E :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:25pm

I am so tired of hearing this about Eli, especially since Plax went down. Of course he doesn't look like one of the league's best QBs without Plax ... have you looked at who his WRs are? Because it's worth spelling out: Hixon, Toomer, Steve Smith, Sinorice Moss, Mario Manningham. I'm not sure if that's the worst collection of WRs in the league, but off the top of my head I can't think of one worse. Tennessee? Gage is better than any of the Giants WRs. Minnesota? Has Berrian. Even Philly, which is often criticized for not going out and getting a legitimate WR other than the TO years - Desean Jackson would be the Giants #1 easily.

Eli did not look good yesterday, there's no denying that. But for anyone to say that a game against the Philly D in that wind with that group of WRs shows Eli's true level is ridiculous. (Wanker - I realize you weren't quite going that far but others have.) That's just people seeing what they want to see and for whatever reason many people have committed in their minds that Eli's "true level" is far worse than it really is.

by c_f (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:01pm

The Bears' wide receivers say hello:
Devin Hester, Rashied Davis, Brandon Lloyd and Marty Booker. Plus rookie Earl Bennett who had no receptions.

(Though to be fair, Chicago's TEs are probably better than NYG's, and Forte has great hands. This of course led to Forte and Olsen being #1 and #2 in receptions respectively)

Seattle had to start bums like Billy McMullen and Koren Robinson for much of the season, so they probably had the worst time of anyone.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:55pm

No need to apologize, E. I'm not only saying that Eli needs a true number one receiver to be successful, I'm saying that Eli needs a true number one receiver with such a size advantage that he doesn't have to worry about a little detail like is piss poor accuracy. I'm saying that without a guy that can go up in tight coverage and take the poorly thrown ball away from the defenders, Eli (and by extention the rest of the Giants' offense) is above average at best, and probably closer to mediocre. And if your team plays in a windtunnel like the Meadowlands, it's probably not very helpful to have a QB that can't throw in windy conditions.

by t.d. :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 2:58am

Because I can't think of anyone offhand, could you give me an example of a quarterback who thrives in windy conditions?

by Wanker79 :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 10:40am

Thriving =/= being competent

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:41pm

As an Eagles fan... there isn't another team in the NFC that scares me either this year or next.

How about the Super Bowl Champion Arizona Cardinals?

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:26pm

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. I don't have anything against the Cardinals, and I like Warner (and I think if he gets another ring he becomes a serious candidate for the Hall, as fair or unfair as that may be) but if the Arizona freaking Cardinals win a SuperBowl before the Eagles I'm going to have to raize something. Although I'd definitely be rooting for them over either Baltimore or Pittsburgh. I'd go from cheering them on, to celebrating their victory, to burning something to the ground in a fit of rage. It'd be a wierd way to end the season.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:17pm

Wait, wait: you're complaining their weren't enough blitzes, that the linebackers were eventually shown to suck, and that Jerome McDougle inexplicably is on the team despite showing nothing on the field?

It's official! The Giants have taken the 2002-2007 Philadelphia Eagles defense!

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:30pm

Way to go Spags! The pupil has truely become the master.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:31pm

Way to go Spags! The pupil has truely become the master.

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:53am


Regarding this comment...

Someday if you are a big time spots journalist you will learn or will have it crammed down your throat that manufacturing silly controversies is a good 50% of your job and is what drives the daily ratings.

Most of the actual reporting could fill a couple paragraphs and be done by anyone who has written two articles for a college newpaper, but then there are pages and pages (or minutes and minutes) to fill. It gets filled with simplistic mindless analysis and fake controversies as that is what is best for ratings.

by td (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:49am

The Giants, Colts, and Steelers have all had dominant regular seasons in the past few years, they just weren't in synch with the years they had postseason success. The same would hold true for the Ravens or Eagles this year. It looks like a function of sample size to me. Furthermore, I think Arizona looks like last year's Giants, in that the top of their roster matches well with anybody, so, really, anything could happen.

by deep64blue :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:23am

The FA Cup does not compare to the play-offs, it's a separate competition that provides a bit of glamour. Most sports outside North America employ the league system – you play all your opponents Home and Away (Home and Home as you guys weirdly call it!), so every team has the same schedule, and the best team at the end of the year almost invariably is the best team (in tight races timing of when you played certain teams can come into occasionally).

As far as changing the play-off seedings etc there are many in the media calling for that – e.g. Greg Easterbrook – it’s stupid but there are such folk out there.

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:03am

In Brazil we had a playoff-system national soccer league, with a few exceptions, between 1990 and 2002. During this 13 years, there was a lot of pressure to change the system, besides the total success in revenue and tv ratings in the playoffs. Since 2003, we play on home-and-away basis. I'm what we call a "playoff's widow", but there won't be any change in a near future.

by Botswana Meat Commission FC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:19am

Please God may the NFL never start emulating the Brazilian football league!

My own pie-in-the-sky NFL re-organization:

Expand the NFL to 36 teams, divided into a 1st tier and 2nd tier, each with 18 teams. At the end of the season, promote/relegate three teams from each tier to encourage competition. (We could call it the Henry Clay Ford Rule or something.)

Each Team plays the other 17 teams in its tier. Alternate home/away each season.

At the end of the regular season, the top team in Tier 1 is the NFL Champion. The top 8 teams in Tier 1 go into the playoffs. Winner is the Super Bowl Champion.

The advantages:
- Nearly every Tier 1 regular season game would feature decent teams
- Teams with lousy management would have to pay a price. (You'd probably have to figure out a new revenue sharing method that would reward the teams with better management and larger fan bases. A good thing, imo.)
- You still get the excitement of the NFL Playoffs and a big destination event with the Super Bowl
- You only have to add 1 game to the schedule.
- The end of the regular season will be very excitign, with way more teams playing to avoid relegation or get promoted to Tier 1 or make the playoffs. Very little "resting starters."

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:54am

To have relegation would mean the complete internationalization of NFL. The problem is that an owner would never accept it; nor the average american sports fan.

But, since we are dreaming awake, let's get going. Another advantage of this system, is that allows the existence of a promotion playoff, something like there is in Argentine soccer (where two "Primera A" teams defend their position against two "Nacional B" teams in a home-away playoff). In the end of the season, there it could be have an "InfraBowl" for 2nd tier teams.

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:55am

We have the worst league executives of the world!

by DeltaWhiskey :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:25am

"Ned Macey: I'm not sure that eliminating Week 13-16 for the Cardinals will really help. I'm afraid we've got a third straight year of absolutely unexplainable performance. If the Cardinals were winning 50-40, you could sort of explain that, but that is two damn good defensive performances in a row. During the regular season, they had games with better than -10% DVOA defense only four times. Now they've had two in the playoffs."

Sample size.

by Jon :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 6:35am

The Eagles look unstoppable right now. I don't think the Giants had a chance though with another horrible game from Gilbride. Clearly, they need a big receiver, whether it's Burress, Britt, whoever.

by Kalyan :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 8:30am

Finally, my residual (i admit, substantial) anger against NYG has washed away. While NYG played well this year and their D-line was spectacular, i couldn't still swallow the pats loss to NYG in SB 42.

IMO, NYG didn't win because of the D-line (thought they kept the Pats scoring to near-zero!) but because of a couple of freak offensive plays. All that is gone now. I am looking forward to Super bowl 43 (no playoff matches telecast in India!) sans NYG.

To all NYG fans - I hope you understand how i feel. It isn't rational but it is what it is. I wish them the best next year. It would be the same way if your team lost last year after the splendid effort of the D-line.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 8:57am

Arizona was not as bad as they looked in the last 4 games or so of the season and they aren't as good as they looked against Carolina. 5 ints and a fumble sack inside the other teams 20 has more to do with luck that skill. Beating Atlanta at home is no big deal.

Arizona is a decent team with a very good offence. James is a far better back than Hightower so they can score. But if they don't get a bunch of good bounces and breaks like they are not on the same level as the Eagles. I think the Eagles are about a TD better than the Cardinals even in Arizona.

Balt and Pittsburgh is a complete tossup.

For all the analysis that goes on about NFL Football - it certainly seems to me the most important factor in the playoffs is luck.

by Joe :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:01pm

For all the analysis that goes on about NFL Football - it certainly seems to me the most important factor in the playoffs is luck.

Right on - the Chargers/Steelers game turned when a Steelers punt hit a moving Chargers player in the helmet!

Luck/opportunity is a tremendous factor in the successful outcome of everything we do, not just football. Many people have a hard time believing that success is not strictly due to human ability and willpower, which is a ridiculous concept.

There's a great book by Michael Lewis called "The Blind Side" about football and the role that opportunity plays in success/failure.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:12pm

"the Chargers/Steelers game turned when a Steelers punt hit a moving Chargers player in the helmet!"

Cause the TD right before the half, the 8-minute touchdown drive (to put the Steelers up 21-10), the interception, and the ensuing four minutes of possession by the Steelers didn't have anything to do with the game, huh? Sure, I'd put money on the Chargers, down 21-10 on their own 20 with three minutes left in the third quarter, having run one play in the last fifteen minutes of game time.

Please. The punt "muff" was a break for the Steelers, but at that point, they had the game pretty well in hand.

by Joe :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:43pm

Cause the TD right before the half, the 8-minute touchdown drive (to put the Steelers up 21-10), the interception, and the ensuing four minutes of possession by the Steelers didn't have anything to do with the game, huh?

I didn't say that, nor did I imply it.

The Chargers scored 24 points, so I don't think it's fair to say that the game was pretty well in hand when San Diego had 10 points - it was a two possession game with 17 minutes of game time to go.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:49pm

No, but you said that "the game turned" when the punt doinked off Weddle's helmet. I can think of at least three "game-turning" points before that: 1, the Steelers get the ball back with two minutes left in the first half, right after the Chargers go up 10-7, and drive for a TD to go up 14-10 (and 1a, the Chargers don't try to go the 40 yards to get into FG range with 40 seconds left in the half - a "hidden coaching decision"); 2, the Steelers get the second half kickoff and drive eight minutes for a TD to go up 21-10; 3, after Sproles runs back the kickoff 63 yards, the Steelers intercept Rivers inside FG range (and 3a, keep the SD defense on the field for another 4:30).

Sure, it was a two possession game with 17 minutes left - but SD had done nothing on offense for two and a half quarters (after the TD drive, they had something like 35 yards of total offense on six possessions, not counting the single draw play possession at the end of the first half), and Pittsburgh was driving with impunity.

by fyo :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 9:07am

Bill Moore: What do you mean "no one is calling for the NFL playoffs to change their selection process?" (And, no, I'm not referring to the poor grammar and weird logic used in the quote).

Greg Easterbrook complains about it in his TMQ column, an Outsiders' favorite, pretty much every week. (Maybe not a favorite anymore? Seems like I haven't seen it linked here much this season.)

by zip (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:46pm

Greg Easterbrook complains about it in his TMQ column, an Outsiders' favorite, pretty much every week.

TMQ has been generally accepted to be utter crap around here for at least 2-3 years now.

by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:36pm

If by "generally accepted" you mean "some number of people regularly go into the XP thread and launch into harping diatribes against TMQ, then sure. Don't extrapolate your feelings and those of a quite possibly small number of the readership onto everyone that reads the site, or pretend that you speak for a majority you have no knowledge of or method for measuring.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:11pm

It got to the point where way more people were complaining about TMQ than actually bringing up any interesting conversation from the topics. There's a fairly clear contrast between that and MMQB, for instance.

"Generally accepted to be crap" I agree is too harsh, but "doesn't really bring up any interesting points" is probably pretty accurate.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:05pm

Agreed on all counts. I'll also add that Easterbrook has become almost a parody of himself; he cites more and more ridiculous "stats" of the week every week and goes overboard with criticizing nearly everything about the league. He has a weird agenda against the Patriots/Belichick and cannot comprehend the fact that you can measure things in fractions of a second.

Peter King, on the other hand, is a doofus, but at least has good connections to the league and provides some information that I wouldn't have found otherwise.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:57pm

Yeah, I gave up on TMQ when he kept completely failing to understand modern physics and still wrote about it. At that point I realized if he's that willing to write about things he's clueless about, why should I trust he's not clueless about everything else?

by Levente from Hungary :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 9:57am

No, he complains about the seeding, NOT the selection process. He says keep these 6-6 teams, but re-rank the remaining 12 teams according to win/loss regardless of division or conference.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 9:17am

I should really proof read my entries before I enter them. Or simplify them:

Cards piss average team. Eagles TD better. Steelers, Ravens, Tossup.

by LI Matt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 9:23am

Up until now, only one team has ever won a Super Bowl after losing to the Giants during the season ('98 Broncos). It will happen again this year, as the Giants have beaten all four teams that are still standing.

Thanks, Plax.

by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 9:23am

Jake is a poor man's Brett Favre. And of the course of the season my casual observation had JD just throwing it up for Steve Smith to make a miracle happen when the Panthers needed a play. It was similar to Favre's 2004 season when Javon Walker repeatedly bailed out his *ss by making absurd catches. Favre was certainly better in that he could put a ball into a tighter window and see the field. But when pressed number 4 would sometimes would just say "Scr*w it" and hope Javon would make the play. He did.

That's Jake.

Is Brandon Jacobs on a carry limit? What purpose does it serve to have a power running back NOT carry the ball in power football situations?

McNabb was outstanding today. His FO numbers will look pedestrian because of the safety/interceptions. But he killed the Giants on third down. And the Eagles receivers dropped some passes. The guy was making plays all day.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:04am

Actually, I will contend that McNabb was not that good. His stat line is almost identical to Eli's, and he was not making plays all day. The Eagles had 10 (yes, TEN!)yards of offense in the first half before the Giants inexplicably went to the prevent (despite the opposition throwing into a bad wind) and allowed him all day to hit receivers underneath, and then he threw a pick in his first possession of the second half (tipped ball, I know, but a tipped ball at the line is in large part on the QB)

He made one big play that turned out to be the biggest of the game - when he converted on 3rd and 20 in the shadow of his own end zone - and really, he completed the pass about 6 yards shy of the marker - the Iggles converted that because of bad pass coverage and a slow rush. He did convert one other big third and ten (right after Tuck had to come off the field), but also padded his stats at the end witht he completion to Jackson as the Giants had to sell out at the LOS to get a stop. In reality, he was no better or worse than Eli was in that game.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:56am

I was going to give your comment three starts, but "shadow of his own end zone" is worth a -1 star. End zones, being flat surfaces on the field of play, can not cast shadows.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:19pm

The Metaphysical shadow. But yes, sorry for the cliche.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:32pm

Well, OK. Acknowledgement of cliche: +1 karma.

by Joe :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:37pm

Regarding the 3rd and 20 conversion: If you blame that on poor coverage and a slow rush then I expect you are pretty upset this morning. The blitz got to McNabb very quickly and only his abilities allowed him to extend the play, find an open receiver, and complete the pass. Watch the game video on nfl.com (starts at 2:48). The Giants bring a zone blitz with an overload coming from the offensive left. The defensive scheme there is to pressure the QB such that he either takes a sack or has to check down to a short pass on his right, which won't get 20 yards because the linemen and LBs on that side are all dropping into a zone waiting for it. If the QB beats that rush and completes the ball 15 yards down field - to the side where the overload came from - that is great QB play. It requires the QB to avoid the rushers and then also throw across his body because the only place to escape is away from the blitz. Watch the highlight - 2 Giants rushers get their hands on McNabb as he's breaking free, and he throws across his body, off his right foot, and hits Avant in the chest. It was one of the best plays by a QB you'll see this year.

On a whole, McNabb played well in the 2nd half yesterday - the Eagles converted 3 of their 5 2nd half possessions into 13 points, including drives of 12 plays - 68 yards, 12 plays - 58 yards, and 10 plays - 63 yards. Note: "5 possessions" does not include the final 2 possessions when the Eagles were killing the clock.

Manning was up and down all day, but his first pick was an absolute travesty and cost the Giants a TD. In a game where only 2 TDs were scored that INT alone is worth saying he had a bad day.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:38pm

I'm actually not upset at all. Disappointed, yes, but it's hard to be upset with a team that delivered the most satisfying sporting event of my lifetime less than a year ago, and then followed it up with an improbably vigorous title defense in a brutal division where everyone picked them to finish third. The season was very satisfying for me - which makes the Plax thing even more disappointing, moreso because it was such an ugly incident on a high character and focused team rather than it actually hurting our chances to win (which it did, but...).

As for the third-and-20, yeah, I should give more credit for McNabb escaping the rush and making a great throw. Still. I CAN blame the safety playing that deep (or the coaches for placing him there). McNabb was throwing into the wind - the deep ball was hardly threat there - it HAD to be something underneath. If he was tackled before making it past the marker, no-one would even remember that play. Still, good play by McNabb, and a very good play on the third-and-ten. Eli had a couple gems in there two - the deep ball to Hixon, the third down conversion to Smith (I think - it may have been TE2 Johnson) where he stepped up into the pocket and delivered a strike. Doesn't mean he had a great game. I honestly thought QB play was a wash in the contest. Given the throwing conditions and the opposing D, neither was necessarily bad, but neither was very good, either.

by Joe :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:55pm

Eli had a couple gems in there two - the deep ball to Hixon

Given the coverage on that play, it was a spectacular throw/catch. Toastelio Hanson was running right with Hixon and Manning dropped it in over the top anyway.

by Bill_2120 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:16pm

"the Iggles converted that because of bad pass coverage and a slow rush."

What kind of argument is that? McNabb is not supposed to take advantage of a "slow rush" to find a target, then he is not supposed to throw to a receiever that is open because of "bad pass coverage"

I don't get the logic, here.

by markschepp23 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 9:54pm

Did I say he shouldn't have taken advantage of a bad scheme by the opposition? Don't think I did...what I said was it was the effort of the receiver and the too-large coverage bubble afforded him by the safety that allowed him to convert after McNabb hit him 6 yards shy of the marker. Besides, I've pretty much conceded that that was a good play by McNabb...not the best play by a QB this season, as somebody suggested, but a nice one. But, as with Eli, a couple of nice plays don't mean he had a good game.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 9:30am

I went halway through the Eagles/Giants part of this article thinking "wait a minute, I thought the Eagles WON the game". You guys taking lessons from Joe Buck?

by Anonymous Albert (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:01pm

Hey, I expected the thread to be entirely about the Patriots this week. Count your blessings.

by TomC :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:46pm

Damn those Outsiders and their anti-Philly bias!

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:36pm

I'd like to officially nominate this exchange for Post(s) of the Year.

by BucNasty :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:27am

Just wanted to say that I thought putting a receiver in motion is a fantastic wrinkle to the QB sneak.

by mrh :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:30am

The challenge by Coughlin on the 3rd down spot was very strange. First, the initial replays indicated that the spot was good. Second, it was his last challenge (IIRC), so he couldn't challenge the 4th down play if he lost the challenge on 3rd down. It seems like the better decision there would be to accept the 3rd down spot, go for it on 4th, and have the challenge available there if needed. Especially as the 4th down spot was likely going to be a tougher call for the officials given.

So far, bird-named teams are unbeaten in the playoffs (except when playing other bird-named teams).

by Jiashey Schneider (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:48am

I'm kinda annoyed that you guys have forced my hand, and that I now I have to try to post something that makes sense in 21st century American English.

1.) Re: playoff debate. It's hard to argue that, in the purest and most abstract sense, a regular season record tally is a better indicator of a team's "true value" over the course of the entire season played. It's a simple matter of sample size. But it's not necessarily a better way to figure out what team, after all of the adjustments and team cohesion and development issues are worked out over the course of the season, which "fully developed" team is best. I think the idea that we may want to measure a team's value at the end of the season, after the full development of each team, is a reasonable, if clearly debatable, justification for a playoff. Plus, obviously, it is far more entertaining.

2.) Why are we talking about the FA Cup? The European Champions' League and EUFA Cup are clear examples of a playoff concept in European soccer. The only difference is they take place during the next season. Placing high enough in your respective national premier league is the equivalent of winning your division or whatever.

I will be free for teleconference with any of the interested of your human parties from my villa on the Asteroid HF-3406a. Please feel free to contact me at any time, day or night. I will have my pager on me.

Go Eagle-Birds.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:12pm

If you live on an asteroid with all kinds of futuristic technologies and so forth, why do you use a pager? Is early nineties retro big where you live?

by Redcoat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:43pm

The playoff system outside the EPL takes place during the same season. Basically the top two teams are promoted automatically (the third tier has three automatic slots), the next four teams have a two leg mini knock out tournament (3rd place v 6rd and 4th v 5th) with a one game off final for the winners. Whoever wins the whole thing gets the last automatic place.

Great fun if you win the last place, as you can imagine it's not so great if you don't.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:02am

***WARNING: Eagles' fan chest thumping extravaganza ahead***

Philly is going to kill Arizona next week.

I'm as surprised as anyone at how lop-sided the Arizona/Carolina game was, but I wasn't very surprised that Arizona was able to win. I'm pretty sure it was one of the FO writer's, but I remember seeing someone say that Arizona was lucky to be facing two fairly similar teams in Atl and Car. They both rely on the running game to open up a passing game that is primarily a single dominant receiver (White & Smith respectively). So if you can shade the receiving threat and sell out against the running game, you can have success against both teams. The Eagles are a totally different offense. You'll still want to sell out against Westbrook, but there isn't a single receiver that you'd want to double but there's three or four guys that can kill you a little bit at a time.

And Philly's defense is on another planet compared to the two teams Arizona's faced so far. Carolina was middle of the pack and Atlanta was bottom third. Philly was 2nd. Carolina had good pass defense, but bottom third rush defense. Atlanta was bottom third in both pass and rush. The Eagles were 3rd in both pass and rush. Atlanta and Carolina were bottom third in defensive Adj Line Yards. Philly was 6th. Carolina and Atlanta were bottom third in yds/carry allowed. Philly was 4th.

Edge has been moderately successful against poor rush defenses, which has helped the offense be much less predictable. Philly is going to eat him alive. I fear for Kurt Warner's safety.

by Harris :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:47pm

Clearly all the winning has made you loopy. This is the Eagles we're talking about; they're capable of losing to anybody. I agree the Birds match up well against . . . the Birds, but it is impossible to discount those WRs. Fitzgerald is perfectly capable of winning single-handedly if the Eagles can't pound the stuffing out of Warner, and Boldin could be back by Sunday. The Eagles are certainly the better team, but the Cardinals can win. (A world where the Cardinals are NFC Champs. I am not ready for that.)

Hail Hydra!

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:51pm

Loopy is probably an understatement. I didn't even include the disclaimer at the top of that post until I was just about to hit the post button. For most of that post I thought I was just speaking factually.

Hail Hydra!

by Alex51 :: Tue, 01/20/2009 - 3:26am

So much for that. Next year, can we all agree to wait until after the Super Bowl to have chest-thumping extravaganzas? Because otherwise, it'll feel really awkward when the Eagles break our hearts again after making an improbable run deep into the playoffs.

Hail Hydra?

by Temo :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:27am

Having watched Kenny Britt here at Rutgers for a couple years I'll say this about him-- he's got fantastic physical tools... he can run, jump, accelerate with the best of them. But he can't catch. Really.

Also, I'm not too knowledgeable about football technicalities, but it seems to me that he's never had to run really intricate routes as of now. He'll have a great Pro Day and his combine stats will be really high. We'll have to see how that translates to football play, though.

by Dales :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:44am

I felt that, despite the similarity in stats, McNabb played significantly superior to Eli. When the Eagles needed to convert 3rd and long, they could and the Giants could not. Often, it was because McNabb was avoiding pressure and buying time until someone got wide-the-frick-open.

I also felt a huge part of the game was that Pierce is simply horrendous in coverage now. He may be a team leader, but I felt like I was seeing a player who was done as being a quality starter. I think the Giants have to look at spending their #1 pick on a linebacker.

by Andrew B :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 12:10pm

I don't know why you guys haven't been keeping track of this, but the change in the division and playoff format in 2002 has been a big factor in eliminating home field advantage in the divisional round and wild card round that had resulted from adding the 6th seed to the playoffs.

There have been three playoff periods in the 16 game season:
1) 1978 to 1989 (excluding 1982 and 1987 when strikes altered the year) with 3 division winners, and 2 wild cards. The #3 seed got a bye but no home game. The #4 seed hosted the #5 seed in the wild card, division rivals could not meet in the divisional round of the playoffs, sometimes leading to #1 vs. #3 and #2 vs. #4 in the divisionals.
2) 1990 to 2001 with 3 division winners and 3 wild cards. Only the #1 and #2 seed get byes, all division winners and the top wild card get home games.
3) 2002 to present with 4 division winners and 2 wild cards. Only the #1 and #2 seed get byes, only division winners get home games.

Home Team Records
Wild Card
78-89: 13 win, 9 loss (59%)
90-01: 35 win, 13 loss (73%)
02-08: 16 win, 12 loss (57%)

78-89: 30 win, 14 loss (68%)
90-01: 39 win, 9 loss (81%)
02-08: 17 win, 11 loss (61%)

78-89: 16 win, 6 loss (73%)
90-01: 14 win, 10 loss (58%)
02-07: 7 win, 5 loss (58%) (2008 still pending)

In the previous division and playoff format, the best wild card got to host a playoff game as the #4 seed, while the #3 seed was more likely than now to be a weak division winner (the 2008 Chargers would have been the #3 seed in the old AFC West with the Seahawks still in the division). The dynamic since is now changed, with a team that would have been the #4 seed wild card now having a chance to be as high as the #2 seed as a division winner in the new smaller divisions, while the weakest division winner is now cast down from the #3 seed where they hosted the weakest wild card to the #4 seed where they now host the strongest wild card remaining.

It seems that these changes have given the #5 and #6 seeds a better chance to win in the first round. Expansion of the league by 4 teams in the 1995 to 2002 period has also changed the dynamic, as has free agency really taking hold by around 1996 as contracts expired.

Since 1996, there have been 24 #1 seeds and only 3 won a Super Bowl. Before 1996 there were 34 #1 seeds and 12 won a Super Bowl. From 1978 to 1996, only one team lower than a #2 seed won a Super Bowl, the 1980 Raiders. Since 1996, 5 lower seeds have won.

Homefield advantage is typically around 55% during the year. Its now 4% higher in the playoffs, instead of 16% higher overall before 2002. The NFL has found the parity it has been seeking.

The Original Andrew

by Adam B. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:28pm

That's some right-pretty research there. That said, I would adjust the playoff rules if I had my druthers, to provide divisional winners with an automatic playoff berth, but not necessarily a home game. Seed the six eligible playoff teams 1-6 regardless of whether they've won a division, because, really, why shouldn't Arizona be traveling to the Linc this week?

by Kulko :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:35pm

Because 9-7 greater 9-6-1 :-).

But they should have traveled to Atlanta.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 2:45pm

No it's not, the Eagles have the better record. They have the same number of wins, but the Eagles have fewer loses. Fewer loses = more gooder.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:25pm

I think the smilie indicated that he was being facetious.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:05pm

I don't know why you guys haven't been keeping track of this, but the change in the division and playoff format in 2002 has been a big factor in eliminating home field advantage

It hasn't "eliminated" it at all. The home team since 2002 still has an advantage in every portion of the playoffs. It happens to be close to the same as that during the regular season but I don't think any team would scoff at a ~10% increase in their chances of winning.

What it looks like it has eliminated is the advantage of a bye week, which implies that a bye week was never really an advantage to begin with, and the entire reason for the disparity in the divisional round was probably due to seeding.

Expansion of the league by 4 teams in the 1995 to 2002 period has also changed the dynamic, as has free agency really taking hold by around 1996 as contracts expired.

Probably the biggest factor is just the fact that the league's awash in money. The salary cap equalizes talent cost, but not support staff (coaches) cost and facilities cost.

The NFL has found the parity it has been seeking

Top end parity, at least. Basically, with the exception of a few years (2004 comes to mind - I can't think of another year where there was such a ridiculously prohibitive favorite to reach the Super Bowl), teams aren't able to completely separate themselves away from the rest of the conference.

by Andrew B :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:27pm

Thanks for the correction of the hyperbole. I should have clarified that I meant the excessive advantage formerly held by home teams in the Wild Card and Divisional rounds.

The Original Andrew

by Bill_2120 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 8:15pm

Interesting Observation.

Also, if you apply the 2001 division format/playoff scenario, it goes like this,
and Arizona does not even MAKE the playoffs...

1 NYG 12-4
2 Car 12-4
3 Min 10-6
4 Atl 11-5
5 Phi 9-6-1
6 TB 9-7 (Beat Chi head-head better conf than ARI)

7 Chi 9-7 (Same conf record as ARI@7-5 Better record against common opp)
8 Ari 9-7

Common opp = Min, Phi, Stl, Car
CHI = 3-2, Ari 1-3 (Chi played MIn twice, Ari played them once)

by Andrew B :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:24pm

Good point.

The AFC would be as follows:

1) Titans 13-3 (AFC Central)
2) Colts 12-4 (AFC East)
3) Chargers 8-8 (AFC West)
4) Steelers 12-4
5) Ravens 11-5
6) Dolphins 11-5

Gah. Can you imagine the AFC West with the Seahawks still in it?

The Original Andrew

by Eddo :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 1:07am

Very cool, I like looking at things like this.

I will point out, however, that the 6 seed would be Dallas, who beat Tampa Bay head-to-head. Remember, the Cowboys had a win-and-they're-in situation in week 17.

by Bill_2120 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 11:12am

You are right that the Cowboys at 9-7 would have to be figured in.
Somehow, being an Eagles Fan I forgot bout them. Hmmmm.

Also remember, than win and you're in applies
1. To the current divisional format (4 divisions)
2. To a 10-6 record which is better than all the 9 win teams.

The assumption is that the regular season is the same and 'boys finish 9-7. The head-head over TB does't apply because you need to break ties among 4 teams for 1 spot. You break ties within the division FIRST, so Cowboys are OUT because Arizona beat them 24-20 on October 12. (remember, NFC East is NYG, PHL, ARI, DAL, WAS.)

Then you are back to the same tie-breaking I had before...

Tie breaker rules for Wild Card;
Three or More Clubs
(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)

Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the two Wild-Card participants.
Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.

by Eddo :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 12:26pm

Ah, good catch. Forgot about the divisional tiebreaker going to the Cardinals in that case.

by t.d. :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 3:02am


by McDaniken (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:01pm

I know it's been way overplayed in the past, but I think the whole "disrespect" thing is a big deal to the Cardinals. Being called the worst team to ever make the playoffs has annoyed all of them and has REALLY pissed off the defense. Philly might win, but I wouldn't give too many points if I were you.

by ArizonaCardinalsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:40pm

Pissed off is an understatement of colossal proportions. Moose said at halftime of the CAR game that the Cards could still collapse! Cris Collinsworth calls us the worst playoff team in NFL history; Mike Ditka picks the Cards in the regular season, and then promptly reverses field (Look Grandpa, I just made a football joke about some guy you saw play) and thinks it's horrible that AZ clinched so early; Deion Sanders says that it would be travesty if the Cards (or Chargers) made it to the Superbowl; and ESPN.com, on their front page today, gave the Cards "NO SHOT". Heck, I've even gotten the snickers from posters on this board simply from the name I post under...but we Cards fans are a hardened bunch, and this really is par for the course for us.

Frankly, I'm more disappointed in the NFL. Every other pro sports league has benefited from a story like this, and the Maricopa County folks haven't seen any local football close to this since Arizona State almost won a national title in 1986. The Cards are officially off the schneid, and now we see that it was OK for the Cards to win -- just not at the expense of the east coast. Without the Cards (and Chargers), there is no NFL in the southwest United States. You would think that the string of great football games in Phoenix (National Championship, Boise St./OU Fiesta Bowl, NYG/NE Superbowl) in the last couple of years would be a sign of things to come in the desert.

All I've ever wanted was to be a part of the playoff dance, and not the guy that everyone threw their coats to. Fans in any other city have no idea...the combined history of the Cardinals and of Phoenix sports is a powerful incentive to be "pissed off" at the media disrespect.

by ArizonaCardinalsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:43pm

Pissed off is an understatement of colossal proportions. Moose said at halftime of the CAR game that the Cards could still collapse! Cris Collinsworth calls us the worst playoff team in NFL history; Mike Ditka picks the Cards in the regular season, and then promptly reverses field (Look Grandpa, I just made a football joke about some guy you saw play) and thinks it's horrible that AZ clinched so early; Deion Sanders says that it would be travesty if the Cards (or Chargers) made it to the Superbowl; and ESPN.com, on their front page today, gave the Cards "NO SHOT". Heck, I've even gotten the snickers from posters on this board simply from the name I post under...but we Cards fans are a hardened bunch, and this really is par for the course for us.

Frankly, I'm more disappointed in the NFL. Every other pro sports league has benefited from a story like this, and the Maricopa County folks haven't seen any local football close to this since Arizona State almost won a national title in 1986. The Cards are officially off the schneid, and now we see that it was OK for the Cards to win -- just not at the expense of the east coast. Without the Cards (and Chargers), there is no NFL in the southwest United States. You would think that the string of great football games in Phoenix (National Championship, Boise St./OU Fiesta Bowl, NYG/NE Superbowl) in the last couple of years would be a sign of things to come in the desert.

All I've ever wanted was to be a part of the playoff dance, and not the guy that everyone threw their coats to. Fans in any other city have no idea...the combined history of the Cardinals and of Phoenix sports is a powerful incentive to be "pissed off" at the media disrespect.

by ArizonaCardinalsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 1:44pm

Sorry for the double post...

by Displaced Cane (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:15pm

[Let me preface this by saying that I'm not a huge fan of either Philly or the Giants.]

Did anyone notice Brian Dawkins's penchant for leading with his helmet when he makes a tackle? I remember Aeneas Williams a few years ago getting in trouble a lot for doing that (something about the "crown of the helmet"). What does the NFL rulebook say about it?

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 3:46pm


Um...yeah. That is, when he's not leading with his elbow to hit a guy on the ground. And by the rulebook leading with helmet is a 15 yard personal foul. The funny thing about Dawkins is, I never noticed him doing that stuff until this year (and I see a lot Eagles games), but he has been really bad with it lately. There were at least two from last game that could (and really actually should) have been called on him.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:50pm

He's not really leading with his helmet - he's leading with his shoulder. You can tell if the angle's correct - basically the helmet/shoulder are in a flat plane, so they both it first. Occasionally the ball carrier shifts and the helmet does strike first. Leading with the helmet is really only called if the helmet strikes very before anything else (Helmet-to-helmet hits, however, are called pretty much whenever they happen).

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 4:56pm

Granted I'm a disappointed Giants fan here, with great respect for Tanier's Eagles-fandom and analysis, but I really don't understand the observation that the Eagles' run defense "controlled the game". Eagles came up big on short yardage in 4th quarter, but then the Giants were getting desperate courtesy of crucial missed opportunities, largely resulting from abandoning the run in key situaitons. Giants gained 4.3 yards/rush and clearly should have run more on series once they got inside the Eagles 30 yard line in the first three quarters, and when they threw they incredibly went with the spread formation. Eagles deserved to win, but their run defense hardly seems like the first thing to credit.

by Goathead (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:32pm

Agreed. I really felt like Gilbride called a lousy game, thought so at the time too. The sequence at the end of the 1st half just killed me. At 1st & 5 with < 2 minutes in the half, there is no excuse for leaving that much time on the board.

With Manning off his game, Gilbride didn't make the sort of calls to get him into a the flow of the game. All in all it was a disaster for the Giants offense, and that blame can be shared equally between Eli and Gilbride.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:59pm

Well, considering the Giants had the #1 ranked rushing offense in the league both accourding to DVOA and the led the league with 5.0 yds/att, it doesn't seem all that strange to me. And that's even before you factor in the short yardage situations.

by markschepp23 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 10:03pm

Still. Allowing 4.3 yards per carry is hardly controlling the game. That average puts you in the top third of the league, rushing-wise. Factor in that they didn't sack Manning and I don't see how you can say that was a dominant performance by the Eagles' D-line.

by Wanker79 :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 10:49am

I completely agree that it'd be difficult to argue that it was a dominant performance, but you also have to agree that it was all you could have asked for going into that game.

by markschepp23 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 1:20am

Yeah, that's a fair statement. I just don't think the Eagles' D-Line was a big reason why they won. I would agree with the Outsiders and posters who thought the secondary played better. And they were a lot better on special teams.

by jimmy oz (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:16pm

Bill Barnwell: Pretty much. Anything can happen in a small sample. America's really the only country who believes that their sports need to have a playoff system. This is what happens.

Sweeping generalisations made about subjects without having any knowledge is why the whole world hates Americans.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:50pm

And to think all this time I thought it was because we know that we're better than everybody else.

BTW, making a sweeping generalisation in the same sentence that you whine about sweeping generalisations makes you look foolish.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 5:55pm

Remember, Just Say No to Categorical Imperatives!

by Bill_2120 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 8:28pm

Thanks for hitting that fat pitch (sweeping generalizations). I thought that comment was misplaced here, but decided to let it go. I'm still am not sure what the point of that is, maybe Jimmy oz just ran out of good football arguments and had to raid their political rhetoric. I'm sure there are political blogs somewhere where Jimmy oz can find a taker.


by Sarcasm & Irony (not verified) :: Mon, 01/12/2009 - 11:38pm

My statement was an utterly ridiculous response to Barnwell's equally ridiculous assumptions. Great pick up on that one.

Nearly every sport incorporates some sort of play-off system. There are a lot of European Soccer Leagues that don't have them for the top tier e.g. Serie A (Ita) La Liga (Esp) Premier League (Eng), but have a play-off system for either promotion to, or relegation from the top tier.

Usually, the play-off games get bigger crowds because of their "life or death" importance (use of exaggeration) and that they usually have two good teams against each other. Larger crowds usually mean more money, both in gate takings and TV revenue.

Its not rocket science, you're not that smart, stop taking yourselves seriously.

by Fan of all football (not verified) :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 2:04am

Brian's point is misguided. I think his point is that American sports only count the playoff champion as the true champion, and European leagues crown their champion without one. I would argue this is due to history and geography, which has evolved into a comment on the cultures. America is too big, and the NFL is too big/rough, to have everyone play everyone else. A playoff is the only way to do it equitably. You can argue the playoffs are too big, but then that's not enough money. Or you could have just the #1 team play the #2 team, but then you'd end up with something like the abomination of the BCS.

*The UEFA Cup and Champions League are not complete playoffs. They have a few qualifying playoff rounds, a 5 or 6 round robin, followed by a playoff. This is not due to a positive/negative about playoffs, but rather for time constraints. You can't have the top 32 teams play each other and their national leagues (and Cups) either. There's just not enough time in the year. You'll notice other sports in Europe work on the same model - Rugby, Basketball, etc.

by Jimmy Oz (not verified) :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 3:44am

Rugby League (RL) is as tough as the NFL, they play 24 games a year with representative games in the middle of the year.

by Fan of all football (not verified) :: Thu, 01/15/2009 - 3:33pm

True, and rugby union teams play a lot, too - both club and country is probably in the mid 20s. Aussie Rules Football plays 22 reg season games + preseason cup + up to 4 more in their cool playoff system. I guess I meant you could probably play a few more games - maybe into the mid-20s for all teams without player injury, but not probably not 31.

I would also argue that the net phyiscal affect on a person in american football is greater than the net effect of a rugby game. Players starting from full stop go all out into each other for a number of seconds. Rugby is generally more free-flowing, though without pads. I wonder if any studies have been done on this, if they can be done on such a qualitative factor.

by Boston Dan :: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 3:50pm

"Pretty much. Anything can happen in a small sample. America's really the only country who believes that their sports need to have a playoff system. This is what happens."

The NFL needs seven game series.

by chris clark (not verified) :: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 2:33am

I apologize if it is just quintessentially American (i.e. US centric, since Canada and Brazil are both on American continents) of me, but the one and done playoff system leading to the SuperBowl has always appealed to me. It gives a palpable element of chance to playing and winning the SB. You have to be both lucky and good and if you didn't win it didn't necessarily mean you weren't good enough just that you were both good enough and lucky enough. This is particularly comforting when rooting for a team that is behind, but not by very much (e.g. a couple of TDs or less) that one decent break on a drive could lead the team to win.