Dominating the AFC Championship Game

By Blaidd Drwg

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook about how the Pats have been to 12 AFC championship game and the Broncos to 9 in the last 3 decades. That is a pretty good run, but it got me thinking, what about Super Bowls? I decided to shrink the window and only look at the last 21 years. Why, you might ask, well, I figured I would be looking at the expansion era in the NFL, which started in 1995 and from 1991-1994, the Buffalo Bills were the AFC representative in the Super Bowl, so 1995 seemed like a good place to start.

So since 1995, there have been 8 AFC teams that have represented the conference:

Team Number Of SB Appearances % of AFC Total
Patriots 7 33%
Steelers 4 19%
Broncos 3 14%
Ravens 2 10%
Colts 2 10%
Raiders 1 5%
Chargers 1 5%
Titans 1 5%


There is a bit of rounding there, but, counting this year because it will be either the Pats or Broncos representing the AFC, the Pats, Broncos and Steelers represent 15 out of the last 22 AFC champions, or 68% of the appearances, with the other 32% represented by the remaining 5 teams on the list, meaning there are 8 AFC teams that have not made the Super Bowl in the last 21 years. What about the NFC you might ask? Well, in the same time period, no NFC team has been to more than 3 (Seattle, GB and the Giants are all at 3) and only 3 teams have been to more than 1 (SF, the Rams and the winner of the  Carolina/Arizona game this weekend). Talk about dominance vs. parity.

So it got me thinking, if the Pats, Steelers and Broncos have been to that many Super Bowls, how have the fared in AFC Championship game appearances? Well those numbers are quite scary:

Team Number of AFC Championship Appearances % of Total Possible Appearances % of Conference Total
Patriots 11 52% 26%
Steelers 8 38% 19%
Colts 5 24% 12%
Broncos 5 24% 12%
Ravens 4 19% 10%
Jets 3 14% 7%
Chargers 2 9% 5%
Titans 2 9% 5%
Raiders 2 9% 5%


The list of teams that have been to the Super Bowl is no less dominating when you factor in the AFC championship game. Heck the only team that has been to the AFC championship game that has not been to the Super Bowl in the last 21 years are the Jets, losing all 3 times they appeared in the conference championship.

So next time someone wants to talk about the “dominance” of the Seahawks, just remember, the last time that the Patriots were NOT in the AFC championship game was 2010 (they lost to the Jets in the divisional round) and the last time they did not make the playoffs was 2008, when Brady was out the entire year and they still finished 11-5 and managed to not make the playoffs because of tie-breakers for their division and the wild card. Actually the last time the Patriots failed to win 10 games was 2002 (they were 9-7) and the last time they didn’t make the playoffs was last century, when they finished 5-11 in 2000, with some coach named Belichick, who was in his first year with the team and that Brady guy was their third string QB, behind Drew Bledsoe and the combination of John Friesz and Michael Bishop.

You won’t find a bigger hater of the Pats than me, but, damn, even I have to concede that is a long time to be that dominant.

Nerf vs Poof — A Comparison

by A.J. Coltrane

I’d been looking for a new “old school” Nerf for a long time. I hadn’t been able to find one because they’re no longer manufactured. This past weekend I knew I’d have some arms willing to test out the new Nerfs, so I purchased the two most likely replacements in advance of some serious throwing around. My elbow is still a little sore four days later.

Pictured below are two new Nerf footballs, as well as what I think is an ancient Nerf knockoff — probably a Poof.


Left-  Nerf N-Sports Weather Blitz All Conditions Football

Center-  Nerf N-Sports Pro Grip Football


Weather Blitz:  The green on the Weather Blitz is actually a semi-hard raised plastic. It’s easy to grip and easy to catch. I found I could get a good spiral on it, though I really had to “snap off” the throws. I found a couple of arm slots that worked, but that was it. It was fun to really get a good tight-spiral throw, though I think it was harder on my elbow than the other two footballs.

Sloppy throws resulted in really “ugly balls”. I didn’t think it was very forgiving — basically All Or Nothing — if my release point was too low the nose of the ball would burrow towards the ground. Additionally, I’d be a little hesitant to play catch using the Weather Blitz with someone young or someone with bad coordination. I’d be worried about hitting them in the nose or eye. It probably would’t hurt them, but I doubt it’d be fun.

All in all though, the ball does “sing” when thrown really well, and that’s really satisfying.

Pro Grip:  Easy to throw. A variety of arm slots and deliveries worked. I could rarely get a perfect spiral, but even the imperfect throws were still pretty good. I found it a little hard to catch because, at least when new, it’s fairly slick. It’s also not very dense, so the ball would tend to try bounce off of my hands. Definitely less like a “real football” than the Weather Blitz, but it was still fun. I would have liked it more if it were a tiny bit heavier and/or denser.

Poof:  Easy to throw, though it needs a good spiral to carry very far into the wind. This is the ball that Amazon reviewers thought was the hardest to put a good spiral on. I didn’t have that hard a time with it personally. I found that it allowed for some really crummy technique and it would still carry ok. Almost any arm slot and release point worked. Maybe they’re now making them with lighter foam than mine has. I like mine, it’s just so old that it will need replacing soon. I may buy a new Poof and try that out too.

Other Stuff:  The Poof is close in size to a regular football. If I remember correctly, it’s also vaguely larger than an “old-school” Nerf. I’m pretty sure that the new Nerfs are somewhat smaller than the “old-school” Nerf, and they’re definitely smaller than I’d prefer.

The gang was fairly evenly divided about which ball they liked best, though all the votes were for one of the two new Nerfs. I think that the Pro Grip is a better ball for smallish kids, and that the Weather Blitz is more for older kids/adults, or for use in windy conditions.

My guess is that the Pro Grip is the one I’ll use more often, just because it’s more forgiving on my arm than the Weather Blitz. I can move my arm slot and release point around more with the Pro Grip, which means I get more play time before my arm bags out.

Ultimately, they’re different and loosely equal — I don’t think you can go wrong either way.


Peyton Manning in one of my favorite SNL sketches:


The Pass-Catching Jimmy Graham

by A.J. Coltrane

You may have heard that the Seahawks traded for “Pro Bowl TE Jimmy Graham”. What that means is that during a game this fall you’ll hear an announcer say something like “Last season Jimmy Graham was 2nd among Tight Ends in receiving yards.”

Categorically ignore those statements. Jimmy Graham isn’t really a Tight End. He lined up wide on 67% of snaps in 2013. He doesn’t block much. During his last salary negotiations an arbitrator ruled that he was a Tight End, but that’s really just because the NFL nomenclature for hybrid Tight End/Wide Receiver pass-catchers hasn’t caught up to reality.

Graham is 6’7″ and 265 pounds. He’s more of the class of Tight Ends that includes Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates — guys who are basically great big basketball players who don’t quite fit in the NBA and aren’t really asked to block like a traditional Tight End. Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson are reasonable comps too.

They’re all just pass-catchers who are matchup nightmares — too big to be covered by a Defensive Back and too fast for a Linebacker.

For fun:

Player Height Weight Nominal Position
Jimmy Graham 6’7” 265 TE
Rob Gronkowski 6’6” 265 TE
Greg Olson 6’5” 253 TE
Antonio Gates 6’4” 255 TE
Tony Gonzalez 6’5” 247 TE
Calvin Johnson 6’5” 236 WR
Andre Johnson 6’3” 230 WR

From there it’s a sliding scale to the big, pure wide receivers like Dez Bryant and Julio Jones at 6’2″, 220 pounds.

Given that Wide Receivers make more money than Tight Ends, the odds are high that the next “Jimmy Graham” insists he’s a Wide Receiver from the get go.


A special shout-out to Harold Carmichael, one of my favorite Wide Receivers of the 70’s and early 80’s. Carmichael played at 6’8″ and 225 pounds. He was a four time Pro Bowler, was named to the NFL’s “70’s All-Decade Team”, and is in the Eagles Hall of Fame. Excellent, fun, and unique player.

NFL Historical Imagery


My High School Teacher Was Right

by A.J. Coltrane

I had a teacher in high school who said that [paraphrasing] “football is only about being fast and big.” That quote has stuck with me all this time..

Yesterday I searched for a graph showing speed vs weight results at the NFL Combine and came up empty. FiveThirtyEight obliged today.


speed vs weight

The image is taken from a twopart piece that documents how the Madden player ratings are created. Unfortunately, Walt Hickey seems to be a complete non-athlete. He can’t throw, kick, or catch. (During tests, he kicked the ball 11 yards, and threw it 20. If you click on part two of the piece you can see his sad “kicking and throwing motions”.) I would have preferred that they at least tested a reasonably competent amateur, like a guy in his 20’s who was nothing special, but good enough to start at linebacker at a medium-sized high school (or something). Anyone closer to average might have provided more informative results.

Still, the articles are an interesting snapshot of the process of how the ratings are assigned.

The graph offers three takeaways:

1.  Note the Quarterback position. (purple) They’re just a little slower and lighter than everyone else.

2.  The offensive and defensive linemen cluster into two groups. The lighter group can run a little bit. The heavier group, not so much.

3.  A regression line wouldn’t wind up quite linear — it tails downward towards the right-hand end. Evidently there’s a limit to how much weight the human body can carry and still retain any mobility.

I didn’t quite believe Mr. Marsh in high school. Now I believe he had a point.

How do I Hate Thee, Let Me Count the Ways

By Blaidd Drwg


Super Bowl 49 is a worst case scenario for me – the two teams I despise the most are playing each other in a game that I couldn’t give a crap about. I figured that I should pick a team to cheer for, but every fiber of my being is telling me I should be rooting for a giant space rock to destroy the stadium with both teams in it.

So, absent the space rock, who do I choose. Let’s figure out which team I hate the least.

Coaches – I cannot stand either Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll. Both will do anything they can do to gain a competitive advantage (i.e. cheat). Belichick has gotten caught taping the opposing team’s play, is suspected in deflate gate, will find some obscure formation that is technically legal to confuse the other team (well, I have to give him credit for that one) and that is just what he has been caught doing. Carroll broke just about every rule at USC and then bailed just as the NCAA was going to come down on him and his entire defensive game plan is to commit offsides, holding and/or pass interference on every play knowing full well that the refs are not going to throw the flag on every play. Think I am just making that one up? Well check out this article. I have the feeling that this is the game that the lets commit a foul is going to come back and bite the Seahawks. Belichick has a tendency to get inside the refs heads so I expect to see one of 2 things – either the Hawks get flagged on 3 consecutive plays and then back off their “style” of play or they keep getting flagged on critical plays. Either way, Belichick is smarter than Carroll, even though I can’t stand either of them, so that gets the Pats a rouge. The score: Pats 1, Hawks 0.

Players – The Seahawks players are a bunch of whiny douces who are basically hated outside of Seattle. Sherman does not know how to stop talking, Lynch acts like a freaking 5 year old with his antics around the media (although he seems to have no problem speaking when he is getting paid for it), the comments about the random drug testing (which I am shocked that none of the players who were tested got nailed for anything, although it was probably their first offenses which don’t get reported), and just the general idiocy of what comes out of their mouths. Quick – name another player on the Patriots besides Brady and Gronkowski. I bet you can’t without looking it up. The Pats get a field goal for just keeping their mouths shut. The score: Pats 4, Hawks 0

Cities – Boston is an historic town that is famous for things like Paul Revere, clam chowder, baked beans and the Standell’s “Dirty Water”. Seattle is famous for Bill Gates, smoked salmon and Nirvana. Boston educates the smartest people in the country and then they all come out here and work for Microsoft. Seattle has the reputation for being rainy and Boston is snows, sometimes a lot. Both cities have a major inferiority complex to a neighbor to the south of them. Having lived in both places for roughly the same amount of time, weather trumps history and gets the Seahawks a quick strike touchdown and the PAT is good. The score: Hawks 7, Pats 4.

Nicknames – the team nicknames are both appropriate for their regions the Pats harkening back to the American revolution and the Hawks representing the plethora of raptors in Washington. The Seahawks get the edge on the better current logo (although the Pats would win for the old Pat the Patriot logo), but I do love that the Pats are referred to as the Flying Elvii on ESPN (with that in mind, tell me the face on the Pats logo does not look like Elvis). The Pats are going to win this one for on simple reason – the Seahawks fly a raptor before every game. That bird is an Augur Hawk. Why does that matter. It is a bird that is found in Africa and is a plains hunter. I find it horrible that a team that is named the Seahawks has a mascot that is a bird from another continent and lives nowhere near water. The Pats score a safety for just sticking with a mascot with a giant, oversized head. The score: Hawks 7, Pats 6

The Bet – every year the governors of the state the teams are from make a bet. This year the Massachusetts governor is betting baked beans against the Washington governor betting…wait for it…calm chowder? See my previous point about the cities. You are going to give a city that is known for clam chowder, clam chowder if they win? Washington is known for a lot of things culinarily – salmon, cherries, apples, hot dogs with cream cheese, but really, chowder? Not that it matters, but the food is going to be donated regardless of the outcome of the game. And what is up with the New Hampshire governor getting involved in the bet? That mess is going to penalize both teams minus 10 points with the Seahawks losing another 5 for the stupidity of sending clam chowder to Boston. The score: Pats -4, Hawks -8.

Fans – the fans are obnoxious, whiny, boorish, and a bunch of band-wagoners. Which team am I referring to? Both of them. Boston sports fans are among the most obnoxious in the world and I am embarrassed most of the time to be around Red Sox fans in other cities. Patriot fans are actually more obnoxious, if that is all possible. Seahawks fans claim the unoriginal 12th man, which they actually stole and currently license from Texas A&M, and are mostly a bunch of band wagoners. How band wagon? They were one of the last NFL teams to not sell out a game (which is really hard to do), the almost failed to sell out a playoff game when they went to the Super Bowl in 2006, there was no season ticket waiting list until 3 years ago and they were actually leaving the game 2 weeks ago when they were down 17-0 to the Packers. Most Seahawks fans couldn’t tell you who the QB was before Russell Wilson let alone who their QB was in 1992. The best thing about Boston fans is that they don’t live in Seattle. The problem is they just never go away since they do travel well. At least Seattle will go back to not giving a crap about the Seahawks once this stretch of them being good is over. I hate sore winners, and that describes both groups of fans. Both sets of fans are annoying to the point of me not being able to stand either of them, so no one gets any points for this. They are both lucky that I didn’t dock them both about 1 million points, so lets say negative 6 TD’s for the Pats and negative 8 for the Hawks. The score, Pats -40, Hawks -56

Intangibles – Usually my playoff cheering hierarchy is determined by A)the steelers are in the playoffs, B)The team with the most Boston College alumni on their roster C) which team I dislike the least. This year, the Steelers got eliminated, neither NE or  SEA have any BC Alums on their roster (although Seattle does have Kevin Pierre-Louis on their IR) and I hate both teams equally. I guess I can award a safety for having a BC Alum on IR, but he is not active, so there is no automatic rooting for the Hawks.

As the horn sounds, the final score is the Pats -40, the Hawks -54.

The conclusion is that I am rooting for the giant space rock first and then, very reluctantly, the Pats. At least with the Pats, I can just ignore all the Pats fans I know Facebook posts. I don’t want to go through another 2 weeks of Seahawks obnoxiousness if they win. My guess, the Pats win this bad boy 23-20. Go Flying Elvii, I think.

Who’s That?

by A.J. Coltrane

Breakfast on Saturday was at the Elliot Bay Brewery on Lake City.  The Mississippi State/Texas A&M game was on the TV.

The MSU quarterback made a pretty throw on the move….

Me:  “Who’s that?”

My Dining Companion:  “Oh no.”


See, everytime I say that phrase it indicates in a new Man Crush. And I never shut up about who I saw. I deposit that thought places like this.

The most recent “Who’s that?” was Colt McCoy (as a Freshman). Earlier “Who’s that?” athletes have included Kevin Garnett and Randall Cunningham.

So… Meet Dak Prescott:

He's basically the same size as the Defensive Lineman(!)
He’s basically the same size as the Defensive Lineman(!)

A little bit of research this morning shows that he’s currently the #13 NFL QB prospect (linked above), and he’s SI’s frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. Prescott is listed at 6’2″, 235 pounds, though he’s likely both shorter and heavier than that. (For comparison, Marshawn Lynch’s listed weight is 215.) From what I saw he throws a nice spiral and has excellent touch and accuracy. I’ve read that his best comp is Tim Tebow, except that Prescott can throw, and he has a nice, over the top motion, rather than Tebow’s mess of a delivery.

Dak Prescott

And then the bartender changed over to the Ohio State game… Which makes MSU appointment viewing soon.

Hence the “Oh no.” from my dining companion. (That, and I won’t shut up about it.)

NFL Playoff Odds

by A.J. Coltrane

From Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight site. NFL playoff odds based on current record:

resized chart

The most interesting thing to me is the huge swings in probability that can take place early in the season — a season can functionally be over after the first three games.

3-0 — 75% playoff odds.

2-1  — 53% playoff odds.

1-2  — 25% playoff odds.

0-3  — 2% playoff odds.

If at any point a team is .500 or below then they’re worse than a coin flip to make the playoffs. Really, a team needs to have at least two more wins than losses to feel reasonably comfortable about their postseason hopes.

I’m guessing there’s going to be a fair amount of freaking out around Seattle if Sunday doesn’t go well for the Seahawks. After seeing this chart I might be a little less inclined to ignore the freakout.

Still, the 1-1 Seahawks are making the playoffs regardless of what happens against the Broncos.


The New ESPN “Odds And Info” Page

by A.J. Coltrane

ESPN has what I think is a new page — “Odds and Info”. It’s on their front page tab right above “Poker”. Clicking through takes you to a page called “Chalk”, which is about as neutral a name as they could have picked so as not to upset the squares.

The funny thing is that when I stumbled onto it yesterday the tab and page were both named “Betting.” Maybe ESPN instantly got complaints?

Two thoughts:

1.  It’s going to continue to get harder to gamble on sports as information becomes more widely available. That process has been going on since the 1980’s — it’s always been a matter knowing more than the general population. Back then a copy of the Sporting News was enough. Not anymore.

2.  On September 5th, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that legalized sports gambling was “inevitable” [ESPN]:

NBA commissioner Adam Silver believes expanded legalized sports betting in the United States is “inevitable,” and the league is open to participating in it.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit on Thursday in New York, Silver said that he understood that cash-strapped states will pursue legalized sports betting and that the NBA can benefit from it.

“It’s inevitable that, if all these states are broke, that there will be legalized sports betting in more states than Nevada,” Silver said, per “We will ultimately participate in that.”

It’s a change in tune for the NBA, which in 2012 joined the NCAA, NFL, MLB and NHL in suing New Jersey over its efforts to bring legalized sports betting to its casinos and race tracks…


“If you have a gentleman’s bet or a small wager on any kind of sports contest, it makes you that much more engaged in it,” Silver said. “That’s where we’re going to see it pay dividends. If people are watching a game and clicking to bet on their smartphones, which is what people are doing in the United Kingdom right now, then it’s much more likely you’re going to stay tuned for a long time.”

More than $3.6 billion was wagered on sports at Nevada sports books in 2013. The American Gaming Association, citing the National Gambling Impact Study, estimates that as much as $380 billion is wagered illegally in the U.S. annually.

Silver seems to think that legally allowing gambling will be good for the NBA, attracting more eyeballs to the telecasts. Given what fantasy football has done for the popularity of the NFL, he may be right. It certainly won’t lead to *fewer* people watching the NBA.

My guess is that ESPN is very quietly trying to get ahead of the curve, or at least not get left behind. Between Silver’s statement, the New Jersey lawsuit, and this new ESPN page, it seems like we’re near a tipping point for legalized sports gambling in the USA.

Something else to help keep me entertained in my retirement!

When Real Life Imitates a Video Game

By Blaidd Drwg

Back in late November, Fresno State was on a roll – they were undefeated and there was talk of a BCS birth. They had just 2 games left, against the then 5-6 San Jose State Spartans, and then the Mountain West Championship game. In case you are not familiar with Fresno State, they run a very high octane offense, finishing 2013 ranked #1 in FBS Passing Yards (at almost 400 a game) and #6 in points scored (at 43 a game). Defense, however was not their strong point and they gave up about 30 points a game.

Rewind back to November 29th and the San Jose State game. San Jose State is another high-powered offense; ranking #6 is Passing and averaging 32 points a game, coupled with a terrible defense (giving up 35). The game had the making of a video game shootout, which it ended up being. Here are the HALFTIME stats for the game:


1st Downs



3rd down efficiency



4th down efficiency



Total Yards









Yards per pass






Rushing Attempts



Yards per rush









Fumbles lost



Interceptions thrown







The score at the half was 42-41 San Jose State. Combined, both teams managed to rack up just over 1000 yards total offense in just 30 minutes of play. Amazingly, every score in the first half was a touchdown and they were all scored by the offense, so that means that Fresno managed to put up 41 points and 469 yards in just 11 and half minutes of holding the ball. SJSU eventually pulled away and won the game 62-52, ruining Fresno’s BCS hopes, and the teams managed “just” 376 yards of combined offense the rest of the way.

Some other game tidbits:

  • Three of the 4 punts in the game occurred in the first half
  • Neither team started any drive in their opponent’s territory until the last drive of the game when SJSU recovered an onside kick at the Fresno 46 and ran the clock out.
  • The first half had only one drive lasting more than 3 minutes – a 7 play, 77 yard drive by SJSU that took 3:27.
  • Fresno State only had 1 receiver reach 100 yards despite having 516 team passing yards (SJSU had 3 guys reach that total)

It is fun when an actual football game plays out like a video game one.