The Monday Morning Hangover
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 06, 2008
This week's Monday Morning Hangover was pieced together from notes scribbled on the brown paper bags we used to hide our bottles of Harpoon Munich Dark as we huddled under our bridge Sunday to watch the games. The brewery provided us the bottles and the bags as part of our highly lucrative sponsorship deal (Shhh! they think we're legitimate ... but keep that between us.)
Basically, Harpoon gives us beer and we get to return the empties and keep the nickels. And believe you us, after two days of football bliss (not to mention the promise of tonight's big LSU-Ohio state game) there are an awful lot of empty brown paper bags and glass nickels floating around the cardboard-box world headquarters this morning.
INTs TRUMP TDs, AGAIN
Interceptions remain the single greatest difference between victory and defeat in the NFL playoffs.
In fact, as we've chronicled now for two seasons, INTs are more important than touchdown passes. Passers who throw fewer picks than their opponent are more likely to win than passers who throw more TD passes than their opponent. It's a pretty telling phenomenon, especially when you consider that scoring points is kind of important.
In the wild-card round this weekend:
- Teams that tossed more TD passes than their opponents (San Diego, New York, Pittsburgh and Washington) were just 2-2.
- Teams that tossed fewer INTs than their opponents (New York and Jacksonville) were 2-0. The Redskins-Seahawks (2) and Chargers-Titans (1) equaled each other in the INT department.
We've now tracked every single playoff game in the Super Bowl Era (through this weekend's games) and here's the correlation between INTs and defeat:
INTS in the PLAYOFFS (1966 to 2007-08 wildcard)
Jacksonville's 31-29 victory over Pittsburgh provides the greatest example of the TD-INT dynamic at work.
Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger generally outplayed Jacksonville's David Garrard, completing a higher percentage of his passes for more yards, more yards per attempt and more touchdowns.
But he also threw more picks – 3 to 2.
Roethlisberger's first pick was returned 63 yards for a TD by Rashean Mathis. Obviously, in a two-point game, that was kinda a big play. His second pick, again by Mathis, gave the Jaguars the ball in Pittsburgh territory and they scored three plays later. His third pick – all came in the second quarter, this one by DT Derek Landri – killed a scoring drive with the Steelers in field-goal range. Again, in a two-point game, it was kinda a big play.
Bottom line: If Roethlisberger tosses two picks, but takes a sack or throws the ball away on the other play, and Pittsburgh is marching into Foxboro Saturday night.
Fans of quarterbacks who throw too many picks in the playoffs are always looking for an excuse to justify their hero's performance. Too much pressure on the QB. An unlucky tip, whatever. But the bottom line is that you can't throw picks. Take a sack. Throw the ball away. Ground the ball and take a penalty. Anything – and everything – is a better option than throwing an interception.
THE COMPLETE INT CHRONICLES
The chart above tells us that teams can generally get away with one pick. It's that second pick that generally leads to defeat and the third pick that all but ensures defeat.
- Teams that toss fewer than 2 INTs are 312-155 (.668)
- Teams that toss 2 or more INTS are 70-227 (.236)
- Teams that toss 3 or more INTs are 17-117 (.127)
The numbers may be a skewed a bit by including every playoff game of the Super Bowl Era. Up through the 1970s, passers were far more likely to throw picks than they are today. We're fairly certain that if we looked at INTs only from the past 10 to 20 years, we'd find that the first and second INT might be far more costly than it was 30 to 40 years ago.
We'll try to break down that data for you before the end of the playoffs.
CHFF in the MEDIA
Our friends at the Akron Beacon-Journal and Contra Costa Times last week made liberal use of the Cold, Hard Football Facts in their columns last week – falling into a common trap among sports reporters by giving our data and analysis much more credit than our wives do.
Fact-filled columnist Bill Soliday of the Contra Costa Times built one of his postseason previews around the Cold, Hard Football Facts, looking at each team through the prism of our Quality Wins Quotient.
Our pal Patrick McManamon, the Ohio.com and Beacon Journal sports columnist, wondered last week why Cleveland LT Joe Thomas received such little support from Rookie of the Year voters and cited some Cold, Hard Football Facts to boost his argument. We, of course, named the rookie lineman the team's MVP last week.
He also looked at the playoffs through the colorful kaleidoscope of the Quality Wins Quotient.
LSU vs. Ohio State: the mythical national title game
We wish we could mulit-task. But drinking, whoring and analyzing NFL football pretty much pushes our talents to the limit. We dip our toes into college football from time to time, and wish we did so more often. Someday, folks, we'll have just as much analysis of our beloved college game as we do the pro game.
Until then, we recommend the fellas from Sunday Morning QB, who write entertaining, fact-filled analysis of college ball that's very much in the Cold, Hard Football Facts mold.
The Patriots generate plenty of criticism for their cold, calculating Evil Empire approach to football. It seems some folks want their great football teams to be all warm and fuzzy (as if a warm and fuzzy dominant football team ever existed ... the next one will be the first).
With that said, you can't argue that the organization doesn't operate professionally (even if it's ruthless). For example, the highest levels of the organization don't make mistakes like the one Jacksonville has made this season. According to a report today by John Tomase in the Boston Herald, the Power Rankings published on the Jaguars' official web site states that the Patriots "cheated" this year.
Stupid, rookie mistake.
New England's ability to turn even the most minor insult into fuel for the fire is well documented. And here it is, an upstart organization, publicly slapping the Patriots in the face on their official website! (We couldn't find the story on Jaguars.com today, leading us to believe that maybe it's been pulled in the wake of the Herald's report.)
We can see the N.Y. Post doing it. The Post is trying to sell papers, it operates in New England's chief rival market, and the whole "spy-gate" incident took place in New York. Plus, the Post has no direct affilation with the city's NFL outlets. It's not like, for example, the Post is the official website of the Jets or Giants.
The Jaguaurs are already in over their heads. They're a nice 11-5 team on a bit of a roll. But now they're going into Foxboro to play a team that's 22-1 in its last 23 games, an unmatched 16-0 this year, set an NFL record for points (589) and outscored its opponents by a record 315 points.
It's hardly a team you want to insult. And it should have occurred to somebody at the Mayberry-based outfit that owns the Jaguars to realize that they might have to head into this hornet's nest sometime in the playoffs.
"DISCO RULED" LAST TIME CHIEFS WERE THIS BAD
The decline and fall of the Chiefs under Herm "You Coach to Lose the Game" Edwards is well-covered territory here on ColdHardFootballFacts.com. Kansas City's 4-12 record this year was the team's worst since 1978, causing the Kansas City Star to declare that the "Last time KC was this bad, disco ruled."
The paper has a brief but informative little look at the organization's many efforts over the past three decades to recapture the power and the glory of the 1960s Chiefs. It's now been 38 straight seasons for KC since their last Super Bowl apperance ... and it doesn't seem like there's one on the horizon, either.
A POLYESTER INTERMISSION
The Kansas City Star story reminds us to interrupt this broadcast with some polyester-styled entertainment that brings up sweet memories of youth for our chubby yet beloved Chief Troll, Kerry Byrne:
show video here
The Chief Troll had this song burnished into his brain like a harmonic firebrand as a child, often when the big kids in the neighborhood would make him play goalie without pads and practice their slap shots, breaking out into the disco classic every time they scored or nailed him in the face with one of those Mylec street hockey balls that turned harder than diamonds on a 22 degree-day ... slap, crack, "mommy!!!" followed by a riotous chorus of
"Byrne, Kerry Byrne ... Byrne, Kerry Byrne."
Ahh, to be young and named Byrne in 1976.
THE FINAL TALLY
The Cold, Hard Football Facts spoke clearly for Wild Card weekend, and we were right on target for three of the four games: We picked Jacksonville to cover 1½ points. The Jaguars won by 2. We picked Seattle to cover 3 points. The Seahawks won handily by 21. We picked San Diego to cover 8½ points. The Chargers won by 11.
But the Bucs, 2½-point favorites, couldn't live up to their numbers, losing at home to the Giants. We expected a 10-point victory. But Tampa was handed a 10-point defeat.
So, we're off to a 3-1 start, while our monkey Bonzo went 1-3 going against us in all four games with his random coin flips. Stupid monkey. This is what he looked like this morning:
Our Quality Wins Quotient, meanwhile, was just 2-2. New York (1-5 Quality Record) and Jacksonville (4-3 to Pittsburgh's slightly better 3-2) both poked holes in that theory.
Vegas favorites were 3-1.
THE QUALITY WINS QUOTIENT vs. THE FIELD
Here's how the Quality Wins Quotient stacks up against other key indicators since we introduced it at the start of the 2004 postseason. These are the records in postseason games.
- Teams with the better record vs. Quality Teams are 27-10 (.730)
- Vegas favorites 26-11 (.703)
- Teams with the better overall record are 23-14 (.622)
- Home teams are 20-14 (.588)
THE WEEK AHEAD
If you're looking ahead to this weekend, the wise guys are expecting four home-team blowouts by playoff standards. Here are the early lines according to FootballLocks.com:
- New England -12 vs. Jacksonville
- Indianapolis -8 vs. San Diego
- Green Bay -8 vs. Seattle
- Dallas -7.5 vs. N.Y. Giants
HOW TO BEAT THE COVER TWO: A WELL-KNOWN BLUEPRINT
After watching the Giants-Bucs game, the question begged to be asked – how the hell did Tampa Bay ever go 9-7?
Had the Bucs not turned the ball over three times (two of them while it still mattered), we might have found out exactly how. The two teams were pretty even in the numbers game, except for the turnovers.
Tampa's defense lived up to its end of the bargain, partially. The Giants, who had run the ball as well as anyone without the initials "M.V.", carried it 33 times for 100 yards, and Eli Manning didn't complete a ball over 21 yards all day. New York averaged just 4.78 yards per play.
But the Giants also exposed the faults of Tampa's famous Cover Two, which is that if your quarterback executes the short passing game to perfection you can march down the field in unattractive but successful chunks.
And once you get in the red zone vs. Tampa, you're in good shape. The Bucs were actually one of the worst defenses in the red zone, allowing TDs on 60 percent of opponent trips (tied for 29th). The Giants scored TDs in all three red-zone trips.
If you stayed on the couch in your football-induced coma for more than a couple of hours, you might have seen "American Gladiators" on NBC Sunday night. Although the new version of the show doesn't have the insights of Larry Csonka, Joe Theismann and/or Todd Christiensen, as the old show did, it's just as fun to watch as the original.
During an in-game promo for "A.G." on Saturday, Cris Collinsworth was asked to pick the best Gladiator candidate from the Redskins-Seahawks game. He went with Seattle LB Lofa Tatupu. Straight man Tom Hammond chose T Walter Jones, although Patrick Kerney would seem to be a better fit ("A.G." tends to go for big and lean, not big and, well, big).
Here are five possible future American Gladiators from the NFL, selected by the Cold, Hard Football Facts staff of crack "A.G." analysts:
1. T.O. The guy is built like a brick shithouse, loves silly theatrics, and is only a few years away from retirement. Sign him up. Nickname: "Inferno."
2. Shawne Merriman. That "Lights Out" dance would be much better on a reality show than in the NFL. Nickname: "Sandman."
3. Larry Allen. What mere mortal could possibly budge Larry Allen in a battle of strength? Nickname: "Mountain."
4. Michael Strahan. God knows the man is desperate to break into show biz: He does more interviews than a McDonald's manager. Why not American Gladiators? Nickname: "Sack."
5. Jason Taylor. He's got some football left in him, but no one would offer more. He'd be the lead Gladiator, for sure. Nickname: "Doom."
WE WANT CONGRESS TO INVESTIGATE FAVRE!
Actually, we don't. Could care less.
But Green Bay has marched through a magical season of lollipops and candy canes topped, naturally, by the second coming of football Jesus himself, Brett Favre. As we mentioned in our interview with DarkPartyReview, Favre is coming off perhaps the best season of his career and certainly the best since his MVP run of the mid-1990s.
Here in 2007, now at age 38, he's posted personal bests with 7.8 YPA and a 66.5 completion percentage. His 15 INTs is tied for the fewest since his MVP and Super Bowl championship season of 1996 and his 95.7 passer rating is the third best mark of his career and only a deli-cheese slice behind the 95.8 he posted in that same 1996 season.
As we noted, when baseball players show that kind of improvement so late in their careers, Congress launches an investigation.
We'll be talking plenty of Packers and Favre this week as they get ready to host Seattle in a rematch of their 2003 overtime classic in the 2003 wildcard round. Expect to hear us on ESPN Milwaukee this week with our buddy Steve "The Homer" True, one of the media's most devout Favre ballwashers.
Believe it or not, that victory over Seattle is Green Bay's only postseason win at Lambeau since 2001.
A HISTORIC FIRST: TWO WINS in PITTSBURGH
Jacksonville is the first visiting team to win in Pittsburgh twice in the same season.
Here's the list of the previous teams who have tried and failed, courtesy of Vic Ketchman at Jaguars.com:
- 2004 Patriots – loss, win
- 2004 Jets – loss, loss
- 2002 Browns – loss, loss
- 2001 Ravens – win, loss
- 1997 Broncos – loss, win
- 1994 Browns – loss, loss
- 1979 Oilers – loss, loss
- 1978 Oilers – win, loss
- 1972 Raiders – loss, loss
- 1947 Eagles – loss, win
Fred Taylor entered the Pittsburgh game with five straight 100-yard games, the fifth longest streak entering the playoffs in history, according to Ryan Robinson at Jaguars.com.
But lost amid the euphoria of the big win over the Steelers was the Pittsburgh really kept the Jacksonville ground attack in check. The Jaguars ripped the Steelers for 224 yards on the ground in their regular-season meeting, but were kept in check Saturday night.
The final numbers for Jacksonville look solid: 29 attempts for 135 yards and 4.7 YPA. But QB David Garrard was the leading rusher with 58 yards, and 32 of those on his clutch fourth-down scramble late in the fourth.
The typically devastating combo of Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew was held to 77 yards on 24 carries (3.2 YPA).
In fact, no one ran the ball well on Wild Card weekend, as all seven of the other teams were held below their season averages in both total yards and yards per carry.
Before the weekend's games, Cold, Hard Football Facts readers were asked which wildcard round coach they'd choose to run their team. A whopping 1 percent voted for New York's Tom Coughlin, tying him with (gulp!) San Diego's Norv Turner.
But, in the follow-up 1st and 10 poll, Coughlin was (as of Monday morning) neck-and-neck with Jack Del Rio for top coaching honors from the weekend.
Forearm Shiver: the CHFF Blog
- Hockey Announcer Gone Wild: You Want To Party (Maybe) With This Guy
- Best Pass Defense Ever: Ronde Barber And The 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Reese Witherspoon Arrest Video: Hot, Bothered And Handcuffed
- Sam Adams In A Can, Just In Time For Summer Drinking Season
- Live From Radio City: Reporter Punks NFL Draft Fans
- The 5.0 Club: Best Rushing Teams in NFL History
- Sieves: The Worst Run Defenses In NFL History
- Monsters of the Midway: We Need The Chicago Bears More Than Ever
- Boston, Sports, Patriotism And Terror
- The 100 Stingiest Defenses In Football History
- NFL Crown Rule: Will It Dethrone Rushing King Adrian Peterson?
- Year Of The Offensive Tackle: Not Always The 'Safe' Draft Bet
- Draft Habits: NFL Teams Covet LBs, Duped By False Temptress WRs
- Big Tease: 2012 New England Patriots And NFL's History Of Offensive Failures
- Epic Fail: The Wide Receiver Draft Class Of 2012
Must See Videos