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Monthly Archives: November 2012

I’ll start off by saying I was rooting hard for Nate Silver’s election forecast. This was unrelated to red or blue reasons but because I like his style and viewed it as a victory for intelligent journalism. So I typically click.

I took some issue with this one and found it a bit of a letdown following his Election Day Domination Part Deux — but I suppose anything is.

Had 15 minutes to kill after reading it, so here’s my open letter:

I can definitely see your central point being correct but I question the experimental methods re: compiling Google search result totals for “college football” per geographic region.

Silver critiques the B1G conference expanding east and not south or west:

One issue skews results further in favor of your thesis the other sort of confounds them: 1) People in the Midwest and South are typically less Web-obsessed/savvy than those in the DC-NY corridor, so are probably making Google searches about sports less per fan. 2) Typing “college football” into Google seems like an action someone on the more casual end of the fan spectrum would do.

Typing something specific about your team (or just the name) or having bookmarked a preferred destination would fall somewhere between average to diehard IMO, which of course will have significantly more value than the broad “Google, tell me ‘college football'” crowd.

As will — and please don’t anyone take this as coastal-metro snobbery or anything other than logic based on demographic data — tech-savvy areas of the country more likely to have high-speed + ease with which to watch the more obscure games via TV alternatives + smartphone with which to monitor their team (which I think is could be a boon for fandom in cities like NYC/PHI/BAL/DC) + disposable income with which to spend on their team.

To touch on how I began this post, your reasons outside of the Google search method about Maryland and Rutgers football fandom seem to make sense; they ostensibly don’t touch the rabid nature of the B1G schools for the gridiron.

The Silver article in case you missed it hyperlinked up top: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/20/expanding-eastward-could-dilute-big-ten-brand/

In breaking down Bears-49ers for my Week 11 predictions I found a kaleidoscope of factors that really made it tough to get a feel for this one.

Not only do you have the uncertain post-concussion states of Jay Cutler and Alex Smith but also two teams coming off lackluster home performances. Since this is a battle of ostensibly playoff-destined teams and we do have a nine-game sample size for each, I figured to also run their records against teams that currently possess winning records.

Then I went ahead and did it for the whole NFL:

ARI – 2-3
ATL – 1-1
BAL – 1-1
BUF – 0-4
CAR – 0-6
CHI – 1-2
CIN – 1-3
CLE – 0-4
DAL – 2-5
DEN – 1-3
DET – 1-4
GB – 2-3
HOU – 3-1
IND – 2-1
JAX – 1-5
KC – 0-4
MIA – 0-2
MIN – 1-2
NE – 1-2
NO – 2-2
NYG – 2-1
NYJ – 1-5
OAK – 1-4
PHI – 2-2
PIT – 2-1
SD – 0-3
SEA – 3-1
SF – 2-2
STL – 1-3-1
TB – 1-1
TEN – 1-5
WAS – 2-3

Draw what you will from this, but it does align with my feeling that some teams have been punching above their weight. The Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions have all amassed four wins on the season but are each teams I would confidently predict to fall short of the playoffs.

Same goes for the Cardinals, though their 2-3 record against currently above-.500 squads actually places them in the upper half of the league in that regard. Funny thing is the two wins were compiled in games Kevin Kolb finished and the three losses in contests finished under John Skelton. Not calling Kolb a world-beater and there are other factors at play, but he did protect the ball better as Skelton has thrown an interception in every game he’s taken the field.

It’s also interesting to see who’s been brutalized by the schedule-makers thus far, and whether this means the closing stretch provides good opportunities to gain ground.

The Cowboys hold sole possession of first in the NFL in total games played against teams that boast winning records as of now, yet only sit 1.5 games behind New York for first in the NFC East. Dallas (4-5, 2-5) now gets to close out with the bizarro version of their early schedule: vs. Cle, vs. Was, vs. Phi, at Cin, vs. Pit, at NO, at Was.

So 1 out of 7 for Dallas — compared to the 7 out of 9 through Week 10 — and that one game is at home, and the Steelers could fall sub-.500 while starting Byron Leftwich by then. And while Dallas loses Sean Lee on his way to an All-Pro year, Bruce Carter has really stepped up at the other ILB spot to help mitigate that loss. Such is life for every team that makes a run.

It is important to note that the Saints and Bengals could very well be in the playoff hunt with the momentum they have right now. Regardless, an ostensibly much easier Cowboys schedule down the stretch.

On any given Sunday it’s tough to count out Indy (2-1), New York Giants (2-1), Washington (2-3), Philly (2-2), New Orleans (2-2) and Pittsburgh if Big Ben returns (2-1) — even though there are valid concerns for picking each of them in difficult matchups.

Like the Giants, Colts and Steelers, the Chicago Bears only possess a three-game sample size, which makes it tough to laud a team for 2-1 much more than you would bash them for 1-2, or where the Bears stand. We’ve seen some dominant performances, but Chicago would inspire a lot more confidence if their sole win in this apartment wasn’t at home against a rookie quarterback in Week 1, even if that rookie is Andrew Luck.

Then there’s Green Bay at 2-3, which doesn’t seem right given their 6-3 overall record including winning five of their past six. Then there’s the year’s single-most impressive win in the NFL this season, on Sunday night in Houston. And there’s the Golden Tate catch, which in a just world flips their mark to 3-2.

This quick study wasn’t done just to say that Green Bay looks like they’re on the up-and-up, as the naked eye can come up with that quite all right. But the Packers’ numbers are just one of many factors in why a team’s performance against good competition thus far can help visualize who are the contenders and pretenders as December nears.

Weeks ago I wrote that Seattle had fallen behind the 49ers as my NFC West title pick largely because of the offensive limitations presented by Seattle’s quarterback position in contrast to the improved play of Alex Smith. On Sunday, Christian Ponder’s struggles and Russell Wilson’s ability to move the chains in rhythm illuminated the division title prospects of both Minnesota and Seattle, and the new trajectories of their quarterbacks.

Russell Wilson seemed to scramble for his life more often than confidently dropping into the pocket and finding a receiver 10 yards downfield. It was shot play, check-down or bust. That is when they weren’t feeding Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin.

After Week 5, I wrote the following here on Insert Sports Word:

“But for crying out loud Wilson’s 29th in yards, yards per pass and quarterback rating, and the Seahawks fellow skill position players certainly aren’t the league’s worst.”

Well, since then Wilson has only played better each week and his underrated slew of receiving options — particularly Sidney Rice and Golden Tate — are helping him open up the pass game, finally getting the blessing of Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell to do so.

Eliminating the ground-and-pound defensive battle at San Francisco where Wilson was brutalized by dropped passes to boot, since Week 5 Wilson has compiled a 7-2 TD-INT ratio and three of his four highest yards-per-attempt marks of the season.

Wilson’s turnaround has coincided with Ponder’s decline. The second-year starter kicked 2012 off in vastly improved form before cooling down the past three weeks. Ponder followed a 352-yard afternoon in Washington with 58, 251 and 63-yard games. Yes, that’s double-digits.

This is somewhat a product of attempts but not enough to make this even close to excusable with QB ratings of 35.5, 74.8 and 37.3 and yards-per-attempt of 3.4, 7.2 and 2.9 in the past three games. Glack.

Some of this may be due to defenses smarting up to the Vikings approach with Ponder, as Minnesota has babied the second-year starter even by rookie standards. Of quarterbacks who have started each of their team’s games, only Robert Griffin III and Alex Smith have attempted fewer passes over 20 yards according to Pro Football Focus. Ponder is supported by neither the legs nor the defense for this strategy to be sustainably effective.

Two young quarterbacks in run-first offenses hit the field in Seattle on Sunday. One has launched a long-dormant pass offense while the other may have hit rock bottom.