Here's this week's article, comparing the equally brilliant but totally different wide receivers, Calvin Johnson and Wes Welker. Together, they have a chance to take down each of the main receiving records in football history. My take: Welker has a legitimate chance to break the receptions record, Johnson has a small but not impossibly small chance of breaking the touchdowns mark, and it would take a miracle for Welker to challenge the receiving yards mark.
Also: the Patriots offense is the best offense through four weeks in league history, with the second best offense being whoever is playing the Patriots. Mark Sanchez and the Jets test this logic on Sunday.
The Patriots, Jets, Eagles and Falcons entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations, but all struggled on Sunday. The failures of those teams ranged from unusual (the Jets rush defense had its worst game ever under Ryan) to scary (the Falcons just aren't that good, Mike Vick can't seem to stay healthy) to both (the Pats D is really bad, and New England lost its first game ever when leading by 21 points under Belichick). Pittsburgh and San Diego get dishonorable mentions here, for squeaking by the Little Disters of the Poor, Midwest edition.
Hat tip to my buddy Joe Bryant for this tidbit in his weekly Random Shot column (you can get this in your inbox by signing up here):
Here's what it's like to be a Seahawks fan these days. Seattle's possessions at Pittsburgh: punt, punt, punt, end of the half, punt, punt, punt, punt, surrendered on downs, punt.
We all know the Seahawks were shut out on Sunday, but that drive chart looked a little odd. Isn't it unusual to get shut out without committing a single turnover? That's a whole new level of ineptitude, I assumed. I was right: only 12 teams since the merger have gone double goose-egg in the points and turnovers column in the same game.
Rk Tm Year Date Opp W G Day Result PF PA PD Yrd TO
1 SEA 2011 2011-09-18 PIT 2 2 Sun L 0-24 0 24 -24 164
2 KAN 2010 2010-12-12 SDG 14 13 Sun L 0-31 0 31 -31 67
3 TEN 2008 2008-12-28 IND 17 16 Sun L 0-23 0 23 -23 125
4 BUF 2007 2007-12-16 CLE 15 14 Sun L 0-8 0 8 -8 232
5 OAK 2006 2006-11-06 SEA 9 8 Mon L 0-16 0 16 -16 185
6 PIT 2003 2003-12-14 NYJ 15 14 Sun L 0-6 0 6 -6 231
7 NWE 1992 1992-12-06 IND 14 13 Sun L 0-6 0 6 -6 94
8 CIN 1979 1979-09-02 DEN 1 1 Sun L 0-10 0 10 -10 232
9 SDG 1977 1977-11-06 DET 8 8 Sun L 0-20 0 20 -20 229
10 NYG 1976 1976-10-31 PHI 8 8 Sun L 0-10 0 10 -10 291
11 ATL 1974 1974-11-10 RAM 9 9 Sun L 0-21 0 21 -21 164
12 NYJ 1971 1971-09-19 BAL 1 1 Sun L 0-22 0 22 -22 118
And even that is probably misleading. The '08 Titans game was the last game of the season, when the 13-2 Titans benched most of their starters (of course, so did the Colts). The Cleveland-Buffalo game from '07 took place during a snowstorm, as was the Steelers-Jets game in '03. That makes it just the fourth game in the last 30 years where a team didn't commit a turnover and still was shutout, and couldn't even come up with a good excuse.
This week's post reads like a quick hits column. A few notes:
Cam Newton and Tom Brady put up ridiculous numbers in week one and then did it again in week two.
The Lions had the biggest win in franchise history since.... well, the last big win in franchise history.
Teams are adding insult to injury when facing the Chiefs
Profiles in futility: the Andrew Luck sweepstakes began in earnest in week two. One team has been outscored by 79 points; another has lost double-digit halftime leads twice this season; a third has lost 16 of its last 19 road games, with every single loss coming by double digits. A fourth team has now lost 11 of 12 home games, while a fifth team gave the Cleveland Browns their second double-digit victory in their last 62 road games.
File this in the "everything is bigger in Texas, including the optimism" department. From a reader:
With what looks like a "in and out" type of year for Arian Foster, Ben Tate looks poised to be the 4th 1000 yard rusher on the Texans roster (joining Foster, Derrick Ward and Steve Slaton). How many teams have had 4 1000 yard rushers on their team?
213 players in NFL history have rushed for 1,000 yards in a season. Where would the 2011 Texans rank if Tate breaks the millenium mark?
Houston would become the tenth team (and eighth unique team) to boast four such runners; no team has ever had five: Read the rest of this entry »
Once again, Pro-Football-Reference.com will be teaming up with the New York Times and the New York Times' Fifth Down Blog. Every Tuesday on the Fifth Down blog and every Wednesday in print, we'll be running a weekly article discussing trends and statistical in the NFL.
As good as Seattle looked on Sunday, the evidence isn't very compelling that they're going to look more like they did in week 1 than they did for most of 2009. It's tempting to think that this is the sign of a new era in Seattle, but it's more likely a sign of the same old era in San Francisco.
But I'm slightly more optimistic about the Bills, in part because they really weren't that bad last season. As I wrote for the Fifth Down:
Buffalo had the hardest schedule in the A.F.C. last season, while the Chiefs had the conference’s most forgiving slate of opponents. According to Pro-Football-Reference, the difference between the Bills’ and the Chiefs’ schedules was worth, on average, 7.5 points per week. Consider this: both franchises went winless in 2010 against teams with 10 or more wins (Buffalo, 0-9; K.C. 0-2, including playoffs). Each team won 75 percent of its games against teams with six or fewer wins (Buffalo 3-1; K.C. 6-2). Against teams with seven to nine wins, the Bills went 1-1 with Fitzpatrick at quarterback (1-2 over all), while the Chiefs went 4-3.
For the uninitiated, this is a ROM of the original NES Tecmo Super Bowl, featuring the game's original graphics/sounds but with 32 teams and updated 2011 rosters. And, as always, you'll need an NES emulator to run the game. Have fun!
The Hall of Fame seniors committee named Dick Stanfel and Jack Butler on Wednesday as finalists for election in the class of 2012. To be elected, they need the same 80 percent support as the modern era finalists when the full selection committee meets in Indianapolis on Feb. 4, the day before Super Bowl 46. A few thoughts about the nominees:
Although his playing career lasted only seven seasons, Dick Stanfel left his mark as one of the finest and most consistent offensive linemen of his time. In an era that valued technique over brute strength, Stanfel was fundamentally sound enough to be elected first team All-Pro five times and to be named to the N.F.L.’s all-decade team of the 1950s.... Read the rest of this entry »
Jason Lisk takes a different look at the Rams' success.
So, what I looked at for this is other teams where the defensive points allowed improved dramatically from one year to the next. The Rams last year went from next to last in 2009, 31st in points allowed, to 12th in the league. I found all teams since 1978 who improved at least 15 spots in their points allowed ranking in the league. I then went deeper into those teams, and isolated two different types. The first, we’ll call the “Bradford effects”, which found all teams that had a different QB (who had never been the main starter for that franchise prior) during the dramatic improvement season, and that same new QB was also the starter a year later. The second, we’ll call the “Manning effects”, since he shows up 3 times on the list, and this is for all teams that had a dramatic improvement from one year to the next, and the same QB was the starter before, during, and after the points allowed improvement.
Obviously, we don’t think Peyton Manning has an impact on his defenses–he’s played with good ones and bad ones and everything in between during his career. Same with Marino and Elway and Brady and Montana and all the other guys that show up on this list. If a team dramatically improves during the middle of a QB’s career, we are less likely to attribute that to the quarterback. Read the rest of this entry »
No quarterback has led the league in passing yards and won the Super Bowl in the same season. Here's a full list of passing leaders, defined as the player with the most passing yards, in the Super Bowl era:
Each preview contains key information about both teams, including SRS ratings; offensive and defensive ratings; and player statistics from the 2010-11 season. Check them out, and increase your knowledge when watching the games this month!
As the NFL owners and players' association negotiate the future of professional football, the 2011 season hangs in the balance. Hopefully we won't need to one day write a post titled "The 2011 lockout and what could have been."
But we did for the 1987 season. If you missed them the first time around, here's a link to Part I and Part II.
Good post by Nate Silver over at the NYT Fifth Down Blog. I thought I'd build on some of Nate's work.
As of game day, the Packers are 3-point favorites over the Steelers and the game has an over/under of 44.5 points. Over the 20-year period from '88 to '07 (we're a little behind at entering point spread data into our database), there were 425 games that featured a point spread of between 2 and 4 points with an over/under ranging from 42.5 to 46.5. Some notes on those games:
Based on the above numbers, the favorite has won 63.5% of the games, with an average margin of victory of 11.4 points.
The biggest blowout came against the Steelers in a season opening game against the Browns. Cleveland opened the 1989 season as 2-point road favorites: they covered the spread with ease, winning 51-0.
On average, when the underdog wins, they win by 8.7 points. Atlanta started the 1996 season 0-8, but after squeaking past Carolina 20-17, they were 2 point favorites in St. Louis, who had just lost 42-6 in Pittsburgh. The 2-7 Rams pulled the upset, winning 59-16.
On average, the favorite has scored 24.3 points while the underdog has scored 20.2 points. Favorites, against the spread, have a 209-197-19 record. The "over" was hit less frequently, with 195 games going over, 11 games "pushing" and 219 games finishing "under" the line.
121 of the games, 28.5% of the data-set, had final margins of victory of within three points. If you're hoping for a close game, there's a better than even chance you'll get one: 53% of the games were decided by one touchdown or less. Only 16 games had final margins of 30 points or greater, but just over one in every four games were decided by at least 15 points.
Hoping for the first Super Bowl to go to overtime and the first playoff game to feature the new overtime rules? 5.8% of the games in this data set went into a fifth quarter.
Richter was deemed the second-most undeserving of all finalists by the readership, ahead of only Charles Haley. Dent was also voted 6th-most undeserving, but Sharpe was narrowly behind Brown in terms of the % of readers who felt he did deserve the HoF.
PFR readers would probably consider the biggest snub to be Roaf, whom 96.8% of the voters felt was deserving; also, 91.6% felt Dawson deserved HoF honors, and both failed to survive the final cut. Brown over Sharpe, though, was so close in the voting that it's hard to call it a snub.
it's hard to have anything besides a nuanced view regarding the subject of football, concussions and the future of the sport. Most hardcore fans want to preserve the status quo in almost every manner, while it's difficult to be comfortable with exposing your 15-year-old son to the possibility of repeatedly suffering serious concussions and potentially life-threatening injuries in high school athletics.
I’ve written about this subject before, and I am still sure that the brain-injury/concussion problem remains the most serious threat to football, and it will not be resolved by tweets from Greg Aiello, the NFL’s spokesman. Yet — and this may sound harsh — I don’t really care about the risks to current NFL players. Like professional boxing, no one can, with a straight face, say that they don’t understand the risk of playing such a dangerous, high speed collision sport, and they are all compensated handsomely for it. (I have more sympathy for older NFL players who played before high salaries and before these risks were well understood.) Indeed, I think the NFL as spectator sport will continue to survive through more “Black and Blue Sundays” or even serious injuries like paralysis, potentially even a live-on-the-field death. Some quick cuts to show Roger Goodell solemnly addressing “the problem” with fines and rule changes will be enough to placate the masses and change the narrative on ESPN back to who will rally for the postseason. Read the rest of this entry »