Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Dec 2008

2008 Quick Reads: Week 15

Philip Rivers ain't no hero based upon his performance on Sunday.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 16 Dec 2008

40 comments, Last at 18 Dec 2008, 4:59am by DeltaWhiskey


by Bobman :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 8:34pm

You can't stop Dallas Clark. You can only hope to concuss him. Speaking of which, it's been a few weeks and he's probably due. Then again if a couple of those early hits Sunday didn't do it... who knows?

Who in the AFC playoff picture plays the most Cover-2 that would be vulnerable to Clark...? Tenn? That might be it. Hmmm, better get working on the run game.

by Independent George :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 8:02am

Obligatory link to Rooster Teeth's Dallas Clark Is Awesome video. If you haven't seen it yet, hurry up and follow the link before it gets yanked again.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 4:15pm

FWIW, if you're looking for a team to contain any TE, never mind Dallas Clark, the Lions are not that team. From the games I've charted, I will say that the Lions have earned that 32nd spot against opposing TEs (39.3%, 6.3 passes for 51.2 yds prior to the Colts game).

I'm sure the LBs are doing their best, but they seem to have no clue what their responsibilities are. Time and time again, a receiver is open in the short middle while LBs "bracket" him (in this situation, "bracket" means "give him 15 yards on either side and wonder who was supposed to cover him"), or running free down the seam while the MLB trails after him helplessly.

The interesting thing is that Detroit apparently shuts down RBs - 4th in DVOA, -11.6% prior to the Colts game. I would imagine that comes from the good pursuit behind the line. (Well, that was mostly with guys like Dewayne White and Corey Redding available.)

I'd like to say I was even mildly pessimistic about that game, but honestly I was telling everyone who would listen to start Dallas Clark if at all possible. Matchups. (Hey, they helped me to the finals of one league and semis in the other. Matchups, that is. I was not fortunate enough to draft Clark.)

by Harris :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 4:39pm

I just coughed hot tea up my nose. Thanks.

"A little celery is always nice after a good pee."

by Independent George :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 6:46pm

Harris, once again, the mind boggles at the symmetry between your signature and your comment.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 8:34pm

Oh, and 2nd!

by underthebus :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 9:08pm

"Without Frank Gore, offensive coordinator Mike Martz returned to, well, the Mike Martz offensive scheme. And 5.2 yards an attempt, five sacks and nine points later, we can safely say that Hill isn't ready to run the Martz offensive scheme."

This assessment of Shaun Hill is all wrong. The 49ers drove the ball up and down the field with ease. The only problem was a lack of redzone offense and that had almost everything to do with play calling. Shaun Hill wasn't the problem Martz's play calling was.

by Independent George :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 9:54am

Shaun Hill wasn't the problem Martz's play calling was.

Er, isn't that kind of the point?

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 3:27pm

Seriously, how often does it happen that a team has 17 minutes more of possession time and still loses?

That dominant of a possession-time lead, by the way, doesn't sound like Martz football to me.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 9:56pm

What would Adrian N. Peterson's DYAR be if the fourth-down pass from Maynard had been correctly ruled a catch?

by Marko :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:57pm

That wasn't a catch. The officials got that call correct. I don't understand why so many Bears fans and several members of the media covering the Bears have been saying that it should have been ruled a catch. (I should clarify that I can understand why unknowledgeable fans think it was a catch, but I don't get why knowledgeable fans such as Eddo think it was a catch.)

Even though I'm a Bears fan and wanted it to be a catch, it wasn't. The NFL has made clear in the last few years that in such plays, when the receiver is knocked to the ground like Peterson did in attempting to make the catch, it won't be ruled a catch if the receiver doesn't maintain control of the ball after hitting the ground. Peterson didn't maintain control, so it was ruled incomplete.

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 2:15am


by panthersnbraves :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 9:12am

I did not see the play - did he "leave his feet in an attempt to catch the ball"? If so he must "maintain possession throughout." Steve Smith had one called that way at the beginning of the season.

by BucNasty :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 10:41am

I forget if he leaped or was just taking a long stride (probably hopped), but he caught it securely with one foot on the ground. As his second foot was about to touch, he took a shot and went to the ground. He maintained possession to the ground, but the ball came loose as he was rolling so it was called incomplete.

by Sometime FO reader (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 3:32pm

Let me see if I can explain the dissenting viewpoint (bear in mind that I fully understand and (sort of) agree with the actual call):

We all get that if hitting the turf causes you to lose control of the ball then there is no catch. The issue here is that it appeared to me the receiver didn't lose the ball because of his impact with the ground. I.e. he "maintained control of the ball after hitting the ground". The ball then came out (I could never tell for sure, but I think it was poked out by the defender) while he was lying on his back, though he had not come completely to rest. So the question is how long after hitting the ground must he maintain control of the ball? In this instance he did so only for a split second, but that still means he did (imo).

As an example of how hairy this rule can be, riddle me this: Say a receiver leaps, catches a ball on the sideline, gets his toes down, then takes maybe six/seven stumbling steps before crashing into the bench (or better yet, a full Gatorade container) and losing the ball. Catch or no catch? What if the steps aren't stumbling but he slips into the Gatorade container?

by panthersnbraves :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 4:40pm

Based on previous games the answer is "no catch". If the player has his feet on the ground, and then loses it when he hit the ground, it's a catch. If he leaps, he cannot bobble it pretty much until he gets up and hands it to the official.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 6:26pm

I believe in the out of bounds case, once you have control of the ball, got both feet in bounds, then went out of bounds, it's a catch no matter what happens afterwards. In other words, going out of bounds supercedes any going to the ground rulings.

Plus, I can verify that you are, in fact, a sometime FO reader.

by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 10:04pm

After watching the end of the Jets-Buffalo game, I can hardly imagine how bad Eli had to be to even be near as bad as JP Losman.

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 10:24pm

Why would you reinforce flawed statistical thinking by talking about the vaunted curse of 370 and acting like Turner might be fine if he can only manage to finish with 368 carries?

Surely if the hypothesized explanatory/causal mechanism is additional wear, then approaching 370 is only minutely worse than hitting 370 and it gets progressively worse the further you go. Sports is already way way too benchmark focused, don't give into temptation/sloth and perpetuate this (This comment has as much to do with the FO's overall comments and attitude towards "370" as it does this article).

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 9:10am

The thing that frustrates me about FO is that, for a professional statistician, Aaron doesn't seem to know much about statistics. I have a feeling that if I asked him about a T-test or an ANOVA he'd go, "what's that?" He doesn't do X-square tests on his correlations either. Statistical significance matters.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by Theo :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 9:26am

You get this frustration based on the feeling?

by DeltaWhiskey :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 11:20am

According to this,


he may be a statistician:

"an expert in or compiler of statistics."

Unless I've missed it somewhere, he never has claimed to be a statistician, and this bio certainly makes no such claim:


"creator of Football Outsiders and most of the original statistical methods presented on this website"



"statistical method - a method of analyzing or representing statistical data; a procedure for calculating a statistic"

I suspect there is nothing original in the methodology (regression being my guess) used on this site (correction, now that I think about it, there may be some origninality in the tweaking process, which may very well violate multiple sound statistical procedures). The decision to analyze football in this particular manner certainly appears to be original.

Finally, a cursory review of all of the bios fails to reveal any significant evidence of expertise in the area of statistical analysis.

As long as the "innovative statistics" remain "proprietary," we have to take the FO guys word that they were created using conventional statistical procedures within accepted ranges for significance, etc. (Type I error anyone?)

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 2:23pm

I called him a professional statistician because his job is to compile (and analyze) statistics. I don't know if he's ever claimed the title, but it doesn't matter. Calling yourself a "football analyst" doesn't mean that you aren't a statistician.

And I see no reason to assume that any of the FO guys consistently test for statistical significance or even understand the importance of formal hypothesis testing with alpha level, etc. Don't get me wrong, this site has the best analysis on the web and I'm a devoted reader, but I think it would be improved enormously if Aaron and Bill et al took a stats course.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by Ted (not verified) :: Wed, 12/17/2008 - 12:11am

This stuff is not original in any way. In fact, this is definitively the least original football stat site. Almost everything here is a warmed-over application of the concepts in Hidden Game of Football.

It's definitely the most self-promoting and self-serving site, though.

by Jon Coit (not verified) :: Wed, 12/17/2008 - 12:28pm

From "DVOA explained": "DVOA does a better job of distributing credit for scoring points and winning games. It uses a value based on both total yards and yards towards a first down, based on work done by Pete Palmer, Bob Carroll, and John Thorn in their seminal book, The Hidden Game of Football."

Also, there's a difference between coming up with an insightful method, and doing the work necessary to implement the method (including, but not limited to, obsessing about the Eagles this year!).

by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 12/18/2008 - 4:59am

"DVOA does a better job of distributing credit for scoring points and winning games."

How much better (and better than what)?

Is the difference statistically significant?

When changes are made, what is the criteria for determining significance?

All of these can be answered w/o revealing the "proprietary" portion of the stats.

FWIW: Correlation of Weighted DVOA, for week 15, with wins:

r = 0.875
p < .05

by MJK :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:07pm

I think it's more accurate to think of it probabilistically. There is probability of damage to a RB's future career each season he plays. This probability rises as a function of the years in the league, and presumably the number of carries in a year. As I recall from a discussion last week, there is a fairly significant knee in the curve at 370. That doesn't mean that your fine at 368 and screwed at 372--just that as you pass 370, your probability of being done rises significantly.

Still, your point that you don't magically get injured on carry #371 is good to note.

by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:36pm

The links says "Philip Rivers ain't no hero"
The article says "luck, circumstances help make Rivers hero".

So... is he a hero or not?

Answer: its all sportwriting semantics that don't matter. He won, which is all that does matter.

Personally I hope JP Losman is "non-hero" enough to win next week.

by MJK :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 2:53am

I'm curious where Sammy Morris's DYAR placed him. He didn't have the receiving day that Faulk had, but it seemed like every time he touched the ball (usually on 1st or 2nd down), he rushed for between 4 and 20 yards, and I only him getting stuffed once. Then again, DYAR is a counting stat, so maybe sharing time with Jordan and Faulk hurt him.

"Being outrun by [JaMarcus] Russel might be a sign that you've lost a step".

Great line. And unfortunately, very very true.

by ammek :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 4:28am

When Packers GM Ted Thompson looks back on the roster construction of his 2008 team, the Packers' lack of depth at safety is going to be his biggest disappointment.

Oh that this were true!

Bigby's backup, Aaron Rouse, is active; so is the fourth safety, Charlie Peprah. But Mike McCarthy and Bob Sanders (defensive coordinator for the next 13 days and counting) have chosen not to start them. They believe former nickel back Tramon Williams is their fourth-best DB, and moving Charles Woodson to safety is a way to keep their best players on the field.

Bigby missed five weeks (3-7) earlier in the season when the Packers' pass defense was ranked in the top three. And the collapse of the unit began in New Orleans, with Bigby still active (and Woodson still at corner).

As MDS pointed out last week, the Packers' troubles are primarily caused by poor scheming, lack of prepararion, overzealous pursuit in the hope of making a big play, and above all the total absence of anything resembling a pass rush.

If Thompson regrets anything (and there's little public sign that he does), it should be entering 2008 with a knackered KGB and scrubs like Mike Montgomery as the backup DEs, and counting on Justin "call me Jamal Reynolds" Harrell to contribute at DT.

by MCS :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 9:06am

It's like the 13 days of Christmas! Man, I hope you're right.

I also hope that they don't promote Winston Moss, because he's "due". I hear Bates is available. Crennel may be looking for a job as well.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 2:33pm

Would Bates go back to Green Bay? Wasn't he a Sherman guy?

by ammek :: Wed, 12/17/2008 - 4:53am

As long as I don't hear the name 'Bob Slowik', I think I can entertain most possibilities.

I also think McCarthy should be looking for a proper offensive co-ordinator; I'm not sure what Joe Philbin does, exactly, but his area of 'expertise' is supposed to be the offensive line. Hmmm. At least Sherman Lewis grew a fine, brawny mustache.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 2:49pm

Absolutely. While I think the loss of Bigby may be fairly significant, as he had about 5 INTs last year and was a big hitter that could help the run defense, the big loss was when Cullen Jenkins was lost for the season.

Before he tore his pec, he was having the best year of any GB D-lineman, and provided the only pass rush other than Kampman. The double whammy was Harrell being unavailable in the preseason and being put on the PUP list to start the year to go along with Jenkins being lost, after trading away Corey Williams. If at least one of these guys had been able to put together a complete healthy season, or if Williams hadn't been traded, GB's fortunes might be much better at this point.

The good news for GB going into next year is that a little better luck with health and in close games could be enough to put GB back in the playoffs, even without other improvements (of course other improvements are definitely welcome).

by ammek :: Wed, 12/17/2008 - 5:01am

I don't get the Jenkins love. Sure, he looked good in three-and-a-half games this year. So did Gus Frerotte. Last season, in 15 starts, he managed an extraordinary 1 sack. Past performance offers no reason to believe he would continue to play at a high level throughout 2008; and certainly no reason to assume before the season started, as Ted Thompson did, that the defensive line would be ok with Jason Hunter, Jeremy Thompson, Montgomery and Harrell backing up Jenkins, while the team's main divisional rivals were making eyes at Jared Allen.

by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 10:32am

"Where was this guy earlier this year?! Sure, the Cardinals have only an average pass defense, but Jackson was incredibly efficient in his 17 passes, converting four of the seven third downs he faced, including three touchdowns."

Jackson played like this a few times last year as well (Oakland, NYG, Det, SF). Of course he also threw 5 interceptions in two key games down the stretch as well. The guy plays very well sometimes - he also sucks quite often.

As a Viking fan I hope he's simply improved. He looks decidedly better than Frerotte.

by Chip :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:03pm

T.Jack. looked good against avg. to below avg. teams (3 of the 4 you mentioned) and I can't help but think that he'll flame out when you'd least like it. My only consolation as a Bears fan is that when MIN makes the playoffs, the status quo will be reinforced (Chilly stays, Ferotte / TJ remain at QB, Speilman at GM).

Disparaging (jealous?) remarks aside, MIN really has demonstrated the value of focusing exclusively on building from the inside out. Pouring so many resources into the offensive and defensive lines at the expense of say, QB, should not be lost on anyone (Gerry Angelo are you listening?).

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 2:37pm

Angelo has devoted a lot of resources to the D-line, and he has drafted a tackle with the 14th pick. I would have liked a few more picks spent on O-linemen the past few years, but Angelo thought he could build through free agency. He didn't see the massive increases in the salary cap coming, which allowed teams to keep any player that they really wanted.

If Marc Columbo doesn't suffer one of the worst knee injuries ever, we probably aren't even having this discussion.

by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/16/2008 - 12:26pm

Chip - that is certainly the case. Even against NYG he threw only 12 passes and really won the game by running against the heavy rush.