Monday, October 22, 2007

On the Couch: week seven

My initial (and brief) thoughts on the Viking game are below at "Coming off the ledge: Cowboys 24, Vikings 14." "On the Couch is a chance to discuss other football games from the weekend, other issues in the NFL, and further comments on the Vikings.

NFL.com week seven scores

Randy Moss
Patriots-Dolphins Box Score
It likely won't go down as such because it came in a blowout win, but Randy Moss' second touchdown catch on Sunday may have been the greatest catch in NFL history. He appeared to catch the ball with one hand on his side while facing away from the throw. And he made it look easy.

Moss is playing better than I've ever seen him play. And of course we're seeing Randy Moss help Tom Brady to an historic season. I don't care what defenses he's faced--27 touchdowns to 2 interceptions in seven games is unrealistic. We have the Tecmo Colts, and now we have the Tecmo Patriots.

Last week on ESPN's page two I really believe I saw a brief article by LZ Granderson arguing for Randy Moss as MVP, but now that I can't find it anywhere there I fear I may have dreamed it all. The thrust of the argument (as I remember) is that while Tom Brady is spectacular, he's not the first quarterback that has had a career year playing with Randy Moss, and that Moss finally deserves an MVP for his ability to dictate a defense. Since the Granderson argument disappeared (or was entirely imagined), you can look at this Greg Garber article about Randy Moss' presence on two of the greatest scoring offenses ever.

Moss dictates everything. He's so great he can make spectacular long touchdown passes in double coverage. He's also so great the that a defense must constantly double cover him, leaving other receivers with a lot of openings on the field (on Wes Welker's first touchdown, a safety was lined up at the very back of the end zone and moved along with Moss' pattern, helping to leave a big gap for Welker).

The only thing that frustrates me about this all is how much ridiculous pleasure Boston sports fans are getting. On the same day that Tom Brady and Randy Moss lead a team with three championships this decade to their seventh consecutive blowout win, the Red Sox who have already won a championship this decade advance to the World Series (SI). I'm a sports fan in a state that has seen two pro championships since the Lakers moved (the last in 1991). Philadelphia fans haven't seen a pro championship since 1983. Cleveland fans haven't seen a pro championship since 1964. Do we even need to put a number on Buffalo Bills' fans sufferings? Some of us grow up without the real expectation that our pro teams should be relevant championship contenders; others get to bask in sports fan glory repeatedly. Maybe someday. I still face the temptation to start rooting for the Twins and Wild because the Timberwolves and Vikings (the teams I do care about) seem so far away from championship contention.

The Giants are actually good.
Giants-49ers Box Score

They can run the ball. They can make big plays in the passing game. They can rush the passer. They actually look like a team that could advance in the playoffs. Who is better than them in the NFC? Dallas has already beaten them in Dallas, but the Giants can compete with them. Green Bay has a good record, but the Packers can't run the ball and I suspect Favre will wear down this season. The Giants really could make it to the Super Bowl.

Philadelphia is losing control of its season
Eagles-Bears Box Score

The Eagles have lost a lot of close, winnable games, but in a competitive division, in a combative sports city, with Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid facing a lot of pressure, at 2-4 they're in danger of coming completely apart soon.

The Vikings get the Eagles at the Metrodome next week (I'm excited to attend the game). I fully expect McNabb to throw for 375 yards, and I'm serious. But the Vikings could be facing a team on the brink of implosion. With a good defense, good running game, and the benefits of the Metrodome (I can't even remember the last time the Eagles played here), the Vikes will make this a fun game to watch.

Brad Childress
Even now, I remain insistent that the Vikings' offensive problems right now are a matter of personnel, not coaching strategy, game planning, or decisions. I don't see bad play calling and I don't see (very many) boneheaded coaching decisions. However, Childress is responsible for whatever role he had in leaving this team with the passing game in its current state. And if he is responsible for the team's failure to address the quarterback position or significantly upgrade the wide receiver position in the off-season, that may be a fireable offense. And he's still the coach, so he is responsible for getting the most production possible out of the personnel he has (which, for all we know, he is). The Vikings have been limited to one offensive touchdown in 5 of 6 games. That is poor.

MDS argues Adrian Peterson is overrated; a flaw in his argument suggests Peterson might be underrated.

Last week Michael David Smith wrote a post arguing Adrian Peterson is overrated. However, a few of his arguments might be used to argue Peterson is better than he looks.

Smith notes that Peterson has had a lot of negative plays:

"Peterson gets stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage quite a bit. He got stopped at the line on four of his carries Sunday and behind the line on four other carries. The Vikings' offensive line deserves plenty of the blame for that, but a running back who fails to pick up a single yard on 40 percent of his carries has some work to do."

I too have observed a lot of plays for no gain or worse from Peterson; however, in very few of these plays was Peterson dancing around, bringing the loss on himself. Often Peterson would get the ball and be immediately met by defensive players. And this brings us to the next point MDS makes:

"According to the advanced statistic DPAR, which breaks down every single play and adjusts for the situation and the opponent, Peterson was only the fourth most productive running back in the league [last] Sunday..."

And here we can explain the fundamental flaw of the argument. The Football Outsiders' DVOA and DPAR stats do not separate individual players from their team contexts: "DVOA is still far away from the point where we can use it to represent the value of a player separate from the performance of his ten teammates that are also involved in each play."

Why does Peterson have a high number of negative or no gain runs? Because he plays on a team with no real passing threat, and defenses are allowed to load up and prepare for the run. That's why Peterson faces a high percentage of plays when defenders meet him immediately.

Adrian Peterson plays on an historically bad passing offense. Imagine Peterson playing on a regularly bad passing offense. Now imagine him playing on a mediocre passing offense. Now, if you can, try and imagine him playing on a good passing offense. Imagine what he could do in the extra space provided when safeties line up deep. Imagine what he could do when defensive formations are designed to prevent passing plays, too.

Peterson is a brilliant runner: you can tell by looking at his numbers, and you can tell by watching him play. However, he's also facing defenses that have no reason at all to legitimately defend the pass, and thus he faces the proverbial eight men in the box pretty constantly. Defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs can play not only with the priority of stopping the Viking running game, but with very little concern at all for stopping the passing game.

This is why the very argument MDS uses to call Adrian Peterson overrated might be used to argue Peterson is underrated: we can only evaluate him in his team context, and his team context (while providing him with good run blocking from the offensive line) provides him with no help in the passing game.

Colts-Jaguars
NFL.com preview

This is probably the first time this season I really miss ESPN (I don't get it at home, which is why I have time to watch Journeyman); I'd really like to see this game (and going to a bar or friends' home to watch is rather inconvenient, as I teach until 7:30 anyway, plus I'd miss Journeyman. My wife and I have a lot of fun trying to name the year he's "journeyed" to based on the music, and making fun of the show in general. We make fun but we really do like the show, sort of like how we love Nip/Tuck but just shake our heads at each other over the sheer outrageousness).

Anyway, this is going to be good. The Colts have a much tougher division than the Patriots (Titans and Jaguars twice is tough), so they're going to have a harder time keeping pace with New England in the competition for homefield advantage in the playoffs. Jacksonville destroyed Indianapolis last season 44-17 (ESPN box score), and a couple months later the Colts were Super Bowl champs. Jacksonville is a good team (great defense, great running game, and so far Jack Del Rio looks smart for picking David Garrard over Byron Leftwich), but I still believe Peyton Manning is capable of putting up as many points as his team needs at pretty much any time.

Plus my Hazelweird fantasy hero Reggie Wayne and Ghosts' Blogger Invitational fantasy heroes Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, and Adam Vinatieri are playing. I've said it before: if you don't have Colts on your fantasy team, you're probably not going to win your league. Certainly the Patriots are going bananas as the best offense this season, but the fantasy domination of the Pats has been limited to Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker (and if you've got them, bully for you). The Colts have a deeper fantasy team.

Enjoy that game, everybody.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:36 PM

    as one of my students said today-- even if the patriots lacked randy moss they still have welker and stallworth-- a legit #1 and #2 combo by themselves and Gaffney makes a fine #3. Yes Moss is probably the main reason why Brady is almost at his career high TDs but the other two are helping along with an offense line that allows NO pressure. brady is a pretty good player but the patriots are clearly the product of something much more than tom brady playing well. a career 26 td guy doesn't go off for 60 in a year just because he hit a zone.

    RK

    ReplyDelete
  2. According to you RK, the Patriots are nothing special because they have only played cakewalk defenses so far.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous8:45 AM

    New England is loaded but even loaded I don't know how you get 27 td passes in 7 games when your career best is 28 unless you: play bad defenses every week (done), play bad offenses nearly every week (done), and throw garbage time tds every week... done.
    I am bitter tho because the one time Brett Favre went on a run like this both his starting receivers and his starting tight end went down with serious injuries. Not that I'd compare Robert Brooks to Randy Moss.

    RK

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous8:46 AM

    Plus Brett Favre should have Randy Moss. I sit and think "What if Brett could just throw up any pass for a TD?" I'd have my super bowl tickets set is the answer.

    RK

    ReplyDelete