Monday, October 23, 2006

NFL Stuff (With Whining About Reggie Bush)

A few NFL observations:

Ron Borges makes a good point about NFL defensive statistics: The NFL measures total defense by yards given up, which is a far less telling statistic than the one that matters: Points allowed. By the NFL's reckoning, the Patriots are the thirteenth ranked defense in the NFL. By points allowed, they rate as the fourth best defense.

In three of the next five weeks the Pats will face Minnesota, Indianapolis, and the Bears. The other two weeks will pit them against their division rival the New York Jets and against Green Bay in Lambeau. I suspect by that point much of the NFL picture will have clarified substantially.

My quick take on the Patriots at this point in the season? They are a very good team. Belichick and Brady have adjusted to their much-lamented lack of a go-to receiver by establishing the running game and developing plays and paterns that allow the receivers they have to get open and make catches. The defense is sterling. As the weather turns grim in New England they will only improve, and by the halfway point of the season they will be positioning themselves for bye weeks and home-field advantage.

As of right now, obviously any fair observer has to give the Colts an edge (but talk to me in two weeks when the suspect Colts run defense has to deal with the 1-2 punch of Maroney and Dillon). Denver beat the Patriots, so give them their props as well. Baltimore has a great defense but has difficulty scoring. San Diego is unpredictable and inconsistent, and until Marty gets it done I'm in the camp that says he cannot do it. Pittsburgh is looking increasingly like a one-hit wonder. Cincinnati is dangerous but still does not quite look ready to make the leap. I do not see any team in the league that the Patriots cannot beat. Except, of course, for those Super Bowl-bound Dolphins.

By virtue of its parity (English for "mediocrity") the NFC is more wide open. Chicago is undefeated, so they are doing exactly what they have to do, but they haven't exactly played a ruthless schedule, and while many have observed that their 20-point comeback against Arizona last week showed incredible character, I suppose it is up to me to point out that they were down by twenty to Arizona. Spin that however you want, but Arizona just got waxed by Oakland, and Oakland sucks. New Orleans represents the feel-good story of the year, and no one can begrudge them that, but I suspect that as the season unfolds their weaknesses will come to the fore. They still look like a team that will be playoff bound, however. There are a host of teams in that 4-2/4-3/3-2 range, most of them in the NFC East, which does not have a great team, and might have four pretty bad teams. Of the 4-3 teams, Carolina looks the most dangerous. Seattle has looked very good until they looked very bad yesterday.

Basically what I'm saying is that the NFC stinks, and because of that I have to wonder if even the conference's good teams are not all that good.

One last thing: Could announcers and the so-called experts please stop asserting in their most outraged tones that the Houston Texans made an atrocious decision by choosing Mario Williams over Reggie Bush? It is far too early to draw such a conclusion, some of us are frankly tired of hearing about Reggie Bush's, let's say "whelming" (as in: neither under- nor over-) numbers, which always seem padded with (again "whelming") kickoff return numbers, and it is hardly certain that Bush is going to set the league on fire. Meanwhile, Mario Williams plays a position where it is difficult to make an immediate impact, and in case you have not noticed, Williams actually gets quite a few double teams because the interior defenders for Houston are not threats -- not exactly the treatment accorded to a bust. Maybe offensive coordinators around the league know something the headset-jocks don't. Here is my prediction: If anything, teams will regret not having taken Matt Leinart and Vince Young more than they will regret not taking Reggie Bush, and since Houston has David Carr, who lo and behold is better than anyone thought now that he is not viewing the game from his earhole while lying on his back, they were not really in the market for picking either of the quarterbacks. Enough is enough -- if Houston made the mistake, let's wait for the electrifying (it is mandated in Bush's contract that his slurpers use the word "electric" or some derivation thereof whenever they speak of him) Reggie Bush to have more than a couple of good third-down-back-type-games before we make that judgment. And if Mario Williams is in the league for ten years and Bush blows out his acl on Sunday against Baltimore after Ray Lewis uses him to show his Baltimore teammates how he learned origami in the offseason, let's not pretend that such things cannot be taken into account: Fast but small guys get hurt all the time, and these things can be predicted. Ten years of a speed rushing defensive end is better than three years of a show pony.


Ken said...

It's a good point you make about statistics in the NFL. Have you come across the website Football Outsiders ( That takes the principle that when you get the yards is more important than how many you make, and runs a load of great statistical analyses on how effective the teams are. They can explain it better than I do, though, they being mathematicians and all. But if you're dissatisfied with normal NFL stats, it is well worth a look.

dcat said...

Ken --
Thanks. I don't look at Football Outsiders as much as I should. I am familiar with it, and really should take more time over there. What I like about those guys is that they have done what sabrmetrics types have with basebll. It can be really wonky stuff, and sometimes they overstate the predictive power of some of their more esoterically derived numbers, but the analysis tends to be really good and at least makes you think counterintuitively.

thanks for reading.

GoodLiberal said...

The other story of the draft day was how far Lendale White dropped. As much as everyone is still going on about Reggie, everyone has forgotten about the other USC tailback!

dcat said...

I had White pegged as a late-first round pick. He did not help himself, apparently, by coming across as a bit lazy during the pre-draft season.
Of all of them, the head scratcher really is Leinart. How he dropped as low as he did is befuddling to me. Take away the teams that did not need a quarterback and you still have several questionable decisions early on.
You cannot even begin to assess a draft until a year out, and the best vantage point comes 3-5 years later. This is why it drives me insane when guys get outraged when they do draft day analysis. The Bills took in the first round a couple of guys who had been projected to go far lower and everyone pilloried them for being idiots, as if pre-draft slotting is some magical, sacred thing. If you decide to draft for need (and philosophically lots of guys, myself included, think it is best to go for the best guy on the board) then who cares if the center you have your eyes on is projected top go in the middle of the second roundf but you take him high in the first? He may well not be available when you want him. The arguments where a guy's slot is used against a team that drafts him is so idiotic it makes me want to bang my head against a concrete wall.