The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 18, 2013

PiRate Ratings–NFL: September 19-23, 2013

Filed under: Pro Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 1:10 pm

The Continuing Demise Of The Running Game

When I was an adolescent in the 1960’s, the National Football League was a blood and guts proposition.  The successful teams of the decade ran the ball and ran it better than the weaker teams.  In the Eastern Division, Jim Brown led the Cleveland Browns to multiple division flags.  After Brown departed, LeRoy Kelly took over and continued the ground attack that won all three of the NFL’s Century Division titles.

Dallas became a juggernaut in the second half of the decades thanks to a running back corps that included Don Perkins, Dan Reeves, and Walt Garrison.  Even with Dandy Don Meredith at quarterback, passes were kept at a minimum.

In the Western Division, Green Bay was Titletown USA.  The Packers had Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor in the backfield.  Both could deliver the goods when the Packers ran their legendary power sweep.  The Green Bay playbook was full of other running plays that looked at the beginning like the sweep, hitting every hole in the line.  Bart Starr was an excellent quarterback, possibly the equal of Johnny Unitas, but he attempted around 20 passes per game, with a good percentage coming off play-action.

Even though they had what many experts believed to be the best quarterback in NFL history, the Baltimore Colts were a run-first team.  Unitas may have thrown for 6,000 yards playing a 16-game schedule under 2013 rules and philosophies.  The Colts won big when their running game worked, and were just a little above average when they had to pass the ball more than run it.

The teams that passed the ball more than 50% of the time were the ones looking up from the bottom of the standings.  They could not run, so they passed and passed often.  Interception numbers were through the roof as the good teams often picked off more than two per game.  The Bears actually picked off more than three per game in their championship year of 1963.

The so-called pass happy American Football League passed the ball about 40% of the time.  Running still came first.  Stars like Cookie Gilchrist, Paul Lowe, Keith Lincoln, Jim Nance, and Mike Garrett led their teams to the AFL Championship.

Flash forward to 2013.  There are a handful of top running backs that can pile up 100 yards per game, but these players are not wearing Super Bowl jewelry.  Adrian Peterson was unstoppable last year, and he is off to another really good season after two weeks.  His Vikings are 0-2.  Darren McFadden, LeSean McCoy, C. J. Spiller, Chris Johnson, and DeAngelo Williams make up a short list of the best backs in the league.  These five should all top 1,300 rushing yards and could top 1,500.  Their teams aren’t likely to make the playoffs much less advance to the Super Bowl.

Even Houston, with both Arian Foster and Ben Tate capable of topping 1,000 rushing yards this year, the principle offensive weapon is Matt Schaub’s passing arm.  Schaub will top 4,500 passing yards this year, if he stays healthy.  The run serves the Texans like the draw and screen once served all NFL teams.

The road to the Super Bowl travels through the arms of the quarterbacks.  Even with a plethora of dual-threat QBs, the Super Bowl champion has always been one with a prototypical dropback passer.  Sure, Roger Staubach, John Elway, and Terry Bradshaw could run the ball, but they scrambled and did not run the zone read or the option.

Until a team proves it can win any other way, look for a team that passes the ball first and foremost with a prototypical dropback passer to emerge as the Super Bowl Champion.  So, ask yourself, which old-fashioned gunslinger is most likely to announce to the world in early February that he is going to Disneyworld?  Think about Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, and Matt Schaub among a handful of others.  Toss out the new breed of zone read quarterbacks.  This might be the way to win a college title, but we are not onboard with this philosophy.  Quarterbacks will take too much punishment getting banged on play after play by NFL defenders.

Which Brings Up This Idea

How better could a superstar back be utilized today?  Let’s take Chris Johnson, the back with 4.24 speed in the 40 yard dash.  The Titans give him the ball between the tackles about 60% of the time he runs the ball.  Not having much power, he frequently gains less than two yards on these line plunges.  When Vince Young quarterbacked the team, defenses had to assign defenders to stop the possible bootleg away from Johnson, and Johnson rushed for 2,000 yards.  The Titans finished 8-8.

What if Johnson were moved to a slotback and a power runner like Jackie Battle moved to starting running back?  The Titans would run the ball between the tackles with a little more success but with limited breakaway threat.  However, Johnson would force defenses to stretch vertically and open up the intermediate zones for the other receivers.  He would affect the opponent blitz packages, because any mistake in a cover 0 or cover 1 could be a six-point mistake.  Johnson is always a threat to run a stretch play for a 10-20 yard gain, but that play rarely means as much as getting free for a 50-yard pass reception.  He could be a smaller Calvin Johnson.

The Ray Guy Campaign

There is a push to elect Ray Guy to the Hall of Fame as the first enshrined punter.  Guy was a great player at that position.  College football’s top punter wins the Ray Guy Award, so you know he must have been fantastic.  The term “hang-time” became widely known because of Guy’s boots.

Great he was, but he was not the best punter.  The first punter elected to the Hall of Fame should be the best.  In my opinion, three other punters rank ahead of Guy (not counting any still playing or not yet eligible for enshrinement.

Jerrel Wilson was a superior punter for 15 years.  The former Chief led the league in punting average five times with hang-time equal to Guy’s.  He was better at placing the ball inside the 20 yard line, as he perfected the coffin corner kick.  Many of his punts landed inside the opponents’ 10-yard line, where the Chiefs’ vaunted defense forced a return punt.  With quality punt returners, the Chiefs often gained 20 or more yards in the exchange of punts.  Wilson was a little better than Guy, but he still was not the best.

Have you ever heard the name “Bobby Joe Green?”  He punted for the Steelers for a couple seasons and then became the Bears punter for a decade.  Green added something to the punting game that Guy and Wilson could not.  Not only did he punt for a nice fat average, leading the NFL in average six times, his punts were the hardest to field of any punter since.  Green’s punts were a work of art; they came down straight with a tight spiral.  Many times, the Bears benefitted from recovering fumbles in enemy territory as a result of one of Green’s skyrockets.  Additionally, there were punt returners too afraid to try to field his punts, and they let the ball bounce.  Even though the ball bounced the wrong way as often as it bounced in the Bears’ favor, the threat of a punt return was eliminated.

What makes Green’s accomplishments so much better than what they are on a piece of paper is that he played for the Bears when more than half of their games were in weather not advantageous for a punter.  The Bears played their games in Wrigley Field in those days, and the wind did the same thing to a football as it did to a baseball.  In a typical season, five of the seven home games were played in autumn winds.  Now, add an annual trip to Lambeau Field and another to Metropolitan Stadium (Minnesota), where conditions were almost always miserable after October 10.  Games in Cleveland Stadium, Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and Yankee Stadium in New York were often no picnic for a kicking game.

Guy was a terrific punter, but Oakland seldom produced bad conditions for a kicker.  The Raiders always played in San Diego, which has perfect weather for about 99 games out of 100.  Kansas City was no picnic in the Municipal Stadium days (Where Wilson punted for a good bit of his career), but by the time Guy played for the Raiders, the Chiefs had moved into Arrowhead Stadium.  Denver could present awful weather conditions, but the ball flew through the air at the high altitude.

Statistics tell the story about Guy’s handful of games played in harsh weather, as the schedule makers in the 1970’s were very kind to Oakland, giving them most of their potential frigid weather road games in September.  It helped that the Oakland A’s forced the Raiders to begin many seasons with as many as five consecutive road games to start the season.

According to data from Pro Football Reference, in 1974, the Raiders played at Kansas City in December on a day where the temperature was 23 degrees with an 18 mph wind.  He averaged just 37.2 yards per punt on five attempts.  Wilson averaged 40 yards per punt for the Chiefs.

The Raiders played at Pittsburgh in the 1975 AFC Championship Game, where  it was 18 degrees that day with a wind of 18 miles per hour.  In eight attempts, Guy averaged just 37.9 yards per punt.  His counterpart that day, Bobby Walden, averaged 38.5.

Green is definitely the best punter eligible for the Hall of Fame, but in actuality, there already is a punter in Canton, and he was the very best of all time.  Of course, he is also in the HOF for playing another position.  That man is: Sammy Baugh.

Yes, the man considered to be an all-time great quarterback was also the all-time greatest punter.  Think of Baugh as the Babe Ruth of football.  Ruth might have earned a plaque in Cooperstown if he had remained a full-time pitcher.

As a punter, Baugh averaged more than 45 yards per punt for his career.  He holds the all-time best single season average at 51.4 yards per punt in 1940.

A Rare Event

At the time of this publication, the Seattle Seahawks are 20-point favorites over the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Without looking it up, I can remember very few games where a team was favored by 20 or more points.  In their first season in 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on their way to a 0-14 record, were underdogs in every game.  Against a couple of teams, they were 20-point ‘dogs.  They covered one of those games.  I could be wrong, but except for the other game in which they were trounced, I cannot remember another 20-point favorite covering in the last 37 years.  In the largest Super Bowl spread ever, the 1968 Baltimore Colts not only failed to cover against the New York Jets, they lost outright.

Seattle is nearly unbeatable at home, and the Jaguars have scored just 11 points in two weeks, but still 20 points is too much to expect for any NFL team to cover with confidence.  Consider that Seattle must play at Houston next week and at Indianapolis the following week.  Coach Pete Carroll cannot risk keeping his most important players in the game if it gets out of hand.  An injury to Russell Wilson or any of the key personnel with the ‘Hawks up by 24 points in the second half would be catastrophic.  If Seattle leads 28-0 at the half, they might be able to pull starters and still win by more than 20.  However, Jacksonville will not lay down.  Their offense is anemic, but their defense is okay.  NFL teams usually run in cycles where every third or fourth game is an aberration from the previous three or four games.  Seattle has enjoyed two top notch efforts; Jacksonville has suffered through two lousy efforts.  Chances are good that we will see Seattle go through a mediocre day, while Jacksonville plays its best game of the year.  We may not take the Jags as one of our official picks, but we definitely won’t take Seattle either.  We believe Jacksonville +33 is an excellent part of a 13-point teaser.

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

Current NFL PiRate Ratings

N F C

East

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Dallas Cowboys

100.4

102.7

100.4

New York Giants

100.1

100.0

99.0

Washington Redskins

96.2

94.9

95.0

Philadelphia Eagles

96.1

97.2

96.1

 

 

 

 

North

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Green Bay Packers

107.0

106.2

106.6

Chicago Bears

101.5

102.1

101.1

Minnesota Vikings

99.3

97.9

98.4

Detroit Lions

98.9

101.3

99.0

 

 

 

 

South

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Atlanta Falcons

103.1

104.6

102.3

New Orleans Saints

102.3

103.8

102.6

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

98.2

97.6

98.4

Carolina Panthers

98.1

96.9

97.9

 

 

 

 

West

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Seattle Seahawks

108.6

108.8

109.1

San Francisco 49ers

106.7

106.1

106.8

St. Louis Rams

98.6

99.9

98.0

Arizona Cardinals

95.5

98.3

95.5

 

A F C

East

PiRate

Mean

Bias

New England Patriots

105.9

100.8

106.0

Miami Dolphins

100.3

101.2

101.4

New York Jets

97.6

94.5

97.8

Buffalo Bills

96.1

94.7

96.4

 

 

 

 

North

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Cincinnati Bengals

102.8

102.4

102.8

Baltimore Ravens

101.8

100.6

101.3

Pittsburgh Steelers

98.2

96.9

97.6

Cleveland Browns

94.1

94.1

94.2

 

 

 

 

South

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Houston Texans

104.4

104.1

104.6

Tennessee Titans

100.1

99.5

101.0

Indianapolis Colts

98.6

97.6

99.0

Jacksonville Jaguars

88.6

87.9

88.5

 

 

 

 

West

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Denver Broncos

111.2

112.5

111.9

San Diego Chargers

98.8

100.3

99.6

Kansas City Chiefs

98.0

102.3

98.7

Oakland Raiders

92.9

92.3

93.0

This Week’s PiRate Spreads

Home Visitor

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Philadelphia Kansas City

1.1

-2.1

0.4

Baltimore Houston

0.4

-0.5

-0.3

Carolina N Y Giants

0.5

-0.6

1.4

Cincinnati Green Bay

-1.7

-1.3

-1.3

Dallas St. Louis

4.8

5.8

5.4

Miami Atlanta

-0.3

-0.9

1.6

Minnesota Cleveland

7.7

6.3

6.7

N Y Jets Buffalo

4.0

2.3

3.9

New England Tampa Bay

10.7

6.2

10.6

New Orleans Arizona

9.8

8.5

10.1

Pittsburgh Chicago

-0.3

-2.2

-0.5

San Francisco Indianapolis

11.1

11.5

10.8

Seattle Jacksonville

23.5

24.4

24.1

Tennessee San Diego

4.3

2.2

4.4

Washington Detroit

-0.2

-3.9

-1.5

Denver Oakland

21.3

23.2

21.9

 

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: