Go Patriots! For the next 48 hours.

Sports. Mostly Football.

As a Packers fan, I usually have a difficult time choosing who to cheer for in the Superbowl. You see, we usually make it to the playoffs, and since only two playoff teams make it to the big game, that leaves ten playoff teams who don’t. That means that the disappointment in the Packers loss is still somewhat fresh. A good problem to have, I realize. And if you want to call this a humble brag, it’s OK. I’ll own it.

In years past, I have usually chosen to root for the team that beat the Packers out of the playoffs in the Superbowl. I want to be able to say that the only team that could have beat my team is the NFL champions. That salves my conscience when I cheer for a team that is not my own. It’s imperfect, but I make it work. So by this logic, you would think that I should cheer for the Atlanta Falcons.

Ever since the Patriots were caught cheating to win the first Superbowl by filming the Rams practice, they have been a tainted team everywhere outside Foxboro. They do things unlike any other team in the league and get players to accept less money in exchange for a legitimate chance to win it all, and this attracts a lot of players who have earned their money and are now chasing legacy. I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings about this team. They do things the way I think they should be done. They prepare like no other team. Their players are extremely well coached, allowing them to exceed the sum of their talent. But they have a history of breaking rules. Teams that come to their stadium seem to have problems with their communication equipment on a regular basis.

Enter Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner. His decisions have not been good for the league. He is not consistent in his disciplinary actions, and his inconsistencies don’t seem to follow any logical course of judgment. Over two years ago, the Patriots beat the Colts in the playoffs. No, they decimated the Colts. The final score was 45-7. And after the loss, the Colts complained that the football was underinflated.  Goodell dragged this case, nicknamed “Deflategate” for over a year, and the US Supreme Court almost got involved.

A branch of the US Government was almost brought in to rule on the PSI of a football played in the NFL. Let that sink in for a minute. Roger Goodell allowed this incident to fester for over a year, rather than fine the team and be done with it. Ultimately Tom Brady was forced to miss the first four games of this season as a punishment for the event. The Patriots won three of those four games and then went on a rampage through the remainder of their games, only losing one other game.

The Patriots have been on an unspoken mission. Every team’s goal is to win the Superbowl, but to the Patriots it goes a step beyond other teams. Their goal is not only to win, but to put their embattled quarterback on the stage next to the commissioner. They want to force the commissioner to publicly hand the Lombardi trophy to their team. And they want to force Roger Goodell to announce that Tom Brady is the Superbowl MVP.

And so do I.

Do I really want Tom Brady to win five rings? Do I really want to hear people say that Brady is the GOAT when I would say that Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the league? No. But I did try to jump on the Atlanta Falcon bandwagon and just couldn’t do it. I tried to become a short term Patriot fan and that was hard to maintain. Too much baggage. But my disdain for Roger Goodell is strong enough to want the most uncomfortable result for him. I truly hope to see Goodell hand the MVP trophy to Tom Brady. It would be a fitting end to over two years of his harassment of the Patriots and even more years of spineless ruling over the NFL.

So for the next two days, I am a Patriots fan second. And a Packers fan first. Always a Packers fan first.

Go Patriots!

Career Stats YTD: Aaron Rodgers

Sports. Mostly Football.

Over 12 NFL seasons, Aaron Rodgers has thrown for a total of 257 career touchdown passes, which is an average of 23.4 passing touchdowns per season. His best touchdown passing season came in 2011 when he threw for a total of 45 TDs.

Aaron Rodgers has thrown for a total of 65 career passing interceptions, which is an average of 5.9 intercepted passes per season. His highest intercepted pass season came in 2008 when he threw for a total of 13 interceptions.

NFL Playoff Crystal Ball

Sports. Mostly Football.

18 teams (truly 16) have a chance to play into the postseason. We’re 6 weeks into the 17 week NFL season, with teams playing 16 games plus a bye week, and already half of the teams are playing for next year. 7 teams in the AFC have a chance to make the post season while 11 teams in the NFC still have hope. Let me break it down.

The AFC will be seeded thusly:
1. Patriots
2. Bengals
3. Broncos
4. Colts or Texans. One loses a playoff game on Wildcard Weekend, the other watches from the couch.
5. Jets
6. Steelers

The Patriots are on a run to punish the entire league for deflategate (or ballghazi if you prefer) and give no indication that they will be anything less than stellar by the end of the year. I think Tom Brady wants to make that joke of a commishioner, Roger Goodell, hand the Superbowl MVP trophy to him and every opponent he faces is suffering his wrath. The Broncos are only the third seed because the Colts/Texans have a decent chance of winning their division with a losing record.

The NFC has more competition. Here’s my projection:
1. Packers
2. Falcons
3. Cardinals
4. Winner of the NFC East
5. Panthers
6. Vikings (penciled in)

I have the Giants penciled in to win the NFC East. I’d be surprised if Chip Kelley (Eagles head coach) didn’t have feelers out for a new job now that NFL defenses have figured his offensive scheme out, so they’re out. The Cowboys could catch a spark and overtake the Giants. The Redskins? I just don’t see it.

The 6th spot is a bit tougher. It will end up being (in order of probability) either the Vikings, Seahawks Rams, or 49ers. The Vikings were good last year without Adrian Peterson. Now that he’s in the mix I expect to see them in the playoffs. If they fall, the Rams have a stout defense and a running game, which bodes well for post season play. The Seahawks are kept in my list of teams who have a chance for the same reason. And the 49ers are only in my list of possible wildcard teams because their current record is the same as the Seahawks. My mind says to drop the Seahawks and 49ers from contention, but I’m not ready to do that just yet.

Am I right here? What am I missing? Has the value of DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket already taken a nosedive or are more teams still in it than I am giving credit for?

Fraidy Cat Coaches vs. the 4th Down Bot

Sports. Mostly Football.

Long have I held the position that most football coaches either are on automatic pilot with their situational football decisions or that they make decisions based on what questions they will be asked later and who to either credit or blame for the outcomes. To quote Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game,” which was his response to reporters who questioned his bold decision rather than accept a defeatist move that they would approve of.

Example: if a coach sends in the punt unit when the team is down by 10 in the second quarter, ball at the opponent’s 40 yard line, that’s what’s expected of him. The line “The team is forced to punt” is spoken many times every Sunday by the commentators. I have a newsflash for you.

NOBODY FORCED THE TEAM TO PUNT, BUT THE COACH!

The coach always has a decision to make. They have never been forced to do anything. To say that they were forced to punt is to cover for cowardly decisions based on the common practices of other coaches who are also fearful of the questions the media might ask if they do fail on a bold play, and how that might result in the termination of their positions.

If the punt team takes the field in the first half, nobody asks why. If a coach goes for it on 4th and 1 on the opponents side of the field and they fail to make it, he’ll say something about how the team needs to execute better. Which means that his players didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. That’s coaching from behind.

Let me repeat for you the words of Herm Edwards. “You play to win the game.” You might note that Edwards is no longer a head coach. That’s not because he took too many chances that failed. He was among the more “conservative” play callers out there, with predictable play calling.

I haven’t directly been on Twitter for years. I think I may have sent a message to one guy a few weeks ago through it, but now I’m considering a return, if only for the statistical program that often agrees with me that going for it is often the play that gives you the best return, and indeed makes the most sense. That’s what Twitter is all about, you know. Finding people that agree with you so you can hear more of what you already think. Brilliant. The same holds true for all flavors of social media, by the way. That’s a rant for another time though.

Anyhoo, if you want to expand your football IQ, and if you still use Twitter, considering following  @NYT4thDownBot for some real time opinions that are based solely on scientific data, rather than on a coach’s aversion to scrutiny. You can argue with the robot if you disagree. Heck, you can say nasty things about it’s non-existent mother for all I care. You won’t hurt its feelings. It doesn’t have any. And that allows it to make the most intelligent choices that would revolutionize the game, add excitement, and lead to championships.

Fortune favors the bold. Especially in sports.

Desiring Boldness in the NFL

Sports. Mostly Football.

It’s a new football season, which means a new Tuesday Morning Quarterback season. This year, Gregg Easterbrook can be found at NYTimes.com. Gregg has convinced me that going for a 4th down conversion is the logical move more often than most head coaches will admit, among other unorthodox strategies that have statistical support, but not the support of the “experts.”

You tell ’em, coach. The reason to make any call is to win the game, not to avoid uncomfortable questions from the press. Making fraidy cat decisions my point the blame of a loss at your kicker or the holder or what have you, but they seldom are instrumental in victory. You might win with them, but you just don’t win because of them. Correlation does not equal causation.

In today’s TMQ column, Gregg points out the statistical likelihood of kicking an extra point following a touchdown from the 15 and going for the two point conversion from the 2, both running and passing the ball. To give you a TL;DR on this, going for 2 is successful greater than 50% of the time while kicking for 1 is successful less than 100% of the time. Thus, the expected points a team can come away with are greater if your team goes for it more frequently. So NFL teams ought to just go for it!

While I’m on the subject, the PAT rule in the NFL has removed the surprise factor from the play. It used to be that you could kick for one or go for two, with both plays beginning at the 2 yard line. If you lined up to kick and instead faked the play, you could end up with 2 points against the opposing team’s kicking defense. But now that the 2 point play is known in advance and the 1 point play begins at the 15 yard line, there’s no incentive to fake out the other team and go for it. This should not be so!

So here’s my proposal. If your team lines up at the 15 to kick the extra point, but instead get the ball past the end zone by running or passing it according to standard rules, your team should be rewarded an additional 3 points. So a touchdown plus a successful fake would net you 9 points.

Yes, there are times this would be the only play available toward the end of a game. But think of the excitement this would create! Imagine your starting quarterback serving as the holder for the kicker on a more regular basis so the fake wouldn’t be telegraphed so easily!

What do you think? Is this an idea you could support? Why or why not?