Bad Weather False Alarm
There were some dire predictions heading into Week 14 about how the weather would impact scoring, particularly in Chicago where there was heavy snow, frigid temperatures and expected high winds. And I imagine a lot of owners sat Tom Brady as a result (I sat Deion Branch which cost me a playoff win in the Sirius XM Hosts league). Was this a mistake – or just bad luck?
Here's the data from 2000-09 (courtesy of Stats, Inc., Hat tip Mike Salfino):
• Games with 20+ MPH wind velocity regardless of temperature: 100 games, 36.51 total PPG
• Games with 34 degree temperature or lower and 10 mph wind or less: 106 games, 44.22 total PPG
• Snow games with 10 MPH wind or less: 15 games, 48.0 total points per game
• NFL games average about 45 points.
So it would seem that cold by itself has a neglible effect, snow by itself has if anything (in a small sample) a slightly positive effect on scoring and wind alone severely depresses offensive output.
Of course, these numbers say nothing about how elements work synergistically. Are games with wind and snow worse than just games with wind, for example? Just because snow doesn't make things worse with no wind doesn't mean it has no effect in combination. But setting that aside, it's hard to imagine snow and cold make things better once it's already windy, and that was apparently the case in the Bears-Pats game. So it would seem we were justified in sitting our Pats and Bears.
But that shouldn't be the end of inquiry. Because we had to make lineup decisions before 1 pm ET, and the game didn't kick off until 4:15. Assuming the pregame 35 mph winds with gusts up to 50 mph were accurate at 12:30-12:45, what kind of data do we have on how long it takes winds to dissipate? Is it different in different parts of the country, or different depending on the precise location and design of the stadium? If high winds, for example, typically last for 6-8 hours, did we know for how long the winds had been blowing at that speed? Or if we know the winds are blowing at 35 mph, what's the likelihood they're blowing above 25 mph four hours later?
I don't know the answers to these questions. The best I can do is say that 35 mph winds at 12:45 pm probably make 25-plus mph winds more likely at 4:15 pm than what you'd expect in an average situation. Is that a basis for sitting Tom Brady for Ben Roethelisberger or Eli Manning this past week? In retrospect, probably not. (I sat Branch for Robert Meachem (zero catches) by the way).
Are the Jets Beyond Repair?
Rex Ryan was unable to put Humpty Dumpty back together again off the short week. Now the Jets play at Pittsburgh and at Chicago the next two. While Ryan's brash, bullying style enhances the team's swagger, it's hard to see how the Jets can retain it after a nationally televised dismantling against their biggest rival. As evidence consider the team's vaunted offensive line gave up six sacks to the Dolphins, and neither Shonn Greene nor LaDainian Tomlinson managed three yards per carry. Mark Sanchez averaged 4.9 yards per attempt, threw a pick and lost a fumble, and the receivers dropped several easy catches. Once a bully's exposed, there's often no going back. Mike Tyson was never the same after the Buster Douglas fight, and even bit Evander Holyfield's ear out of frustration and desperation a few years later. Strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripping Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll on a kick return isn't that extreme, but the self-sabotaging acting out is similar. (I realize it's not the same thing as Ryan or Darrelle Revis tripping the guy, but it's probative of the locker room's overall mood), i.e., it's not easy having your identity publicly destroyed by your worst enemy. If Ryan can rally the Jets for a win (or even a close game) at Pittsburgh, he deserves a ton of credit. But I'd bet against it.
Delivered from Darkness
After taking some bad beats against the spread for much of the year, I got some payback this week, and it was a beautiful thing – the Titans final drive that used the entire clock and destroyed any chance they had of winning, the two-point underdog Redskins missing the game-tying extra point to prevent overtime and Maurice Jones-Drew breaking away for a TD, when he should have knelt at the one a la Brian Westbrook and let the Jags seal the game with a FG, to name a few. Any one of those events can brighten your day, but taken in combination, they can change your outlook on life.
Things to Take from Week 14
• Chad Henne was absymal again on Sunday, and at this point the mystery is that he ever plays well. He's like a poor man's Alex Smith in that Smith plays well every three games, and Henne every four.
• DeSean Jackson is fast. I don't think him falling into the end zone should have been a penalty, and if I'm an opponent I want him to be every bit as creative as he's been in the past with his end-zone celebrations – you never know when he's going to cut it too close. Generally speaking, I have no problem with celebrations or showboating (within reason) unless it delays the game. And there's already a penalty for that.
• Ryan Torain, Tim Hightower and Jonathan Stewart were three of the league's top four rushers during the first fantasy playoff weekend. Deion Branch (in a blizzard) and Arrelious Benn were two of the top three receivers. Fantasy football is not always just.
• With Aaron Rodgers likely to miss this week's game against the Pats, the Packers look destined once again to be a team with great stats that doesn't win a playoff game. If the Chargers miss the playoffs, you might have the stats Super Bowl sitting out of the postseason.
• I'm not overly impressed with the Falcons (the anti-Packers) who keep winning despite modest stats. Like Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner was an early first-round pick who disappointed early but is now earning every cent you paid for him.
• Say what you will about Josh McDaniels' interpersonal skills, but he seemed to get a good deal (at least offensively) out of some modest talent.
• Miles Austin just doesn't have much value until Tony Romo comes back (probably next year). The Cowboys are a dink and dunk offense that wants to run and get the ball to Jason Witten. At the end of the first half, Dallas had the ball at their own 30, 1:42 and two timeouts and played for the FG (which they tried from 50 yards with 13 seconds left).
• The Texans have lost in some of the worst ways imaginable this year, from their last minute defensive collapse against the Jets, to the Jaguars hail mary, and now a pick-six in overtime after dominating an exhausted Ravens defense for the entire second half. Maybe it's all just bad luck, but it seems hard-wired into their identity at this point.
• Arian Foster's having a fantastic season, and in large part that's due to his versatile skill set and surprising quickness and explosion. But the Texans line deserves a lot of credit – one week after Terrell Suggs terrorized the Steelers, Matt Schaub had all day to pick apart Baltimore's defense.
• Speaking of Foster, how many running backs with no pedigree to speak of take over and are not merely successful due to good conditions, but playing at an elite level in their own right? Usually, you get a competent Ryan Grant, Rudi Johnson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Chris Ivory or Mike Tolbert. But Foster's far more dynamic than those backs. A couple other good ones, (not as good as Foster this year), Ahmad Bradshaw and Peyton Hillis, were both seventh-round picks. Pierre Thomas – who was very good when he was given the chance last year – was undrafted.
• There's been a brutal rash of tight end injuries this year, and while wide receiver injuries have also been severe, they've been unduly concentrated among four teams: the Giants, Colts, Chargers and now Seahawks. The Giants lost Domenik Hixon in training camp, Victor Cruz and Ramses Barden midseason, and Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith a month ago. Now Smith's hurt again after his first game back, and Mario Manningham could be out, too. The Seahawks lost Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu and Deon Butler. (This after trading Deion Branch and releasing T.J. Houshmandzadeh). The Chargers' and Colts' injuries are well documented and exacerbated by the loss of Pro Bowl tight ends.
• Now that Brett Favre's streak is over, Peyton Manning has the league's longest games-played mark, and Eli is second. Like Bernie Goetz, the Mannings only look soft.
Things to Watch for in Week 15
• The Jets try to get back on track in Pittsburgh.
• The Jaguars can essentially wrap up the AFC South with a win in Indy.
• The Giants get another crack at the Eagles, this time at the Meadowlands.
• The Saints travel to an outdoor game at Baltimore.
• The Packers (likely without their QB) head to New England with their season potentially on the line.
Beating the Book
Texans +1 at Titans
Tennesee was a disaster against Indy in the first half, but then pulled off the purest backdoor cover in NFL history, sacrificing any chance it had at winning for the game-covering touchdown. The Texans did the opposite, engineering one of the most thrilling comebacks in recent memory, then abruptly tossing the game (and the cover) away with an overtime pick six. Which team is more damaged? I'd say Houston – especially with the short week to get ready and heading out on the road. Back the Titans.
Titans 27 – 24
We won with the 49ers last week to go 8-6 in this forum and 100-103-5 on the season. We were 10-7 in this forum last season, 131-122 overall. We were 12-5 in this forum in 2008. From 1999-2009 we've gone 1439-1262 (53.3%, not including ties).
The full article comes out on Wednesday night.
Surviving Week 15
Last week, I went with the Saints first and Steelers second in the full column (I had the Packers originally here). Of course, the Aaron Rodgers injury was huge, but it likely didn't impact too many people as most had used Green Bay already. The Jets loss probably trimmed down some pools, but otherwise, most of the big favorites advanced. Let's take a look at this week's numbers: