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24 Jan 2011

Conference Championship DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

This one will be short; there's not much reason to run a big DVOA table with 32 teams when there are only two left. For those curious, Pittsburgh's weighted DVOA is now 37.9%, while Green Bay is at 30.0%.

Here are the ratings for the Conference Championship games:

DVOA (with opponent adjustments)
GB 5% 9% -11% -14%
CHI 16% -11% -11% 16%
PIT 15% 12% -4% -1%
NYJ 12% 13% -2% -2%
VOAf (no opponent adjustments)
GB 12% -1% -28% -14%
CHI -6% -26% -4% 16%
PIT 4% 0% -5% -1%
NYJ -15% -8% 5% -2%

The first half-second half splits for both games are pretty astonishing.

Offensive DVOA by Half in 2010 Conf. Championships
First Half -45.6% 54.0% -45.7% 44.2%
Second Half 8.2% -48.1% 40.2% -57.5%

One interesting note is how Chicago dominated Green Bay on special teams despite a big day from Green Bay punter Tim Masthay. Green Bay's short kickoffs, attempting to prevent a return touchdown, were a big part of that. Chicago even had better value than Green Bay on punts because of a fumble by Tramon Williams, plus a 22-yard punt return which the Packers allowed to Earl Bennett on a booming 65-yard punt by Masthay.

The resulting Super Bowl of Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh may be the most evenly matched Super Bowl in history. Our official FO Premium pick will be up later this week, but the playoff odds report lists the odds as 50.6 percent Pittsburgh, 49.4 percent Green Bay.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 24 Jan 2011

62 comments, Last at 27 Jan 2011, 5:38pm by Will Allen


by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 1:32pm

Yeah, pretty crazy "tale of two halves" type games.

The special teams for Green Bay played the way I've been saying for awhile. They can't return anything, and they can't cover kick-offs. They have a very good punter, who didn't quite get things fully worked out till week 6. He has had at least 4 games like that this year, where he was just lights out good, and if Jarret Bush would have been a little more aware of his feet the touch back would have been downed at the 2. He nearly got re-established but didn't quite get the left foot back down, but it was a good job getting down there and the ball was just about perfectly placed for him to down it.

I actually want Jordy Nelson back returning kicks, that's sad I know. Starks has been an utter failure. Shields still doesn't quite know when to turn his speed on. Pat Lee doesn't offer enough in other areas to be on the 45 (and he's "just a guy" back there) Nelson still has the potential to get you 30-50 yards with the poor blocking the Packers have (he could go to the house with decent to good blocking he is faster than people think in space), and I think the issues he had with the fumbles that lost him the job can and probably have been corrected.

Williams is just a guy on punt returns (Packers have been in the +/- 1 range in the FO metrics all year on punt returns) but usually doesn't make the big mistake he made yesterday on not calling for the fair catch. I can live with him back there.

But yeah the Packers can't return anything and they kick off for crap. I'll take the short kick-offs to keep the ball out of Hester's hands there. I think it was the right call, especially given how bad the coverage unit is.

But yeah, the numbers pass the smell test. The Bears had better special teams but the difference was greatest on the ones that had less impact. The Williams fumble on the punt return is an exception to his normal play, but it happened, and the Bears likely had something to do with it, so I'll agree they had the edge on punts too. Gould had a stinker kick too, and a 22 yard return on a 65 yard punt isn't that bad, I'll take 43 yards net any day. It's not unreasonable to have one bad to poor punt when you punt 8 or 9 times like those guys did.

by MC2 :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 6:15pm

Jordy Nelson ... is faster than people think in space ...

Yes, you might even say that he has deceptive speed.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 7:24pm

Eh I didn't use that because it's a bit too cliche and carries other connotations. He is a 'strider' type runner (I bet he would actually do quite well in a 200m). He doesn't have the best acceleration, or change of direction (it's not bad, just not a top strength). But if there are one or two blocks and he gets a bit more time, his top end speed is right up there. How does this differ from most NFL caliber receivers? It really doesn't that much, were talking 1 or 2 steps over 100 yards, I know. :)

by bkjsun :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:36am

I agree about their kick and punt return coverage being really poor. I wonder how much this is because of their slew of injuries not only to starting special teamers but also injuries forcing normal special teams players into roles on offense and defense.
Also, special teams is pretty random. On advancednflstats there was a study showing that it was not a repeatable skill. It was bad most of the year but according to weighted DVOA their special teams is about average and pittsburgh is hardly any better.

It really sucks to have to wait 2 weeks for this game. It totally kills the vibe of having one big game after another week after week. Unless of course, you are excited for the super meaningful Pro Bowl.

by MCS :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 10:31am

I don't think it's wise to have our best coernerback returning punts. It exposes him unnecessarily to injury.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:46pm

I certainly hope they replace him there next season.

But for the playoffs you have to roll with the best players you can put out there. Like in the playoffs following the 98 season, when GB didn't have very good punt or kick returners and used Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman at those positions, because every possible edge in the biggest game is worth it.

by MCS :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:09pm

It's not like he busting every other return for 30 yards. According to PFR, he's averaging 8 yards per return with a long of 52 yards.

Too much risk. He is the future of the secondary. Tell me your heart didn't leap when he played that punt off the bounce and got creamed.

I didn't agree with Brooks and Freeman back there either. Or Woodson, when he was doing it.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:40pm

Do you not like the Eagles using Jackson then?

I do agree I would love to find a pure return man and use a roster spot on him. But those are few and far between. It's another reason I think Nelson is a better choice. Sure he is a good receiver, but he is one of 4 good receivers and if we lose him, it doesn't hurt as much. I really wish Pat Lee would have panned out as returner. He was just a guy till he got hurt.

I also agree that you need a higher chance of reward for the risk with Williams. Though perhaps they are getting that. Seeing how poorly most of the other players have done at the job, Williams has only really made about 2 big mistakes with it this year (one of them when he got clocked on Sunday). The fact that he is very unlikely to lose yards, or field a punt when he shouldn't is a reward, in that the Packers actually keep the ball. :)

And no my heart didn't leap on that rare bad decision. I've not actually seen a lot of return men get hurt. Most of them happen after they are already running and land awkwardly. Since the blocking units for the Packers are so bad, they never get a chance to really get going, or get hit around a lot of bodies where those chances go up.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:31pm

With kick returns you can stick just about anybody fast back there and at least get competent results. But with punts you need someone who is much more reliable.

Williams was not reliable on Sunday, but over the course of the season he has been. Bottom line, the risk of putting in a new returner now and having a muff or fumble that Williams would avoid is greater than the risk of injury for playing in one more game. And yes, I say that even after that big hit he took, which did put a scare into me. The chances of that happening again in one game are slim, and the chances of one such hit resulting in a significant injury are also pretty slim.

Next season make it a priority to find a returner who isn't so important as a starter. But for the Superbowl let's just stay the course.

by BadgerDave :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 1:50pm

Lucky that Masthay had such a good day, covered for every other special teams area.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 2:21pm

In both games, one team jumped out to a big lead in the first half, and spent the second half trying to protect it. I suspect this is part of the "tale of two halves" effect.

I know that DVOA tries to compensate for game situation (i.e. Chicago's performance in the second half is compared against how all teams do when trailing by 2 TD), but I suspect that the sample size may not be big enough to compensate for it.

by matt w (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 2:40pm

"the playoff odds report lists the odds as 50.6 percent Pittsburgh, 49.4 percent Green Bay."

Two weeks ago you said that the Green Bay-Atlanta game was about as even as it could be. Last week the playoff odds report had Green Bay at something like 50.4% to win. This makes the third coin flip in a row. Have the playoffs ever featured three such evenly matched games, on paper?

by ammek :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:08pm

I'd guess SB32 was closer: Green Bay finished the season at 30.1% DVOA, Denver at 29.5%. Weighted DVOA might have put the Packers a little further ahead, although the Broncos won two road playoff games (home-field isn't part of DVOA).

And so, a dozen years later, we have another 50-50 Superbowl in which the Packers are unjustifiably favored. Hoping for a different result this time.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:24pm

The Packers are only favored by 2.5 points. I wouldn't say that's beyond the realm of justification.

Personally, I would take Pittsburgh and the points. Because we know that the Packers never win in Dallas.

by ammek :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:58pm

Information and trends that gamblers would follow:

In Pittsburgh's favor:
More regular-season wins, a harder schedule, better DVOA, recent Superbowl(-winning) experience.

In Green Bay's:

by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 4:51pm

Fat Bastard stole Caleb Hanie's mojo...

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 4:57pm

Is a harder schedule actually predictive?

by Kal :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 5:23pm

Only if that team performs well against it. Given their common opponents and how well they played against each and throwing out the non-Ben games, you have:

Buffalo (both wins, Pitt won 19-16, GB 34-7)
Miami(Pitt won 23-22, GB lost 23-20)
Jets (GB won 9-0, Pitt lost 22-17)
NE (both losses, GB lost 31-27 without Rodgers, Pitt lost 39-26)

And Atlanta (Pit won without Ben 15-9, GB lost 20-17 and then won 48-21)
To me that seems to favor GB, but it's tough given that so much of it is matchup-based.

Both had 5 stomps in the regular season.

by ammek :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 8:31pm

Predictive, no. But for those who don't know DVOA, it's an intuitive stat for understanding that, for example, the Jets' 10 regular-season wins were more impressive than the Bucs'.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 5:17pm

There's also the fact that GB has been a bit more impressive in 3 road playoff games (especially the Atlanta game, in conditions similar to what will be in the Superbowl) than Pittsburgh was in two home games.

The other thing is the Pouncey injury. I haven't read any more about the severity, but he's arguably the best player on an already poor unit, and his injury didn't look too good between the cart ride and the crutches. With Cullen Jenkins looking healthy again and Matthews back to his old self, Vegas may be thinking that GB's front seven matches up very well will Pitt's O-line.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:49pm

Yeah, but who has the most swagger?

by Tom W (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:19pm

I'd be interested to know what DVOA makes of the play on which Rodgers was picked by Urlacher inside the Bears 10, but then busted his ass to make the tackle 50 yds. downfield, possibly saving the game. Great SB match-up, both in terms of the apparent evenness of the teams and their respective histories.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 4:06pm

Interception returns aren't measured. They're mostly random.

by nat :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 4:48pm

Say non-predictive rather than random. It'll save us all some time explaining things.

by Commentor (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 2:26am

... and the tremendous 37-36 game these two teams played last year.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:33pm

I have searched my limited memory and to be honest that pass yesterday may be the worst/dumbest pass that Rodgers has thrown in the past two years.

If Clifton is healthy enough to play and Rodgers is not suffering from the Peppers hit I expect GB to win.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 4:02pm

I can't think of one either.

Considering Clifton only missed a couple of series, and they have two weeks to prepare, I expect he'll be alright. He'll do his normal limited practice (possibly even a bit more limited this week) for a bit more rest.

Rodgers has never played great vs the Bears he wasn't that much worse than he normally is vs them yesterday but yeah, the 2nd half it seemed pretty clear the hit affected him. I would expect him to be fine as well, I don't think he suffered as much as he did from the hit at Detroit and he'll have the same amount of recovery time.

I too think GB will win, but it will be another close one, like many of their games this year. The defense is going to keep them in it. It just depends on how many quarters the offense takes off. :)

by Grant (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 5:03pm

I'd have to go back and see it again, but I thought his first post season interception against the Cardinals was worse. At least with the Urlacher pick, you could argue that he didn't see him there. The one against Arizona was Favre-esque.

For some reason the Bears just seem to have the Packers number. I look at them and it makes no sense that they have the talent that the Packers have, but every game they play them down to the wire. I don't know if they over-achieve or I just don't appreciate how good their defense is.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 5:23pm

It happens in all division games. They turn to slop. The Ravens-Steelers games are never all that well-executed or pretty, the Titans can be 5-11 and give the 14-2 Colts fits, the crappy Bucs can beat the Super Bowl Saints, etc.

When you know everything about the other team because you play twice every single year, you can make their offense look pretty bad.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:33pm

To clarify, I know it's a bad play for the Packers' offense and a good play for the Bears' defense, but in individual terms, it was a terrible pick by Rodgers, but a great play to make the tackle. How many QB's would simply give up on the play? I'm guessing it's not reflected in DVOA.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:45pm


Didn't mean to diminish your clearly valid point. Rodgers did certainly hustle.

I was just struck at the foolishness factor. Rodgers is typically so careful. That pass was, well, you know what like.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:53pm

No argument. Uncharistically bad decision.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:57pm

Especially in the Red Zone. That's what, Rodgers' second red zone pick ever?

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 5:07pm

It actually reminded me of the way I play Madden. I'm real careful about the safeties, and always watch for the pass rush, but regularly lose track of the MLB and fling it right into his arms in short yardage situations.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 8:39pm

I think this may be the first time I've seen "It reminded me of Madden" refer to a quarterback's play in a negative way.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 3:56pm

Do you happen to have similar half splits for the Steelers Ravens divisional game? In the championship game thread I posited that despite winning the Steelers' second half collapse this week was greater that the Ravens' last week.

I think a reasonable way to measure the magnitude of a choke would be to take the difference of the team's (weighted) DVOA and the single half DVOA. So in the AFC championship, the Steelers choked to the tune of 95.4%.

by Andy Watkins (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 4:22pm

I'm somewhat skeptical that what the Steelers did was well-described as a "choke." I think that the more important influences were that on offense, the effect of losing Pouncey took hold, and on defense, we stopped playing any sort of exotic package, or really anything other than Steelers Second-Half Soft Zone. LeBeau often does this to preserve as many options as possible for the next game. If the lead was ever threatened--let's say the Jets were in position to score the go-ahead touchdown--he might push harder. But there's little reason to win big when there's so much to be gained from letting players who aren't 100% rest up.

It was more of a gamble than I liked seeing him take--and doing that has lost us a lot of regular season games--but he knows better than I how much is too much.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 5:18pm

I'm trying to be a little objective and call any case where the leading team has a second half performance significantly inferior to both the first half performance and average performance a "choke." Certainly a change in play-calling was a factor, but execution played a major roll as well. All-in-all I would say the Steelers defense played great and offense okay. You could reasonably say the defense only "gave up" ten points (crediting them seven points for the returned fumble), which is really good. Even allowing two touchdowns in a half isn't that bad. The offense in the second half, however, was putrid. Some but not all of that is on the Jets - who we should remember and credit for having a really great defense.

by bengt (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 4:11am

I do partially agree, but note that the DVOA first-to-second half comparison was only for offense. No points, an interception on second down in scoring range, a safety, not much time taken off the clock... Except for the last drive that can be considered a choke.
The defense clearly played with the goal to not let the Jets score more than 23 points in 31 minutes. The long TD to Holmes stands out negatively, the stuffed 4th-and-1 very positively.

by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 8:12am

Of the Steelers 4 second half possessions, only the safety drive ended in less than 3 minutes taken off the clock and produced no first downs. (Though the first drive needed the penalty for roughing the punter to go past 3 & out.) Though it may not seem like it, the Steelers possessed the ball for 13:37 of the second half.

by bengt (not verified) :: Thu, 01/27/2011 - 11:39am

Exactly. I went from memory, and it seemed that the Jets' drives were sooo looong that I incorrectly concluded that the Steelers' drives must have been short.
I realized this when I calculated that BR's personally achieved five first downs (as discussed ad nauseam in the 'Quick Reads' thread) could have led to as much as 10 minutes of game clock.

by bobt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 5:35pm

Why does an 8% difference in DVOA equal a 0.6% difference in win probability? That seems to suggest a not super huge value of DVOA or else the vast majority of games are 48-52 propositions (which seems wrong).

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 5:38pm

the vast majority of games are 48-52 propositions

I think this is very likely. Green Bay and Chicago have played 3 times this year, the week 17 DVOA was a 20% difference, and all 3 games were within 1 score.

by MC2 :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 6:24pm

It's tough to figure out the correlation between DVOA and the win probabilities given in the playoff odds report. For example, last week, the difference in weighted DVOA between the Patriots and the Jets was virtually the same as the difference between the Bears and the Seahawks, but the playoff odds report listed a Jets win as 4 times more likely than a Seahawks win. For the life of me, I can't figure out the reason for such a huge disparity.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 6:35pm

"...listed a Jets win as 4 times more likely than a Seahawks win."

This isn't a very useful way to describe the numbers. There's a huge difference between
90% chance of winning vs. 22.5% chance of winning
that isn't there when considering
0.4% chance of winning vs. 0.1% chance of winning

Probabilities live in [0,1]. That one number is four times as large as the other in [0,1] may be compelling, given how probabilities are used, or it may be completely uninteresting.

I point this out not to merely be pedantic, but because your point made me wonder what the actual probabilities were.

by MC2 :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 7:18pm

Good point. I don't remember the exact probabilities, but the Jets were around 32%, while the Seahawks were around 8%. The latter in particular struck me as fairly implausible, given the high degree of luck involved in any individual outcome.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 7:30pm

What was not really noticed but different from other Bears/Packers encounters is that at minimum GB won the field position battle and one could state they won it.

McCarthy/Capers had to believe that if the forced the Bears to regularly drive the field that the Chicago offense would not be up to the task. Previously, GB regularly surrendered field position and the Bears would exploit that for some cheap points.

Smith's punting at the Packer 30ish demonstrated Lovie's belief that his defense would give that field position. Rodgers couldn't pull off the long drives but at minimum got GB into areas where the punter could put Chicago in the same predictament.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/24/2011 - 7:32pm

I was surprised by how often the Packers tested the Bears deep in this game. They had a lot of success early throwing mid range routes, but as the game went on they kept trying to go over the top, which didn't work nearly as well. However, this may have been because the Bears started to play more man coverage. Charles Tillman is awesome, the rest of the Bears secondary, not so much. I think the strategy for the Packers first drive was simply run a route behind Jennings and in front of Harris. Jennings will be too bad to cover it, and Harris will be too slow. As long as the receivers can take the shots from Harris after they catch it, your offense will be successful.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 10:02am

Just noticed that, with the exception of the Seahawks upset of the Saints, every playoff game thus far has been won by the team with the higher rated defense (according to DVOA).
I hate when cliches bear out.

by MJK :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:41pm

This is something I've wondered about. Suppose for a second that "defense DOES win championships". I.e. that having a good defense is more important in the playoffs than in the regular season. Why might this be? Is there a logical reason why this might occur (beyond "it's a statistical fluke that is a function of small sample size"). Offense and defense are theoretically equal halves of the game, so why should being good at one be better than being good at the other when you get to the playoffs.

The only thing that I can think of that is different between the regular season and the postseason (barring the overtime rules which thankfully didn't come into effect this year) is that the average caliber of team faced is higher.

This leads me to a thought. Having a good offense is a matter of having at least a couple of things that you do really really well. You don't have to be excellent at everything, but if you're good at two things that are stopped by different kinds of defensive schemes, chances are that average and sub-average teams aren't going to be good at stopping both kinds of things and you're offense will be good.

On the other hand, having a good defense is a matter of being reasonably good at stopping everything. Because if you are terrible at just one thing, or worse, at at least two things, even mediocre offenses are going to attack that thing and pick you apart. Unless you happen to go up against an offense that is terrible at the thing you are terrible at stopping, your defense will look bad. So a team with a high rated defense has demonstrated the ability to be at least decent at stopping any kind of attack.

Here's where the higher caliber of opponent comes in. In the regular season, where you face a mix of good and bad defenses, a good offense will be able to make its way much of the time, and maybe lose a few games when it runs up against a good defense. A good defense will also face a mix of offenses, and maybe lose a game or two when it runs up against a particularly elite offense or if it just happens to have a bad day. But when you get to the playoffs, everyone is pretty good on both sides of the ball, usually. So the good defenses are better able to handle the increased level of competition than the good offenses, because it takes more top-to-bottom skull to make a good defense than a good offense.

If this is true, than it should hold true in the regular season as well. I wonder if you could look at the win % of teams with a better defensive DVOA for all games played in the regular season, and then the win % of teams with a better defensive DVOA in just games between "good" (say, positive overall DVOA) teams. If the latter is markedly higher, maybe defense really does win championships...

by armchair journe... :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:54pm

Could it also be that teams play more conservatively in the playoffs, under the fear of one and done? Seems that a strong defense will dominate a game in which the offense plays more conservatively, as there are less attempts to "keep them honest," etc.

armchair journeyman quarterback

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:34pm

Great post.

I remember an old FO article that showed defensive DVOA had a slightly higher correlation with winning in the playoffs than offensive, but it wasn't really meaningful. I can't find it now. Might be interesting to look at again, I think the article was prior to the 2007 season, so that's 7 more years of DVOA and playoffs to look at (I think, 4 since then, and 3 added to the beginning of the database).

by MC2 :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 10:50pm

I definitely think there is some merit to your point. I also wonder if the increased adrenaline that players have in the playoffs helps defensive players more, while for offensive players (especially QBs) it may cause them to try to do too much, and lead to costly mistakes, e.g. false starts, forced throws leading to interceptions, trying to get a couple of extra yards at the expense of ball security, etc. Of course, that could also happen to the defense, e.g. jumping offsides, unnecessary roughness, etc. But overall, I've always felt that the extra adrenaline tends to lead to sloppier play and that helps the defense more than the offense.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 12:59pm

It'll likely be another close game, which likely means that something we can't forsee will determine the outcome. I will say that both defensive fronts will likely have good opportunities to smack the opposing qb pretty hard, and when that shot is delivered may play a significamt role in the outcome. Both qbs are pretty darned elusive, but my impression, which may be wrong because I don't watch the AFC as much, is that Roethlisberger handles contact better, which I do not mean as a harsh criticism of Rodgers. Roethlisberger is just a bigger guy, and thus his head is less likely to get bludgeoned.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:38pm

You may be underestimating Rodgers a bit. He got beat up quite a bit his first year as a starter, and it didn't take long before people were saying he'd never make it through a season. He made it through most of three before missing time due to an injury, and that injury was suffered on a running play.

Future concussion possibilities definitely worry me, but at least he's waring a better helmet now. He'll never stand up to a beating like Roethlisberger can, but I think he's also a bit better at making rushers miss. In any case, I don't think you can make serious predictions about QB injuries effecting the outcome of a single game.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:53pm

I dunno. I think when you are talking about two very good defensive fronts, and two less than wonderful offensive lines, then you can say that there is a significantly higher chance that at some point the qbs are going to get smacked extremely hard, and given the way the game is played now, one can say that the point at which that smack takes place could have a big effect on the outcome.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 6:33pm

That's my point though. You can predict that some QBs will get hit a lot, and some only a little, over the course of several games or a full season. Making those sorts of predictions for a single game is very dicey though.

If you want to say that there's a greater chance of a QB being knocked out of the game in this Superbowl than one involving, say, Peyton Manning, then I'd agree with you. But even for QBs that get hit a lot, the chances of it happening in one particular game are quite small.

Also, I maintain that GB's O-line is actually decent at pass protection, and that it can look worse than it is based on the high number of plays where there isn't a lot of help from backs or TEs. If McCarthy calls plays without much blocking help then Rodgers could get hit a fair amount. However, if this does happen in the early going then I think GB can adjust their protection (though not necessarily to the benefit of the passing game efficiency as much as just protecting Rodgers' health) better than Pittsburgh, especially if Pouncey is out.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 3:00am

Yeah, but I'm not just referencing getting knocked out of the game; getting clobbered can result in markedly decreased effectiveness, and the earlier in the contest the clobbering occurs, the more pronounced effect the clobbering has on the outcome. I kind of saw the same paradigm in the NFC Championship Game, where the defensive fronts had a real talent advantage over the pass protection schemes. I agree that McCarthy may have an inclination to expose his qb, and maybe it is the old Joe Gibbs fan in me, but it always makes me uneasy.

I hate to say it, bit if I were a defensive coordinator in search of a multi-million dollar payday, with the way the game is currently played, I might be sorely tempted to tell my guys in a Super Bowl that I am willing to trade an early td for a chance to really take a free run at the opposing qb, and gosh, if there is inadverdant helmet to helmet contact, with my player running full speed at the exposed opposing qb, well, geez, it really is hard to control where you make contact when running at full speed.

If I could draw a perhaps inapprpriate analogy, think of the amount of resources that gets directed at arresting drunk drivers who blow a .08, while a hard core boozer can get caught over and over, in some states, after having blown a .15 or higher, and still manage to be allowed the opportunity to get behind the wheel again. In the rush to minimize all contact with qbs, I think the league is still allowing strong incentives to exist which may encourage guys, in some circumstances, to really do some dangerous stuff. I think I'd like to see the league get more loose in some regard, especially when the qb has left the pocket, while increasing the penalties, including immediate ejection, for the most dangerous stuff.

by armchair journe... :: Thu, 01/27/2011 - 11:40am

I hate to say it, but if I were a pass-rusher, I'd love to play for a DC who sold out to give me an open lane and said "eh, don't worry if you kill 'em, its not like you're going to get ejected."
armchair journeyman quarterback

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/27/2011 - 1:50pm

I'm a little surprised it hasn't happened more frequently, with the current incentives in place. Gregg Williams came close to being public with it, in how he schemed against the Vikings in the conference championship game last year, but I think we will see some blatant examples in the future. The game revolves around the qb's decision-making more than ever, and nothing impairs that more for the balance of a game than a severe blow to the head. 15 yards, especially in the first quarter, is an absurdly low price to pay for that, in terms of what it does to help you win a game.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 01/27/2011 - 3:38pm

I think you're under-appreciating these guys' professionalism and sense of fair play. Sure they're big mean guys who will intentionally cause the other guy pain. And a lot of them sniff around the fringes of legal play. But the vast majority of them aren't going to play outside the rules to cause real injuries to other players. At the end of the day, they're millionaire colleagues.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/27/2011 - 5:38pm

Oh, I'm not discounting that entirely, but when you start talking about guys who haven't hit it huge yet, like a guy who was drafted in the third round still on his first contract, or a defensive coordinator who is still looking for his first head coaching gig, and is coaching the sort of player I just described, well, people really do respond to incentives, at least some of the time. If you leave extremely strong incentives in place, with nothing but an internal moral code to counter it, it is only a matter of time before a nontrivial number of people yield to temptation. NFL players aren't monsters, but they aren't angels, either. I really think the league needs to start ejecting guys when they lower their helmet, and hit the head of the opposing qb in the pocket, with that lowered helmet. Guys have to change their tackling techniques.