Many of the stats in this post are derived from the publicly available and premium database statistics at FootballOutsiders.com, NFL.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com
Belichick was Right – But I'm Glad They Failed
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Colts fan, so I despise Bill Belichick. I have to; I think that’s written into the Colts fan by-laws. So, naturally it hurts to say this, but he made the right call on Sunday night.
If you were him, would you rather put the game in the hands of your consistently clutch quarterback, Tom Brady, or the other team's 4th Quarter Assassin, Peyton Manning? Yup, me too. I’d tell Brady to go win the game. All the momentum was in the Colts corner and the Patriots needed to play for the win, rather than playing not to lose.
After watching the play a few times, the play call wasn’t bad, and the spot on Faulk’s catch could just as easily been ruled a first down on the field, it was that close. However, when Brady watches the film this week, he’s going to choke on his triple latte when he realizes that Welker was wide open and could probably have taken it to the house.
Given that I’m supposed to be giving you some sort of insightful analysis on the topic, I’d like to turn you over to the team at Advanced NFL Stats for this article. They break down the win probabilities of both going for it on 4th and 2, as well as the chances of the Colts scoring from each field position.
For those that are less nerdy than me, and I’m sure that’s just about everyone, or just statistically challenged, let me break down the idea.
By going for it, the Pats had a 60% chance to convert and win the game outright. In the event that they didn’t convert, they still only had to worry about the average NFL offense scoring 53% of the time. By combining those probabilities, they had a 79% chance of winning the game.
If they punted, they had a 70% chance of winning the game, meaning that going for it gave them 9% better odds.
Think of it like a poker hand, you always want to play to better odds than your opponent, but sometimes he beats you anyway. In this case, that Pats had the advantage in either situation, but going for it was the better decision.
Belichick made the right decision and went all in, but Peyton Manning got a great card on the river.
JaMarcus Russell vs Bruce-Ski
With JaMarcus Russell once again getting pulled from a game, I thought it would be interesting to review his performance this season versus the Raiders backup, Bruce Gradkowski, or as I like to call him Bruce-Ski. Admit it, he sounds like he should be the #1 fan for Da Bears!
I also included Jeff Garcia in this analysis given that the Raiders cut him before the season started.
"JDR and myself are very similar except he's really good looking and was a great player. So other than that we're very similar."
-- Jets coach Rex Ryan on the similarities between him and Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio (Twitter)
That quote could just have easily been twittered by Bruce-ski about he and Russell. They have completely different talents, different salaries and different draft positions, but they both suck equally.
In a related note, the Raiders quarterbacks may be terrible because they’re forced to throw to Darius Heyward-Bey. At this point, DHB has 6 catches, for 96 yards and no touchdowns, for the whole season!
That places him 24th in rookie receptions and 19th in rookie receiving yards. On top of that, most of the players ahead of him on the list are either their team’s third receiver or backup running back, while DHB is a starter.
Easily my favorite DHB play was the way he handled a pass against KC this Sunday like a live grenade. I didn’t know you could bobble a ball with your hands AND knees while still bouncing it to a defender for an INT. Take a look at the 3:40 mark of this clip.
For that performance, DHB gets the Bud Adams salute from Raiders fans.
Unexpected League Leader
Quick, tell me who’s leading the NFL in interceptions?
The correct answer is free safety Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills. With 8 interceptions and 18 passes defenced (2nd in the league), the rookie from Oregon is making a name for himself.
Unfortunately, he's about the only bright spot in the Bills season so far, and now he'll have to adjust to a new coach with Jauron being the first coach to get fired.
Will Larry Johnson help the Bengals?
With the Bengals announcing that they’ve signed Larry Johnson, let’s take a look at his impact. I get the feeling that the Bengals haven’t learned their lesson about having disruptive players in their locker room, but is Johnson worth the risk?
He’s 29 years old and figures to have a few good years left in him, but has his productivity decline been due to injuries, his offensive line or just being past his prime?
The following table shows LJ's performance over the last 4.5 seasons along with the corresponding Adjusted Line Yards of his offensive line.