Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Nov 2008

Any Given Sunday: Bengals Tie Eagles

This week's linked article is Eagles-focused, since the Bengals are mostly irrelevant thanks to the generally poor play of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. On Sunday, Fitzpatrick played a solid enough game, completing a number of short throws but getting sacked eight times. The bulk of his success, however, was throwing to the increasingly impressive T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Houshmandzadeh had always been the second receiver behind the more flamboyant, and frankly more explosive, Chad Johnson. This season, when the offensive line cannot hold up for consistent downfield throws, the Bengals are turning increasingly to Houshmandzadeh, and he is delivering. He has been targeted almost 30 times more than Johnson, and despite the volume, he is delivering a higher DVOA.

The change from Johnson to Houshmandzadeh as the focus of the offense has been gradual. Johnson was targeted 60 more times in 2004, 40 more times in 2005, and 20 more times in 2006. In 2007, Houshmandzadeh was targeted nine more times than Johnson but had a much lower DVOA.

What was impressive about Houshmandzadeh on Sunday was his ability to participate in every possible route. The majority of his receptions were in the intermediate range, often making fine catches in tight coverage. He also took some underneath passes and made plays after the catch. Rather than a purely Welker-esque game, he also was the recipient of a 26-yard touchdown pass that was the Bengals' only score.

What Houshmandzadeh has done is rare. He emerged as a second receiver who feasted on one-on-one coverage thanks to the attention paid to a dominant receiver on the other side. Rather than rest on his laurels, he has continued to improve and now is the dominant receiver. In fact, he has a higher DVOA this year than he did last season with Carson Palmer playing full time. Like Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis, he is now Cincinnati's No. 1 receiver with no corresponding drop in production. At age 31, this is probably near the peak of his production, and it is a shame that so much of the season is wasted with Fitzpatrick rather than a quarterback like Palmer who would allow Houshmandzadeh to put up clearly Pro Bowl numbers.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 18 Nov 2008

6 comments, Last at 21 Nov 2008, 3:04am by Anonymous90879870


by boog :: Tue, 11/18/2008 - 2:44pm

Er - Houshmandzadeh's 26-yarder may have been the Bengal's only touchdown, but I don't think it was their only score, since they managed a 13-13 tie.

by Yuri (not verified) :: Tue, 11/18/2008 - 3:02pm

ESPN article title:

Eagles' defense?? comes to halt against lowly Bengals

by Wait, what? (not verified) :: Tue, 11/18/2008 - 5:39pm

I was interested in the fact that Hall and Joseph were depicted as good (or at least decent) corners who are often undermined by the Bengals' inconsistent (or nonexistent) pass rush, since I've read plenty of commentary that suggest neither is a particularly good cornerback. Clearly, the quality of a team's pass rush will help its cornerbacks look better or worse (as appropriate), but I'd like to see more on this at some point, given the disparity of opinions.

by Key19 :: Tue, 11/18/2008 - 5:45pm

As usual, an article regarding an Eagles loss is chock full of "their struggles are not a trend" and "they're the best bad team in football." Just stop. 5-4-1 is a trend, not a fluke. They are not as good of a team as they are always billed to be around here. Their wins have come against:

St. Louis
San Fransisco

The Pittsburgh game was one of the most pathetic total offensive performances in an NFL game in recent history. The total record of teams they have beaten is 20-30. They also tied the Bengals who were 1-8 coming into the game. That's as good as an Eagles loss in my opinion. They should never have even had that game be close if they're truly as good as they're supposed to be. Even if they had won, the combined record of opponents they've faced would be 21-39. That's horrible. They are 0-3 in the NFC East. That's horrible. They will likely go 2-4 or 1-5 the rest of the way. I don't see them winning a single Divison game this year. The Browns should lose to them (but who knows, I mean we're talking about the Eagles here) and the Cardinals could lose to them (West to East curse will be put to the test I'm sure). Overall, they are a very mediocre team. They will finish last in the NFC East. They will (hopefully for them) fire Andy Reid after the season. What that means for McNabb, I don't know. But they need receivers desperately. Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, you name it. They need them. You can't have a two-man offense. Sorry. It just doesn't work.

If I have any luck though, Reid will sign an extension and the Eagles will continue to be bad for years to come though. I would love to see it.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 11/18/2008 - 11:01pm

Your own argument could use a lot less bias itself.

You point out that the Eagles' wins have come against teams with mostly losing records. Duh, almost every team tends to beat more teams with losing records than winning records, and in this case the horrible records of St Louis and Seattle mask the fact that 2 of the 5 wins were against winning teams. The fact that the record of opponents beaten only looks worse when you add the Bangals to it shows how flawed a measure it is, since a hypothetical added win should make a team appear better rather than worse.

The Bengals game was a tie, not a loss, and the Giants (a good team by any measure) also played the Bengals almost as close "should never have even had that game be close if they're truly as good as they're supposed to be."

In the rest of your post you simply expose yourself as an Eagles hater, hardly a source of unbiased analysis.

by Anonymous90879870 (not verified) :: Fri, 11/21/2008 - 3:04am

Maybe the adjustment for bad teams is not given enough weight in this system...it seems you could argue that most of the top teams in the DVOA list have played very well against bad teams and that overrates their value.