The first-response team (Oktoberfest edition!)

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 04, 2009



(Ed. note: Catch the weekly Monday Morning Hangover here. It includes a comparison of the column to the tramp you dated in 11th grade, the secrets to success in Denver and New Orleans, the reason John Denver is the Burgermeister of Bavaria and a comparison of Bronko Nagurski's 1932 passing stats with JaMarcus Russell's 2009 passing stats that would make Al Davis roll over in the skybox that passes for his grave.)
 
By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts EMT of truth
 
Sorry, the CHFF first-response team is a little late racing to the rescue of Sunday's NFL games. Normally, the first-response team is here by 6 p.m. Sunday.
 
But we have a good excuse: a certain web site publisher was partaking in the ultimate troll fantasy. In fact, this is what life is like in the ultimate troll fantasy:
  • You drink huge mugs of golden lager brewed with painstaking care by the world's best and most traditional-laden beer makers
  • The beer is literally cheaper than the water (yes, it makes no sense to me, either, but it's true) 
  • your dietary intake consists of an endless stream of tasty sausages, roast pigs and chickens, with the occasional roast ox or roast fish or potato dumpling thrown into the mix for a little dietary variety
  • And finally, all the hot young women walk around town in these uber-sexy bosom-boosting outfits that belong not on the streets of a modern city but in a high-end strip club or new sub-category of European porn. (By the way, yes, that is Salma Hayek rockin' a dirndl, as she appeared on Bavarian TV.)
That pretty much describes Oktoberfest, folks. We can talk more about Oktoberfest later this week – and the vast, mindless consumption of beer that takes place.
 
But, really, the most amazing part of Oktoberfest is not just that the tradition has continued for nearly 200 years. The most amazing part of Oktoberfest is that the guy who invented it convinced all the hot girls in Bavaria to wear these sexy outfits for two straight weeks.
 
It's the traditional Bavarian dress called the dirndl and girls wear them to the festival, in the subways, on the streets and all over town this time of year. Bavarian girls even wear their dirndls when they get married in traditional weddings.  

If there's one Bavarian tradition (they're not German, they're Bavarian, big difference to these people) that we could import to America, it would not be the wurst plates, or the massive beer gardens around the region or the massive beer bash with our 500,000 drinking buddies from around the world.
 
It would be the dirndl.
 
I landed back in the states at 12:45 p.m. ET Sunday, just in time to call in my picks to my local death pool while waiting to get off the plane. So that's how razor close it was here for the CHFF emergency first-response team.
 
Another European tradition
Speaking of European traditions, the Patriots this week win the "I'm not dead yet" award for continuing to fend off the black plague of pigskin that threatens to end the 21st-century dynasty once and for all.
 
Here's how pigskin powerhouses died in the dark ages, according to famed Medieval historian Monty Python.
 
show video here
 
 
Our first reaction to New England's loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII was that it would probably mark the end of the dynasty. Tom Brady's season-ending injury in the team's very next game added further evidence that the end was nigh. The poor statistical performances of the defense in 2008 and, in some respects, here in the early days of 2009, made the dynasty vital signs look real bad.
 
So New England's 27-21 win over previously unbeaten Baltimore was one of the shockers of the week in our eyes and a sure sign that the Patriots are still alive and well and seem to be improving each week. The Patriots manhandled the 2-1 Falcons 26-10 last week.
 
That's two wins in a row now over otherwise undefeated clubs (not to mention two pre-season Super Bowl favorites). It makes New England the only team in the AFC as of today with two Quality Wins (2-1) this year. The unbeaten Saints are 2-0 vs. Quality Teams, the only NFC club with more than one victory over teams with winning records.
 
The Patriots did not look particularly sharp over the past two weeks. But in the final and most meaningful stat, the one on the scoreboard, they look a lot like they did in the olden days of the dynasty: the Patriots on top, even if it's not so pretty watching the wurst get made.
 
More importantly, New England's win over Baltimore puts the Cold, Hard Football Facts in a precarious position.
 
Before the start of the season, we declared that the winner of the Ravens-Patriots game on Oct. 4 would go on to capture the AFC's No. 1 seed.
 
Despite our words, it's a little too early to make the Patriots the front-runner for the No. 1 seed.
 
They visit the surprising 4-0 Broncos next week, a team that New England traditionally struggles to beat, and then comes the three-game stretch of November that will largely shape the AFC playoff picture: the Patriots visit 4-0 Indy, host 3-1 N.Y. Jets (who beat them earlier) and visit 4-0 New Orleans in consecutive weeks.
 
The Patriots will need to win two of those games – most likely against the AFC teams – to meet our bold prediction. But following the wins over Atlanta and Baltimore, the Patriots suddenly seem much better equipped to do so.
 
Cleaning up the statistical bloodbath
The statistical game of Week 4 was N.Y. Jets-New Orleans, a battle which pitted hot quarterbacks with some of the league's most effective passing games against two of the toughest pass defenses in football, as measured by Defensive Passer Rating.
 
The Saints won 24-10, with the victor boasting three key advantages:
  • They boasted the better Passer Rating Differential (the Saints were easily tops in the NFL in this category entering the game and are now +57.09 through four weeks)
  • They boasted the more experienced quarterback (Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez made a series of critical mistakes, including three INTs and a fumble. New Orleans QB Drew Brees did not commit a single turnover).
  • They boasted homefield advantage (the Saints had moved to 3-0 despite road games in Weeks 2 and 3; the Jets are 1-3 in their last four road games, with the lone victory in Week 1 over a bad Texans team).
The Saints were for real – statistically speaking – two weeks ago, as we noted here. But now they're real in the eyes of public perception, easily on pace to become the best team in franchise history, not to mention the best team in the NFL in 2009.
 
How they deal with this rare kind of pressure will evolve into one of the great NFL storylines over the rest of the season.
 
Darren Sharper: your early leader for Defensive POY
New Orleans fielded a middle-of-the-pack Defensive Passer Rating of 80.3 last year.
 
The Saints entered Week 4 with the league's No. 4-ranked pass defense (57.98 Defensive Passer Rating). Today, after their impressive, defensive-fueled 24-10 win over the Jets (three picks), the Saints top the NFL with an awesome 51.3 Defensive Passer Rating.
 
Give much of the credit for the vast improvement to veteran Darren Sharper, who was picked up by the Saints this off-season after 12 years in the NFC North playing for the Packers and Vikings.
 
As we said over the summer, Sharper may be the most under-appreciated defender of our time. In an equitable world, where defensive backs were given the same kind of consideration as wide receivers, Sharper would be an easy candidate for the Hall of Fame and already recognized as one of the best players of his time.
 
We got a great look at this capabilities, and his impact on the 4-0 season of the Saints, in the win over the Jets.
 
Sharper picked off two passes Sunday, including one he returned 99 yards for a touchdown in what was easily the biggest play of the game.
 
Sharper entered the year as the active leader in INTs and pick-sixes. He's padded his stats this year with five more INTs – which gives him 59 for his career, easily the most among active players.
 
His 5 INTs this year also easily lead the NFL here in 2009. Nobody else boasts more than three picks.
 
And with two INT returns for scores this year – the other was a 97-yarder against Philly in Week 2 – Sharper has turned 10 of his career picks into touchdowns. Only 2009 Hall of Fame inductee Rod Woodson returned more picks for scores (12).
 
In addition, Sharper leaped this week into the all-time top 10 in caeer INTs. Here's the all-time leaderboard as of today:
 
1)      Paul Krause (81)
2)      Emlen Tunnell (79)
3)      Rod Woodson (71)
4)      Night Train Lane (68)
5)      Ken Riley (65)
6)      Ronnie Lott (63)
7)      Dave Brown (62)
7)      Dick LeBeau (62)
9)      Darren Sharper (59)
10)    Emmitt Thomas (58)
 
Krause, Tunnell, Woodson, Lane, Lott and Thomas are all in the Hall of Fame. We'll see if the Hall of Fame voters, who needed a boost from the Cold, Hard Football Facts before they started inducted record numbers of defenders into Canton the past two year, will give Sharper the consideration they've field to give guys like Ken Riley and Dick LeBeau.
 
Even from Europe, we rock the dogs!
The Cold, Hard Football Facts had another banner week picking NFL games, with a 10-3 mark Sunday straight up, and an 8-5 mark ATS.
 
Those numbers put us at 42-19 straight up this year and 33-28 ATS – more importantly, we've had a comfortable winning mark ATS in three of four weeks. Only a bad Week 2 set us back.
 
Heading into Monday night, we envision a road upset by the Packers over the Vikings, who are 3.5-point favorites. That's good news for Green Bay fans: this year, we have picked outright victories by road dogs six times and have had amazing success doing so.  
 
These road dogs are 5-1 ATS and the only loss was this week's Baltimore at New England game. The Ravens were 1.5-point dogs and we picked them to win 23-20. They lost 27-21.
 
We're also 4-2 straight up picking road dogs to win outright. The only other loser for us besides Baltimore, however, plays tonight: Brett Favre's Vikings.
 
We predicted an outright 23-20 Week 3 victory by San Francisco in Minnesota. The 49ers held a 24-20 lead in the final seconds and the Cold, Hard Football Facts were poised to look like their typical genius selves, almost right down to the score, when Favre threw that wild touchdown pass to Greg Lewis – a 27-24 loss for San Fran and a loss for us.
 
If we include home dogs, we did nail one other game this week: We picked the Broncos, 2.5-point dogs to Dallas, to win at home. A lot of fans criticized us for this pick.
 
The Broncos won 17-10. And the game, much like several other games this week, went down just the way we had envisioned. In fact, here's what we said in our real and spectacular Week 4 picks: "
 
The Cowboys will find it much tougher to put points on the board against Denver, while Kyle the Horseshoe Orton continues to harvest enough lucky bounces on offense for the Broncos to pull out the home victory."
 
Harvest lucky bounces he did ... but more on that in the Monday Morning Hangover ... while the Broncos held on for a 17-10 victory.
 
The Peyton Watch
Here's a shocker: Peyton Manning played another near flawless game in Indy's 34-17 win over Seattle. Here was the baseline for Manning against the Seahawks:
  • 31 of 41 (75,6%), 353 yards, 8.6 YPA, 2 TD, 1 INT, 107.1 passer rating
His average per pass attempt using our adjusted formula that includes sacks dropped slightly from the historically shocking level we discussed last week (9.88 YPA entering the game) to an only slightly less historically shocking 9.50 YPA today – but it's still an amazing level of production by any measure and it tops the NFL by nearly 2 YPA (over his brother, Eli, no less). That's a shocking distance between No. 1 in No. 2 in this critical measure of success.

Here' the top five in the NFL in Passing Yards Per Attempt heading into the Monday night game. The full list will be published in our Quality Stats section later today or tomorrow.
 
Passing Yards Per Attempt Top 5 (through Week 4)
 
Team
Att.
Yards
Sacks
Yds Lost
 YPA
1
Indianapolis
137
1,336
2
15
9.5
2
N.Y. Giants
130
1,049
3
27
7.68
3
New Orleans
129
1,031
4
39
7.46
4
San Diego
150
1,245
10
63
7.39
5
Pittsburgh
143
1,199
10
84
7.29
 
And then there's JaMarcus and the Raiders
As you know, the winners like the Colts are the teams that pass well. The losers, naturally, are the teams that can't pass well.
 
And nobody continues to pass more poorly than JaMarcus Russell and the Raiders. In fact it's embarrassing. Oakland's 29-6 loss to a bad Texans team was another disaster for the organization that once defined the stretch-the-field style of player.
 
Russell dropped back to pass 35 times against Houston. He attempted 33 passes for 128 yards, but also suffered two sacks for eight yards. That's 120 yards on 35 dropbacks – an abysmal average of 3.4 Passing Yards Per Attempt.
 
Russell and the Raiders now average 4.06 yards per pass attempt this year – about the same average that you'd expect from a mediocre running game, let alone a passing game.
 
To understand how that translates on the field, simply compare Oakland's average per pass attempt this year (4.06) to Indy's (9.5).
 
In an average game of 30 pass attempts:
  • The Colts would generate 285 yards of offense
  • The Raiders would generate 122 yards of offense
In an average season of 480 pass attempts:
  • The Colts would generate 4,560 yards of offense
  • The Raiders would generate 1,949 yards of offense
Now you know why one team is easily 4-0 and the other is lucky to be 1-3.  
 
(By the way, if you want another way to measure the futility of the Raiders offense, check out the Houston-Oakland section of the Monday Morning Hangover for a very sad comparison of Russell's passing stats here in his third NFL season to those of Bronko Nagurski's passing stats in his third NFL season ... which was 1932, the Stone Age of NFL offenses. Yes, that would be our second Nagurski reference in one day. See below.) 
 
From Bronko Nagurski to Matt Forte
The good times in Motown were shortlived: the Lions followed their 19-14 win over a bad Redskins team last week with a crushing 48-24 loss to the Bears this week.
 
Amazingly, the Bears put up all those points with just 141 yards on 28 attempts (5.03 YPA) from quarterback Jay Cutler.
 
Instead, Chicago shredded the Lions on the ground, paced by 121 yards from Matt Forte on just 12 carries – that's 10.1 YPA for those of you keeping score at home – including a 61-yard burst and a 37-yard TD.
 
If there's an eternal truth of the Bears-Lions rivalry, it's that Chicago wins when they run well, ever since the time of Bears legend Bronko Nagurski himself.
 
According to CHFF researcher Coach T.J. Troup, the Bears have produced a 100-yard runner in 23 games against the Lions on a rivalry that dates back to 1930, when the Lions were known as the Portsmouth Spartans.
 
The Bears are now 20-2-1 in those 23 games.
 
Forte's forebear in this area is no less a legend than Nagurski (a member of the CHFF All-Time 11), who topped 100 yards in a 1933 game against the Spartans in a 17-14 Chicago win. The 1933 Bears went on to win the NFL championship that year.
 
One time the Bears produced two 100-yard runners in the same game: Matt Suhey and Walter Payton each topped the century mark against Detroit for the legendary 1985 Bears. Chicago won 24-3. The 1985 Bears went on to win the NFL championship.
 
The Bears lead the all-time series, by the way, 90-64-5 (.582).
 
Believe it or not, these two long-time rivals, who have played twice each year for more than three-quarters of a century, have never met in the postseason.
 
Life in the Fast Lane
We're always amazed by how quickly life changes in the Not For Long League. Consider the fate of two traditional NFL sad sacks.
  • Cincinnati, after its 23-20 OT win over the Browns Sunday, is now 7-4-1 since starting 2008 at 0-8.
  • Tampa Bay, after its 16-13 loss to Washington Sunday, is now 0-8 since starting 2008 at 9-3.
In other words, eight games ago, nobody – NOBODY – would have told you that the Bengals would be the hotter or better team at this point. But today, there's no doubt that the Bucs are all done and that the 3-1 Bengals have a chance to challenge their Pittsburgh masters for the AFC North crown.
 
But check back with us in eight games ...
 
Your job could be worse: you could report on the Chiefs
For one reason or another, I get the weekly Chiefs mailing list from the Kansas City Star. Each week is an exercise in misery, as the paper tries to put its best face on some really bad games and get some people to read about thei Chiefs.
 
The email headlines range from comedy to defeatism. Here the emails this season:
 
Email subject line (Sept. 14): "Chiefs put up a fight against Ravens but fall short"
The score: Chiefs lose 38-24 to Baltimore
The inside story from the KC Star: Besides the fact this is the type of headline you'd expect to see in the TinyTown Gazette about the hard-luck local high school football team, it turns out that "putting up a fight" includes surrendering 501 yards of offense.
 
Email subject line (Sept. 21): "Game gets away from Chiefs"
The score: The Chiefs suffered an embarrassing 13-10 home loss to Oakland, one of the worst offensive teams in modern football history.
The inside story from the KC Star: We find that the "Numbers favor the Chiefs – except turnovers and score." Other than that Mr. Donner, how was the trip?
 
Email subject line (Sept. 28): "Chiefs can't compete"
The score: The Chiefs get blown out, 34-14, in Philly
The inside story from : Well, at least we're finally getting a little honesty out of the paper.
 
Can't wait to see what the email says today, after the Chiefs fall to 0-4 with a 27-16 loss to the Giants. The game was worse than the score indicated: Matt Cassel, Kansas City's star off-season acquisition, dropped back to pass 37 times.
 
He was sacked five times and his efforts netted 88 passing yards - a brutal average of 2.4 Passing Yards Per Attempt that not even the other Kansas City Star, the newspaper, can put spin pleasantly.

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