As a result, NFL teams are 0-6 this year in games played the week after facing Seattle. Surely this is because of the physical style employed by the Seahawks, and not a quirky stat aided by the fact that four of those games came against the 49ers and Colts. Carolina nearly ended this streak before it began, but was too bruised up to prevent EJ Manuel from finding Steve Johnson alone in the end zone with six seconds left, giving the Bills a 24-23 win. And while at first glance, the Colts loss in San Diego is your classic let-down/look-ahead sandwich (after beating Seattle in week 5 and getting ready for the Peyton Manning return in week 7), the truth is, Indianapolis was just incapable of mustering the physical temerity necessary to beat the rugged Chargers.
Seattle beat the Cardinals in week seven, but the circumstances ensure that this streak will continue to be discussed. If Arizona loses to Atlanta in week eight, that would run the record to 0-7; if the Cardinals win, well, they had an extra three days of rest, so teams would still be winless in games on normal rest after playing the punishing Seahawks.
The “record” for worst record by teams after playing Team X the prior week is 1-13, with the ’97 Packers being Team X. The lone win came when the Vikings, after losing in Green Bay in week four, rebounded to overcome Ty Detmer and the Eagles in week five. You might think there’s something legitimate here — after all, the Packers had Brett Favre, Reggie White, and were the defending Super Bowl champions. Perhaps teams were so “up” to play Green Bay that they were very prone to let downs the following weeks. I’m not convinced.
The table below shows the best teams since 1970 in terms of lowest winning percentage by their opponents in the following week.1 Generally, the list features good teams, but some bad ones are on the list, too. Just so we’re clear, that Packers line reads as follow: teams were 1-13-0 in games played the week after playing Green Bay, a 0.071 winning percentage. Meanwhile, the Packers went 13-3-0 in 1997, giving them a 0.813 winning percentage.
There are some physical teams on the list, notably the ’74 Steelers. On the other hand, from ’72 to ’79, excluding 1974, teams were 46-49-2 the week after playing Pittsburgh. But perhaps the most relevant thing to do would be to look at teams who have matched the 2013 Seahawks; that is, teams who saw their most recent opponents go 0-6 in their next game through seven weeks. There have been 15 such teams: on average, after going 0-6 after facing Team X through seven weeks, they won 43% of their next games after facing Team X the rest of the season.
Are the 7-0 Chiefs The Best Team In The NFL?
With the Broncos losing in Indianapolis on Sunday Night, the Chiefs are now the last undefeated team in the NFL. But in PFR’s Simple Rating System, the Seahawks, Broncos, Colts, and 49ers are ahead of the Chiefs, and even the Saints are rated 0.1 point higher.2 Of course, the SRS is simply the sum of a team’s margin of victory and strength of schedule. And since the Chiefs are a defensive team, perhaps they’re being undervalued by using MOV?
Well, you might be surprised to learn that Kansas City ranks second in margin of victory behind the Broncos. The real issue is the Chiefs’ strength of schedule, which ranks 32nd in the SRS. That got me to thinking: what if we removed margin of victory from the formula, and just calculated some Elo-style SRS ratings where we mandate that each win is a one-point win, and each loss is a one-point loss? You get the following standings, calculated prior to Monday Night Football:
So how does 7-0 KC rank behind 6-1 Seattle in a system that only considers wins and losses and strength of schedule? The Chiefs get 1.1 points for beating the Cowboys and Titans, 0.8 points for beating Houston and Oakland, 0.7 points for defeating the Eagles, and then just 0.3 points and 0.1 points for wins against the Jaguars and the Giants.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks score 1.6 points for a win against a 49ers team that is 0.6 points better than average in this metric, along with the same 1.1 and 0.8 points against the Titans and Texans, 0.9 points for beating the Cardinals, and 0.8 points for beating the Panthers. Losing to the Colts is only worth -0.4 points. As a result, Seattle edges Kansas City for the top SRS score in a “pure wins” system. I don’t think this sort of margin-of-victory-agnostic system has many uses, but if you’re one of those people who “only wants to look at wins and losses”, well, this gets you to that same place but at least incorporates strength of schedule.
I have my doubts about Alex Smith and the Chiefs, but that’s only when comparing them to the best teams in the league. This has been a magical year for Kansas City (and Mizzou, thanks to that witch Lisk), and Chiefs fans should be ecstatic. They’re the subject of my New York Times article this week, so I’ll put off any further discussion about them until tomorrow.
Conservative Rex Ryan
Give Rex Ryan credit for a defense that limited Tom Brady to just 3.2 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, forced four three-and-outs, and produced a game-changing pick six against a quarterback who never throws them. The Patriots received the ball at the start of overtime, and after a 16-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski, the Jets forced three straight incompletions and a punt. From there, though, Rex was much more lucky than good. The New England punt preceded the following game-winning drive:
|1||10||NYJ 20||Chris Ivory up the middle for 4 yards (tackle by Brandon Spikes)|
|2||6||NYJ 24||Geno Smith pass complete short right to David Nelson for 12 yards (tackle by Logan Ryan)|
|1||10||NYJ 36||Chris Ivory right tackle for 6 yards (tackle by Joe Vellano)|
|2||4||NYJ 42||Tommy Bohanon right guard for 3 yards (tackle by Rob Ninkovich)|
|3||1||NYJ 45||Chris Ivory left tackle for 3 yards (tackle by Chandler Jones)|
|1||10||NYJ 48||Chris Ivory right end for 8 yards (tackle by Devin McCourty)|
|2||2||NWE 44||Chris Ivory right guard for 3 yards (tackle by Jamie Collins)|
|1||10||NWE 41||Chris Ivory right tackle for 1 yard (tackle by Rob Ninkovich and Jamie Collins)|
|2||9||NWE 40||Tommy Bohanon up the middle for 4 yards (tackle by Jamie Collins)|
|3||5||NWE 36||Chris Ivory up the middle for -2 yards (tackle by Chandler Jones)|
|4||7||NWE 38||Nick Folk 56 yard field goal no good. Penalty on Chris Jones: Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards (no play)|
|1||10||NWE 23||Chris Ivory up the middle for 2 yards (tackle by Steve Gregory)|
|2||8||NWE 21||Chris Ivory right end for -2 yards (tackle by Brandon Spikes)|
|3||10||NWE 23||Geno Smith up the middle for -1 yards (tackle by Marcus Forston)|
|4||11||NWE 24||Nick Folk 42 yard field goal good|
Few coaches are as conservative as Ryan generally, but he’s particularly conservative at the end of games. On top of that, his risk-averse nature has been buoyed by the great season kicker Nick Folk is having. Folk is now 16-16 this season, and hit two game-winning field goals to turn losses into wins in the season’s first six weeks. On opening day, he hit a 48-yarder with 15 seconds left to give the Jets an 18-17 win against Tampa Bay. Then on Monday Night Football, Folk hit a 43-yarder as time expired to give New York a 30-28 win in Atlanta.
By the time the Jets had 1st-and-10 from the Patriots 41-yard line, New York had already picked up two first downs on the ground on that drive. Is it Tuesday morning coaching to say that from there, Ryan shouldn’t have stuck with the ground game? Perhaps. In a vacuum, none of the calls were terrible: running on 1st down seems reasonable, but Ivory gained just one yard. You might question running on 2nd-and-9, but Bohanon picked up four yards. On 3rd-and-5 from the 36, maybe the thought process is just picking up a couple of yards would be extremely valuable for Folk, and it just so happened that Ivory was tackled for a two-yard loss. But Ryan coached as conservatively as possible in that situation, and it nearly backfired.
At that point, sending Folk out there for a 56-yard field goal was probably the wrong call; no one likes to punt from the 38-yard line in overtime, but that was likely the best option. All told, the final Jets drive had 12 running plays and just one pass. Geno Smith may be a rookie quarterback, but he has a league-leading four game-winning drives this season. It appears that Ryan has successfully reprogrammed offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, but for my money, the Jets were way too conservative at the end of overtime against the Patriots. Settling for a 53-56 yard field goal is insane as a strategy; Ryan was extremely fortunate that the post-game narrative wasn’t how his “playing not to lose” coaching style cost the team the game.