Archive for the Football Category

The Hashmarks: NFL Knowledge

Posted in Football, The Hashmarks with tags , , , , , on December 26, 2007 by Patrick
  • Apparently, some people think Phillip Rivers would be better served to keep quiet. (Signal to Noise)
  • Tom Coughlin would be advised to just let this weekend’s drubbing happen. (Giants Football Blog)
  • Jim Quirk will break you. (BallHype)
  • Your week 17 injuries of consequence. (Dr. U Fantasy Football)
  • The NFL is getting into horticulture. (ESPN)
  • The Patriots are still the best team ever. 49ers…not quite as bad as previously thought. (Football Outsiders)
  • No shoe-in’s for coach of the year this season. (NFL Gridiron Gab)
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If I Miss the Rams Game tonight, I’m Going to Strangle Someone!

Posted in Football, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 20, 2007 by Patrick

Apparently, Senator Patrick Leahy is a cable subscriber. He’s willing to review the NFL’s Anti-trust exemption to get Thursday night games in his living room.

Boycott the BCS Championship Game

Posted in College Football, Football with tags , , , , on December 19, 2007 by Patrick


I know, I know. You hate the BCS, too, right? You’ve hated it for years but how are you supposed to skip the most important game of the year? The 2003 Ohio State-Miami game was an undeniable classic and the USC-Texas matchup of 2005-2006 was the best game you’ve ever seen. What if the LSU-Ohio State game is on par with these legendary battles? What if you miss the unmissable? At some point you have to take a stand it starts this year: It’s the perfect season for a protest.

This year’s Allstate BCS National Championship is inherently flawed. It was a season in which no one was worthy of the national championship. The number 1 and 2 teams in the country lost on the final Saturday of the season, catapulting a two-loss LSU team into the championship game to face Ohio State. Prior to the final weekend, in which LSU beat Tennessee in the SEC championship, LSU was ranked seventh in the nation. But then the sky fell. Every team that could have made a reasonable argument to join Ohio State in the BCS Championship lost. You could even say that Ohio State doesn’t deserve to be there, since their best win of the season was a road victory over No. 21 Michigan. The same Michigan team that opened the season with a loss to Div. I-AA Appalachian State. Here’s to easy schedules.

No matter who wins the BCS Championship this season, a legitimate argument can still be made for another team. Hawaii was undefeated this year but, like Boise State the year before, will not play in the championship because of its weak schedule. Virginia Tech was ranked higher than LSU before the final Saturday, but was leapfrogged by LSU despite VT’s easy win over Boston College in the ACC Championship.

The kind of judgments aforementioned cannot be made accurately. Football is not meant to be a sport scored by judges, it is meant to be settled on the field. When you begin taking strength of schedule into account you are judging teams, in figure skating terms, by their schedule’s “degree of difficulty.” Such rating systems make sense for figure skating because two skaters can’t face off head to head. Football, obviously, is different.

College football teams are going to have diverse schedules and differing levels of difficulty by the nature of the sport. By virtue of the fact that there are 119 Division-I football teams, they can’t all have schedules of equal arduousness. Some schedules may appear to be more difficult than others, but to omit a team from national title contention based on geographic location–which governs conference membership, by-and-large–is discriminatory and unfair. This is not what collegiate athletics is supposed to be about.

Furthermore, when you make such judgments about conference strength, there is no way to be certain. Having institutionalized biases towards “BCS confrences” is flawed on face value. If teams from the five non-BCS conferences are practically ineligible for the championship, then how are they even considered Division-I teams?

College football is the only team sport in America that is blatantly willing to sacrifice the integrity of the sport for financial reasons. It has been the fortunate to have experienced seasons in which there was at least one dominate team worthy of wearing its tarnished crown.  This season, that is not the case.

With no teams able to distinguish themselves as deserving of #1 or #2 rankings, there has never been a season that cried out louder for a playoff. This is the moment to let the college football powers know that they can no longer undermine the game’s integrity and insult the intelligence of its fans. Boycott the BCS Championship Game on January 7 as a showing of your disapproval. And if it turns out that you missed the game of the century, there’s always ESPN Classic.

The Patriots Really Are Good. San Francisco…Not So Much.

Posted in Football with tags , , , , on December 18, 2007 by Patrick

Patriots haven’t convinced you yet? If 14-0 is a fluke in your mind, consider these stats Football Outsiders:

  • The Patriots are 56% better than the average team in the NFL.
  • They are 20.6% better than the second best team.
  • I don’t even know how this is possible, but they are 95.9% better than the San Francisco 49ers

I know you’re saying, “what the hell does that mean?” These numbers are based on a team’s Defense-adjusted Value Over Average or DVOA. This is the brain child of Football Outsiders, a group of sports statisticians and fans alike who have the admirably nerdy goal of bringing new depths to statistical football analysis. DVOA is:

“a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: five yards on 3rd-and-4 are worth more than five yards on 1st-and-10 and much more than five yards on 3rd-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.”

Their website has an in-depth explanation for those of you who are still hazy. The Patriots DVOA is 56%, the highest rating in NFL history. In fact, their DVOA is 9.4% higher than the next best team historically, the 1999 St. Louis Rams.

As a brief aside, the San Francisco 49ers of 2004-2007 are, apparently, the worst franchise ever. While they may never be able to match their record setting pace of 2005, in which they had an all-time low DVOA of -61.5% through week 14, three of their past four seasons rank among the 10 worst historical seasons through week 15.

Doh..:The Baltimore Ravens Story

Posted in Football with tags , , , on December 16, 2007 by Patrick

Baltimore’s loss to the hapless Miami Dolphins got me wondering: Which team is more pathetic? Going into this week the Dolphins were the obvious choice. 0 for the season is inexcusably sad. But now? Now that they have won one game they will have no place in the history books. They will always be viewed as a horrible team, but they were never contenders. A first year coach, old veterans, a concussed quarterback and their franchise running back going out for the season made a bad team horrible. But they were longshots from the start. The Ravens, on the other hand, were quite the opposite.

Coming in at number 4 in ESPN’s pre-season “Power Rankings,” the Ravens forecast was sunny. Scouts Inc. predicted them to finish 1st in their division. The good folks at Pro Football Prospectus gave these predictions:

  • Super Bowl Contender (11+ wins): 26%
  • Playoff Contender (9-10 wins): 32%
  • Mediocre (7-8 wins): 30 %
  • Bad Team (5-6 wins): 9%
  • The Brohm Closet (0-4 Wins): 3%

They’ve really outdone themselves. My friends and I have a sound for such accomplishments and it is spelled OOOOOOOOOOF! The losers of eight straight, the Ravens now sit 4-10. If they act now they can escape the “Brohm Closet,” but, with Seattle and Pittsburgh awaiting them, the odds aren’t good.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe losing 13 straight is the more humiliating accomplishment. But expectations play a role in determining exactly how disappointing something is. When I pick up a guitar and play terribly, it may be offensive, but it isn’t disappointing. No one who’s ever seen me play expects to hear Carlos Santana. But if you went to see Carlos Santana and you heard me, you’d throw tomatoes at him. I’d imagine the produce sections in Baltimore are a little emptier today.

Oh Those Poor, Pitiable Souls

Posted in Football with tags , , , , on December 12, 2007 by Patrick

I, for one, have had about enough of the media’s debate over whether the New England Patriots annihilation of inferior opponents falls within society’s definition of sportsmanship. Of course it does. The New England Patriots are everything I wish my favorite teams to be: excellent, relentless, precise and consistent. These things come about only as a result of coaches insisting upon the same standard all the time. Anytime in which that standard goes unmet, you are failing.

If Bill Belichick were to take any other mindset he would be allowing his team to fail sometimes. If standards are relaxed when the point margin reaches, say, 3 touchdowns, you are psychologically allowing your team to relax it’s standards under certain circumstances. Perhaps you can get away with this. But if the improbable happens and one of New England’s opponents mounts a quick comeback, the Patriots could be in trouble. We have all seen scenarios in which one team is seemingly in complete control of a game, only to relax and watch their margin slowly dissolve. Then, once the game is competitive again, they have a difficult time regaining the same form they began the game with. The only way to eliminate these scenarios is to strictly insist upon a standard of excellence and maintain it in all circumstances.

Some consider this unsportsmanlike, but I disagree completely. Outscoring your opponents is the objective of sport, and there are no margins in which it becomes unsportsmanlike. As long as you are playing within the framework of the game anything goes. Taunting, excessively celebrating, dirty play and giving up are unsportsmanlike. Dominating an opponent is achieving excellence.

You may not like to see the Patriots go for it on 4th down up big in the 4th quarter, but it serves a purpose. Having the luxury of being able to execute 4th down plays in real game situations with minimal risk is a privilege not to be forsaken by those with championship ambitions. There may come a time in which there is a 4th down call of greater consequence. If those opportunities to experiment during decided games produce any information useful at a later date it is a fool who passes them by.

On Bobby Petrino and Employee Obligations

Posted in Football with tags , , , , , on December 12, 2007 by Patrick

Bobby Petrino is stepping down today as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons to do the same job at the University of Arkansas. The Arkansas job will be his third job in less than two years. He is only the second coach since the NFL/AFL merger–Lou Holtz being the other–to quit during his first season as an NFL coach.

Drawing the ire of many for his vacillations, ESPN.com’s Pat Forde was so incensed that he was moved to call Petrino “the disingenuous drifter,” stating that Petrino, “loves himself, his playbook and his bank account.” Forde was so enraged he, “impeached” Nick Saban and replaced him with Petrino as “President of the Liars’ Club.”

Where does this indignation come from? When did career ambition become something to bemoan? Who, in a similar position to Petrino, wouldn’t do the same?

Bobby Petrino was supposed to be coaching a decent team when he left Louisville for Atlanta. They weren’t likely to make a Super Bowl appearance this year, but they had as good a chance as anyone in the watered-down NFC to make the playoffs, be competitive and improve as a franchise with a new skipper. Then Michael Vick was indicted on federal conspiracy charges. Atlanta is now a franchise with no franchise player, no direction, little promise and at the beginning of the rebuilding process. Abandon ship!

Who can blame this guy. Perhaps he is a little flaky, but shouldn’t he be? We treat team sports jobs as though people owe their employer some type of loyalty because their fans do. What is more ignorant, leaving a team when its future shifts from promising to hopeless, or continuing to follow that team regardless of the incompetent decision making it displays. Granted, Atlanta certainly couldn’t have assumed that Michael Vick career would end up like this, but they should have had a clue about Petrino. The Falcons’ hired a guy whose record vividly displays a propensity for this type of fickleness, now their fans saying they were victimized by Petrino. They were victimized by Arthur Blank and the Falcons’ management.