By Adam Dobrowolski
Cold, Hard Football Facts Chief Mathletics Advisor
Wrestling entertainment diehards will always remember the date -- November 9, 1997. In a semi-fiction and scripted world, the events in the main event of the WWF (now WWE) Championship Match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart were about as real as the show could get.
Hart, the title holder, loses a match in which he didn't lose. Maniacal owner Vince McMahon was later quoted as saying, "Vince McMahon didn't screw Bret Hart. Bret screwed Bret."
So why do I care about this event when talking about a weekly podcast here on CHFF? Not only do we dish out the Cold, Hard Football Facts here, but we also give some tough love. So, when we see the legitimate controversy over two climactic plays in two quality games, we feel like the facts can act as a healthy dose of tough love.
The two plays in question will be remember for the rest of the year. (1) Ahmad Brooks' strip sack of Drew Brees gets wiped out by a roughing penalty. The referee crew cites a hit at the head and neck area to negate the turnover and give the Saints the ball. New Orleans ties the game later in the said drive and eventually wins 23-20 after a time-expiring field goal. (2) Tom Brady's pass to Rob Gronkowski on the final play in Carolina was ruled "no pass interference" despite a load of contact by Luke Kuechly as Robert Lester secured an interception. Panthers win, 24-20.
So, you think the 49ers and Patriots got screwed? Well, the referees didn't screw 49ers and Patriots. They screwed themselves. Don't believe me? Just check out the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
Even though the replays will show that the correct calls were actually made, this isn't the issue at hand for this week's first topic. With mediocre passing numbers (as dictated by Real Passing Yards per Attempt and Real Quarterback Rating), these two teams lost their quality road games because they simply were not efficient enough to overcome plays left to interpretation by the referees.
"You want to be the man? Well, you have to BEAT THE MAN!"
Wait, that's a different wrestling reference...
For those who are interested in checking out bits and pieces of this week's podcasts, every edition will include a "playlist" of sorts breaking down every segment from the podcast.
0:45 -- A factual take on the 49ers-Saints and Patriots-Panthers controversial calls
9:45 -- Week 11 Big Board Highlights
14:15 -- King of Props Week 11 Review
16:35 -- The Stat Pack Week 12 Power Rankings
21:05 -- Week 12 Preview via the Intelligence Index
24:10 -- Six Pack of Top Games for Week 12
The Cincinnati quarterback has thrown nine interceptions in his past four games. He’s already thrown 15 for the season and has lost three fumbles.
For reference, Dalton threw 16 total picks and lost four fumbles in 2012. In his rookie season of 2011, he threw 13 interceptions and lost three fumbles.
In other words, he’s on pace to comfortably break his career turnover mark.
That hasn’t dimmed his confidence, however.
"I'm confident as ever. You have to have confidence. For us, as a team, we feel like we're in control of everything and that's where we want to be at this point."
In his last four games, Dalton has completed 88/161 passes (55 %) with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In his last three games, his Passer Rating has sunk below 63.
But that doesn’t bother Dalton:
"I'm a lot better than I was the last two years. There's some things that I've done this year that I didn't do the last couple of years. For me, I've got to keep improving and keep trying to get better."
To be fair, Dalton is on pace to break his career high 27 touchdown passes and the Bengals are 7-4, comfortably atop the AFC North.
For the Bengals to thrive in the last leg of the season and postseason, Dalton will have to cut back on the turnovers.
Recent history suggests that turnover-prone, middle-of-the-pack quarterbacks can get hot and take their team to the Lombardi Trophy.
See: Flacco, Joe and Manning, Eli.
Thirty-one years ago today, on Nov. 20, 1982, The Big Game between Stanford and Cal produced the "the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football," in the joyously mindless and exuberant words of Cal commentator Joe Starkey.
The finish was so sensational, and so controversial, that it erased from memory a thrilling drive led by Stanford QB John Elway that ended with a last-second field goal and apparent 20-19 victory for the Cardinal.
The Play has grown only bigger over the years. It takes on larger meaning in the context of today's media environment, in a contemporary era when Johnny Manziel's every off-field move is captured in image and video and instantly finds its way onto social media and a 24-hour sports loop.
The Play in fact came during a kind of Golden Twilight Age of college football. Cable TV, ESPN and sports-talk radio were still in their infancy, and not yet covering college football, or any game, 24x7. The internet, of course, did not exist beyond dark inner recesses of the military and Techburbia. Fans had access to only a couple games on TV each weekend.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts themselves were still in their pigskin pre-pubescence and infatuated with the game of college football back in November 1982.
We followed Notre Dame then nearly religiously, not because its games were always on TV each Saturday, but because ESPN ran an abbreviated recap broadcast of Fighting Irish football each Sunday morning that looked downright amateurish by today's standards. That was as good as it got.
Teams still ran the ball far more often than they threw it back in 1982. Doug Flutie, in fact, was a sophomore at Boston College and still two years away from becoming the first player in college football history to produce 10,000 yards of offense in his career.
The legendary Bear Bryant was coaching his final season, and the run-first, run-second, run-third wishbone option offense was still the most innovative and powerful formation in college football.
Amid those circumstances, it took a truly transcendent onfield event to cut into mainstream culture in ways we take for granted today.
The Play was certainly one of those events. It ran on an endless loop on local sports and even news programs around the country at a time when that was entirely uncommon; it turned ill-fated Stanford trombonist Gary Tyrrell into a talk-show circuit phenom after he was run over by Cal's Kevin Moen in the end zone with the winning score.
The Play also helped make John Elway, The Big Game, The Stanford Axe and the antics of the Stanford band national cultural storylines at a time when college football was a far more regional affair than it is today, when schools are routinely broadcast from coast to coast.
This Golden Twilight of old college football was punctuated by a series of unforgettable moments in short order: Doug Flutie's legendary Hail Mary against Miami in 1984 (a play and a player which helped propel college football into the modern era), Miami's shocking and electrifying win over mighty Nebraska at the end of the 1983 season, the death of Bear Bryant following the 1982 season and, of course, The Play itself -- 31 years ago today.
By: Michael Quinn
Cold Hard Football Facts Eagles Expert (@PJbleedsgreen)
It's been 413 days since Eagles fans at the Lincoln Financial Field were able to leave the game in good spirits.
Thanks to an explosive first half, the Eagles were able to top the Washington Redskins 24-16 en route to a much needed divisional win.
With the victory, the Eagles are now leading the NFC East headed into the bye week.
The Philadelphia Eagles are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were a year ago. They are no longer the dumb, lackluster team they were in 2012. 11 weeks into the 2013 season, they're over .500 and have all the momentum in the world.
Nick Foles, despite not throwing any touchdowns on Sunday, has seeminglycemented his job as the Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback for at least the remainder of the year. (That might seem obvious at this point, but Chip Kelly has yet to confirm it.)
He's completed 63% of his passes this year, and has a total of 19 touchdowns against zero interceptions to his credit. The second-year passer seems to have found his feet as well, as he's rushed for nearly 100 yards in the last two weeks.
LeSean McCoy proved he was one of the NFL's best on Sunday when he became the first rusher to reach the 1,000 yard mark this year, also scoring two touchdowns in the proccess.
The efforts of the explosive offense helped propel the Eagles in a number of categories, but not the all-mighty scoreability marker (Yards Per Point Scored or YPPS).
Last week, the Eagles averaged 16.40 YPPS, this week after a 24 point performance, they dropped in the rankings, even if only a little averaging 16.43 YPPS.
The defense, though they almost collapsed at the end, once again showed they may just be a little bit better than everyone thinks.
First-year Eagle Connor Barwin showed on Sunday that he may be the most valuable offseason addition to the team (besides Chip Kelly, of course). He notched six tackles, a sack, forced a fumble and knocked down a pass. The five-year vet is in the midst of his best year yet, and has been a valuable to key to helping the Eagles transition to a 3-4 defense.
Second-year Cornerback Brandon Boykin has been playing nicely this year. He has been able to fill in on the outside when needed, and excells on the inside. He's been a key in the Eagles secondary as he already has two forced fumbles on the year and four interceptions (including the game winning one against Washington).
The defense, which has been dabbling between 32nd and 31st in the NFL rankings, has been taking strides in the Bendability (Yards Per Point Allowed or YPPA) charts. After almost giving up a fourth-quarter comeback, the Eagles defense averaged a respectable 17.68 YPPA
It's also worth mentioning that the Eagles have one of the best punters in the league. Donnie Jones had a record-setting performance against Washington. He had six punts, placing four inside the 20 yard line. His average of 50.7 yards was the highest in Eagles history.
Chip Kelly's team did a lot of good in order to win their first home game under his leadership. He kept the up-tempo offense going most the game, but stopped passing the ball late in the third quarter. For a guy who likes to score points, it came as a surprise when Kelly opted to hand the ball off every play for the next few drives. Being up only 24 points, Kelly's decision to lean on the running game almost cost him his first home victory as the Redskins almost staged an amazing comeback.
In the end, Kelly deserves the win. Surely, the first-year coach will use the bye-week to work on his mistakes. Come next Sunday (12/1) you can expect Kelly's Eagles to keep the fast pace going all four-quarters.
Week 11 kicks off on Thursday night (8:25 PM ET, NFL Network) when the Indianapolis Colts visit the Tennessee Titans in an AFC South divisional contest. The 6-3 Colts lead the division by two games over the Titans.
Through the first 10 weeks, there are 23 teams either in or within one-and-a-half games of a playoff spot.
“It’s a long season and we’re just taking it one game at a time,” says defensive end JASON PIERRE-PAUL of the New York Giants, who have won three in a row after an 0-6 start. “We are not trying to think three games ahead. We’re just thinking about the next game. We’re taking it one game at a time.”
The Giants, who are now just a game-and-a-half out of first place in the NFC East, are only the second team in NFL history to lose its first six games and win the next three (2009 Tennessee).
As the NFL enters Week 11, seven of the eight divisions have at least one team either in or tied for first place that did not win its division in 2012.
New Orleans (7-2)
New England (7-2)
Dallas (5-5), Philadelphia (5-5)
Kansas City (9-0)
Additionally, four of the teams who are currently either in or tied for first place finished in or tied for last place in its division last season: Kansas City, New Orleans, Detroit and Philadelphia.
“Being successful in this league is dealing with adversity and bouncing back,” says Lions head coach JIM SCHWARTZ. “It’s a long season to get through. We have six wins and that’s not going to be enough. You have to go out and prepare for your next opponent.”
The week concludes with two marquee matchups. Two AFC West rivals will meet on Sunday night (NBC, 8:30 PM ET) when the 9-0 Kansas City Chiefs visit the 8-1 Denver Broncos. The teams’ combined winning percentage of .944 (17-1) is the highest in a game this late in the season since December 7, 1969 when the 11-0 Los Angeles Rams faced the 10-1 Minnesota Vikings (combined 21-1, .955 winning percentage). And on Monday night (ESPN, 8:40 PM ET), the 6-3 Carolina Panthers, winners of five in a row, will host the 7-2 New England Patriots. Some of the key games this week:
CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-5) at CINCINNATI BENGALS (6-4) (Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)
The top three teams in the AFC North are separated by just a game-and-a-half. Cincinnati sits atop the division with a 6-4 record with both Cleveland and Baltimore right behind at 4-5. The Browns will look to cut into that lead on Sunday when they visit the Bengals.
Cleveland defeated the Ravens in Week 9 and had a bye last week. In the team’s Week 9 win, quarterback JASON CAMPBELL threw three touchdown passes with a 116.6 passer rating and was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week. The Browns, who knocked off the Bengals in Week 4, are looking to sweep the season series from Cincinnati for the first time since 2002.
“We’ve hit the halfway point of the season and now we have to play well in the second half,” says Browns head coach ROB CHUDZINSKI. “It starts with our same approach and playing games one at a time.”
The Bengals are 4-0 at home in 2013, outscoring opponents 116-55. Cincinnati looks to bounce back from two consecutive overtime losses: 22-20 at Miami in Week 9 and 20-17 at Baltimore last week.
“We still control our own destiny,” says center KYLE COOK on the Bengals’ division chances. “We have three division games left and two are at home. We’re far from the end of the season. We’ve got plenty of season left.”
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6-3) at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-2) (Sunday, FOX, 4:25 PM ET)
Two of the NFC’s best will meet on Sunday afternoon in New Orleans. The Saints lead the NFC South with a 7-2 record while the 49ers are in the postseason hunt with a 6-3 mark.
San Francisco has won five of its past six games, scoring at least 30 points in all five wins. Running back FRANK GORE, who has rushed for four touchdowns in his past three games, is tied for third in the NFL with seven rushing TDs.
New Orleans defeated Dallas last week 49-17 as the Saints set an NFL single-game record with 40 first downs. The offense was led by quarterback DREW BREES, who completed 34 of 41 passes (82.9 percent) for 392 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 139 passer rating. Brees extended his NFL-record streak to 21 consecutive games with at least two touchdown passes at one venue (Superdome). Running back MARK INGRAM rushed for a career-high 145 yards – averaging 10.4 yards per carry – and added a touchdown.
“It was an important win for us,” says Saints head coach SEAN PAYTON about the team’s victory over Dallas. “We did a lot of good things. But each week is a different challenge and we’ll certainly have our hands full this week coming up against San Francisco.”
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (9-0) AT DENVER BRONCOS (8-1) (Sunday, NBC, 8:30 PM ET)
The AFC’s top two teams will meet on Sunday night as the 9-0 Chiefs face the 8-1 Broncos. The teams’ combined winning percentage of .944 (17-1) is the highest in a game this late in the season since December 7, 1969 when the 11-0 Los Angeles Rams faced the 10-1 Minnesota Vikings (combined 21-1, .955 winning percentage).
The Chiefs, who had a bye in Week 10, are the first team in the four professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) to start a season 9-0 after finishing with the worst record in the previous year. Kansas City has allowed a league-low 111 points and is the first club since 1934 to start 9-0 and not allow more than 17 points in any of the first nine games.
“They’ve got a good football team,” says Chiefs head coach ANDY REID of the Broncos. “They’ve got good players and good coaches and that’s normally a pretty good formula.”
The high-powered Denver offense will match up against the Chiefs’ stingy defense. The Broncos have scored 371 points, the most through the first nine games of a season in NFL history. Leading the way is quarterback PEYTON MANNING, who has passed for 33 touchdowns, tied with TOM BRADY (2007) for the most through the first nine games of a season in NFL history.
“It’s a big game,” says Broncos interim head coach/defensive coordinator JACK DEL RIO. “It’s a divisional game against the team we’re chasing right now.”
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (7-2) AT CAROLINA PANTHERS (6-3) (Monday, ESPN, 8:40 PM ET)
The Patriots, who had a bye in Week 10, will look to continue the offensive success it had in Week 9 when New England scored 55 points and racked up 610 yards of total offense. In that win over Pittsburgh, quarterback TOM BRADY threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. The performance was Brady’s 15th with at least four touchdowns and no interceptions and the Patriots are 15-0 in those contests.
“There’s a lot of football left to be played,” says New England head coach BILL BELICHICK. “We just need to focus on what we’re doing and who we’re playing and try to go out there and play better than we’ve played, try to improve and try to win. We’re not looking at anybody but Carolina right now. It’s a good football team and I’m sure they’ll be ready to go on Monday night.”
Carolina aims for its sixth consecutive win. The Panthers’ defense has been one of the league’s best, allowing 115 points, the second-fewest in the NFL behind only 9-0 Kansas City (111). Carolina is the only team in the NFL to rank in the top five in total (second), rushing (second) and passing (tied for fourth) defense. Last week, the Panthers held San Francisco to nine points and 151 total net yards in Carolina’s 10-9 victory. Entering that contest, the 49ers had averaged 34.8 points and 357.6 total net yards per game over its past five games (all wins).
“Everybody’s on the same page,” says Panthers defensive end CHARLES JOHNSON, who ranks second in the NFC with 8.5 sacks. “When everybody is on the same page, buying into the scheme, you’re going to end up being successful. It’s all about being a team and playing as one.”
by: Patrick Imig
Cold Hard Football Facts Calypso Band Correspondent (@patrickimig)
Just a friendly reminder from your favorite calypso band from Barbados ... even though the prop train got derailed when Mike James fractured his ankle in the first half Monday, the King is still 25-15 on the season, good for a 63 percent success rate.
The MerryMen are not down on the King because injuries happen. For Week 10, it's still a 3-1 record.
Ole Ole Ole Ole
Ole Ole Ole Ole
Things aren't so peachy for the Bucs. They got win No. 1 sure, but they now rely on Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey to carry the load thanks to season-enders to Doug Martin and James.
We recommend a strong dosage of MerryMen in Tampa Bay to uplift the spirit of the running game.
By: Michael Quinn
Cold Hard Football Facts Eagles Expert
Just a week after shocking the NFL world, the Eagles proved it wasn't a fluke. Chip Kelly's system clearly works, and he has the personnel to run it.
Despite the notion that his team needs a QB who can run a 4.5 40-time, Nick Foles has once again shown he has what it takes to lead the Eagles offense. For the second straight week he finished with only six incompletions, and has yet to throw an interception on the year.
Despite only starting in four games this year, Foles is tied for 8th place in the NFL with 16 TD's, ranking above big names like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. If the young passer were to stay on track, he'll be on pace for over 40 TD's by years end. Though it's not likely to happen, Foles looks to have a memorable year.
About a month ago I wrote an article on why Foles should be starting QB. One of the main reasons, was how often he was throwing touchdowns compared to Michael Vick. After his win in Tampa Bay, Foles was averaging a score every 6.8 completions. Well, two starts later, Foles is averaging a touchdown every 5.5 completions, surely a notable stat. When comparing that number around the league, his figures really stand out.
Peyton Manning: 7.9
Drew Brees: 9.8
Alex Smith: 20.8
Matthew Stafford: 12.0
Another key to Foles' success, has been LeSean McCoy. Whether he's flourishing or being stopped at the line, defenses must put their focus on McCoy. The five-year vet hasn't let any other rusher catch up to him this year as he leads the league with 932 yards.
This offense finally seems to be on the same page. In terms of Scoreability, Foles has helped his Eagles rise in the rankings even if just a little. They went from 16.53 YPPS (yards per point scored) to 16.4. It's a respectable stat, especially when compared to winning teams like the Bengals(16.1) and Lions(15.5).
For Bendability, or how well a team plays in situational football, the Eagles fell in the rankings despite keeping the Packers under 15 points. As of last week, the team was averaging 16.34 YPPA (Yards per point allowed) where as now they're averaging 17.0. The defense has been somewhat good keeping opponents out of the end zone, but still give up ridiculous yardage (already 4,170).
In the end, the Eagles have played surprisingly well this year. The defense hasn't been awful and the offense has managed to flourish the last few weeks. At the same time, they haven't exactly defeated some tough squads. The defense struggled against backup QB's like Mike Glennon and Scott Tolzien, and the offense has gotten plenty of breaks.
The Eagles have a divisonal home game against the Redskins coming up, and it's at this point the biggest match up of the year for them. They'll be heading into the bye-week afterwards, and need a win to grab lead of the NFC East beforehand. Considering they've lost their last 10 at home, it won't be an easy game for Chip Kelly & co. However, if his team can keep pace with the last few weeks, they should have no problem grabbing their third straight win.
- Gridiron Godfather Roger Goodell Whacks Mike Tomlin With $100,000 Fine
- Tom Brady Aces Final Quarter Exam ... Every Season
- Seattle Reasserts Dominance Atop Quality Stats Power Rankings
- Predators: New England Patriots As Predictable As Ahnold
- Historic Beating: ‘Scumbag’ Detroit Lions Humiliate Green Bay Packers
- Russell Wilson Setting Records Like It's His Job
- Josh Gordon, Adrian Peterson and Alshon Jeffery: Week 13 Statistical Heroes
- NFL Week 14 Game Capsules
- The List: NFL's Top Performers in December
- Seahawks/49ers, Bengals/Colts & Panthers/Saints Highlight Week 14 Slate