Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» 2017 Adjusted Games Lost

Two NFC teams were hit hardest by injuries last year. One already set the AGL record in 2016, while the other has a coach with the worst AGL since 2002. Also: the Rams' incredible bill of health in L.A., and Tampa Bay's questionable injury reporting.

17 Sep 2008

Walkthrough: Broken Lines

by Mike Tanier

To: EHochuli@ref.com
From: Chargerz4ever
Subject: You Ruined the Season!

U suck. U must be blind or a Bronco lover. How much did Shanny pay you? U shouldn't ref a peewee game. Jerk.

To: Chargerz4ever
From: EHochuli@ref.com

I know I made a bad call. I am very sorry: so sorry that I am replying to each and every e-mail I receive. Football fans deserve well officiated games, and I have always dedicated myself to doing the best job I can every Sunday. Keep supporting your Chargers, and don't let my mistake ruin your season.

To: EHochuli@ref.com
From: PassionateFan

I can only imagine what you are going through after making such a major mistake on national television. I know you are getting tons of hate mail, but I want you to know that most fans realize that referee errors are part of the game. We know that you are a fine official who always conducted his business with dignity and integrity.

To: PassionateFan
From: EHochuli@ref.com

I appreciate your support. But I am serious about responding to each and every e-mail, even the ones filled with cursing and hatred. The fans need to know how seriously I take my job.

To: EHochuli@ref.com
From: Sir Anubi bar Banufi, Bank of Nigeria

Dear sir, we are top government official seeking to access ourselves to $25 000 000 of unmarked currency held in Swiss banks. We need American third partner to keep us out of transaction. If you wire $25 000 process fee, we agree to share money with you 50% each. We look forward from hearing to you on this business endeavor.

To: Sir Anubi bar Banufi
From: EHochuli@ref.com

I recognize how upset the people of Nigeria must be about my errant call on Sunday. Since you are a top government official, I wish to apologize to you, and I hope you convey my sorrow to your whole nation. The check is in the mail!

To: EHochuli@ref.com
From: ViagrisScripts

Make her moan all night. Double your size in two weeks and last forever. Discount overseas meds available from our site.

To: ViagrisScripts
From: EHochuli@ref.com

My heart goes out to all San Diego residents who experienced erectile dysfunction as a result of my blown call. I hope my apology is enough to bring the spark back. Let my whistle be the last premature thing you experience this year!

To: EHochuli@ref.com
From: MTanier@footballoutsiders.com

Mr. Hochuli, I'm an editor for one of the most popular football sites on the Internet, and have also written for ESPN, Fox Sports, the New York Times, and Maxim. I'd like to interview you and have an honest, non-sensationalized discussion about your call and the stresses of life as an NFL referee. It will be a great opportunity to tell your side of the story. Let me know if you have time.

To: MTanier@footballoutsiders.com
From: MailerDaemon

Failure Delivery Notice! The preceding e-mail could not be sent. Reason: Nobody wants to talk to a cornball blogger. Please contact EHochuli again when you have a real job. Until then, keep making Notfavre jokes, because they never get old.

Playoff Atmosphere is now a Summer Phenomenon

The NFL should change its playoff seeding policy to allow two NFC East teams to play in the Super Bowl.

You may disagree, but you have to admit that Monday Night's game was parsecs better than any other game in Week 2 except the Chargers-Broncos Whistle Bowl. Want to review your other options? Titans-Bengals, played in conditions better suited to testing the aerodynamics of Volvos than football. Steelers-Browns, in similar conditions, only wetter. Vikings-Colts, in which Peyton Manning tried to make Tom Santi the new Marvin Harrison while the Vikings feasted on field goals. Packers-Lions and Giants-Rams, close games only because the winners let up a bit. The Saints-Redskins game was close but sloppy. Jets-Patriots, for all of its star power, was excruciating. Chiefs-Raiders? 'Nuff said.

With Tom Brady injured, the Colts offense grinding gears, and the Chargers battling injuries and fate, the Steelers and Broncos are the only teams in the AFC that get the pulse syncopating. Which would you prefer: One of them facing off against an NFC team in the Super Bowl, or an Eagles-Cowboys rematch? If you don't like that matchup, how about a Cowboys-Giants duel? Throw the Packers into the mix, and the best teams and most interesting storylines are crowded into one conference.

The NFL won't be changing the playoff format anytime soon. And they probably shouldn't (it was just a journalistic lead, folks). But the two top games this week promise to provide ... let me be the first to say it ... a Playoff Atmosphere. That's good news, because most of this week's other games are glorified screen savers.

In Green Bay, Aaron Notfavre faces Tony Nextfavre. The over-under is 51, which means the Vegas oddsmakers are counting on a rain of toads at halftime. I made the mistake of believing that the Cowboys and Eagles defenses were better than their respective offenses last week. The Cowboys offense has the throttle open right now, with Tony Romo scoring Cowboys touchdowns and generating end zone bloopers in a healthy 4:1 ratio. The Packers offense moved the ball effectively against a good defense (Vikings) and a bad one (Lions). Aaron Rodgers is quickly silencing all doubters, though some skeptics are waiting to see him play well against the Cowboys. Cuz', you know, Brett Favre always won against the Cowboys.

The offenses may be chooglin', but both defenses are vulnerable. The Packers are very thin at cornerback. The Cowboys will be without Horsecollar Williams, which isn't a big deal because A) Williams isn't that good, and B) facemasking is the new horsecollaring in Dallas. The rest of the Cowboys secondary, except for top cornerback Terence Newman, is talented but mistake-prone. The Cowboys will win because their front seven holds a healthy advantage over the Packers offensive line. Since I am predicting a shootout, the final score will be 7-6.

Soggy conditions and Ben Roethlisberger's bum shoulder made the Steelers offense duller than safety scissors on Sunday Night. The weather will be better in Philly on Sunday, but Big Ben's shoulder won't be. The Steelers defense is as potent as ever, but the Eagles faced a quality 3-4 defense on Monday and scored 30 offensive points. DeSean Jackson is for real despite his premature discharge (by the way, the more they showed the replay, the further he got from the end zone when he spiked the ball. By the 10th rewind, I swear he was at midfield). The likely absence of Shawn Andrews will be tempered by the fact that Max Jean-Gilles was the starting right guard for most of the preseason. If Big Ben were healthy and Donovan McNabb looked like he did at the start of 2007, I would pick the Steelers. But McNabb looks great, the Eagles defense will rebound against a less explosive foe, and the Eagles will win.

Jags at Colts: This Week's Original Lead Game

To understand how the mighty have fallen in the AFC South, you have to realize what has gone wrong with the Colts and Jaguars offensive lines.

Figure 1: Vikings Shoot the Gap

Colts left tackle Tony Ugoh left last week's game with a groin injury in the second quarter. With center Jeff Saturday and guard Ryan Lilja already out, the Colts moved Charles Johnson from left guard to right tackle, swinging Ryan Diem from right tackle to Ugoh's spot and inserting Steve Justice at guard. That left the Colts with zero starting caliber linemen in their proper positions.

The Bears attacked the Colts makeshift line in Week 1 by putting their linebackers into the inside gaps, near the line of scrimmage. The Bears do this all the time, but I was surprised to see the Vikings follow their lead (Figure 1). The Vikings sometimes aligned E.J. Henderson (56) and Chad Greenway (52) in the A-gap, but in the figure shown Henderson attacks the A-gap and Ben Leber the strong-side B-gap. Greenway has man coverage on the tight end. When Saturday and friends are healthy, they can pick up blitzing linebackers without the help of Joseph Addai, and Dallas Clark has no trouble getting open in the middle. With the line in shambles, Addai must block on most passing plays and has nowhere to go on stretch runs. Tom Santi is no Clark, so opponents aren't afraid to cover him with a linebacker. Thanks to injuries, the Colts lost much of their running game and most of their underneath passing attack, severely curtailing their offense.

Figure 2: Toss and Fold Block

The Colts counterattacked with max-protect deep throws to Anthony Gonzalez and Reggie Wayne. They generated some running offense by pitching the ball to Addai and executing some pull and fold blocks. In Figure 2, the left tackle performs a basic fold block to seal the edge while everyone else scoops up his defender. It's a common tactic, designed to get the back to the edge quickly and trap the linebackers inside. It worked a few times, but it isn't really Colts football, and they were lucky they only had to score 18 points. Until Saturday leads the cavalry back (there's a slim chance he'll return this week; Ugoh's status wasn't clear at press time), the Colts aren't going to be able to effectively run the system that they've spent a decade perfecting.

In Jacksonville, Jack Del Rio and his staff dropped a half-dozen guards through the flour sifter, looking for two viable starters. After signing and cutting Chad Slaughter in the course of three days, the team settled on Uche Nwaneri and Milford Brown as the replacements for injured Maurice Williams and Vince Manuwai. Nwaneri is a second-year pro who entered the season as the team's top backup guard. Brown is a mammoth waiver wire veteran who joined the team last week. The tandem played well under the circumstances last week, but the Jaguars running backs were held to just 67 rushing yards. "I thought they did well," Fred Taylor said of the new starters. "They showed a lot of character and a lot of heart just going out there plugging in. We're going to make strides as we continue to give them more reps, especially big Milford."

Williams and Manuwai are done for the year, so it is up to Brown and Nwaneri to grow into their roles as starters. Former Jaguar Chris Naeole rejoined the team this week; he was once a very good starter but he's old and coming off a shoulder injury. He could push Brown once he rounds into shape. Extra reps are critical for a team that runs a lot of delays and draws. For Taylor and Jones-Drew to be successful, the guards must be able to execute double-teams with center Dennis Norman, then peel off and make blocks on the second level. They must develop a rhythm, and they must demonstrate quickness, which will be a problem for the slow-footed Brown. The Jaguars run offense will improve, but it will take time.

All of the line injuries will make this a low scoring game. In past years, the Jaguars defense has been stout enough to slow the full-strength Colts offense. They should be able to nearly shut down this year's unreasonable facsimile of the Peyton Show. If a mass healing occurs in Indy and Clark, Saturday, and Ugoh return to the fold, pick the Colts. That's unlikely, so I am picking the Jaguars, at least until the injury report is finalized.

Going to the Game

When a new stadium is built, most fans wonder about the sight lines, the amenities, the jumbo screens, and the beer prices. I wonder where everyone is going to park. Having never been to Indianapolis, I'm in no position to comment on Lucas Oil Stadium, new home of the Colts. So I talked to some people who have been to the new digs a few times. DeShawn Zombie of the Colts blog 18to88.com visited The Luke for both preseason games and the Colts home opener against the Bears. Here's his report:

Traffic: It doesn't have to be a problem if you are smart. There is precious little public transportation, but Indy is fairly well designed city and it's easy to get downtown quickly, unless you live on the North Central side. As long as you don't try and park "too deep" in toward the stadium, traffic won't be an issue.

Parking: There is a $3 municipal lot about four blocks from Lucas Oil. Seriously. Where on earth can you find $3 parking for anything anymore? You can pay as much as $30 to $40 to park a few blocks closer, but you'd have to have more money than sense. My brother made it unaccompanied from his car to his seat in 22 minutes. I walked with my parents (mid-50s) and stopped at the Colts pro shop, and we were still in our seats by the coin flip around 8:12. The biggest change in the parking situation is the tailgate scene. It has absolutely exploded. Last year we saw one person regularly tailgate in our lot (which was farther from the dome than most). In the $3 lot there were dozens of tailgaters and decked-out RVs. The bars and restaurants along South Street were all done up as well. There is a much better ambiance around the area than I have ever seen.

Ease of getting in: This was a MAJOR problem in the preseason as long lines for the escalators threatened to crush people. All the people flow problems were gone on Sunday night, however. We entered the Stadium on the opposite end from our seats and cleanly navigated with no pushing or crowding at all. There were no waits for the escalator. The ramp is also available, but it takes seven minutes to go from ground floor to the upper deck.

Food and drink: I only surveyed the upper deck options. The food is expensive, and of middling quality. A quarter-pound burger costs $7.75. Mini corndog nuggets (Yeah, we tried these. Yikes.) cost $7. Draft beer: $7. Pop (Coke products): $5.50 for a large. Wine and margaritas are also available, as are brats and other snacks.

Basically, if you are coming to a football game to eat, be prepared to pay a lot and not really enjoy the food. That's what tailgating is for.

Bathrooms: There are two kinds: Main bathrooms which have many urinals, and side bathrooms generously scattered around the walkways (yes, I realize that sentence sounds weird). The side bathrooms have two stalls and 10 urinals. When I used one before the two-minute warning, it was already out of paper towels. I was told the main bathrooms have far more stalls.

My mom gave a report on the women's bathroom saying that there were a lot of stalls, and a full length mirror. She said they were a drastic improvement over the Dome bathrooms.

Sightlines: Very nice views from all sides, but in the corners there are issues. The seats in most spots are great, but I wouldn't pay to sit in any of the four end zone corners in the Upper Deck. Sitting on the visitor's sideline, the view out the bay window is of the Hoosier (RCA no more!) Dome. The home sideline has a spectacular view of the city.

Volume: This was perhaps the most poorly reported issue of the new stadium. Walking to our seats during the pregame, the volume was deafening, and the buzz was high. During pregame introductions, I couldn't hear my brother or my mom who were right next to me. The stadium seemed every bit as loud as the Dome. Unfortunately both the events and style of the game gave the fans little to cheer for, so it was reported that the venue wasn't as loud. It was; it was the fans who weren't as loud. The "noise" stand on defense occurred right at the start of the second half, and many people weren't in their seats yet. I have no doubts that the Luke will be nearly as loud as the Hoosier Dome was, once the team gives the people something to cheer for.

Thanks DeShawn. Louder than the Dome? Just wait until they flip the "Patriots" switch; it will set off car alarms in Terre Haute. Special thanks to Mrs. Zombie for checking the ladies' bathrooms for us.

Nutshells, Part I

Panthers at Vikings
Reason to watch: With Steve Smith back, the Panthers offense won't bore us with endless runs off tackle and passes to obscure tight ends. Instead, they'll bore us with a dozen incomplete bombs to Smith. Back-to-back comeback victories should be exciting. When the Panthers do it, it feels like erosion. Plus: Gus Frerotte!
Pointless storyline: Are the Vikings the best 0-2 team in football? Are the Panthers the weakest 2-0 team? Will anyone care when both teams are 8-8?
Pick: Pencil in a Vikings win here; they'll dominate the line of scrimmage, and they've really played better than their record suggests. Frerotte is usually good for one -- and only one -- win off the bench. That said, the Panthers may be 4-1 after visits by the Falcons and Chiefs. That kind of start can keep a mediocre team in the chase for a while.

Rams at Seahawks
Reason to watch: When the Seahawks' grab-a-guy receiving corps (Keary Colbert???) meets the Rams toast-a-riffic secondary, it could cause an antimatter explosion that rips a hole in the fabric of space-time.
Pointless storyline: Josh Brown returns to Seattle to exact revenge on his former team with a barrage of 54-yard field goals. If Brown was still in Seattle, he would be the slot receiver.
Pick: The Seahawks are bad; the Rams abysmal. Seahawks.

Browns at Ravens
Reason to watch: Last's years games appeared to end in 26-24 and 30-27 wins for the Ravens. Unfortunately, instant replay revealed that Phil Dawson's last-second field goal in the second game bounced off the thing-a-ma-gig behind the crossbars. The Ravens were called out of the locker room to play overtime, and Dawson's next kick won the game for the Browns. Someday I will talk about that game on NFL's Top 10.
Pointless storyline: The Ravens may have been helped by their surprise early bye week, courtesy Hurricane Ike. The downside is that the Ravens will have to play five straight road games later in the year. "To be honest, we're looking forward to it," coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun. "It's going to be an opportunity, and it's going to be a challenge. That'll be something we take on with relish and attack it with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind."
Pick: The Ravens will win and Harbaugh will be medicated.

Raiders at Buffalo
Reason to watch: If Lane Kiffin gets fired midway through the first quarter and you miss it, you'll kick yourself all week. Plus, the Bills are 2-0 against two pretty good (on paper, anyway) opponents. You may want to actually watch one of their games.
Pointless storyline: Al Davis and Ralph Wilson may form a Bucket Club and travel the world as two mismatched geezers fulfilling their final fantasies. Along the way, Davis will teach Wilson the joy of spending a buck now and then, and Wilson will teach Davis that even an 800-year-old vampire lich needs to smile now and then.
Pick: A low score and a Bills win.

All Fired Up

About midway through this summer's overrated, hyper-serious, interminable Batman movie, the Joker stands in the middle of the street, injured and unarmed, after a rather exciting chase sequence. Batman races straight at him in a suped-up, overtly-phallic Bat Cycle, obviously intending to give the J-man the full Roethlisberger. Joker stands motionless, muttering something like "C'mon. C'mon. Do it." It's a fine bit of characterization: The Joker is not only suicidal, but he knows that he can destroy Batman by turning the hero into a murderer.

Batman doesn't slam into the Joker. He doesn't ride past and clothesline him, or shoot him full of non-lethal Bat Tranquilizers, or do anything we'd expect a resourceful hero to do. There's almost an hour left in the movie, so Batman skids out, leading to several plot twists and a bad case of cutoff circulation to the viewer's buttocks.

When I think of Lane Kiffin, I think of the Joker in the middle of the road, waiting to see if the unhinged millionaire has the stones to take him down. When rumors surfaced late last week that Kiffin would be fired if he didn't beat the Chiefs, I envisioned the young coach muttering, "C'mon, c'mon, do it, do it." I half expected him to put Darren McFadden at quarterback for the whole game and allow DeAngelo Hall to call defensive signals.

Kiffin isn't crazy like the Joker. He knows that he becomes Mike Shanahan, Jr., the moment he's fired. Davis is the man with something to lose. If he fires Kiffin any time in the next month, his last apologists will abandon him, and the few qualified candidates still willing to work in Oakland will cross the Raiders off their list.

In Rams country, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote Monday that Scott Linehan should do "the honorable thing" and resign after his team's 0-2 start. Miklasz didn't suggest Jim Haslett as a successor; the St. Louis press has finally figured out that Haslett is barely coordinator material, let along a viable head coach. "If you want an interim, plead with Dick Vermeil to come back and get you through the rest of the season," Miklasz writes.

Miklasz knows that Linehan won't be fired until late in the year at the earliest, he knows a coaching change won't help the team, and he knows damn well that Vermeil isn't looking for work. Sometimes, in the columnist business, being the first guy to shout "Fire the Coach!" has its advantages, so Miklasz jumped the snap count. The Marinelli and Nolan haters will reach full voice by the middle of October.

By firing a coach in Week 2, a team demonstrates front office ineptitude, which can scare away coaching candidates and free agents. A losing season doesn't have to be a lost season if young players develop, and the best way for young players to develop is in a system that was established in the spring and implemented throughout the summer. It's one thing for an interim coach to give a few brimstone speeches and wind the guys up for some meaningless December games. It's another matter for Rob Ryan or Haslett to try to take over with 14 game plans left to design and three months of evaluation to perform. It's nonproductive to do and foolish to suggest. If Davis axes Kiffin, it's yet another dark day for Raiders football. Rams ownership is making growling sounds about Linehan, but they aren't likely to pull the plug just yet.

In the movie, Batman understood that hope for Gotham lay not with costumed vigilantes but with better law enforcement and a more proactive legal system (a plot point that looks good on paper but makes for a dull Dark Knight who spends too much time kissing Harvey Dent's keester). Football success lies with an integrated scouting, development, coaching, and personnel acquisition plan. If an owner fires a coach after two weeks, he's indicting the team's whole system. That's why early firings are so rare, and it's why Kiffin may be cackling hysterically all the way to the unemployment line sometime in the next few days/weeks.

Nutshells, Part II

Jets at Chargers
Reason to watch: This game is a cut above the others on this list, though a killjoy would suggest that it pits a 4-12 team from last year against an 0-2 team this year. For those who feel that Brett Favre plays like he had a rabbit's foot enema and the Chargers are getting the Anne Boleyn treatment (royally screwed, then beheaded), this game offers hope of karmic retribution.
Pointless storyline: If you are sick of both Favre and Hochuli, then you will find the top two storylines pretty pointless. All eyes should be on LaDainian Tomlinson's toe: If he's lost or slowed, the Chargers' future looks even more grim.
Pick: The Jets just aren't that good on either side of the ball. Even with Tomlinson limited, the Chargers should win easily.

Chiefs at Falcons
Reason to watch: You are single, lonely, broke, unlikable, and possess nothing in this world except a television and a broken satellite dish permanently locked to this game.
Pointless storyline: This game has serious First Overall Pick implications. A Falcons win here would put them at 2-1 (holy crud), taking them out of the early running for Michael Oher or whoever. At 0-3, with losses to the Raiders and Falcons, the Chiefs would possess important tiebreakers. It's never too early to think about next year's draft!
Pick: Thigpen or Huard, it's all the same. Falcons.

Buccaneers at Bears
Reason to watch: The Bears without Devin Hester are more like a performance art troupe than a football team. "Let's stand perfectly motionless to represent the futility of driving down the field!" The Buccaneers offense grinds you away with little gears. Off-tackle runs to Matt Forte and flat passes to Ike Hilliard: Football for people who like their saltines unsalted.
Pointless storyline: Jeff Garcia hasn't been linked to the Bears -- yet. That only means that the Internet rumor mongers are too busy stringing up the refs to do their duty. I don't think the Bucs would ship Garcia to any NFC opponent for the same reason that the Packers wouldn't trade Favre to the Vikings or Bears. While listening to Garcia rumors and watching Brian Griese on Sunday, ask yourself why such a tough, inspiring leader like Garcia has such a hard time staying in one city for more than a year.
Pick: Hester probably won't play, and the Bucs don't turn the ball over much. That means no defense or special teams touchdowns for the Bears. Which means no touchdowns for the Bears. Bucs.

Dolphins at Patriots
Reason to watch: What, Matt Cassel vs. Chad Henne doesn't glue you to your set? OK, so Chad Pennington is still the Dolphins starter. Henne might have made the game more interesting.
Pointless storyline: Anything with a Parcells/Belichick angle. They coached together back in the 1920s, right?
Pick: The Dolphins have a lot of problems, but their secondary is their biggest weakness. Randy Moss and Wes Welker will be open all the time. Cassel only has to get the ball to them about half the time. Patriots.

Bengals at Giants
Reason to watch: The Giants are like big house cats who toy with their prey before putting them away. That will keep this game interesting for about three quarters.
Pointless storyline: Marv Lewis on his team's 0-2 start: "We have to be consistent each and every play. It's like the guys who put on your lug nuts the last time you had a tire change, you hope they did it right. So you better get the same guy to do it every time and the same way every time. That's the analogy I used with the team. When they go take their car in, they hope the guy inside did it right, and hope that he doesn't decide that you only need three of the four lug nuts. That's the way we'll go about it and that's the way it has to be." But what if your mechanic relishes his job and attacks your car with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind?
Pick: The Giants will be 3-0 at the bye. Just in time for the Mets to blow it.

Texans at Titans
Reason to watch: You missed the Texans last week. What, you didn't notice that their game was canceled? Their absence didn't create a gaping void in your football viewing experience? Well, they're back, and the AFC South is suddenly anybody's division.
Pointless storyline: No, it's not "anybody's division." I like the Texans' young roster. I like the Titans' defense, their offensive tackles, and Chris Johnson. I don't believe for a second that the Jaguars and Colts will be down long enough to let the young 'uns take over the pool.
Pick: None. Haven't seen enough of the Texans yet to call a tricky divisional game.

Cardinals at Redskins
Reason to watch: You've heard great things about Adrian Wilson and you finally want to watch him play.
Pointless storyline: Cardinals fans are highly susceptible to "this is the year" talk after a 2-0 start. If they mean "this is the year we go 9-7 in an awful division, sneak into the playoffs, and get clobbered by the NFC East Wild Card team," I'm listening.
Pick: The Redskins offense showed some life last week, but their defense carried them by forcing turnovers and applying constant pressure. Kurt Warner has trouble dealing with pressure. Redskins.

Saints at Broncos
Reason to watch: The Saints secondary, like the Colts and Jaguars offensive lines, has been torn apart by injuries: cornerbacks Mike McKenzie and Randall Gay, safety Roman Harper. Unlike the Colts and Jaguars, the Saints secondary wasn't very good to begin with. Brandon Marshall could catch 20 passes this week, with Eddie Royal chipping in a half-dozen two-point conversions.
Pointless storyline: If you are healthy enough to run the ball twice in a game, then you are probably healthy enough to run it 12 to 15 times in a game, right? The Saints need Deuce McAllister's power running, but Sean Payton has instituted the two-carry pitch count. Tune in to see if Deuce can count to three this week.
Pick: Broncos, with lots of fireworks.

Lions at Niners
Reason to watch: Patrick Willis is a truly exciting player. So are Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. There's also a chance that Mike Nolan and Rob Marinelli will shoot laser beams through each other's hearts with their tough-guy stares.
Pointless storyline: Mike Martz faces his former team and gets in the revenge line behind the eight other offensive coordinators Matt Millen fired in the past seven years. Jon Kitna may walk to the sidelines during an interception return, call Martz, and ask for a trade to San Francisco.
Pick: Marinelli on his team's 0-2 start and their inconsistent play: "Is it hard to swallow? Yeah, it's a big turkey going down my throat, a couple bones sticking in there. I've got to spit the bones out and move forward." It's Walkthrough policy never to pick a team the week after their head coach mentions bone spitting. Niners.

And Finally

I'd like to thank the French blog 6 Verges et les Buts for saying this about me back in August:

"Le Walkthrough de Mike Tanier sur Football Outsiders. Toujours une des meilleurs chroniques hebdomadaires, c'est intéressant et drôle, même en pré-saison."

Mike Tan-ee-ay is the Jerry Lewis of football. I can't wait until Tony Kornheiser translates that blurb for me.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 17 Sep 2008

38 comments, Last at 06 Mar 2013, 11:36pm by rominahotcom


by Phillies Fan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 5:17pm

"The Giants will be 3-0 at the bye. Just in time for the Mets to blow it."

Football articles relating to baseball? Can't wait for the NASCAR reference, I'll be watching for it...

by shake n bake :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 5:27pm

I don't think Diem switched positions. When Ugoh went down last year (and before Diem went down) they just plugged Charlie Johnson in on the left side. Also in the Vikings game Johnson was matched up against Vikings' right end Jared Allen on every play I noticed him. Unless they moved Allen to the other side for most of the second half I think it was Charlie Johnson at left tackle and Diem stayed at right.

Jeff Saturday is expected to play vs Jags, he practiced all last week and both days so far this week. Dallas Clark has also practiced both days and Dungy has said if Clark can practice he'll play. Ugoh hasn't practiced and will probably be out for Sunday, but return after next weeks Colts bye.

by shake n bake :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 7:33pm

NFL.com has Colts-Vikings as it's game of the week. They have extended highlights here


Charlie Johnson (74) is at left tackle on the plays at the 4:05 and 4:38 marks. The plays are out of order somewhat so you then see Ugoh at Left Tackle twice, once with Johnson pulling from the left guard spot. You see him again at LT at the end of the sack at 6:58 (with a very clear replay of him getting beat by Jared Allen). At LT again at the 7:45 mark.

9:54 (can't tell for sure, but the number ends in four and the lineman is the right skin color to be Johnson)
10:30 (Johnson on the offensive left standing next to Allen after the completion

I was sure he had played some LT, but thought he might have swapped with Diem later or at first, but there wasn't a single play in that video with someone besides Ugoh or Johnson at LT.

by Mike Tanier :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 6:23am

I get my right and left mixed up sometimes, as old TDZ readers can attest. And I didn't have game tape so I was looking at my notes from Sunday.

by tuluse :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 5:28pm

Mike Tainer is aware the Bears currently have a positive offensive DVOA, good for 17th in the league? Sure, it's not the most exciting offense, but it isn't the apex of ineptitude either.

Also, Mr Tainer is way off on Dark Knight, it was one of the best movies I've seen.

by MJK :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 5:41pm

Remember way back in the pre-season when the best teams in the NFL were the Patriots and the Colts and the Chargers, and the Jags might qualify as well, and this was the Brown's year, and, oh yeah, over in that NFC-thing, the Cowboys might be kind of good too?

Yeah, a lot has changed in two weeks.

by Jon :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 6:06pm

But won't Giants fans be a lot more worked up about the Yankees?

by MJK :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 7:10pm

I've read about how the demographic lines break down for Yankees fans versus Mets fans (Yankees = Bronx, sw Connecticut, half of Manhattan, Mets = Brooklyn, other half of Manhattan, Queens) -- do Giants/Jets lines look similar? In baseball, you get the fact that the Yankees and Mets play in different places--but not so with the Giants and Jets. How do New Yorkers choose their football allegiances?

by Temo :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 9:35pm

I'm pretty sure the Yankees have most of Brooklyn too.

To answer your question, Giants/Jets stuff usually runs in families. I am friends with mostly Jets fans (I'm a Cowboys fan myself... blame my immigrant parents for not giving a shit about American football), and their whole family is Jets fans. Same for Giants fans. Rarely, if ever, do you see a family where the father is Giants and his kids are Jets fans, or vice versa.

And while it is true that Giants fans are usually Yankee fans and Jets fans are usually Mets fans, I wouldn't say that the trend is very strong. Anecdotally (is this a word?), I'd say about 70% of Giants fans are Yankee fans and 60% of Jets fans are Mets fans.

The family connection seems to apply a lot more there, and the geography considerations are not too important (they both play in New Jersey, and it's been a long time since the Jets played at Shea). I will say though that, 52% of Giants season ticket holders live in New Jersey (rest split between NY/Connecticut/out of state) while the biggest majority of Jets season ticket holders are from Long Island.

by Bobman :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 1:59am

21 years living in a Giants/Yankees household and 9 more living in Manhattan (before escaping to sanity in Seattle) tells me that there are geographic as well as socioeconomic breakdowns for Yankees/Giants and Mets/Jets fans. I'd say Temo's percentages above are right, but maybe a little low. Offhand I'd guess a 75% or higher correlation.
I'm a lifelong Pirate fan (ergo Mets = bad) who lived MUCH closer to Yankee Stadium than Shea, so I got season tickets and sort of became a Yankee fan. Happens to mesh with 100% of my family (Gramp used to play gin rummy with Rizzuto and Berra), so that works okay.
It's probably not so much the neighborhood one lives in as an adult, but where you grew up. People from the geographical Long Island (which has Queens and Brooklyn at its western end) or whose folks grew up there and influenced the kids tend to be Mets/Jets folk. Giants and Yankees used to share a stadium, and the Bronx generally belongs to them. Manhattan randomly split--has too many outsiders living there to reliably predict. Western CT and Northern NJ tend to be Yankee/Giant places, but it's no lock. I moved away 12 years ago, so the Jets' impact in NJ might be stronger now.
Interesting subset of Mets fans: Dodger haters (much like Baltimoreans who hate the Colts). Yes, 50 years later, this disease has been passed from father to child in more than one family. I haven't come across many SF Giant haters of a similar background.

by JasonK :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 8:26am

And the family allegiances tend to come from when that particular family developed an interest in pro football.
Pre-1967: Giants
1967-1983: Mostly Jets
1984-Present: Mostly Giants

by Jon :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 2:58am

I didn't want to start a derail, but it's kind of irksome to read an Eagles fan gloat about the Mets, or Curt Schilling open his mouth before the Pats play the Jets. I actually was rooting for the Pats and Phillies last year.

Man, NY/NJ-area sports are in a bad place right now besides the Giants. At least we're not Seattle fans.

by Grafac (not verified) :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 7:11pm

Is the toss not effectively replacing the stretch play because it is inherently inferior or is it because of the o-line? Were the Colts running to keep the defense honest and did it matter? What is the point of running that toss, or any run, if it proves ineffective . . . say after the middle of the second quarter? It seems like wasted downs. With Dallas Clark in they have a super elite receiving corp. Manning really hasn't looked that far from normal considering the o-line. If Clark and Saturday are in this Sunday - why not just go ahead and get in max-protect and throw and throw and throw? With Manning unable to run the stretch play, and the o-line not there to support it anyway, I rather the Colts throw in futility than run in futility. And if the Jags back off the line to pass protect then maybe run the ball.

by armchair journe... :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 7:16pm

babelfish says:

"Walkthrough of Mike Tanier on Football Outsiders. Always one of best the weekly chronicles, c' is interesting and funny, even into pre-saison."

and translates the blog name as "6 Rods and Goals." I think I'm going to need a translation of that translation.

armchair journeyman quarterback

by Brant Bjork and... :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 10:02pm

Being a native French (Canadian) speaker, I can say Babelfish's translation is pretty much accurate but not perfect. This is how I would humbly translate it:

Walkthrough by Mike Tanier on Football Outsiders. Always one of the best weekly columns, it's interesting and funny, even during the preseason.

6 Yards and Goal to Go.

Never heard of these guys before, but it's not like I look France's way to get informed on American Football either.

by DZ (not verified) :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 7:23pm

First off, thanks to Mike to letting me contribute. Secondly, Shake is right. Johnson played at left tackle the whole game. Diem stayed at right tackle. I'm not sure why Tanier thought differently.

Follow the link in my name to the NFL game highlights. Diem (71) can clearly be seen at right tackle and Johnson (74) at left tackle throughout the game. It helps to know that Diem is white and Johnson is black (in case you can't make out the numbers).

by shake n bake :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 7:34pm

well I don't know about black, is he latino? He's lighter than Ugoh, darker than Diem for sure.

by Bobman :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 2:11am

And speaking of numbers.... the Jaddai Master is #29, not #28. I believe that's the same as Eric Dickerson and Joe Washington before him.

Otherwise, Mister Tanier, genius as usual.

by Lance :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 7:37pm

So Al Davis is an 800-year-old vampire lich? When I was 15, I think I fought him with my 20th level elven fighter/magic-user.

by Telamon :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 8:04pm

Whoo boy, asking for a poo-storm bashing TDK. Can we please keep it on football?

Great article though, as always. But don't go leaving us for them Frenchies, Mike.

by old :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 11:34pm

It is kind of interesting that Al Davis has let his team fall so far. Davis, at one time, probably knew more about football than most coaches in the league. I believe both he and Noll coached for the Los Angeles Chargers in the early 60's. I wonder what happened to Davis? I never liked Davis, or his teams, but I used to respect him. Now, not so much.

by Kellerman :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 5:34pm

Could be a simple case of senility or at least the loss of that certain flexibility of mind combined with self-discipline that excellent coaching or front officing requires.

by Drunken5yearold :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 11:35pm

(detour from football)

Am I the only one that thought Batman Begins did a far better job in the whole "actually telling a complete story" department? It had a well-defined beginning, middle, and end. Characters progressed and had arcs. The script was meticulous in explaining just how a rich orphan could turn into a costumed vigilante. Sure, Katie Holmes sucked but whatever. I thought it was brilliant how they used a series of lesser villains to keep the focus on Batman instead of having one or two main villains for him to fight.

The Dark Knight just seemed very static to me. The lack of progression and illogical plot were compounded with an almost arrogant attempt to prevent the viewer from actually deriving an enjoyment from the flick. It's relentlessly depressing. Heath Ledger's amazing performance carried the whole thing. Altogether, I'm betting that the movie won't hold up over time and repeat viewings.

Also, Batman Returns sucked. Why do people argue that one was any good?

(Begins > Dark Knight > Batman > Forever > Returns > B&R)

by Boston Dan :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 7:09am

Saturday expected to play in Week 3
Rotoworld.com - 19 hours ago
Coach Tony Dungy said he expects C Jeff Saturday (knee) to be ready for Week 3. "Jeff is ready to go and kind of felt like he was ready to go last week,"

Not as sure about Clark on Rotoworld.

Colts head coach Tony Dungy says he thinks Clark (knee) could play this week. "It feels strong; it feels stable," Clark told the Indianapolis Star. "Hopefully, it will make it through and it doesn't get any more sore or any of the other stuff."

As a fantasy owner that drafted both Manning and McNabb, only to later trade McNabb for Steven Jackson, this is excellent news.

As a Patriots fan, I wish for no injuries to opposing players.

As an a NFL fan, it will be nice to see the Colts progress back towards the high-octane, exciting offense that we've come to expect.

by Boston Dan :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 7:06am

"The Ravens may have been helped by their surprise early bye week, courtesy Hurricane Ike."

Precisely why I will probably pick the Texans to win, even though Haynesworth will be back in the lineup.

They've got to be better offensively than what we saw in week one!

And the game against Baltimore was canceled on Friday (right?), which allowed the Texans slightly more time to prepare for this game.

by big_adventure :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 7:31am

"Le Walkthrough de Mike Tanier sur Football Outsiders. Toujours une des meilleurs chroniques hebdomadaires, c'est intéressant et drôle, même en pré-saison."

Real Translation:
Walkthrough by Mike Tanier on Football Outsiders. Always one of the best weekly reviews, it's funny and interesting, even in the preseason.

Much more fun translation:

The magazine of the project of Mike Tanier on foreigners of soccer. Always one of the better weekly chronicles, it is interesting and funny, even in the pré-saison.

To get this, I just used Freetranslation.com to go from French to English, then used Babelfish to go back to French, and then Freetranslation again to get that French again into English. I would have done the last round with google translate, but that is blocked by my proxy for some completely unknowable reason.

Sean (live from Paris, France)

by Anonymous (not verified) :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 7:56am

It's rare that I find something so snarky I can't read it. This column fits the bill, though. Please pick the games and say something real instead of trying to be clever.

by Jimmy :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 12:31pm

Your life must be a never-ending beacon of light and positivity, I bet you never have to leave the enchanted glade you created for yourself out of moonbeams and pixie dust.

Also I have to ask what kind of mileage do you get out of that nimbus cloud you ride around on?

by Bionicman (not verified) :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 12:58pm

What a disaster of an article. The most 'informative' section mixed up the right and left tackles and told us that the Colts 'generated some running offense' (twenty five yards) with a pitch play that 'worked a few times' (i.e. the pitch play that had dozens of Colt fans on about three different message boards talking about what a useless, counterproductive play it was). The 'playoff atmosphere' section talked about how bad last week's games were, ignoring the 33-30 Seahawks-Niners game and the 20-16 Bills-Jaguars game because the writer was too busy twisting facts to fit his story. The picks section featured an author blithely insulting team after team regardless of performance this season (Panthers, Bears, Cardinals) and describing games as 'boring' for no apparent reason (Saints-Broncos, Redskins-Cardinals, Vikings-Panthers, Colts-Jaguars). I learned nothing from the article about football; the 'analysis' was worthy of Tony Kornheiser. Oh, and I don't care what movie you're talking about; an author who takes ten pages to say nothing has no business calling anything else 'interminable.'

by isaiahc :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 2:34pm

So, Lane Kiffen = Joker, Al Davis = Batman. Does that mean Goodell = Harvey Dent? Ryan = Lucius Fox? Russell = Lt. Gordon? McFadden = Robin?
Picturing Darren McFadden running down the field in red, green, and yellow tights. Interesting.

-Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.-

by Eddo :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 3:03pm

At 0-3, with losses to the Raiders and Falcons, the Chiefs would possess important tiebreakers. It's never too early to think about next year's draft!
Head-to-head record is not a tiebreaker for the NFL draft. Draft order is determined based on:
1) Worse overall record
2) Worse strength-of-schedule
3) Coin flip

by tuluse :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 11:16pm

Apparently whether or not you make the playoffs, and what round you lose in also effects draft order.


by OMAR :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 3:17pm

Egads! What sorcery is this? There was enough paralyzing gas in the comments section to keep ordinary men unconscious for hours!

Holy hypercritical comments, Batman! This was a walkthrough, not advanced statistical alalysis.

Your cold comments do not bother me. Naturally, you didn't know I was wearing my special Super B long thermal underwear.

I thought the article was lighthearted and clever, but now I have to run. It's Alfred's emergency belt-buckle Bat-call signal! He's in trouble!

by mm (not verified) :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 11:11pm

If you are healthy enough to run the ball twice in a game, then you are probably healthy enough to run it 12 to 15 times in a game, right? The Saints need Deuce McAllister's power running, but Sean Payton has instituted the two-carry pitch count. Tune in to see if Deuce can count to three this week

For what it's worth, Payton isn't holding back Deuce because of fear of injury. He played a good amount the 4th preseason game, so they're not afraid of him getting hit. The coaches feel he's getting stronger every week (just like last year, McNabb was much better in the 2nd half of the season than the 1st half). However, for the first 2 weeks (at least) they felt that Pierre Thomas at 100% is better than a McAllister who's still at 85% (or whatever).

They're taking a similar approach with McKenzie (their best CB). He also played a good amount of the last preseason game, but hasn't even been active for the last 2 weeks. However, it looks like he may play this week, although maybe as a backup.

by Paul (not verified) :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 3:18pm


Jeff Saturday-Dallas Clark scheduled to play on Sunday, with Ugoh declared out...Still taking those Jags?

by Paul (not verified) :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 3:19pm


Jeff Saturday-Dallas Clark scheduled to play on Sunday, with Ugoh declared out...Still taking those Jags?

by Bruce Smith (not verified) :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 3:58pm

skeptics waiting to see Aaron Rodgers play well against the Cowboys might want to check the tape on Green Bay v. Dallas Nov 29 chaptr2007.

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