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Weekend Trivia: Elite Passing Offenses

Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt starts with Yards per Attempt, but is also influenced by things such as sack rate, interception rate, and touchdown rate. There is, arguably, a negative relationship between some of these variables: for example, some quarterbacks deliberately trade interceptions for sacks, so it’s difficult to be excellent in all four metrics.

Since 1950, there have been just seven teams to rank in the top 3 in Y/A, Sack Rate, Touchdown Rate, and Interception Rate in the same season. Can you name them? [click to continue…]

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Teams that select quarterbacks in the first round of the draft generally struggled in the passing department prior year, although not as much as you might think. On average, these teams1 had a Relative ANY/A of -0.71, meaning those teams were 0.71 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt below average. For reference, that’s right about where the 2014 Bears finished, and Chicago ranked 27th in the NFL in ANY/A last year.

There have been 91 teams that have selected a quarterback in the first round of the regular NFL Draft since 1970; the Tampa Bay Bucs are almost certainly going to be the 92nd.2 Every once in awhile, a good passing team will dip its toes into the quarterback waters and select a passer in the first round. Over this time period, there have been eight teams that had a RANY/A of at least +1.0 and then selected a quarterback in the draft.

The 2005 Packers are not that team. In ’04, Green Bay behind Brett Favre had a RANY/A of +1.42, which didn’t stop the franchise from drafting Aaron Rodgers in the first round in the following draft. But there are four other teams that had an even better RANY/A the year before selecting a quarterback in the first round during this period. Can you name the team with the best RANY/A? [click to continue…]

  1. Since 1970, excluding quarterbacks taken in the supplemental draft, and including the 2015 Bucs. []
  2. Note: Kerry Collins, Tim Couch, and David Carr all were drafted by expansion teams in the first round. These examples are being deliberately excluded in this analysis. []
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Weekend Trivia: Two All-Pro Safeties

The last three seasons, Seattle’s Earl Thomas has been named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, among others.  In each of the last two years, his teammate at the safety position, Kam Chancellor, was a second-team honoree from the AP. Last year, Thomas was a runaway selection, while Chancellor was just two votes shy of being a first-team choice (which made up for the joke that was the AP second-team All-Pro safety situation from ’13).

Over the course of football history, there have been several organizations that have awarded All-Pro teams.  Principal among those have been the Associated Press, the Sporting News, the Newspaper Enterprise Association, the Pro Football Writers Association, and Pro Football Weekly.  Can you name the last time that any one of those organizations named two safeties from the same team as first-team All-Pros? [click to continue…]

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Trivia: Receiving Yards with Multiple Franchises

Last year, I asked you about rushing yards with multiple franchises. In light of the trade of Brandon Marshall to the Jets, I thought it would be fun to look at the same question but for receiving yards.

First, I stumbled upon a bit of trivia that caught me by surprise. Only one player has recorded over 5,000 receiving yards with two teams. Some hints: [click to continue…]

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In the comments to this post, Ryan noted that Mike Alstott led the Bucs with 557 receiving yards in 1996, but it was the fewest yards of any player who led his team in receiving yards that season. And in 1997, Karl Williams led Tampa Bay with just 486 receiving yards, also the fewest of any player who led his team in receiving yards that year.

Which made Ryan wonder: why isn’t there a list of the lowest team-leading receiving total across the league for each season? That’s a good question, so I went ahead and generated it for every season since 1950. For example, Jacksonville’s undrafted rookie Allen Hurns led the Jaguars with 677 receiving yards in 2014, but every other team had at least one player with more yards. [click to continue…]

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Trivia: Cleveland Browns and Quarterback Turnover

In 2002, the Browns leading in passing yards was Tim Couch. It was Kelly Holcomb the next year, Jeff Garcia in ’04, Trent Dilfer the next season, and then Charlie Frye in 2006. Then, Derek Anderson led the team in passing yards in back-to-back years! Brady Quinn led the team in passing yards in ’08, and then Colt McCoy was the top quarterback for two years in a row. But we’re back to musical chairs in Cleveland, with Brandon Weeden leading in ’12, Jason Campbell in ’13, and Brian Hoyer last year. In 2015, it looks like either Johnny Manziel or Josh McCown will hold that honor.

That means over this 14-year period, the Browns will have had 12 different quarterbacks lead the team in passing yards. That, as you might suspect, is freakin’ insane, and will set an NFL record. Since Couch led the team in passing yards in ’01, it means that Cleveland has had 11 different quarterbacks lead the team in passing yards over the last 14 years. That’s tied for the record. Which brings us to today’s trivia question: can you name the only other team(s) to have such quarterback turnover?

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Weekend Trivia: Supplemental Draft

Given that the NFL draft and the lead-up to the draft have become so remarkably over-exposed, is there anything about the NFL that is under-exposed at this point? Or at least not over-exposed? Maybe the answer is no, but today’s trivia questions at least look at the hidden part of the draft: the supplemental draft.

After producing Steve Young and Bernie Kosar in the 1980s, the supplemental draft mostly went dead at producing quarterbacks from 1990 until Terrelle Pryor in 2011. Who is the only quarterback that was drafted in the supplemental during that time?

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Just as only one quarterback was selected in the supplemental draft in the 90s, there was only one quarterback chosen in the supplemental draft in the 1970s. Can you name him?

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Since 1950, there have been only 24 seasons where a team’s rushing leader rushed for more yards than its passing leader gained through the air. The last team to accomplish this feat was the 2009 Titans, when Chris Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards. That year, the Titans split the duties at quarterback, with Vince Young throwing for 1,879 yards and Kerry Collins finishing with 1,225.

Can you guess which team had the largest differential?

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Weekend Trivia: Overtime Touchdowns

In 2014, there were five overtime touchdowns: Two of them came from the Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater threw a short pass to Jarius Wright that went for 87 yards against the Jets, while Anthony Barr returned a fumble 27 yards for the winning score against the Bucs. Khiry Robinson also beat Tampa Bay in overtime with an 18-yard touchdown. The final two came from Seattle: Marshawn Lynch rushed for a 6-yarder against the Broncos, and Russell Wilson threw a 35-yarder to Jermaine Kearse to win the NFC Championship against the Packers.

There have been 9 quarterbacks to throw multiple overtime touchdowns, with Wilson being the latest one (he also did so as a rookie against the Bears). Terry Bradshaw is the only quarterback with exactly three such throws, but there is one quarterback to throw four touchdowns in overtime. Can you guess who?

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There's a flag on Brandon Browner

There’s a flag on Brandon Browner

In 2013, Brandon Browner started eight games for the Seattle Seahawks. And while ended the year on the NFL’s suspended list, he still received a ring when Seattle went on to win Super Bowl XLVIII.

Now with the Patriots, Browner could pull off the rare trick of winning back-to-back Super Bowls with different teams. This has been done only four times before in NFL history:

  • Defensive back Derrick Martin played in five games for the Packers in 2010 and 14 for the Giants in 2011. Sure, Martin totalled just 1 interception and 14 tackles during those two years, but it counts!
  • Guard Russ Hochstein was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2001 and played in one game in 2002; he was waived in October and signed by the Patriots a week later. He stayed in New England through 2008, so Hochstein picked up a Super Bowl ring for his cup of coffee with the Bucs and then earned two more the next two seasons in New England. Hochstein was also a freshman with Nebraska in 1997, when the Cornhuskers were named national champions by USA Today and ESPN.
  • The two more famous members of the club pulled off this trick in 1994, as members of the San Francisco 49ers, and in a surrounding year with Dallas Cowboys. One was Deion Sanders, who left Atlanta for San Francisco in 1994, and then San Francisco for Dallas in ’95. The other was Ken Norton, Jr., who spent the first six years of his career with Dallas, and won the Super Bowl in 1992 and 1993. Norton then joined the 49ers in ’94, where he spent the final seven seasons of his career.  Hochstein and Norton are the only two players to win Super Bowls in three consecutive seasons.
  • Norton has been the Seahawks linebackers coach since 2010, so he’s looking to pick up his fifth career ring on Sunday.

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super-bowl-squares-xlixFor the last two years, I’ve written about Super Bowl squares. Well, it’s that time of year again, so here’s your helpful cheat sheet 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 season, because frankly, the extra work isn’t worth it. []
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Madden cover curses don't scare Sherman

Madden cover curses don’t scare Sherman

The Seahawks had three players named to the Associated Press’ first-team All-Pro roster: inside linebacker Bobby Wagner, safety Earl Thomas, and cornerback Richard Sherman. The Patriots had two such players: tight end Rob Gronkowski and cornerback Darrelle Revis.

It is no surprise that Revis and Sherman were named first-team All-Pros. This is the fourth such time Revis has been so honored, while it’s the third straight year for Sherman. Once deflategate goes away,1 I expect the media to realize that hey, the teams with the top two cornerbacks in the NFL are in the Super Bowl! That might be a story worth covering!2 [click to continue…]

  1. Just kidding, that will never happen. []
  2. Of course, with Thomas in Seattle, one could extend the story beyond just the cornerback position to the defensive back grouping. In addition, both Patriots safety Devin McCourty and Seattle’s other safety, Kam Chancellor, received first-team All-Pro votes, with Chancellor actually being just two votes shy of making the first team, and the leading vote-getter on the second team. []
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Probably was picked off

Probably was picked off

I still can’t quite comprehend what happened. Leading 19-7 with less than three minutes remaining, Green Bay somehow lost the NFC Championship Game. It was the most remarkable comeback in conference championship game history since at least 2006, when Peyton Manning and the Colts came back from the dead against the Patriots.

But this game had the added element of Russell Wilson looking like he had no idea what he was doing out there. With four minutes remaining, Wilson had one of the ugliest stat lines in playoff history: he was 8/22 for 75 yards with no touchdowns, four interceptions, and four sacks for 24 yards. He was averaging -4.96 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. It was worse than Ryan Lindley against Carolina, a performance that would rival Kerry Collins in the Super Bowl against the Ravens for worst playoff passing performance ever.

Wilson’s stat line was straight out of a 1976 boxscore featuring a rookie quarterback against the Steelers. Yet, somehow, minutes later, the game would be in overtime. Wilson ended regulation with a still miserable stat line of 11/26 for 129 yards, with 0 touchdowns (to be fair, he did run one in), 4 interceptions, and 4 sacks for -24 yards. That translates to an ANY/A average (which gives a 45-yard penalty for interceptions, and a 20-yard bonus for touchdowns, while penalizing for sacks) of -2.50.

If the Seahawks returned the overtime kickoff for a touchdown, the game would have easily gone down as the worst performance by a playoff-winning quarterback in history. But in overtime, Wilson did his best work: first, he found Doug Baldwin for ten yards. Then, after taking a one-yard sack, he hit Baldwin on 3rd-and-7 for 35 yards. The next play, Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown, and Seattle was headed back to the Super Bowl.

Wilson finished 14/29 for 209 yards, with 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions, and five sacks for -25 yards. That translates to an anemic ANY/A average of +0.71. How does that compare historically? I thought it would be worthwhile to compare the ANY/A average of every winning quarterback in a playoff game to the league average ANY/A that season. So, in 2014, the NFL averaged 6.13 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt per pass. This means Wilson finished 5.42 ANY/A below average. And given that Wilson had 34 dropbacks, it means that Wilson produced -184 Adjusted Net Yards over average. As it turns out, that’s only the … third worst ever by a winning quarterback. [click to continue…]

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The Seahawks have met high expectations this year, thanks to #3

The Seahawks have met high expectations this year, thanks to #3

Nobody is surprised to see the New England Patriots or the Seattle Seahawks hosting games on championship Sunday. The Patriots are in the AFC title game for the 9th time in 14 years — NINE times! That is insane. Only six other teams — the Steelers, 49ers, Cowboys, Raiders, Broncos, and Rams — have been to nine conference championship games since 1970, a feat New England has matched since 2001.

Perhaps even more incredibly: on Sunday, Foxboro will be the site of the AFC title game for the 7th time in 14 years. Since 1970, just two other cities — Pittsburgh and San Francisco — can match that claim. For some perspective, New York has hosted just two conference title games — the Giants in ’86 and ’00.

Oh, and if you’re counting at home, this will also be the fourth straight year with the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Ho hum.

As for Seattle? The Seahawks are the defending champions, and were arguably the top team in football by the end of the 2012 season, too. Seeing Seattle in the NFC Championship Game is no surprise to any football fan.

The Packers and Colts are only slightly more surprising participants. At the start of the season, Green Bay was tied with New Orleans for having the third best odds (behind Seattle and San Francisco) for winning the Super Bowl; the Colts were a distant third behind the Denver/New England tier in the AFC, but still, no other AFC team was as clear a Super Bowl contender after the Broncos and Patriots as Indianapolis. The table below shows the odds (from Bovada) each team was given to winning the Super Bowl at various points in the off-season; the final two columns display what percentage those odds convert to, both before and after adjusting for the vigorish: [click to continue…]

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Manning returns to face his former team

Manning returns to face his former team

Today, Peyton Manning will face off against his former team, the Indianapolis Colts, in a playoff game. This is actually the 3rd time Manning has played in a Colts/Broncos playoff game — Manning is 2-0 — but the first time he is facing his former team in the playoffs. This will be just the 4th time that has happened in NFL history.

In 1960 and 1961, Jack Kemp quarterbacked the Chargers to the AFL Championship Game, ultimately losing both times to the Houston Oilers. Then, in 1964 and 1965, Kemp reached the AFL Championship Game again, only this time, the San Diego Chargers were his opponent! Both times! That’s right, in four of the first six seasons, Kemp started in the AFL title game either for or against the Chargers. And in all four games, San Diego went 0-4, as Kemp’s Bills defeated the Chargers, in both games, on the strength of some dominant Buffalo defenses. San Diego did win the AFL title in 1963, otherwise that would go down as one of the saddest stretches in championship game history. [click to continue…]

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A massively disappointing quarterback and Josh  McCown

A massively disappointing quarterback and Josh McCown

Passer rating is a stupid stat. But my interest in trivia trumps my disdain for passer rating, so let’s move on.

Josh McCown had a passer rating of 109.0 last year, the third best in the NFL in 2013. With one game left in the 2014 season, McCown has a passer rating of 70.5, and he is in a tight three-way race with Geno Smith and Blake Bortles to see who finishes the season with the worst passer rating. Update: McCown had a passer rating of 70.0 in week 17, and finished the year with a 70.5 passer rating. A decline of 38.5 points in a quarterback’s passer rating is enormous, but not unprecedented. In fact, eight other players (minimum 200 pass attempts both years) have seen larger declines:

#8) Daunte Culpepper (2004-2005)

In 2004, Culpepper set an NFL record with 5,123 yards of total offense.  I wrote about Culpepper’s great ’04 season and his subsequent decline at the PFR blog back in 2007, and I maintain that Culpepper was a very underrated quarterback during his time in Minnesota.  In 2004, he finished with a passer rating of 110.9; the next year, his final with the Vikings, he threw 6 touchdowns against 12 interceptions in seven games, before an ACL year ended his season.  He finished with a 72.0 passer rating, representing a 38.9 point drop from his lofty ’04 standard. [click to continue…]

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The Worst Matchups in NFL History

Johnson returns to Nashville

Johnson returns to Nashville

The Jets and the Titans play tomorrow, in a matchup of 2-11 teams that ranks as one of the worst in NFL history. If you’re watching this game, you’re either a diehard fan of both teams or are fascinated by the idea of a Chris Johnson revenge game (which is probably even sadder than being a fan of either team). It’s even worse than the Colts-Jaguars game of a few years ago, when the 2-13 Colts needed a loss in Jacksonville to the 4-11 Jags in order to secure the rights to Andrew Luck. Something similar could be on the line in Tennessee: with the Jets, Bucs, and Titans all 2-11 (not to mention the Jaguars and Raiders), there are three quarterback-needy teams in a draft with two marquee quarterbacks: Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. As a result, the loser of the New York/Tennessee game could ultimately be the long-term winner.

This will be the first matchup of 2-11 teams since a 2008 game between the Rams and Seahawks. That game turned out to be much less exciting for draftniks with the benefit of hindsight: St. Louis selected Jason Smith with the second overall pick, while the Seahawks drafted Aaron Curry fourth overall.

So what’s the worst matchup of teams in NFL history? You can’t use just winning percentage, and it’s hard to compare teams who have played a different number of games. One solution is to add 11 games of .500 ball to each team. For the Jets and Titans, that would make both teams 7.5-16.5, which translates to an adjusted winning percentage of 0.313. That would be tied for the 19th worst game in NFL history.

The worst? There’s a tie there, too, involving a pair of Colts teams a decade apart. In 1981, the 1-14 Colts defeated the 2-13 Patriots. Baltimore had an adjusted (after adding 11 games of .500 play) winning percentage of 0.250, while New England was at 0.288, for an average of 0.269. The win swung the first overall pick to the Patriots and dropped the Colts to second overall, although Kenneth Sims and Johnie Cooks didn’t change the fate of either franchise. Ten years later, the Colts were again 1-14 and were scheduled to play the 2-13 Bucs. The twist here: Tampa Bay had already traded the team’s first round pick in 1992 to Indianapolis in exchange for Chris Chandler in 1990. The Bucs defeated the Colts, and Indianapolis selected Steve Emtman and Quentin Coryatt with the first two picks. Spoiler alert: that didn’t change the fate of the franchise, either. [click to continue…]

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Since 1970, only three teams have finished first in both offensive and defensive ANY/A:

  • The 1996 Packers were the last team to do it. Brett Favre and Antonio Freeman helped the Green Bay offense average 6.5 ANY/A, just ahead of Miami for the league lead. On the other side of the ball, Reggie White and LeRoy Butler guided a dominant Green Bay defense that allowed just 3.1 ANY/A, far ahead of the rest of the NFL (Pittsburgh, at 3.8, was the only other defense that allowed fewer than 4 ANY/A).

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50 Carries/50 Passes in Consecutive Games

In week 10, the Browns blew out the Bengals in the Andy Dalton Thursday Night Implosion game. A less-publicized factoid from that night: Cleveland became the first team in 2014 to record 50 rush attempts in a game. It was a true team effort on the ground, with Terrance West rushing 26 times for 94 yards, Isaiah Crowell going 12 for 41, and even Ben Tate gaining 34 yards on 10 carries. All three players rushed for a touchdown, too, and Brian Hoyer added four carries, bringing the total to 52 runs.

But in week 11, the Browns had 52 pass attempts in a loss to the Texans. As it turns out, calling 50 runs and 50 passes in consecutive weeks is pretty unusual. In fact, it’s only happened eight other times in NFL history.

u mad bro

2012 New England Patriots

Facing Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in week 5, New England dominated the game on the ground. The Patriots at one point led 31-7, allowing Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, Danny Woodhead, and Shane Vereen to combine for 50 carries for a whopping 253 yards (Ridley (28/151/1) shouldered the largest load).

The next week, the Patriots helped bring Richard Sherman into the national spotlight. Tom Brady threw 58 passes as the Patriots lost 24-23 to Seattle.

1994 Pittsburgh Steelers

This was the first great season of the Bill Cowher  era, and you won’t be surprised to learn that Pittsburgh finished 2nd in rush attempts and 1st in rushing yards in 1994.  In the Steelers first playoff game — against Bill Belichick, Nick Saban, and the Cleveland Browns — Pittsburgh rushed 51 times for 238 yards. Barry Foster rushed for 133 yards on 24 carries, Bam Morris produced a very Morris-like stat line of 22/60, and fullback John L. Williams (of Seahawks fame) had two carries for 43 yards and a touchdown. Pittsburgh won comfortably, 29-9, which made what happened next so surprising.

In the AFC Championship Game against the Chargers the following week, Pittsburgh again enjoyed the lead for most of the day (Game Script of +3.9). But there, Foster gained just 47 yards on 20 carries, which led to a very pass-happy offensive approach. Neil O’Donnell finished 32 of 54 for 349 yards and 1 touchdown with no picks and was not sacked. But the Steelers, despite controlling the game and the clock (TOP of 37:13) wound up losing, 17-13.

1987 Cincinnati Bengals

In 1988, the Bengals had rookie Ickey Woods and Pro Bowler James Brooks lead the NFL’s best rushing attack. But in ’87, Woods was dominating at UNLV, while Brooks was still in San Diego. So in week 9 of the ’87 season, when the Bengals rushed 50 times, it was Larry Kinnebrew (27/100/1) and Stanford Jennings (12/91) leading the way, while Boomer Esiason also carried 10 times for 77 yards. The Bengals won in Atlanta that day, 16-10.

The following week against the Steelers, the ground game was not working, and Esiason dropped back an incredible 58 times. Esiason did throw for 409 yards, but took five sacks and was intercepted three times, as the Bengals fell, 30-16.

1986 Detroit Lions

The Lions and Packers were not very good 18 years ago, and staged a forgettable game back in week 6 of the 1986 season. Eric Hipple completed 15 of 19 passes but for only 102 yards. Fortunately for Detroit, the ground game was humming along just fine: Garry James (20/140/1) and James Jones (29/99) carried the day in Green Bay, leading the Lions to a 21-14 victory.

The next week in Anaheim, the Rams jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead; Jones and James would finish the day with just 57 yards on 22 carries. As a result, the game was in Hipple’s hands, and he went 31/50 for 316 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers aren’t bad, but Hipple was sacked twice and threw a pair of picks, including a pick six. Los Angeles threw just 12 passes all day, and held on to win, 14-10.

1985 New York Giants

The NFC East was up for grabs when the 9-5 Giants traveled to Dallas to take on the 9-5 Cowboys. Neither team ran the ball that efficiently, but the Giants went unusually pass-happy. Phil Simms had 55 dropbacks, completing 24 passes and taking five sacks, while throwing for 329 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions (including a pick six).

With the division title gone, New York needed to win in week 16 to make the playoffs. Simms threw just 16 passes, as the Giants rode Joe Morris to the tune of 36 carries for 202 yards and 3 touchdowns. As a team, the Giants rushed 51 times for 292 yards (excluding a pair of Simms kneeldowns), and blew out the Steelers, 28-10.

1984 Seahawks

Heading into the final weekend of the season, the Seahawks and Broncos were both 12-3. The teams squared off in Seattle for AFC West supremacy, just four weeks after Seattle won in Denver, 27-24. Things were different in the rematch: Denver won 31-24 despite John Elway going just 9 of 21 for 148 yards with 4 interceptions. The Seattle running game was ineffective, so Dave Krieg wound up dropping back 54 times, going 30 for 50 for 334 yards, with four sacks, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.

The loss put Seattle in the Wild Card round, and that’s when Ground Chuck took over. The Seahawks rushed 51 times for 204 yards … and completed just four passes! Dan Doornick rushed 29 times for 126 yards, while Krieg was limited to just 12 dropbacks. As you can imagine, the Seahawks defense came to play, shutting out Oakland for most of the game in a 13-7 victory.

1975 New Orleans Saints

In week 10 of the ’75 season, Archie Manning went 25 of 52 for 207 yards with no interceptions and two picks in a 16-6 loss to the 49ers. If you think 52 pass attempts (and four sacks) is a pass-heavy game plan for 1975, you are correct: it was the most pass-happy game of the season.

The next week, New Orleans jumped out to a 16-3 lead against the Browns in Cleveland, which seemed to dictate a change in strategy. Manning finished the day 6 of 10 for 92 yards, while Mike Strachan (21/99) and Alvin Maxson (16/45/2) powered the offense. The Saints finished with 177 rushing yards on 51 carries, but a late Cleveland rally turned it into a 17-16 Browns win.

1961 Houston Oilers

The early AFL Oilers teams were one of history’s great aerial attacks. In 1960, Bill Groman produced a 72/1473/12 stat line in 14 games, George Blanda guided the AFL’s top passing offense, and Houston won the AFL title. The following year, Houston averaged a whopping 36.6 points per game, Blanda threw for 3,330 yards and 36 touchdowns, Groman caught 17 touchdowns, and Charley Hennigan caught 82 passes for 1,746 yards and 12 touchdowns. And Houston again finished the season as the AFL champion.

But the 1961 season didn’t start the way you might think. In the opener against a bad Raiders team, Houston jumped out to a 28-0 lead before the half. As a result, Billy Cannon rushed 22 times for 82 yards, Charley Tolar added 101 yards on 18 carries, and the Oilers finished with 203 yards on the ground on 55 carries.

The next week, Houston lost to San Diego, an outcome the Oilers would avenge in the AFL Championship Game. After a 3-3 first quarter, Houston scored four touchdowns in the second quarter, putting the game out of hand. George Blanda finished 15/29 for 131 yards and 4 picks, while Jacky Lee came in and threw 25 times for 190 yards (with 3 touchdowns and 2 picks) in the second half. A week after rushing 55 times, the Oilers dropped back 57 times in the loss to San Diego.

The real question: why didn’t someone start crunching Game Scripts data in 1961?!

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In Minnesota, Aaron Rodgers and Richard Rodgers combined for an incredible touchdown. No really, take a look (h/t Aaron Nagler): [click to continue…]

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Checkdowns: YPC Differential Leaders

Wilson's rushing prowess has powered Seattle this year

Wilson's rushing prowess has powered Seattle this year

[End of Year update: Seattle finished the season with 2,762 rushing yards on 525 carries, good enough for a 5.26 YPC average. The Seahawks allowed just 1,304 yards on 380 carries, which translates to a 3.43 YPC average. Therefore, the 2014 Seahawks averaged 1.83 more yards per carry than they allowed; that’s the second best differential since the merger, and just a behind the ’63 Browns for the third best since 1950.]

Last season, the Seahawks posted the best ANY/A differential in the NFL. In fact, it was the 9th best ANY/A differential of any team since the merger, and Seattle wound up becoming the 5th team in the top ten in that statistic to win the Super Bowl.

You heard all about Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas and the great Seahawks pass defense, and it’s not as though Russell Wilson was flying under the radar, either. But this year, the Seahawks are recording even more extreme statistics in a different differential stat.

Yards per carry is super overrated: Danny Tuccitto did a nice job revealing that just a couple of days ago. But hey, I love trivia, so let’s move on.

Seattle ranks 1st in the NFL in yards per carry (5.08). Marshawn Lynch is at 4.2 YPC on 132 carries, but it’s Wilson’s 7.6 yards per carry average on 52 carries that sets the Seahawks apart. But the defense — so unstoppable against the pass in 2013 — ranks 1st in this metric, too. Seattle is allowing just 3.19 yards per carry this year; if it holds, that would be the best mark since the 2010 Steelers.

Combine, though, is where the Seahawks really stand out. Seattle has a 1.89 YPC differential, defined as YPC for the offense minus YPC allowed for the defense. How good is that? If it holds, it would be the 2nd best mark since 1950: [click to continue…]

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Checkdowns: Quarterback-Receiver Touchdown Pairings

A good article today from our pal Neil Paine, who asks whether Antonio Gates is the second best tight end in NFL history. I won’t weigh in on that subject, but after catching three touchdowns against the Seahawks on Sunday, Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates have now connected on 63 touchdown passes.

That’s the 10th most in NFL history, and the most by any quarterback/tight end pairing. The table below shows all quarterback-receiver combinations that scored at least 50 touchdown passes, including playoffs (and the AAFC). The final column shows the last year in which the duo scored a touchdown; as you can see, one other active combination is on the list, although Drew Brees and Marques Colston have not connected for a touchdown yet this year. [click to continue…]

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A full one-quarter of all NFL teams have opening day starters who have won a Super Bowl: New England (Tom Brady), Pittsburgh (Ben Roethlisberger), Baltimore (Joe Flacco), Denver (Peyton Manning), New York Giants (Eli Manning), Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers), New Orleans (Drew Brees) and Seattle (Russell Wilson) all sport Super Bowl winning passers.

That’s pretty rare. In 1991, Jeff Hostetler was the only quarterback starting in week 1 who had a Lombardi Trophy on his resume.1 From 1993 to 2012, an average of 4.0 week 1 starters had previously won a title. Having a Super Bowl winning quarterback is nice, but it doesn’t exactly make a team unique. At least not for 2014.

YearWk 1 SB QBsQuarterbacks
20148Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning; Drew Brees; Aaron Rodgers; Joe Flacco; Russell Wilson
20137Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning; Drew Brees; Aaron Rodgers; Joe Flacco
20126Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning; Drew Brees; Aaron Rodgers
20115Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Eli Manning; Drew Brees; Aaron Rodgers
20105Brett Favre; Tom Brady; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning; Drew Brees
20096Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning
20086Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning
20074Brett Favre; Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning
20064Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady; Brad Johnson
20054Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Trent Dilfer; Tom Brady
20044Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady; Brad Johnson
20034Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady; Brad Johnson
20023Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady
20012Brett Favre; Kurt Warner
20003Troy Aikman; Brett Favre; Kurt Warner
19993Troy Aikman; Steve Young; Brett Favre
19984Troy Aikman; Steve Young; Brett Favre; John Elway
19973Troy Aikman; Steve Young; Brett Favre
19962Troy Aikman; Steve Young
19953Jeff Hostetler; Troy Aikman; Steve Young
19943Joe Montana; Jeff Hostetler; Troy Aikman
19936Joe Montana; Jim McMahon; Phil Simms; Jeff Hostetler; Mark Rypien; Troy Aikman
19922Phil Simms; Mark Rypien
19911Jeff Hostetler
19902Joe Montana; Phil Simms
19893Joe Montana; Jim McMahon; Phil Simms
19884Joe Montana; Jim McMahon; Phil Simms; Doug Williams
19872Joe Montana; Phil Simms
19862Joe Montana; Jim McMahon
19853Jim Plunkett; Joe Montana; Joe Theismann
19843Jim Plunkett; Joe Montana; Joe Theismann
19834Ken Stabler; Jim Plunkett; Joe Montana; Joe Theismann
19824Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler; Jim Plunkett; Joe Montana
19813Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler; Jim Plunkett
19803Bob Griese; Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler
19794Roger Staubach; Bob Griese; Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler
19783Roger Staubach; Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler
19775Joe Namath; Roger Staubach; Bob Griese; Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler
19764Joe Namath; Roger Staubach; Bob Griese; Terry Bradshaw
19754Joe Namath; Roger Staubach; Bob Griese; Terry Bradshaw
19744Joe Namath; Len Dawson; Roger Staubach; Bob Griese
19734Joe Namath; Johnny Unitas; Roger Staubach; Bob Griese
19723Joe Namath; Len Dawson; Johnny Unitas
19711Len Dawson
19703Bart Starr; Joe Namath; Len Dawson
19692Bart Starr; Joe Namath
19681Bart Starr
19671Bart Starr
  1. Phil Simms was the team’s backup, Joe Montana missed the entire year with an elbow injury, Doug Williams had retired, Jim McMahon was the backup in Philadelphia, Jim Plunkett and Joe Theismann had long been retired, and that takes us all the way back to 1979. []
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Guest Trivia: High and Low Points Scored In a Season

Some trivia today from longtime commenter Jason Winter. Jason is a former sports blogger (http://jasonwinter.blogspot.com/) who’s shifted his focus to video games (http://jasonwinter.wordpress.com/).

1) In a 16-game regular season, what team has the highest low point total in their games? In other words, this is the only team to score 24 or more points in every game.

Trivia hint 1 Show


Trivia hint 2 Show


Trivia hint 3 Show


Click 'Show' for the Answer Show

2) After reading Jason’s first trivia, I decided to do some digging. Since 1940, only two other teams scored more than 20 points in every game, including the postseason. Both teams were from the ’50s.

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show

[click to continue…]

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Great Offenses and Missing the Playoffs

A common sight on any fall Sunday in the early '00s.

A common sight on any fall Sunday in the early '00s.

From 2002 to 2005, Peyton Manning was the best quarterback in the NFL, at least statistically, by a wide margin. But the #2 quarterback in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt was Trent Green, and there was a wide gap between Green and all other quarterbacks not named Manning.  Over that same period, Tony Gonzalez led all tight ends in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. And the Chiefs rushed for 34 more touchdowns than any other team, in addition to ranking third in rushing yards and fourth in yards per carry.

Kansas City ranked 4th in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt in 2002, 1st in 2003, 3rd in 2004, and 2nd in 2005.  In terms of Adjusted Yards per Carry, the Chiefs were 2nd in 2002, 3rd in 2003, 1st in 2004, and 3rd in 2005. That’s an incredible streak of not just dominance, but balanced dominance. And Kansas City missed the playoffs in three of those four years! (pours one out for Jason Lisk).

On Monday, we looked at some great defenses that missed the playoffs. Today, a look at some of the best offenses to stay home for the winter. And in the last 15 years, the 2002 Chiefs, 2004 Chiefs, and 2005 Chiefs are the only teams to rank in the top five in both ANY/A and AYPC and miss the playoffs.

What other teams since the merger met those criteria? [click to continue…]

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Great Defenses and Missing the Playoffs

Lewis finds out his quarterback is Kyle Boller

Lewis finds out his quarterback is Kyle Boller.

Ten years ago, the teams with three of the four best defenses in football missed the playoffs. The Buffalo Bills ranked 1st in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt allowed and 2nd in Adjusted Yards per Carry allowed. That year, Sam Adams, Takeo Spikes, Terrence McGee, and Nate Clements made the Pro Bowl, while Aaron Schobel had 8 sacks and London Fletcher was London Fletcher but younger. The team ranked 1st in DVOA by a good margin, but finished 9-7, narrowly missing the playoffs.

That year, Baltimore ranked 4th in ANY/A allowed, 3rd in AYPC allowed, and 2nd in DVOA. The Ravens weren’t quite as good on defense as the ’00 or ’06 iterations, but still had Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Chris McAlister, and Ed Reed (not to mention a 37-year-old Deion Sanders). Of course, this was the Ravens team that was one of the most one-sided team in NFL history. Baltimore also finished 9-7 in a year where six AFC teams won double-digit games.

Over in the NFC, Washington’s defense ranked 1st in Adjusted YPC and 3rd in ANY/A in Joe Gibbs’ first season back in D.C. Marcus Washington was the team’s only Pro Bowler, but the defense featured a rookie Sean Taylor, Ryan Clark, Shawn Springs, Antonio Pierce, and Cornelius Griffin. Despite ranking 4th in defensive DVOA, the team won just six games.

So why today are we looking at these three teams, nearly ten years later? It’s not to remind you that Drew Bledsoe, Kyle Boller, and Mark Brunell failed to guide those teams to the playoffs. As it turns out, these are the last three teams to finish in the top five in both ANY/A allowed and AYPC allowed and still miss the playoffs. In fact, since 1970, just nine other teams have managed to pull off that feat.

  • In 2002, Miami ranked 5th in both ANY/A and AYPC allowed, while the Panthers ranked 4th in both categories. Carolina was a year away from a Super Bowl appearance, while the Dolphins were nearing the end of their Jason TaylorZach ThomasSam Madison run.
  • In 1999, a year before The Year, the Ravens ranked 2nd in both metrics but finished just 8-8.
  • You know all about the 1991 Eagles, so of course they are on this list.
  • The 1987 Giants, a year after winning the Super Bowl, still produced a Super Bowl caliber defense behind Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson, and Harry Carson, but the team’s offensive line (3rd most sacks allowed, 2nd worst YPC average) torpedoed the offense.
  • In 1978, a year before nearly carrying the team to the Super Bowl, Lee Roy Selmon and Dave Pear helped Tampa Bay rank 1st in AYPC allowed and 3rd in ANY/A allowed. But a miserable offense led to a losing record in the franchise’s third season.
  • The 1974 Packers ranked 5th in both categories. The defense sent Ted Hendricks, Willie Buchanon, and Ken Ellis to the Pro Bowl, but if you think this is just a thinly-veiled reason to bring up John Hadl, you are a regular reader of this blog.

Since 2004, six teams have ranked 1st or 2nd in AYPC allowed but missed the playoffs. Two of those seasons occurred last year, with the Jets and Cardinals, respectively. The 2006 and 2007 Vikings also join that list, along with the 2007 Ravens (a year after a magnificent season) and the 2010 49ers (a year before a magnificent season).

Having a dominant pass defense is even more likely to send a team to the playoffs. Since 2004, only one team — the 2012 Bears — ranked 1st in ANY/A allowed but missed the playoffs. The 2009 Bills are the only team to rank 2nd in ANY/A allowed and miss the playoffs, while the 2013 Bills, 2010 Chargers, and ’05 Jets are the only teams since ’04 to rank 3rd in ANY/A allowed and still fail to make it to January.

Too Long; Didn’t Read

  • The 2004 season was kind of crazy.
  • Since 2002, 24 teams have ranked in the top five in both pass defense and rush defense; five of those teams missed the playoffs, although the last 16 teams pull off this feat have made the postseason.
  • Of the 36 teams to rank in the top 3 in Adjusted Yards per Carry allowed since 2002, only 19 of those teams made the playoffs. Although it’s worth noting that eight of the 17 teams to miss the playoffs out of this group ranked 20th or worse in ANY/A allowed.
  • 28 of the 36 teams to rank in the top 3 in ANY/A allowed made the playoffs.
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Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy.

I’ve already spent some time this off-season discussing the Rams fantastic front four. Robert Quinn made the Pro Bowl last season, and he’s a good bet to make the trip to Hawaii again this year as long as he stays healthy. Adding Aaron Donald to a line that also has Chris Long and Michael Brockers means St. Louis should have the best 4-3 defensive line in the NFL this year.

The best 3-4 defensive line? That honor probably belongs to the New York Jets. Muhammad Wilkerson made the Pro Bowl last year and would have been a second-team AP All-Pro choice if that organization knew anything about how to create a ballot. The other defensive end, Sheldon Richardson, was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. The nose tackle, Damon Harrison, was easily the top run-stuffing tackle in the NFL last year according to Pro Football Focus, and was PFF’s highest-graded nose tackle overall.  You will probably find this hard to believe, but Rex Ryan has said that he wants to have all three of the Jets starting defensive linemen make the Pro Bowl.

How rare is that? Pretty rare — in fact, a 3-4 line has never sent all three players to the Pro Bowl. But even among 4-3 teams, sending three defensive linemen to Hawaii is a very rare feat. Although you might be surprised about when it last happened.

Trivia hint 1 Show


Trivia hint 2 Show


Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show

What other teams have sent three defensive linemen to the Pro Bowl during the Super Bowl era? [click to continue…]

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The Rams and First Round Linemen

Robert Quinn finds out who the team's offensive coordinator is

Robert Quinn finds out who the team's offensive coordinator is.

Bill Barnwell and Robert Mays do a great job on their NFL podcasts. Yesterday, I listened to their NFC West preview, and it’s just stunning the amount of highly drafted talent the Rams have on both lines. We already know that the Rams have four former first rounders on the team’s starting defensive line, making them the first team since the 2012 Saints to pull off that feat. With Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Michael Brockers, and Aaron Donald, St. Louis has the best defensive line (at least on paper) in the NFL.

But the Rams also have two former first round picks on the offensive line, too, with Jake Long and Greg Robinson, the team’s first overall pick this year.  In fact, consider:

  • St. Louis has three linemen who were first or second overall picks: Long, Long, and Robinson. (Imagine if the Jason Smith pick worked out?)
  • The Rams also have three other linemen drafted in the top fourteen in Quinn, Brockers, and Donald.
  • Add in Rodger Saffold, and seven of the Rams’ starting nine linemen were drafted in the top 33. The exceptions: Scott Wells and Joe Barksdale.

[click to continue…]

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Leading Receivers Trivia

The GOAT

The GOAT.

Roger Craig, 1985.

Terrell Owens, 1999.
Terrell Owens, 2000.
Tim Brown, 2001.

Neil Paine wrote a fantastic post today at 538 about wide receivers competing with their teammates for production. That inspired me to start crunching some numbers. From 1985 to 2003, Jerry Rice played in at least 8 games in 18 different seasons. In fourteen of those seasons — including every year from age 24 through age 36, inclusive — Rice led his team in receiving yards per game. In the other four years, Rice ranked 2nd on his team in receiving yards per game, and usually not far behind the number one man.1 Rice finished his career with a forgettable season in Seattle, where three more players — Darrell Jackson, Koren Robinson, and Bobby Engram — out-gained a 42-year-old Rice in receiving yards per game.

What about Marvin Harrison? He led the Colts in receiving yards per game in nine of his 12 seasons in which he played in at least eight games. In 1997, Sean Dawkins edged a Harrison by 3.3 yards per game. In 2004, Reggie Wayne bested Harrison by six yards per game. And in Harrison’s final year, both Wayne and Dallas Clark outgained Harrison. [click to continue…]

  1. In ’85, Craig averaged 63.5 YPG, while Rice averaged 57.9. In 2000, Rice led the team in receiving yards, but Owens averaged 53.9 yards per game, Rice 51.9. Owens blew Rice out of the water in 2000; in 2001, Brown edged him, 72.8-71.2. []
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Touchdowns in Losses

A fun trivia question from Scott Kacsmar this week:

The most TD passes a QB threw in one season in games he LOST is 25. Name the QB, and if you can, the year.

Here’s the answer:

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show


Who is the career leader in touchdown passes in losses?

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show


Who is the single-season leader in rushing touchdowns in losses?

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show


What about the career leader in rushing touchdowns in losses?

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show


How about the single-season leader in receiving touchdowns in losses?

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show


Finally, what about the career leader? There’s a three-way tie in this category, with 46 touchdown receptions in losses.

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show


The trivia run ends tomorrow, as Andrew Healy has another fun post.

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