NFL pre-season football: uglier than our prom dates

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 09, 2012



Pre-season football is the ugly prom date amid an otherwise beautiful orgy of gridiron action.

It’s actually exhibition football, but the NFL frowns upon the use of the term. So we’re stuck calling it pre-season football.  
 
It’s one way the league gets away with charging you full price for a partial product.
 
Yes, we know: a bunch of guys at the bottom of the roster are fighting for their football lives. But the guys you care to watch will spend most the day on the sidelines cheerleading. And, let’s face it, Robert Griffin III doesn’t look so great in a skirt.
 
Here are six reasons why each of tonight’s six exhibit … ahem, pre-season games are uglier than our prom dates.
 

Baltimore-Atlanta

The last time the Falcons took the field it was uglier than our prom dates.
 
Shiny Hood Ornament Julio Jones was supposed to inject life in the Atlanta offense. Instead, the Falcons took a step back in every offensive indicator from 2010 to 2011. Then in the biggest game of the year, the unit was blanked in a 24-2 playoff loss to the Giants.
 
The passing attack – allegedly loaded with playmaking receivers – produced a dismal 4.26 Real Passing Yards Per Attempt in that so-called effort.
 
Now Atlanta dips its toes in the pre-season waters against a  team that fielded one of the stingiest pass defenses in football last year.

The 2011 Ravens ranked No. 1 in Defensive Real QB Rating, No. 1 in Defensive Passer Rating and No. 3 in Defensive Real Passing YPA.

Ouch. This could be, well, ugly.
 

Washington-Buffalo

The last time Washington visited Buffalo it was uglier than our prom dates.
 
Credit the Bills last year for proving once and for all that the Redskins needed to aggressively pursue a potential game-changing quarterback, such as Robert Griffin III.
 
The Redskins visited Buffalo back in Week 8 of the 2011 season. It was an offensive (in both senses of the word) disaster for Washington, which lost 23-0.
 
Keep in mind that the Bills defense surrendered 434 points in its other 15 games last year.
 
Also keep in mind that the Buffalo defense generated just 29 sacks in all of 2011: 10 of those 29 in that one win over Washington.
 
That’s a sh*tload of sacks in one game, for those of you keeping score at home.
 
And now you know why the Redskins were so desperate in the draft to chase a potential franchise-changing playmaker like Robert Griffin III.
 

New Orleans-New England

The last time the Patriots tried to stop Drew Brees, it was uglier than our prom dates.
 
The Saints and Patriots were mirror images of each other last year: Drew Brees and Tom Brady produced the two most prolific passing seasons in the history of football, and were then anchored down by two of the worst pass defenses in the history of football.
 
The Patriots were torched for 4,977 yards through the air – the second most in the history of football – while the Saints surrendered 4,413 passing yards, also among the worst ever.
 
New England’s defense has struggled for years, especially against the pass, and it has never had an answer for Brees. Here are his numbers in three career games against the Patriots:
  • 47 of 65, 72.3%, 723 yards, 11.12 YPA, 8 TD, 0 INT, 148.27 rating
The last time Brees faced the Patriots in 2009 he produced what we dubbed it the single-greatest passing performance in NFL history:
  • 18 of 23, 78.3%, 371 yards, 16.13 YPA, 5 TD, 0 INT, 158.3 rating
Only two quarterback in history averaged more than 16.0 YPA with a perfect passer rating.  
 
Johnny Unitas did it once back in 1967 against the terrible Atlanta Falcons, who went 1-12-1 that year.

Brees did it in 2009 against Bill Belichick’s dynastic Patriots.
 

Pittsburgh-Philadelphia

The last time Michael Vick faced  the Steelers in the pre-season it was uglier than our prom dates.

Keystone State rivals squared off in their second pre-season game last year. Ben Roethlsiberger’s performance was outstanding. Michael Vick’s? Not so much.
 
Vick completed almost as many passes to the Steelers as it did to his own “Dream Team” mates. He went 5 of 12 for 47 yards with 3 INT, as Pittsburgh won, 24-14.
 
The Dream Team quickly fell apart once the real football games started in September. But we should have seen the writing on the wall by the way the team looked against the Steelers in August.


Green Bay-San Diego

The last time San Diego tried to play defense it was uglier than our prom dates.
 
Philip Rivers got the bulk of the criticism for San Diego’s disappointing 8-8 season last year. And he certainly did not perform up the level fans had grown accustomed to seeing.
 
But in reality it was the defense that spoiled San Diego’s playoff hopes last year: the team ranked No. 5 in scoring offense (406 points) but a mere No. 22 in scoring defense (377 points).
 
No game was uglier than San Diego’s 45-38 home loss to the Packers back in November. It was the most points the Chargers surrendered all season.
 
In fact, it was the most points the Chargers surrendered in a game since way back in 2000: the sad-sack 1-15 Chargers that year were smoked 57-31 by Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf Rams.

Naturally, San Diego last year was utterly incapable of stopping Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing attack. Rodgers completed 21 of 26 passes for 247 yards and 4 TD. It was the second most accurate day of his career (80.8%).

The loss marked the middle of a five-game skid that dropped the promising 4-2 chargers to 4-7 and otherwise ruined the season in San Diego.

Denver-Chicago

The last time the Bears faced the Broncos, Chicago fans found the end uglier than our prom dates.
 
Tim Tebow Mania was in raging at full force last December, when the Broncos pulled out the most improbable victory in season filled with them: producing 10 points in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to force overtime. The 13-10 Denver victory was capped by 110 yards worth of Matt Prater field goals and a lifetime's supply of Tebow Magic JuJu Beans.
 
Now the Bears face a Broncos team with an actual legit first-rate quarterback in Denver newcomer Peyton Manning.
 
He’ll be the focus of attention, of course, for a variety of reasons. One, it’s rare you get to see a Hall of Fame quarterback change teams so late in his career but with seemingly much if not all of his talent intact.
 
But is the body intact? Nobody really knows yet.

We’ll learn quite a bit more tonight as the 36-year-old Manning faces a pass rush, however briefly he may play, for the first time since January 8, 2011. That was 19 months ago, for those of you keeping score at home.

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