Wednesday, November 26, 2008

And the idiot shoots his mouth off again

Sure, the Patriots aren't the team they were last year, but the Steeler offense isn't exactly firing on all cylinders. Even so, you would think that Pittsburgh safety Anthony Smith would be wary of shooting his mouth off after being a human turnstile last year.

Last year the Steelers owned the number two defense in the league, this year they're number one.

However, they are only 1-2 against top ten offenses, and 1-2 against the top ten pass-happy offenses.

Who has the Steelers defense beat? The San Diego offense at number seven was impressive, but who were the others?

Houston at 18.

Cleveland. They're 25th.

Baltimore which sits at 13th.

Cincinnati twice. They're barely an NFL offense at 31.

The Jags who sit are a rousing 23rd.

Then there are the Redskins with the 27th offense in the league.

The average rank of the offenses they have beaten - 22nd.

The average rank of the offenses that have beaten them - 10th.

The Patriots are the 11th ranked offense in the league.

I'm not saying that the Pats will win, or that Pittsburgh will win. While Pittsburgh forged their top defense against some pretty crappy offenses, the Pats forged their offense against some poor defenses, with their victories coming against defenses with an average ranking of 24th, and have played no top ten defenses. The highest ranked defense they have played is the 12 ranked Jets D against whom they are 1-1, and they averaged 25 points, including the recent 31 point effort in an overtime loss.

What's my point? Mostly that the offensive and defensive rankings generally mean diddly. Typically top ranked offenses and defenses are forged against crappy opponents. Not always, but more often than not, that's the way of it.

deficiencies in coverage, and that's going to be important in this game, as picking on the safeties has been a staple in the Patriots' victories over the The bottom line is that those things aren't going to matter come Sunday. What will is which coaching staff best prepares their team to take advantage of the other team's shortcomings, while neutralizing their opponent's strengths. While Mike Tomlin has shown himself to be a pretty good coach, I'm guessing he hasn't figured out yet how to cover for Troy Polamalu'sSteelers.

Pats fans, remember to vote.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Angry Fan presents the TAF All-Patriot Team, wide outs

I want to throw this out to my handful of readers. In light of Matt Cassel's sudden morph for the past two games into the best characteristics of Steve Grogan, Drew Bledsoe, and Tom Brady, I wanted to address my all time team. Below I've picked out my nominees for each position, and the total number that will, in the end, be named to the team.

Also, feel free to do write in candidates - however, keep in mind, you have to make your argument for why that player deserves consideration, and you need to get votes from your fellow readers.

One last note before I get into the nominees - typically one season wonders will not make the list, unless that season was particularly special. Active players are considered on the list, but it will skew away from them as the body of their work could still take a turn for the worse. Also, I am going with individuals, not tandems. You want to look at some of the top tandems, you need to look here.

And onto the nominees, who were all solely at my discretion...

Wide Receivers (5 will be named) -

Troy Brown 80 - Not the most prolific nor talented receiver to ever play for the Pats, Brown might have been the hardest worker. A draft pick in a round that doesn't even exist, Brown went on to become the all-time leader in receptions for New England not because he repeatedly racked up 90 catch season, rather because he weathered the grind and fought harder than anyone else to get there. His record is a testament to perseverance, particularly when it's taken into account that he left receptions on the field by playing defensive back when the team needed him on the defensive side of the ball (most summaries will be shorter than this). Until Wes Welker became the new Troy Brown, Brown also held team record for receptions in a single season.

Gino Cappelletti 20 - The monster from Minnesota, Cappelletti fails to receive the Canton consideration he deserves. The wide receiver/place kicker was a five time AFL All Star, and dominated the AFL. Consider the following from Wiki regarding his career -

"Cappelletti led the American Football League in scoring five times and led or tied the NFL in scoring 5 times as well. He had two of the top five scoring seasons in pro football history – 155 points in 1964 and 147 points in 1961 (14-game seasons). Nicknamed the "Duke", he is the all-time leading scorer in the American Football League. Cappelletti is among the AFL's all-time top ten receivers, in yards and in receptions. He is the Patriots' third all-time leading receiver with 292 catches for 4,589 yards."
That's just the short of it. I could go on, but we would be here all day.

Stanley Morgan 86 - A burner, Morgan averaged over 20 yards per catch for his career, including 24.1 per catch in 1978. Morgan was a four time pro-bowler who is only now beginning to garner some much deserved attention by HOF voters. The four time pro-bowler still leads the team with 10,352 receiving yards for his career.

Randy Vataha 18 - Like Brown, Vataha is not what anyone would call a high draft pick. According to the team's 1976 media guide -
...rookie year earned him a spot on UPI's AFC all-rookie team, a Gipper Award for receiving and the Johnny Unitas Award ... tied the club record with 51 catches in 1971, set new marks with 88-yard TD catch and 872 yards as he played in all 14 games ... thigh bruise forced him to miss two games during 1974 season, first misses since junior high school days ... led club in receiving in 1975...
Jim Colclough 81 - Cappelletti's battery mate, Colclough, like Cappelletti, doesn't get the love he deserves due to playing his entire career in the AFL. One of the original Patriots, this is his summary from the team's 1968 media guide -
...ranks behind only (Lance) Allworth and Dubenion in best all-time AFL average gain with passes caught (17.6) ... ranks ninth in top ten of all-time AFL pass receivers ... has caught 275 passes for 4865 yards in his eight years of AFL play ... was traded to Jets in 1965 for John Huarte but Pats traded later to get him back ... knows his way around ... had 16 catches for 284 yards in '66...
Deion Branch 83 - Realistically, Branch's regular season stats pale in comparison to the rest of the crew here. He never put up solid number one receiver numbers. He was seldom healthy. but he was a beast in the post season. Occasionally he was the fly in the ointment against teams here and there during the regular season. And those things are worth something.

Randy Moss 81 - It's hard to keep a guy off the list that set the single season record for touchdown receptions with 23 to go with a 1,493 yard season. Without Brady under center, he's still on pace for 1,100 yards.

Wes Welker 83 - The other 83. In two seasons (including the current) the durable Welker is the king of the catch and run. The king of the bubble screen, Welker has likely caught more balls behind the line of scrimmage than any other receiver in the league. In spite of that, he has higher average per catch than a 10 yards. Currently he has 192 receptions and over 2,000 yards receiving in 27 games for New England.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Random thoughts around the league

So, I was really wrong about the Eagles.

Boy, how Andy Reid's star has fallen. The one time offensive genius is getting slammed for a lot of stupidity, and deservedly so. Reid has assembled a team with no power back, which means third and one might as well be third and ten, and he has learned absolutely nothing from his success from the times he managed to win sans Donovan McNabb.

Reid, in the last couple of years, has had his greatest success by increasing the team's number of rushing attempts to have a, or close to a 50-50 split with passing plays. But every time he has McNabb under center, that ratio jumps to a minimum of 60 percent passing plays, if not more.

For a coach that's supposed to be as bright as Reid, it amazes me that he hasn't figured this out. It's like he's channeling Mike Martz.

I've gotta tip my hat to the Jets. They've gone on a damn fine run. Were it not for the flip of a coin, we might be looking at a flip in the standings between the Jets and the Pats.

The Jets are playing some of the best ball of the year, but I still say that right now the Titans are the team to beat in the AFC.

As good as the Cardinals have been, I think they're one and done in the playoffs. I'm not saying they can't make some noise, but they've struggled a bit against the better teams.

If the season stopped now, the Dallas Cowboys could potentially be the biggest disappointments in the league. They would be completely out of the playoffs. Currently they're behind the Panthers, Redskins and Falcons, in that order, for the NFC wild card.

With games against the Giants, Steelers and Ravens coming up, it's entirely possible that the Cowboys could top out at nine wins and miss the playoffs.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Groganator

For all the complaining a segment of the Patriots fan base was doing a month ago about Matt Cassel (I did repeatedly recommend patience), the man has done something that no quarterback in the history of the team has done. Not Steve Grogan, not Drew Bledsoe, not even Tom Brady. Easily the three best quarterbacks in the history of the franchise.

He passed for back to back 400 yard games.

Given the fact that Bledsoe and Brady are the two most prolific passers in the history of the franchise, it's nothing short of amazing that this is the first time in franchise history that a quarterback has accomplished this feat. Of course, last week, in a losing effort, Cassel became the first and only QB in league history to rush for at least 60 yards and pass for at least 400.

While there are those who have wondered out loud whether Cassel should be kept in place of Brady during this two week record setting stretch that the Pats signal caller has had, I am not one of them. Yes, Cassel has shown tremendous development, and is actually better at this point than Brady was at the same point in his development as a starter.

Consider -

After 11 games in 2001, the Patriots were 6-5, but 7-4 in 11 games in which Brady played. Through those 11 games, this is how Brady stacked up -

198 completions on 302 attempts (65.6 percent completions) with 16 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. Brady also rushed the ball 25 times for 36 yards and no touchdowns.

If you want to throw out the Jets game because he was only in for a couple of series, and include, instead, the Browns game so we're only looking at Brady starts, then we're looking at 8-3 through 11 Brady starts with the following numbers -

212 completions on 320 attempts for (66.25 percent) with 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He rushed 29 times for 33 yards.

Cassel through his 11 games (10.75), is 238 of 359 (66.3 percent), with 13 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Cassel has also rushed 53 times for 199 yards and 2 touchdowns. The team has improved to 7-4.

While it is important to note that Cassel is indeed working with a better receiving corps than Brady did in those years, it's just as important to note that Brady was not playing behind a makeshift (right side of the offensive) line for the first half of those ten or eleven games, nor was he playing through games with the team's top running backs on the shelf for a significant period of time.

That 2001 team's defense gave up an average of 16.625 points per game, meanwhile this year's edition went into this game giving up 19.4. That number went up to 20.2 by the end of the contest against the 'Phins.

Not a reassuring statistic as the team makes a playoff push.

They might make things interesting in the post-season (I still firmly believe they will make the big dance for the chance at the Super Bowl), but if that young defense (and they are young) doesn't figure out how to close out a team on third and long, they're likely to get eliminated before reaching Tampa in February.

But if they don't make it, it won't be Cassel's fault.

Reminiscent of Steve Grogan, Cassel seems to have improved at finding his check-downs and feeling when the pressure is imminent. He's begun to make plays with his feet to either buy time, or to take advantage of great gaping holes up the middle.

Most of all, Cassel has used this opportunity to hit the jackpot.

An unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Cassel is likely to be closely scrutinized by a number of teams which are likely to do two things - line his pockets, and put him behind an O-line that could get him killed. I'm figuring the only potential suitor that could be a good fit (ie: not get Cassel killed) is going to go through the same hostage situation that Green Bay did this past off-season, and likely stay out of the Cassel sweepstakes because of the Brett Favre potential cap hit. Otherwise, I think Cassel is looking at such bottom-feeding stalwarts as Detroit, Kansas City, San Francisco and depending on the contract situation of their incumbents, I could also see St. Louis, or possibly Seattle come calling (the last two are unlikely due to the money left on the contracts of Marc Bulger and Matt Hasselbeck respectively, but interest wouldn't surprise me).