Picking the Super bowl is an art form. You can't just come out and make a pick, be wrong, and let everyone ridicule you. Uoi need to leave yourself that appropriate amount of wiggle room to cover your ass when people point out what an idiot you are. So I'm trying to keep that in mind. Let's breakdown the matchups:

Brady has a slightly higher BCR, so I'm already going to like the guy who leads in my invented stat of doom. But he also gets lots of credits on the experience and inangible ratings and all that crap. Brady's a good QB, he doesn't make lots of mistakes, and his greatest asset is that he's a smart player who always plays within himself. He just doesn't ever seem to get rattled. But when did he become Hoe Montana? did I miss a meeting or something? Have we forgotten how gneuinely great Montana is that we'll compare a mediocre QB with a winning record to him? Montana is top ten in just about any statistical category you can think of. He averaged 7.5 yards per pass over his entire career, Brady's at 6.9 in this, his best year. Only twice did Montana ever have a year that bad: his first season as a starter and his last. I ppreciate trying to hype Brady up, and he is a good player, but he's not Joe Montana. He's not even close.

Both teams feature 1-2 punches at running back, with one key difference. Carolina has two good backs, New England has none. I'm sorry, they don't have a single back who rushes at a league average yards per carry. I'm not sure if that's the runners or the line, but it doesn't really matter. The Patriots' running game is awful.

14.9 ppg VS. 19.0. Those are both serious numbers, posted by serious defenses, but the Patriots defense is a good four points better per game. Now here's the key, both teams allow almost identical yards per game, but the Patriots keep the points off the board. why, you ask?

I keep saying this, but the Patriots have one of the best special teams in NFL history. Walter and Sauerbraun are complete opposites. Sauerbraun can punt the hell out of the ball. He gets great distance, and averages 44 yards per punt to Walter's 37. By traditional measures, he's the better punter. Of course, that ignores directional punting, where Walter is king. 26 punts inside the 20 to 3 touchbacks. The "superior" Sauerbraun? 23 to 9. Both teams have excellent kickers, even if Vinatieri doesn't have much leg. However, once again, this game will be decided by the ultimate realm of the coach: special teams.

And it's how the Patriots will win again. Field position, field position, field position.
The pick: Patriots 16, Panthers 12
posted by Poseur 1/30/2004 01:29:00 PM


Safin... again

Safin beat his fourth straight American en route to the Australian Open final. Agassi, like Roddick before him, went down in five furious sets. Forget about saying nasty things about the French, what about re-igniting some Russia paranoia? The Russian has now beaten Martin in five, Blake in four, Roddick in five, and Agassi in five. It hasn't been easy, but the 2002 runner-up (and 2000 champ) is back in the finals. Unfotunately, there are no Americans left for him to beat.

Oh, the women? Belgian final again. Remember the Williams sisters? Move over, and make space for Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne.
posted by Poseur 1/29/2004 01:33:00 PM

Heatley returns

And if that is so, then Wednesday's game was a significant moment for a young man with a terrible burden, a young man named Dany Heatley who honored a fallen friend in the only way he knows, perhaps in the finest way there is, by playing the game they both loved.

"I just think of him all the time," Heatley said after he logged 22:55 in his first game after the Sept. 29 accident that cost Dan Snyder his life. "The perfect teammate. That's what I take most from him."

Earlier in the day Heatley spoke to Snyder's family and they, as they have from the outset, wished him well.

Heatley made a stupid mistake, and ended up killing his friend and almost throwing his entire life away. It's tough for him to try and start things over, carrying around that sort of guilt. But if Snyder's family forgives Heatley, so should we all. He continues the difficult work of putting his life back together, which is both sad and admirable.

posted by Poseur 1/29/2004 01:25:00 PM


Hey, some stats!

For the long document, here's my work:

nfl stats.xls

OK, let's get to it. First, the BCR leaders:
McNair 7.893
Manning 7.432
Green 7.199
Culpepper 6.809
Plummer 6.737

League average was 5.559. To review, this is modified yards per attempt. So, every time McNair drops back to pass, he's worth about 7.893 yards to his team. That's terrific. Actually, the only BCR better since I started tracking is Kurt Warner's 2000 season at 8.213. The real surprise on this list is Jake Plummer, who hasn't exactly been a real superstar back in the pocket. In the three previous seasons, he's averaged a BCR of 4.792, and only once cracked above league average at about 5.8 in 2001. Either he's completely reinvented himself in Denver, or this is a fluke. Probably a combination of the two. Escaping Arizona always helps, as does getting a running back like Portisto take the pressure off, but this is a one-year spike, like Kerry Collins last year. I can't believe he improved this much in just one year.

The losers? Here's where it gets fun.
Holcomb 4.183
Brees 4.111
Harrington 4.059
Boller 3.934
Stewart 3.377

Kordell's on a different plane of awful. He shouldn't even qualify. Ryan Leaf had a better BCR in his last year, David Carr's was better last year despite getting sacked 76 times for 411 yards (those count as pass attempts and passing yards). The only one worse was Akili Smith in 2000. How is Kordell still in the league? He's gone from a 5.89 to a 5.47 to a 3.38. U-G-L-Y.

Boller's shown nothing. He's inaccurate, throws more picks than touchdowns, and doesn't get big gains when he does complete the ball. His only positive is he doesn't get sacked that much, but he got sacked more often than Anthony Wright. I was critical of his drafting by the Ravens and he's shown nothing to convince me otherwise. Brees is regressing, Harrington improving. Holcomb's on his way out anyway. But if any of these guys show up near thispart of the list next year, it's time to cut bait.

We also have the OLINE numbers. The best:
Green Bay 323.512
San Diego 265.338
Denver 218.121
Kansas City 179.28
San Fran 147.511

Three of the top five made the playoffs, but only the Chiefs are considered a real offensive force. Actually, Green Bay is far and away the best unit, the only team to score one standard deviation better than league average in both run and pass blocking. Suprisingly, KC's run-blocking score was much lower than their pass-blocking. Even more suprising.. the #6 team? Detroit.

The losers:
Houston -129.267
St. Louis -133.44
Pittsburgh -234.647
Buffalo -237.226
Arizona -242.855

BTW, by definition, 0 is the league average. No units hit the double-whammy of suckitude, though Arizona and Buffalo came close. Bad offensive lines absolutely kill teams, but let's give Houston credit. they were literally off the scale last season due to allowing 17.2 sacks per 100 attempts, and unfathomable display of ineptitude. This year, they're at 8.2. Still bad, but within the respectable limits of bad.

The big stat is that New England shows up as one of the worst running teams in the league, averaging 3.397 yards per carry. Only Pittsburgh and Tennessee scored lower. They are above average at pass-blocking, so the o-line's not a real liability, but it didn't score that well.

posted by Poseur 1/28/2004 01:52:00 PM

Swallowing the whistle
via Salon

Here's the gist of things:

There’s no question that during the past four seasons, the officials have called fewer penalties during the postseason than they did during the regular season, even when we examine only playoff teams. Now, it’s possible that there is a completely legitimate reason for fewer penalties being called in the playoffs than in the regular season. I’m certainly not suggesting that the officials should call a bunch of penalties in the Super Bowl to make things even. Maybe teams are more cautious and really do commit fewer penalties. But it’s clear that fewer flags fly during the playoffs than during the regular season, and the league’s officials ought to give us an explanation.

It's a "well, duh" moment, but sometimes what we believe to be true actually isn't... such as clutch hitting. But that's another post. The refs are swallowing their whistles in the playoffs, and it's not just because the teams are good, it's because the refs just allow stuff to go on. As King Kaufman points out in Salon, the Patriots actually gameplanned for losser officiating.

I understand refs shouldn't decide the gae, but call it like it is. Be fair, that's all we ask.

posted by Poseur 1/28/2004 01:24:00 PM

Majerus to quit, hopefully diet

Utah men’s basketball coach Rick Majerus has been hospitalized with heart problems and will resign at the end of the season, the university announced Wednesday.
Majerus, 55, was hospitalized Tuesday night at the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Cottage Hospital with heart problems. He was having dinner in Utah when he began having chest pains that grew in severity, the school said.
Majerus contacted a cardiologist in Santa Barbara, and later flew there to start treatment. His condition was not immediately released Wednesday.
‘‘He’s stepping down, definitely, at the end of the season,’’ Mike Lageschulte, associate sports information director, told The Associate Press. ‘‘If he’s doing better and can come back he will, but right now he definitely won’t coach beyond this year.’’

I really like Majerus, but he really needs to take care of himself and fast or he's gonna be dead real soon. There's no reason to keep coaching, and it's doubtful the Utes will ever reach the heights Majerus took them to ever again. They will be a bubble team this year, and his career might end with an NIT bid and not theannual trek to the Big Dance.

posted by Poseur 1/28/2004 01:18:00 PM


Caps owner attacks a fan

I like Ted Leonsis. He spends money, tries whatever he can to get fans to show up, and makes himself available not only to the media, but the Caps fanbase. If you send him and email, he will reply. And not some form letter, an actual reply. Without a doubt, he's the best owner in the Baltimore/DC area and it's a real shame his team sucks so much. Because I really want him to be successful, and not just because I'm a Caps fan.

So he shouldn't have attacked the guy. Never, ever, ever attack another person, especially a paying customer. Ted's in the wrong here, but he's reacted like he should have. He's apologized both publicly and privately, and has invited the assaultedfan into his box to watch a game. Even stranger, his apology seems sincere. But, like I said, I like Ted.
posted by Poseur 1/27/2004 01:20:00 PM

Pitino on leave

Yikes. It's never a good sign when anybody goes on indefinite medical leave. We wish Pitino a speedy recovery.

posted by Poseur 1/27/2004 01:15:00 PM

Was Rich Kotitte busy?

Norv Turner, a spectacular unsuccessful coach, just got named the head man of the Raiders. want to know what drives those of us who wish to see more minorities in head coaching jobs nuts? Hires like this. Mariucci getting a job? no problem, he's a great coach. But this is a retread hiring, pure and simple. We know Norv's not a good coach. We know Dave Wanstedt isn't any good either. Yet they keep getting jobs in spite of this. Why? I'm not saying the Raiders should have hired a minority, but my God, they could have hired someone with a pulse.

This is one of the worst head coaching hires in recent memory. Simply awful.

posted by Poseur 1/27/2004 01:13:00 PM

Roddick goes down

OK, Roddick lost an epic five-set match and let's face it, he's the only tennis player we really care about. But Safin's not some chump, he's a great player in his own right, and he could just as easily take down Agassi (then again, there was nothing easy about this five-set epic). The key for Roddick is that he made the quarters, played good tennis, and lost in a very tough match. He's looking for consistency this season, and while I'm sure he's not happy with the loss, he can't say he played poorly.

He's getting there. Roddick's still young, but we may be watching the birth of a great, great player.

posted by Poseur 1/27/2004 01:08:00 PM

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