When Watching the NFL Draft Process Remember – Explosive Passing Equals NFL Success

In both 2010 and 2011, the 4 Super Bowl participants all finished in the top 5 in explosive pass offense:  Pit (#4) vs. GB (#5) in 2010 and NE (#1) vs. NYG (#3) in 2011.

As we all know, the NFL has turned into a passing league.  In his brief tenure, Rodger Goodell has tried to manipulate and change the rules to increase the scoring, and thus increase excitement and interest in the NFL.  He has often cloaked some of the reasoning in safety but make no mistake, there are a number of safety rules which could be passed which would absolutely hinder the scoring and fan interest in the game.  Instead of looking in that direction, Goodell pushed for rules which would protect the Quarterback and Receivers and allow them to run freely before and immediately after the catch, with strong penalties for any defender who impedes progress at any point or tackles incorrectly.

Smart, savvy coaches and quarterbacks immediately recognized the opportunity and we’ve seen a clear line in the sand drawn which separates good and bad teams:  explosive pass plays.

These are plays that generate at least 20 yards.  They change field position completely if not immediately produce points on the scoreboard.  And 2010 and 2011 have been clear lessons in the directions teams need to head if they want success under Goodell’s league rule, as all 4 Super Bowl participants finished in the top 5 in explosive pass offense.

In 2011, the top 5 ranked explosive pass offenses all went to the playoffs and 2 of the 5 went to the Super Bowl, and all finished at atop their division.  The bottom 5 explosive pass offenses all finished dead last in their divisions and all had 11+ losses.

In 2011, here were the top 5 Explosive Pass Offenses, along w/ the position they finished in their division and overall record:

1.  NE (#1, 13-3) made playoffs, went to Super Bowl
2.  GB (#1, 15-1) made playoffs
3.  NYG (#1, 9-7) made playoffs, won Super Bowl
4.  Det (#2, 10-6) made playoffs
5.  NO (#1, 13-3) made playoffs

As you can see, all teams finished #1 in their division, the only team that finished worse than #1 in their division was Det, but they only finished #2 in the NFC North because GB finished #1 and they, too, are on this list.  All 5 teams made the playoffs, both SB teams made the list as well.

Now look at the bottom 5 Explosive Pass Offenses of 2011 (position in their division, overall record):

28.  TB (#4, 4-12)
29.  STL (#4, 2-14)
30.  Cle (#4, 4-12)
30.  Ind (#4, 2-14)
32.  Jax (#3, 5-11)

All teams finished dead last in their division except Jax, who couldn’t finish last because Ind finished last, and Ind is on the list as well.

Improvements in explosive passing offense helped a number of teams:

In 2010, Det was #23 and finished w/ a 6-10 record.  In 2011 they ranked #4 and finished w/ a 10-6 record.

In 2010, NO was #13 and finished w/ a 11-5 record.  In 2011 they ranked #5 and finished w/ a 13-3 record.

In 2010, Car was #32 and finished w/ a 2-14 record.  In 2011 they ranked #8 and finished w/ a 6-10 record.

In 2010, Ari was #27 and finished w/ a 5-11 record.  In 2011 they ranked #10 and finished w/ a 8-8 record.

There are also a number of teams who did much better in 2010 than they did in 2011 and it directly attributed to their unsuccessful 2011 season:

In 2010, Phi was #2 and finished w/ a 10-6 record.  In 2011 they ranked #9 and finished w/ a 8-8 record.

In 2010, NYJ was #15 and finished w/ a 11-5 record.  In 2011 they ranked #26 and finished w/ a 8-8 record.

It’s no secret that getting explosive in the pass offense is a new trend in the NFL which equates to success, and it started in 2010 where both SB teams (GB and Pit) also did well in that area (both ranking in the top 5).  I think it will continue w/ the new rules and with offensive minded coaches and very good quarterbacks playing to the new rules.

The teams who struggled in explosive pass offense last year must address this issue in the NFL draft or Free Agency this year.  And as we saw with the Jets and Eagles, even teams who were moderately successful in explosive pass offense this year must continue to build their team to take advantage of the rules.

Teams who are not explosive are generally not successful, and each of the last 2 seasons (since the most extreme rules changes were implemented) all Super Bowl participants finished the season ranked in the top 5 for explosive pass offense.

Stop Comparing the 2007 Giants to these 2011 Giants!

By Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis.com

So many people compare this New York Giants team to the 2007 Super Bowl Champion team who beat the Patriots twice ATS, once in the regular season and once in the Super Bowl.  But the strengths and weaknesses of the 2011 New York Giants team are vastly different and in many ways completely opposite from the 2007 New York Giants team.  The only similarity is both Giants teams got hot at the end of the season, which obviously must happen to advance through the playoffs.

Instead of comparing these 2011 Giants to the 2007 Giants, there is another team who they are very similar to, in a very bizarre yet intriguing way.  This team also beat the Patriots twice in the same season en route to a Super Bowl Championship:  once in the regular season and once in the playoffs.  It’s not the 2007 New York Giants, it’s the 2006 Indianapolis Colts.  And these Giants are so eerily similar to those Colts that it bears comparing as well as looking to the 2006 Colts for insight into next Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Why are the 2011 New York Giants so similar to the 2006 Colts?

In the regular season, the 2011 New York Giants had a great offense but a bad defense, just like the 2006 Colts.  Both teams started the season well, sputtered, then regained momentum and ran thru the playoffs.  Looking at the 2006 Colts may provide a critical clue as to how the 2011 Giants could once again beat the Patriots this year:

  • The 2006 Colts were led by a 30 year old QB named Manning, who was a former #1 overall draft pick, who was playing his 9th year as a pro and guided his team with four 4th quarter comebacks and 4 game winning drives that year.
  • The 2011 Giants are led by a 30 year old QB named Manning, who was a former #1 overall draft pick, who is playing his 8th year as a pro, and guided his team to five 4th quarter comebacks and 6 game winning drives this year.
  • The 2006 Colts started out the season very hot, 9-0, and then dropped 4 of their next 6 games before ending the regular season with a needed win, and then began their dominant performances in the postseason.
  • The 2011 Giants started out the season very hot, 6-2, and then dropped 5 of their next 6 games before ending the regular season with 2 straight wins, and then began their dominant performances in the postseason.
  • The 2006 Colts had a tremendous offense but a significantly worse defense.  Their offense was 3rd in yds gained but their defense was 21st in yds allowed, a decrease of 18 spots.
  • The 2011 Giants had a tremendous offense but a significantly worse defense.  Their offense was 8th in yds gained but their defense was 27th in yds allowed, a decrease of 19 spots.
  • Contrast with the 07 Giants, who had a mediocre to average offense but a great defense.  Their offense was 16th in yds gained but defense was 7th in yds allowed, an increase of 9 spots.
  • The 2006 Colts had a brilliant pass offense, but their rush offense not nearly as productive.  They passed for 31 TDs (#1 in league) and rushed for just 17 (#6 in league).  They passed 557 times (#6 in league) and averaged 7.5 ypa (#1 in league).
  • The 2011 Giants had a brilliant pass offense, but their rush offense not nearly as productive.  They passed for 29 TDs (#6 in league) and rushed for just 17 (#6 in league).  They passed 589 times (#6 in league) and averaged 7.7 ypa (#4 in league).
  • Contrast with the 07 Giants, who had a much better rush offense than pass offense.  They passed for just 23 TDs (#14 in league) yet rushed for 15 (#7 in league) at a huge 4.6 ypr avg (#4 in league).  They threw infrequently (#17 in league) and averaged just 5.5 ypa (#22 in league).
  • Both the 2006 Colts and 2011 Giants finished the regular season +7 in turnover margin.  The 07 Giants finished the regular season -9 in turnover margin.

As you can see, from the way the teams were built (pass not run, offense not defense), to the way they started and finished the season, the 2011 Giants were VERY similar to the 2006 Colts (and very dissimilar to the 07 Giants).  But the similarities persist during their respective playoff runs:

  • The 2006 Colts, despite their bad defense during the regular season, held their first 2 opponents in the playoffs to extremely low scores, winning 23-8 over the Chiefs at home and 15-6 over the Ravens on the road.
  • The 2011 Giants, despite their bad defense during the regular season, held their first 2 opponents in the playoffs to extremely low scores, winning 24-2 over Atl at home and 37-20 over GB on the road.
  • The 2006 Colts were viewed as a team whose defense could not stop the run, and would lose their game to the best rushing team in the playoffs, the Chiefs.  They stopped the rush and won handily.
  • The 2011 Giants were viewed as a team whose defense could not stop the pass, and would lose their game to the best passing team in the playoffs, the Packers.  They stopped the pass and won handily.
  • The 2006 Colts won in the Conference Championships in a very tight game (unlike their prior 2 playoff games) by only 4 points in a game which required them to come from behind to pull off the narrow win.
  • The 2011 Giants then won in the Conference Championships in a very tight game (unlike their prior 2 playoff games) by only 3 points in a game which required them to come from behind to pull off the narrow win.

And just when you thought the similarities couldn’t get any creepier:

  • The 2006 Colts met the Patriots during week 9 of the regular season in New England as an underdog.  They upset the Patriots 27-20 in a very even game which saw both teams gain 24 first downs, but the Colts only had 2 turnovers and forced 5.
  • The 2011 Giants met the Patriots during week 9 of the regular season in New England as an underdog.  They upset the Patriots 24-20 in a very even game which saw both teams gain 23 first downs, but New York Giants only had 2 turnovers and forced 4.

So why is it important that this team is similar to the 2006 Colts?

The 2006 Colts beat the Patriots twice in the same season, but more importantly, from 2005 thru 2009, these Colts went 5-1 vs. the Patriots, and their only loss was a game that the Colts actually covered during New England’s incredible 2007 season.  You could say they were “built” to beat the Patriots, and it looks like the Giants are built in a similar manner and have seen similar success against the Patriots.

After being bounced twice by the Patriots in the 2003 and 2004 playoffs, and after dropping 6 straight to the Patriots through 2004, the Colts figured out how to beat New England in 2005.   During the next 5 seasons, the Colts were one of 2 teams who knew how to beat New England (the Colts and Broncos were, both at least 4-1 SU vs New England) while most teams had no idea (Bills were 0-10, Jaguars was 0-4, Jets were 3-8 vs New England).

Every single one of the 5 games vs. Patriots from 2006-09 was decided by 7 or fewer points.  The more they played, the closer the margin got:

7 and then 4 points decided the two 2006 meetings.
4 points decided the 07 meeting.
3 points decided the 08 meeting.
1 point decided the 09 meeting.

Now fast forward to the years 2007-2011.  Just like the Colts from 05-09, these Giants are one of very few teams to have sustained success vs. the Patriots.  They are 3-0 ATS and 2-1 SU vs. the Patriots since 2007, with the only loss being a meaningless (for the Giants) week 17 game as they tried to stop New England from completing a perfect regular season.  They narrowly failed but succeeded in stopping the Patriots perfect season that year in the Super Bowl.  Like the Colts, the Giants and Patriots games have been very close, with none being decided by more than 4 points.

So the question is, what were some of the keys that the 2006 Colts did vs the Patriots that these Giants have also been able to do?  Looking at the 6 games vs the Patriots where the Colts went 5-1 and comparing them to the 3 Giants games vs the Patriots where the Giants went 2-1 there are several notable “keys to success”, which, if duplicated, should lead to another Giants victory over the Patriots.

Keep the Game Close – Since 2001 the Patriots are 113-10 with a halftime lead, the 92% win rate is far and away best in the NFL.  But when trailing at the half, this team is very mortal:  just 22-30 SU and 14-37-1 ATS.  The Colts were trailing at halftime in just 2 of 6 games (and came back to win both) and the Giants were only trailing in 1 of 3 games (and came back to win).  So neither team allowed the Patriots to dominate early, and if they were unfortunate enough to trail at the half, both were good enough to overcome that and beat the Patriots in the second half.

Get into the New England Red Zone – Since 2001 the Patriots allow less than 3 trips into their red zone per game.  They are 99-11 (90%) when allowing 3 or fewer trips into their red zone, #1 in the league over that time.  But when allowing over 3 trips, they win just 54% of their games.  And, if the opponent scores TDs on over 2 of these trips, New England is just 11-21 (34%) including 6-26 ATS (19%).  The key number appears to be at least 4 red zone trips.  In their 6 games vs New England, the Colts averaged 4.3 red zone trips per game, with 3 games of 4+ trips.  In their 3 games vs New England, the New York Giants averaged 4.7 red zone trips per game, with all 3 games gaining 4+ trips.

Keep the Ball – Since 2001, the Patriots are 101-4 (96%) if they win the turnover battle, the 96% win rate is, again, best in the NFL.  But when they don’t win the turnover battle (if it’s even or they lose it) the Patriots have won only 50% of their games.  And they have won just 12 of 42 games (29%) if not a large favorite in the game.  The Colts did not lose the turnover battle once in 6 games played vs the Patriots.  The Giants went 2-0 vs New England if tied or ahead in the turnover margin, but 0-1 in the one game they lost it.

Maintain a Balanced Attack, Trending Toward the Pass – In their meetings, New England has tried to make these teams 1 dimensional, by bottling up the run, and believing Brady can beat either Manning.  In the 6 Colts games, New England held Indy to 3.5 ypa rushing.  In the 3 Giants games, New England held NY to 3.8 ypa.  But in these games, the Colts averaged 37 passes to 27 rushes, and New York Giants averaged 35 passes to 25 rushes.  The ratios were (yet again) extremely similar, and these teams were able to do more of what they do best (throw) but importantly kept New England honest in the run game, even if the run game didn’t generate a ton of yardage.  Many coaches would abandon the run far too early against the Patriots if it didn’t work.  Since 2001, the Patriots rank #3 in the league in fewest opponent rushes per game.  But neither the Colts nor the Giants have abandoned the run in their games vs New England.

Ensure Multiple Routes to Victory – Although both the Colts and Giants relied heavily on their Manning QBs, both teams were good enough to win even if their QB did not play perfectly.  In 2006, Peyton had his worst game during vs the Patriots, passing for just 56% and 7.0 yds/attempt (both well below season averages of 65% and 7.9 yds/attempt) and was sacked 3 times.  But the run game and the defense stepped up, rushing for 4.2 ypa and the Indy defense held the Patriots to just 36% on 3rd down, and the Colts won by 4 points.  Earlier this year, Eli passed for just 51% and 6.4 yds/attempt (both well below season averages of 61% and 8.4 yds/attempt).  But the New York Giants defense recorded 4 takeaways and held the Patriots to 33% on 3rd down and just 50% in the red zone, and the Giants won by 4 points.  Many teams do not have the balance of these two teams, and cannot beat the Patriots unless their QB plays flawlessly.  But because both the Colts and Giants had this balance, they could overcome a poor performance to record the victory.

Both the 2006 Colts and the 2011 Giants knew the importance of these 5 keys to the game, and as importantly, were able to execute them with success.  Which is why those Colts and these Giants were two very few teams to enjoy extended success against the Patriots.

So the big question is, will the Giants be able to duplicate that success tomorrow in the Super Bowl?  I have my opinion on the game, along with 14 prop bets ready for immediate viewing here:  http://www.sharpfootballanalysis.com/purchase.php

 

Comparative Tables:  2006 Colts vs 2011 Giants 

The Quarterbacks

06 Colts 11 Giants
Last Name Manning Manning
Age in Season 30 30
Drafted 1st Overall Pick 1st Overall Pick
Yrs Pro 9 8
4th Qtr Comebacks in Season 4 5
Game Wining Drives in Season 4 6
 
Their Season
06 Colts 11 Giants
Started Hot 9-0 6-2
Losing Streak Lost 4 of next 6 Lost 5 of next 6
Finish Won last game Won last 2 games

 

 

Offense vs. Defense
06 Colts 11 Giants 07 Giants
Strength Incredible Offense Incredible Offense Average Offense
Weakness Poor Defense Poor Defense Incredible Defense
Offensive Rank (Yds Gained) 3rd 8th 16th
Defensive Rank (Yds Allowed) 21st 27th 7th
Decrease in Rank (O – D) 18 spots 19 spots -9 spots
 
Offense:  Passing vs. Rushing
06 Colts 11 Giants 07 Giants
Strength Passing Passing Rushing
Weakness Rushing Rushing Passing
Passing TDs
(Rank)
31 (1) 29 (6) 23 (14)
Rushing TDs
(Rank)
17 (6) 17 (6) 15* (7)
Passes Thrown
(Rank)
557 (6) 589 (6) 544 (17)
Yds/Attempt
(Rank)
7.5 (1) 7.7 (4) 5.5 (22)
* The 07 Giants rushed for 4.6 yds/attempt (#4 rank in league)
 
Turnovers
06 Colts 11 Giants 07 Giants
Turnover Margin +7 +7 -9