NFL Week 4 Predictions and More Golden Tate Hail Mary Response

Well this has been the most interesting week yet in the brief time I have covered the NFL. It started with a Sunday full of crazy games, which resulted in a nice stat of the week I jumped on first after the New England loss.

Then Monday night came, bringing in the biggest overreaction to a correct call in NFL history. But this wasn’t about injustice as much as it was scorn for the replacement referees, and the only positive is it did end the lockout.

But the controversial Golden Tate Hail Mary touchdown is a classic example of groupthink and media manipulation. How one views this play really separates the sheep from people willing to think for themselves and not be influenced by Jon Gruden’s second-half disgust, which is an entertaining thought because he still looks like a Chucky doll.

At the very least, any objective person should see this was too close of a call to make in real time for anyone, and that there’s no way you could have clearly called it an interception. It  is completely understandable why they ruled what they did, and upon further analysis, it was the right call just as the NFL and that replacement referee have said.

So in writing the article, I tried to put as much as I could into it. That’s why I write long articles, as I try to cover all bases and leave little for anyone to nitpick over. But I will reply to a few of the same things I’m seeing in response to it on Twitter or in your e-mails. And no, I won’t use anyone’s name.  Reaction has been 50/50, even though it seems like reaction to the call has been 90/10.

Well Allow Me To Retort

Worthless Picture – First, it is always easy to see which people actually read the article and which respond after reading only the headline. Anyone still trying to use this picture as proof of anything needs to get a clue.

This is several seconds after both players have landed on the ground. The catch was already over as all aspects of a catch have been satisfied (control and possession through the process of going to the ground). Just because the refs came in late doesn’t mean anything. This wasn’t a fumble and two players battling on the ground for the ball, in which refs will often let them fight it out. This was a (TD) catch.

Back judge – He never signaled touchback like some have said. That has a distinct motion — like a vertical spanking/tap that ass motion — which he never used. What the back judge even ruled was never going to be more reliable than the ref on the spot, because look how far away the back judge is at the moment both players have hit the ground:

He is barely past the goal post at this point. How could he possibly been able to tell who controlled the ball first? From the point of contact with the ball to this picture where the second foot hits for Jennings, a total of 0.7 seconds passed. Over three additional seconds pass before the back judge runs in to take a look at the players on the ground, which makes for a call from him that was never going to be conclusive or even confident.

Semantics – Lots of semantics mess again this week with control, possession and catch. I have seen people say simultaneous possession, even though the only thing in the rule book is “simultaneous catch.” I have heard comments from a ex-NFL referee talking about possession in the air, even though the NFL clearly said in their statement possession cannot happen in the air. A player must get two feet or an equivalent like a knee down to legally gain possession.

It is also indisputable that Tate gains possession first, but the most important part of the play comes at the very beginning.

Physics of the play – First let’s talk about control, since that is the common complaint.

You can control a ball with one hand. That was the point of the one-handed examples I used to refute the article from ProFootballTalk or Hochuli’s mumbo-jumbo about four arms. You do not need two hands/arms, and this Randy Moss TD is another nice example pointed out by @DeeepThreat. You can move your hand/arm off the ball (see Reggie Wayne) if you want, but as long as you have sustained control with one hand, it counts.

As for Tate, I have yet to see anyone explain this. First, let’s recall the fact Tate was in front of Jennings and should have been the first to contact the ball. I proved the ball made first contact with his left hand. Do not even try and say it hit Jennings’ right hand first, as that is just depth perception. If you watch the video in conjunction with making the frames, the ball hits Tate first, and it did much more than just touch him.

Why does the ball get stuck in the air at this point if Tate didn’t have control, or only had his fingertips on the ball? Go outside and have someone throw you a football and try to hold it up in the air without any real control or grip. It won’t happen. The ball will deflect off your hand. Any non-sticky object would if you don’t actually initiate some type of grip on it.  Jennings only closed his hands around it after Tate stopped it in the air first for the play to even develop into a catch.

How else are you going to stop a football traveling roughly 45 yards in the air in 2.85 seconds if you didn’t initiate a good grip to control it?

This isn’t to say that you can’t grip an object with just your fingers. Having a big, strong hand would definitely help make it more possible.

Tate has a very interesting Twitter background pic  that shows him hauling in a ball with his left hand on a more difficult looking play in practice. These guys get drafted high for a reason. They are great athletes capable of making tough catches.

Notice that Jennings does a horizontal close on the ball with his hands. It does not move backwards or fall forwards after Tate’s initial grab. That supports his grip of the ball. It’s not like Jennings had to keep the ball up from being deflected away incomplete. Tate controlled it. Watch most catches in football. The receiver’s initial contact with the ball is when he gets the grip on it, and it is possible to do so with one hand.

Less than a tenth of a second passes between Tate’s contact and Jennings’ close on the ball. If you are trying to judge this in real time, how could that not look simultaneous? Makes perfect sense why referee Lance Easley made the call he did.

Consider the initial contact Point A, and we know from the end of the play when Jennings struggles to wrestle the ball away from Tate that Tate has that grip with his left hand still on the ball (Point B). So where between Point A and Point B does Tate ever lose the ball from his left hand? No one has any evidence that he loses control. That is why this is a TD, because he maintained that control from the start of the play through the process of going to the ground.

Other criticisms – Some people talk about the ball being in Jennings’ chest. For starters, there is no rule that says you have to have the ball in your chest, so just ignore Steve Young’s revisionist, agenda-pushing history. More importantly, everyone who thinks this is ignoring the fact that Tate’s hand was in the way of his chest throughout the play. Pretty hard to pull something to your chest if a guy has his hand lodged in there the whole time.

The NFL would have admitted they blew the TD call and it should have been an interception if that was actually the case. They did admit the OPI, which also would have ended the game. People don’t think the NFL admits such game-changing errors, but the fact is they do. What they don’t do is change the final outcome because of one.

Listening to some people, you’d think Jennings caught it first and Tate just fingered the ball on the way down. Some of the reaction has just been embarrassing. Not sure how long this play will be in focus, but expect to hear about it more should the season continue going sour for Green Bay. But hopefully by that point people would just realize this game didn’t decide their season, and it was their disappointing play starting in Week 1 that was the real culprit.

Not a right call that Mike Tirico initially made himself in the heat of the moment, only to bash for the last 12 minutes of the broadcast.

Take emotion out of it, and you will understand why Seattle got the touchdown.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 3: What the Hell’s Going on Out There? – Cold, Hard Football Facts

After 12 games with a fourth quarter comeback opportunity, this was a jammed-packed edition of Captain Comeback. It has only received about 4,900 fewer Facebook likes than you know which article.

Crazy Season Even Affecting NFL’s Best Quarterbacks – NBC Sports

For the first time in 58 opportunities, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger all lost on Sunday. If that’s not enough, Week 2 (1-3) was their first losing week. It’s just a reflection of what’s been a crazy season so far.

New Orleans Saints’ Disastrous 0-3 Start Goes Well Beyond Sean Payton’s Absence – Bleacher Report

The Saints are 0-3, but before we give Sean Payton coach of the year in his absence, let’s call a spade a spade. Drew Brees is playing like an average quarterback at best, and the defense might be the worst in the league.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 3 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars – Colts Authority

Luck came very close to his first 4QC, but a shocking 80-yard TD put that out of reach. Check the analysis of every drop back.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to NFL Week 4 – Bleacher Report

Included: the greatest 0-3 at 1-2 game ever, San Francisco’s Jet lag, must-win weekend for the century’s best quarterbacks, and no-huddle nuggets.

Shame on the Angry Mob: Golden Tate’s Touchdown Was Legit – Cold, Hard Football Facts

I just call it like I see it.

2012 NFL Week 4 Predictions

After an all-time worst 4-12 record in Week 3, it’s time for some redemption. Baltimore has started me off 1-0, but that was closer than it should have been.

Winners in bold:

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

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Season: 27-21

You can keep e-mailing me if you want, but I am less likely to reply and really would like to move on from Monday night starting with Week 4 Sunday action. Believe it or not the season has continued. More bad calls will be made. A lot more bad plays that lead to losses will also happen. That’s football.

NFL Week 3 Predictions and Writing Recap

After being fooled by the Thursday night home-field advantage, I’m now 0-3 at picking games with the Carolina Panthers this season. That’s what I get for trusting a team that has not yet arrived with a quarterback I pegged as the most overrated in the league heading into the season. Won’t make that mistake next week, but let’s worry about this weekend first.

This Week’s Articles

Breaking Down the Pivotal Moments of NFL Week 2 – Bleacher Report

A loaded recap of the Giants’ big comeback, the comedy of errors in Arizona/New England, C.J. Spiller’s big average, Rex Ryan’s foot fetish, and whether or not the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles are the worst 2-0 team in NFL history.

Captain Comeback Week 2: No. 1 QB’s to the Rescue – Cold, Hard Football Facts

We only had six games with a fourth quarter comeback opportunity this week, but still some great finishes. Eli Manning did it again for New York, the Eagles came through the second week in a row, Andrew Luck’s first game-winning drive, and a rare St. Louis comeback win. Also the Patriots missed a clutch field goal and lost because of it for the first time since December 26, 1999. Is Stephen Gostkowski a huge choker compared to Adam Vinatieri? All the details included.

Can’t Laugh at NFC West Now – NBC Sports

After just their second ever Sunday of going 4-0 as a division, the NFC West looks much improved this season. Find out how they’ve done and it whether or not the four teams can sustain success this season.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 2 vs. Minnesota Vikings – Colts Authority

Andrew Luck had a much better performance this week, leading his first game-winning drive in the Colts’ 23-20 victory over Minnesota. Found out what was different for Luck this week versus last with a full breakdown of every drop back.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to NFL Week 3 – Bleacher Report

Previewing Giants/Panthers, Texans/Broncos, Patriots/Ravens, Steelers/Raiders and Packers/Seahawks.

Those 2-0 Teams Couldn’t Be More Different – NBC Sports

The Cardinals are tied for a league-best 9-2 record in their last 11 games, while the Eagles have the longest active winning streak (6). Yet, why does this 2-0 battle look so weak on paper? Find out how fortunate the 2-0 starts have been for each team, plus a statistical analysis that shows it does matter how you play on your way to a 2-0 start. I really enjoyed writing this one, as some of the data provided unexpected results.

Thursday Night Lights: Giants Blast Panthers in Historic Rout – Cold, Hard Football Facts

The Giants’ 36-7 win in Carolina on Thursday night is the 6th highest by a road team in any Thursday game since the 1970 merger. Find out if the Thursday home advantage is real or has just been a matter of favorable scheduling on the NFL Network.

2012 NFL Week 3 Predictions

Need to trust my gut more. The Week 1 team I was all in for except making the pick was Tampa Bay, and last week was Seattle, as I explained in this exact spot. This week I am going to make that team San Diego, as I think they will beat Atlanta at home and finally earn some respect this season as a contender in the AFC.

Winners in bold:

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

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5

NFL Week 2 Predictions and Writing Recap

Pretty good start to the NFL season. On Thursday I was introduced on Wisconsin radio as someone “who really hates the Packers.” Not true, but good times.

This Week’s Articles

Peyton Manning Ties Dan Marino for Fourth Quarter Comeback Record – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Started the week off in historic fashion with Manning finally tying Dan Marino with his 36th fourth quarter coemback win.

Breaking Down the Pivotal Moments of NFL Week 1 – Bleacher Report

New column to review the weekend’s most interesting action. Putting things into context.

Captain Comeback Week 1: Broncos Skewer Dick LeBeau’s Defense Again – Cold, Hard Football Facts

This season’s first real edition of Captain Comeback where I review this week’s close games. Included: Manning’s record, ugly wins for Stafford/Vick, a historic finish in Minnesota, and those front-running Green Bay Packers.

NFL Week 1 Scoring Record Belies Offensive Issues – NBC Sports

While there may have been a Week 1 record of 791 points scored, there was still plenty of bad offense and ugly special teams play in these games. Quite a few quarterbacks threw pick parades, and the return of defense looks well intact. See Thursday night in Green Bay for more proof this year is going to be different.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 1 at Chicago Bears – Colts Authority

This is an article I had planned to do months before Luck was even drafted by the Colts. Every Wednesday I am going to have the breakdown of his game in ways that I don’t think anyone has ever done before, or at least not all in one place and free to the public. Metrics for how long Luck held the ball, incomplete pass splits, YAC stats, number of pass rushers faced, use of play-action passing, etc.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to NFL Week 2 – Bleacher Report

This week’s preview includes a look at domination by home teams on Thursday night, what 0-2 really means for your playoff chances, an update on the five rookie quarterbacks, and statement games in prime time for Detroit and Atlanta.

Carson Palmer Leads NFL in Failed Completions – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Who was this week’s Captain Checkdown? Carson Palmer of course. He had 13 failed completions. Learn about this statistical concept of measuring passing success for all 32 teams.

2012 NFL Week 2 Predictions

Last week I had a great start with a 12-4 record. I should have picked Tampa Bay too, but their December blowout losses to Carolina scared me away. Off to a 1-0 start this week after rolling with the Packers. Thanks, Jay.

Winners in bold:

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

I am very tempted to take Seattle, but I just can’t do it yet. Want to see Russell Wilson with a capable NFL performance first. I think Andrew Luck gets his first win after playing Minnesota’s bad defense at home this week. The Patriots are as much as a lock as you can get this week. The Lions have lost 8 straight to San Francisco, and they have no wins against a winning team under Schwartz/Stafford (0-12). Finally, I rarely ever pick against Peyton Manning, but I just have a feeling this is Atlanta’s big moment in the dome on Monday night. It is very important for their development to win a game like this. I can see a 31-28 finish after playing more keepaway from Peyton. That Denver defense is not Super Bowl-caliber yet.

NFL Week 1 Predictions and Writing Recap

Near the end of each week I will be posting my NFL game picks and summarizing the week’s articles. It’s simply a way to show a track record of how I wind up just picking the winners in the 60-65% range.

This Week’s Articles

San Francisco 49ers Destined For Big Fall – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Review the unique factors that led to a 13-3 season and near Super Bowl appearance for Jim Harbaugh’s team, and why they will unlikely repeat themselves in 2012.

Andrew Luck: What Have We Learned About Colts’ QB Entering the 2012 Season? – Bleacher Report

My review of what I saw from Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck. Hint: it was very impressive.

Career Records in the Clutch for Active QBs – Cold, Hard Football Facts

You’ve been asking for 37 months, and finally I deliver a table of 41 active quarterbacks with their career records in 4th quarter and OT comeback/game-winning drive opportunities.

NFL offenses won’t feature same fireworks as 2011 – NBC Sports

Believe in 6,000-yard passers? Not so fast. Read about the unique factors that went into making 2011 such an explosive passing season, and why defenses should be a bit more resistant in 2012.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to NFL Week 1 – Bleacher Report

This is a new column I will be doing every Thursday where I preview the upcoming week’s most interesting stats, records, facts, and provide the in-depth analysis & context behind the numbers. Any topic is on the table, and this week was a look at some major QB records that could be broken on Sunday, the expectations for Luck’s debut, New England’s opening-day winning streak, and whether or not the Cincinnati Bengals can step up against the better competition in 2012.

Is Peyton the Greatest Comeback QB Ever? – NBC Sports

Taking the comeback crusade big time on NBC Sports. Peyton Manning’s next comeback could be extra historic as a 4th quarter comeback over Pittsburgh would tie him with Dan Marino for the all-time record.

Captain Comeback: Tony Romo And The NFL’s Four-Minute Offense – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Ever wonder about the NFL’s four-minute offense? I break down the 2011 season to see the results, and they are full of rushes, and offenses relying on their defense and clock to win the game. That’s why Tony Romo’s game-ending dagger on third down to put away the Giants on Wednesday night was so rare and crucial.

2012 NFL Week 1 Predictions

I start off 0-1 after going with the Giants, but at least my prediction of Dallas winning the Super Bowl is off to a good start.

Winners in bold:

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

I will bust out a Christopher Walken-like dance from King of New York if Al Michaels drops the line “You know Cris, John Elway never actually had 47 fourth quarter comebacks in his career” on Sunday night.

NFL Week in Review: Andrew Luck Live, Matt Ryan on FOX, and 5th-Year Breakout QBs

A goose, a moose, and the son of Marv Albert walk into a bar…

Watching a live NFL broadcast is good for the creative mind. You can pick up plenty of ammo for The Whistleblower, and every once in a while you might learn something of value.

I watched the Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons preseason game on Thursday night, or at least as much as I could stomach, and I found multiple things worth looking into.

First, the FOX broadcast team of Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa seemed pretty supportive of Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. There was not much talk about the playoff struggles, but instead they went optimistic for Ryan to really get things going in his fifth season.

In fact, even after one nice play by Ryan in the game the crew said something to the effect of “maybe the 5th year really is the breakout year for a young quarterback!”

Now they were not being scientific of course, and neither am I today. But I decided to dig a little into quarterbacks, with the help of Pro Football Reference’s Play Index, and see if there was any proof for the 5th season being the breakout season.

This would be defined as the QB having his best season in his fifth year, and ignoring any season that came afterwards for the purposes of this study.

The results were surprising, as I actually did find several high-profile cases of a QB having a career-year in season 5. Certainly enough to actually warrant the claims the FOX crew threw out there.

Note: When I say career-high here, I am only looking at the first five seasons unless noted otherwise.

5th-Year Breakout QBs

  • Sid Luckman (1943) – This one is influenced by WWII, but 1943 was the year Luckman threw 28 TD and had a ridiculous 107.5 passer rating.
  • Sonny Jurgensen (1961) – after riding the bench for four years in Philadelphia, Jurgensen got his shot in 1961 and threw for a then NFL record 3,723 yards and 32 TD.
  • Daryle Lamonica (1967) – After four backup years in Buffalo in which he was also a punter, Lamonica exploded with the Raiders, throwing 30 touchdowns and leading the team to Super Bowl II.
  • Bob Griese (1971) – Had a career-high 90.9 passer rating while throwing 19 TD to only a career-low 9 INT.
  • Ken Stabler (1974) – Threw 26 TD  and won the only AP NFL MVP award of his career.
  • Ken Anderson (1975) – Though 1974 was incredible too, Anderson made his first Pro Bowl and a 10-win season in 1975, while throwing for a      career-high 3,169 yards and 21 TD.
  • Danny White (1980) – Backup to Roger Staubach no more, White threw 30 TD and led Dallas to a 12-4 record and the most points scored in the league.
  • Joe Montana (1983) – One could argue 1981, the first Super Bowl win, was a better year, but in 1983, Montana had a career-high in yards (3,910), TD (26), and passer rating (94.6).
  • Dave Krieg (1984) – though he was more efficient in 1983, he only played half the season. In 1984, Krieg threw 32 TD and led Seattle to a 12-4 record.
  • John Elway (1987) – His lone MVP  award of his career came in 1987, which was the best season Elway had in his first 10 seasons actually.
  • Boomer Esiason (1988) – Won league  MVP and led the highest-scoring offense in the league to the Super Bowl in the best year of his entire career.
  • Chris Miller (1991) – Here’s a former Falcon. 13th overall pick in 1987, Miller had his lone Pro Bowl      season in 1991 when he threw 26 TD and led Atlanta to the second round of the playoffs.
  • Brett Favre (1995) – had a career-high in yards, TD and passer rating. Favre won his first MVP award.
  • Scott Mitchell (1995) – Yep, the one-year wonder came alive in 1995 with 4,338 yards and 32 TD for the Detroit Lions.
  • Matt Hasselbeck (2003) – Threw a career-high 26 TD while leading Seattle to 10-6 and the playoffs. He wanted to score too much that year.
  • Tom Brady (2004) – Brady had his best statistical season in year 5 as he led the Patriots to a third Super Bowl in four seasons. It was the first time he had a passer rating over 90.0 in a season, and this was easily the most dominant NE team to win a Super Bowl.
  • Tony Romo (2007) – In his second year as a starter, Romo led Dallas to a 13-3 record, threw for 4,211 yards, 36 TD and had a 97.4 passer      rating.
  • Philip Rivers (2008) – forget the  8-8 record, Rivers was on fire that year with 34 TD and a league-best 105.5 passer rating.
  • Eli Manning (2008) – After the  Super Bowl win, Manning had the best regular season of his career in 2008, leading the Giants to a 12-4 record and setting career highs in comp.  percentage, YPA and passer rating.
  • Aaron Rodgers (2009) – In just his second year as a starter, Rodgers threw 30 TD to only 7 INT, and had a 103.2 passer rating.

I could go on, but 20 rather high-profile cases is good enough to get the point across. Year five has been a breakout year for many of the all-time greats.

But what about the math check? We are talking about five seasons, so there is a 20 percent chance a QB will have his career/breakout year in the fifth year.

Even more inflating is the fact that most of these quarterbacks are not like Matt Ryan: starters from day one. Only Griese and Elway were five-year primary starters. When you sit on the bench for multiple seasons like Rivers or Rodgers, then it is even more likely your 5th season will be your best. Rodgers had a 50 percent chance, because all you could really compare are 2008 and 2009.

Notice players that started as rookies like Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger and Johnny Unitas did not make the list. That’s not to say they were not any good in year five, but it was not their best effort.

Matt Ryan’s best season was 2010. Maybe he will surpass it this year, but it is far from being a lock.

Great QB-Head Coach Pairings

Matt Ryan entering his fifth season also means Mike Smith is entering his fifth season as head coach of the Falcons. They came in together, and as I wrote at Bleacher Report last week, that is one of the great ways to turn a team around.

I looked at 80 cases in the Super Bowl era (but not every single case) of a team getting a new head coach and quarterback in the same year. Nine have been extremely successful (the elites), 20 had moderate success (Ryan/Smith fit in here), 12 were average/one-year wonders, and 34 were complete and utter failures together. That leaves five active/unknowns.

That includes 2012 rookies Chuck Pagano/Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, and Joe Philbin/Ryan Tannehill in Miami. They are the 31st and 32nd examples of a team hiring a rookie head coach and drafting a first-round QB in the same year since 1966.

FOX Gave Me a Concussion

The worst thing from the NFL on FOX, besides Laura Okmin’s interviews in Baltimore on Friday, was the semi-brutal discussion in Atlanta about the new kickoff rule helping to bring concussions down 43 percent on kickoffs. The crew boasted about how great that was, but they were misleading people by only looking at that one number.

As I wrote last week with data from Edgeworth Economics, concussions may have went down 43 percent on kickoffs, but it is because the number of kicks actually returned went down to 53.5 percent. In previous seasons, returnable kicks were in the lower 80’s in percentage.

Kickoffs are not safer. They just are less frequent. Going from 35 to 20 concussions on kickoffs sounds nice, but not so much when the overall concussion number only goes from 270 down to 266. That means concussions on other types of plays increased in 2011.

Also, we are talking about a one-year sample size, which was unusual because of the lockout. Let’s see what happens with the injury data this year before declaring the kickoff rule change a success.

Maybe we need five years of data for it to be clear. Just throwing it out there, much like Fox did in their effort to talk up Matt Ryan during a meaningless preseason game.

At least they were not blatantly wrong…this time.

Andrew Luck…Live and In Person

Finally, I went to the Colts/Steelers game last night, which means I did not get to hear any of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. They are not a duo I have a beef with, and you kind of miss hearing some type of analysis offered other than the loudest people sitting in your section.

With the stadium Wi-Fi almost nonexistent and a lack of stats on the scoreboard, I was pretty much forced to use the eyeball test to follow the game. This is exactly why I never go to regular season Sunday games (I have actually never been to a regular season or playoff game period), because I cannot be away from all the action going on around the league. I need details.

Not to mention I still favor my couch and computer chair. Even if the seat was pretty damn nice.

Ben Roethlisberger threw maybe the worst interception I have ever seen him throw, and I have seen them all. The Steelers showed very little on offense outside of Antonio Brown’s incredible run-after-catch on the touchdown. I have not seen a Pittsburgh WR do that since Santonio Holmes did it to the Baltimore Ravens in the 2008 AFC Championship.

I don’t know if Antonio Brown can replace Mike Wallace, but he has been a great replacement for Holmes.

Just before the game I learned via Twitter the NFL Network showed my tweet about predicting a 9/16 for 84-yard performance by Luck against Pittsburgh’s defense. I missed it. Again.

Andrew Luck started off with a weird Bruce Arians screen that saw Reggie Wayne go in motion, and Luck threw at his teammate’s ass (it appeared that way to me at least). I actually saw Wayne in motion and line up on the right, which is far different from his usual “I only line up on the left” role in Indy’s offense.

Luck threw a good pass to Collie, who must have dropped it on the way to the ground after taking yet another hit that saw him walk slowly to the bench. I don’t feel very good about the long-term career of this kid, which is a shame because he is a talented receiver.

That 19-yard reversal seemed to take forever, as did most of the challenge/reviews with the replacement refs. At least they knew which teams were playing tonight.

Luck’s pick six by Ike Taylor was a poorly thrown pass, and you know things are going bad when stone-hands Ike Taylor is taking your pass to the house. At this point, Luck was 2/8 for 16 yards and the INT.

But like he did last year at Stanford, he came right back from a mistake and led his offense to a touchdown. This is a great article from ESPN on Luck’s career at Stanford, and one of the facts I remembered was Luck bouncing back from interceptions last season.

After 10 interceptions in 2011, Luck led Stanford to 7 touchdowns on the ensuing drives. He was 28/34 for 288 yards, 3 TD and no turnovers on those drives. He knows how to immediately make up for a mistake.

After starting the next drive with a sack, Luck could have easily folded down 14-0 on the road, but he came back with four straight completions on a touchdown drive. He did have a second interception, but that was all on T.Y. Hilton throwing the big gain up into the air for a turnover.

Though he was 8/16 for 79 yards and two picks to start the game, numbers pretty close to my 16-attempt prediction, I was still far off on how Luck would finish the night. He was 16/25 for 175 yards, a TD run, and the two INT.

He had a spike to set up a last-second field goal. He had at least two drops that would have been another 40 yards in the half. Luck was pretty impressive in my book.

The game does not count for anything, and is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

But for one night, I experienced football from an angle without any commentary, statistics, while watching two teams I respect, and with players I may never see in person again in my life.

Now that it’s over, my anticipation for the real thing is much greater.

Coming up this week: expect articles on regression for elite offenses, potential myth-busting, and a PSA on bad stat usage. I will also give the podcast world a try for the first time.

(If you were looking for the punchline to the joke at the beginning, think “something, something…sodomy and glory holes”)

NFL: Once Upon a Time in the AFC West

The 2012 AFC West is being billed as a very competitive division where just about any of the four teams can win it. Last season three teams finished 8-8 with Kansas City at 7-9.

It may end up being a very competitive division, though it’s still a highly flawed one, and a great source of myths.

First there’s last season. I updated the regression model and in today’s article at Bleacher Report, I looked at 2011’s biggest overachievers and underachievers, where the 2011 AFC West cleans up the overachiever category. Denver, Kansas City and Oakland are the top 3,and it’s easy to see why when you look at these interesting graphics:

They may have been 7-8 win teams, but they are easily among the three worst in NFL history when you look at the scoring differential.

You can check the pulse of a team by what they have at QB and head coach.

Denver – John Fox brings stability in year two, and if healthy, Peyton Manning brings HOF QB play back to Denver. Of course I like the Broncos as a 10-6 division winner, assuming Manning is what he used to be. What I don’t like is the myth that Denver has a great defense. Elite offenses like Detroit, New England and Green Bay destroyed this unit last season. The Broncos have a strange tendency for allowing 40+ point games, and Manning should know this well from his days at New England. He’ll make the defense better by giving them more rest and keeping them out of bad field position, but there’s still a lot to prove from this unit.

San Diego – Major stability with Norv Turner and Philip Rivers. The problem is it’s Norv Freakin’ Turner, and his neck wrinkles are beginning to suck in the rest of Rivers’ career. This team has become very NORVOUS in the clutch the last two seasons, as evident by a 2-11 record at 4QC/GWD. Combined with red zone problems, and that’s part of the reason why I think Rivers had a very overrated season in 2010. San Diego’s had a lot of success against Manning, but we’re talking a ton of changed parts since 2010 and beyond compared to this season.

Oakland – It’s probably been five years since a lot of people thought Carson Palmer was a top-tier quarterback, and rightfully so. Had it not been for Jason Campbell’s season-ending injury last year, we’re likely not even talking about Palmer in a Raider uniform. Dennis Allen comes from Denver as a rookie head coach. This team has the potential to field a decent offense if Palmer plays better than last year, though the defense should find little answers for a lot of the strong offenses they’ll be playing. Looks like the non-winning season streak will hit 10 for Oakland.

Kansas City – While the win over Green Bay was great, it may have duped Chiefs fans into a year or two of a bad head coach. Romeo Crennel was not the answer in Cleveland, and he’ll be relying on the healthy returns of Cassel, Charles, Moeaki and Berry. There is talent on this team, though Matt Cassel has proven he can’t do anything unless he plays a ridiculously soft schedule like he did in 2008 and 2010. He also had better offensive coaching in those years (Josh McDaniels, Charlie Weis). Personally, this is a team I think Manning should have explored ahead of a destination like Denver. There’s more talent here than in Denver, though just based on who the QB is, I’d choose Denver to win the division for that reason alone.

Next week I’ll take a look at the plight of Denver’s offense.

NFL: Elite QB 4th Quarter Comeback Records

After writing the Green Bay Packers equivalent of “You Can’t Handle The Truth” yesterday, there is nothing else to say now about the topic. That was my definitive take on that team until the season starts. (Note: even 300 kind words towards Joe Flacco made it into that lengthy piece).

Here is an exclusive table of career data on 4th quarter comeback opportunities broken down by season for Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Peyton Manning.

The 1’s at the end of the record for Brees and the Manning brothers are not ties. They are “no decisions”, or games where the QB had a 4QC opportunity, but the team still won the game on a return touchdown. It’s not a comeback win, not a game they lost, so it’s a no decision. They were not included in calculating the win percentage.

  • Rodgers has a losing record in each season.
  • Everyone else has multiple winning seasons except for Brees, who has one.
  • Only the Manning brothers have had consecutive winning seasons; Eli in 2007-08; Peyton in MVP years of 2008-09.

This was only for comebacks. Adding game-winning drives would help boost everyone, but Rodgers would still be well behind.

QB SUCCESSION PLANS

Finally, here is today’s article on the draft failure the Denver Broncos exhibited in taking Brock Osweiler with the No. 57 pick. Lots of history of franchise quarterbacks and their often failed successors in this one.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1262751-nfl-draft-futility-brock-osweiler-and-qb-succession-plans

Rest of week: Enough Rodgers, time to put Brett Favre on blast. It wouldn’t be July without Favre.

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.

Club 53: The Active NFL Players Most Likely Headed to Canton

Here’s to humble beginnings, and the start of week two of this blog that I’m still not 100% sure what I want to become. So far I have categorized “Article Recap” and “Well Allow Me to Retort” as the two types of posts I want to write.

Today’s article: a well-researched, but still very subjective article that picks out 53 active NFL players most likely to make the Hall of Fame will somehow be less contentious than Monday’s article about cold, hard rushing stats and indisputable concepts of volume and efficiency.

That’s just how it is.

Today was a dreaded slideshow, but don’t worry. I dread them more than readers, because I know I won’t be able to stop myself from writing X articles in one (where X = number of slides). So there are over 8,000 words included on the 53 players I picked.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1254538-the-nfls-53-most-likely-future-hall-of-fame-players

Stat I love: 23 defensive backs in the HOF, and all of them have at least 40 career interceptions.

Stat I hate: there are only 23 defensive backs and 23 linebackers in the HOF.

If you want a peek at the 7 quarterbacks I chose, then just see a classic here:

I have yet to hear a San Diego fan say anything bad about this, because quite frankly, what can they say? It is what it is.

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.