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 espn.com:

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?

Useless Super Bowl Trivia

By Blaidd Drwg

Interesting but useless: The top 3 passing games by yardage in Super Bowl history all belong to Kurt Warner, with games of 414 yds (SB 34), 377 yds (SB 43) and 365 yds (SB 36). No one else has topped 360 yards in the history of the game.

Even more interesting is that Warner and Craig Morton are the only 2 QB’s to ever start the SB for 2 different teams (Peyton Manning will be #3). They managed to combine to go 1-4 in those starts (Warner 1-1 with the Rams and o-1 with the Cardinals and Morton 0-1 with both the Cowboys and Broncos). Raise you hand if you had any idea that Craig Morton was the starter for any Cowboys Super Bowl (he started SB 5).

The Stupidity of the Pro Bowl

By Blaidd Drwg

The Pro Bowl is an idiotic game that vaguely resembles football that no one actually cares about – the players, the coaches, the fans, no one. So many players back out of the game that it is usually a bunch of marginally good players playing what amounts to pick up football.

For some reason, the NFL wants to try to make the annual Hawaii vacation game relevant again so they have tried a number of things. Move it to the same city as the Super Bowl – fail (they tried it one year in Miami). Move it before the Super Bowl (instead of after it) – fail. The latest gimmick is to eliminate the conferences and have 2 team captains – Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice, pick the teams. What just looked like schoolyard football now really is just a schoolyard football game.

To make the stupid game even more of a joke, Deion Sanders tweeted this on Monday:

Ladies and Gentlemen I am officially announcing “I WILL SUIT UP IN HAWAII” Please let @JerryRice know that a real captain leads by example!

The game moves to a complete joke if the NFL lets a guy who has not worn a uniform in almost 10 years even set foot on the field during the game. Either way, I won’t be watching it.

The Road to the Super Bowl Runs Through…

By Blaidd Drwg

You hear all about home field advantage in the NFL, and there is definitely an advantage to playing at home, in the regular season. Come playoff time, momentum seems to be more important than playing in your front. I think it becomes exaggerated because the #1 and #2 seeds end up sitting around, doing nothing for a week and lose some of their competitive edge. I decided to take a look at just what kind of impact the bye week had on the top 2 seeds since the NFL went to the 8 team playoff in 2002.

#1 Seed

Game Wins Losses
Divisional Playoff 13 9
Conference Championship 9 4
Super Bowl 2 7

 

#2 Seed

Game Wins Losses
Divisional Playoff 15 7
Conference Championship 5 10
Super Bowl 3 2

 

The results are definitely surprising. The #1 seed has won just 59% of the time in the Divisional Playoff game. Considering that is a team that generally has won better than 75% of its games at home during the season, I would have expected better. The #2 seed wins about 68% of it Divisional Playoff games, which seems about right considering that they get the highest remaining seed for that game (usually the 3 or 4 seed). I suspect that the #1 seed ends up getting the tougher team for their matchup since it seems, especially over the last few seasons, that there is at least one Wild Card team who ends up with a better record than a couple of the division winners.

When you get to the Conference Championship game, it gets a bit interesting. There have been 8 times in the 22 instances that #1 and #2 have squared off in that game, with the #1 seed holding a 5-3 advantage in those games. That makes the results look a bit weird against the other seeds:

  #1 Seed #2 Seed
Vs. 1 or 2 seed 5-3 3-5 (On The Road)
Vs. any other seed 4-1 2-5 (At Home)

 

Basically, if you are the #1 seed and you survive the Divisional Playoff game, you really would rather face anyone other than the #2 seed.

Either way, I would almost be willing to bet that you won’t be seeing a Seattle – Denver (this year’s #1 seeds from their respective conferences) Super Bowl matchup. A battle of #1’s has only happened once in the last 10 seasons – in 2009 when Indy and New Orleans squared off.

The Best QB in the NFL is…

By Blaidd Drwg

In a league where you have Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, would you consider Alex Smith the best QB in the league?

Well apparently Chief’s Offensive Coordinator Doug Pederson does:

“Ultimately, every team has to have a quarterback,” Pederson told The Kansas City Star. “I think we have the best in the league.”

“There are a lot of great ones, but over time, Alex has proven he can get it done,” Pederson told the newspaper. “He’s a sharp guy, he brings a wealth of knowledge, he’s experienced, he’s a proven winner the last couple of years, and he needs a team to embrace him.”

Alex Smith has proven he can “get it done”? Really? The same Alex Smith who has only two seasons in 8 years in the league where he started more than 10 games? The same Alex Smith who proved so inept at running an offense earlier in his career that he has managed to compile a 38-36-1 career record? The same Alex Smith who last season couldn’t win back his job after he got hurt from a guy whom, up until that point had thrown 14 passes in the NFL?

Must be a different Alex Smith we are talking about.

The whole story is here on ESPN.com.

Round One

by A.J. Coltrane

The line is Seahawks by 3, even though they’re the lower seed and they’re playing on the road. The Over/Under is 46. This is exactly the kind of game that I don’t like to gamble on — see the chart below.
  Run Pass Overall
Seahawks Offense 3rd 27th 17th
Redskins Defense 5th 30th 28th
       
Redskins Offense 1st 20th 5th
Seahawks Defense 6th 10th 4th

Both teams prefer to run and have strong run games. Both teams are good at stopping the run. Either one or both teams may be forced to throw more than they’d like, and the game may come down to which quarterback has the better day.

…and to make it more interesting…

Both quarterbacks are rookies, and each has had an efficient season to this point — they’re 3rd and 4th in Quarterback Rating, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. Maybe they’re both capable of a big day. At the very least each will provide a direct-comparison yardstick to use in evaluating the other. To me that’s going to be the most interesting part of watching the game.

This is likely one of those games that the team giving up the fewest turnovers wins.

Which is why I don’t like to gamble on this kind of game. I visualize a lot of cringing happening on Sunday, no matter what outcome you’re rooting for.

—-

For the purposes of silly predictions: I’ll take the Redskins and the 3 points and the Over.

Copout-gate 2012

By Blaidd Drwg

The NFL ref situation is now beyond ridiculous. Everyone knows about the botched calls at the end of the Seahawks-Packers game that resulted in a Seahawks win.

Well, the NFL decided to release a statement about the game, and, in the biggest copout ever, Roger Goodell said this:

While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.

I am fine with that. It was a play that was missed, although I am less likely to excuse the missed call on the interference based on the lousy calls earlier in the 4th quarter, one of which included Sidney Rice doing everything but stabbing Green Bay DB Sam Shields on a pass play and Shields getting called for pass interference.
The travesty is the NFL won’t admit that the refs and the replay officials got the call wrong on the actual interception:

Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.

Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.

I am not really sure which replay the officials were looking at, but there was definitely enough evidence to overturn the call in just about everyone’s opinion. What I suspect this is all really about is the league does not want to give any leverage to the officials that they locked out. By admitting that the replacement refs blew both calls, the locked out officials could use that as leverage in their negotiations.

That being said, I am tired of watching the officials constantly blow calls and get calls wrong, so I won’t be watching another minute of NFL football until the regular refs are back blowing calls weekly.

 

Update: It appears sometime between the time I wrote this and the time I posted it, the regular refs are going to be back at work.

A Terrible Idea

By Blaidd Drwg

Why do I think that this is going to end up being a bad idea for the NFL:

Fans at NFL games this season will get a look under the hood, so to speak — all stadium video boards will show the same replay the lead official is viewing on the sideline video monitor.

I have a feeling 70,000 screaming fans might just provide a bit of influence to the ref’s decision making process. My guess is this does not last the season.

The full story is here.