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Guest columnist John Kinsley breaks down the tape of every deep pass in the NFL in 2017 and comes away with a shocking conclusion: even without Andrew Luck, the Colts had the best long-ball quarterback in the league.

16 Dec 2009

Walkthrough: The Elf and I

by Mike Tanier

Every year, Tanier enlists the help of Hermey the Playoff Scenarios Elf to explain tiebreaker procedures. This year, unfortunately, is no exception.

Tanier: It's good to have you back, Hermey. It's a shame I can't use you during the rest of the season.

Hermey: It's the life I've chosen. As a Playoff Scenarios Elf, I am only relevant in mid to late December. It's no different than being a Santa Elf, though the pay is worse. The Heisman Prognosticator Elves have the same problem. I feel sorry for my friend Jangle, whose been touting Colt McCoy for three months. The poor guy has lost a lot of credibility.

Tanier: Ever thought of going back to the North Pole?

Hermey: I'm not really welcome there anymore.

Tanier: Really? I thought after you, Rudolph, and Yukon Cornelius saved Christmas, it was all smooth sailing.

Hermey: Oh, for a while Rudolph's droppings didn't stink, so to speak. Then it all went south, not that there a lot of directional options up there.

Rudolph married Clarise, and they were happy for a while. But Dasher and the others threw very wild, very literal stag parties. And Rudolph was the star, between the red nose and the deep, throaty groans he could emit from his throat sack. The things that went on ... well, they were animals, of course. It was inevitable that he would wind up face down in the driveway like he did. Then Clarise was spotted in Cabo with Fireball and the tabloids went nuts.

Tanier: What about Cornelius?

Hermey: You remember that gun he kept in the front of his belt? He shot himself in the leg accidentally at a nightclub. I had to drive him to the hospital. I was so scared that I signed in under an assumed name.

Tanier: Antonio Pierce?

Hermey: How did you know? Anyway, I talk to Rudolph once in a while, and he says he's reformed. Bros before does, and all that. I am just trying to rebuild. Nowadays, there are Draft Day Elves and Injury Report Elves. We all have our niche. We can all survive the economic downturn.

Tanier: Have this season's playoff scenarios hurt you financially?

Hermey: When the Colts and Saints clinched early, it spoiled my dreams of paying off that 2005 Nissan in the parking lot. The NFC West has been an annual source of frustration. Three years out of the last four, you could pencil the division winner into a playoff berth in October and write everybody else off. Sure, the 49ers are making a little run, but they aren't doing anything interesting, tiebreaker-wise. They swept the Cardinals -– everybody understands a sweep.

Two-team races also provide very little jingle for me. The Chargers and Broncos will probably both make the playoffs, the Chargers as the champ and the Broncos as a Wild Card. No one needs an elf to explain that to them. Thank goodness there are ten 6-7 and 7-6 teams running around. They are keeping me in business.

Tanier: Let's talk about those 7-6 and 6-7 teams in the AFC.

Hermey: It all starts with the Dolphins. They are 7-6 and have three 6-7 teams on the upcoming schedule. They can knock the Titans out this week, then take care of the Texans (who play the Rams on Sunday) the following week. That should put them in such a good position that they can even lose to the Steelers and make the playoffs at 9-7. They have a head-to-head win against the Jaguars and a sweep of the Jets on their resume, so they are in great position to rise above the other mediocre teams.

Tanier: Even though the Colts clinched, they can have a major effect on the AFC race.

Hermey: They have the Jaguars Thursday night and the Jets in two weeks, so by the end of the week we will know how they did against the Jaguars. If the Jaguars win, they go 9-7 at least, with Cleveland facing them in Week 17. It's then a matter of who else is 9-7. Remember that it's not just the Jets, Ravens, Dolphins, Titans, or Texans: The Broncos or the Patriots could also be there. If you give the Jaguars wins over the Browns and either the Colts or Patriots, that's an 8-4 conference record, which will help if the wind up battling a team they haven't played, like the Ravens or Broncos.

As for the Jets, all of those tight losses are deadly: the Jaguars loss, the Dolphins losses. The Jets hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Titans and Texans, but those are crazy scenarios. If the Colts keep battling for a 16-0 record, they can knock both the Jets and Jaguars off the pace, paving the way for a team like the Ravens to sneak in.

Tanier: Has the NFC East picture cleared up for you?

Hermey: A little. The Eagles did a good job of beating NFC teams, and their 4-1 division record puts them in good shape. But here's a nightmare scenario for you: Say the Cowboys lose to the Saints but win their next two games. The Eagles beat the Niners, lose to the Broncos, then lose to the Cowboys. The Giants win out. That puts everyone at 10-6. It's a three-way tie, but the Giants swept the Cowboys, the Eagles swept the Giants, and the Cowboys, in this scenario, swept the Eagles. All three teams are 2-2 in the head-to-head.

It would then go to the divisional record. All three teams would be 4-2. Next come the common games. The Giants and Cowboys would be 5-3 in out-of-division common games: 2-2 against the AFC West and 3-1 against the NFC South. The Eagles would be 4-4 (remember, we penciled in a Saints win over the Cowboys and a Broncos win over the Eagles). That eliminates the Eagles.

Tanier: My head hurts.

Hermey: Once the Eagles are eliminated, the league reverts back to the two-team tiebreakers. That gives the Giants the division on the strength of their sweep of the Cowboys. The Eagles and Cowboys then go into the Wild Card tiebreaker pool. If it's just the two of them at 10-6, then the Eagles win because of their sweep. If the Packers are also 10-6, they gum everything up, because they only have a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Cowboys.

It gets so complicated that my initial analysis was wrong; thanks to Pat and other readers who caught my calculation errors.

Tanier: Loony scenarios aside, it sounds like this has been a bad year for football elves. Is there a bright side?

Hermey: Well, on-field elves are doing very well. Drew Brees is having one of the best elfin seasons in years. Elvis Dumervil is another ... you know that the name "Elvis" is derived from the word "elf"?

Tanier: Etymologists disagree. They think the word comes from the Scandinavian legends of the dwarf Alviss.

Hermey: That's not what the Etymology Elves think, though they may be biased. At any rate, this is the year of the elf, not the dwarf, though Dave Campo did make some midseason headlines.

Before I go, let me remind Football Outsiders readers that I am available to talk elf at any time, just email me through Tanier. I also have a Facebook account, and you can become my fan, though I use social networking mostly to sell Hermey dolls and shirts, not playoff scenarios.

Tanier: Thanks as always, you little son of a gun. It's time to talk about another vertically-challenged superstar.

Saints Confidential

Figure 1: Thomas Double-Pump Seamer

The Saints offense is beyond the scope of a typical Walkthrough. I could devote a whole season to nothing but Saints plays, and it wouldn't scratch the surface of what they do.

This week, I want to focus on how the Saints are using two- and three-tight end personnel groupings to disguise their tendencies and keep opponents from defending them with nickel and dime defenses. We think of the Saints as a wide-open team that's always in three- or four-receiver sets, but while the Saints do spread the field frequently, they are just as likely to confuse opponents with power personnel in unexpected formations.

Figure 1 shows a play the Saints used just before the two-minute warning in the second quarter against the Patriots. On the surface, it looks like a conventional tight end seamer, with the receivers running sideline routes and the backs leaking into the flats. But Sean Payton adds several layers of wrinkles to the basic play design.

First, notice the personnel grouping: three tight ends (Jeremy Shockey is 88, Darnell Dinkins 80, and David Thomas 85), one back, and one receiver. The Saints have been using Thomas and Dinkins as fullbacks for several weeks, but it's impossible to tell by the personnel grouping what the formation will be, and a split backfield with Shockey at wide receiver is a unique look for this package. The Patriots are forced into their base defense, and the heavy offensive personnel forces them to think run.

Next, note the pump-fakes. Brees pumps to Marques Colston (12) on a slant, then turns and sells a screen pass to Mike Bell (21) on the opposite side of the field. The Saints run lots of screen passes, and they often use misdirection in their screen game. The Patriots defense certainly game planned for misdirection screens, so when Brees pumped one way, then turned to Bell, several defenders reacted quickly.

Figure 2: Meachem Post

The personnel grouping also sells the fake screen. With Shockey and Thomas on the right side, the Saints are in great position to block for Bell. Thomas even squares to block, and right guard Josh Evans pulls to the outside. No wonder the defenders bite so hard on the fake. Thomas shows discipline while feigning his block, waiting over a second before running his seam route. By the time he runs the route, the underneath coverage has been cleared away, and he gains 25 easy yards.

Figure 2 shows the very next play. Even though the Saints are in their two-minute offense, they keep their three-tight end package on the field, with Robert Meachem (17) filling in for Colston. They line up in a two-tight end I-formation, with Dinkins running an orbit (that's when a tight end goes halfway across the formation, turns, and returns to his starting point) pre-snap. The Patriots are forced to think pass because of the situation, but everything about the formation and personnel suggests a run.

This play is as simple as the last one. It's a play-action pass with seven-man protection. Meachem runs a post, Shockey a deep dig, and Bell a flat route. What makes the play so effective? First, design of the protection. The offensive line fans to the left (not shown), allowing Dinkins and Thomas to handle pass-blocking duties on the right. The scheme guarantees Brees a clean pocket.

Second, there's the real threat posed by Thomas and Dinkins as receivers. The figure shows a strong safety stepping up in coverage, and you may wonder why that safety would let Meachem run past, considering the threat and the situation. The strong safety has coverage responsibility on either Dinkins or Thomas, both of whom released to the offensive right side. And of course, the multi-tight end set keeps any nickel and dime defenders on the Patriots sidelines. It adds up to a one-on-one matchup between Meachem and an inexperienced cornerback (Jonathan Wilhite), and a Saints touchdown.

Figure 3: Rollout to Devery Henderson

The Saints ability to twist simple personnel groupings into unusual shapes forces opponents to make compromises. Against the Falcons, the Saints used fewer three-tight end packages, but they often split Thomas as a wide receiver. Figure 3 shows Thomas and Shockey on the left side of the formation, and the Saints run a play-action sweep to that side. The Falcons are clearly in man coverage, with both cornerbacks aligned over wide receivers and a safety covering Thomas. The Falcons must respect the likelihood of a run to the left, so when Brees rolls right, he has two receivers locked in single coverage on cornerbacks. Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens does a good job sticking with Devery Henderson (19), who works inside before running an out-route, but Brees has a clear lane and throws a perfect pass.

Just two plays later, the Falcons are forced to make another compromise when the Saints line up in a bunch formation (Fig. 4). Thomas motions toward the sideline, and the Falcons adjust by splitting a cornerback to cover him and moving a linebacker into position to cover Colston. There are mismatches everywhere, but it's second-and-4 and the Saints are in Falcons territory. Brees wants an easy first down, and the Falcons are in soft coverage on Meachem on the far side. Brees and Meachem run a short smoke route to pick up an easy first down. Again, an opponent is forced to cover the Saints passing game with base personnel, and a unique formation allows the Saints to spread the field in search of mismatches.

Figure 4: Quick Smoke

The multi-tight end sets are also beneficial in the running game, of course. The Saints ran frequently from the I-formation against the Falcons, with Thomas or Dinkins at fullback. They usually motioned into the I-formation, with the eventual fullback starting in the slot. It's a simple wrinkle used by every team, but the Saints have such an unpredictable offense that simple wrinkles just compound opponents' problems. Imagine game planning for the Saints. You worry about Brees, about Henderson and Meachem burning you deep, about reverses, screen passes, stack formations and three-tight end personnel groups. There's almost no time to address old-fashioned I-formation tactics.

Just when you think the Saints are out of wrinkles, they unveil an I-formation set like the one they used against the Falcons in the fourth quarter (Fig. 5). Yes, your old fantasy guide is finally right: Colston is a tight end! Colston tries to block John Abraham, which doesn't really work, and the Saints do nothing fancy on this second-and-1 play. What the diagram doesn't show is the Falcons pre-snap confusion. Defensive linemen had to shift positions, and a linebacker slid over to cover Shockey at the last second. I think there was some weak side/strong side confusion, though the offensive left appears to be the strong side of this formation no matter where Colston lines up. You can imagine Payton drawing up some future seam route to Colston, hoping to isolate him against a linebacker.

Figure 5: Colston is a Tight End!

There's much more, of course, but you get the idea. We all knew Colston and Henderson would play major roles this year, but few of us expected David Thomas to become a major part of the Saints offense. It's just one more way Payton keeps defenses guessing and finds new ways to deploy players with unique skills. All the diversity makes the Saints fun to watch, and we will probably be watching through January.

Bad Santa

Part Three of a series on football-related holiday gifts, most of which are awful. This week: apparel

The Touch Collection: The on-line NFL Shop is a confusing, poorly-organized jumble of a portal. Click the Holiday Gift Finder advertisement you find on the side of your screen while surfing NFL.com, and the site will ask you your favorite team, then suggest you add a catalog to your cart for $0.00. It reminds of the Spongebob episode where Mr. Krabs convinces Squidward to work extra hard by showing him a brochure of a vacation getaway. It turns out that the prize for winning Employee of the Month is ... the brochure! Maybe the special Eagles fan in my life really wants a catalog so he/she can select his own darn gift. If so, the NFL Shop is a helpful tool.

NFL Shop is made worse by the presence of Alyssa Milano, who was much more appealing before I learned just how much teen steam she let out in the Dodgers locker room. Milano has designed the Touch line of strumpet-ware, perfect for the woman hoping attract the middle reliever of her dreams.

Now, nothing is more enticing to me than a beautiful girl in an Eagles jersey, whether it's midnight green or pink, and a flattering Eagles t-shirt is almost as good. But Milano's Rivalry Hoodie, while fetching when she's wearing it, looks as impractical as a tailgate bikini. I picture a comely lass donning one, stepping out into the chill of a November morning in the parking lot at 12th and Pattison, then quickly grabbing a parka so she can reach kickoff without hypothermia. It reminds me of the Elvin Warrior Halter-Tops worn by female characters in fantasy fiction: A chain mail bra doesn't do much good when the neck, shoulders, and torso are exposed to every barbarian with a broadsword.

Hermey: In fairness, elf girls dress like that all the time. It's a miracle we accomplish anything.

Tanier: You're still here?

Hermey: I have no place else to go. Can we talk a little about the Packers Wild Card scenarios? Please?

Tanier: No. I am glad Milano designed a double pocket so the female fan can hide her malt beverage and pepper spray, warming her hands while the wind whips across her plunging neck lines.

Milano also designed a Black Glass Bead Metal Logo Pendant, which looks like a cross between a Junior Achievement art project and a control collar for a rotweiller. Again, Milano's past comes back to haunt an innocuous-if-ugly bit of costume jewelry. I can imagine young teen girls in their friendship-bracelet stage getting a kick out of a team-centric necklace – team apparel is tres chic in many high schools. Unfortunately, when I look at the thing I keep seeing a super-tight black collar with a dogtag reading Property of Barry Zito around Samantha Micelli's neck.

The fact that Milano herself is the model in 75 percent of the Touch Collection photos adds to the creepy, fetish-like quality of the line. Buy these for your girlfriend, and she'll fear you have some Who's The Boss-Charmed-Console Brad Penny after a Loss fantasy up your sleeve. Of course, if that's how you roll, go nuts.

Throwbacks: The rule of throwbacks and "legacy" apparel states that the more obscure the reference, the better. I can relate, because that's how I write. A Villanova Brian Westbrook jersey just won't cut it for the true throwback aficionado: he needs a Westbrook high school jersey, Pop Warner jersey, or pull-up diaper. The same goes for old players: Anyone can wear a legacy-style Tom Brady jersey, or pull out a Drew Bledsoe or Steve Grogan jersey for ironic old-school appeal. Real lunatics insist on game-worn Hugh Millen.

Remember when Chiefs running backs were eccentric in the Progressive Rock Keyboardist way, not the Angry Text Messenger way? The Chiefs fan in your life may want a Priest Holmes throwback jersey. They cost about $100 on Amazon, but check the eBay auctions: there was a black one listed at $4.99 a few weeks ago, and several traditional jerseys listed in the $20-$30 range. This site is a clearing house of team paraphernalia available on eBay and elsewhere: there's an autographed Christian Okoye jersey under auction for $78, a signed Deron Cherry 8X10 photo for ten bucks, and so on. Larry Johnson items are still available, including a toddler jersey for $10. The Johnson toddler jersey should say "Ask my dad!" It only takes a little surfing to find similar sites for every team, and the memorabilia available is as diverse, random, and weird as you can imagine.

If you don't like to shop at auction, Mitchell & Ness are makers of well-crafted, insanely overpriced throwback items. Their $250-plus jerseys make great husband/father gifts, but they run a little steep for casual giving. Some items are more practical, affordable, and nostalgic. The Huddle Up Hoodie costs just $60 (it was $40 with a special promotion in late November) and looks great, with classic team logos integrated into the design. The Browns hoodie is particularly sharp; give it to the person who wants to pretend he's Bill Belichick circa 1993.

Once you buy the Huddle Up Hoodie, you can huddle up with a girl in an Alyssa Milano Rivalry Hoodie, play your NFL Films music MP3s, dab some Nittany Lions Cologne on your person, and occupy the little ones with some Barber brothers fiction. It can be a football-filled holiday season for you and your loved ones. Of course, if you are still seeking gift ideas by the time you read this, you are probably too late.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 16 Dec 2009

50 comments, Last at 22 Dec 2009, 3:48pm by Neoplatonist Bolthead


by The Human Spider :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 7:54pm

I'll settle for a Charles Rogers jersey.

by jack :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 2:49pm

Got one, really, as an MSU fan I went out and got it before his first season. Damn those fragile collarbones and, you know, the drugs and stuff.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:12pm

The next tiebreaker is strength of victory, so now we would have to start penciling in scores for that Week 17 Eagles-Cowboys game, which I don't want to do.

Dangit, Hermey! Didn't we go through this last year?

Strength of victory is not "how much did you win by." Strength of victory is "winning percentage of teams that this team beat."

by fyo :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:14pm

Hermey is, unfortunately, wrong (or at least wildly misleading) on the Dolphins aspect of his analysis.

Even winning out (10-6), the Dolphins need a lot of help to get in.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:36pm

Not very much. If the Dolphins win out and the Pats lose a single game, the Dolphins take the AFCE.

by fyo :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 9:50am

Hermey clearly wasn't talking about winning the division. Here's what he said:

That should put them in such a good position that they can even lose to the Steelers and make the playoffs at 9-7. They have a head-to-head win against the Jaguars and a sweep of the Jets on their resume, so they are in great position to rise above the other mediocre teams.

What Hermey (apparently) fails to recognize is that the head-to-head sweeps don't matter if there are other teams involved. The Dolphins could theoretically make the playoffs at 9-7, but that would require some SERIOUS help. Even at 10-6, there's a very good chance the Dolphins would be the team left out in the cold. The Ravens and Broncos look like they'd win the tiebreakers right now (Broncos by SOV, which while tied right now is tilted in Denver's favor due to future games).

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:17pm

Also, far more importantly: the Eagles would be 1-3 vs. the AFC South. Remember, sadly, they lost to the Raiders.

Thus they would be eliminated, the Giants would be in as the division winner based on head-to-head over the Cowboys, the Cowboys would be the WC, and the Eagles would be out of the playoffs (assuming GB is ahead of them).

Sorry, Hermey. We all try to forget that Raiders loss.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:14pm

I assume you mean AFC West...as much as I'd love the for the Colts to get to beat up on Oakland twice a year, no such luck.

by Mike Tanier :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:19pm

Hermey did seem a little confused...

by Bobman :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 4:08am

after all, he is such a misfit

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:40pm

browns huddle up hoody has old Browns logo on it. logo is fairy. that probbaly sissiest loog ever. some Browns fans should go to game drressed up like that fairy. would be browns fans version of Redskins fnans who go to games dressed up like fat old laides and wear pig snout strap on things over nose.

by Dice :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:37pm

They can't all dress awesome like the Legion of Doom and Mad Max rejects.

by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:09pm

"First, notice the personnel grouping: three tight ends (Jeremy Shockey is 88, David Dinkins 80,"

I think David Dinkins is 82 years old not 80 and in fine health. I believe you mean Darnell Dinkins.

by Bobman :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 4:09am

The key difference being I once voted for one for mayor of NY, but probably won't be voting for the other for pro bowl (or mayor).

by bmortimer (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:19pm

If I'm not mistaken...

In the AFC:

If the Broncos win out, they're in. If the Pats win out, they're in.

After that, it gets complicated. If I understand the tiebreakers correctly, assuming the Broncos and Pats win out, no one controls their own destiny. Weird but true.

If the Jaguars win out, they're in. Unless the Dolphins win out (head-to-head).
If the Dolphins win out, they're in. Unless the Ravens win out (common opponents).
If the Ravens win out, they're in. Unless the Jaguars win out (conference record).

If all 5 win out (Pats, Broncos, Jags, Fins, and Ravens all winning out? Unlikely!) then the Pats win the division, the Broncos nab the 5 seed and the Jags win the 6th tiebreakers between the other three.

Where it gets *really* complicated is if the Pats or Broncos lose.

Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Broncos.
Broncos hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Pats.
Pats hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Ravens.

And Jaguars have a better conference record than everyone.

The AFC East gets very murky if the Pats drop one. A three-way tie goes to the Dolphins, but Pats would still be alive for the wild card.

What about the Jets in all of this?

They're in trouble. They lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Fins and conference tiebreaker to everyone else. But if everyone drops one? Jets could sneak in there...

Steelers, Titans, and Texans are all out unless something exceedingly weird happens.

Correct me if I'm wrong on any of those. But Hermey could make quite a living, especially while the six 8-5/7-6 teams battle for three spots.

by the silent speaker (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:42pm

If the Jaguars win out and the Dolphins win out, the Patriots lost to the Jaguars. That puts the Dolphins on top of the AFCE and the Jaguars are in. JAX controls its own destiny.

by Tim F. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:07pm

It's really amazing that a 7-6 team, 6 games behind their division's leader, is still in control of their own destiny. Neat stuff.

by Tim F. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:59pm

All 5 AFC teams cannot win out; Jags and Pats are yet to face each other.

If the Pats drop one and tie a Fins team that wins out, Miami will have the division tiebreaker (the Pats would have an additional loss in the Conference, giving Miami the lead after record, head-to-head, and division). From there, the Pats would have the tiebreaker over the Ravens, lose to Denver, and may or may not have the head-to-head over the Jags for the WC.

But good catch on a Ravens-Miami tie. Can it really come down to a 4 pt. win over San Diego in week 2 for the Ravens? That's nutty.

Hopefully, Miami keeps all of these odd scenarios complicated for another week longer. Better yet, the overlooked Bills make the AFCE picture a whole lot clearer with an upset over the Pats (a brother can hope!).

by Bobman :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 4:12am

If the Colts beat the Jags and Jets and allow the Ravens in, will Baltimoreans stop hating the Colts? Even a little?

by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 9:51am

Hmmm, let me see. NO!

by Bruce G. (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 3:15pm

Like Baltimorons have any room to talk. They did the same thing to Cleveland that Indy did to them.

by Anonymously (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 4:39pm

We'll consider cutting back on the hate a little, but we'll still put "Indy" instead "Colts" on our scoreboards.

by bmortimer (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 9:18am

Ah yes, you're right. I figured I would have totally forgotten something simple like that.

Nonetheless: playoff picture? Cloudy!

by Key19 :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:32pm

"The Eagles and Cowboys then go into the Wild Card tiebreaker pool. If it's just the two of them at 10-6, then the Eagles win because of their sweep. If the Packers are also 10-6, they gum everything up, because they only have a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Cowboys."

Technically, the Cowboys win because of their sweep if I'm reading this correctly.

by SOBL (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 10:00am

jeez even hermy has an iggles bias.

by Dave2008 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 10:44am

They do. Teams are sorted by division standing first when it comes to wild card.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 5:32pm

Yes, this (unlikely) scenario wouldn't be hard to untangle: Giants win division based on what Tanier writes, then Cowboys take 2nd in the division based on sweep of Eagles. The wild card would then first compare only Dallas v. Green Bay, which GB wins by head-to-head (ie, they go in as #5 seed) and Dallas takes #6 seed.

I'm glad we're discussing this now since it's likely not to be relevant in 2 weeks, if not next week.

by Phoenix138 :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 1:12am

It reminds me of the Elvin Warrior Halter-Tops worn by female characters in fantasy fiction: A chain mail bra doesn't do much good when the neck, shoulders, and torso are exposed to every barbarian with a broadsword.

They can get away with the halter-tops because they're protected by magic. You twit.

by Bobman :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 4:16am

Magic or not, I think a chain mail bra does plenty of good.

The best part is that when wrapped and under the tree, my wife will NEVER guess it's clothing despite the size of the box. She'll guess books or tools or a lead x-ray apron. Now if I can only get her to wear it to the airport security line.... They might make her gate-check her broadsword, but nobody messes with a chick in metal underwear and gets away with it.

by BJR (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 8:22am

Another scenario for you: suppose Cowboys win, Eagles lose and Giants lose this weekend.

By my thinking this then means the Eagles' week 16 game is an irrelevance; the Giants will be out, and regardless of what they do in week 16 the winner of the division will be decided by their showdown against the Cowboys in week 17.

by zenbitz (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 3:38pm

I think 49ers actually win tie-breakers with Giants & Cowboys (and 3-way tie breaker). If SF/NYG/DAL all end up 8-8 or 9-7, The Niners are in. "Playoff odds" actually has a 10% chance of this happening.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 5:35pm

Not quite, because Giants could still catch Cowboys at 9-7, with the tiebreaker. they'd also need SF to lose a game though (to, ugh, Detroit or St. Louis) because SF would have tiebreaker for last spot (assuming Green Bay wins at least 10) over Giants (or Dallas).

by BJR (not verified) :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 12:05pm

The Giants can't catch Philly if they lose to Washington this weekend, even if Philly also loses. They will drop to 3-3 in the division, Philly can't go worse than 4-2, so they will lose to Philly even in the case of a three way tiebreaker.

Though your point about the 49ers holds - they will overhaul Philly if they win out, and Philly lose out.

by Goober King :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 9:08am

From the title, I thought Tanier was going to have an exclusive interview with Mike Lupica...

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 11:26am

I'm pretty sure Mitch Albom is the elf on that show - he can't be human with THOSE ears.

by dmb :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 11:22am

All the diversity makes the Saints fun to watch, and we will probably be watching through January.

Is "celebrating diversity" a violation of the no-politics rule?

The rule of throwbacks and "legacy" apparel states that the more obscure the reference, the better. I can relate, because that's how I write.

I enjoyed that. While on the topic, who are those obscure players that FO readers would thoroughly enjoy seeing commemorated with a throwback? I feel like a lot of the regulars could come up with some excellent names.

by Birdman (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 11:32am

"Bros before does" was awesome. I am definitely going to try to work it into holiday conversations.

by Harris :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 11:44am

/slaps Tanier across the face with a calfskin glove

Sir, I will not have you besmirching the star of "Long Island Lolita" and many of my more disgusting dreams. I demand satisfaction! Pistols at dawn, if, in fact you are a man. Now, I bid you good day, sir. I SAID GOOD DAY.

Hail Hydra!

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 8:18am

If Tanier accepts and you waste him, would that make him a Casualty of Love?

Though you should be careful - I'm pretty sure lust is one of the Deadly Sins.

Try as I may, I can think of no way of working Embrace of the Vampire into this. Ooh, wait. If you continue down this path, on the day of reckoning you will be called to ac-Count.

Sorry. I'll get my coat.

by Thok :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 11:49am

Sure, the 49ers are making a little run, but they aren't doing anything interesting, tiebreaker-wise.

A 9-7 49ers team would have an 8-4 conference record and a win over Philadelphia; in particular, they win any tie that includes an NFC East team. (And lose any tie that doesn't contain an NFC East team or Arizona, because of head to head losses to Atlanta and Green Bay.)

The most interesting NFC East scenario isn't the one given in the article: If Philadelphia beats Denver but loses to SF/Dallas, Dallas beats Washington/Phil but loses to New Orleans, and the Giants win out, then all three teams are tied all the way down to strength of victory.

by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 5:44pm

Interesting indeed, but strength of victory not too hard to figure out for each, as they would have victories over mostly common (or common record) teams except for Giants beating (Minnesota, Oakland), Philly beating (Chicago, Denver), and Dallas (Seattle, Oakland). Dallas would clearly lose this category, with Giants and Eagles depending on how those 4 teams did the last 3 weeks (Giants' pair currently have 15 wins, Eagles' have 13). Too bad these things rarely play out to the very end.

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 7:51pm

One more editorial detail: I think it should be strumpetwear, a la beachwear or workwear. "Strumpet-ware" sounds like Quicken for hookers.

Then again, its coming from a guy who talks to elves and speaks authoritatively about fantasy fiction; I don't think the same rules apply in Mike's world. If he decided that apparel should be called "toothpaste", how could we really argue?

by JDlkjlk (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 10:21pm

The Saints right guard is Jahri Evans, not Josh Evans. He is mentioned in the description of figure 2.

Just trying to help...

by Anymouse (not verified) :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 4:06am

Saints RG is Jahri Evans, not Josh Evans.

by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 4:58pm

Alviss means "elf-spirit". Yes, it's the name of a dwarf. I don't think that the concept of "dwarf" as distinct from "elf" or "troll" or "goblin" is all that clear in iron-age Scandinavia, informed by oral tradition, by comparison to you and me informed by Tolkien and Gygax.

by tuluse :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 7:48pm

Scandinavia isn't the only culture with those creatures as myths. Greek mythology definitely has dwarfs.

by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Tue, 12/22/2009 - 3:48pm

Sure, but we were on the topic of the origin of the name Elvis, which is very much Scandinavian.

by Sancho, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Sun, 12/20/2009 - 4:52am


Here, the tiebrake rules...

Strength of schedule: http://www.theredzone.org/strength.asp

Strength of victory: the combined winning percentage of the opponents a team has beaten. (strength of schedule without the teams you have lost)

by IvySmith (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 4:24am

Do you know who am I?
Here is a hot news:
After weeks of transforming its approach to concussions and its research into their long-term effects among players, the NFL Draft not only announced Sunday that it would support research by its most vocal critics but also conceded publicly for the first time that concussions can have lasting consequences.
“It’s quite obvious from the medical research that’s been done that concussions can lead to long-term problems,” the league spokesman Greg Aiello said in a telephone interview. He was discussing how the league could donate $1 million or more to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University, whose discoveries of brain damage commonly associated with boxers in the brains of deceased football players were regularly discredited by the NFL Draft

by matt w (not verified) :: Mon, 12/21/2009 - 1:44pm

"Do you know who am I?"

You'd better be Poison Ivy Smith if you want to be on topic.