Category Archives: Football

Are we witnessing collusion

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Kevin Barrett | Out of WriteField

The owners in the NFL agreed on a few rules changes this week, namely eliminating the Tuck Rule, to the delight of Raiders fans everywhere, and instituting a controversial rule for running back who like to steamroll defenders in the open field.

The one thing not announced but appears to be a real component of the off season is the dreaded ‘C’ word – collusion.

With Wes Welker and Elvis Dumervil playing starring roles, it appears as if NFL owners have said neither is worth 2/3 of last year’s salary, let alone a hefty raise for remarkable campaigns on AFC championship calibre clubs in 2012.

Same for Anquan Boldin of the San Francisco 49ers, who arguably could have captured the Super Bowl MVP award when he led, from his wide receiver position, the Baltimore Ravens to football’s biggest prize in February.

Sure the flat salary cap has something to do with the owner’s frugal methods but even cap friendly teams such as Miami and Cleveland have to think Welker and Dumervil would assist their team’s sagging fortunes in the win-loss column.

Same for Charles Woodson, Dwight Freeney and John Abraham, who are adding Air Miles at a record clip while visiting prospective new teams after the defenders  were ditched by the clubs their enjoyed Pro Bowl seasons with on an annual basis.

Surely some teams – Hello Bills, Bengals, Jags  – could use Welker’s hands instead of waiting for the cheaper and riskier option through the draft. How could Abraham not assist the Eagles?

Don’t the Jaguars Also require help on D, assistance Dumervil can provide.

And what’s with the Bears offering  paltry $2 million to Brian Urlacher?

This year, the market has dried, so they say, a market where injury-prone Danny Amendola and the poor -route running Mike Wallace command more than Welker, Dumervil, Frenney, Abraham and Woodson combined.

Maybe, just maybe, there are other deals that have been struck, arrangements that the players are finding out first-hand about in free agency.

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What kind of defense wins championships?

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

Defense wins championships.

It’s an adage drilled into the minds of football fans for decades, but what if we’re looking at defense the wrong way in this era of the NFL.

Rule changes have led to increased scoring and the play at the quarterback position is staggeringly great at the moment. Despite changes to the game, we still evaluate defense the same as 20 years ago.

On ESPN radio Friday morning, Herm Edwards spoke about the defensive numbers that are more important in today’s NFL than the usual rankings based on total defence.

On most NFL websites, the major categories – at least the ones that pop up when you go to the stats page – are total defence (which amounts to yards allowed per game) and a breakdown of rushing and passing yards allowed.

It would make sense that the team that allows the least amount of yards would therefore have the best defence, but the most basic premise of football is to end the game with more points than your opponent. In this sense, the team that limits the opposition’s chances to score (takeaways, ie. interceptions and fumbles recoveries) and allows the fewest points should be crucial factors when ranking defences.

The top 10 defences – based on total defense – for the regular season, as per the numbers on NFL.com, shows only six of the top 10 teams had a winning record. Four of the teams remaining in the playoffs were among the top 10 in total defense while the four others finished 11, 17, 24 and 25.

However, looking at scoring defence and takeaways tells a much different story.

When it comes to the teams who allowed the fewest points per game, six of the remaining playoff teams are in the top 10 with the other coming in at 11 and 12. As for takeaways differential (the team that created more turnovers than it allowed) seven of the teams remaining ranked in the top 10 while the other was ranked 19th.

So what does that mean for this weekend’s playoff games? Here are the defensive rankings taking into account total yards allowed, turnover differential and scoring defence. With eight teams remaining, each squad was given a number of 1-8 in all three categories with the lowest score equaling the best remaining defense:

1. Seattle

2. San Francisco

3. Denver

T-4. Houston

T-4. Atlanta

6. New England

7. Green Bay

8. Baltimore

This is in stark contrast to the rankings at the end of the regular season. Here’s how NFL.com ranked the teams in terms of total defense:

1. Denver

2. San Francisco

3. Seattle

4. Houston

5. Green Bay

6. Baltimore

7. Atlanta

8. New England

The numbers change even more dramatically if the teams are ranked using scoring defence and takeaway differential as the only two determining factors:

1. Seattle

T-2. New England

T-2. Atlanta

4. San Francisco

5. Houston

6. Denver

7. Baltimore

8. Green Bay

So given the different ways of looking at things, what’s the overall impression of the defenses lining up this weekend. The first point is that the best remaining defensive squad is the Seahawks. Second point, the Broncos defense is somewhat overrated given they’re the only team with a negative turnover differential (-1) remaining in the playoffs and Denver’s ranking slides when other factors besides yards per game are considered.

The third point to take from this is New England gives up a lot of yards, but limits opponents in other ways such as turnovers. New England is +25 in turnover differential and created the second most turnovers on defence with 44.

Yards per game are an important stat, but it’s not truly indicative of an overall defense. More than one factor is should be considered when ranking teams, with scoring defense and turnover differential high on the list.

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MVP Race: The Tebow factor

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Andrew McGilligan| Out of WriteField

The debate surrounding who should be the NFL’s MVP – Adrian Peterson or Payton Manning – can be decided by the two most overused words in the NFL lexicon: Tim Tebow.

He barely threw a pass this season and only ran with the ball a few more times, but Tebow is the reason Peterson should win the MVP. The Vikings were not good last year, in fact, they were awful finishing the season with a record of 3-13, good enough for last place in the NFC North.

Peterson started 12 of those games racking up 970 yards and 12 touchdowns. This season, AP produced a season in which he amassed the second-highest total rushing yards in league history (2,097) and did the bulk of it in December, helping the Vikings get into the playoffs with a record of 10-6.

With a 6-5 record heading into Dec., the Vikings – on the back of Peterson – posted a 4-1 record and recorded wins against two of the NFL’s elite in the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers as well as division rival Chicago.

In that five-game stretch, Peterson amassed 861 yards, 41 per cent of his season rushing total, and five touchdowns. When it matter most, Peterson was the most valuable player in the league.

Peyton Manning was fantastic this season, leading his brand new team – the Denver Broncos – to a second-consecutive AFC West title. This is where the problem lies for Manning’s MVP candidacy, the guy who led the Broncos to last season’s division title – Tim Tebow. The guy who Rex Ryan didn’t believe was better than Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy or even Joe McKnight, took essentially the same team as Manning to the playoffs.

Without Manning and with a guy not many people believe can play quarterback in the NFL, the team still makes the playoffs. Without Peterson’s historic season, the Vikings are hard-pressed to win a game. Even strength of schedule (based on final records) favours the Vikings. The winning percentage of teams faced by the Broncos was .450 (117-139) while the Vikings faced a schedule with a .510 winning percentage (132-122-2). The Broncos faced five teams with a winning-record while the Vikings faced nine. The Broncos won two games versus teams above .500, the Vikings won four.

Both players came back from what could have been career-ending injuries, so that’s a wash. Manning put up the second-best season of his career. Peterson put up the second best season ever by a running back. Peterson did this against stiff competition and in the division with the highest overall winning percentage. Manning did it against mostly sub-.500 teams and the weakest division in the NFL.

Without the season of Peterson, the Vikings would have stopped playing meaningful games in late Oct. Without Manning, the Broncos make the playoffs.

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