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.

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.

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 1987 NFL Rushing Leaders

By Blaidd Drwg

One of the cool things about being a sports card collector is that the cards remind you of things that you have long forgotten. I recently came across a 1988 Topps Rushing Leaders card, highlighting the 1987 season. Did you know that there were only 2 running backs that ran for 1000 yards that year (it was only a 15 game season due to a strike and most players only appeared in 12 games since 3 of them were played with mostly replacement players – about 15 % of the league did cross the picket lines)?

The card that inspired the post - the great Eric Dickerson and the forgotten Charles White.
The card that inspired the post – the great Eric Dickerson and the forgotten Charles White.

The 2 running backs? Eric Dickerson and Charles White.  Charles White led the NFL with just under 1400 yards and Dickerson was second with just under 1300.

The story gets a bit more bizarre – White was actually Dickerson’s backup. Here is how that happened. Dickerson started the season as the Rams #1 RB, with White as his backup. After the 2nd week of the season, most of the players went on strike, but some crossed the picket lines to keep playing. Dickerson stayed away, White crossed the picket line. White became the starter. After an inauspicious debut of 9 carries for 18 yards, White busted out in week 4 with 166 yards vs. the Steelers. Charles White had, up until that point, managed 1 – 100 yard game and just 1400 yards in his 6+ year NFL career. He tore off another 100 yard game in Week 5 and then the strike ended. Dickerson was back for week 6, had about half as many carries as White in the game and then was summarily traded to the Colts. In case you don’t remember 1987, Eric Dickerson was the best RB on the planet, having just run for 1800 yards in 1986 and he was just 27 years old. With Dickerson gone, White retained the starting role and reeled off 5 more 100 yard games. Dickerson in the meantime, got off to a slow start with the Colts, but then managed to average 122 yards a game for the rest of the season to not only finish second in the league in total rushing yards, but to lead the AFC in rushing yards despite having played 3 games less than Curt Warner.

Dickerson would have just 2 more great seasons before turning into a pumpkin at age 30. Charles White would manage just 323 more yards in the NFL, getting hurt early in 1988 and losing his starting job to Greg Bell before retiring.

I Saw It In The Window And I Couldn’t Resist It

by A.J. Coltrane

From ESPN:

Seattle Seahawks jerseys with “FAN” on the name plate and the No. 12 are now the 10th best-selling jersey this season, according to sales on from April 1, 2013, through Feb. 28, 2014.

Thanks in part to a Super Bowl victory, only two jerseys sold better in February on the league’s official online store than the 12th Fan jerseys — those of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. The strong month of sales brought the No. 12 jersey into the No. 10 spot…

(The 3:32 mark for those in a hurry.)

The Least Exciting Play in Football

By Blaidd Drwg

The extra point try is probably the most useless scoring play in professional football. Heck, as a stat, it ranks up there with the save in baseball as the least useful measure of a player’s ability. Kickers have gotten so good at it that there were exactly 5 misses in 1267 attempts last year (seriously, those are the numbers). That translates into a 99.61% success rate. Nobody watches the PAT thinking, “I think we are gonna block this one.” Heck, most teams don’t even put in an effort to block it, which is why you have a whopping 5 unsuccessful attempts last season. How much better have kickers gotten on the PAT? In 1993, the success rate was 96.8%. In 1983 it was 95.2%. In 1973, it was 96.8%. In 1963, it was 95%. You get the idea. It has never exactly been a tough kick, but at least historically there was about a 5% chance of missing it; not so much anymore.

The NFL is toying with the idea of changing how the PAT works. The latest proposal is to move the attempt from the 2 yard line back to the 25, which would make it essentially a 42-43 yard FG attempt. I looked at the success rate for FGs over 40 yards last season and that was only about 83%, so moving the kick back 20 yards will make a difference and probably make the play more exciting.

Kickers however, aren’t so convinced. From

Adam Vinatieri: “I don’t understand the logic: Will it make the game safer for people by moving the extra point back to a 43-yarder?” Vinatieri said. “If anything, players are going to rush harder because they’re thinking, ‘That far of a field goal-type try, we have to go after blocking it more.’

Justin Tucker: “People are trying to phase kickers out of the game. That’s as blunt as I can be about it,”

Jay Feely: “You don’t penalize a baseball closer for being great, you celebrate that,” Feely, 37, told USA Today. “You should do the same thing with kickers. If you’re going to change the extra point rule, I’d rather see you change it and still have it as part of the game than eliminate it.”

I don’t see this as tying to phase kickers out of the game, it is more like the NBA changing the 3 point line and lane rules.  I personally would love to see them just eliminate the PAT kick and only allow a conversion try if a team wants to go for 2. It would probably chop several minutes off the unbearably long snooze fest that I most NFL games. It might make me more likely to pay a bit more attention to the game if they weren’t mostly just guys standing around doing nothing for long stretches between plays.

Cleveland Rocks

By Blaidd Drwg

A little nugget from the “Strange but True” column by Jason Stark on December 30th:

Speaking of Cleveland, the Indians played an April 20 game in which they took a 14-0 lead on the Astros. The Strange But True part involves the local football team, the Browns, who haven’t held a 14-0 lead in any of their past 96 games!

In case you are following at home, that is 6 seasons worth of games. The last time that the Browns had a 14-0 lead on an opponent – December 30, 2007, exactly 6 years to the day that the column ran. It was also the last game of the season and the last time the Browns finished a season with a winning record.

The Super Bowl Winner Will Be…

By Blaidd Drwg

…the Denver Broncos.

Sorry Seahawks fans, you won’t win because of one simple factor – you lack a player from Boston College on your roster. Denver has 1.

Think I am joking? Looking at Super Bowls that have occurred in this century, the team with more former BC Eagles on their roster has won 7 times and lost 4 (there were 2 years in which no BC players appeared on either team’s roster). This is actually how I determine who I root for in the Super Bowl (and the playoffs in general) if the Steelers aren’t playing or the Patriots are playing (can’t root for them as a Steelers fan). It has served me pretty well.

What, you expected some deep statistical analysis?