The Monday Morning Hangover
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 24, 2006
This week's Monday Morning Hangover is being published in memory of Chris Simms's spleen. It was written while shaking off the effects of too many Alaskan Smoked Porters and shots of Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey.
All we can say is this, Chris: It could have been worse. It could have been your liver.
Now, let the Jay Fiedler Era begin.
Our dear friend the spleen
Admit it: You have no idea what a spleen does. You just know that it sounds funny, like syphilis.
We've been studying the spleen intently over the past 12 hours, and all we've learned is that the spleen is one of those organs we never use ... so it's kind of like the penis.
Defense is back
Scoring, of course, is not something we excel at. Neither do NFL offenses this year.
In fact, scoring has declined rather noticeably this season. Anecdotal examples abound: According to an NBC graphic last night, for example, the Broncos were the first team since 1942 to hold opponents out of the end zone for the first 11 quarters of the season. Numerous teams this year have won games without scoring an offensive touchdown.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts support the anecdotes. Here's how the 2006 season compares (so far) with recent NFL seasons in terms of points per game:
2003 – 41.66 PPG
2004 – 42.96 PPG
2005 – 41.23 PPG
2006 – 37.76 PPG*
That's an 8.4 percent decline in scoring so far compared with 2005. Even in 1977, the height of the Dead Ball Era and the worst year for scoring in modern NFL history, there was an average of 34.35 PPG.
We'll dig into the reasons for the sudden decline in scoring as the season progresses.
(* Update: After New Orleans' 23-3 win over Atlanta on Monday night, scoring is down to 37.5 PPG, a decline of 9 percent.)
A decade of dominance
The Broncos and Patriots have been the two most dominant teams in football over the past 10 years and have combined to win five of the past 10 Super Bowls.
Following last night's 17-7 Denver victory, each team has won 116 games since 1996 – more than any other team. And, as you might expect, they boast the top two winning percentages in football over that period.
- Denver is 116-60 (.659) since 1996 (including playoffs)
- New England is 116-64 (.644) since 1996 (including playoffs)
Another notch for Shanahan
Of course, the head-to-head battle has clearly gone Denver's way. As we noted in Sunday's Icy Issues, the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady combo has spanked everyone in the NFL – except for Denver. In fact, the difference is startling.
The Belichick-Brady combo is:
- 69-17 (.802) against the rest of the NFL
- 1-5 (.167) against Denver
It's like looking at Germany's record vs. France and then at Germany's record vs. the U.S.
The "usual suspects" in the Boston media who have been predicting the demise of the Patriots since 2001 will no doubt point to the departure of Deion Branch as the reason for New England's punchless loss to Denver last night.
But it might help to remind the "usual suspects" that New England went 0-2 against Denver last year with Branch in the lineup.
It might also help if Brady hits his wide open receivers. One play in New England's loss jumped out in particular:
Early in the third quarter, with New England trailing 10-0, Reche Caldwell split the entire Denver defense and was wide open down the middle for what would have been a game-changing 76-yard TD. Brady's pass was woefully under-thrown and nearly picked off.
Not so fast, Jax!
In the first game we can remember that pitted the top two teams in the Cold, Hard Football Facts Power Rankings, No. 2 Indy pounded out a tough 21-14 win over the Jaguars and reasserted its dominance of the AFC South.
Peyton Manning completed less than 50 percent of his passes (14 of 31), while the Jaguars pounded out 100 yards on the ground – in the first quarter.
The Colts managed to win despite just nine offensive plays in the first half. Special teams came to the rescue: Indy scored its first touchdown in the second quarter courtesy of an 82-yard punt return by Terrence Wilkins.
The Jaguars are 14-2 in the regular season against the rest of the league since 2005, but 0-3 against the Colts.
Wayne's brother killed
On a much more somber note, the brother of Indy wideout Reggie Wayne was killed in a traffic accident in Louisiana yesterday.
The shocking truth of the CHFF jinx
The Cold, Hard Football Facts jinx is starting to take on a disturbing life of its own.
Back on Sept. 10, we declared that "Charlie Weis is the balls" and outlined the string of records that have fallen at his coaching feet.
Just six days later, Weis channeled the ghost of Ty Willingham as his Fighting Irish laid a massive ostrich egg in a 47-21 loss to Michigan.
Last week, we devoted an entire day to Chris Simms and even got some insight on his troubles from former Tampa Bay quarterback Randy Hedberg, who posted a nifty 0.0 passer rating in his NFL career.
Yesterday, just three days after our profile, Simms (139 passing yards) and his team fell to 0-3 in a 26-24 home loss to Carolina. Simms was taken to the hospital after the game to have his spleen removed. He also had a blood transfusion and will miss at least six weeks.
And as Cold, Hard Football Facts contributor Jonathan Comey noted in last week's Dominant Dozen Power Rankings, the Patriots had won 49 straight games when allowing 17 points or less ... until last night's 17-7 loss to Denver.
Defensive passer rating rules
Teams with the better defensive passer rating are 36-9 this season. Or, put another way, if your quarterback plays better than the opposing quarterback, you have about an 80 percent chance of winning the game.
Road teams are a sterling 25-20 (.556) so far this season and have handily won the head-to-head battle in two of three weeks this season.
Here's the record of road teams each week:
Week 1 – 11-5
Week 2 – 4-12
Week 3 – 10-3
The best season for road teams since the AFL-NFL merger was 1972, when they went 87-90-5 (.492).
Big Ben's broken
Ben Roethlisberger has been dreadful in his last three performances, dating back to Pittsburgh's statistically improbable victory over Seattle in Super Bowl XL.
Roethlisberger has posted the following line in his last three games:
- 44 for 92, 473 yards, 0 TDs, 7 INTs and 31.7 passer rating.
He has averaged just 5.14 yards in the all-important yards per attempt category. That's far below his league-leading 8.9 yards per attempt in 2005.
In Sunday's 28-20 loss to Cincinnati, he posted the lowest regular-season passer rating of his career (30.7). He completed just 18 of 39 passes for 208 yards and had three interceptions, two of which came in the red zone. Prior to Sunday, Roethlisberger had never thrown a red-zone pick in a regular-season game.
Nailing the road underdogs
Few "pundits" have the balls to routinely go against conventional wisdom and pick straight-out upsets by road underdogs.
But the Cold, Hard Football Facts have stepped out onto this rickety limb four times this season – and emerged victorious in three of those four games.
Week 1 – CHFF victory
Kansas City was a 2.5-point favorite at home against Cincinnati. We called for a 5-point Bengals victory. The Bengals won, 23-10.
Week 2 – CHFF victory
Philadelphia was a 3-point favorite at home against the N.Y. Giants. We called for a 1-point Giants win. The Giants won, 30-24 in overtime.
Week 2 – CHFF loss
Dallas was a 6-point favorite at home against Washington. We stepped way out and called for a 3-point Redskins victory. We tumbled badly, as the Cowboys held serve and won handily, 27-10.
Week 3 – CHFF victory
Pittsburgh was a 2-point favorite at home against Cincinnati. We called for a 3-point Bengals victory. The Bengals won, 28-20.
The Gridiron Grid
The Cold, Hard Football Facts Gridiron Grid, featured each week in our Friday Beer Run and again in our Monday Night Football preview, is now 16-6 (.727) picking NFL games each week.
The Las Vegas favorites are 12-9 (.571) in those same games (the Week 1 Miami Pittsburgh game was a pick 'em).
Our Gridiron Grid uses Quality Stats to determine the winner of each NFL contest. Remember, we do not just pick the obvious winners, either. We look only at the biggest and most competitive games each week, while avoiding the obvious potential blowouts.
Slonkey or slackass?
The beloved troll has long been the Cold, Hard Football Facts mascot. The troll represents everything we stand for, from our repulsive physique to our asocial behavior to our hairy palms.
But there's a movement afoot to replace the troll with an animal hybrid that more accurately reflects our nature. The leading candidate right now is half sloth/half donkey (the slonkey) or half sloth/half jackass (the slackass).
You can weigh in on this pressing issue in the Football Forum.
We'll always have Detroit
The beauty of playing in the NFC North is that, no matter how bad you suck, you can always beat up on Detroit.
The Packers have won just five games since the start of the 2005 season. Two of those have come against the lowly Lions, and picking off the pathetic, first-round-draft-pick-filled Detroit passing game has played a pivotal role.
Over the past 67 years – a span of 135 games – the Packers have returned 10 Detroit INTs for TDs (all in victory, by the way). Five of those 10 TD returns have come in the last nine games – including one yesterday.
Green Bay's Marquand Manuel returned a Jon Kitna pass 29 yards for a first-quarter TD that proved to be the difference in a 31-24 Packers victory.
It's a true testament to the competitive level of the NFL that a single play among 150 in a game – usually a turnover – can create a radical change in momentum and/or be the difference between victory and defeat.
The Ravens, who seemed invincible in their first two games, were struggling to keep their heads above water against the lowly Browns. They trailed 14-12 and were about to be knocked out of commission when Chris McAlister picked off a Charlie Frye pass in the end zone with 4 minutes to play. Steve McNair quickly led the Ravens to the Cleveland 33, where Matt Stover kicked the game-winning 52-yard field goal with 20 seconds to play.
Pittsburgh appeared to have the Cincinnati offense in check all day and held a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter. Then, in the span of one minute in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh's Ricardo Colclough muffed a punt deep in his own territory and Verron Haynes fumbled. Carson Palmer then threw TD passes to T.J. Houshmandzadeh on two consecutive offensive plays. The Bengals quickly went from a 17-14 deficit to a 28-17 lead.
In Minnesota, the Bears had difficulty moving the ball all day and trailed 16-12 late in the fourth quarter when Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson fumbled a snap. Adewale Ogunleye recovered at the Minnetota 37. Five plays latter, Rex Grossman hit Rashied Davis for a 24-yard TD and the winning points in a 19-16 victory.
Nine of the 13 games played yesterday were decided by eight points or fewer. That means the losing team was within one possession. The number could have been 10 of 13 if the Patriots, down 17-7 with 1:07 left, had elected to kick a 37-yard field goal on fourth down instead of trying to get the touchdown first.
Quarterback Mark Brunell answered his critics by completing the first 22 passes he threw in Washington's 31-15 win over Houston. That set a new record for consecutive completions in a single game, beating former Oakland QB Rich Gannon's record of 21 (set against Denver on Nov. 11, 2002).
Carson Palmer matched a career best with four touchdown passes in Cincinnati's 28-20 revenge victory over Pittsburgh. Two of those TD throws came in the second quarter, when he connected on every pass that was intended for a receiver. He officially was 12 of 14, but his only two incompletions occurred when he intentionally spiked the ball to stop the clock.
Jets QB Chad Pennington's stats in the red zone are absolutely unbelievable: He has thrown 44 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The Jets became the first team in NFL history to win on the road when allowing a 300-yard passer (J.P. Losman, 328) and a 150-yard rusher (Willis McGahee, 150).
Brett Favre threw three touchdowns in leading Green Bay to a 31-24 road victory over Detroit. He now has 402 TDs for his career, putting him just 18 behind Dan Marino's all-time mark.
Charlie Frye became the first Cleveland quarterback to rush for a touchdown in three straight games since Otto Graham in 1954.
In their first three games, the Giants have scored 51 fourth-quarter points. That's more than the season totals of half the league (16 teams).
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