East Coast Offense
By Christopher Liss
RotoWire Managing Editor
What to Make of an Outlier
I don't mean to pick on Tony Kornheiser every week, but I write this column on Tuesday, and his commentary the night before is just a relentless source of inspiration for me. At one point, Kornheiser said that if Arizona doesn't win at home against the 49ers, they would have no credibility around the league. It wasn't an outrageous statement, but it got me thinking about the importance of any one win or loss, or any one-game performance. I'm not talking about its effect on the playoffs - that's a separate issue, and clearly one game can be the difference between qualifying and going home. I'm talking about the meaning of the game for, as Kornheiser put it, credibility purposes. Putting aside that the 49ers were within one yard of winning, and whether Frank Gore slipping at the one-yard line makes any difference on the credibility front, how much meaning can we really extract from one game?
The first thing I thought of when Kornheiser reduced the game to a credibility litmus test was: "What about the Giants game in Cleveland this year?" Often you see a lesser team beat a good one because they get all the bounces - a couple fumbles, one of which is returned for a touchdown, a special teams score, a missed FG, etc. But the Browns didn't get the bounces - they bounced the Giants. The game wasn't even as close as the 35-14 score. Cleveland sustained drives despite holding and false start penalties - it was complete dominance. But the Giants don't have a credibility problem - at least for now. So what do we do with that game - just throw it out? Or does it still mean something about the Giants a month later? And what does it mean for the Browns - are they an especially dangerous team to go against in Survivor, for example? Was it a complete fluke? But how can it be a fluke when they won so convincingly?
Another example is the Rams - they opened the season looking like the worst team in the league, then they won in Washington and absolutely blew out the Cowboys under Jim Haslett. But since then, they've looked just as bad as they did early on. What do we do with those two outliers?
This is a big problem in analyzing the NFL because every week is different and forever unrepeatable. It's not like poker where you can know exactly what the odds are of 2-7 offsuit winning against pocket 10s and therefore if it happens, it won't throw your whole ranking system of hands into doubt.
I don't have an answer except to say that it helps not to look at teams merely as fixed entities, but more as evolving ones. In physics, wave-particle duality is the idea that all matter and energy exhibit both wave- and particle-like properties. I think it's easy to get stuck on the particle side of things - teams are good or bad, or they lost all credibility with a particular loss. But if you view a team as a wave, then what other teams come up against isn't a fixed net-YPA generator or a fixed on-paper collection of players but more like a weather pattern. Sometimes it's a tropical storm, but under certain conditions it turns into a hurricane before dissipating over land. So the Cardinals caught the 49ers' wave on the upswing and were lucky to get away with a win. Does that mean anything about the Cardinals? Probably - but it's more complex than just deciding once and for all whether they have credibility.
Bad Clock Management
This one comes to us courtesy of Romeo Crennel, though I see coaches do this all the time. On Thursday night, Denver got the ball down three on its own 20 with 4:57 left in the game. Plenty of time to get down the field, but clearly, time was on the Browns side because they had the lead, and one stop could end up being the game. But Denver drove down the field, chewing the clock, and with two minutes left got to the Cleveland 29. Suddenly, time was now on the Broncos' side. They were already in field goal range, but if they scored a touchdown, the Browns would need to get the ball back. But after Jay Cutler ran the ball down to the 11, Crennel opted not to use a timeout. The clock clicked down to 1:24. This was inexcusable! You must use your timeouts and make Denver kick the field goal or score a touchdown with time left on the clock. If Denver hadn't scored so quickly (they got in with 1:14 left), then the Browns would have had no chance at all to come back. As it happened, they had a chance, but blew it. But it's mind-boggling to me how coaches with leads won't shift gears and realize at some point that you go from running clock to preserving it.
Things to Take Away From Week 10
Expect him to meet his projections for the second half.
Beating the Book
The Chargers didn't come close to covering that big spread last week, putting us at 7-3 in forum. We're 74-65-5 overall.
Cardinals -3 at Seahawks
Not that the Cardinals lack credibility, but they don't travel all that well, and Seattle is one of the toughest venues in the league. Plus, there's a chance Matt Hasselbeck will be back under center, which would give Seattle a huge lift. Back the Seahawks and take the three points.
Seahawks 23 - 20
We were 6-10 in this forum last year, but 127-120 on the season overall. From 1999-2007 we're 1184-1018 (53.8%, not including ties).
The full article comes out on Thursday morning.
Surviving Week 11
We squeaked by again this week as San Diego had to prevent a last second two-point conversion to seal the win. Our No. 2 choice, the Cardinals got by just as narrowly.
This week, we're going with the Panthers - they draw the Lions at home. If Dan Orlovsky were still under center, we'd like Detroit's chances better, but Daunte Culpepper is basically just in off the street and doesn't know the offense all that well. Our second choice would be the Dolphins at home agianst the Raiders. We give the Panthers an 87 percent chance to win this game.
Article first appeared 11/12/08