Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Week 12's Turkeys and Tverskys

There is no mention of any social scientists in this post, unfortunately.

This is not the first time that I have written a blog post during an Eagles game, but it is certainly the least interested I've been in the outcome of the game.  The team is missing its "starting quarterback,"
 one of the top five running backs and the league, and hope.  Really, the latter is the biggest problem.  At least we're playing a Panthers team that's almost as disappointing.  What a drag for ESPN.

UPDATE: Brandon Lafell just scored a touchdown on a play where there was no defender within fifteen yards of him, then did Lesean McCoy's touchdown dance, and then Cam Newton gave the ball to a fan.  This Eagles team has absolutely no respect from its opposition.

UPDATE: Bryce Brown just broke a really impressive touchdown run that showed incredible spedd for a guy his size, and I would be more excited about it if we didn't already have a great back.  Great, an excess at one position and a mega-dearth at every other.


TRIUMPH: I started Tony Romo in the Frameshmania fantasy league this week and was rewarded for it (441 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT), but this was no impressive performance.  It took a ridiculous 62 attempts to get all those yards, he had under 60% completions for just the third time all season, and more than 1 interception for just the third time all season.  Interestingly enough, his terrible-first-half-turned-comeback-attempt looked almost exactly like the 'Bows 29-24 loss to the Giants, in which Romo went 36-for-62 for 437 yards, 1 TD, and 4 INT, but with a little better luck to boost his fantasy value.

TRAGEDY: The highly-drafted / highly-paid Cowboys secondary had produced a top-ten pass defense, allowing just 11 touchdowns in 10 games, until they were introduced to The Legend of RGIII.    They allowed about 80 yards over their season average (295-211) and four passing touchdowns.  That included two 50+ yard touchdowns in the second quarter to really blow the game open.  The good news for Dallas is that they get to match up next week against the aforementioned terrible Eagles.

TREND: Dez Bryant just may have this head-on-straight thing figured out.  In his last 8 games, he has six with at least 87 yards (four with 100+), four with at least 8 receptions, and six touchdowns.  He had one game with 8+ receptions and one with 87+ yards last season, and had one hundred-yard game in his career prior to this run.  Not only that, but his consecutive 8+ rec, 145+ yds, 1+ TD games coincide with Miles Austin's injury-of-the-week, and he could be in line for a great run.

TRAIL MIX: Pierre Garcon has two touchdown receptions that have totaled 147 yards.  Other than that, he has 14 receptions for 104 yards and no touchdowns in five games.  He has a $50 million contract.


TRIUMPH:  So, I guess Andre Johnson isn't totally defunct?  After totaling 17 receptions for 239 yards in games 2-6 of the season, he has 44 receptions for 700 yards in games 7-11!  That's going from a five-games-extrapolated-into-a-season pace of about 55 receptions for 750 yards to a FGEIASP of almost 140 receptions for 2250 yards.  And yet, he still has just three touchdowns all season.

TRAGEDY:  I'll admit, I definitely saw this shootout coming, what with the top offenses facing banged up defenses on a short week thing, but the Texans have to really be concerned at this point.  Yes, cornerback Johnathan Joseph missed an opportunity to cover Calvin Johnson, who had 140 yards and a touchdown.  But to go to overtime in consecutive games against sub-.500 teams while allowing almost 1000 total yards and 68 points, after allowing 729 yards and 28 points in the three previous games combined, is terrible.  And a road game in New England looms in two weeks.

TREND:  I was commenting on this during the game, but there really has been zero WR2 production on the Texans to complement Johnson for years.  Kevin Walter has 400 yards this season, putting him on pace for about 600.  Here are the leading wide-receivers' yardage numbers in the last three years: 512, 621, 611.  And that first number was with Johnson sidelined for most of the season! 

TRAIL MIX: Go Texans!  I'm tired, get over it.


TRIUMPH: How about Julian Edelman getting the Jack-of-All-Trades award?  In his last two games, he has four touchdowns: two receiving, one punt return, and one fumble return.  Keep in mind that the only (reasonable) way to get that combination of scores is to play offense, return offense, and either return defense or just defense.  Incidentally, he did play cornerback a bit last year, but not to this kind of success.  Considering that he had three receptions for fifteen yards in the previous three games to these two, this is quite a little run he's on.   Maybe the Gronk injury is his opening to a display that can convince Pats fans and management that Welker isn't worth paying for next season.

TRAGEDY: Just the Jets in general, man.  You get a home game on Thanksgiving against a hated division rival.  You hold said rival, who had just scored 59 points the week before, scoreless through the first quarter -- so far so good.  Then you allow five touchdowns in the second?  And three of those in under a minute?  And one of them was this?  You know your team is overly publicized when it's a national story that a single fan is putting away his fireman's helmet -- you know your team is terrible when its "biggest fan" quits on a national stage. 

TREND: The Pats do the offense thing up real nice, despite being "only" 8-3.  In 11 games, they've scored 30 or more points eight times, 40 or more four times, and 50 or more twice.  In their entire record-breaking season in 2007, those numbers were 12, 4, and 2.  Look familiar?  For reference, in 32 games in the last two seasons, they had 23 30+ games, 5 40+ games, and 0 50+ games.  

TRAIL MIX: Mark Sanchez appears to have broken ESPN Total QBR.  His 26-for-36 for 301 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT stat line looks really good when you consider A) It's Mark Sanchez, and B) The Jets lost by 30.  He also had a 94.8 Passer Rating, 20 points above his career average.  And yet, his Total QBR was 22.9, which is just barely above Brandon Weeden's season average and Brady Quinn's Week 12 13-for-25, 126 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT.

I swear, the fact that I only reviewed the Thursday games is a total coincidence.  I had no idea I was doing it at the time.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner Plate for Week 12

Loyal readers (here's looking at you, Alex Vigderman) know that I love me some holiday-themed posts, and perhaps the most beloved tradition is that of the Thanksgiving Dinner Plate.  Instead of a silly  Jewish-themed post based on a story of affliction and really bad bread substitutes, I get the opportunity to talk about deliciousness.  OK, and gratitude.

Five Things I'm Thankful for in the upcoming NFL Week 12

1. Three Thanksgiving games (Texans/Lions, Redskins/Cowboys, Patriots/Jets) that should be at least watchable thanks to the high-profile participants, division rivalries, and effective offenses.

2. Last season's division doormats (the Vikings, Browns, and Buccaneers, a combined 14-16 after 11-37 last season) actually having a strong fighting chance against division stalwarts (the Bears, Steelers, and Falcons, a combined 22-8 after 30-18 last year), although there may be two of those stalwarts without their starting quarterback.

3. The Packers and Saints getting the opportunity to avenge last season's disappointing playoff losses against the Giants and 49ers, with the former being on Sunday Night.

4. The perfect opportunity to stick a large, shiny fork in the Eagles' season if they manage to lose at home to a 2-8 Panthers squad that has disappointed as well.

5. Last season, I put Tim Tebow here.  I really don't think that's appropriate at this point in time.  I'll just go with Carson Palmer facing his former team, that has significantly benefited from trading him away.

And now for the big time.  What teams do we have on our plate this year?

White meat: The standard option, always there at the end of the meal if you need it.  This year, that's looking to be the New England Patriots, a consistent winner that has had a knack for making big runs at the end of seasons, and is always in the mix come playoff time.  Oh, and having a white guy on their logo doesn't hurt their case for this distinction.

Dark meat: Sometimes a little too fatty, but can provide a burst of flavor that white-meat-enthusiasts don't quite appreciate.  The 49ers have thrown up three dud games against the Vikings, Giants, and Rams, but have won their next three games by a combined score of 79-13.  And Colin Kaepernick's introduction to this offense has provided just the kind of pop that dark meat can compared to that silly Alex Smith white meat.  I really don't intend on making these race comments, they just sort of show up.  Good thing no one important reads these.

Cranberry Sauce: Doesn't really look good, but can be excellent in small doses.  I think that this should go to the Lions, who can play terribly for most of the game and then make a 4th-quarter charge to make the game interesting in the closing minutes.  They've averaged an impressive 12.4 points per game in the fourth quarter and overtime, against a paltry 11.2 points per game in the first three quarters.

Stuffing: Can be good, but you're never really confident in it if you're at someone else's place.  Not exactly a tough choice for this one, as the Seattle Seahawks have gone undefeated at home while losing four of five on the road.  This isn't that surprising, considering their stadium is known for the 12th Man and they've been 7 games better at home the previous three seasons, but that doesn't explain beating teams at home with a combined 29-16 record otherwise while losing to teams on the road with a combined 14-20-2 record otherwise.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Week 11's Trampled, Tested Texans

You know the drill.  I'm still dealing with holidays and moving and all that, so you WILL excuse my terse opening.


TRIUMPH: This entire game was an offensive anomaly.  I'm just going to let the stat lines speak for themselves:
Chad Henne: 16-33, 354 yds, 4 TD, 0 INT (in relief of injured Blaine Gabbert)
Matt Schaub: 43-55, 527 yds, 5 TD 2 INT
Jalen Parmele: 24 carries, 80 yards (he had 15 career carries prior)
Justin Blackmon: 7 receptions, 236 yds, 1 TD
Andre Johnson: 14 receptions, 273 yds, 1 TD
Garrett Graham: 8 receptions, 82 yds, 2 TD

TRAGEDY: I know I mentioned prior to the game that I expected the Jags to play it at least reasonably close, but the way that the Texans' defense and running game performed was stunningly flat.  Arian Foster had averaged over 100 yards and a touchdown per game against the Jags in his career, and managed just 77 yards and no scores on 28 carries in this one.  The Texans' defense had allowed more than 17 points or 325 total yards just twice this season (against the actually-good-at-offense Packers and Broncos), and yet gave up 37 points and 458 yards to the offense ranked last in the league in yardage and scoring.  So naturally I started the Texans' defense in two fantasy leagues.

TREND: What did I tell you last week about my boy Cecil Shorts?  Well, I actually told you nothing about him being my boy, but with his 81 yards and a touchdown today, he continues his nice little run.  He has at least 74 yards in 6 of 10 games this year (and touchdowns in 5 of those 6), with 4 of those 6 in the past five games.  In fact, he has the fourth-most receiving yards in the NFL in the past five weeks, behind some guys you may have heard of: Calvin Johnson, Vincent Jackson, and Andre Johnson.

TRAIL MIX: This is actually the first game in NFL history in which there were three scoring drives in overtime.  It doesn't take much, incidentally, because the new overtime rules that allow even two scoring drives started this season, but in fifteen such games, this is the first one in which both teams kicked a field goal, and then the winning team scored again.


TRIUMPH:  In a game that they lost by 35, it's hard to really toot the horn of the Colts' defense.  However, in a context that New England generally uses to bludgeon opponents via the ground game, the Colts actually managed to hold New England running backs to just 68 yards on 24 carries.  By comparison, the Pats had averaged 34 carries for 187 yards (5.4 ypc) in their previous three games in which they won by 20+ points.  This coming from an Indy squad that's 22nd in the league against the run even after Sunday.  It's the little victories, people.

TRAGEDY:  I'm going a little off the board here, but what happened to Aaron Hernandez' breakout season?  In the offseason, he signs the big contract, and then there's all sorts of buzz that he's becoming a top target for Brady, and now he's "that guy" that is always listed as Questionable but never plays.  In the three games in which he's played any significant amount, he's had no fewer than 7 targets and 5 receptions, and he would be on pace for 90 receptions for 760 yards and 10 touchdowns if he played every game at that pace.  With the injury to The Gronk this week, Hernandez' return will be imperative for the Pats to continue to be enough of an offensive juggernaut to offset their shaky defense.

TREND:  It really is a shame that Gronkowski didn't make it out of this game, because he's having another incredible season.  In the 26 games since the start of last season, he has had at least 70 yards and a touchdown in half of them, and 8 of those 13 have been 100+ yard performances.  Calvin Johnson, as a point of contrast, has had 11 and 12, respectively.  

TRAIL MIX: Fun fact: the game between these two teams last year was between an 0-11 Colts team and a 9-3 Patriots team, and the Pats only won by 7.  Dan Orlovsky threw for 350 yards.  ANDREW LUCK IS WORSE THAN DAN ORLOVSKY.  Don't say I didn't warn you.


TRIUMPH: I'm going to go ahead and give this distinction to the whole Cardinals team.  They had lost five straight, were on the road, and had to deal with an 8-1 Falcons team that just lost their undefeated season to a division rival, so they were probably none too happy.  They had their third-string quarterback play most of the game, and he went 9-for-20 for 64 yards and no touchdowns.  And they only lost by 4!  This is just as impressive as their win over the Patriots in which Kevin Kolb went 15-of-27 for 140 yards and they had just 3.2 yards per rush.

TRAGEDY: Matt Ryan had a rough day at the office, you might say.  He had his worst completion percentage of the season, his second-worst yards-per-attempt, his second game this season with zero touchdowns... oh, and five interceptions.  His Total QBR was his worst since Week 5 of 2011 in which he lost to the undefeated Packers.  He did, however, manage to scrounge up 300 passing yards, which he has failed to do in five games this year.

TREND: The Falcons have not yet had consecutive home or away games, which means that they have been on the road in odd-numbered games and at home in even-numbered games.  In home/even-numbered games, Roddy White averages 7 receptions for 117 yards and 0.8 touchdowns, while Julio Jones averages 3 receptions for 54 yards and 0 touchdowns.  In road/odd-numbered games, White averages just 5 receptions for 72 yards and 0 touchdowns, while Jones averages 6 receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown.  I talked about a similar on/off trend with Matthew Stafford last week, but this one is much more reliable.

TRAIL MIX: LaRod Stephens-Howling has had some sneaky-good performances as the third-stringer for the Cards, but hasn't been very good otherwise.  He has two games with 20+ carries, 100+ yards, and a touchdown, but has a combined 57 yards on 25 carries in his other two starts.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Week 11's Seder Slate

I had a fun time re-living the final weeks of the baseball season in the last couple days, what with the various postseason awards being announced.  We don't need to get into the whole AL MVP thing (you can find my position here), except for one detail that I need to point out.

This season, the BBWAA did the fans a great service by releasing the full list of ballots submitted for all of the postseason awards.  It is this decision that allows me to know that at least one kind soul (albeit Philly native Jayson Stark) voted Carlos Ruiz onto the ballot, even if it was just one 10th-place vote.  But there is one name on the AL MVP ballot that I just cannot stomach:

Raul Ibanez.

WHAT???  Last season for the Phillies, Rauuuuul was the worst player in the league, according to FanGraphs' WAR.  The worst.  And now he goes to the Yankees, of all teams, and gets an MVP vote?  Ugh.

OK, time to distract myself.

WHAT? New Orleans Saints at Oakland Raiders

WHY? Everybody loves a good old fashioned John Wayne shootout, and this game has the makings of a pretty good one, despite the completely disparate pedigrees of the two teams over the last 7 years.  Both teams are top-5 in the NFL in passing attempts and yards, and in the bottom 10 in passing yards, completion percentage, and touchdowns allowed.  Which, from the Raiders perspective, is fairly impressive considering they have Carson Palmer at quarterback and (in theory) Darren McFadden at running back.

WHO? Darren Sproles' injury and a lack thereof himself has given Chris Ivory another opportunity to strut his stuff on Bourbon Street, and it's some pretty good stuff.  In the two games he's played, he's gained an excellent 120 yards on just 17 carries with two touchdowns, while the rest of the team has produced 168 yards on 37 carries with no touchdowns.  However, this isn't some two-game fluke.  With just 233 career carries (since 2010), he has 1210 yards and 8 touchdowns, he has almost exactly the same production as Frank Gore had last season (1211 yards, 8 TD) with 50 fewer rushes, and only slightly less than Arian Foster (1224 yards, 10 TD) with 45 fewer carries.

HOW? You don't happen to know any big wigs at costume companies, do you?  (See what I did there?)  Because I bet they're watching this game in some pretty nice digs, considering the outfits that these two teams' fans rock each week.

WHATJacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

WHY? Because it will be a hard-fought, knock-down, drag-out division battle?  Because everyone loves games where the teams have opposite records?  Because both teams are coming off offensive explosions, and are going to light up the scoreboard?  OK, I'll settle for the sheer curiosity about whether or not the Texans can cover the 16-point spread.  After all, they did beat this team 27-7 earlier in the year, but they're just 3-3 in their previous six games against the Jags, with only one of those wins being by at least 16 points.

WHO? How about this battle of number one receivers that are trending upward?  Andre Johnson has averaged 7 receptions for 79 yards in his past four games (averaged 3 receptions for 57 yards prior), while Cecil "Eat My" Shorts has grabbed 5 receptions for 89 yards per game in his last four (averaged 2 receptions for 41 yards prior).  Raise your hand if you even knew who Cecil Shorts was prior to this season.  Now raise your hand if you drafted Andre Johnson as a top-5 fantasy wide receiver this season.  HA! HA HA! HA!  I'm sorry, that's rude.  Feel free to cite my preseason fantasy predictions post in your comeback.

HOW? MJD's not doing anything different this weekend than you or I, so maybe you guys can hang out while he watches some crazy NFL game package and follows his fantasy teams, most of which I'm sure are terrible because he probably drafted himself.

WHATGreen Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

WHY? These two teams had top-five offenses and finished a combined 25-7 last season, but slow starts (3-5 combined after four weeks) tempered our expectations for both.  Interestingly enough, the Packers are currently just 19th in total offense, while the Lions are 2nd, despite Green Bay scoring 2 points per game more than Detroit and being 3 games better at this point in the year.  The last time these teams played, current overpaid Seahawks backup Matt Flynn led the Pack to a 45-41 victory by throwing for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Here's hoping that that does not happen with Aaron Rodgers this week, because I'm playing against him in two fantasy leagues.

WHO? The receivers in this game have been surprising in multiple ways.  Calvin Johnson is actually on pace to exceed his reception and yardage total from last season, but with 25% of the touchdowns.  Greg Jennings has played in just three games, with only 12 receptions for 78 yards.  Jordy Nelson would be on pace for 1000+ yards and 10 touchdowns again, but he has been injured himself.  On the flip side, James Jones is on pace for 15 touchdowns (although he's actually averaged more catches, yards, and touchdowns in games where Jennings has started), and Randall Cobb has averaged 6 receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown over his last six games.  And keep Ryan Broyles in mind, as the Lions' recently anointed slot receiver is the all-time leading receiver in NCAA history.

HOW? It's a battle of his division rivals, and his team isn't playing in that time slot, so maybe Jay Cutler will be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy.  That is, if he can see, or know who or where he is.  I'm sorry, that was in poor taste.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Week 10's Tapioca!

If you don't get it, you don't get it.

The next couple weeks are going to be hectic for your friendly neighborhood blogger, what with Thanksgiving and moving to the big city (provided you're not from NYC).  Therefore, you'll have to give me a bit of slack with both the timing and depth of posts until towards the end of the month.  But, come on, you're not even reading this, so I'm not really concerned.  In fact, I'm so confident in this assertion that I'm going to write my first game review without any of the structure I normally do -- and I'm sure you can't imagine why.


So Eagles fans got what they wanted -- sorta.  Amidst a chorus of boos and calls for Michael Vick's demotion, the only way that Andy Reid was going to put Nick Foles in a game would be if he had to -- and in this game he had to.  Vick left with an eye injury and concussion, and was replaced by the latest and greatest in Philly backup heroes (think Hoying, Feeley, Garcia, Kolb, and even Kafka to a lesser extent).  Foles looked poised at times, throwing a 40-yard touchdown on a broken play and getting the ball out quickly on some plays, but also had accuracy and awareness issues that caused him to produce two defensive touchdowns.  Oh, and there was that punt return TD for which Mat McBriar should be cut due to his terrible effort to even touch the returner as he sprinted down the sideline.  On a positive note, I would have bet a large sum of money that Bobby April's "special" teams unit would have allowed a return TD at some point in the 4+ seasons prior, but in fact they had not.

If Vick is healthy next week, you know Reid is going to start him.  He's been adamant about that fact all season, and there really is nothing that Andy owes the team such that he would "build for the future" when he is most certainly going to be unemployed after the season.  Vick was a personal reclamation project of Reid's, and especially with the $100 million contract, there's far too much invested both emotionally and financially in him to break ties now and play Foles.  However, the team is going nowhere with Vick this year, and after the last two seasons, I would find it very hard to believe that the Eagles' brass would bring back Vick next year, so could there be a point at which the front office would step in and force Foles into the lineup?  I think if Vick plays and they lose to the Redskins next week, it might be that time.


TRIUMPH:  After getting the Vigderseal of Approval (yeah, that was a bit of a stretch) over the first few weeks of the season (4 of his first 5 games with at least a 64 Total QBR), Christian Ponder promptly tanked, not even getting to a 20 Total QBR in any of Weeks 7-9.  So naturally, with Percy Harvin out with an injury and facing a hot Lions team, Ponder has his best game of the year, going 24-for-32 (75%) for 221 yards, 2 TD, and 0 INT.  However, I wouldn't expect much from him in the coming weeks -- the Vikes play four of their final six games against teams in the top half of the league against the pass, and the other two are in the top 20.

TRAGEDY:  Percy Harvin -- where you at?  Easily a top-five receiver going into last week, he now has just two receptions for 10 yards in the past two games.  He's still on pace for a career high in receptions and yards, and is right in line with his previous touchdown and rushing output, so it's not really so bad.  But like I said about Ponder, that schedule worries me, as it's pretty hard to get any catches when your quarterback isn't even throwing for 100 yards in a game (see last week).  Oh, and I'm clearly kidding about that first part.  Get well Perce.

TREND:  I reckon that this Adrian Peterson guy has a little something going for him.  After shocking the world and coming back in Week 1 from a devastating knee injury late last season with 17 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns, Peterson has kept on rolling.  In the past four weeks, All Day has averaged 157 yards per game, scoring 5 total touchdowns, and that includes two games against the stingy Seahawks and Buccaneers run defenses.  He's the top running back in fantasy right now, but was drafted outside the top 10 at the position in most drafts... oops.

TRAIL MIX: Matthew Stafford has been quite the roller coaster ride this year, but in a more predictable way than you might think.  Since Week 3, in even-numbered weeks Stafford has averaged 50 passing yards and more than a touchdown per game more than in odd-numbered weeks, despite completing 8 percent fewer passes in those games.  If you constrain the sample to the last five games, the passing touchdown discrepancy increases to just under 2 per game.


TRIUMPH: It's fairly impressive that the Bengals so easily beat the G-Men despite being outgained offensively and having no non-offensive touchdowns, and it's just as impressive that Andy Dalton managed to throw 4 touchdowns on under 200 yards passing.  How'd they pull all that off?  Well, getting 4 turnovers after having just 11 in their first 8 games might help a bit.

TRAGEDY: Victor Cruz was on pace to exceed his incredible performance from last season (82 rec, 1536 yds, 9 TD), with 50 receptions for 627 yards and 7 touchdowns through just the first seven games of the year.  In the last three weeks, Cruz has declined along with Eli Manning's performance, but even in the previous two weeks (7 rec, 90 yds total) he was targeted a total of 19 times.  In this game, Leon Hall shut Cruz down, as he grabbed just three passes on four targets for 26 yards.  I would just hope December is better if I were his fantasy owner.

TREND: Speaking of months, did you know that Eli Manning is 43-16 in September and October, but 29-38 in November and December?  His completion percentage, QB rating, and YPA all decline from month to month over his career, and he throws an average of 1/3 of an interception more per game this month.  Just last year, the Giants went 5-2 in September and October with Eli posting 13 TD, 5 INT, a 100+ QB rating, and 8.8 YPA.  In November, the Giants went 1-3, with Eli posting 7 TD, 5 INT, an 86 QB rating, and 7.7 YPA.  Oh, and they won the Super Bowl.  Color me concerned that they might do it again.  Only slightly kidding.

TRAIL MIX: With all of the hoopla that surrounded Calvin Johnson's 2011, I feel like AJ Green's 2012 is going pretty far under the radar.  He has a touchdown in each of his last 8 (!) games, and has at least five receptions and 58 yards in all but one game (and at least 7 receptions or 70 yards in 6 of them).  He's on pace for 103 receptions for 1458 yards and 16 TD, which would be almost exactly the stats that Megatron posted last season (at least if you're in a PPR league).  And Green's doing it in an offense that's on pace to throw 100 fewer times.