The CHFF first-response team
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 17, 2009
The Cold, Hard Football Facts first-response team races to the rescue each Sunday to administer some much-needed cardio-pigskin-resuscitation to the empty, air-filled minds of a fandom that's force-fed deep-fried plates of ignorance by the networks each Sunday.
You can thank us by passing along this open airway of gridiron enlightenment to a friend.
The passing party rolls on
Troy Aikman has proven himself one of the best announcers in the league – a three-time Super Bowl champion who now brings sober insight to the broadcast booth. No John Madden-style comedy act. No hype. No hyperbole. He's just good at what he does.
At the end of Drew's Divine Comedy, the 48-27 rout of the Giants by the Saints, Aikman declared that "in the last 10 years it's become a passer's league ... you better be able to throw the football if you want to win in this league."
He's definitely right. It is a passer's league. But he's just a little late to the passing party.
As Cold, Hard Football Facts readers know, it's always been a passer's league. From the time Sid Luckman & Co. unleashed the T-formation on the NFL in 1940 until today, the best teams in the league have always been the best passing teams.
The NFL rewards great passing teams; it shrugs its shoulders at great running teams (hell, just ask Jets fans today, after the J-Men rushed for 315 yards but put just 13 points on the board in nearly five quarters and lost).
But Aikman is definitely on to something. While it's always been a passer's league, the game today just makes it too easy for passers to dominate – to the point that it's almost a joke.
This week alone, we witnessed the following performances from the game's elite quarterbacks:
Ben Roethlisberger completed 25 of 35 passes for 417 yards, the second-highest output of his career.
Drew Brees was virtually unstoppable, completing 23 of 30 for 369 yards, 4 TD and 0 INT – against one of the best defenses the league could throw his way!
Tom Brady completed a dizzying 29 of 34 for 380 yards, 6 TD and 0 INT – in a heavy, driving snowstorm!
Brett Favre completed 21 of 29 with 3 TDs and 0 picks while leading another last-minute game-winning drive – and he's 107 in football years!
Peyton Manning, meanwhile, would have completed 30 of 31 for 450 yards had had the Colts actually played this week.
Hell, even Oakland QB JaMarcus Russell showed flashes of competence (17 of 28, 224 yards, 1 TD)
If you're looking for statistical proof that it's more a passer's league than ever, we have it. Through Week 6 of the 2009 season, NFL teams have completed 61.2 percent of their passes, with 249 TDs, just 163 INTs, and a cumulative paser rating of 84.85. The sky-high passer rating, if the pace continues, would easily surpass the existing record of 83.2 set just last year.
We admire a great passing day as much as the next fat, lazy group of a-social indigents who drink too much and run a football site. But at one time, fans could step back and admire a 400-yard passing day or a guy who completed 80 percent of his passes. Now, fans just yawn.
Sooner or later the NFL has gotta look at giving defenses a fighting chance. You can have too much of a good thing.
The planet has a chillThere's no truth to the rumor that Al Gore, the Sasquatch of carbon footprints, was seated in a luxury box at Gillette Stadium Sunday.
A 33-year storm
New England's frosty 59-0 win in Foxboro, two weeks before Halloween, marked the earliest snow game in Patriots history.
As you probably have heard, it's the biggest blow out since the L.A. Rams beat the Falcons by the same 59-0 score in 1976. (CHFF Troll "Esteban" compares the two 59-0 beatings in the Fabulous Football Forum today.)
What a difference the 33-year-storm makes: The Patriots are suddenly fifth in the NFL in scoring (27.2 PPG) and second in the league in point differential (+72), behind only New Orleans.
Record pace for passing in 2009
By the way, following up a bit more on Aikman's comments that it's a passer's league, here are the top seasons for passing the football in NFL history, based upon cumulative passer rating:
2009 (projected) – 84.8
2008 – 83.2
2004 – 82.8
2007 – 80.9
2006 – 80.4
2002 – 80.4
The NFL had never witnessed a season in which the league-wide passer rating topped 80.0 until 2002. In 1977, the depths of the Dead Ball Era and a season so dominated by defense that the league was forced to institute wholesale changes to the rules in 1978, the league-wide passer rating was 60.7 – nearly 25 points lower than it is here in 2009.
Don't diss the passer rating!
"Don't even get me started" – Phil Simms during Sunday's Tennessee-New England broadcast, when discussing his contempt for passer rating.
Simms was looking at some stats that showed that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn't have a so-called statistically perfect passer rating of 158.3 – despite the fact he was virtually flawless in the biggest blowout victory in franchise history.
He's right in one respect: how does a guy complete all but five passes, with more than 11 YPA and six touchdowns and it not go down as a "perfect" game? He's also right that passer rating has some flaws: it's a man-made number based on the standards set by a couple guys at the Pro Football Hall of Fame back in the 1960s.
But Simms is totally out to lunch in another respect: passer rating, for whatever flaws it has, is a hugely telling indicator of success. It works, folks.
But for whatever reason, it's considered un-manly in NFL circles to admire passer rating.
We've been over this time and again, with so much evidence and so many examples that we couldn't begin to repeat them here. Suffice it to say, great offenses (and great quarterbacks) ALWAYS have great passer ratings; great defenses ALWAYS have great defensive passer ratings.
It may be an awkward stat. But it's a very, very impressive indicator of success.
Simms should know, too: he produced the highest passer rating in Super Bowl history, when he completed 22 of 25 for 268 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT (150.9 rating) in the Giants' 39-20 win over Denver in SB XXI. We're fairly certain his record day is mentioned every time the Grand Poobah introduces him on the Rotary Club speaking circuit.
We lament our lost innocence
Philly suffered the most embarrassing loss we've seen since 11th grade, when our precious virginity was taken from us by the frumpy 245-pound lunch matron in the janitor's closet.
The Eagles lost, 13-9, to the Raiders, and suffered the indignity of actually losing the battle of the passing game against what was easily the worst passing team in football.
The Raiders had generated just 3.96 Passing Yards Per Attempt entering the game. Against the Eagles (using our formula that includes sacks) they generated 7.0 PYPA (30 dropbacks, 209 yards).
The Eagles, meanwhile, abandoned the run game (14 attempts) and left the ball in the hands of Donovan McNabb. It was a disaster. McNabb was sacked six times and, on 52 dropbacks, produced just 213 yards of offense -- for a Derek Anderson-esque 4.1 PYPA.
We're not the only ones embarrassed for the Eagles. Try finding a story about the game today on Philly.com. It's buried so deeply we confused it with coverage of the Anita Dunn-Chairman Mao controvery in the N.Y. Times.
By the way, here's another cheesy 1980s video, the soundtrack of our youth, that reminds us of our favorite, over-fed lunch lady. You'll also see some of our best dance moves.
show video here
You gotta admit, the "cougar" growls are a nice touch, too, decades before the phrase was in vogue.
Bring back Otto! Bring back Otto!
There is one passer who refuses to join the modern NFL and should earn the admiration of Simms and the pigskin establishment: Cleveland's Derek Anderson.
Last week, Anderson embarrassed the family name by completing 2 of 17 passes of 23 yards in Cleveland's 6-3 "win" over Buffalo. (A real team would have refused to accept the victory.)
This week, he completed 9 of 24 passes for 122 yards in Cleveland's 27-14 loss to Pittsburgh (the team's 12th straight loss to the Steeelers).
Here's Anderson's cumulative stat line in his last two games:
11 of 41 (26.%), 145 yards, 3.5 YPA, 1 TD, 2 INT, 29.6 paser rating
Yes, folks, passer rating, as flawed as it may be, does matter. Just ask Browns fans: they won championships when Otto Graham dominated the league passer rating charts. They'd kill for some of those meaningless 140-rating games out of the position right now.
Cold, Hard Football Facts contributor and editor John Dudley noticed in our weekly picks that every line we published had a half-point spread. There were no games with a straight-number line.
Dudley has been known to make a friendly gentleman's wager with friends from time to time – for entertainment purposes only, of course. So things like this jump out to him.
Here's the story, in case you noticed, too: the lines we use for our picks are pulled from CBSSports.com. A lot of major-media sites that cover the NFL don't publish betting lines for reasons obvious to anyone who's familiar with the league's publicly advocated effort to stay above the fray. But CBS publishes the spread with its "expert" picks.
We got in the habit of turning to them as our source back in our Bonzo days and we continue that habit today. So if you're wondering where our lines come from each week, now you know.
The CHFF on CHFF
While on the topic, we went 9-4 straight up and 8-5 ATS this week, with only the Monday Night Football game between Denver and San Diego remaining.
For the season, we're now 62-27 (.697) straight up and 52-37 (.584) ATS. Not bad. Not earth-shattering, either. But, unlike your drug, prostitute and scratch-ticket habits, you won't go broke following our picks each week.
Shh!! Don't tell Michael Vick
Our ability to identify road underdogs who win outright remains our second-greatest skill, trailing only our ability to bounce quarters off tables and into tasty germ-filled cups of Keystone Light.
This Sunday, we picked a single road dog to win outright – a winless team no less. Naturally, they delivered.
The Chiefs, an amazing 6.5-point dog on the road in Washington, pulled out a 14-6 win over the Redskins (we predicted a 24-20 Chiefs win).
We've picked eight road underdogs to win outright this year. We're an awesome 6-2 ATS in those eight games, and 5-3 straight up.
We have another going tonight: the Broncos head to San Diego as 3.5-point dogs. We have the unbeaten Broncos winning outright.
We're not telling ya, Baltimore, we're just sayin'
The Ravens are 3-0 against teams with losing records (Kansas City, San Diego, Cleveland, a combined 4-12).
The Ravens are 0-3 against teams with winning records (New England, Cincy, Minnesota, a combined 14-4).
We're not telling ya, we're just sayin'.
Not that long ago, a 14-13 game was a shoot-out by Baltimore standards. Not anymore.
Defense is suddenly the problem. The Ravens finally have a quarterback they can believe in, but Ray Lewis & Co. have fallen off the face of the earth. In the wake of Baltimore's high-flying 33-31 loss to the Minnesota Favrkings, the Ravens now surrender 21.7 PPG.
The rookie blues
Mark Sanchez first three games: 49 of 83 (59.0%), 606 yards, 7.3 YPA, 4 TD, 2 INT, 87.72 rating
Mark Sanchez last three games: 36 of 80 (45.0%), 429 yards, 5.4 YPA, 1 TD, 8 INT, 26.5 rating
Again, we're not telling ya ... we're just sayin'.
No surprise, of course: the Jets were 3-0 when their quarterback passed well. They're 0-3 when he does not.
Too close for comfort
St. Louis's quest for a perfect season nearly suffered a death blow Sunday with a 23-20 overtime loss to the Jaguars.
The Rams showed discouraging signs of competitiveness and nearly blew it when they drove down field for a game-tying kick at the end of regulation. They gathered their wits in overtime, though, and feebly surrendered a 62-yard march that ended with Josh Scobee's 36-yard field goal. The Rams, to their credit, didn't even touch the ball on offense in overtime.
At this rate, though, the 0-6 Rams look like they have an illegtimate shot at not underwhelming the awful Lions in Detroit on Nov. 1.
Scourge of humanity: Jets and Red Sox fans
True story: listening to our friends Dale & Holley on sports radio WEEI in Boston a few weeks ago when a Jets fan called up, after the team's 3-0 start, to declare that the J-Men were the real deal, that the Patriots were all done, that the tide had turned in the AFC East and that Mark Sanchez was the next great quarterback in the NFL.
The Jets are 0-3 since then and now a game behind the Patriots – who they beat in Week 2 – in the AFC East race.
You figure 40 years of frustration would cause some fans to think twice before opening their piehole; you figure 40 years of late-season failure would cause some fans consider the long haul before over-reacting to the first three games of a new season.
Well, you don't know Jets fans.
The inability to think clearly must be a function of frustration that comes with rooting for a second-rate franchise, and by no means do fans in New York hold a monopoly in this clueless craft.
After all, we see this same irrational response from the most disturbing, misguided and irrational creature in all of sports: the Red Sox fan. Boston beats the Yankees three straight time during a series in May and you have Red Sox fans taunting Yankees fans like they just won the World Series. Then, in the adrenaline high of three straight wins in May, they blow all their Keno money stocking up on pink Red Sox shirts for their foul-mouthed wives and girlfriends, apparently unaware that, for the past 85 years, the baseball that really matters in October tends to favor the Bombers.
Washington's psychotic off-season
Kansas City is now 1-5 after topping the Redskins 14-6 in D.C. on Sunday. Washington, meanwhile, is officially the worst 2-4 team in NFL history.
The Redskins barely bested two winless teams (St. Louis and Tampa). They've also lost to the Lions, Chiefs and Panthers, teams who are 1-13 against the rest of the NFL.
Don't blame the defense: the Redskins surrender just 16.0 PPG (5th). It's the offense (13.2 PPG) that's the problem in D.C., thanks in large part to a dreadful off-season by team management.
We told you before the start of the season that the Redskins "are more imbalanced than Charles Manson" and that their decisions to dump tons of resources into defense, where they weren't needed, and few resources into offense, where they were needed, "spells another long, frustrating season for Redskins fans."
The Redskins were so desperate for help on offense this off-season that Dan Snyder should have spent the time begging for spare change and a quarterback while washing windshields in D.C. intersections.
Instead, he loaded up on an already solid defense (Albert Haynesworth, high draft picks) and ignored the unit that needed the help. Those poor decisions in the summer always spell on-field trouble in the autumn.
How the sausage is made
Some people don't want to see how the sausage is made. We argue that it's better than watching the Rams or Lions play. Plus, anything that involves pigskin, whether a sporting event or an actual tasty farm animal, that's for us.
So it was sausage-making weekend at the Cold, Hard Football Facts cardboard-box world headquarters. It's an annual tradition each autumn, making savory, aromatic sausage that we'll eat at the Pigskin Gala on Thanksgiving morning before the big Quincy-North Quincy game, and then eat throughout the holidays. It's so, so easy to do. In fact, even you can do it. All you need is a meat grinder and it really just takes minutes. Here are the basics:
10 pounds of fresh pork butt (preferably butt with a nice, thick fat-cap on it)
4 to 5 Tablespoons of nutmeg
3 to 4 Tablespoons of kosher salt
4 Tablespoons of sage (dried sage or fresh sage finely chopped; don't use powdered sage)
2 to 3 Tablespoons fresh cracked black pepper
Optional: 1 to 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar
Optional: 1 to 2 teaspoons ground clove
Chop the meat into 2-inch chunks. Grind the meat once with a coarse grind. Add the spices. Mix it all together real well with clean hands. Grind it again with the same coarse grind. Check for taste and add more spices as desired. Mix it together real well again by hand. Then just form it into little sausage patties and wrap in wax paper and freezer paper. They'll stay fine for a good year in the freezer. If you're really daring, use a sausage stuffer with fresh hog casings. But sausage patties are easy and will be a real crowd pleaser.
CBS put up this graphic Sunday: Tom Brady is 58-10 (.853) in games played in Foxboro (those numbers include playoffs). It's the best home record by any quarterback in history.
As far as our records show, he has never lost a game in the snow or below freezing (we're working to confirm that right now).
Bush the bust
More from Aikman Sunday: "I'm not sure Reggie Bush shouldn't be a wide receiver ... as far as being a running back, he's kind of a non-factor."
Aikman is being a little more than generous: Bush is a non-factor everywhere these days. In the win over the Giants Sunday, he caught one pass for 7 yards and ran six times for 17 yards and a score. That's 24 yards on seven touches for those of you keeping score at home, on a day when everything else in the Saints arsenal was clicking on all cylinders.
It's hard to believe that Bush is nothing more than a role player these days, when you consider that most observers called Bush the proverbial "can't-miss kid" and the game's next Gale Sayers when he came out of USC.
New England's passing dominance
In their historic 59-0 blowout of the Titans, the Patriots won the passing battle 432 to -7. We're trying to determine if that is the greatest passing disparity in NFL history. Seems like it could be.
We'll publish the findings once we get them.
It's all downhill from here for New Orleans
Sure, the Saints are 5-0 and just dominated the previously unbeaten Giants, 48-27. But that might not even be the best news for New Orleans. Have you seen their schedule the rest of the year?
The Saints still have two games left against the 2-3 Panthers and the 0-6 Buccaneers, along with single games against the 2-3 Dolphins, the 0-6 Rams and the 2-4 Redskins. In other words, seven of their final games are against teams who are a combined 8-31. Barring a shocking upset, there are seven wins right there.
The Saints also face the 3-1 Falcons (twice), 4-2 Patriots and 3-2 Cowboys. You gotta figure the Saints win at least two of those.
Add it all up, and the 11 remaining opponents for the unbeaten and dominant Saints are a combined 21-37.
Worst-case scenario? The Saints probably go 13-3. Best case? Well, it looks like the sky's the limit right now.
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