NFL Conference Championship Predictions: “Manning Is Better than Brady, But So What?” Edition

Part of me is happy the AFC game is on first Sunday, but I also feel like I’m going to miss some of the NFC game afterwards for reasons still in my control, but I just can’t help myself. The endless Peyton Manning-Tom Brady debate grabbed me again on Saturday and I really didn’t even plan to write much about it this weekend.

There’s a good chance the best quarterback on Sunday won’t win, but the better quarterback should at least prevail in one of the games. I actually think it’s more important in the NFC game where two similar teams built around the model of physical defense and running game will meet for the third time. I don’t think it will be a blowout like San Francisco’s last two trips there. Jim Harbaugh won in Seattle in 2011, but the offense’s struggles to get the play called in on time does worry me with the 12th man’s noise.

Still, I think the game is decided by which quarterback makes more plays and fewer mistakes. Colin Kaepernick has been playing better and has more weapons, but Russell Wilson has home-field and the better overall defense. While the Seattle offense (passing game) does concern me, I have to side with the home team here to pull out a close one thanks to that defense.

Final prediction: 49ers 17, Seahawks 20

See, I barely gave the game any attention with a week to prepare, so who knows what Sunday will bring. If you want to read a detailed preview of the NFC Championship, read Aaron Schatz’s preview, which I did contribute to for one part.

Manning vs. Brady: Just the Facts

So after Tom Curran accidentally sent the latest Patriot brigade my way on Twitter on Saturday, I did not bother trying to fight them off one-by-one. I instead stood back and lobbed my own Twitter grenade with this line:

Tom Brady is the most overrated playoff QB in NFL history. Period.

Now some wanted me to prove that statement, which I think I can eloquently do without even making a 100% effort. Simply put, for the people who fawn over Brady as the best playoff quarterback ever or one of the top two or even just “wayyyyy better” than Peyton Manning, what I’m about to go through should show just how silly that notion is.

In fact, I do think Manning is a better playoff quarterback than Brady. Factors out of his control just tend to work against his teams more than Brady’s, but more on that later.

Let’s begin with some help from a fictional (but realistic) character that I’m going to call BRADYGUY.

BRADYGUY: Scott, this is asinine. EVERYONE knows Tom Brady raises his game this time of year and Manning falls off from his high regular-season perch.

Oh yeah? Then explain this comparison of performance in the regular season against playoff teams (teams who made the playoffs that season) compared to actual postseason performance:

pmtbdapr

Note: I haven’t fully explained DAPR yet, but it’s a simple calculation of passing stats that adjusts for opposing defense. The higher the DAPR the better.

We could start with the obvious that Manning’s playoff stats are more than respectable, if not outright better than Brady’s. But there’s something more interesting than that here.

Somehow Manning remains within one tenth of his winning percentage, completion percentage, YPA and passer rating against playoff teams from the reg. season to the postseason. One tenth. His DAPR gets even better as he’s played tough defenses in January and February. Meanwhile Brady is the one who suffers the bigger declines in his performance, including half a yard per pass attempt.

Overall, Brady’s 6.74 YPA in the playoffs ranks 39th all time (min. 150 attempts). One of the best statistical indicators of success, YPA does not suddenly become irrelevant in the playoffs.

Brady’s DAPR also dips well below normal levels. Now in the bottom half of the table where games from non-playoff seasons are excluded (as are the games Manning rests in Weeks 16-17 and usually watches his team lose), Manning does experience decline. That’s natural when you’re not playing the 4-12 Raiders or Bills in January.

Still, Brady’s decline is steeper with a 7-point drop in passer rating and going down even more in the other categories compared to the top half. So no, there’s zero evidence Brady elevates his game in the playoffs, and Manning certainly does not decline more.

BRADYGUY: Come on, Scott. Brady’s been to seven AFC Championships and five Super Bowls! He’s playing better competition in the playoffs than Mr. Eight Times One-and-Done Manning.

Are you sure? I can’t see Manning losing to Eli’s 9-7/10-6 squads, nor do I believe playing the Jaguars at home (2005 and 2007) was harder than starting with the 2005 Steelers and 2007 Chargers. Hell, what would have happened last year if Manning got a slumping Houston team and Brady had to start with the champion Ravens that often make him struggle? But we have objective measures for team quality like DVOA to look at.

For quarterbacks with at least 5 playoff starts since 1989, here are the averages for their playoff opponents in Team DVOA, Defensive DVOA and Pass Defense DVOA (average season ranks also included as well as rank [Rk] on the list):

posos

There are actually 41 quarterbacks compared here, but I’m showing 30 so it’s easier to read (click to enlarge).

Manning’s played teams with an average DVOA of 20.1% (8th), -6.6% Defense DVOA (20th) and -6.5% Pass Defense DVOA (14th). Brady’s ranks are 26th, 31st and 22nd, respectively.

So yes, Manning has played better overall teams, better defenses and better pass defenses. He’s also played two-thirds (14/21) of his playoff games on a home/neutral field compared to 80% (20/25) for Brady, which does matter this time of year.

BRADYGUY: Fine, Scott. Teams who make the playoffs are usually pretty good. But you can’t overlook the biggest part: Tom Brady is 18-7, Peyton Manning is 10-11. THAT’S HUGE. How can you justify Manning only being 10-11?

What I can do is ask the proper question. Why is Manning 10-11 and Brady 18-7 when their level of play is not that different in the playoffs?

BRADYGUY: Heh, but IT IS MUCH DIFFERENT. Brady puts up more points to help his team win.

Brady averages 2.13 points per drive in the playoffs; Manning averages 2.10 points per drive.

This meager difference comes despite Brady starting his average drive nearly four yards closer to the end zone than Manning. It also comes despite other factors out of the QB’s control like missed FGs (7 for Manning, 6 for Brady) or fumbles on completions (6 for Manning, 3 for Brady). It also includes two one-play touchdown drives from last week where LeGarrette Blount just took the handoff from Brady for a touchdown.

Speaking of missed field goals, Manning is the only QB in NFL history to twice watch his last possession in a playoff game end with a missed FG (2000 Dolphins in OT, 2005 Steelers at end of regulation down 21-18). That was Mike Vanderjagt and those kicks were as wide right as they come.

BRADYGUY: Brady got his kickers closer.

No, Adam Vinatieri had to kick a 45-yard field goal in the snow after the Tuck Rule just to get to OT against Oakland. In the Superdome in Super Bowl 36, he kicked a 48-yard field goal on the last play of the game. In 2003 against the Titans on a -10 wind chill night, Brady completed one pass on a drive in a 14-14 tie, forcing Vinatieri to nail a 46-yard field goal for the game-winner. He did.

Meanwhile, Vanderjagt missed a 49-yard attempt in Miami — one he told the coach he could make and had made a 50-yard kick moments earlier in the game — and a 45-yard attempt in the RCA Dome against Pittsburgh.

Switch those kickers and ask Vanderjagt to make those kicks in Foxboro. Might be looking at an 0-2 start in the playoffs for Brady (both losses at home).

BRADYGUY: Manning knows best about losing at home in the playoffs. He’s done it five times (NFL record). How can you defend that?

Yes, Manning has five home playoff losses…by a combined 14 points — the smallest margin for the 30 quarterbacks with multiple home playoff losses.

HPOL

“See, the luck I’ve had can make a good man turn bad”

Brady lost by 15 points at home to the Ravens in last year’s AFC Championship and by 19 points to the Ravens in 2009. He played very poorly in those games as well. Notice how Manning had some of the very best statistics in those home playoff losses.

That’s the common theme. Manning can play well, but still lose. Brady can do anything and still seemingly get a win.

BRADYGUY: Brady puts his teams in better position to win because he makes fewer mistakes than Manning in the playoffs.

Both quarterbacks have 22 interceptions in the playoffs. Brady has 115 more attempts, but studying all 44 plays show some key differences.

Brady has 18 bad throws and 4 tipped balls. On the tips, one was tipped at the line, one hit Donte Stallworth in one hand, one hit Sam Aiken high in one hand and another practically got Ben Watson killed in 2009. Two picks were thrown desperately in the fourth quarter with the Patriots trailing 27-13 (2005 Denver) and 28-13 (2012 Ravens). That’s still not garbage time yet as one score sets up an onside kick opportunity in a one-score game either way. Brady was at the Baltimore 22 on last year’s pick.

Manning has 15 bad throws, two QB/WR miscommunications with Marvin Harrison (both vs. Ty Law/2006 Chiefs) and five tipped balls. On the tips, one hit Marcus Pollard’s hand too high, one hit Reggie Wayne in the hands high, one deflected right off Kenton Keith’s hands deep in the red zone, one hit Eric Decker and the refs missed the defensive pass interference and one last week hit Decker in the chest and was deflected and caught in the end zone by San Diego. Three of Manning’s picks were in obvious garbage time: down 34-0 vs. Jets (4Q), down 41-0 vs. Jets (4q), down 20-3 vs. 2004 Patriots (12 seconds left). Against the 2006 Ravens, he threw a bomb on 3rd-and-17 with a 12-6 lead that was intercepted by Ed Reed. That served as a punt.

Each quarterback has had one interception fumbled back to them. Manning’s came in 2009 (BAL) with a 17-3 lead in the 3rd quarter. Brady’s came in 2006 (SD) with the Patriots down 21-13 and 6:16 left in the 4th quarter.

Luck Advantage: Brady

Each quarterback has had a turnover on the field reversed to an incomplete pass. Brady’s was the fumble that introduced us to the Tuck Rule against the Raiders in 2001. Without the call, the game would have been over with Rich Gannon taking knees. Manning’s was in 2005 against Pittsburgh on a Troy Polamalu interception overturned to an incompletion. Manning still trailed 21-10 with 5:26 left. Manning also lost a fumble last season against the Ravens on a very similar play to the Tuck Rule, but did not get that call in the last possible case it could have been used before the NFL removed it this offseason.

Luck Advantage: Brady.

Brady turned the ball over three times at home in the first quarter alone in an ugly 2009 loss to the Ravens. Manning threw three interceptions at home against the 2006 Chiefs, but still completed 30-of-38 passes (including a spike and one drop) in a 23-8 win.

Oh, and which quarterback threw four interceptions in the 2003 AFC Championship? When watching the game, felt like both, but only one defense took advantage.

Brady has four red-zone interceptions. All four were bad/forced throws. Manning has five red-zone interceptions. The last three all deflected off his receiver and the very first came when he trailed 41-0 in 2002 (Jets) and had the ball at the 19.

Manning has thrown three pick-sixes in the playoffs, including last year’s botched no-call. Brady has none, because Ben Watson tracked down Champ Bailey to the 1-yard line and prevented a 100-yard return in 2005.

Brady has 10 fumbles (3 lost) in the playoffs. Manning has 5 fumbles (2 lost). Fumble Luck Advantage: Brady

Manning’s first lost fumble was a handoff on a running play to Joseph Addai in Super Bowl XLI. The Bears recovered. Brady is credited with a botched handoff fumble in the 2006 AFC Championship in Indy. The Patriots recovered it for a touchdown. Fumble Luck Advantage: Brady.

Brady only had 3 INTs when he started 10-0 in the playoffs, but clearly that part of his game has changed and he’s always been as or more likely to have a bad turnover in a close game or in the red zone than Manning in the playoffs.

BRADYGUY: Scott, maybe you didn’t hear me. 18-7 vs. 10-11…

No, I heard you. I’ve just yet to find anything compelling that shows why there’s such a difference in record based on what the quarterbacks and not their teammates and coaches have done.

BRADYGUY: Isn’t it obvious? CLUTCH. Brady’s oozing with IT, and Manning’s just a choker. That’s where you need to look.

Third downs are pretty important situations. In the playoffs, Manning has converted 43.41 percent of his third downs compared to 40.78 percent for Brady. That rate for Brady is about average for prominent active quarterbacks in the playoffs.

BRADYGUY: I bet Brady’s better on tougher situations like third-and-long that are harder to convert.

Not quite…

pmtb3dpo

Manning faces a longer third down on average and converts more often on the medium and long situations. Brady is a hell of a lot better on the quarterback sneak, regular or post. That is one area I will give him over anyone.

BRADYGUY: Meh, that’s just one down. What about the WHOLE game?

Well we have stats like Win Probability Added (WPA) and Expected Points Added (EPA) that can account for how much the quarterback is contributing to his team scoring and winning the game. Credit to Brian Burke at Advanced NFL Stats for these stats, which I’ve collected for quarterbacks with 5+ playoff starts since 1999:

POWPA

Once again, Manning comes out near the top, ahead of Brady, who looks somewhat pedestrian given his lofty winning record. Manning’s the only player in the top 8 with a losing record. These stats also control for garbage time, so there’s no point in bringing that up. Obviously Manning hasn’t played in many blowout games in the playoffs to compile meaningless stats.

BRADYGUY: Can’t Manning boost his EPA by throwing short touchdown passes like last week, while Brady loses out when his team rushes for six scores against the Colts?

The EPA gained from a short touchdown pass is actually quite minimal since you’re already expected to score a touchdown that close to the goal line.

Besides, if anyone has padded their postseason TD total on short touchdown passes, it’s Brady by a HUGE margin:

POTD

So out of 25 QBs all time with 15+ TD passes in the playoffs, no one throws them shorter than Brady, who has a staggering 29 scores from 1-9 yards out. Oh, and Manning has the deepest active TD pass among the active quarterbacks. Go figure.

These next two facts also fit the “Manning gets screwed, Brady has great luck” idea quite well.

Brady has the most playoff wins ever without a touchdown pass (4). Manning has the most playoff losses without an interception (5).

And no, if you remember from earlier, Manning did not have a fumble in any of those games without an interception. No other quarterback has more than 3 playoff losses without an interception.

This is the kind of stuff I pointed out last Saturday night with this table:

GQB

C and D are especially telling in how impotent Brady has been in half of his playoff wins, while Manning doesn’t look bad at all in comparison for the times he went one-and-done.

BRADYGUY: The difference has to be Brady gets it done when it matters most, and that’s when Manning folds. It’s WHEN they make their mistakes.

Well, for starters, the WPA would already pick up on a lot of that, but sure, let’s get silly.

How about when it’s a one-score game in the fourth quarter/overtime in the playoffs? Surely Brady’s going to show his superiority there, right?

1scopo

Oops, that didn’t work. Pro-Football-Reference shows neither guy can feel too good about what they’ve done in those situations, though they do have the most attempts by far. Yet there’s Manning doing better than Brady, who dips under 6.0 YPA again.

I didn’t even point out all the dropped passes yet, but we need to save something for next year’s edition.

BRADYGUY: But Scott, it’s when those mistakes happen that matters. Manning’s BURIED his team against the Saints and Ravens and…teams.

Of course you’d bring those two plays up. They’re the only two times Manning’s done that in crunch time in the playoffs, yet the stigma of him always doing that existed even before Super Bowl XLIV. Brady did it in back-to-back weeks in the 2006 playoffs.

  • Fourth quarter or overtime, down by 0-8 points in the playoffs: Brady and Manning have each thrown TWO interceptions in this situation.
  • Fourth quarter or overtime, down by 0-16 points in the playoffs: Brady has thrown FIVE interceptions compared to THREE for Manning.

So enough with the “Manning throws killer picks” thing. Brady has too and they came on days he played worse overall.

BRADYGUY: Okay, I think I got it. Brady has 7 game-winning drives in the playoffs and Manning is 1-9 at game-winning drive opportunities in the playoffs. I GOT YOU! Checkmate! Why can’t Manning finish in the playoffs like Brady?

He can’t? I think the numbers in the previous table show Manning’s just as adequate (or inadequate) as Brady in crunch time in the playoffs. It’s what happens around those quarterbacks that has created that 7-1 split in playoff GWDs, which I guess would be 8-0 if Brady’s defense came through for him (again).

You tell me how much of this is on Manning in GWD opportunities:

1999 Titans – Down 16-9, Manning threw a perfect pass downfield to Marvin Harrison, who dropped it on 3rd-and-22. Titans added a field goal and Edgerrin James later dropped a fourth-down pass.

2000 Dolphins – In overtime, Manning set up the field goal, but as mentioned, Vanderjagt shanked it badly and Manning never got another chance.

2003 Patriots – Despite his worst playoff game ever (4 INTs), Manning had the ball down 21-14 with 2:01 left. But we didn’t even get to see what he’d do on the drive thanks to some illegal defense from the Patriots that helped lead to reinforcement of illegal contact. The NFL quietly admitted both incomplete passes on third and fourth down should have been penalties on New England.

2005 Steelers – Getting one last chance from a Jerome Bettis fumble, Manning set up Vanderjagt for another classic shank in a 21-18 loss that would have sent the game to OT. Manning trailed 21-3 to start the fourth quarter.

2006 Patriots – Down 34-31, Manning drove the Colts 69 yards in 24 seconds — that’s pretty efficient — to let the running game finish off the game-winning TD drive with a minute left.

2007 Chargers – Manning threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Anthony Gonzalez in the fourth quarter, but the Colts’ No. 1 defense allowed backup QB Billy Volek to drive for the game-winning touchdown. On his last drive, Manning threw good passes to Reggie Wayne (3rd down) and Dallas Clark (4th down), but both were dropped, including an embarrassing flub by Clark to end the game.

2008 Chargers – What GWD opportunity? Manning needed two yards to end the game on a third-and-2, but his rookie tight end forgot the snap count and didn’t get out of his break until it was too late. Manning was sacked and the Chargers tied the game late. Manning never got the ball in OT as the Chargers drove for the winning touchdown.

2009 Saints – Notice the lack of Manning mistakes? Here we go for a change. Manning threw the pick-six to Tracy Porter and that’s mostly on him. I’ll still say Reggie Wayne’s route was poorly run (just watch the feet), but Porter did a good job to jump the route and make the play.

2010 Jets – Manning only had three second-half possessions and ended each with a field goal, including the last one to take a 16-14 lead with 0:53 left. That usually holds up, but one big kick return by Antonio Cromartie crushed that idea and the Jets got the 17-16 win in Manning’s last game with the Colts.

2012 Ravens – Manning led a go-ahead 88-yard TD drive with 7:11 left, but obviously the Rahim Moore disaster stands out there.  In OT, the Broncos dropped Joe Flacco’s picks, but the Ravens made sure to hang onto Manning’s bad throw and bad decision.

So that’s all of them. Still want to say it’s the quarterback?

  • Manning’s lost 6 playoff games after leading in the fourth quarter. No other quarterback has more than 4 (Warren Moon).
  • Manning led in the last 40 seconds of the fourth quarter in four of those losses.
  • Manning’s led a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter of his last three home playoff losses.
  • Manning is the only QB in NFL history with two lost comebacks in the playoffs. Brady has one (SB XLII). These are games where the QB did everything to meet the requirement for a 4QC except win the game.

Brady’s GWDs mostly consist of long field goals just like the ones Vanderjagt missed, a fumbled interception on fourth down in San Diego, missed FGs by the opponent, Drew Bennett not catching a pass in 2003 and other unbelievable failures like the Lee Evans-Sterling Moore play in the 2011 AFC Championship.

Isn’t that the crux of this whole thing? Joe Flacco throws a pass to knock Brady out of the playoffs, yet Sterling Moore defends it away in the end zone and Billy Cundiff chokes on the FG. The next year, Flacco throws a TD pass over Rahim Moore to force OT and Justin Tucker delivers on the 47-yard FG in cold conditions to end Manning’s season and make his INT his last throw of the game. Manning and Brady were helpless in these situations, yet Brady won despite playing an inferior game and Manning lost despite playing very well. Same old story.

Brady’s celebrated for his playoff GWDs, yet when it comes down to one guy stepping up and making that game-deciding play, more often than not we see someone not named Brady do it for New England and someone not named Manning screw it up for Indianapolis/Denver.

So when I say Brady’s the luckiest QB in playoff history and Manning’s the unluckiest, this is exactly what I’m talking about. No quarterbacks have more close wins (Brady) or close losses (Manning) in the playoffs than these two, yet all the stats (advanced or not) and tape show there’s no significant difference in how they played in these situations.

If anything, you’d think Manning would be the one with a 18-7 record and Brady would be under .500.

BRADYGUY: But Scott, isn’t a loss a loss? Manning has tied Favre for the most playoff losses (11) ever.

Well aren’t we talking about being the best? Do you want a guy that’s going to lose by 15-19 points at home and play like crap, or do you want someone who can give his team a chance to win every single playoff game? Sometimes that’s going to lead to some losses with perhaps a late-game turnover. Play long enough and that can happen to anyone. Is that really worse than the guy who shits the bed in the first quarter and never gives his team a chance? Manning also set a record with his 13th playoff berth this year.

Manning has had a fourth-quarter lead in his last 12 playoff games. No one else in NFL history has had a streak longer than 10 games.

Not even Brady.

BRADYGUY: Isn’t Brady just more consistent in the playoffs? Manning has a few huge games, but Brady is more likely to give you a solid performance each week.

No. Brady started his playoff career with five mediocre performances, five very good games to get to 10-0, but since then, he’s a mixed bag that hasn’t put together two good performances in back-to-back playoff games since Super Bowl 39 and January 2006 (Jacksonville).

Meanwhile Manning’s done this:

80pr

Not a passer rating fan? Understandable, but an 80, especially in the playoffs, is usually the indicator of an okay game.

I did see this from ESPN on best cumulative playoff Total QBR since 2006: Colin Kaepernick (85.4), Aaron Rodgers (77.2), Kurt Warner (75.3) and Peyton Manning (72.2).

Familiar names at the top, right? And Brady’s missing again. That doesn’t even factor in defense, like how Manning had a 60.6 QBR in the 2006 playoffs (yes, even with 3 TD and 7 INT). That year, Manning became the only QB in NFL history to beat the top three defenses in the same postseason.

BRADYGUY: …but 18-7 and 10-

I have to cut you off there, BRADYGUY, or else we might keep going until kickoff. I didn’t even crunch the numbers on Brady’s superior running game and defense in the postseason.

So taking this all in, seeing where Brady stacks up relative to Manning and other quarterbacks, there’s really nothing more misleading in the NFL today than 18-7 and 10-11. For that matter, Aaron Rodgers being 5-4 and Drew Brees being 6-5 also makes little sense relative to Brady.

Well, it makes sense to people who can see it’s a team game and no team has played better than the Patriots since 2001, but that doesn’t mean the QB is always deserving of the credit.

People don’t like to hear it, but at some point you have to chalk up the record to better team play and downright good fortune. You know, it’s a team game after all, but for some reason every Marvin Harrison dropped ball or Edgerrin James fumble is overlooked because god forbid Deion Branch or Kevin Faulk could make those plays for Brady. (They did)

They weren’t high draft picks, they can’t possibly be great. Manning lost the playoff game, he can’t possibly have played well.

S.O.S. for a decade-plus now.

Now some will say I put a jinx on Manning today by putting this out there. That’s impossible. The guy’s had a playoff jinx on him his whole career. I’m not adding anything to it. I’m just pointing out the facts instead of dropping to my knees for Brady and Belichick in the playoffs like too many other writers and fans have done.

And I’m still picking the Patriots to win this game.

Oh, About the AFC Championship…

Do I still have the energy to go past 4,000 words? Sure, but I’ll keep this preview relatively short.

When the Patriots won aforementioned game in San Diego in the 2006 playoffs, that was the last straw for me. I said I wouldn’t pick against the Patriots in a big game again. Something ridiculous always seems to happen for them. So I picked them to beat the Colts and they choked away an 18-point lead the following week. They blew a perfect season at 18-0 in 2007. “We’re only going to score 17 points?” No, 14. Despite going 16-0 in the regular season at home in 2008-09, the Patriots went one-and-done in back-to-back years against the Ravens and Jets, teams they beat in the regular season including a 45-3 smacking. They should have lost to the 2011 Ravens and did lose again to the Giants in SB 46, despite being favored. They were the favorites again last year when a Ravens team I thought had a great chance to go in there and win did just that, holding the Pats to 13 points (second-half shutout).

(Note: a lot of this further applies to why Brady is the most overrated playoff QB).

All seven of the playoff losses under Belichick/Brady have been rematches. This game with Denver is a rematch. The last game really doesn’t apply too much in that the venue is different, the weather will be much better, there’s no Rob Gronkowski and Von Miller (among others) and John Fox is back on the sideline.

While you probably think I’m dying to pick Denver (and I am, and I like, but not love, their chances), I’m not going to do it.

Can’t.

A depleted Jack Del Rio defense that has a tendency to leave guys wide open on third and fourth down? Uh-oh. For as much talk as there’s been about NE’s running game, and the run will be huge for both teams, I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out throwing with Brady early and often. This isn’t a “do what we do every week” team. They adjust for each opponent and the weakness in Denver is the pass defense. The run defense has been solid all year with and without Miller, so it would be a surprise to see them gashed there. The pass is the problem without Chris Harris and without Miller, who played great in NE, rushing Brady.

Quentin Jammer and Kayvon Webster may just combine to Rahim Moore another season for Denver. Somehow Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola continue to get open underneath when it’s painfully obvious Brady is going to them with the ball. Do I trust Del Rio to adjust? Of course not. New England’s offense should do fine. Shaun Phillips has to have a huge game against Marcus Cannon in Miller’s absence. That’s a matchup to watch.

On the other side (both sides, but moreso on this matchup), I’ll be curious to see how much contact is allowed in the secondary. That’s NE’s best hope to jam these receivers and throw off the timing routes. Manning needs to work on the 8-15 yard range in this game and not try to bomb it out. Wes Welker will want to have a huge game, but I think this is about Thomas & Thomas again.

I have been getting a lot of Patriot fans talking out of both sides of their mouth this week. On one end, it’s “Manning has the best weapons ever!” On the other, it’s “Talib and Jamie Collins will shut down Thomas & Thomas, Eric Decker is super soft and Julian Edelman could cover Welker AND outplay him at receiver and punt returner!” Okay, so which is it?

I think the Patriots can get some stops in this game, but it’s going to be hard to shut down the passing game that never got going last time due to the crazy start with fumbles. Manning should have a much better game this time, but any 400 yards/4 TD expectations are lunacy. The Patriots rarely give up 30+ points of offense in 13 years under Belichick. I think they have to hold Denver under that to win this one. I still think Demaryius is the key guy that makes this offense go, so he can’t be under 50 yards for Denver to pull this one out.

This is Manning-Brady XV, but remember, these games have never been a shootout. Maybe we’ll get that for an instant classic, but I’d sooner expect Denver to fall behind by 17 points and make a dramatic comeback again. Denver’s constant ball security issues bother me. Last week they had a lot of bad plays with drops, fumbles and stumbles, but maybe that was a little rust and they’ll be sharper this week.

They’ll have to be. The Patriots are not the Chargers. Belichick won’t mail in a conservative gameplan like new job-seeking Whisenhunt did and the Patriots will capitalize on every little mistake. New England hasn’t been impressive on the road, though their best road game was their last (at Baltimore).

At the end of the day, I see a Denver team with a better QB and better receivers, but the Patriots hold the other advantages. Well, except for home-field this time. What do you think historically wins more of these big games?

I’ll call my shot here. In the nature of what I’ve presented above, this game clearly has two possible endings: a game-ending Brady interception or a dropped pass by Wes Welker on fourth down.

Either way, we already know which QB will get more credit for a win and which will get more blame for a loss. I hope to enjoy a potentially historic Sunday and do what I do every week: watch the games, write later what actually decided the outcome and who to hold accountable. Isn’t that the easiest way to do this job? Why do some feel the need to continue a decade-old narrative, facts and new information be damned?

Final score: Patriots 30, Broncos 27

And I am rooting for Denver-Seattle, because I want to see the best offense play the best defense. “So for once in my life, let me get what I want…”

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Defenses Continue to Hurt Themselves in Today’s NFL

I’m not a X’s & O’s guy, but most reading this already know that. I do statistical analysis and watch a lot of games to pick up on trends and how certain teams/players perform on the field.

What I think I have is a common sense approach to how the game should be played. Part of my educational background is studying how to limit motions to improve efficiency for various processes. Leaving a team’s best receiver wide open is probably a terrible decision no matter if the defense that was specifically called was done correctly to the coaches’ wishes. Now this is a rant that literally just popped in my head so this may get branched out into a legitimate article later, but for now, just bear with me.

In preparation for the AFC Championship between Denver and New England, I have been pointing out how limited the New England passing game is without any tight end threat or even a real vertical threat at this point. It’s basically all Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (Austin Collie when they need a breather) running short routes, often from the slot, and yet no one has really found a way to shut it down yet. Shane Vereen can catch passes out of the backfield, but he’s not Marshall Faulk. New England has mostly worked on the running game lately, but the passing game will be crucial for the remainder of the postseason and it has to be these same receivers.

So when coaches who get paid millions of dollars like Chuck Pagano, John Fox and Jack Del Rio sit down to prepare for this Rob Gronkowski-less offense, how can they not see the same things I see from my home? I’m not going to get into the statistics for the increase in short passes, but we know most teams throw shorter more often today. Yards per completion are down as the spread/shotgun offense is used more. Yet we still see defenses play this archaic style of trying not to get beat deep, even when the very best vertical  passing games will be lucky to hit 30 passes more than 20 yards down the field in a given season.

Tom Brady, for example, is 14/58 on passes thrown 21+ yards this season. Is that really something to fear? That’s in line with his previous seasons too. You can even leave a guy open and there’s a decent shot he will miss him, like he missed Amendola against the Saints this season. With the way offenses are setting records for points and yardage these days, giving up a quick strike is hardly the burden it used to be. But alas, I’m ranting again and need to get to what I saw in Saturday night’s game against Indianapolis.

Edelman caught 105 passes this year. He’s clearly Brady’s No. 1 target, so the Colts naturally should counter with putting their best starting cornerback Vontae Davis on him. That’s smart. But look what happens on this play early in the first quarter. It was 2nd-and-9 with Brady in the shotgun so there’s no reason not to expect a pass. You can see Davis lined up on Edelman at the snap:

rant1

Here’s what I would have done on the play as a defensive coordinator (and yes, I only have Paint and not Photoshop):

rant2

I shadow Edelman with Davis so he would pick him up on the crossing route. I let my linebacker, who has no chance with Edelman here, come up to prevent the running back having open space in the left flat. There, those two players are taken care of with the proper matchup for their skill talent and you can see the right side is matched up well already too.

What did the Colts do?

rant3

Davis took a few leisurely steps backwards and ended up covering nothing on the play because Brady’s pass was already out  and easily caught by Edelman, who had a lot of open field to run after the catch and turn it into a 25-yard gain.

How can any coach justify Davis’ defensive assignment on that play? It’s not like Brady’s going to pull it down and run and make Davis the last line of defense. That’s not Kaepernick out there. Is RB Brandon freakin’ Bolden out of the backfield worthy of Davis’ coverage? You mean to tell me your best corner isn’t better off covering the guy with 105 catches? Is Darrelle Revis, under Rex Ryan at least, really the only cornerback capable of covering a guy all over the field? Even that performance was probably overblown.

Say what you want about the late Al Davis, but that concept of playing tight, bump-and-run man-to-man coverage makes the most logical sense. Throw off all these timing routes with the contact you’re allowed to have within five yards. Why are coaches leaving a team’s favorite receiver wide open or letting him breeze past linebackers that have no hope of covering him? Yeah, you can mix it up with man and zone, but what value does leaving Davis where he was on that play have for the defense? What in the hell is he going to limit there that a linebacker can’t?

It’s hard to play defense now, but a lot of that is self-inflicted when guys, by instruction or not, are letting receivers go and watching action they have no shot of doing anything about.

If you think I’m freaking out over one play, consider what happened in the second quarter. This time Davis did stick with Edelman out of the slot, but Edelman just beat him on the catch after a play-action pass. Still, the defense was there to limit this to a 12-yard gain instead of a 25-yard gain like the earlier crosser. You can see the defense in great position to wrap Edelman up at the 40:

rant4

Well, Edelman broke tackles and gained 15 more yards to turn it into a 27-yard gain. So it’s poor defense either way, but it’s a hell of a lot better to live with the designed coverage on that play than the free release and easy 25 yards on the first play.

Then again, for a coach who thought punting on 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter down 43-22 was the right call, is it even a stretch he would think having Davis spy the running back would be better than following the guy most likely to get the ball?

2013 NFL Divisional Round Predictions: San Diego Super Upset?

We’re about to experience the greatest weekend of the NFL year. Shocking upsets make it great when we see which of last week’s winners can go on the road and beat the rested bye teams, who obviously compiled the top records in the league. Anymore, it’s hard to keep calling them upsets when the playoffs produce so many of these results every year. You have to go back to the top-heavy 2004 season to find a home sweep on Divisional weekend.

AFC Preview

At well over 7,000 words, I think I’ve done my share of analysis on the AFC games, so please click here to read that if you haven’t.

What I will do here is share opinions as a fan for these games, since they obviously mean more to me than the NFC games. I’m not afraid to admit I am pulling hard for a Colts-Broncos AFC Championship, but I feel like it’s the least likely scenario. After having to watch Ravens-Patriots the last two years, I could use a true rooting interest next week (and in the Super Bowl).  Yet I feel like we’re headed for Chargers-Patriots, and I just hope Philip Rivers gets through the weekend with his knee ligaments intact so that game’s not compromised again.

“And the captain’s abandoned ship. Can you believe it? No! They had to. No! It won’t do. It’s hard to swim when lies will drown you.” – Stop It!!

Yes, I essentially picked the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl XLVIII the moment Super Bowl XLVII ended. I picked Denver in April. I picked them in August and in the first week of September when I made my season predictions. Now prior to their first playoff game, I am siding with the Chargers to knock them out.

Jameis Winston asked me why I’m picking San Diego. He said, or I said, not even my cousin in THE AFGHANISTAN said he can believe I’m picking San Diego. Is my confidence strong with this pick? No, but I said we strong. He said we strong then. San Diego strong.

All jokes aside, the real question is at what point am I allowed to change my mind based on new information?

Part of the reason I liked Denver was the potential of the defense, which had a solid 2012 performance. They don’t have to be a dominant force for this team to go the distance given the offense, but they can’t be a liability. Based on the last four months, I see a postseason liability and I see the unit’s best player, Von Miller, sidelined for the year with a torn ACL. Miller returning from his suspension and being a dominant force to lead the defense, which of course also lost Elvis Dumervil over a fax fiasco, was part of my expectations for Denver. That’s gone.

What’s left is a pass-happy offensive juggernaut, and everything I have learned about NFL history tells me such a team fails in the postseason, because the defense has to come through too, and unless you’re the 1999 Rams, so does the running game at least once. The loss may not be on Sunday, but winning a Super Bowl will be very difficult for this team without some significant changes in performance. No one can do it winning 35-31 every week in the playoffs and I see Denver having to do that twice just to get to New Jersey.

I would probably be talking about things much differently if the Broncos were facing Kansas City or Indianapolis this week, but it’s San Diego and that’s a problem as I detailed in my preview. Now this isn’t a reliable opponent, but I feel like I know a Peyton Manning team very well through years of analysis. I can usually pick out on the schedule in April which games will be difficult for his team to win. Yes, he’s changed cities, coaches and teammates, but he puts his stamp on a team unlike anyone else.

Being the most consistent player in NFL history, running basically the same offense his whole career and being tied to flawed defenses, it all creates for a lot of consistency in how certain opponents play Manning’s team. Two of Denver’s three losses this year coming against New England and San Diego are no surprise at all. For the Chargers to win it has to come as it usually does: win the trenches, win the field position battle, own the running game and get those mistakes from Manning’s passing game any way they can. This team is built to do that and the Broncos are not the highly efficient juggernaut their 26-6 record suggests the last two years. They are only -1 in turnover differential, which is absurd when you consider New England (+34) and Seattle (+33) in that department since 2012.

So much of the game is about red zone and turnovers. Denver’s great in the red zone, but must stop fumbling the football and get some more takeaways.

Am I going too historical on this one? I don’t think so. There’s an interesting 10-game sample of the Chargers against Manning — defensive coordinator John Pagano was on defensive staff for all 10 games — and we see a lot of the same things happen regardless of all the changing parts. Forcing a one-dimensional passing attack while Philip Rivers turns into more of a game manager to control the clock with the run is one of the biggest parts of the plan. Some damn good luck has worked too.

To counter myself, let’s recall the setting of a playoff game in the 2003 AFC Wild Card between Manning’s Colts and the Denver Broncos. In Week 16, Denver went on the road as a 6.5-point underdog in a prime-time game and dominated the clock, holding the ball for 44:58. Manning only threw for 146 yards and the offense scored 10 points on 8 drives. Denver won 31-17. Now I don’t recall the specific chatter two weeks later in the postseason other than “when’s Peyton Manning going to win a playoff game?!”. The game was in Indianapolis again, but the Broncos were only a 3-point underdog this time and came in with confidence of dominating there. Well, Manning went 16-of-18 for 327 yards and 4 TDs in the first half to build a 31-3 lead on the way to an easy win.

So much for the road underdog having confidence from a few weeks ago. I doubt we see that type of history repeat itself, but I’ll feel pretty foolish if it does. At least I’ll be a satisfied fool.

I hate to even get into the “Manning’s 9-11 in the playoffs; eight one-and-dones!” thing before he takes the field this postseason, but I feel like I wrote a pretty definitive article about eight of those losses last year. I’ve read some pretty bad articles this week about the topic. I know I’ll have more to write about Manning and other quarterbacks in the coming weeks.

I was going to conclude with a rant about how sometimes I start to believe the critics are onto something. Maybe Manning is too robotic/over-studied for the playoffs and that’s holding him back in the big moments. But then I just slap myself with the dose of reality that seven of the guy’s one-and-done postseasons were by a combined margin of 26 points and none of the most critical, game-changing plays in those seven games was a mistake he made.

So that rant can wait another day, because there’s no shortage of idiocy during the postseason to refute.

Saints at Seahawks

The more I think about Seattle’s 34-7 thrashing of New Orleans over a month ago, the more I think we’re going to get a much better game this week. Let’s not forget there was an unfortunate bounce in good field position on the Brees fumble that became a touchdown return. While Brees is no stranger to turning the ball over on the road, that quick score and 10-0 deficit really drove the crowd wild in the way a turnover 50 yards down the field that just gives Seattle the ball in a 3-0 game would not have done. Then in the third quarter the Seahawks got that crazy bounce on a touchdown to Derrick Coleman. It was just Seattle’s night, but it’s 0-0 starting on Saturday.

I’m not sure the Saints are getting enough respect in this game. Yes, the road woes are worth mentioning, but any time you’re talking about one of the best coaches and quarterbacks in the league, any game can be had with a brilliant performance. But the Saints aren’t likely to get brilliance from Brees against the league’s best pass defense.

Seattle’s only allowed more than 24 points twice at home in their last 24 home games. Both of those games were in 2011 before this was a playoff team. That also includes a 34-12 loss to the 2011 Bengals in which Cincinnati scored two return touchdowns. This defense is very difficult to score on, especially at home. The key to doing it is to have great talent at wide receiver to match up with those cornerbacks. The Saints are lacking a bit in that department this year, so boxing up tight end Jimmy Graham with size and safety help from this Seattle secondary makes that a less than favorable matchup for New Orleans compared to most weeks.

That’s why the key to the game will be to win the rushing battle in the way New Orleans surprisingly did against Philadelphia on the road. If there’s a vulnerability to the Seattle defense, it would be stopping the run. On the other side, the Saints did a very good job against LeSean McCoy and the No. 1 rush offense. They also shut down Marshawn Lynch on MNF, holding him to 45 yards on 16 carries. Lynch has quietly had some poor games down the stretch this season, only topping 4.0 YPC once in his last six outings.

So I’m not concerned with Lynch running all over the Saints. Russell Wilson is the problem. He was so effective on the move in the first meeting and he really does that every week, but was especially deadly that night. Wilson holds onto the ball a lot, so the Saints have to find a way to make him pay. I think Rob Ryan should dial back the blitz and try to make Wilson overthink what he’s seeing. This is not the greatest receiving corps in the playoffs and I’m not expecting a ton from Percy Harvin in his return to the lineup. Make Wilson hold the ball, plaster the receivers and the defensive line needs to play a hell of a game.

If the Saints are going to win this game, it’s going to be about helping Brees with the support of a running game so he doesn’t have to be perfect, not letting Lynch dominate and keeping Wilson’s big plays down. It’s not helping New Orleans with Kenny Vaccaro out at safety. Roman Harper would like to burn every tape of the last performance he had in Seattle in the playoffs.

But if Seattle’s going to lose in the playoffs, it’s going to be on the offense having a low-scoring day. I don’t see the Saints being the team to force them into one.

49ers at Panthers

This was a 10-9 game last time, but the 49ers are bringing more firepower for the rematch. Still, with these defenses, this is almost boringly predictable to be the weekend’s lowest-scoring game, and probably the closest for that reason. It could just come down to which mobile quarterback has the ball in his hands last.

ESPN had a good article on how both Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton have beat up on bad defenses in 2013 and struggled with the good ones. Yeah, another 10-9 score wouldn’t be that shocking.

The resurgence of the Panthers at 12-4 has been framed incorrectly this season. Riverboat Ron is more of a legend than a producer of on-field results. I posted this on Twitter over a week ago, but the idea of Cam Newton regressing in 2012 is just as laughable as the idea he’s progressed in 2013:

camx3

What’s really changed is Carolina has gotten so much better on defense. Only the Saints have scored more than 24 points against the Panthers and that was in the Super Dome. I do think the front seven can give Kaepernick a lot of problems in this game. They already did in San Francisco when he couldn’t even break 100 yards passing. However, he is playing his best this season right now.

This game comes down to two glaring weaknesses for me. I think Jim Harbaugh is clearly the better head coach and while I expect points will be difficult to come by, I can’t ignore one glaring difference in the makeup of these teams:

  • Panthers have a great defensive front, but not much in the secondary. The 49ers are bringing Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin to the party.
  • 49ers have a strong defense with no glaring unit weakness. The Panthers have an injured Steve Smith, Ted Ginn, Greg Olsen and Brandon LaFell.

If this was a back alley brawl,  I might take the Carolina guys on Smith’s craziness alone, but for this game, give me the 49ers. Now Carolina has home-field advantage and that is going to be tough for the 49ers to go back on the road again from west to east for an early game, but I have to go with the better team.

Oh yeah, SF-CAR will be the 500th playoff game in NFL history. Equating that to the regular season would take you back to the final late afternoon kickoff in Week 1 of the 2012 season. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Yet it feels like most NFL legacies are built around these few precious moments…

FINAL PREDICTIONS

Let’s just say my scores did not work out too well last week (2-2 too). Closest was Green Bay needing to score four fewer points to nail that game at 23-20.

  • Seahawks over Saints, 27-24
  • Patriots over Colts, 34-17
  • 49ers over Panthers, 17-13
  • Chargers over Broncos, 34-28

If I have my first losing week of the season, I won’t mind.

2013 NFL Wild Card Predictions

Last season I did an unusually good job of picking playoff games. I even got really close to the final score on Wild Card weekend. My 9-2 record only consisted of losses by the Colts (too much of a heart choice) and Broncos (“Rahim Moore should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell”). This season, I have virtually zero confidence in having a good month of predictions. This is not a lack of confidence in myself. It’s the inconsistency the 2013 playoff field has shown us.

Factor in the declining quality in officiating — you just know at least one team is going to get royally screwed here — and literally anything could happen. Sure, I would never bet on Chargers-Saints in a February blizzard, but that’s really not even that crazy. I feel like any of the 12 teams could go on a run or could go one-and-done. I’ve never felt this way before about a playoff field. Last year I would have never believed the Colts could win in New England or Denver. I didn’t picture Baltimore doing it, but the Ravens did. Even before we found out it was going to be a lousy game with Joe Webb at quarterback, I gave the Vikings little chance to move past the Wild Card round, let alone win another game.

But each year I see more playoff randomness and there are way too many great players on these teams unable to participate due to injury. So the flaws are all very real. We’re in for a bumpy ride.

I did not have time to start it this week unfortunately, but I will be running an epic series of articles on quarterbacks in the playoffs starting on Football Outsiders next week. If you want a great source of data to bookmark, this will deliver. If you want something to shove in someone’s face when they say something stupid, consider it a belated gift.

Speaking of gifts, make sure to download my updated playoff chart for every team in the Super Bowl era.

Chiefs at Colts

Practically everything I needed to say about this game can be found in my preview at Football Outsiders. I do like the Colts in a much closer game than the one in Week 16.

One thing I will add here: I hope Andrew Luck gets his first playoff win today, just so we don’t have to go through this stupid “when’s he going to win one?” thing that is sure to come in today’s media world. “Oh, Russell Wilson won a playoff game last year. Colin Kaepernick went to the Super Bowl. WHAT’S WHRONG WIT ANDROOW LUCK!?!” We went through this recently with Tony Romo, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, but none of those players were the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Now I’m not saying we need to absolve Luck of all blame if he has a horrible game against the Chiefs, but I don’t think anyone expected the Colts to go 22-10 the last two years with such a revamped and flawed roster. Just being in this position is worthy of respect. Cam Newton didn’t do this in 2011-12. Robert Griffin III already fell off in year two and the Redskins are a mess.

The Colts have beaten the best teams in the league this year without really being one themselves. Imagine that.

Saints at Eagles

Again, it’s been a busy last few days of playoff preparation. You can read my ESPN Insider article (if possible) on Nick Foles’ totally unexpected elite season here. He might look like he failed to land the lead role in Napoleon Dynamite, but the kid can play and it’s not just the Chip Kelly system. I’m impressed and I think he has a good shot to win this game against a Saints team that, let’s face it, hasn’t played well on the road this season.

So what is it about that “Saints are awesome at home, but forget them on the road” thing? I give my thoughts on that here. It is overstated a bit, but until the Saints win a game like this, people will continue to doubt them outside of the dome. Pierre Thomas reportedly will not play, but the Saints still have plenty of backs. They just don’t have nearly the type of reliable running game the Eagles have. The balance is why I like the Eagles to win at home, because it’s not like Foles has to do it all while Brees is likely to go over 45 pass attempts.

You may recall an article I did on offensive balance this summer. The 2013 Eagles rank 18th in balance-adjusted yards per play since 1970:

t20bal

Should be a lot of points scored, but give me the home team here.

Chargers at Bengals

Here’s one where literally anything could happen. The Chargers probably aren’t happy about the 10 A.M. PST kickoff, but they couldn’t even bitch about a crack of dawn start time after the gift from the officials and Ryan Succop last week to even be in this game.

Plain and simple: the Bengals have the best defense in the AFC, they can contain San Diego’s offense, but Andy Dalton cannot blow the game for them. Dalton threw four picks last week and still won. He can’t throw more than two and win this week, because San Diego loves to shorten the game with long drives (death by papercuts). The Chargers had the fewest offensive drives (158) in the league this year and averaged the most possession time per drive and ran the most plays per drive. That’s just how they play football because the offense makes a lot of successful plays and the poor defense allows a lot of first downs.

That all shortens the game, so Dalton cannot waste possessions for his teams and give up field position with turnovers. I think the Bengals are best equipped in the AFC to handle a bad game from their quarterback due to the defense and surrounding offensive talent, but few teams are equipped to overcome a postseason pick parade.

The Bengals are 8-0 at home this season. I may do a short post on this at FO, but I found 50 teams to go 8-0 at home since 1978. They went 43-16 (.729) at home in the playoffs. Only 11 teams went one-and-done at home in the playoffs.

As long as Dalton keeps the picks under three, the Bengals should move on here, but I’ve been wrong before on San Diego.

49ers at Packers

I guess the weather’s going to be a big story here. What’s the forecast?

itscold

If scoring is down, then I just think that favors the 49ers even more in a tough, grind it out game. The Packers are different now that they have a running game with Eddie Lacy, but the 49ers are such a balanced team on both sides of the ball. They’re frankly just a better team than the Packers, who I think in the future would not be hosting this game as an 8-7-1 team over a 12-4 team they already lost to. But we can’t fix the playoffs this month, so tough shi+.

Dom Capers has had no answers for Colin Kaepernick. By air or ground, it’s been a nightmare the last two games and even Alex Smith picked this defense apart in the 2012 opener. I’m not sure enough has changed for Green Bay to get past the 49ers, which is the exact opposite of this series in the 90s with Brett Favre always getting past Steve Young except for that time Jerry Rice fumbled and no referee cared.

Wait, you mean the NFL referees have always sucked?

The Packers have Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb back, which is great and it means there’s always a chance, but this defense is awful and will be without Clay Matthews. The Packers have allowed at least 21 points in 10 straight games (at least 26 in 9/10). They’ve been behind by a lot of unusually big deficits in the second half almost every week since the Rodgers injury. It was a great effort to rally back and make the playoffs, but I just don’t see the defense being strong like it was in 2010 for this team to put together a run.

The 49ers simply continue to be a bad matchup for the Packers.

FINAL PREDICTIONS

Oh I’m never a fan of picking the scores because they just provide more ways to show how wrong you were, but here we go.

  • Colts over Chiefs, 23-20
  • Eagles over Saints, 34-24
  • Bengals over Chargers, 31-17
  • 49ers over Packers, 23-16

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 8-6
  • Week 11: 9-6
  • Week 12: 7-6-1
  • Week 13: 11-5
  • Week 14: 10-6
  • Week 15: 8-8
  • Week 16: 9-7
  • Week 17: 14-2
  • Season: 164-91-1