Are the 2013 Denver Broncos the 2007 New England Patriots?
When I posed this question on Twitter, the most common response was "no, the Broncos are better." But take a look at the game log for the Pats' first eight games that season. If Denver's better, it's not by much. The Patriots lowest first-half output was 34 points, their average was 41.4 to their opponents' 18.4. That's a margin of 23 points per game. The Broncos have averaged 44.8 ppg while allowing 22.8, a margin of 22 ppg over four games. The Pats slowed down in the second half, and I imagine the Broncos will too - just as the lines in their games routinely crack 20 points.
Wes Welker is another common denominator between the teams, just as Randy Moss was the common denominator between the 2007 Pats and 1998 Vikings another 15-plus win team and also one of the greatest offenses of all time. Maybe Demaryius Thomas will be part of some other juggernaut in 2019, though it's worth noting the Vikings and Pats both lost in the playoffs (though barely).
Some Noteworthy Facts Through Week 4
• Yards-per-passing-attempt stand at 7.2, right in line with 2011 and slightly above 2012 (7.1).
• Yards-per-carry are up to 4.1 after starting slowly at 3.8 through Week 2. That means they've been at 4.4 the last two weeks, roughly in line with the 4.3 from 2011 and 2012.
• The Broncos are second in Yards Per Play (6.8). The Eagles (6.9) are first, though Denver has 80 more points.
• The Titans have zero turnovers so far. The Giants have 16.
• The Jaguars are averaging 3.6 yards per play. That's 1.2 yards worse than they were last year (4.8) and half a yard worse than the 32nd-ranked Arizona Cardinals (4.1) were in 2012.
• After the Broncos (179 points), the next three top-scoring teams are all in the NFC North: (Bears 127), Lions (122) and Vikings (115). The Packers, who have played three games, are on pace for 128.
• Peyton Manning's interception rate is zero. His TD/INT ratio is infinity. Of course, you could say the same thing about Jake Locker.
• The Chiefs (41) have given up the fewest points in the AFC. The Colts are second (51) and the Patriots are third (53).
• If the Broncos beat the Cowboys in Week 5, and the Giants (2.5-point favorites) beat the Eagles, New York would be one game out of first place despite starting the year 0-4.
• The Broncos average 3.2 points per drive. The Jaguars average 0.6.
• The largest point spread in NFL history was Steelers -27 vs. the Buccaneers in 1976. The Steelers won 42-0. Next week the Jaguars travel to Denver, and we could see that record broken.
I'll write about this in more detail in my Survivor Column on Wednesday, but I suspect fading the Rams and taking the Falcons at home against the Jets (or some other team) will be a huge pot odds play, perhaps the biggest one of the year.
Consider that everyone wants to fade the Jags, almost no one has used the Rams yet and everyone will want to use up the Rams while they have a chance. Combine that with St. Louis at -11.5 being the biggest favorite on the board, and I think we're looking at 70-plus percent of pools on them. While the Jaguars are historically terrible, and the Rams are merely ordinarily crappy, should the Jaguars pull off the upset, you could fast forward to the end game in a hurry. Moreover, Atlanta plays Monday night, so if you knew you only needed an Atlanta win to take down your pool, you could make a moneyline bet on the Jets for a perfect (and cheap) hedge.
*Update* - Actually I was wrong - 40 percent are on the Rams and 40 percent on the Falcons. I suppose it's not surprising people would trust the Falcons more than the Rams, but given the unique opportunity to take St. Louis and that they're the biggest spread on the board, I'd have thought more would be on them. Looks like the Rams are the pick at first glance then.
Week 4 Observations
• Sam Bradford is a bust. Sure, he can make all the throws when he's got time, but he's not mobile, isn't good under pressure and makes poor decisions. He's not a top-20 real-life quarterback. It doesn't help that Brian Schottenheimer, the architect of the vaunted Mark-Sanchez Jets, is calling Bradford's plays.
• Speaking of Bradford, it's a good time to revisit this debate. The problem with taking a QB No. 1 overall who's not really worthy of that slot is also the opportunity cost. The Rams not only have been bad for four years with Bradford at the helm, but also traded RGIII because of the investment they had in him. Had they drafted Ndamukong Suh with that pick, they would no doubt have taken Griffin, though they also might have had a better veteran QB than Bradford in 2011 and not even had a shot at the No. 2 pick.
• Since 2007, Super Bowls have been won by Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and Joe Flacco. Arguably 50 percent by non-elite QBs. Maybe because of the league's YPA inflation, the difference between a good and an elite quarterback is smaller than it used to be. That's because the 10-yards to be gained for a first down has not gotten longer in proportion to the increased YPA. As such, the efficiency drop-off from the elite to non-elite QB is less likely to stall as many drives. To take an extreme example, a QB with 50 YPA would be no better than one with 30 YPA - both would score every time, and the only difference would be less time of possession from the 50 YPA one.
• Pick on the 2013 Pats' offensive skill players all you want, but their offensive line is excellent. This is in stark contrast to the Giants who have great skill players and a terrible line.
• The Falcons botched the end game badly Sunday night, treating first and 10 from the Pats 14 like first and goal from the 14. Instead of throwing four passes at heavily covered receivers in the end zone, the Falcons had time to run the ball, get four or five yards or connect on a couple short passes.
• Cris Collinsworth at least twice persisted in making a point that the reply he used to support it refuted clearly. It's one thing to make a mistake in real time, but once the evidence controverts your argument, it's bizarre to continue with it. (One of them was on a Julio Jones alleged push-off that never happened.)
• With the Falcons down 10 and in the red zone with a few minutes left, Al Michaels and Collinsworth questioned the team's failed 4th-and-2 try inside the 10 in the first quarter, saying how big it would be to have had a FG and be down only seven. Of course, when they kicked the FG and got back into the red zone, Michaels and Collinsworth never mentioned how much sense it made to have gone for seven. Judging a first-quarter decision by whatever random margin applies 40 minutes later is foolish.
• Troy Aikman actually called a good game Sunday, shockingly encouraging Chip Kelly to go for it on 4th and 1 (Kelly punted to Peyton Manning which makes no sense) and also questioning a bad call from a ref. Maybe it'll never happen again, but credit where credit is due.
• Gary Kubiak and the Texans deserved to lose after punting on 4th-and-4 from the Seahawks' 43 with 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter of a tie game. Sure, if they failed to get the first down (50/50 chance), the Seahawks with 23 seconds or so left could have completed a pass or two and gotten into field-goal range. But if they make the first down, they're already in long FG range themselves and were surely better than 50/50 to win had they gone for it. To settle for overtime was playing not to lose, and of course they lost as a result.
• Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates look like they traveled back in time three years, and Keenan Allen and Eddie Royal are good players.
• In the high-stakes Stopa Law Firm League, I dropped KC's defense in Week 2 for BAL, dropped BAL's defense in Week 3 for DEN, dropped DEN's defense in Week 4 for CIN. All were bad moves.
• The Giants clock management at the end of the first half was laughable as they refused to use their timeouts and wound up unnecessarily settling for a mid-range FG which Josh Brown missed. The announcers of course praised the decision. Tom Coughlin and the Giants are now 3-9 going back to last year, and the margin of loss has been substantial. The last two weeks, it's been 69-7. It's time for a different direction.
• David Wilson again looked good when he had the ball, but the Giants insistence on using Da'Rel Scott and Brandon Jacobs on passing downs and their inability to block capped his carries at 13.
• Arian Foster has proved he's healthy, and that's all we really needed to know heading into the season. He's still a top-seven back.
• Even with the workload to himself against a poor Jaguars defense, Trent Richardson managed only 3.0 YPC. Meanwhile Donald Brown had three carries for 65 yards.
• Maybe Brian Hoyer will fall back to earth soon, but remember it was an injury to Drew Bledsoe that sprung an unknown Tom Brady and poor play by Bledsoe that game undrafted Tony Romo a chance. And a Trent Green knee injury gave 29-year old nobody Kurt Warner his shot for a Rams team coming of a 4-12 year. Those are exceptions, of course, but it shows we really have no idea of a quarterback's ceiling.
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