Week 7 first-response team: blowout Sunday!

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 25, 2009



By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts beer-boat race anchor man
 
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.
 
This week, we look at the growing trend of NFL blowouts, size up the slaughter statistically, marvel at Tony Romo's "official" place among the all-time passing leaders in two critical categories, admire the handiwork of the typically unintelligible Keith Olbermann and Shannon Sharpe, and introduce our brand new CHFF theme song.
 
Just when you thought the NFL couldn't get any less competitive, along comes Week 7 of the 2009 season – blowout Sunday.
 
Ten of 12 games on Sunday were decided by double digits. Six were decided by four touchdowns or more.  Shocking numbers by the standards of the NFL. It's been an ongoing trend throughout the year, but it really jumped off the scorecards here in Week 7.
 
In fact, we hadn't seen this many televised beatings since the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
 
Through the early slate of six games Sunday alone, the margins of victory were 3, 10, 28, 28, 30 and 36 points – that's an average margin of victory of 22.5 PPG for those of you keeping score at home.
 
Including the late games, the average MOV for the week was 21.2 PPG.
 
We don't know if that's a record of some kind, but it sure seems like it is in a league that's always prided itself on the habitual competitiveness of almost every game. But we do have evidence that the league is growing less competitive.
 
Through the end of Sunday's games, just 19 of 102 (18.6%) games this year have been decided by a field goal or less; just 43 of 102 games (42.2%) of games have been decided by 7 points or less.
 
Those marks put 2009 on pace to be the least competitive year since the NFL expanded to 16 games in 1978 and among the least competitive since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger (the info below comes from the NFL Record & Fact Book ... we don't have info for pre-1970).
 
Fewest games decided by 3 points or less (since 1970):
  • 1973 – 28 of 182 (15.4%)
  • 1985 – 38 of 224 (17.0%)
  • 1977 – 36 of 196 (18.4%)
  • 2009 – 19 of 102 (18.6%)
Only once since 1978, meanwhile, have fewer than 42 percent of games been decided by seven points or less (1992, 39.3%).
 
But the trend here in recent weeks has definitely been toward more and more blowouts. The two games this week decided by a touchdown or less were easily the fewest of 2009.
 
We don't have figures on double-digit blowouts from year to year, but we'll try to dig them up. Our instinct, in the wake of a rare week in which 10 of 12 games were decided by 10 points or more, is that blowouts have rarely if ever been more common.
 
More signs of the time
For the first time in league history, three teams are unbeaten through Week 7 (Indy, 6-0; Denver, 6-0; New Orleans, 6-0).
 
At the same, three NFL teams are also winless right now (Tampa, 0-7; St. Louis, 0-7; Tennessee, 0-6).
 
The statistical slaughter
Six teams this week won by four touchdowns or more: Green Bay, San Diego, Indy, New England, N.Y. Jets and Cincy.
 
The gaping disparity in performance is evident, as always, in the passing game. Some teams simply look unstoppable through the air this year. Others just can't seem to get out of their own way – a fact made more frustrating for fans of these bottom feeders when they see how other teams are carving up the opposition through the air week after week.
 
Here's how this week's six blow-out winners performed in the passing game (cumulative numbers):
  • 110 of 167, 65.9%, 1,435 yards, 8.59 YPA, 18 TD, 2 INT, 123.7 passer rating
Here's how their six victims performed in the passing game (Cleveland, KC, St. Louis, Tampa, Oakland, Chicago):
  • 91 of 180, 50.6%, 923 yards, 5.12 YPA, 3 TD, 14 INT, 38.7 passer rating
That's a Passer Rating Differential of 85.0 ... a shocking number in a league where an 85.0 passer rating is about the average here in 2009. It's like this year's winners and losers are playing two different sports out there.
 
Of the winning teams, New England's Tom Brady was the only player who threw even one INT (he threw two). Even New York's Mark Sanchez, who's had trouble in recent weeks and was limited to 15 attempts against the Raiders Sunday, was extraordinarily efficient: His 15 attempts yielded 143 passing yards (9.53 YPA), 1 TD, 0 INT and a 114.0 passer rating.
 
Of the losing teams, every single one threw at least one pick, and all but Cleveland suffered multiple INTs.
 
A morsel for the "pundits"
Merril Hoge will be happy to learn that these blowout winners dominated on the ground, too.
 
Five of the six winners ran more often than the loser (St. Louis ran more the Indy). Here's how their cumulative performance stack up.
  • The winners ran 230 times for 1,131 yards – an average of 4.91 YPA
  • The losers ran 139 times for 577 yards – an average of 4.15 YPA.
In terms of average per attempt, it was hardly a major blowout, not like what we witnessed in the passing game.  But it was a notable difference in production. 
 
Here's the Cold, Hard Football Fact that says it all: The six blowout winners ran for nine TDs. The six blowout losers did not score a single TD on the ground this week.
 
The Saints blow past history's greatest offense
Drew Brees & the Gang produced what might have been the single most spectacular half of football this year ... well, at least the most spectacular performance since their own first half against the previously unbeaten Giants last week.
 
Trailing 24-3 late in the first half, the Saints exploded for 43 points in the final 31 minutes of play to earn a commanding 46-34 victory and a 6-0 record.
 
New Orleans has now scored an average of 39.7 PPG. It's a significant figure, because it pushes New Orleans past the 1950 Rams, who scored 38.8 PPG, and puts the Saints on pace to become the most prolific offense of all time.
 
Those Rams were led by two Hall of Fame passers (Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin) and had the luxury of playing one-third of their schedule (four of 12 games) that year against expansion teams from the former AAFC.
 
The 2007 Patriots, in case you were wondering, scored 36.8 PPG (589 points). The Saints are on pace to score 635 points. We're betting right now that New Orleans blow past New England. As noted last week, the Saints face a ridicuously easy schedule the rest of the year.
 
And, imagine what they might have done here in Week 7 if Brees didn't have an off day (three INT).
 
Shannon Sharpe gets it right
Jim Zorn is the one feeling the heat for the Redskins. Hey, his team sucks, and coaches take the heat.
 
But as CHFF reader know, the problem with Washington begins with clueless management. Shannon Sharpe, hardly known for his eloquence, summed it up best on the CBS pregame show Sunday:
 
"(Dan Snyder) thinks we can win the Super Bowl by spending the most money on the first day of free agency."
 
The Redskins try to pull it together tonight when they host the Eagles on Monday Night Football. But don't count on it. The Cold, Hard Football Facts expect a 10-point victory -- it would be the 11th double-digit victory in 13 games here in Week 7.
 
London calling ... don't answer!
The possibility of the NFL expanding to Europe was a hot topic this week with Patriots-Bucs game in London, the third annual overseas regular-season game in the league's "international series."
 
The NFL seems all for it. Roger Goodell, in an interview before the game Sunday with local Boston television, and in others,  said that league expansion into Europe was a more likely scenario than playing a Super Bowl overseas. London is the obvious spot for a team, but Goodell said that the league would look at more than one team in Europe, with Germany the other likely location.
 
Count Patriots coach Bill Belichick among those who oppose the idea. In Sunday's postgame press conference, he lamented "the commitment of flying back and forth" to Europe.
 
CHFF contributor Mike Carlson, who covers the NFL for British media, shares his thoughts on the issue here today.
 
Another thought? The NFL should put a team in Los Angeles long before it puts one in London.
 
We got a new CHFF theme song!
We referenced our need for a team song last week here and on our brilliant Facebook page. We got plenty of suggestions, but only one reached out and grabbed us by the nuggets and said "pick me, pick me!"
 
It's called "Moskau" by the splendid German band Dschingis Khan. Like our personal hygiene, it couldn't be any worse or a more fitting symbol of what's wrong with us. It's so cheesy we might spread it over our next plate of nachos. But here, let CHFF Troll Paul Glowka explain. He's the reader who suggested it.
 
First: "It combines your passion for cheesy 1970s pop and the performing arts at the highest level possible. Just look at the Power Ranger costumes."
 
Second: "While appearing to be an homage to Moscow, it entirely glorifies drinking and partying. Genuine troll stuff right there: ('Moscow, Moscow, papa, your glass is empty, but there is still more in the basement hahahahaha'). It even fulfills the creepiness requirement, and I haven't even mentioned the 'love tastes like caviar' part."
 
Third: "Like the statistical nuggets served by the Cold Hard Football Facts, the song contains pure wisdom that the average pigskin 'pundit' does not understand: 'Vodka, drink it pure and cold, and you'll get 100 years old."
 
Fourth: "The impersonation of a Russian by the freaky guy in the red-and-white hat is almost as laughable and as bad as JaMarcus Russell's attempt to pass as a legit NFL quarterback."
 
So, without further adon't, the new CHFF theme song:
 
show video here
 
 
Wow, that's good stuff. It will be especially fitting when Roger Goodell gets his way and the NFL puts a team in Moscow.
 
We'll ask again ...
Who's happier with their quarterback this morning, the Bears or the Broncos?
 
The Broncos had the week off, but Jay Cutler was his usual, inefficient self in Chicago's shocking 45-10 loss at Cincinnati. He turned 37 pass attempts into just 251 yards with 1 TD, 3 INT and a 64.1 rating.
 
His 82.9 rating for the season remains well below the standards of the elite QBs in the game today. However, it should be noted that, by Chicago's low standards, he deserves a spot in the franchise Hall of Fame.
 
Tony Romo on top!
The Cowboys quarterback pulled it all together in his team's impressive 37-21 win over the Falcons, in what was easily his best game of the year. He displayed the mobility that has made him so dangerous to defend, and he outgunned Atlanta's Matt Ryan.
 
Along the way, he also climbed onto the "official" NFL leaderboards in several categories.
 
With his 29 attempts Sunday, Romo has now attempted 1,501 passes in his career – the NFL requires a minimum 1,500 attempts to quality for its official records.
 
So Romo enters the record books today in some very, very lofty company.
 
His career passer rating of 94.7 (also his rating this year) is third all time. Here's the top five in career passer rating:
  • Steve Young – 96.8
  • Peyton Manning – 95.4
  • Tony Romo – 94.7
  • Kurt Warner – 93.5
  • Tom Brady – 93.4
Philip Rivers, who joined the "official" list earlier this year, is No. 6 at 93.3.
 
Now look at the top five in career passing yards per attempt:
  • Otto Graham – 8.63
  • Sid Luckman – 8.42
  • Norm Van Brocklin – 8.16
  • Tony Romo – 8.14
  • Steve Young – 7.984
Tony Romo is not only in the top five all time, he's the most prolific passer since Norm Van Brocklin retired at the end of the 1960 season. He's also one of just two players who appears on both lists, with Steve Young. This indicates that he's produced the highly efficient rating indicative of the modern game, with the very high average per attempt more common in earlier years of NFL football, before the "ball-control" style passing game became all the rage.
 
(Kurt Warner (7.977) and Ben Roethlisberger (7.968) are just a shade behind Young on the career YPA list and may even replace him in the top five by the end of the year.)
 
A national monument
We should have noted this weeks ago, but Faith Hill's outfit during the Sunday night football pre-game song should be declared a national treasure and put on display in the Smithsonian.
 
Thigh-high black booths, separated from the clingy, crotch-low knit black dress by the tiniest tantalizing stretch of milky white flesh.
 
Apparently she can sing, too. But see for yourself.
 
Keith Olbermann makes a funny
Sure, Olbermann is a loathsome human being – a bridge-burning misogynist best known for making a female colleagues cry (and that was a co-anchor! He called one rival female commentator a "mashed up bag of meat with lipstick").
 
But he did make a funny during NBC's pre-game broadcast Sunday. During a highlight of one of Miami's long touchdown runs, Olbermann simply declared:
 
"Ricky Williams ... smokin'!"
 
Given the Miami running back, ahem, cloudy history, that's some good stuff.
 
Bill Belichick's mojo smacks around CHFF
Two weeks ago we declared that Bill Belichick had lost his mojo – teams were no longer afraid of the Patriots pass defense.
 
Apparently, the lords of pigskin karma have sided with the Hooded One. Ever since we made our claim, New England's two opponents have combined to post the following peformance in the passing game:  
  • 13 of 44, 29.5%, 165 yards, 3.75 YPA, 1 TD, 5 INT and a 10.7 passer rating.
Granted, the four quarterbacks they faced in these two games were Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Josh Johnson and Josh Freeman. But that's pretty good by any measure in this day and age.
 
In the wake of New England's Week 5 loss to the Broncos, the Patriots were 23rd in Defensive Passer Rating (92.48). They had surrendered 7 TD passes with just 2 picks.
 
This morning, the Patriots are 8th in Defensive Passer Rating (74.26) – sandwiched between the Broncos (70.15) and Giants (78.54) and have surrendered 8 TD passes with 7 picks.
 
We'll know if Belichick's mojo has truly returned in about a month: the Patriots face Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in November.
 
The Shootist misfires
You knew it was only a matter of time before The Shootist, aging gunslinger BrettFavre, made critical late turnovers that cost his team a big game. After all, much like a bird flies or a fish swims, that's that BrettFavre does.
 
We witnessed it on Sunday, as two fourth-quarter turnovers led to defensive touchdowns for the Steelers in a 27-17 win over the Favrkings.
 
Now, it's hard to blame BrettFavre directly. On the first score, he was stripped of the ball from behind as the pocket collapsed around him. But he made a very weak effort to chase down the play and make a tackle (nobody will confuse it with Ben Roethlisberger's legend-making tackle in the 2005 playoffs).
 
The late interception, meanwhile, bounced right off the hands of Chester Taylor. But it's a play that had no hope of going anywhwere, as Taylor was nearly decapitated.  
 
So we're not blaming BrettFavre for losing the game. But the mistakes in big games are typical of his career over the past decade, and the two late turnovers in one of Minnesota's biggest games of the year should be a cause for concern among the Favrkings faithful.
 
Favre, by the way, has now fumbled 158 times in his career. He needs just three more to match Warren Moon for the career fumbles record.
 
You gotta be joshin'
The odds that a pro team would field not one but two quarterbacks named Josh that nobody outside of Tampa had ever heard of is 1 in 179,312.
 
Seriously, we just looked it up on Wikipedia.
 
Speaking of Josh ...
The Broncos had the week off, but images of undefeated rookie head coach Josh McDaniels were making the rounds on teh web. We got this link the other day to Broncos fan site MileHighReport.com, which dug up McDaniels high school playing card (yup, you read that right) from an all-star game when he played for Ohio's Canton McKinley high school, smack dab in the middle of the gridiron breadbasket. See MileHighReport for more.  
 
The CHFF victory machine rolls on
It wasn't pretty, but the Cold, Hard Football Facts will eke out sixth winning week and seven opportunities this year picking games ATS.
 
Our aptly named real and spectacular Week 7 picks went 9-3 straight up and 7-5 ATS on Sunday.
 
However, our road dogs, normally a CHFF specialty, lost their bark and their bite. We predicted outright victories by three road dogs: San Francisco, Buffalo and Atlanta. Only the Bills delivered, with a 20-9 win at Carolina (still can't believe, as we noted Friday, that the Panthers were touchdown favorites over anybody).
 
We've predicted outright victories by 12 road dogs this year. Those 12 dogs have gone 8-4 ATS. Seven have won outright.
 
For the year, we're now 72-30 (.706) straight up and 60-42 (.588) ATS. Let's put it this way: if you've listened to Uncle CHFF this year, you're a happy camper.
 
Already sick of BrettFavre returns to Green Bay hype
BrettFavre's two costly turnovers proved the difference between victory and defeat this week, as the Steelers returned one pick and one fumble for touchdowns in a 27-17 win over the Vikings Sunday.
 
He returns to the scene of many similar crimes this week. Yup, that's right, the Vikings visit Green Bay on Sunday. NBC must have mentioned it 12 times during its broadcast Sunday night.
 

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