The Monday afternoon hangover

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 11, 2005



We're a little late with the Monday hangover today. We spent Sunday in the snow with our friends in Buffalo, who cooked up a big feast for the Cold, Hard Football Facts crew, and did not get back to the cardboard box until 3 a.m. Monday. (In the photo, that's Mitch, Tim and Steve, football fans from England who joined the CHFF crew on the sojourn to Buffalo. They know their American football and, we're proud to say, we count six chins among the three of them.)
 
Our Buffalo buddies, led by chef Frank Zambito of the Stumbling Inn in Elba, N.Y., cooked some amazing stuff. Plenty of wings, of course, and massive beef on weck sandwiches. What's beef on weck? Essentially, it's thin slices of prime rib cooked in its own au jus and piled onto big tasty buns with caraway seeds and thick chunks of salt baked into the top. This Web site here has some info on it. A truly religious experience. We'll have Zambito's recipes posted here in the Tailgate Treats section soon.
 
***
The big news from Sunday?
 
For just the fifth time all year, and the third time in a winning effort, Brett Favre did not throw away the game for the Packers with a costly interception or two late in the contest.
 
Oh, sure, Favre did toss a fourth-quarter INT in Green Bay's 16-13 overtime win over Detroit yesterday. It was his league-leading 22nd of the season, just two shy of his personal record set back in 1993. But, in all fairness, it came on a Hail Mary heave-ho on the final play of regulation that had little chance of succeeding. (He also fumbled away the ball on Green Bay's first drive, leading to a Detroit field goal that put the Packers in an early 6-0 hole.)
 
Favre has tossed just two INTs in Green Bay's three wins this season. But he's passed them around like bottles of moonshine at the Cold, Hard Football Facts holiday party in Green Bay's 10 losses (20 INTs). CHFF senior writer John Dudley, of course, chronicled last week the way Favre has single-handedly tossed away his team's season – and how he has done so without suffering any consequences from the organization or the media for his pathetic play.
 
Favre has basically been told by coach Mike Sherman that he won't be benched, despite the fact he is the worst full-time starting quarterback in football this season. At the very least, he's done more than any other QB to cost his team victories.
 
And, of course, the "pundits" still don't get it. Take, for example, ESPN SportsCenter host Stuart Scott. "Packers fans," he said Monday, "are holding out hope that Favre will return (next year)."
 
If we're Packers fans, we're holding out hope that he'll empty out his locker this afternoon and never return. But, hey, that's us talking. We like quarterbacks who put our team in a position to win each week, not quarterbacks who can't figure out which color jersey their team is wearing.
 
Favre, in his day, may have been the best quarterback in modern NFL history. Today, he's a rusty, old, barnacle-encrusted anchor dragging down the Packers and their 5th-rated (yes, FIFTH) defense (286.0 YPG) this season – even if he still manages not to blow a game at home against a 4-8 opponent every once in a while.
 
***
Well, we broke out this list for the first time back on November 30 – and now feel compelled to do it each week – because we love gridiron history, and gridiron history is unfolding right now before our very eyes.
 
We've been tracking Indy's place in the pantheon of most dominant teams in NFL history. Following their 26-18 win over Jacksonville Sunday, the Colts continue to be among just a handful of teams who have outscored their opponents by a margin of better than 2-to-1 over the course of an entire season.
 
The 2005 Colts stand today at No. 7 on our list, with an average scoring margin of 30.2-13.9 PPG, a differential of 16.3 PPG. (The full list of all 22 teams that have outscored their opponents 2-to-1 can be found here.)
 
More important is that the Colts are now just three games away from becoming the first 16-0 team in NFL history (the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978).
 
This possibility, of course, has led to comparisons with the 1972 Dolphins. The '72 Dolphins, as every mental gridiron midget certain knows, are the only team in NFL history to go through an entire season without a loss (14-0 in the regular season, 3-0 in the playoffs).
 
If Indy does pull off an undefeated season – and continues to win at their present clip – they will have become a far more impressive team than the 1972 Dolphins.
  • Miami faced just two quality opponents (i.e., teams with winning records) all season.
  • Indy has already faced five quality opponents and has two more on its schedule (Seattle and San Diego).
  • Miami faced one of the easiest schedules in NFL history (opponents were a combined 70-122-4, .357).
  • Indy has faced a slightly tougher schedule (opponents so far are a combined 69-100, .408).
  • Miami outscored its opponents by 15.3 PPG.
  • Indy outscores its opponents by 16.3 PPG.
In other words, if Indy does pull off an undefeated season, they'll be the more dominant team and they'll have done it against better competition.
 
Here are the 11 most dominant teams in modern NFL history, up to the 1972 Dolphins. The full list of all 22 teams who have outscored their opposition by a 2-to-1 margin can be found here.
 
Team
Record
PF-PA
Difference
Result
1968 Balt. Colts
13-1
28.7-10.3
18.4
Lost SB III
1999 Rams
13-3
33.5-15.1
18.4
Won SB XXXIV
1969 Vikings
12-2
27.1-9.5
17.6
Lost SB IV
1968 Cowboys  
12-2
30.8-13.3
17.5
Lost div. round
1967 Raiders
13-1
33.4-16.6
16.8
Lost SB II
1991 Redskins
14-2
30.3-14.0
16.3
Won SB XXVI
2005 Colts
13-0
30.2-13.9
16.3
TBD
1985 Bears
15-1
28.5-12.4
16.1
Won SB XX
1984 49ers
15-1
29.7-14.2
15.5
Won SB XIX
1996 Packers
13-3
28.5-13.1
15.4
Won SB XXXI
1972 Dolphins
14-0
27.5-12.2
15.3
Won SB VII
 
***
This isn't a Cold, Hard Football Fact, but does anyone else smell another Indy-New England playoff match in the air?
 
If it does happen, and Indy enters the game undefeated, you've heard it here first: It will be the most highly hyped postseason game in NFL history.
 
***
The Tony Dungy-Peyton Manning combination won its 50th game together Sunday (including playoffs) with the win over Jacksonville.
 
The pair is now 50-17 (.746) since Dungy took over the Colts in 2002.
 
The Bill Belichick-Tom Brady combination won its 65th game together Sunday (including playoffs).
 
The pair is now 65-19 (.774) since Brady took over as quarterback of the Patriots in 2001.
 
Dungy's record pre-Manning was 56-46 (.549).
Belichick's record pre-Brady was 42-58 (.420).
 
***
As discussed previously, the Colts are not the only team on a historic run. We've also been tracking the Bears as they attempt to join the ranks of the stingiest defenses in modern NFL history.
 
After a 21-9 loss to Pittsburgh, the Chicago defense has dropped several spots on our list, to No. 13.
 
Team             
Games
Pts. Allowed
PPG
Record
Result
1977 Falcons
14
129
9.21
7-7
Missed playoffs
1969 Vikings
14
133
9.50
12-2
Lost SB IV
1975 Rams
14
135
9.64
12-2
Lost NFC title game
1976 Steelers
14
138
9.86
10-4
Lost AFC title game
1971 Vikings
14
139
9.93
11-3
Lost div. playoff
1971 Colts
14
140
10.00
10-4
Lost AFC title game
1970 Vikings
14
143
10.21
12-2
Lost div. playoff
1968 Colts
14
144
10.29
13-1
Lost SB III
2000 Ravens
16
165
10.31
12-4
Won SB XXXV
1977 Rams
14
146
10.43
10-4
Lost div. playoff
1977 Broncos
14
148
10.57
12-2
Lost SB XII
1973 Dolphins
14
150
10.71
12-2
Won SB VIII
2005 Bears
13
148
11.38
9-4
TBD
1975 Steelers
14
162
11.57
12-2
Won SB X
1966 Packers
14
163
11.64
12-2
Won SB I
1986 Bears
16
187
11.69
14-2
Lost div. playoff
2000 Titans
16
191
11.94
13-3
Lost div. playoff
1973 Vikings
14
168
12.00
12-2
Lost SB VIII
1968 Chiefs (AFL) 
14
170
12.14
12-2
Lost div. playoff
1972 Dolphins
14
171
12.21
14-0
Won SB VII
2002 Bucs
16
196
12.25
12-4
Won SB XXXVII
1985 Bears
16
198
12.37
15-1
Won SB XX
1978 Broncos
16
198
12.37
10-6
Lost div. playoff
 
The loss to Pittsburgh marks the first time Chicago has surrendered more than 20 points in a game since a 24-7 loss to Cincinnati on Sept. 25. The Bears end the season with a 1-3 mark against the AFC North. The lone win was a narrow 10-6 victory at home over lowly 4-9 Baltimore on Oct. 26.
 
Of course, it's obvious that Chicago is not the TEAM that these other clubs were. The Bears already have four losses in 13 games. Of the 22 other teams on our list, only the 1977 Falcons lost more than four games. There are, of course, a lot of similarities between that Falcons team and this Bears team. Namely, their great defenses were hamstrung by weak offenses.
 
The 1977 Falcons scored just 12.8 PPG. The 2005 Bears score 16.2 PPG.
 
***
The AFC and NFC are now deadlocked at 25-25 in inter-conference play this season.
 
The NFC South has dominated the AFC East (10-5), while the AFC North has fared better than any other AFC division against the NFC, going 7-4 so far against the NFC North.
 
***
Following their 35-7 shellacking of Buffalo Sunday, the Patriots (8-5) now boast more points scored than points allowed for the first time since Week Three (294-289).
 
The win over Buffalo was New England's biggest blowout since a 31-0 victory over the very same Bills on the last week of the 2003 season. It was New England's biggest road victory since, that's right, a 38-7 win at Buffalo on Nov. 3, 2002.
 
Notice a trend here? The Patriots are 8-2 against Buffalo in the Tom Brady era, and 24-5 against divisional opponents over the same period.
 
***
After fielding an injury-riddled defense and an inexperienced secondary for much of the season, the New England defense has certainly started to moderate in recent weeks.
 
It has surrendered just 13.8 PPG over the last five weeks. Granted, the competition has been less than stellar (a combined record of 24-40), but Patriots fans must be encouraged to see the defense manhandle any NFL team, considering how porous the defense was through the first eight weeks of the season, when it allowed 220 points (27.5 PPG).
 
The New England defense now ranks 23rd in the NFL, allowing 22.2 PPG. Not exactly championship caliber but certainly getting better.
 
***
Finally, we want to take a moment to do what we do best: Pat ourselves on the back for being way ahead of the "pundits" when it comes to gridiron analysis. Long before it became fashionable, we determined that Tom Brady was the best QB in football. We jumped on the Brady bandwagon in 2001, after a first season on the fields of the NFL in which his performances far exceeded what could reasonably be expected from such an inexperienced QB. It was clear to anyone who looked at his actual onfield performances, instead of dwelling on his draft position, that he was far better than he was given credit for.
 
By 2003, in the Cold, Hard Football Facts column that led to the creation of the Web site, we declared him the best quarterback in the NFL. He had only played some 40 NFL games at the time. But the tide of Cold, Hard Football Facts placing him at the head of the class of contemporary NFL quarterbacks was just too monumental to resist.
 
Last season, the first in the history of Cold, Hard Football Facts.com, we devoted much of our time highlighting his historic statistical numbers and unparalleled team accomplishments. Even then, as he was leading the Patriots to a record 21-game win streak and their third Super Bowl title in four years, many "pundits" simply refused to accept the Cold, Hard Football Facts. Their reputations were beaten and bloodied inside the dank bowels of Pigskin Detention.
 
Last year, and again this year, we proved in absolutely irrefutable terms that he's had the most successful start to a career – statistically or otherwise – of any pro quarterback since Otto Graham.
 
Well, we were, of course, vindicated last week when Brady was named Sports Illustrated's 2005 Sportsman of the Year. He was the first NFL player since Joe Montana to earn that honor.
 
Certainly, SI Sportsman of the Year honors have no official bearing of any kind – it won't, for example, end up on Brady's Hall of Fame plaque – but it shows that the sports media establishment has finally accepted the truth that the Cold, Hard Football Facts have been peddling now for three NFL seasons.
 
We again, as always, lord over the battlefield of NFL analysis. If you want to know what's really happening in football, you'll find out here earlier, and in more detail, than you will anywhere else in the world.

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