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Frank Gore Isn’t Aging

Since turning 28 years old, Frank Gore has rushed for 6,651 yards. That’s the 4th most rushing yards from age 28+ in NFL history.  Gore has also hit the 1,000-yard mark in 5 seasons since turning 28, tied with Emmitt Smith for the most ever.   Here’s Gore’s year-by-year rushing totals:

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Terrell Owens, and Career Receiving Leaders and the HOF

Howton soars for a reception

On September 29th, 1963, Billy Howton recorded a 14-yard catch against the Redskins. That gave him an even 8,000 career receiving yards, breaking the long-standing record held by Don Hutson (7,991). Through the end of the 1965 season, Howton was still the career leader in receiving yards. Howton, of course, is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For a decade, Charlie Joiner ranked in the top 3 in career receiving yards, including a first- or second-place ranking from ’84 through ’90.  As of the end of the 1986 and 1987 seasons, it was Joiner who was the all-time leader in receiving yards. Joiner was passed over by the Hall of Fame four times, before being inducted on his fifth try.

James Lofton ranked in the top 3 in receiving yards from ’90 to ’06.  He ranked 1st or 2nd in each year from ’91 through ’01, and 1st in 1992, 1993 (the year he retired), and 1994. Lofton did not make the HOF until his fifth try, too.

And then there’s Don Maynard.  On December 1, 1968, Maynard caught 7 passes for 160 yards and 3 touchdowns in front of the home fans at Shea Stadium.  In the process, he broke Raymond Berry‘s career record for receiving yards.  A month later, the Jets would win the Super Bowl.  It wasn’t until October 6, 1986, 18 years later, that Joiner finally moved Maynard out of the top spot in the record books.  Yet it took Maynard nine years to get inducted in the Hall of Fame.  Here’s a record that won’t ever be broken: it wasn’t until 19 years after he broke the career yardage record that Maynard was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Howton, Joiner, Lofton, and Maynard all were the career leaders in receiving yards at one point in their careers, and none of them were inducted into the Hall of Fame on their first, second, third, or fourth ballots.  So while Terrell Owens is a deserving Hall of Famer, it’s hard for me to call this an unprecedented oversight that Owens — who has ranked 2nd in career receiving yards since 2010 — didn’t make it to Canton on his first or second try. [click to continue…]

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Hall of Famers on Multiple Teams

Terrell Owens in the uniform he wore most often

With the Hall of Fame failing to elect Terrell Owens to the Hall of Fame this year, much of the discussion in the media has centered around the fact that Owens bounced around the league for much of his career. That made me wonder: where does Owens stand when it comes to the Hall of Fame and playing for multiple teams?

Owens has a Career AV1 of 119. That was split as follows (any discrepancies due to rounding):

  • 74 points of AV, or 62% of his career AV, came with the 49ers;
  • 28 points of AV, or 24%, came with the Cowboys;
  • 11 points of AV, or 9%, came with the Eagles;
  • 4 points of AV, or 3%, came with the Bengals; and
  • 3 points of AV, or 3%, came with the Bills.

It is pretty rare for a player to make the Hall of Fame and lace up for five different teams, although there are already two wide receivers in Canton who can make that claim.  But we’ll get to that at the end of this post.

Where Does Having “Just” 62% of Your Career AV With One Team Rank?

There are 20 Hall of Famers who failed to eclipse 62% of their career AV with one team, including guys like Marshall Faulk, Reggie White, and Deion Sanders. A number of players, including 2017 selection Kurt Warner, barely eclipsed 50% with one team, with Curley Culp and Eric Dickerson the two lowest players at 51%. [click to continue…]

  1. I am using perceived AV throughout this post, which assigns 100% credit to a player’s best season, 95% credit to his second best season, 90% to his third best, and so on. []
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With the 2nd pick in the 2nd round of the 2016 Draft, the Cowboys drafted Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith at 34th overall.  Smith tore his ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl, but Dallas was willing to take the risk with by giving Smith a redshirt season.

With the 41st pick, Buffalo traded up for linebacker Reggie Ragland, who wound up missing his entire rookie season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in training camp. With the 50th pick, Houston drafted offensive lineman Nick Martin, who also was injured in training camp and wound up missing his entire rookie year.

Those three players, and Bengals first round pick William Jackson (who tore his pec in August), were four of the five players selected in the first two rounds of the 2016 Draft who failed to see the field. Jets second round pick, quarterback Christian Hackenberg, was the fifth.

That makes Hackenberg the 17th quarterback since the common draft (1967) to fail to make the field as a rookie despite being drafted in the first or second round. For the most part, that’s because those quarterbacks were behind entrenched starters. [click to continue…]

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More Thoughts On Pick Sixes

Four years ago, I wrote that interceptions were being returned for touchdowns at a much higher rate. As it turns out, that may have just been a blip: the 2012 season set a record for both pick sixes and pick sixes per interception.

We can look at pick sixes in a few ways. On Monday, I noted that on a per-game basis, interceptions per game were down to near-historic lows. Given that pass attempts are way up, you won’t be surprised to learn that pick sixes per attempt are really, really down.

The graph below shows the number of interceptions returned per 1,000 pass attempts throughout NFL history. Last year was the lowest in history, at 1.86; thought of another way, there was just one pick six for every 538 pass attempts.

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A rare sighting: Christian Hackenberg throwing a pass for the Jets

Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg was a very polarizing prospect. Pro Football Focus called him undraftable, and he ranked as the 2nd-worst quarterback in college football in 2014.

But there’s one thing we know: at least someone in the Jets organization really liked him. That person, presumably, is general manager Mike Maccagnan, although it’s likely that head coach Todd Bowles and now-retired offensive coordinator Chan Gailey (and perhaps owner Woody Johnson) had positive thoughts about Hackenberg, too. We know this because the Jets drafted Hackenberg with the 51st pick in the 2016 Draft, so obviously New York wanted him on the team.

Hackenberg was stuck behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, and Bryce Petty as a rookie.  He was the fourth string quarterback for much of the year, so even once Smith and Petty were hurt, Hackenberg never had enough reps to make him prepared to take the field over Fitzpatrick even in the season finale.

So where do the Jets (which I am using as a stand in for Maccagnan, or a combination of Maccagnan and Bowles) stand on Hackenberg now? There are a few possibilities: [click to continue…]

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Passing Yardage Will Always Be For Lovers

Passing is for lovers

There have been 44 quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for at least 30,000 yards. Given enough time, you could probably guess that Drew Bledsoe, Jim Kelly, and Steve McNair are three of them. All three have something else in common: they were all born on February 14th.

If we drop the cut-off to 16,000 yards, we jump to 137 quarterbacks but get to include David Garrard, another Valentine’s Day baby. But wait, there’s more: If we drop the threshold to 3,500 passing yards, we get to include Patrick Ramsey and Anthony Wright. Those guys may not impress you, but consider that only 334 players have thrown for 3,500 yards. That means dozens of days have zero quarterbacks with 3,500 yards — including New Year’s Day, Cinco De Mayo, Halloween, and Christmas Eve — so slotting in Ramsey and Wright as QB5 and QB6 on your birthday dream team is pretty damn good. [click to continue…]

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Return Touchdowns Were Way Down in 2016

Most years, there are about 3.5 to 4.0 return touchdowns per team season in the NFL, or about 115 in the entire NFL. But in 2016, there were just 73 return touchdowns, the fewest in a single season since 1988. I’m defining a return touchdown as a punt return, kickoff return, fumble return, or interception return for a score; this does exclude some unusual returns, such as a blocked field goal return, blocked punt return, missed field goal return, etc.

By this measure, the average team had just 2.3 return touchdowns last year. That’s a pretty unusually low number: [click to continue…]

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In 22 team games in the 2016 playoffs, just four times did a rusher crack the 100-yard mark — or even exceed 75 rushing yards.  In the Patriots three wins, their leading rusher never cracked 50 yards, and James White was three yards away in the Super Bowl from giving New England three different leading rushers in three games.

Rushing
Rk Date Tm Opp Result G# Week Att Yds
Y/A TD
1 Le’Veon Bell 2017-01-15 PIT @ KAN W 18-16 18 19 30 170 5.67 0
2 Le’Veon Bell 2017-01-08 PIT MIA W 30-12 17 18 29 167 5.76 2
3 Thomas Rawls 2017-01-07 SEA DET W 26-6 17 18 27 161 5.96 1
4 Ezekiel Elliott 2017-01-15 DAL GNB L 31-34 17 19 22 125 5.68 0
5 Devonta Freeman 2017-02-05 ATL NWE L 28-34 19 21 11 75 6.82 1
6 Lamar Miller 2017-01-14 HOU @ NWE L 16-34 18 19 19 74 3.89 0
7 Lamar Miller 2017-01-07 HOU OAK W 27-14 17 18 31 73 2.35 1
8 Tevin Coleman 2017-01-14 ATL SEA W 36-20 17 19 11 57 5.18 0
9 Russell Wilson 2017-01-14 SEA @ ATL L 20-36 18 19 6 49 8.17 0
10 LeGarrette Blount 2017-01-22 NWE PIT W 36-17 18 20 16 47 2.94 1
11 Christine Michael 2017-01-08 GNB NYG W 38-13 17 18 10 47 4.70 0
12 Ty Montgomery 2017-01-15 GNB @ DAL W 34-31 18 19 11 47 4.27 2
13 Aaron Rodgers 2017-01-22 GNB @ ATL L 21-44 19 20 4 46 11.50 0
14 Devonta Freeman 2017-01-14 ATL SEA W 36-20 17 19 14 45 3.21 1
15 Devonta Freeman 2017-01-22 ATL GNB W 44-21 18 20 14 42 3.00 0
16 Dion Lewis 2017-01-14 NWE HOU W 34-16 17 19 13 41 3.15 1
17 Latavius Murray 2017-01-07 OAK @ HOU L 14-27 17 18 12 39 3.25 1
18 Spencer Ware 2017-01-15 KAN PIT L 16-18 17 19 8 35 4.38 1
19 Thomas Rawls 2017-01-14 SEA @ ATL L 20-36 18 19 11 34 3.09 0
20 DeAngelo Williams 2017-01-22 PIT @ NWE L 17-36 19 20 14 34 2.43 1
21 Zach Zenner 2017-01-07 DET @ SEA L 6-26 17 18 11 34 3.09 0
22 Jay Ajayi 2017-01-08 MIA @ PIT L 12-30 17 18 16 33 2.06 0
23 LeGarrette Blount 2017-01-14 NWE HOU W 34-16 17 19 8 31 3.88 0
24 LeGarrette Blount 2017-02-05 NWE @ ATL W 34-28 19 21 11 31 2.82 0
25 Jonathan Grimes 2017-01-07 HOU OAK W 27-14 17 18 4 30 7.50 0
26 Paul Perkins 2017-01-08 NYG @ GNB L 13-38 17 18 10 30 3.00 0

White’s Super Bowl heroics aside — you know, he scored a record 20 points and caught a record 14 passes — New England certainly didn’t get much production from the ground game in the playoffs. Even as a team, the Patriots averaged only 86.3 yards per game in the postseason. Among the 51 Super Bowl champions, that slots in just between two other Patriots teams, giving New England three of the four Super Bowl champions that failed to crack the 90 rushing yards mark in the playoffs. But one team averaged just 37 rushing yards per game in the postseason. Can you guess? Scroll to the bottom of the table to see. [click to continue…]

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2016 Playoff Passing Numbers

These two were the top passers of the 2016 postseason

With the 2016 postseason in the books, who were the best and worst passers? There are 11 playoff games every year, and since there were no games where a starting quarterback was injured or benched during the game, that gives us 22 quarterback performances to evaluate.

The best performance belongs to Matt Ryan against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. Ryan threw for 392 yards with 4 TDs and 0 interceptions or sacks. That’s 472 Adjusted Net Yards and it came on 38 dropbacks, which translates to a 12.42 ANY/A average. His opponent, Green Bay, allowed 6.85 ANY/A to passers this year; that means over the course of 38 dropbacks, Ryan produced 212 Adjusted Net Yards of Value above average.

Using that methodology, here are the single game playoff passing numbers from the 2016 postseason: [click to continue…]

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Jason Taylor Was An Unusual First Ballot Hall of Famer

Jason Taylor was a first ballot Hall of Famer, which was pretty surprising to a lot of folks. Let’s start with defensive ends: Andy Robustelli, Howie Long, and Michael Strahan were clear choices, but all had to wait one year before making it to Canton. Jack Youngblood, Carl Eller, and Willie Davis each made 5 Associated Press first-team All Pro teams, but all wait at least 7 years. Chris Doleman and Doug Atkins made 8 Pro Bowls, but both had to wait 8 years.

In the last 30 years, there have been 36 non-quarterbacks who have made the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Among those players, Taylor is one of only 12 with 3 or fewer 1APs. Half of those 12 were running backs, which isn’t too surprising. Like quarterbacks, running back is a position with a lot of statistics, so reputation matters less when selecting All Pros. As a result, it’s much harder for a running back to rack up a high number of 1AP teams.

The other six? Placekicker Jan Stenerud (1), wide receiver Steve Largent (1), tackle Jackie Slater (0), Taylor (3), and defensive backs Darrell Green (1) and Mel Blount (2). Taylor is also one of just 8 of the last 36 first ballot Hall of Famers with 6 or fewer Pro Bowls. Five of those 8 were running backs; the other three are Taylor (6), Blount (5), and Stenerud (6). [click to continue…]

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Bill Belichick and the Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl on Sunday. For a number of reasons, that brings up some good trivia tidbits.

Most Championships

Belichick, of course, is now the only coach with five Super Bowl rings. However, three other coaches have won more titles. Paul Brown won 7 championships, although only three NFL titles (the remaining four were in the AAFC). George Halas and Curly Lambeau each won 6 NFL titles, while Belichick is now tied with Vince Lombardi at five.

Oldest Coach

Belichick is 64 years old, making him the third oldest head coach to win it all. In 2011, Tom Coughlin and the Giants beat Belichick’s Patriots in the Super Bowl, and Coughlin was 65 years old that season. George Halas won his final title in 1963, at the age of 68. Meanwhile, Dick Vermeil was 63 years old when he won the Super Bowl with the Rams to conclude the 1999 season.

Longest Run Between Titles

Belichick’s first title came in 2001, which means he’s now won championships 15 years apart. That’s tied with Curly Lambeau for the third longest stretch: Lambeau won his first championship in 1929, and his last in 1944, with both coming with the Packers. Jimmy Conzelman won as head coach of the Providence Steam Roller in 1928 and then 19 years later with the Chicago Cardinals in 1947. The longest reign, of course, goes to George Halas at 42 years; he won championships with the Bears in both 1921 and 1963. The only other coach to win titles at least 10 years apart? Weeb Ewbank, who won with the Colts in ’58 and ’59, and then as head coach of the Jets (and against the Colts) in 1968.

Most Common Record

There have been 8 Super Bowl champions with 14-2 records, and three of them (’03, ’04, ’16) were coached by Belichick. That’s tied for the second most common record for a Super Bowl champion behind 12-4. There were 11 teams that won with that record, including Belichick’s 2014 squad. The other record to win it all 8 times was 13-3. [click to continue…]

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Wisdom of Crowds: Quarterback Edition (2017)

Adam Steele is back with some Wisdom of Crowds work. As always, we thank him for that.


 

In 2015 we ran a pair of Wisdom of the Crowd exercises, one for quarterbacks and one for running backs. Participation was high and the ensuing discussions were plentiful, so I decided to bring the idea back this year. First up are quarterbacks, but there will be new rules this time around. The previous edition asked voters to rank their quarterbacks 1-25, with points scored in linear fashion based on the ranking from each ballot. While that method was simple, it left a lot to be desired. Most notably, voters weren’t able to indicate the magnitude of difference between the QB’s on their lists, so the difference between 24th and 25th was worth the same as the difference between 1st and 2nd. That’s just plain wrong.

New Rules

1) Each voter will be allotted 100 Greatness Points to distribute to quarterbacks as he or she wishes, with a few caveats.

2) The maximum points given to a single QB may not exceed 25.

3) Ballots must include a minimum of ten quarterbacks, with a maximum of 40.

4) Points must be assigned as whole numbers.

Just as before, you are free to use whatever definition of Greatness you see fit. If you have trouble getting started, it’s helpful to list every quarterback that you consider Great, then distribute points based on the relative standing among the quarterback you listed. In order for this exercise to work properly, please submit your ballot before reading anyone else’s; we want each opinion to be as independent as possible. Your ballot will not be counted if the points don’t add up to exactly 100, although I will let you know and give you a chance for revision. Here is an example of how I’d like your ballot to look (of course yours may include more quarterbacks): [click to continue…]

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2016 NFL Awards: Voting Breakdown

On Saturday night, the awards were announced for the 2016 NFL season. It’s good to have a record of the voting breakdown, so in the interest of preserving history, I have reprinted that below.

Most Valuable Player

Matt Ryan, Atlanta (25); Tom Brady, New England (10), Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas (6), Derek Carr, Oakland (6), Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (2), Dak Prescott, Dallas (1)

Ryan was a pretty obvious pick: he easily led the NFL in ANY/A and Value added over average.  I’m a bit surprised that Brady was as close as he was, but the biggest surprise was Carr somehow receiving 6 votes.  Ryan received 29 votes for the first-team All-Pro slot at QB from the same AP voters; Brady received 15, and Rodgers received 5.  Given that the quarterbacks had to compete with Elliott for MVP, it makes sense that all received more votes at the QB-specific slot than at MVP.  But then there’s Carr, who earned just 1 vote for first-team All-Pro at QB, yet received 6 here.  How five voters thought Carr wasn’t the best quarterback but was the Most Valuable Player in the NFL is a question I’m not comfortable answering.

Offensive Player of the Year

Matt Ryan, Atlanta (15½), Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (11), David Johnson, Arizona (8), Tom Brady, New England (7), Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas (5½), Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh (1), Derek Carr, Oakland (1), Drew Brees, New Orleans (1)

Ryan was a worthy choice here for the same reasons he was a worthy choice for the All-Pro team and the MVP award.  There were 9.5 voters who thought Ryan was the MVP but not the OPOY; there were also 9 voters who thought Rodgers was OPOY but not MVP.  That implies a decent amount of ballot-splitting among voters.  What do we make of Ryan/Brady/Rodgers?  For the All-Pro team, the voting was 29–15–5; for MVP, it was 25–10–2; and for OPOY, it’s 15½–7–11.  That strikes me as inconsistent.  Johnson, Elliott, and Bell all received votes here, which makes some sense.  Oh, and Carr only got 1 vote here, too. [click to continue…]

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Super Bowl LI Reaction

Well, Super Bowl LI is in the books. The Falcons dominated for most of the game, making it both a surprising but pretty uneventful Super Bowl — until the final 10 minutes or so. Matt Ryan had a perfect passer rating for the majority of the night, Robert Alford had a game-turning pick six late in the first half, and Grady Jarrett tied a Super Bowl record with 3 sacks.

Oh, and then New England staged the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and maybe the greatest comeback in NFL history? Atlanta led 28-3 with 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.  Atlanta led 28-9 with 10 minutes left in the game. Atlanta led 28-12 with 7 minutes left in the game. Atlanta led 28-20 with 60 seconds left in the game. And yet, somehow, the Patriots won.

Down by 16, the Patriots needed everything to go right.  And it did. The Patriots scored a touchdown, got a two point conversion, forced an Atlanta punt, scored another touchdown, got another two point conversion, forced another punt to force overtime, won the coin toss in overtime, and then scored a touchdown in overtime to win.

If it wasn’t the Patriots, it wouldn’t feel real.  With the Patriots, these unrealistic finishes seem preordained.  There had been 105 playoff games where a team trailed by at least 18 points entering the 4th quarter; teams had been 0-105.

I don’t even know where to start, so I’m going to kick it to you. What is the takeaway from Super Bowl LI?  And while I know it will mostly be Patriots-centric, what about from Atlanta’s perspective? Can they recover from this?

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Super Bowl LI: Post Your Predictions Here

The two leaders in ANY/A in 2016.

Finally, it’s here: Super Bowl LI has arrived. You can read all my Super Bowl LI articles here.

What’s your projection? Post it in the comments.

For me, I’m going Atlanta 33, New England 28. I think the Falcons offense is the best thing in this game, and the absence of Rob Gronkowski will be the difference here.

And while Julio Jones is the star, I’m going to go with Devonta Freeman as my MVP. And not because of what he will do as a rusher, but as a receiver. Seattle — the 19th team to beat bot Super Bowl teams in a season — set the blueprint. C.J. Prosise caught 7 of 7 targets for 87 yards and 5 first downs, and I don’t think the Patriots linebackers can cover Freeman (especially since safety help will be needed for Jones). Freeman will clear 140 yards from scrimmage, and take home the honors.

What’s your prediction?

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A couple of years ago, I wrote a detailed breakdown about Super Bowl squares. Well, it’s that time of year again, so I’m going to repost that article here to help you cheat to win at your Super Bowl party.

Every Super Bowl squares pool is different, but this post is really aimed at readers who play in pools where you can trade or pick squares (surely no pool has a prohibition on this!) I looked at every regular season and postseason game from 2002 to 2013.1 The table below shows the likelihood of each score after each quarter, along with three final columns that show the expected value of a $100 prize pool under three different payout systems. The “10/” column shows the payout in a pool where 10% of the prize money is given out after each of the first three quarters and 70% after the end of the game; the next column is for pools that give out 12.5% of the pool after the first and third quarters, 25% at halftime, and 50% for the score at the end of the game. The final column is for pools that give out 25% of the pot after each quarter — since I think that is the most common pool structure, I’ve sorted the table by that column, but you can sort by any column you like. To make the table fully sortable, I had to remove the percentage symbols, but “19, 6.7, 4.1, 2” should be read as 19.0%, 6.7%, 4.1%, and 2.0%. [click to continue…]

  1. Yes, this means your author was too lazy to update things for the 2014, 2015, or 2016 seasons. I suppose the rule change moving back the extra point would probably change things ever so slightly, given the small increase in missed extra points. []
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2017 Hall of Fame Candidates

On Saturday, the 2017 Hall of Fame class will be announced. As many as 8 will be introduced — and there’s a good chance the class will be that large. Three players — Kenny Easley (senior’s nominee) and Paul Talibue and Jerry Jones (contributor selections) — receive a simple up or down vote. The other 15 finalists are all fighting for 5 spots. Here’s the full list:

2017 Semifinalists and Finalists Table
Rk Ballot
Player Pos From To AP1 PB St CarAV G
1 senior Kenny Easley DB 1981 1987 3 5 7 60 89
2 final LaDainian Tomlinson RB 2001 2011 3 5 10 128 170
3 final Jason Taylor DE 1997 2011 3 6 12 119 233
4 final Terrell Owens WR 1996 2010 5 6 13 119 219
5 final Alan Faneca G 1998 2010 6 9 13 114 206
6 final Kevin Mawae C 1994 2009 3 8 15 109 241
7 final Isaac Bruce WR 1994 2009 0 4 13 102 223
8 final Brian Dawkins DB 1996 2011 4 9 14 101 224
9 final Kurt Warner QB 1998 2009 2 4 8 96 124
10 final John Lynch DB 1993 2007 2 9 12 90 224
11 final Ty Law DB 1995 2009 2 5 11 87 203
12 final Joe Jacoby T 1981 1993 2 4 11 82 170
13 final Terrell Davis RB 1995 2001 3 3 4 72 78
14 final Tony Boselli T 1995 2001 3 5 6 63 91
15 final Morten Andersen K 1982 2007 3 7 16 51 382
16 final Don Coryell coach
17 final Jerry Jones contributor
18 final Paul Tagliabue contributor

What are my thoughts? [click to continue…]

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Joe Montana had what many consider to be the best performance in Super Bowl history. In Super Bowl XXIV against the Broncos, Montana completed 22 of 29 passes for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns, with 1 sack for 0 yards. Jerry Rice was the biggest beneficiary, catching 7 passes for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns, in a 55-10 blowout of the Broncos.

Do the math, and Montana averaged 13.23 Adjusted Net Yards per attempt that day. Making it even more impressive is that he was facing a Broncos defense that allowed just 3.89 ANY/A to opposing passers during the regular season. That means Montana averaged 9.35 additional ANY/A relative to the average Broncos opponent. Over 30 dropbacks, that’s 280 Adjusted Net Yards of Value that Montana added. That’s the most in Super Bowl history, just ahead of what Doug Williams did two years earlier against the Broncos.

In that game, Williams was 18/29 for 340 yards with 4 TDs and 1 INT, and one sack for 10 yards. That’s an ANY/A of 12.17, but it came against a slightly tougher defense: the Broncos allowed 3.77 ANY/A that season. So Williams was 8.40 ANY/A better than “expected” against Denver, over 30 dropbacks; that means he produced 252 ANY of value in the Super Bowl.

Below are those numbers for each of the 128 passers in Super Bowl history. For Super Bowls prior to 1981, I had to use estimated sack data rather than actual, with the formula for estimated sacks being simply (Team Sacks) * (QB Pass Attempts/Team Pass Attempts). [click to continue…]

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Atlanta had a really, really good offense this year. My favorite statistic: the Falcons had 59 drives end in a punt or a turnover, and 58 end in a touchdown.  Atlanta averaged 3.03 points per drive this year, and yet, the offense has been even better in the playoffs.

There was no stopping Matt Ryan and the Falcons against Green Bay, as the group scored 44 points on 9 drives in the NFC Championship Game. In the division round, the Falcons scored 36 points on 9 or 10 drives against Seattle, depending on whether you want to treat the Falcons final drive of the game as a real drive.  In two NFC playoff games, Atlanta’s offense has scored 10 touchdowns, seen 5 drives end on punts, 3 end on field goals, with zero turnovers and one drive end with the clock running out.

Scoring 80 points on 18 or 19 drives translates to an average of 4.21 or 4.44 points per drive. Take an average of those two numbers, and the offense is still averaging a whopping 4.32 points per drive. How remarkable is that? Well, it’s the best average for any of the 102 Super Bowl teams in their pre-Super Bowl playoff games.

The NFL has not historically recorded drive stats, so I previously wrote how one can estimate the number of offensive drives a team has in a game or season.  I used that formula to measure the best playoff offenses entering the Super Bowl; unsurprisingly, the 1990 Bills were the previous hottest offense.

Against Miami in the division round, Buffalo had between 10 and 12 drives, depending on how you treat the final drives of the half (the Bills received the ball with 14 seconds left on their own 32, and took a knee) and the game (Buffalo received the ball with just over one minute to go, and ran three times for a first down to run out the clock). Those other ten drives ended as follows, in order: Touchdown, Field Goal, Field Goal, Touchdown, Touchdown, Interception, Field Goal, Touchdown, Touchdown, Punt. That’s 44 points on 10 real drives.

The next week, in the AFC Championship Game against the Raiders, the Bills had 11 or 12 drives, as the final drive of the game featured Buffalo taking a pair of knees to close out a 51-3 victory. The first 11 drives went: TD, TD, Interception, TD, missed FG, TD, TD, Punt, TD, FG, Punt.  That’s 44 points (Buffalo also scored on a pick six, and one extra point was missed) on 11 drives. [click to continue…]

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On Saturday, I noted that Matt Ryan and Tom Brady were the top two quarterbacks in ANY/A in 2016, setting up a rare Super Bowl matchup of the two leaders in that metric. The Falcons and Patriots offenses as a whole also rank 1st and 2nd in ANY/A: Matt Ryan averaged 9.03 ANY/A, and since he handled all but 3 of the Falcons pass attempts this year, you won’t be surprised to know that the Falcons offense averaged 9.01 ANY/A. Brady averaged 8.81 ANY/A, but of course missed four games due to a suspension; the Patriots team ANY/A was 8.46, still good enough for second-best in the NFL.

But as regular readers will remember, the Falcons and Patriots don’t just rank 1-2 in ANY/A; they rank first and second in ANY/A differential, too. Atlanta’s ANY/A differential was 2.70 (9.01 on offense, 6.31 on defense), just a hair ahead of New England (8.46, 5.78, net of 2.68). No other team was within 1 ANY/A of those two, making them the clear best teams in the NFL in ANY/A differential. [click to continue…]

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Best Offensive/Defensive Super Bowl Matchups

Three years ago, I wrote about how the Broncos/Seahawks Super Bowl was going to be the best matchup between offensive and defensive teams in Super Bowl history. This year doesn’t quite match that hype — particularly given that the Patriots defense isn’t as good as you might think, and that New England is actually more of an offensive team than a defensive team. If anything, this Super Bowl should be remembered as a matchup of two great passing attacks, rather than an offensive/defensive showdown.

But if we want to just look at points scored and points allowed, then yeah, this still stands out as a pretty good matchup of the number one scoring team in the NFL (Atlanta) against the number on team in points allowed (New England). The Falcons scored 33.8 points per game this year, while the Patriots allowed just 15.6; that produces a differential of 18.1 (difference due to rounding), which would make this the 5th best “offense/defense showdown” in Super Bowl history: [click to continue…]

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Super Bowl Streaks And Conference Affiliation

The NFL and the Lombardi Packers won the first two Super Bowls. Then, each conference went on a long streak:

  • The AFL/AAFC won 11 of the next 13 Super Bowls (1968-1980): the Jets and Chiefs closed out the AFL with Super Bowl upsets, while the Steelers, Dolphins, and Raiders carried the AFC.
  • Then, from 1981 to 1996, the NFC won 15 of the next 16 Super Bowls, with the 49ers and the NFC East teams (well, not all of them) carrying the conference to 13 of those titles.
  • The balance shifted then to the AFC, as the conference won 8 of the next 10 Super Bowls (1997 to 2006).  The Patriots won three of those, but perhaps most surprising was that the run ending with 18-0 New England losing as heavy favorite to the Giants.

Since then? The NFC went on a mini-run, winning 6 of 8 Super Bowls from 2007 to 2014.   The AFC has responded by winning the last two Super Bowls, and the conference is again a favorite in Super Bowl LI. Here are the results in graphic form, with NFL/NFC wins in blue, and AFL/AFC wins in red: [click to continue…]

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The two leaders in ANY/A in 2016.

Matt Ryan and Tom Brady finished the season ranked 1st and 2nd in the NFL in Adjusted Net Yard per Attempt. How unusual is that?

  • In 1966, Bart Starr led the NFL in ANY/A and was the NFL MVP. Len Dawson led the AFL in ANY/A, and was the AFL’s first-team All-Pro selection at quarterback (running back Jim Nance was the MVP). The Packers and Chiefs met in the Super Bowl, of course, making it one of just two times that the Super Bowl featured two first-team All-Pro choices at quarterback. The other? Super Bowl III, featuring Earl Morrall and Joe Namath).
  • In 1971, Roger Staubach had a historically great season, producing a remarkable 7.81 ANY/A. The runner-up that year was Bob Griese, at 6.35, and no other passer was over 6.00. Those 1971 seasons from Staubach and Griese both ranked in the top 50 in my era-adjusted passer rating seasons, too. Alan Page was the AP MVP choice that year, Staubach won the Bert Bell Award for Player of the Year, and Griese won the third MVP, given by the NEA. So when the Cowboys and Dolphins met in the Super Bowl, it featured two MVP quarterbacks, a feat that could be matched this year. The PFWA has already named Ryan as its MVP, but the AP or the Bert Bell Award could choose Brady, which would give us another set of dueling MVPs.
  • In 1984 Dan Marino was a unanimous MVP (AP, NEA, PFWA, Bert Bell) on the back of a groundbreaking performance. His raw numbers (48 TDs, 5,084 yards) were remarkable, but so was his 8.94 ANY/A average. Joe Montana had a darn good year, too: his 49ers went 15-1 and his 7.93 ANY/A was 1.24 ANY/A better than any quarterback not named Marino. From an ANY/A dominance standpoint, it’s very similar to what Ryan and Brady have done this year.

[click to continue…]

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Today’s guest post/contest comes from Thomas McDermott, a licensed land surveyor in the State of California, a music theory instructor at Loyola Marymount University, and an NFL history enthusiast. As always, we thank him for his hard work. You can view all of his work at Football Perspective here.


I wrote this article last year, when I generated the statistics and then ranked all starting quarterbacks in 2015 based on how well they played in “clutch”1 situations. I used a simple definition: if it occurred in the 4th quarter or overtime, when the game was tied or the quarterback’s team was trailing by as much as one score (8 points), then it was a clutch situation.

The main metric used was Bryan Frye’s Total Adjusted Yards per Play, and today we’ll use the same methodology2 to find the 2016 Clutch Value Leader as well as the single season leaders since 1994. Here’s Bryan’s TAY/P formula, which Chase supports as an all-encompassing basic measure of quarterback performance:

(passing & rushing yards + (touchdowns * 20) – (interceptions * 45) – (fumbles lost * 25) – ( sack yards)) / (pass attempts + rush attempts + sacks)3

The other change I’m making from the previous post, is that I’ll be using a 3-year rolling league average, as opposed to a single year league average, when adjusting for era. Thanks to Bryan (through his great website GridFe) for providing me with that information.

So let’s get to it. Below are the quarterbacks in 2016 who had at least 30 clutch action plays,4 and here’s how to read the table: [click to continue…]

  1. Note that throughout this post, anything that happens within this situation is termed “clutch”; as in “clutch yards”, “clutch plays”, “clutch touchdown”, etc. []
  2. In my post last year, I included a 2-point conversion bonus of 15 yards which I’m going to leave out for now. Besides not really adding much to the study, when I started collecting the data for the single season and career leaders in this metric, I found that the data on 2-point conversions is somewhat spotty before 2005; in fact, in most cases before 1998, the players involved aren’t even mentioned. So, for those of you who read the last post, taking away that conversion bonus means Eli Manning is at the top for 2015 and not Jay Cutler. []
  3. Note that Bryan uses a 25-yard penalty for all fumbles (lost or recovered) while this study uses that penalty for lost fumbles only (which are the only ones being counted here). []
  4. For 2015, I used 24 actions plays as the cutoff, after looking at the numbers more when doing the single-season rankings, 30 seemed more appropriate. []
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Before last year’s Super Bowl, I wrote that Carolina led the NFL in points scored in a unique way. What made the Panthers scoring success so unusual? Most notably were these two facts:

  • Carolina ranked only 11th in yards, the worst-ever ranking for the top-scoring team; and
  • Carolina ranked only 9th in NY/A, the worst-ever ranking for the top-scoring team.

With the Patriots, you may be surprised to learn that while New England finished 1st in points allowed, the defense ranked just 16th in DVOA. There are a few explanations here:

  • The Patriots faced by far the easiest schedule of any defense in the NFL.  New England’s SOS was -7.1%, while Tennessee was 31st at -4.2%, and the Bills were 30th at -3.0%.  The Patriots would be tied for 8th in DVOA if that metric was not adjusted for strength of schedule, which is why the defense falls to 16th with those adjustments.
  • New England had just 11 turnovers, tied with the Falcons for fewest in the league. Combined with a generally good offense, and the average opponent’s drive against New England started inside the 25-yard line, the best in the league. That means the Patriots defense had a lot of turf behind them, making life much easier for the defense.
  • Opposing kickers missed 8 of 29 attempts, including three from within 45 yards.  In addition, the Patriots were 8th in red zone defense and 3rd in goal-to-go defense, which helps the points allowed numbers.

New England’s defense was hardly bad by traditional numbers: the Patriots ranked 8th in total yards allowed, 6th in Net Yards per pass Attempt allowed, and 3rd and 4th in yards per carry allowed and rush defense DVOA.  That’s a good defense, but again, is boosted by the very easy schedule. [click to continue…]

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Beating the Patriots in a Shootout

Can the Falcons beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LI in a shootout?  On some level, the answer is of course.  Atlanta was the highest-scoring team in the regular season, and the Falcons offense has been historically great. And yet, the early returns from the media on how Atlanta can beat New England tend to focus on whether the Falcons defense and pass rush can dominate the game.

That’s not surprising given the post mortem written following the Patriots two Super Bowl losses, and there is no doubt that “getting the better of Brady” has been the m.o. for most teams that have knocked New England out of the playoffs.   So can Atlanta win a 35-31 style game against the Patriots?

In general, the conventional wisdom is true regarding how to beat New England: the Patriots are 19-1 when scoring over 21 points in playoff games since 2001, with the only loss coming in the classic 2006 AFC Championship Game against the Colts.  But there are other exceptions.  There have been 12 games in the Tom Brady era that I would classify as a shootout, which means:

  • Both teams combine for 60+ points;
  • The game is decided by 15 or fewer points; and
  • Both teams combined for 600+ passing yards (which, surprisingly, eliminates the ’06 AFCCG)

The first of those games was Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers; that game, of course, was in fact decided by the last team to have the ball, which was New England. The Patriots are “only” 8-4 in these games, though, which means there may in fact be a blueprint for the Falcons to follow.  Let’s look at those losses and see if they meet the spirit of the question:

  • 2009, SNF at Indianapolis: This was the “4th and 2” game, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Patriots (or Falcons) employed a similarly aggressive tactic in this year’s Super Bowl.  The Patriots led the 9-0 Colts 31-14 early in the 4th quarter, when Peyton Manning kicked it into overdrive.  He led Indianapolis on a 5-play, 79-yard drive for a touchdown; after a Patriots punt, a Manning deep pass was intercepted.  New England responded with a FG to extend the lead to 34-21, but Manning responded with another 79-yard touchdown drive. New England tried to run out the clock, but faced a 4th-and-2 with 2:08 to go at the Patriots own 28.  The idea of giving Manning two minutes while trying to prevent a 6-point lead didn’t sound very good — and it wouldn’t against 2016 Matt Ryan, either — so the Patriots went for it but fell a yard short.  Manning responded with a quick touchdown, and Indianapolis won, 35-34.
  • 2011, week 3, at Buffalo: Yes, the “If Ryan Fitzpatrick can do it” game. Both Brady and Fitzpatrick cleared 350 passing yards, and Buffalo recorded four interceptions, one of which was a pick six. Buffalo had a 95-yard touchdown drive in the 4th quarter, and hit a field goal as time expired for a 34-31 win.
  • 2012, SNF at Baltimore: Another primetime game on the road against a hated rival. This was a back-and-forth game that saw Brady and Joe Flacco combine for over 700 yard through the air.  With 7:29 left in the game, Baltimore had the ball at their own 8, down by 9 points.  The Ravens drove 92 yards for the score, forced a punt, and then hit the game-winning field goal as time expired to steal a 31-30 win.
  • 2012, SNF vs. San Francisco: Yet another primetime game, and this one was a crazy one. The 49ers jumped out to a 31-3 lead, with Randy Moss, Delanie Walker, and Michael Crabtree all pulling in touchdowns.  The Patriots then stormed back with four touchdowns to make it 31-31 in the 4th quarter, before Kaepernick hit Crabtree for another touchdown.  The 49ers iced it with a field goal late, and a last-minute field goal by New England made the final score 41-34.

There are also these 12 regular season games that, for one reason or another, don’t fit the above criteria, but involved New England losing and the opponent scoring over 30 points:

Points
Tm
Year Date Time LTime Opp Week G# Day Result OT PF PA PD PC
NWE 2016 2016-11-13 8:30 SEA 10 9 Sun L 24-31 24 31 -7 55
NWE 2015 2015-12-06 4:25 4:25 PHI 13 12 Sun L 28-35 28 35 -7 63
NWE 2014 2014-09-07 1:03 1:03 @ MIA 1 1 Sun L 20-33 20 33 -13 53
NWE 2014 2014-09-29 8:31 7:31 @ KAN 4 4 Mon L 14-41 14 41 -27 55
NWE 2010 2010-11-07 1:02 1:02 @ CLE 9 8 Sun L 14-34 14 34 -20 48
NWE 2009 2009-11-30 8:40 7:40 @ NOR 12 11 Mon L 17-38 17 38 -21 55
NWE 2009 2010-01-03 1:02 12:02 @ HOU 17 16 Sun L 27-34 27 34 -7 61
NWE 2005 2005-10-02 1:02 1:02 SDG 4 4 Sun L 17-41 17 41 -24 58
NWE 2005 2005-11-07 9:08 9:08 IND 9 8 Mon L 21-40 21 40 -19 61
NWE 2004 2004-10-31 4:15 4:15 @ PIT 8 7 Sun L 20-34 20 34 -14 54
NWE 2003 2003-09-07 1:04 1:04 @ BUF 1 1 Sun L 0-31 0 31 -31 31
NWE 2001 2001-10-28 2:15 2:15 @ DEN 7 7 Sun L 20-31 20 31 -11 51

Do any of those games (or the ones described in more detail above) stick out to you as the right blueprint for Atlanta?  Would you say Atlanta has better odds of winning in a shootout, or in a low-scoring game?

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Would the Atlanta Falcons be the worst franchise to win the Super Bowl? The Falcons have a franchise regular season record of 341-437-6, which translates to a 0.439 winning percentage.

In 51 years, the Falcons have made the playoffs just 13 times. Atlanta didn’t record back-to-back winning seasons as a franchise until Matt Ryan arrived; the team had five straight years with a winning record, but hasn’t had repeated the feat since (next year, perhaps). Atlanta has never led the NFL in offense; it hadn’t led the league in scoring until this year. It only led the league in points allowed one time, the historic ’77 team, but has never finished first in yards allowed.

In short, this is not a good franchise. It may be one of the three worst franchises to ever win a Super Bowl, yet it may still be the best franchise from the NFC South to ever pull off that feat. Here are my rankings of the worst franchises to win a Super Bowl.

5) 2001 Patriots: Sure, it’s easy to think of New England as one of the best franchises in the league. But 15 years ago? Not so much. New England had a 291-328-9 record (0.471), 37 games below .500, when the team won its first Lombardi Trophy. The franchise had been on the rebound from the ugly days of the early ’90s, but the franchise’s history was mostly bad, even when the team was good (see: Super Bowl XX).

4) 1974 Steelers: Another team that used its first Super Bowl victory as the birth of a dynasty. But Pittsburgh was 199-280-19 (0.419) at the conclusion of the 1974 regular season; at 81 games below 0.500, this was a bad franchise. In the ’50s and ’60s, the Steelers had the second most losses of any team in the NFL. That all changed once Chuck Noll came to town, and quickly turned the Steelers into the team of the ’70s.

3) 2016 Falcons, with a win: Atlanta is currently an underdog in Super Bowl LI, but this feels like the appropriate slot for the team. At 96 games below .500 and with a 0.439 winning percentage, this is a bad franchise. Under Rankin Smith, Atlanta went 129-218-5 in the team’s first 24 years of existence, with just one playoff victory. He handed the keys to the organization to his son, Taylor, in 1990; Atlanta won a playoff game in ’91 and then two more in 1998, culminating in the team’s only Super Bowl appearance prior to this year. Still, three playoff wins and an 83-109 record in 12 years wasn’t much better.

The team was sold to Arthur Blank in 2002, and the Falcons have been good under Blank in large part because the team landed Michael Vick and then Matt Ryan.  The Falcons are 129-110-1 in the Blank years, with a 5-6 playoff record. Perhaps most impressive: in 15 years, Atlanta has had a losing season just five times.

2) 2009 Saints: New Orleans was a whopping 103 games below .500 after the 2009 season, courtesy of a 275-378-5 record (0.422).  This was a bad, bad franchise: under founding owner John Mecom Jr., the team went 78-176-5 in 18 years without a single playoff appearance!  Tom Benson took over in 1985, but the Saints didn’t win their first playoff game until 2000!  Entering the ’09 playoffs, the franchise had just two playoff wins, but won three that year to capture the team’s sole Lombardi Trophy.

1) 2002 Bucs: Tampa Bay had a 0.382 winning percentage at the end of the 2002 regular season, and stood at 99 games below 0.500 with a 160-259-1 franchise mark. This team was called the “Yucks” for a reason: from Hugh Culverhouse was the team’s original owner, and the franchise famously lost its first 26 games.  Culverhouse died after 18 years, and Tampa Bay had won just a single playoff game during his time; overall the Bucs were 81-194-1, easily the worst franchise in the NFL over that period.

In 1994, the Bucs went 6-10 without a true owner; the Culverhouse estate sold the team to Malcolm Glazer, who had a pretty nice start.  His first two draft picks were Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, and the team soon turned from laughingstock to contender once Tony Dungy came on board in 1996.  Glazer controversially fired Dungy and traded two first-rounders, two second-rounders, and $8 million for Jon Gruden, but the moved proved to be an immediate (if not necessarily long-term) success: the Bucs won the Super Bowl in ’02, the first year under Gruden.

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Background reading:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V (Career Passer Ratings)

In the interest of making all data available to you, the reader, the table below shows the averages for each professional football league since 1932 in the relevant passing statistics used to calculate passer rating: [click to continue…]

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Through 10 weeks, the Packers were 4-6 with a -29 points differential, 8th-worst in the NFL. If Green Bay wins today, the Packers will become the 5th team to make the Super Bowl after being 2 games below .500 at any point during the season.

  • In 1993, Emmitt Smith famously held out during the first two weeks of the season; Dallas lost both of those games (and a third game in November in which Smith left due to injury after just one carry), beginning the season 0-2.  The Cowboys went on to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
  • In 1996, the Patriots began the season with road losses to Buffalo and Miami.  New England wasn’t a great team that year, but finished 11-5, and a Jaguars upset in Mile High cleared the path for the Patriots to make it to the Super Bowl.
  • Five years later, the Patriots again began the season 0-2, with Drew Bledsoe of course being injured in the second game of the season.  Enter Tom Brady, who won his first game but lost his second, meaning the Patriots were against two games under .500 at 1-3 after four games.  New England, of course, won the franchise’s first Super Bowl that season.
  • In ’07, the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to a Giants team that started the year 0-2 with two losses.  New York allowed 80 points in those games, but it turned out to be a bit of a scheduling issue: those games came against the 13-3 Cowboys and 13-3 Packers, teams the Giants later beat in the playoffs.

The Packers would be a bit of a different case, of course, as 4-6 is different than 0-2 (although I’m not sure which is more “impressive” to come back from).  The latest in a season a Super Bowl team was under .500?  The 1979 Rams were 5-6 after 11 games, which means the Packers would “tie” this record if Green Bay wins today.  What about Super Bowl champions? Well, that would be the ’01 Patriots, at 3-4 after 7 games; so if the Packers win two more games, they would set that record. [click to continue…]

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