NFL Week 5 Predictions: Pick and Choose

I didn’t have a good title this week, so I literally typed “Pick and Choose” right after hearing the lyric “pick and chews” from the song White Out by Joan of Arc, which is playing on my Spotify right now.

So far, this has been a season of “pick and choose.” If you asked me what’s a great team right now and what’s a terrible team, I would have some answers, but all I’m confident in is that they’re still close together in quality.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

Jacksonville’s defense ranks No. 1 against the pass, but No. 32 against the run. Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t been hitting the deep balls and has only topped 300 yards in the AFC Championship Game going back 13 games. All logic would tell you this is a big Le’Veon Bell day, who finally got it going in Baltimore last week. Yet the craziness of the NFL might just lead to a big day for Roethlisberger instead, as he’ll definitely want to get back on the same page with Antonio Brown, Jalen Ramsey be damned. Either way, I like the Steelers at home, and I can’t get over how little this defense has been challenged by opposing passing games so far. Blake Bortles on the road? Yeah, give me that fantasy defense.

Carolina at Detroit

Let’s focus on the football first. Detroit’s defense and running game have stepped up, and will need to again with a tough, but still heavily flawed Carolina team. I was surprised at how well Cam Newton played in New England, and no, it’s not just about the defense there, because we saw Drew Brees and Jameis Winston struggle to put up points on that defense (and they weren’t up in Foxboro). I just think for this matchup, Darius Slay can take on Kelvin Benjamin and the loss of Greg Olsen is still a big factor. I don’t expect Newton to play that well, and I think Matthew Stafford snaps out of this little funk at home and uses his plethora of weapons against a secondary that’s still not great to me.

I was leaning Detroit even before Cam Newton embarrassed himself this week with his belittling of females covering sports. I thought about what a female reporter could ask that would make Cam’s smirk and response logical, and all I could think of was “jock itch.” “It’s funny to hear a female talk about jock itch.” Yeah, that works. That line’s not going to cause a media shitstorm. Though I guess women can get jock itch too, and I suppose a yeast infection might present a similar discomfort, but we’re getting really off topic now. So yeah, the next time you’re asked a football question by a reporter, male or female, just answer the damn question like a professional. She earned her way into that job and has had it for several years. That should buy some respect from Cam to the local media. I don’t know why “route tree” is being brought up so much, because she didn’t even ask about any specific route or question the play design. It was just about a wideout running his routes physically. No big deal, but here we are because Cam said another stupid thing at the podium. I doubt it will be the last time either no matter how hard he worked on his apology video.

Chargers at Giants

It’s a little hard to believe these teams are 0-4, and one will be 0-5, but they have played like 2-2 teams to be honest. It’s just the kind of things we expected: Giants would regress in close 4Q games (blew a late lead the last two weeks) and the Chargers continue to lose close games at rapid pace. Give me the Giants in a 10:00 a.m. body clock game for the Chargers. I also just think the Giants have the more balanced team, and Eli Manning has gotten closer to on track the last two games.

Buffalo at Cincinnati

Interesting one since the Bengals have improved offensively after the OC change, but they’re going from playing arguably the worst defense (Browns) to the best (Bills) in the league so far. Andy Dalton has his work cut out for him here, but he still has more weapons than Tyrod Taylor. If the Bills can get LeSean McCoy going, then I think they have enough to keep the score down and win on the road, but I’m skeptical. Frankly, the Bills getting to 3-1 after some good fortune (Von Miller penalty, bogus fumble-six in Atlanta and injured Julio/Sanu) reeks of this team being a bit of a fraud like some past first-quarter teams that started hot (think 2011 Bills, 2012 Cardinals, 2012 Eagles, 2016 Eagles, 2016 Rams) record wise, but weren’t actually good teams in the end. But a win by the Bills would look really good here if the Patriots are to be seriously challenged in the AFC East.

Seattle at Rams

We’ll see if Sean McVay prepares for the Seahawks the way Jeff Fisher did, treating it like the Super Bowl. Very interesting game, because the Seahawks have shown some cracks on defense, and Cliff Avril is out. We know Aaron Donald is going to dominate the offensive line for Seattle, but Russell Wilson has had some big games recently. The Rams aren’t quite as stout defensively as we expected, and the offense has been way better than I think anyone could have imagined. But this is a great test for the team at home, and I really think I have to lean on the Rams making this look legit and getting to 4-1. I might regret that pick, because I would point out the Rams have had the 2nd-best starting field position this year to help out the offense, and Jared Goff’s low ALEX strategy isn’t likely to keep converting third down at such a high rate. Seattle’s still a contender too, so it’s really a toss up.

Green Bay at Dallas

I don’t think much has changed since the playoff game, though Jordy Nelson is much healthier this time around. His teammates, including Davante Adams (concussion) and Ty Montgomery (ribs) — not so much. Both teams can score, but can they defend? I think with some banged up skill players for Green Bay, Dallas might have the edge at home. Demarcus Lawrence against Green Bay’s banged up offensive line? Good matchup for Dallas. And really, a big sack on third down or two might be enough to tilt the difference in this one.

Kansas City at Houston

Is it too soon to totally rethink Houston’s chances and style this year? Led by Deshaun Watson’s prolific numbers the last two weeks against division favorites, the Texans look dominant on offense right now. This is closer to the type of impact I thought Watson had a chance to make on the Texans this year, and it would be great for the league if he can keep this up. Imagine, a Wild Card Saturday where the Texans aren’t a total bore to watch. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are the last unbeaten at 4-0, but another tough prime-time game after Monday’s close call. Despite the 4-0 record, the Chiefs have needed three game-winning drives and two 10-point comebacks so far. The late touchdowns in each game skew just how tight those games were, though I will add that the Chiefs have played arguably the toughest schedule so far. Maybe I’m just focusing too much on the last two weeks, but I think Watson can continue his success to put up 27+ in this game at home, and J.J. Watt can get his first sacks (yes, plural) of the season from an always welcoming Alex Smith, who is still the patron saint of ALEX.

2017 Week 5 Predictions

I had the Patriots on Thursday, though didn’t quite get the spread right.

Winners in bold.

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

I’m going to assume that Marcus Mariota is gimpy and not 100%, and the Dolphins start to score some points or that whole situation is about to blow up. I also just gave the Browns win, not because I think they’re better than the Jets right now, but if they don’t win this game, when do they steal a win this year? I can’t faithfully predict 0-16.

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Season: 36-27
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NFL Week 13 Predictions: The MVP Race Is FUBAR

We’re into Week 13, so it is about that time for me to rant about the NFL’s MVP race.

The 2015 MVP Race Is FUBAR

Seriously. Where in the world is Carson Palmer (and Carmen Sandiego for that matter)?

This has been a terrible season for MVP discussion, because it seems like the people having the discussion have never paid any attention to what usually qualifies for an MVP season in the NFL.

Team record has been driving the debate this year with the Patriots (now 10-1) and Panthers (11-0) having their quarterbacks on top of most lists regardless of performance. Team record matters, but you never had to be a No. 1 seed just to be discussed. Look at Aaron Rodgers last year. Of course, some like to be hypocritical and throw J.J. Watt into the mix, but I thought we killed that noise last year of how a defensive player almost can never be MVP. And are we really just going to ignore that the Texans were behind by over 40 points in two different games to start this season? Give him his DPOY (if that) and move on already.

Yet I saw a Friday poll on NFL Network for MVP that included Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and J.J. Watt.

Frankly, I’m shocked they didn’t throw in Aaron Rodgers after a gift-wrapped Hail Mary to beat the Lions. Sure, we’ll just ignore he’s having his worst season since 2008.

But Andy Dalton? Yeah, through six games he was right up there, but we’ve seen more of the old Dalton emerge in recent weeks. He’s having a nice year, but it’s not in the MVP range.

Cam Newton’s season is not even close to what you’d expect from an MVP season. It’s more like a classic Steve McNair year, and I don’t even mean 2003. People just wanted to give him the award before the year started because he lost Kelvin Benjamin, yet for the fifth season now, we’ve seen that Newton essentially posts the same statistics every year regardless of what’s around him. And they are just solid, not spectacular numbers even if you adjust for shortcomings around him (while also adjusting for his own problems with overthrows and inaccurate passes). Defense is what drives the W-L record in Carolina, and it always has in the Newton era. Newton has played better since the Green Bay game, but if we prorate his numbers to a 16-game season, this would have to be one of the worst seasons ever for a MVP winner. And it’s coming against a Charmin-soft schedule that might help this team get to 16-0.

I saw another link from a top site that asked if Adrian Peterson can make this a three-horse MVP race. If that wasn’t bad enough, the article excluded other quarterbacks and had the nerve to say “Brady’s putting up better numbers with worse players.”

That statement is vomit inducing to say the least.

For all but two plays and two drives, Brady has had Rob Gronkowski, the best TE in football, all season long.

Dion Lewis was having an incredible season in terms of forcing missed tackles. He was the third-most targeted receiver on this team, and he’s missed four full games and most of a fifth. He wasn’t knocked out for the season until Week 9.

Julian Edelman is one of the best YAC receivers in the game. He has missed two full games and a large chunk of the Giants game.

Danny Amendola is about the closest thing you can have to an Edelman replacement. He missed some of the Buffalo game and one full game (Denver last week).

Most of Brady’s 2015 stats were compiled with these players on the field. If we look at since Week 9 when the slew of injuries (one every week) started, Brady’s numbers have clearly dropped to a non-MVP level.

  • Brady Weeks 1-8: 68.9% complete, 20 TD, 1 INT, 8.34 YPA, 115.8 PR
  • Brady Weeks 9-12: 58.6% complete, 8 TD, 3 INT, 7.35 YPA, 90.3 PR

Gee, it’s almost like the value-added parts of the team have been hurt in the last month. And you expect this to happen to any QB when they lose so much in a short period of time. But please stop pretending he’s put up his numbers with scrubs or that he’s still putting up MVP numbers. In this span he also should have thrown a game-ending interception against the Giants on a terrible pass, but Landon Collins dropped the ball.

In any other season, the quarterback on the No. 1 scoring offense with a 9-2 record with dazzling stats would be right at the top of the MVP discussion, yet that is not happening for some reason with Carson Palmer this year in Arizona.

He’s averaging 8.8 YPA, which is phenomenal at this volume.

Palmer’s average pass is thrown 11.0 yards beyond the line of scrimmage — highest in the NFL — and he is still completing 63.6% of his passes. Tom Brady’s average pass is 7.7 yards. Newton’s is high too at 10.5, but he’s completing 57.1% of his passes.

ESPN’s QBR has had strong correlation with MVP winners. Palmer’s 82.1 QBR is well ahead of No. 2 Dalton (73.1), and much higher than Brady (67.5) and Newton (58.5). Newton ranks 20th on the season. Palmer’s season has been more consistent than any of them.

Palmer had the big prime-time performances in back-to-back weeks against the Seahawks and Bengals, leading a GWD in each game. He’s led a GWD in three consecutive games.

Palmer slipped up late against the Rams and in Pittsburgh, but he still threw for over 300 yards in both games (over 400 in Pittsburgh) and had the team in position late. He would have liked a dropped pick in Pittsburgh.

Let’s not act like Palmer has a loaded cast here either. Never mind that his defense isn’t as strong as NE or CAR, but his offense is basically driven by three wide receivers best suited for intermediate to deep routes. John Brown and Michael Floyd are also weekly fixtures on the injury report. Chris Johnson just went down. They don’t really have much at TE. This is a vertical offense predicated on the QB being accurate down the field, and Palmer has excelled this year. If you’re someone in need of a storyline for the award, having a career year at 35 a year after a torn ACL is pretty damn good.

Guess which offenses rank first and second in average starting field position? That would be the Patriots (31.72) and Panthers (31.40). That’s very valuable to have, and none of it is driven by the QB. Arizona is solid at 7th (29.44), but again, not as favorable as what Brady and Newton have had.

Palmer should be running away with this MVP race so far, yet he’s a footnote at best in mainstream media. Offering him the “Comeback Player of the Year” award is a slap in the face.

Arizona gets Minnesota on Thursday night, and will finish the season with Green Bay and Seattle. If these quarterbacks continue to play the way they have, we’ll find out just how much of a popularity contest this award has become.

2015 Week 13 Predictions

I knew better than to start trusting the Lions, because once you do, they do something like that on Thursday night against Green Bay.

Winners in bold:

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

This feels like a week where Miami fired someone and will remember how to play good football for at least one game.

Luke McCown almost beat the Panthers in Carolina this year, so it’s good to have Drew Brees back, but the Saints are just playing lousy football right now. Panthers should win.

I like the Giants mainly because Darrelle Revis is out. Beckham in DFS, yes.

Browns are only punishing themselves by not starting Johnny Manziel. Austin Davis is not the future.

Really intrigued by Seahawks in Minnesota. Think the lack of passing game and soft running D from the Vikings hurts them in this matchup. Still, hard to trust Seattle in early road game. Should be a close one.

Normally I’d pick the Falcons to bounce back, but Tampa Bay goes against what I think this year. So I went with the opposite of my opposite pick and just stuck with Atlanta.

I expect Denver to run wild on the worst run defense in the league, which Brock Osweiler will somehow get the credit for.

Tom Brady won’t throw five touchdown passes against the Eagles, but the Patriots still might score five offensive touchdowns.

I expect the Cowboys to split the series with Washington down the stretch here, but give me the Redskins at home on Monday night.

Obviously the main game I’m focused on is Colts at Steelers. It was an offensive display last year with Ben Roethlisberger having the game of his career. He has to forget all about that one and just play the way he has this year. He’s piled up the yards in the games he has finished and has his full plethora of wide receivers for this one. I want to see if Matt Hasselbeck can win a shootout. He’s getting a lot of credit for 4-0, but this could be the toughest test yet if he has to score 28+ to win on the road. Yes, Pittsburgh’s defense has given up plenty of 300-yard passing games already, but points have been harder to come by. I think Hasselbeck is the perfect QB to repeatedly take advantage of Pittsburgh’s soft pass defense (big cushions), but you can’t do that the entire game. He’ll have to hit some big throws and the running game is still as unreliable as ever. Should be a fun game, but I like the Steelers at home here in a pretty important game for both teams.

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
  • Week 10: 4-10
  • Week 11: 9-5
  • Week 12: 8-8
  • Season: 107-69 (.608)

NFL Week 8 Predictions, Scam Newton and Writing Recap

It’s nearly November and most NFL teams are still an inconsistent mess, which makes it hard for predictions, but good for weekly coverage.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 7: Old vs. New, Eli Manning Upstages RGIII – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Random fact: all six quarterbacks to lead a game-winning drive this week are over the age of 30, which hasn’t happened since at least 1995. Yep. Another record for Eli Manning, CBS changes Tom Brady’s stats a week after I pointed out their interesting Week 6 graphic, and a list of Matt Hasselbeck’s game-winning/game-tying TD passes, which oddly slant heavily towards his brief time in Tennessee.

Eli Manning Has New York Giants Soaring Under the Radar Again – Bleacher Report

I rarely write a puff piece, but if I do, it’s going to have a lot of interesting data. This is on Eli Manning and the New York Giants, making note of how they have started 5-2 or better for nine straight seasons, tying the NFL record set by Dallas (1975-83).

I also took a step in the direction of quantifying the difficulty associated with fourth quarter comebacks by looking at Eli Manning’s 23 comeback wins and using win probability. Expect more on this in the future.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 7 vs. Cleveland Browns – Colts Authority

Luck had a career-low 35 drop backs this week, but the Colts went into a shell again after taking a 17-13 lead in the third quarter. Find out why Luck needs more shotgun in his diet.

Just What Is Going On With the AFC? – NBC Sports

The 2012 season will be the year we remember the NFC regaining control of the NFL as the dominant conference. NFC teams are 19-9 against the AFC so far this year, and have won three straight Super Bowls. Find out how they’ve swung back control, and a breakdown of all 16 AFC teams into their respectful tiers of quality.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Week 8 Predictions – Bleacher Report

This week’s previews include a look at Dick LeBeau’s 14-1 record vs. rookie quarterbacks since 2004, how impressive Andy Reid’s 13-0 record after a bye week really is, Josh Freeman’s lost comeback magic (which he did not need on Thursday), and expecting a career day statistically from Andrew Luck in Tennessee. Also the shortest Broncos/Saints preview out there.

More Scam than Superman: Cam Newton is NFL’s Worst QB in the Clutch – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Cam Newton can at least argue he is consistent, as his stats are very similar to this point last year, as is the 1-5 record. The other constant trend is his inability to close games at a historic rate, producing a 1-12 (.077) record at fourth quarter comeback opportunities. Here are the worst records I have been able to find so far (min. 10 attempts):

You cannot pretend to be Superman if all you ever do in the face of adversity is wilt under the pressure.

2012 NFL Week 8 Predictions

Why is it so hard to trust our gut? I knew Tampa Bay had the on-field advantages, but basically picked Minnesota since they had the better record and were the home team. 0-1 to start the week, which I have a feeling won’t be pretty after going 12-1 last week.

Winners in bold:

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

Bah, that’s a lot of road teams. Lions, Eagles and Cardinals win at home, is what my gut says, and I’m not listening again.

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Season: 64-40

Joining Reality to End Perception’s Dynastic Hold on the NFL

If conventional wisdom is what most people believe to be true, and if most people are stupid, then what does this say about conventional wisdom?

Writing an article that goes against the grain is one of the toughest things to do, but is also my favorite. This week has shown some good examples of that, and I’ll highlight some others I’ve done in the past.

Perception is one hell of a difficult thing to shake out of people’s minds. I like to dig into how these perceptions are built in the first place, and then expose them with the facts, or the reality of the situation.

So much of what happens early on in a player’s career shapes their long-term perception. Even if years go by and that player is far removed from his past success, the perception could still be so strong that they get a pass anyway.

For example, people still think Tom Brady is a great postseason QB, even though he hasn’t put together consecutive quality starts since his last Super Bowl win more than seven years ago.

Cam Newton instantly received a lot of hype in 2011 because he started the year with back-to-back 400-yard passing games. Never mind the fact Carolina lost both games or that Newton did not even play well against Green Bay, it was the simple fact that he had a ton of yardage (volume) as a rookie that made people go wild.

Problem is little did we know at the time that 2011 would be a record-setting season where passing yards were never gained at a higher rate. League records were set for 300-yard and 400-yard passing games, and three quarterbacks went over 5,000 yards. It was the season with the most points scored and highest yards per pass attempt since 1965. We didn’t know how badly the lockout would hurt the defenses.

But stats like passing yards will only take you so far. Super Bowl rings and playoff success still drive the biggest perceptions of players.

When Tony Romo bobbled the snap on the field goal in the 2006 Wild Card game at Seattle, he started a perception that follows him to this day.

Romo is known as a choker because most of his biggest failures have come in nationally televised games. It happened again at the start of last season when he lost to the New York Jets on Sunday Night Football. He fumbled and threw a late interception in the fourth quarter.

Romo is today’s player who “fails in the clutch every single time”, even though facts clearly show otherwise. He fares just as well as Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach did in similar situations for Dallas, but he doesn’t have rings like those players. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t have the teams they had either.

While a lot of the perception is a matter of selectively choosing what to remember, maybe the worst kind is using flat-out lies to build someone up.

How about when a team popularizes a stat for their quarterback, does not research it properly for other team’s quarterbacks, claims they have the record, and manages to shape  a legacy over it?

That happened in Denver.

Aaron Rodgers’ Hidden Flaw

Imagine being in the presence of the most beautiful woman in the world. But as you get closer and things are heating up, the dress rises and it’s The Crying Game all over again. She was hiding something deep between her legs all along.

That’s basically the equivalent of Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers.

Yesterday I wrote another article about Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter, and the stat that no one ever talks about in regards to Green Bay.

  • Aaron Rodgers is 3-18 (.143) at fourth quarter comeback opportunities.
  • Bill Kenney was 3-27 (.100), and may be the closest comparison in record.

Kenney is a forgotten Mr. Irrelevant from the 1980s Kansas City Chiefs. Rodgers is the league’s latest superstar QB.

Yet because he has one postseason that earned a ring (one-and-done the other two times), Rodgers gets the pass here.

Someone like NFL Network’s Jamie Dukes will even go as far as to say (multiple times on the air) that Rodgers had the best game of his MVP season in the Packers’ playoff loss to the Giants.

This is the same person that will remind you that Romo missed Miles Austin on a third-down pass against the Giants in December.

That night Romo played a fantastic game, a game that no other QB has lost with that kind of performance, and yet some will only focus on that one play.

It’s fine if certain players are held to different standards than others, but make sure players are still being held accountable. What you did a couple of years ago should not change the reality of how bad you screw up in the future.

I love writing articles in support of the players/teams getting unfair criticism. I love writing articles that take the shine off the overrated players/teams.

I will continue to call it like I see it, guided by the way of facts and real, tangible evidence.

If you’re curious about any other relevant, active quarterback with a record like Rodgers in the fourth quarter, well there’s this one to bring the week full-circle:

Cam Newton is 1-8 (.111) in fourth quarter comeback opportunities.

Carolina Panther Fans: You Can’t Handle the Truth

Though becoming much preachier in recent years, Aaron Sorkin delivered gold with this line from A Few Good Men, and Jack Nicholson immortalized it on the screen.

Not only was it a classic moment in film history, but the line itself can be thrown back at many people out there who clearly can’t handle the truth when it comes to hearing valid criticism of their favorite athletes.

Since I started writing football articles, I have received almost zero criticism from anyone. There was one Saints fan that was probably just drunk at 3 a.m. and mistakenly thought I put down Brees, but that was about it.

People that know my work know I turn in-depth research into quality writing as well as anyone out there. I have established a standard for myself, and refuse to put out something in my name that does not live up to that standard.

Enter my articles on Cam Newton (one, and two), and I saw how the other side lives. There was a huge negative response, but it was concentrated from the Carolina fan base. Look at this gem from Twitter. People like that led the way that day.

In other words, it was a homer attack that I could give two shits about. I know what I wrote, and I know what research I had to write what I did.

It is easy to see what’s going on here. Carolina fans have zero experience in having a franchise QB to root for. Steve Beuerlein’s one year of greatness? Jake Delhomme’s solid play for a few years? No. This is different with Newton.

The Panther fans have their binky now, and they love their binky, and will say anything to protect him.

THE SECOND WAVE

So after Monday’s article, the second wave came, but this time it was different. Now I had other writers responding to what I wrote with their own article. This takes it beyond “random Twitter asshole.”

First, Jimmy Grappone put this piece together last night on Bleacher Report. It really doesn’t refute my articles, and I noticed he made mention of Jaworski’s QB ranking ofNewton as No. 15 in the league. That is fine, but my beef is with the other lists and much higher rankingsNewton was given from other sources. Jaworski’s ranking is more in touch with reality. Contributor Hank Kimball’s comment at the bottom sums up the rest of my feelings towards this one.

Then I awoke today to find someone I never heard of on a site I never visit call me lazy.

L-A-Z-Y.

That’s a new one. You can call me a lot of things, but lazy is not one of them. At least not when it comes to researching and writing.

He didn’t mention me by name, and I will offer him the same courtesy here.

You can choose to read the article here. Or, you can just allow me to demonstrate how the pot called the kettle black, and show just how lazy this piece was.

(Guess starting this blog last week was good timing)

I’M LAZY?

This is not something I normally will plan to do – I normally never would have to – but if you are going to attack my work, I will make it a point to show just how bad yours is. Just how lazy the research, or lack thereof, was.

First, he even begins his article with “As a writer there are few things more important than holding your tongue if you haven’t done the adequate research needed to cover a topic.”

The “I watched every play” defense is always laughable. Great, you were a fan and watched your team’s 16 games each week. Welcome to the club of millions that did the same.

Now did you go back and watch the game again? Did you supplement the shaky eye test with indisputable data? Or are you just going all by memory of a game you saw one time with a biased interest as a fan?

Lazy Statement No. 1 – “As the season progressed we saw Jonathan Stewart given more and more short-yardage carries.”

This is exactly what I’m talking about with hard data versus fluffy memories. This was in response to me saying Newton’s rushing TD record was a fluke. Jonathan Stewart was not given more carries near the goal line as the season progressed.

Inside the 10-yard line last year, Newton had 23 carries to 10 for Stewart. I think a logical split would be the first eight games vs. last eight games (not to mention Carolina had a bye after the 8th game).

In the first eight games, Newton had 16 of the 25 carries (64%), and Stewart had 8 (32%). In the last eight games, Newton had 7 of the 16 carries (43.8%), and Stewart had two (12.5%).

Those TWO goal line carries Stewart had in the second half of the season must have really resonated with this fan.

The player that actually was given more carries was DeAngelo Williams, who had six carries in the second half of the season, after just one in the first half.

Either way, Newton was still the No. 1 option for Carolina in this situation.

Misconceived Statement No. 2– “There’s no single statement that makes blood shoot out of my orifices faster than reading pieces that refer to Cam Newton as a ‘running QB’. That statement alone should be a bellwether than the writer didn’t watch him play.”

What we have here is a failure to understand averages. A running quarterback does not mean it is someone who has more carries than pass attempts (or close to a 50/50 split). A running quarterback is someone who is more likely to take off and run than the average (pocket) quarterback.

Newtonhad 126 carries in 2011, which are the second most in NFL history for a QB. Not even Michael Vick has topped that number.

Meanwhile your pocket passers like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees average well under 40 attempts a season, and many of those are kneel downs to secure a win (not many of those included in Newton’s season).

When someone is much more likely to take off and run, not to mention have the most designed running plays in the league, then it’s clear they are a running quarterback.

That does not mean they can’t throw or don’t throw. Only an idiot would take that angle from it.

Last season Matthew Stafford ran on just 3.1% of his drop backs. Newton ran on 18.6% of his drop backs. Big difference.

Same thing in basketball with outside shooters.

LeBron James averages 4.0 attempts per game from 3-pt territory in his career. That’s almost as many as Kyle Korver (4.1). So why is James not considered a 3-pt shooter like Korver? James makes .331 of them, compared to .413 for Korver. He is inefficient at doing it, and it is a much lower percentage of his overall attempts.

And while I never specifically said running quarterbacks are figured out quickly in the NFL, there is no denying players like Michael Vick, Kordell Stewart, Aaron Brooks, and Vince Young were successful early, but failed to improve their game. Players like Randall Cunningham and Steve McNair played their best when they stayed in the pocket later in their careers.

I think Newton has a better chance than those players, but there is zero to suggest he’s going to automatically be a better passer this year.

Lazy Statement No. 3 – “It’s the same thing we saw from Ben Roethlisberger his rookie year, when he ran 56 times (a mark he’s never matched again). Like Roethlisberger it’s likelyCam will take that next step where he’s more willing to stand in the pocket and look at every single read before leaving, rather than taking off before every option is examined.”

If you know about Ben Roethlisberger, then you know he hates to scramble. He always wants to throw the ball, and looks downfield for the big play first and foremost.

Roethlisberger was not often scrambling in his rookie season. He was kneeling down on his way to a 13-0 record as a starter.

27 of Roethlisberger’s 56 runs in 2004 were kneel downs. That means he attempted to throw the ball on 8.2% of his drop backs. That is more than a pocket passer like Stafford, but still nowhere near the level of Newton.

Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers use their legs, but still look to throw.Newton is more likely to run at this point of his career.

You cannot call Newton a typical pocket passer, so he gets the earned distinction of a running quarterback.

Lazy Statement No. 4 – “The Panthers Newton-led offense managed to eek out six wins in spite of an atrocious defense.”

This is a common mistake many writers make. They take a team’s bad statistic and apply it to the full season, completely ignoring what happened in said wins.

For example, the 2006 Indianapolis Colts had a very poor regular season defense, but they played great for 3.5 of the playoff games, and that helped the team win Super Bowl XLI.

Newton never overcame an atrocious defense for a single win in 2011.

When the team allowed more than 20 points, they were 0-10. They were 6-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer, and they only managed that against bad offenses with an inexperienced quarterback starting.

Considering Josh Johnson, Curtis Painter and John Beck are a combined 0-20 in the NFL as starters, Newton better have led his team to a win in those games.

Five of the six quarterbacks Carolina beat in 2011 were making their 1st-to-8th career start in the NFL Only Josh Freeman (39th start) was experienced, and he had a bad season.

The Panthers also only won when Newton took on more of a game manager role. They were 5-1 in his games with the fewest passing yards.

  • If you have, at best, league-average passing stats (pick any site and metric)…
  • If you have an absurdly inflated rushing touchdown record…
  • If you fail more often than you succeed in the clutch…
  • If you can only win when the defense shuts down subpar offenses…

Then clearly, you are not the greatest rookie ever, and far from a top 10 (or higher) quarterback in this league.

You are overrated.

Conclusion

It’s a new age for Carolina Panthers football. But their fans are going to have to start accepting the truth. Your quarterback is far from perfect. Far from being accomplished in this league too.

I did not have to pull things out of thin air or fabricate anything to make my points. The facts are the facts. If Newton has a great 2012, then fine. He’ll no longer be overrated (unless of course people start putting him even higher than he deserves again).

But what he does in 2012 will not change the fact his 2011 was a vastly overrated season.

People that rely solely on the eye test are always going to be lacking in the facts department. That’s the whole problem with the eye test. You see what you want to see, and it’s even worse when you are a fan of that team.

While you should supplement watching games with the data, some people seem to think their eyes and memories are all they need. Facts? Well we will just make some generalizations and that should work for most of the sheep.

Now that’s being lazy.

The Number 23

…was a crappy effort from Joel Schumacher.

Besides that, as people fawn over Cam Newton’s 14 rushing touchdowns, I am looking more at the number 23, which represents how many carries he had inside the 10-yard line last year. That’s 10 more carries than the next closest QB had in the entire red zone (Tim Tebow, 13).

Newton scored 9 touchdowns on these 23 carries, which is a far cry from say, Tim Tebow scoring 9 TDs on 11 carries.

In my latest article at Bleacher Report, Why Cam Newton’s NFL Record for QB Rushing Touchdowns Is a Fluke, I came up with a table to show Newton’s efficiency compared to the other leading active QBs with 10+ career rushing touchdowns.

It turns out Newton was less efficient than I thought.

Jets could be interesting. That is 20/26 combined there for Tebow & Sanchez.

Newton’s record might be safe for a long time, because which coaching staff is going to be nuts enough to expose their QB to this many hits on purpose in the red zone? Of the 23 carries, 19 were designed runs.

Mike Tolbert might have signed up for the wrong job if Carolina thinks about going back to this offense in 2012. Not to mention you still have Williams and Stewart.

Praise the record if you want, but just remember the important context behind it.