NFL Week 2 Predictions: Embracing Mediocrity

I always like it when the afternoon games I’m most interested in are on my local CBS and FOX affiliates, which is the case this week. Without failure, each season someone is shocked that I don’t have Sunday Ticket, but why would I ever want or need such an expensive service? I prefer to watch a full live game if I can, particularly the Steelers, but I also have the RedZone channel. Then there’s Game Pass and torrents. So I get the league-wide access I need at a favorable cost. If there’s a drive full of 4-yard papercuts to Jarvis Landry that I need to see, I’ll see it in due time. No worries.

Bengals at Steelers

This is easily the game of the week. That may not mean it will play out as the best, but it is the most important game — the next chapter in a heated rivalry. It also brings up one of the more fascinating stats in the NFL: Marvin Lewis is 6-7 in Pittsburgh, but 2-13 at home against the Steelers (including two crushing playoff losses). The road team just happens to play better in this series, and Cincinnati’s 6-7 record in Pittsburgh trails only Jacksonville (3-1) and New England (3-2) since 2003 among teams with at least 3 trips to Heinz Field. Part of this weird split is that Ben Roethlisberger’s stats are better in Cincinnati than at home where he has had some of the worst games of his career in low-scoring struggles, including last season’s 16-10, three-pick defeat. At least this won’t be a game where Roethlisberger is just returning from injury as was the case last year.

In his career, Roethlisberger is 54-4 at home when the Steelers allow fewer than 21 points, but three of those losses were to the Bengals. Lewis’ defense has a good feel for defending this offense, including pressuring Ben and containing Antonio Brown as a receiver (he does have 3 punt return touchdowns against the Bengals). In Brown’s last 48 games with Roethlisberger at quarterback, he’s had at least 5 catches in all 48, and at least 70 yards in 40 of them. Only the Ravens (4), Bengals (3) and Seahawks (1) have held this duo under 70 yards. I think the Bengals can limit his damage again this week, and A.J. Green is going to have the bigger game. He almost has to with both offenses experiencing many departures, putting the onus on their star receivers to dominate. Heath Miller retired, Ladarius Green and Tyler Eifert are injured, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are gone, Martavis Bryant is suspended and Markus Wheaton appears to still be injured. This means newcomers have to contribute, including Eli Rogers, Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd. While a game of HORSE between Brown and Green would be interesting, the offense that gets more secondary receiver contributions is likely to win this game. I do not think either running game is going to go off, though I’d give the Steelers the edge there with DeAngelo Williams still looking really good at an advanced age behind this offensive line. I’m still not sure what to think of Jeremy Hill after a disappointing 2015, and he’ll especially be happy if Ryan Shazier isn’t at full strength after Shazier’s dominant playoff game helped eliminate the Bengals. The Steelers ought to be happy that Vontaze Burfict is still suspended for this one after Burfcit injured Le’Veon Bell, Ben and Brown on hits last season.

Defensively, I would be concerned that the Steelers did not get much rush on Washington and gave up their share of plays, but got enough big stops to limit the points to 16. That is always key, but a similar offense in Cincinnati should get rid of the ball quickly and there really is no one capable of matching up with Green in this secondary. Andy Dalton is usually one of the best-protected quarterbacks in the NFL, but he took seven sacks on the road last week. The Steelers are going to have to get their front seven to deliver more this week. I would expect a few sacks from the Bengals of Roethlisberger, but he’ll be glad to see no Reggie Nelson in the secondary. The offense had few problems in the last three quarters against Washington, but must build off that performance. You saw the ugly first quarter and how a few turnovers could really change the game around. The Bengals have the better defense in this matchup.

So home field has been established as pretty irrelevant in this particular series, but I do give the Steelers a slight edge going into this one. They’ll be happy to be home given six of their last seven games were on the road thanks to being a 6th seed in the playoffs last year and opening this year on the road. Monday night’s performance was impressive enough for me to think this offense is clicking well enough early despite the personnel losses that they can pull out a close one here.

Bengals 21, Steelers 24

Colts at Broncos

I hope I’m not relying too much on “fighting narratives” to make game picks this season, especially after a bad Week 1. But this was a game where I picked the Broncos to win when I went through all 256 games before opening night. Yes, it is true that Andrew Luck has had great success against the Broncos (3-1), including the most efficient and effective game any QB had against them last year while he lacerated his kidney. Maybe he took those matchups with Peyton Manning personally, really wanting to impress the Indy fans. He doesn’t need any extra motivation to avoid going 0-2 this week, but he hasn’t seen this Wade Phillips’ called defense on the road yet. The Broncos are still very much led by that defense, which feeds on the crowd energy to play even better at home. Trevor Siemian threw one pass over 15 yards in Week 1 and it was intercepted. He may get a boost this week with the Colts’ beat-up defensive unit struggling to get pressure and cover receivers. The Demaryius Thomas injury is a little concerning given Denver is basically two deep at that position, but I like Emmanuel Sanders this week. Right now, Siemian looks like Alex Smith without the draft pedigree, but the Broncos can win with that as long as C.J. Anderson is making great cuts behind an improved run-blocking line. Luck looked great last week, but I fear his line on the road this week against a much tougher unit. I absolutely think the Colts can win this one since you really don’t need to score many points to beat Denver, but I just don’t see it working out this time. The Colts need more of a big defensive effort than a big game from Luck (smart will do).

Colts 17, Broncos 20

Seahawks at Rams

I always like to say I get a lot of predictions wrong throughout the season, but I still get more right. It never fails to amaze me when I mention a long streak and it gets broken in the next game or two. All throughout the summer I feared a Russell Wilson injury this year due to his unusually good durability despite a frantic playing style behind a porous offensive line. Was this the year that would catch up to Seattle? Then he hurts his ankle in Week 1 and just barely limps to a late win over Miami. Unless the Seahawks are covering it up, Wilson seems to have avoided the dreaded high-ankle sprain and will start on Sunday. We don’t know anything about what Injured Russell Wilson looks like since he’s always been healthy. However, if his mobility is limited, then that’s a huge problem against a Rams defense that always gives him fits even when he’s on his game. Who saw the Rams going into Seattle in Week 16 and pulling out that win? Jeff Fisher can’t sniff a real Super Bowl again, so he treats these Seattle games as his team’s Super Bowl, and the success has been pretty good given Seattle’s overall dominance since 2012.

After the game on Sunday, I was determined to pick the Rams to win this game in their home Los Angeles opener given the Wilson injury. And then Monday night happened — an embarrassing 28-0 shutout to Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers, projected to be a bottom-two team this year. They drafted Jared Goff No. 1 to be inactive for this shit? Forget 7-9 bullshit, this looked like the start of 2-14 c*cksucker blues. And they want to give Fisher an extension? It’s madness.

And yet, as much as that game cooled me off the Rams’ upset, I still think they’re going to give Seattle a game here. I just don’t think it’s going to be enough because of that horrific offense against this great Seattle defense. Wilson may not need to throw for 100 yards. Just don’t turn the ball over.

Rams 6, Seahawks 16

Packers at Vikings

Opening a new stadium should be a joyous occasion, but in Minnesota, the throng of yawns in the air have already given the new place a stale smell of boredom and disinterest. Nothing can suck the life out of a fan base more than having to start Sam Bradford at quarterback after trading a first-round pick for him. Vikings fans, get ready to embrace mediocrity.

Mediocrity would actually be an improvement over most of Bradford’s career, but it’s really the best-case scenario this year. He plays at a league-average level, but does just enough in the right moments to get this team enough wins. Adrian Peterson is going to have to play much better than last week, though the Titans were built to stop the run and stink at the pass. Green Bay is a solid, but not great defense, and Sam Shields being out should help. I wouldn’t expect much from Bradford, but honestly, why would you ever expect much from Sam Bradford?

The other side of the ball is what interests me most about this one, because what the hell has happened to this Green Bay passing game? It went from years of being one of the most efficient attacks ever to a broken mess. Where are the timing plays and the chemistry on the back-shoulder throws? Anymore this offense works best by producing broken plays and taking advantage of offside penalties. It’s not sustainable, and it hasn’t been effective even though the Week 11 game in Minnesota is one of two times the offense has scored 30 offensive points in the last 13 games.

Aaron Rodgers has five seasons with at least 8.2 YPA.  He still ranks 5th all time in YPA (7.99). So it’s incredible when one of the most efficient passers ever has been held under 6.0 YPA in five of his last six games. That’s something Rodgers has only done in 12 other starts in his career. He’s been held under 7.0 YPA in 11 of his last 13 games (including playoffs). One of those two was the Hail Mary in Detroit to boost him up. Even though Jordy Nelson returned last week, he wasn’t the same receiver as he didn’t make the big plays. In fact, his 6 catches for 32 yards (5.33 YPC) is the lowest YPC he’s ever had in a game with more than 1 catch.

The effect this stretch of play is having on Rodgers’ career stats is interesting. He was at 8.22 YPA thru 116 regular-season games. Now after going a Joey Harrington-esque 5.96 YPA in his last 11 games, he’s down to 7.99. He still manages his TD-to-INT ratio well, but it’s hard to call this depressed passing game effective. Keep in mind the Packers are 6-7 since a 6-0 start last year. Rodgers has tore up the Vikings many times in his career, but not last year against Mike Zimmer’s defense. I think that defense rises to the occasion in this one, but the offense lets them down as Green Bay does just enough to sneak away with the win in the new stadium.

Packers 19, Vikings 16

2016 Week 2 Predictions

Well I was some 7-9 bullshit in a bad opening week. At least I changed my mind on the Jets starting 0-6 to give them the Thursday win over a growing mess in Buffalo. See, Ryan Fitzpatrick sucks against Rex Ryan defenses, but that Rob Ryan D is another story.

Winners in bold

  • Bengals at Steelers
  • Titans at Lions
  • Saints at Giants
  • Ravens at Browns
  • Cowboys at Redskins
  • Chiefs at Texans
  • 49ers at Panthers
  • Dolphins at Patriots
  • Buccaneers at Cardinals
  • Seahawks at Rams
  • Falcons at Raiders
  • Jaguars at Chargers
  • Colts at Broncos
  • Packers at Vikings
  • Eagles at Bears

Week 1: 7-9

NFL Week 10 Predictions: The Andrew Luck Injury

So much for that IND-HOU Thursday night game in Week 5 being the “last significant game in Matt Hasselbeck’s career.” Andrew Luck is out for 2-6 weeks with a lacerated kidney and abdominal strain. The Colts, now on a bye week, are still favored to win the AFC South anyway, but it’s another big injury to a quarterback in a season filled with them.

A kidney injury does not sound like something you want to take lightly. Keenan Allen is out for the season in San Diego with one, so let’s assume Luck’s return is closer to the 6-game end of that forecast.

From a statistical standpoint, that means Luck won’t be adding his name to the year-4 record here, and he may not catch up to a record pace again until year 14, which would be the 2025 season.

MPYYX

It was in his 14th season that Peyton Manning had the four neck surgeries and missed the entire year (2011), setting up the Colts to draft Luck in 2012. Drew Brees only played one game as a rookie and was benched for five games in 2003. Otherwise he has been remarkably healthy, only missing one game due to injury (this year in Carolina). Manning will break the all-time yardage record in the ninth game of his 18th season. Brett Favre threw for 71,838 yards by the end of his 20th season.

Luck is in an era where there are more passing yards averaged each year, so he could catch up much sooner than expected, but every injury and game missed is a big deal when you’re talking about competing for records with great quarterbacks who almost never missed any time like Manning, Brees and Favre.

I’m going to have a more formal post (somewhere) about Manning and the passing record this week, but it is impressive when you think about what it takes to get to that number. A QB can throw for 5,000 yards 14 years in a row and still need another big season. Matthew Stafford aside, you have to be a pretty good QB playing at a high level to throw for 5,000 yards. Hell, even Stafford played at his highest level in 2011. How many quarterbacks can extend a prime performance out to 14-15 years? Luck was easily the favorite among all the young players to chase down this record, and even he has been questioned this year if he should be benched for poor play. We know Stafford isn’t going to see enough starts to ever come close to this record.

Yards are rarely a driving force in QB arguments as people tend to focus more on touchdowns, MVPs, WINS, RINGZ, but once you start talking about throwing for 50,000 or more, that has to be done by someone who was pretty damn good for a long time. Jon Kitna threw for 4,000 yards in back-to-back seasons in Detroit, but he never did it well enough that the Lions or any other team would want to keep him as a long-term starter even if he was 10 years younger.

Time will tell what rule changes have done to this game, but I still like to believe this has been a special era of QB play. Greatness is found through consistency, and you have to be durable too.

Week 10 Games

Some random musings

I think you can forget about the Super Bowls the Giants have won over New England, because I don’t see a defense capable of holding the Patriots under 24 points on Sunday. Oddly enough, the only win in the last four meetings for NE was the only high-scoring game and the only game played in New York: the 38-35 final that pushed the Patriots to 16-0 and gave the Giants confidence that they could hang with the best.

I smell an upset of Tennessee over Carolina, yet I’m not ballsy enough to go through with that pick. Obviously this team is much better with Marcus Mariota at QB. And I don’t really want to credit Mike Mularkey yet, but Ken Whisenhunt had to go.

Another year, another Detroit loss to come in Green Bay. This would make it 25 in a row.

25 is a bit of a magic number for the Seattle Seahawks, as in 0-11 in the Russell Wilson era when allowing at least 25 points. Technically, Seattle allowed at least 27 in all 11 of those games, and rarely does a team score 25 or 26. So Arizona really needs to eye 27-28 for a win on Sunday night, but I think the defenses take over, both quarterbacks struggle and we get a low-scoring game that favors the home team. I still believe in Seattle, but it’d be a lot more believable if they played well in this big game.

2015 Week 10 Predictions

Screwed by the Jets again on TNF. Should have seen that one coming, but I would have said the exact same thing about Buffalo if things went the other way. You just can’t trust either team, yet these are supposed to be among the best teams in the AFC not named NE/DEN/CIN. Ugh.

Winners in bold:

  • Dolphins at Eagles
  • Bears at Rams
  • Panthers at Titans
  • Saints at Redskins
  • Jaguars at Ravens
  • Cowboys at Buccaneers
  • Browns at Steelers
  • Lions at Packers
  • Vikings at Raiders
  • Chiefs at Broncos
  • Patriots at Giants
  • Cardinals at Seahawks
  • Texans at Bengals

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Season: 86-46 (.652)

NFL Week 4 Predictions: Sit Andrew Luck

First, a moment of silence for Josh Scobee’s career. Okay, that was long enough.

Sit Andrew Luck, Indy

I hate to play doctor for an injury I don’t even know the extent of, but it might be in the Colts’ best interest to sit Andrew Luck this week with a right shoulder injury. They have to think about the hits he takes and the fact that there’s a big game in Houston on Thursday where the Colts can quickly get to 3-2 and back in first place. Luck being listed as questionable, limited in practice and the signing of Josh Johnson are all signs this is not some minor issue. You could see him wincing on the sideline on Sunday after a little celebratory contact from a teammate.

Let Matt Hasselbeck earn that game check. The Colts have only had 12 games with a 20-point lead in the Luck era. Five of those games have been against the Jaguars, so this team is used to dominating Jacksonville, and the game is at home this week. I’m not sure if a few more days of rest is going to make Luck’s shoulder any better, but I know going out there and taking a beating on Sunday won’t help him for Thursday. The Colts have to think ahead on this one.

But the expectations going into Sunday are that Luck will start. Just what does questionable really mean to Indianapolis?

  • 2014: 15 of 26 questionable Indy players played (57.7%)
  • 2014 NFL average: 55.7%
  • 2013: 19 of 30 questionable Indy players played (63.3%)
  • 2013 NFL average: 61.3%

So things really are up in the air on whether or not he’ll play, though the team probably has a good idea tonight what will happen. If Luck sits out, he’ll end his consecutive start streak to begin a career at 51 games. Here’s the list of leaders since 1950 (regular season only):

QBconsst

The ironman thing is cool, but sometimes you just have to recognize when you have a winnable game with your backup and your starter isn’t right. It’s not like Luck has been playing well this season.

Where’s the 18-Hour Football Sunday?

I like to get up around 12:20 p.m. on Sundays after staying up late. A 9:30 a.m. start for a London game does not jive with me. I got up for last year’s Atlanta-Detroit game, and I could have easily slept in during the first half. The Lions sure did.

But when you schedule Dolphins vs. Jets, that gives me even less of a reason to get up early, though I may be up anyway because I don’t have what you’d call a “sleep schedule.” If I had to rank the worst division rivalries since 2002 realignment, Dolphins vs. Jets is right up there because of how boring those teams have been in that time. We’re not getting a Dan Marino vs. Ken O’Brien shootout here. We’re not even getting older Dan Marino vs. NY-era Boomer Esiason and the fake spike game. We’re getting Ryan Fitzpatrick and a coach from Miami who is going to be fired any week now.

If I end up going to sleep tonight, I’ll probably wake up around 11:30 just to catch the ending of this one. If it’s close, I’m not sure how that will shake out since Fitzpatrick will want to throw interceptions and Joe Philbin will try finding some way to blow the game.

I’m surprised the NFL hasn’t tacked on a midnight EST start out west to go for the 18-hour football Sunday. 

And I must say it’s total bullshit to make any team give up a home game for a division game (Miami in this case). That’s the definition of unfair since the other team will be at home when the rematch comes.

Where Are the Good Games?

To the NFL’s credit, we didn’t end up with many better options to ship to London in Week 4. Vikings at Broncos is the only game between teams with winning records. I’m looking forward to that one in the national slot for 4:30 p.m. Both defenses should play very well, meaning it will look like Denver’s other 2015 games. The running game can’t stay this bad all season under Gary Kubiak, right? Denver has rushed for 171 yards at 2.59 YPC. Adrian Peterson has 260 rushing yards in the last two weeks alone.

Denver (and the 2015 Lions) is the 34th team to rush for less than 175 yards through three games since 1970. On average these teams finish with 1,442 yards and 3.69 YPC. Only 9 of the teams cracked 4.0 YPC by season’s end. To the Broncos’ credit, they join the 2007 Packers as the only other 3-0 team on the list. That GB team with Brett Favre reached the NFC Championship Game after finishing 13-3. Ryan Grant really came along for the offense, though there was no running game to speak of in the playoff defeat. Your weaknesses tend to get exposed in the end, but as long as the Broncos have the No. 1 defense and Peyton Manning, every game is winnable. It’s just not going to be pretty.

Final prediction: Broncos 20, Vikings 16

2015 Week 4 Predictions

I followed my worst week in years with one of my best (14-2). Life lesson: the Jets will always screw you over in the end. I originally was going to pick Houston too, but changed to Tampa Bay at the last second. The kicker didn’t help in that one either. The kickers did however help me correctly pick Baltimore over Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

Winners in bold

  • Jets at Dolphins
  • Chiefs at Bengals
  • Giants at Bills
  • Eagles at Redskins
  • Jaguars at Colts
  • Panthers at Buccaneers
  • Texans at Falcons
  • Raiders at Bears
  • Packers at 49ers
  • Vikings at Broncos
  • Rams at Cardinals
  • Browns at Chargers
  • Cowboys at Saints
  • Lions at Seahawks

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Season: 30-18 (.625)

NFL Week 3 Predictions: Statement Games

I have always thought Week 2 was the hardest to predict in the NFL season, because you end up instinctively relying too much on what happened in Week 1.

The 49ers and Vikings were polar opposites from Week 1 to Week 2. Were the Titans really that good and were the Buccaneers really that bad as in Week 1? No. Are the Jets really that good on defense and are the Colts in some trouble on offense? Maybe. Week 1 isn’t worthless and it’s definitely important, but it is still just one data point.

This week I want to see which teams build off a good start and which ones turn around a poor beginning, because there are some really interesting names sitting at 0-2. History suggests some of those teams are not going to be successful this season. Only 24 of 199 teams to start 0-2 since 1990 (12.1%) have made the playoffs. At least one team from the hyped group of the Seahawks, Colts, Eagles and Ravens is probably not going to turn things around.

Some teams are in position to have a statement game where the winner could really put the loser in a huge hole. Those are the games I’m most interested in for Week 3.

Bengals (2-0) at Ravens (0-2)

Come on, Cincinnati. This is exactly the spot where people expect the Bengals to fall flat on their faces as they always do. They swept the Ravens a year ago, but Baltimore is at home for the first time in 2015 and will pretty much have to play with the intensity and importance of a playoff game at 0-2. With a trip to Pittsburgh looming on Thursday, the 2015 Ravens basically have their fate on the line early. You’re likely not coming back from an 0-3 or 0-4 start. The Bengals have looked good with Andy Dalton playing clean, efficient football and Tyler Eifert emerging as the team’s best weapon behind A.J. Green. I’m not sure why Jeremy Hill hasn’t been able to get things going yet, but the offense has been good and so has the defense. This team certainly has looked better than the Ravens, who had no offense in Week 1 and no defense in Week 2. I think the Bengals can limit Steve Smith’s damage and simply have too many weapons for the Ravens, who aren’t getting much pressure now without blitzing. While I think it will be another close game decided in the fourth quarter, I actually like the Bengals to pull this one out.

Colts (0-2) at Titans (1-1)

We always expect the Colts to clean up in division games (won 13 straight), but what happens if they lose? Chuck Pagano’s seat just gets that much hotter and I have to say this has been the worst 3-game stretch of Andrew Luck’s career going back to the 2014 AFC Championship Game. I’m not sure any other QB takes 0 sacks vs. 11 hits like he did in that Jets game, but the hits and pressures were still very effective at forcing him into turnovers. I think the Titans are improved on defense, though still not very good, but good enough to cause some trouble again for the Colts. Indy has won seven in a row against Tennessee, but this is a big one on the road. I have really no great reason for picking the Colts other than they need the win more, which is a scary thought for where this team is currently situated in the AFC. Can Marcus Mariota tear up a defense with a limited pass rush and several of its top corners out? Absolutely. I think Mariota has been pretty impressive so far through two weeks. This won’t be an easy game by any means for the Colts.

Steelers (1-1) at Rams (1-1)

Really not a statement game; I just feel like mentioning it briefly. The Rams are inconsistent as hell and the Steelers are getting Le’Veon Bell back. Both defenses seem pretty susceptible to having a blown coverage down the field, so this one could be very high scoring. So given it’s the NFL, expect a 13-9 game. I still worry about the Steelers in road games following a big week like the masterclass performance Roethlisberger put on against the 49ers last Sunday. Let’s see this offense sustain the good offensive line play, precise vertical passing and now the added element of Bell as a runner and receiver. The Rams have a talented front seven even if it doesn’t show up for long stretches. Bell didn’t exactly dominate good defenses on the ground in 2014. This game is very interesting as I can see 34-31 just as likely as 13-9. You never know what you’ll get from Nick Foles.

Broncos (2-0) at Lions (0-2)

Not sure it was a good idea to schedule the Broncos and Chiefs, Week 2’s TNF game, for road prime-time games in Week 3 too. With Denver all eyes will be on Peyton Manning, but I expect the Denver defense to play well against a struggling Detroit offense. This could have been a  high-scoring game in past years, but I just am not seeing it this year. With Manning, we’ll get another dose of seeing him deal with the Gary Kubiak offense versus doing what actually works (the shotgun and no-huddle offense with him calling the shots). My biggest fear all summer was Kubiak being the only coach too stubborn to let Manning do his thing, and we’ve seen glimpses of that so far. Plain and simple, I don’t think Manning has the foot speed anymore to run Kubiak’s offense from under center, then combined with the piss-poor OL, by the time Manning completes his drop he’s getting pressured or he’s throwing the ball away immediately without setting his feet. That’s why it’s not working out and he needs to be in shotgun. And let’s dump the bootleg pass with Manning going to his left. This isn’t 2006 anymore. If Kubiak can’t adjust to his players’ strengths, then he is just the shoddy coach I’ve always expected he was from Houston.

2015 Week 3 Predictions

My streak of non-losing weeks came to a crashing halt with a 6-10 finish in Week 2. I had the Giants on TNF, so let’s rebound here.

Winners in bold

  • Bengals at Ravens
  • Saints at Panthers
  • Colts at Titans
  • Falcons at Cowboys
  • Jaguars at Patriots
  • Eagles at Jets
  • Raiders at Browns
  • Steelers at Rams
  • Chargers at Vikings
  • Buccaneers at Texans
  • 49ers at Cardinals
  • Bears at Seahawks
  • Bills at Dolphins
  • Broncos at Lions
  • Chiefs at Packers

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Season: 16-16 (.500)

The Whistleblower No. 6: Andrew Luck Doesn’t Put Out His Own Fires

NFLWhistleBlower

It’s been a while since The Whistleblower last made his appearance. If I ever hit the lottery I would do nothing but write articles like this at my leisure, but for now we’ll settle for periodic outbursts of statistical shaming.

In NFL circles, Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady is the all-time quarterback debate, and Matt Ryan vs. Joe Flacco is one that rages on in only the darkest corners of the internet. Somewhere in between, there’s a growing Andrew Luck vs. Russell Wilson war with the basis for comparison being the 74 picks that came between them in the 2012 draft.

For today, I don’t care about Russell Wilson.

This Rolling Stone article about Luck, written by what I am led to believe is a Seahawks fan, was brought to my attention. The article links to Luck’s fourth-quarter comebacks at PFR, which is of course my personal addition to the site, but like with any other general counting stat, there’s a lot of context missing.

The author especially misses this context when he makes the mistake of assuming “Luck has often had to fail in order to set himself up for success.” Using the comeback win against Kansas City in the playoffs is one of the worst examples anyone could make.

“Take that win over Kansas City. The same game that had many saying that Luck had “arrived” also happened to be a game in which he threw three interceptions. Indianapolis came back from a 38-10 deficit largely because of Luck, but how quickly we forget that he also had something to do with his team being down 28 points in the first place: Two of his three picks led to scoring drives by the Chiefs.”

He didn’t mention one of Luck’s interceptions was really a bad-luck drop by T.Y. Hilton, but forget that. What about the fact that Luck was down 24-7 and to that point had completed 7-of-9 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown? Both incompletions were a direct result of pressure in the pocket. Luck didn’t make a mistake and still trailed by three scores, which is usually a recipe for a loss, especially in the postseason. Any later turnovers are rather irrelevant to the story, and not just because he rallied them back to a win. If you’re trying to pinpoint the reason the Colts were down big so fast, the obvious answer was a defense unable to stop Alex f’n Smith.

Luck didn’t set that fire, but he put it out with 45 points, 483 yards of offense, a memorable fumble recovery and a dagger throw for the game-winner.

So that made me whip up a table. Luck has led the Colts to wins after trailing by double-digits seven times in the last two years, which is remarkable. Somehow, Luck is 7-9 (.438) when trailing by 12+ points compared to a league average win percentage of about 10 percent.

Whether a team is down 14-0 early or 28-14 late, they still had to come back from a two-score deficit to win the game. I wanted to see what Luck had done up to the initial point in which he needed a two-score rally to get the win. Does he really put the Colts behind with poor play only to get the credit for bailing them out later?

Does Andrew Luck put out his own fires or not?

I included Success Rate (SucRate), just so we’re not crediting the QB for completing a 2-yard pass on 3rd-and-10. A “successful play” gains 45 percent of needed yards on first down (40 percent for runs), 60 percent on second down and 100 percent on third/fourth down. I also included the number of drives Luck engineered in the game to that point along with the time remaining when the Colts first trailed by double digits.

Luck7CB

The success rate could be better, but those numbers don’t look too bad for the quarterback, who barely had the ball before facing a big deficit. That’s 7.62 YPA and a very low sack rate with just one turnover. One. Those numbers actually should be zero interceptions and three sacks. In the 2012 game against Tennessee, officials blew the replay on a sack (knee was down) that Luck tried to get rid of the ball on, and that became a pick-six. So the only turnover actually shouldn’t have even counted.

We also can see that in the last three games, Luck trailed by multiple scores despite not throwing more than two incompletions. That sounds like a defense getting burned to me. In all three games the defense allowed a game-opening touchdown drive.

It’s a legitimate stance that Luck carries a flawed team to victory. The Rolling Stone article continues with this gem:

If Andrew Luck is great because he has to keep bailing his team out every week, then that’s not a very good reason for being known as “great.”

Well, when you’re not the main reason they need bailed out, then why not? Great quarterbacks elevate their teams and Luck has been doing that since he was a rookie. How else can the Colts be 22-10 the last two years with suspect coaching, a porous offensive line, an insignificant running game and a sieve for a defense?

Evidence that Luck starts these early deficits is lacking, but there’s plenty of evidence that he’s responsible for finishing the comebacks.

I don’t expect Luck to continue pulling out these wins with regularity, but as long as Trent Richardson is chugging along at 2.9 yards per carry, expect to see more early big deficits for the Colts. We can also expect to see more ill-contrived articles blaming Luck for each triumph.

When boy sets fire God knows you’ve lost at a cost that has no price when you’ve purchased guilt.

— Coheed and Cambria, Junesong Provision

Andrew Luck vs. Peyton Manning: Judgment Day (Terminator Spoof)

Twenty million human lives watched football played by quarterback machines on October 20, 2013. The survivors of the game called it Judgment Day. They were exposed as either a Peyton Manning fan or an Indianapolis Colts fan.

Irskynet, the computer which controlled the machines, sent two terminators back through time. Their mission: to destroy the leader of the fourth-quarter comeback statistic revolution…John Elway.

Irskynet

Johnny Unitas, the first machine model, was the premiere quarterback in the two-minute drill. How else can you explain his machine-like efficiency under pressure? But Unitas never received any credit for his record number of comebacks.

The first terminator was programmed to strike at John Elway in April 1983. This way he could never make fools of the Colts in the NFL draft and never set the franchise back for years. The T-800 terminator was…too smart for his own good. He seized the opportunity to became the new comeback king.

manning_medium

The attack failed…so the team relocated to Indianapolis and eventually wound up with Jeff George.

The second was set to strike at John after his retirement. This advanced T-1000 model was established as a student at Stanford, which is Elway’s alma mater. He even had help from another Irskynet machine, code name “Captain Comeback”. The two machines became more interested in winning games and growing a neck beard, so this too failed.

StT2

The Resistance was able to send a lone warrior. A protector for John. He proved to be…unreliable.

Denver Broncos  at the Oakland Raiders

Little did Jim Irsky, owner of Irskynet, know that the first terminator was reprogrammed by John to become his protector in 2012. This took place shortly after Irskynet shut down the T-800 model due to a neck malfunction. John wooed the T-800 to Denver to find success he could never dream of under Irskynet’s watch in Indianapolis.

PMJEL

Each side had an expensive terminator. The T-1000 was given another shot by Irskynet. Some modifications, perfected by a stroke of luck, like added mobility and shape-shifting to take the form of Peyton Manning. John Elway, Andre the Giant or any solid metal object made the new model a favorite in town. However, as Judgment Day approached, many in Indianapolis were torn over how to react to the event. The football game was one thing, but either John Elway or Jim Irsky were going to perish given the outcome. This war would end here.

Who plays football next to a steel mill anyway?

October 20, 2013 came and went. The T-1000 put up a good fight early, but you can’t keep the original down for long. The T-800 led a record-tying 51st game-winning drive, which sunk Irsky into a vat of molten steel, silencing him once and for all. (The choice of molten steel was an Abby’s hat pick, by the way).

It was not until hours after the game that everyone realized the two could still meet in the playoffs to really settle things, but the reign of Irskynet was over, and the world was a better place for it. The T-800 protected John for two more years before shutting down for the last time, going out on top. The T-1000 aged rapidly, playing the football coach in the 2028 remake of The Faculty.

Analysis: There should be three great quarterbacks in the building on Sunday night. There are not three great films in the Terminator series.

claire

I’ll be back, unless you hated this.

NFL Divisional Playoff Predictions, Seeds and Writing Recap

The best weekend of the NFL season is upon us: the Divisional Playoffs. I am ready for an upset or three. I am prepared to go 4-0 or 0-4 on my game picks, which is exactly why this weekend rules. I spent a ton of time writing the history of it last year (Part 1 and Part 2), now this week I spent time summing up stats and anxiously looking forward to these four matchups.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Wild Card: Seattle’s Russell Wilson Last Rookie QB Standing – Cold, Hard Football Facts

We had three close games on Wild Card weekend, one real crapper in Green Bay, but it took the Seahawks in the last game to get a game-winning drive. Russell Wilson led it, and led-blocked on it for Marshawn Lynch. Otherwise we watched the Bengals go 0/9 on third down, and the Colts dropped the ball in Baltimore. Andrew Luck set several rookie playoff records, but with the loss and Robert Griffin III tearing his ACL, Wilson emerges as the last rookie standing in the playoffs.

Ignore the Raw Numbers, Andrew Luck Had a Great Rookie Season – Bleacher Report

Consider this my season review of Andrew Luck’s rookie year. A look at the type of offense he ran and why the Colts were successful despite having little to surround Luck with, and his generally below-average traditional stats.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Wild Card at Baltimore Ravens – Colts Authority

Luck’s rookie season came to a quick end in the postseason in a 24-9 loss. His 288 passing yards were the most by a rookie QB since Sammy Baugh way back in 1937. His 54 attempts and 28 completions were rookie playoff records, but it wasn’t enough for the Colts. They became the first offense in playoff history to compile over 400 yards of offense (419) and score single-digit points. Too many dropped passes doomed the Colts, as we came up with 8 drops in this one.

INDDrp

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Divisional Weekend Predictions – Bleacher Report

Find out about Baltimore’s fatigue, the wild card that is Colin Kaepernick, Seattle’s early start time in Atlanta, and Houston being the latest rematch for New England in the playoffs.

Being the No. 1 Seed Often Means One and Done – NBC Sports

Expect the Broncos and Falcons to have a Super Bowl rematch? Don’t count on it. Just 3 of the last 22 Super Bowls have been between No. 1 seeds. A look at the decline in their postseason performances, along with what Atlanta and Denver can do to make it to the big game.

NFL Playoffs: What Seeding History Really Says About Your Team’s Chances – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Here I get even more seedy. Want a quick reference for every playoff seed since 1990? Want to know how often a No. 2 beats a No. 3 in the Divisional round, or what a No. 1 does vs. a No. 2 seed? We have all that here, and much more as I looked into the playoff seeds in the 12-team format (since 1990). A lot of interesting finds, but nothing better than this table that sums up the gap closing between the top and bottom seeds, resulting in a more exciting, unpredictable postseason.

Seeds

NFL Divisional Predictions

I set the bar too high last week. Sure, only 3-1 with the Colts loss, but did nail the correct point total for the three winners while coming very close to the loser’s score. That probably means I’ll be way off this week, which is expected with tougher games. All the favorites won last week. That won’t happen again this week.

  • Broncos over Ravens, 23-13
  • 49ers over Packers, 31-27
  • Falcons over Seahawks, 27-17
  • Texans over Patriots, 24-21

Like I said, you can easily go 4-0 or 0-4 this week. That’s why I love this week.