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Monday, 31 December 2012

OLR Week 17: Pat And Go

Is it just me, or did the regular season pass by far too quickly, again? Week 17 saw playoff spots locked up, records broken (or missed by 9 yards), and the final regular season OLR scores recorded. For the third time in four weeks, it's the Patriots that top the pile in week 17, and with a big score as their rivals at the top of the OLR table falter, maybe they stand a chance of claiming this season's OLR overall title?

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Prediction League - + Games of the Week - Week 17

A huge 13-3 week 16 from Phil sees him enter the last weekend with a crucial 2 game lead. But with some teams likely to rest their starters, or perhaps watch their chances of bettering playoff standings disappear and thus take their foot off the gas, there's a lot of trapdoors to fall down in week 17.

And as we reach a tight final week, so to does the NFC. With 2 spots, including the NFC East championship, up for grabs and 5 teams to fill them, there will be a lot of fans finding themselves rooting for unlikely teams.

Minnesota need to beat Green Bay to ensure themselves of a wildcard spot. Should they slip up Chicago are the next inline provided they win in Detroit, meaning that for one week only, Bears fans are also Packers fans. If both of those lose then the door is open for the New York Giants to sneak in, but only if they win AND the Redskins beat Cowboys.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

OLR Week 16: Smashmouth in Seattle

Now that Christmas is over, it's time to get back to more important things. Like football. Now we've reached crunchtime in the 2012 season, and with one week to go it's time for the real contenders to step up. Enter the Seattle Seahawks. Whilst their offense has been exploding in recent weeks with scores of 58, 50, and now 42, it's no secret that they've been rolling, but big totals against Arizona and Buffalo aren't always something to write home about. When you put up 42 on one of the best defenses in the NFL, and a real Superbowl contender, then people really start to take notice. It's this big scoring win over the 49ers on Sunday Night Football that was won the Seahawks Week 16's OLR #1 spot, and as other top OLs falter around them, a shot at the 2012 OLR title.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Mark Hez-pick Prediction League - & Games of the Week - Week 16

If, like us, you're nursing a hangover after a heavy friday night, then grab a coffee, sit down and take a look at our picks and games of the week!

A 10-6 stalemate between Phil and Toby has allowed TomTom Sports to catch up and now sit just 1 behind Phil as well.

With just 6 games covering all our predictors, it's all to play for with 2 weeks left.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

NFC Wildcard Race

As things stand, Seattle and Minnesota will be the wildcard teams in the NFC.

In the pre-season no one was talking about these teams getting into the playoffs, especially the Vikings, but thanks to the performances of rookie QB Russell Wilson, and bionic man Adrian Peterson here they are. On the verge of getting into the final dance.

But sitting right behind them, ready to pounce are Chicago, Dallas, Washington and New York, all at 8-6 and all capable of putting a run together and ruining the party. So who gets in, and who goes home?

December Power Rankings

With 2 weeks left in the regular season here's what you've all been waiting for; our December power rankings!

Some teams have found themselves on huge winning streaks, but against soft opponents. Others have gone downhill faster than Bradley Wiggins on a bike. As ever, this isn't just a "who has the best record" list. We use on-field performance and future considerations as well as the final score board to rank the teams individually before putting them through the TPL calculator to get our number 1-32.

If you think your team is too high or too low, please leave a comment!!

OLR Week 15: A Patriot in a Pear Tree

Another week down in the NFL, another chance to look into the numbers behind the performances of the best and worst Offensive Lines in the league, and at this festive time of year it's the New England Patriots OL who earn extra presents from Santa and a bonus mince pie by topping the OLR rankings for a second week in a row. This, despite their SNF loss to the 49ers, keeps them fighting towards that top spot in the OLR season rankings, but are they closing the gap on the #1 elect unit, the New York Giants?

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Nick Hard-pick Prediction League - & Games of the Week - Week 15

The early games of week 14 swung in favour of our picks leader Phil, but the 4.25 ET kickoffs resulted in another tied week for Phil and Toby, who continue to be separated by just 1 win, but don't think this is just a 2 horse race. Sneaking up on the outside, with the best record from week 14, is Thomas Moore from TomTom Sports. He now sits just 2 games from the lead, with Gur 3 games back. This thing is going down to the wire folks!

There are a lot of clinching and eliminating playoff scenarios this week, for the full list you can check here. So let's get into our game of the week, yet another titanic clash in Foxboro...

OLR Week 14: All Hail Pat!

That's right, everyone's favourite throwback mascot is to thank for the top OLR score from week 14. He may not have been on the side of their helmets (which, let's be honest, he always should be), but Pat Patriot and his Centres stance certainly inspired the guys upfront for the Patriots as they took apart the then 1-loss Texans on MNF recording a superb 42-14 win, despite JJ Watt's best efforts.

More on their performance, plus how the real cream of NFL Offensive Lines rose to the top this week, after the jump...

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Pick-tor Cruz Prediction League - & Games of the Week - Week 14

A rocky week 13 has seen no change at the top of the league, but both Gur and 2nd City Fanatics have gained a game on Phil at the top and have a chance at overhauling his lead.

This week sees the pressure ramped up not just on our pickers, but also on the teams themselves and for different reasons. Some will scrap it out for playoff seeding, others for the chance to make it in, while those at the foot of the standings put forward their cases for being kept on into next season.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

OLR Week 13: A Purple Patch

With week 13 in the books, our Offensive Line Rating (“OLR”) series returns again. This week we have a new team that finds itself top of the pile in our stat that grades the blocking performance of offensive line units around the NFL, and their score comes despite losing a big divisional matchup this week which may put pay to their aspirations of playoff football. No, I don’t mean the Eagles (although they scored uncharacteristically well).

This week’s OLR top scorers are the Minnesota Vikings.

 And frankly, they are run-away winners.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Long Goodbye?

By Toby Durant

Jake Long's 5 year, $57.75 million dollar rookie contract, which came with $30m guaranteed and made him the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL before even playing a snap is coming to an end. And so, maybe, is his time in Miami.

The Dolphins have gotten a good return from Jake Long in that contract. He quickly became one of the premier left tackles in the NFL, rewarding the #1 draft choice that Miami used in the 2008 draft. However, for the last season and a half his play has plateaued, and even dropped off. Injuries to his back, shoulder and bicep have caused issues previously and now a tricep injury could sideline him for the reason of the season.

The cumulative effect of these injuries seems to have sapped some of Long's power, and as a result affected the way he plays and uses leverage. He's admitted himself that this season has been disappointing, particularly after allowing 1 sack, 3 QB hits and 3 QB hurries against Indianapolis recently, in what was perhaps the worst single performance of his career.

So, with his free agency looming, should the Dolphins bring back their franchise left tackle? Can they afford to do so or should they look to use their money elsewhere?

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Darkhorse For Offensive Rookie of the Year

By Toby Durant

For those who don't know, I love Russell Wilson.

The guy impressed me hugely during his time at Wisconsin. His athleticism, accuracy and cool head stood out not just in the Big 10, but nationally. I could understand the reservations NFL teams had about him coming into April's draft: He is smaller than even Drew Brees, he didn't have the arm strength of the other QB's in his class. And yet, I could see that if given a chance, he would do well in the NFL. And as it turns out, thanks to his work ethic and an open minded coach Wilson got his chance before many thought he would, and hasn't looked back.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Pick Foles Prediction League - & Games of the Week - Week 13

Do we have a close race for you! After 12 weeks there is just a one game gap in the prediction league, with last year's winner Toby hunting down Phil, who has been at or near the top all season.

A poor week from both 2nd City Fanatics and TomTom Sports has seen them fall away from the race and give themselves extra work to do. Do they take some risks to try and make up ground?

In week 13, with must-win games for several teams from Pittsburgh against their bitter rivals Baltimore to Seattle's road trip to Chicago, everything is on the line. You won't win the Super Bowl (or Prediction League) this week, but you could definitely lose it!!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

OLR Week 12: Standing On The Shoulders...

Another superb week from the Giants offensive line. As we take our weekly dive into The Pulling Linemen's exclusive Offensive Line Rating ("OLR") statistic, the Giants emerge as the cream of the crop once again, playing a huge role in their surprising domination of the Green Bay Packers in week 12, and cementing their position as the best OL in the NFL in 2012.

Just below NYG in week 12, however, is a unit we haven't seen mentioned amongst the best for quite some weeks, mostly because they've been shocking.

So shocking in fact, they were bottom of the NFL in week 11...

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thanks-Picking Prediction League - And GOTW - Week 12

While America settles in for turkey and trimmings we here at TPL get the joy of extra thursday football, even though once again the Lions and Cowboys are struggling to play watchable football.

Last week saw 3 very near upsets from Arizona, Cleveland and Jacksonville, only to be denied in at the death.

Our pickers have found a rhythm now, and it's getting very, very close. With Phil leading by just one from TomTom Sports and by two from Toby every game is crucial, and one bad week could see you fall out of contention for the most coveted title in all of sports. With no more byes for the rest of the season we're back to picking 16 games a week, so let's get on it. But first, our games of the week...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

OLR Week 11: San Fran-Tastic on MNF

It was first billed as a potential preview of the NFC Championship game. Then it became the Backup Bowl. It ended as the 49ers show.

Their 32-7 victory over the Chicago Bears may not be indicative of how these teams will fare going forward once their starting QBs return, but with both teams sporting top 10 defenses, it certainly shows where the Offensive Line strength really lay in this matchup. As we look inside the numbers, the 49ers OL unit can be very pleased with their performance this week as they take the number 1 ranking, their first of 2012.

Friday, 16 November 2012

November Power Rankings

With just a month and a half left of the regular season, we're starting to see a clear playoff picture emerge in one conference, though the race remains tight in the other. Much more important than potential seeding, however, is where we have them ranked in our monthly power rankings. A lot of the changes this month are relatively minor, often being a change of no more than three or four spots, but there are two hugely noticeable changes - the Colts, who jump a huge 16 spots, and the Redskins, who tumble 11. For the rest of the rankings, hit the jump.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Colin Kaeper-pick Prediction League - & Games of the Week - Week 11

A tie... A frickin' tie!!! No one enjoys tie games in the NFL. Half of the players didn't even realise the game was over after the clock wound down. It threw up issues for survivor pools and betting slips and in our picks league we're left with a disgusting "-1" in our records.

Is it really that hard to keep playing til we have a winner? If you want to lower the strain on players then adopt the NCAA system of each team starting at the opposition 25 yard line. There are plenty of ways to leave teams and fans with a more satisfying feeling than what we saw at Candlestick on sunday.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

OLR Week 10: Revenge of the Titans

You're welcome Titans fans.

Last week in my OLR analysis of the NFL, the Tennessee Titans offensive line graded out top of the league, despite the team having their asses handed to them by the Chicago Bears. After watching the game back it was clear the Titans OL had done reasonably well in pass-pro, and kept QB Matt Hasselbeck's nose clean, but their numbers in the running game were massively bloated by Chris Johnson's garbage time 80 yard TD scamper, so I dismissed their #1 rating as a quirk of the numbers.

Someone obviously told the Titans what I'd said...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Ryan Pick-ett Prediction League - & GOTW - Week 10

Welcome back, one and all, to the Phil Gaskin Show.

Phil has lept into a 1 game lead after another outstanding week, going 13-1 to gain some separation. It was a week that seemed to go largely as expected, with reports that the sportsbooks in Las Vegas had a really bad day as a lot of the favourites cantered to victory.

Well this week we've all been left with some work to do to chase Phil down, and there looks to be many tricky to call matchups this week, from the NFC East battle between Philadelphia and Dallas to the NFC North game between the struggling Lions & Vikings. So let's take a look into our games of the week, starting with what could be a defensive war between two 7-1 teams....

Five(ish) Plays that Paid Off - Week 9: A Rush and a Bush and the Touchdown Is Ours

After a far-longer-than-expected hiatus, the Five Plays that Paid Off are back! For the rest of the season, as a preemptive move, I will say that while the aim is still to get five plays out each week, it's not always going to be feasible - but fear not, during the offseason, there will be a "Missing Plays" series, making sure that there will have been five plays from every week broken down. So, please feel free to continue sending in nominations for plays to be broken down - either on Twitter using the hashtag #TPL5plays , or in our Facebook group - and they will be gotten to eventually, either during the week or during the offseason.

Anyway, on to the break down. The last play we broke down was a Reggie Bush run (back in Week 4.... mea culpa), so it's only fitting that we end the hiatus with another Reggie Bush play. The play, a straight forward outside-zone run, shows how, even when the play is (largely) blocked correctly (we're looking at you, John Jerry and Jonathan Martin!), the blockers can only do so much - and how a running back with the athletic abilities of Reggie Bush uses that agility to turn a potentially small-ish gain into a touchdown. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

OLR Week 9: Lies, Damn Lies, And Statistics

Sometimes, when you analyze the NFL statistically, you can tell a real story. The numbers generated during every game can be crunched this way and that to reveal previously misunderstood units, to prove arguments when a team's record doesn't seem to match their play, or to attribute blame to one particular area of a roster for a team's failures on the field. Sometimes, however, the numbers generated can just be misleading, and less integral sources might use these figures to try and convince you of something that simply isn't true.

Fortunately, here at TPL, we try to keep our integrity in tact, and when the results we generated this week for OLR analysis threw up a frankly ridiculous #1 team, we didn't fall for it and won't try to pedal it as fact. What will do, is present the numbers and let you decide for yourself if they deserve the top spot.

This week's number 1 team: the Tennessee Titans...?

Monday, 5 November 2012

Can The Colts Make The Playoffs?

In 2011 it was all doom and gloom in Indianapolis. The team was dreadful, Peyton Manning was in street clothes and they had an emotionless robot for a head coach. Fast forward 12 months and things are looking pretty good in Indy despite saying goodbye to #18 and Chuck Pagano's illness.

Mostly, this is thanks to one Andrew Luck. For those of you who've been living under a rock for the last 9 weeks, Andrew Luck has not disappointed in his rookie year. A lot of people said he would be unable to live up to the pre-draft hype about him being the best prospect since Peyton Manning, and that with this team around him he'd struggle to get any kind of passing rhythm. Well if anything, the pre-draft hype undersold Luck's ability. His movement and vision is that of a 10 year veteran, his accuracy is unerring. And he's got Reggie Wayne to sling the ball to.

Sitting as they do at 5-3, two games behind Houston for the division and with the 3rd best record in the AFC, is it possible that just 1 year on from going a horrible 2-14 that the Indianapolis Colts could make the playoffs?

Friday, 2 November 2012

Talib to the Patriots: Both Sides of the Coin

Here at TPL HQ we're lucky enough to have supporters of both the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So when former first round pick Aqib Talib traded the Florida sunshine for winter in New England there was a buzz like nothing else. Not only was it a rare trade during the NFL season, but it was a "talented but troubled" young player who has the potential to really help a contending team.

The NFL doesn't see nearly as many deadline moves as the other major US sports. A lot of that simply has to do with the complexity of NFL schemes and play calling over the pretty seamless transition that is possible in baseball, basketball and ice hockey.

Those who frequently play the EA sports Madden franchise often make a lot of trades during their franchises. Playing as Carolina? Well I clearly don't need two highly-paid running backs, I should trade one for a guard or a defensive tackle (It's pretty obvious we were all understanding when the Panthers fired Marty Hurney a few weeks ago). That kind of thing just doesn't happen in real life. UNTIL NOW!!! The Patriots turned over a 4th round pick to Tampa in return for Talib and a 7th rounder. So let's get the opinion from both sides of the deal...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Pickuan Underwood League + GOTW: Week 9

In the depressing (for Phil anyway) aftermath of the Wembley game last week came a very solid set of performances all round in our picks league. Phil leads the way at 73-45 along with 2nd City Fanatics and TomTom Sports, with just a 4 game lead over the last placed Until Kickoff.

Entering week 9 certain teams are very much in a "Put up or shut up" state as it becomes harder and harder to dig yourself out of an early-season hole and stake your claim to a playoff spot. And so we bring you our games of the week, featuring those who could use a nice winning streak...

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

OLR Week 8: London Ballin'

Like much of TPL this week, we'll be focusing on the London game with our OLR analysis from week 8. Luckily for us, it just so happens that one of the offensive lines that played in London had a pretty damn good day, and find themselves at the top of OLR table for the week.

I don't think it's any surprise that the Rams aren't that OL. No, this week's OLR winners are the New England Patriots.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Time To Talk About M-V-Peyton

Let's get things straight. As a Patriots fan, I both hate and respect Peyton Manning. He's been our rival for as long as he's been in the league, and with almost continuous "Brady or Manning" debate it feels like I've had to talk about him more in NFL discussions than any non-Patriots player, both in and out of TPL Towers.

Since his return from multiple neck surgeries and missing the 2011 season, Peyton has come into Denver and looked... well not quite his usual self, but pretty damn close. The offense is like the Colts just decided to wear orange this year.

The Manning-led Broncos sit atop the AFC West at 4-3, with their only defeats coming against the "elite" teams of Atlanta, Houston and New England. They look like a much more potent team than the 8-8 team last year that made it through to the 2nd round of the playoffs.

And as for Manning? Well he could be in line for a 5th MVP title.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Week 7: Griffin Goes To New York

Apologies for the delay in getting these week 7 rankings out. It's been a busy week for me and I've been away from a computer for most of it, so only just gotten the time to sit down and watch these games properly.

Week 7 saw out first rookie vs. rookie match-up as Brandon Weeden took his Browns into Indy to face 1st overall pick Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Meanwhile Russell Wilson traveled to San Francisco for a TNF divisional matchup against the 49ers and Washington's Robert Griffin III was also against a divisional foe, the defending champion New York Giants.

Friday, 26 October 2012

TPL Interviews... The Rams @ Thursday Practice

Finally, I got my chance at Rams practice this week. Gur's been having all the fun, but whilst he was off interviewing Marcell Dareus, Stevie Johnson and Kelvin Sheppard of the Buffalo Bills, I took my turn at the Arsenal FC Training facility for a cold and wet St Louis Rams Thursday practice.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

TPL Interviews... Stevie Johnson, Kelvin Sheppard and Marcell Dareus

As by now you surely know by now, especially if you're following us on Twitter as we live tweet Rams practices, press conferences and media events (HINT HINT), TPL are all over the various bits and bobs the NFL are running around London in the build up to this weeks' International Series clash. You'd be mistaken if you thought that all the events are being organised just by the NFL or NFL UK - and you'd be equally mistaken if you assumed that the events would only feature teams involved with the International Series (which I'll generously extend to include Fred Taylor, with the Jaguars starting their four-year residency next season). While I've been dutifully reporting on every single thing the Rams have done over the two days since they landed (well, not quite) in north-west London, as Ram-o-phile Phil was coming down from Nottingham to cover his beloved St Louis team in the flesh (which you'll know if you follow us on Twitter HINT HINT HINT), I instead today found myself on the absolute other side of the Capital this afternoon, in the newly-built Westfield Stratford City shopping centre (the one they built because of that little 'Olympics' thing that went on a few months ago which no-one really paid attention to).

"But Gur (and/or Fred, if you're that-way inclined)", I hear you ask (yes, I bugged your laptop), "why on Earth would you do such a thing?" Well, hypothetical reader, it was because those wonderful guys and gals at New Era decided that there was no better time than the present to piggy-back on the pre-Wembley hype and cash in on London's football fever by teaming up with JD Sports to bring over three members of the Buffalo Bills to talk with the media and have a good ol' fashion sign-and-greet with the fans.

As you can see, our followers were divided
over the Bills' boys look
However, as the hour delegated for media access was scheduled at the same time that, 36 miles away on the other side of London (that's road distance, not as-the-crow-flies), there was the media access to the Rams players and coaches in a top-class training facility with fully-equipped media room, it was perhaps less than surprising that most of the sports media chose to attend the Rams' session London Colney. However, there was still plenty of reporters in line ahead of me waiting to interview the Bills' triumvirate of Stevie Johnson, Kelvin Sheppard and Marcell Dareus. Almost every single one of them, however, this being a New Era event, was from a fashion website or 'lifestyle magazine'. I must admit, I grew concerned that we would be told the media access portion of the day would be over before I had time to ask my questions, and was almost indignant that I, a widely respected* NFL analyst**, may not have access to these three players, while the Bills themselves looked utterly bored as they answered generic questions that could be applied to any sport ("when did you first know you wanted to play in the NFL?"), or, worse still, suggested that the interviewer didn't even know who they were speaking to, or why they were famous ("so... what is your favourite range of New Era caps, the fitted or the snapbacks?"). With the exception of two interviewers who (shock!) knew the game of football and (double shock!) actually knew who they were interviewing, I don't think the Buffalo players were posed an actual question about football. At last, though, my time had come. I marched purposefully up to the table, laid down my trusty dictaphone before them (which, by the way, can be seen in this NFLUK video, pointed at the mouths of Chris Long and Cortland Finnegan - that's right, my equipment has more celebrity than I do), and fired away with my first question...

*in my house **in the most utterly loose and generous sense of the word

London Picking - Prediction League + GOTW: Week 8

Welcome back!

After an iffy week 6 everyone bounced back well in week 7, with Toby and TomTom Sports going 12-1, missing out on a perfect week by 2 points thanks to the Bills allowing Chris Johnson to run all over them.

With all the NFL Wembley coverage going on this week that Toby is unfortunately unable to get to, he's made the Patriots @ Rams game his Game of the Week, outlining what is needed for either team to come away victorious. You can see that, plus our guest game of the week and our week 8 picks below...

Sights and sounds from the Rams - 25/10/12 (Part 1)

We attended the Rams' practice yesterday, bringing you all the breaking news from the day on our Twitter feed - yes, we reported Amendola's return first (in your face Schefter) - and we're going to be doing the same today, so make sure you're following us! In the mean time, we've got lots of pictures, videos and quotes to share with you from yesterday. So much, in fact, that we didn't have time to put them all up in one go! So we're splitting all the things we recorded from yesterday into two parts - hit the jump for some videos from the day, and quotes from Michael Brockers, Bradley Fletcher, Chris Dahl and Quintin Mikell. Check back later for part two, which will feature a bunch of photos, quotes from Chris Long and Cortland Finnegan, transcripts of Jeff Fisher's and Sam Bradford's press conferences, and a general write up of the day.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Play 60: UK style - an account of yesterday's Rams Community Event in London

An understandably groggy St. Louis Rams
roster (having literally been bused over from
the airport) arrive at Regent's Park to kick off a
week of events, building up to Sunday's game.
As I got to the top of the escalator at Camden Town, the station exit was far more packed than it should have been on a late Tuesday morning. Perhaps more surprising, for the casual observer at least, was that the majority of the traffic clogging the ticket barriers was comprised of young schoolchildren, most of whom looked to be no older than twelve or so. Personally, I had my own theory as to why these kids were doing their best to disrupt the flow of commuters attempting to enter the station, one which was confirmed by what one must hope was their teacher, raising his umbrella and leading the children towards Regent's Park – and just happened to be wearing a Redskins hoody. Clearly, this was one of five delegations from different schools in the area invited to take part in the first event held by NFL UK in the run up to the sixth International Series game on Sunday, a special British edition of the NFL's Play 60 initiative – to be run by the entire St. Louis Rams roster.

TPL Interviews... the St Louis Rams at the UK Play 60 event

Rams linemen cheer on the
kids at the Play 60 event at
Regent's Park in London

We kick off our coverage of the buildup to to the International Series game between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots at Wembley on Sunday with some choice quotes from today's Play 60 event hosted by the Rams, where children from five different schools took part. We were able to get some quotes and short interviews with some of the Rams players, who gave different takes on whether the Rams have an advantage over the Patriots by arriving in the UK earlier, the keys to slowing down Tom Brady, and the whole concept of the International Series. We'll be bringing you a full report of today's event tomorrow, and make sure you're following us on Twitter, as we'll be live-tweeting the Rams' first practice at Arsenal's training facility, as well as the press conferences from Jeff Fisher and Sam Bradford. In the mean time, hit the jump for quotes and answers from players such as Sam Bradford, James Laurinaitis, Cortland Finnegan and others.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

OLR Week 7: Saints or Sinners

Until the start of the 2012 season, many thought of the New Orleans Saints as having the best offensive line in football. If not, certainly one of the strongest interiors. The pairing of OGs Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans was a formidable one, and undoubtedly gave opposing DTs sleepless nights before games.

This year, however, the Saints team in general has been poor. Really poor. Without Sean Payton at the helm, the team was slumped at 1-4 before week 7, and their offensive line was consistently amongst the worst in the NFL in terms of OLR, our unique offensive line rating system. Perhaps losing Carl Nicks in Free Agency has been key in this (they replaced him with another OG standout in Ben Grubbs), or perhaps running game co-ordinator Aaron Kromer has been having to focus on his role as interim HC too much to give the OL the support they need. Either way, this unit has been poor.

Could week 7 signal a turnaround?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Bill Belipick Prediction League + GOTW: Week 7

Last week was, what's the word... Crap.

There were a whole bunch of upsets, which ended with just one of us, TomTomSports, being above .500.

This week sees 6 teams on a bye, so there's not a lot to predict, but with big clashes between the only 2 AFC teams with a winning record, divisional battles on primetime and two rookie quarterbacks squaring off, let's take a look at our games of the week, and our picks...

Week 6: Maiden Win For Weeden

Welcome back to our rookie quarterback rankings. This week sees the last of our fab 5 finally get his team going in the win column, while a usually stellar member takes a nose dive and we have a new name at the top of our rankings.

There were some tricky fixtures this week. With the improved Minnesota Vikings coming into Washington to face Robert Griffin III, the high-powered Patroits visited Seattle and Miami played host to a feisty Rams team.

October Power Rankings

We're at the midpoint of the October games, so the time is ripe for us to unleash our power rankings for the month. Perhaps surprisingly, over half of the teams are did not move much in the rankings, with five teams remaining exactly where they were ranked in September, and another fifteen moving by three spots or less. Still, there are a few bigger moves - four teams dropped by seven places, while two more made double-digit jumps. As always, you can tell us why you think we're wrong in the comments below, or by heading over to our Facebook group.

We kick of the rankings with the only team left with a '0' in their record...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

OLR Week 6: Bill-ding A Reputation

Firstly, I'm sorry for the pun. I know it's awful.

Week 6 of the NFL is done, and a quick look at the performances of the league's offensive lines shows a few surprises, some dominant performances, and some usual culprits languishing at the bottom of the table. That said, our OLR (our unique scoring system for grading offensive line units) top scorers for week 6 are second time victors, and a unit that has found itself consistently in the top tier of performers - The Buffalo Bills.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Pick Mangold League Plus GOTW: Week 6

Week 6 is here, and so is our weekly prediction competition and GotW feature. It's still a close battle for the yellow jacket of predictions, with a tie for 1/2, 3/4, and 5/6, with all 7 teams separated by just 3 points. Week 5 was a good week all round, Toby leading the way with a 12-2 record and no-one falling below 9-5, but this set of games looks much more difficult to call. Pre-season favourites for the NFC and AFC in Green Bay and Houston face off down in Texas, the top teams in the AFC West, the Chargers and Broncos, battle it out in a matchup with potential playoff implications even this early in the season, and last years NFC Championship teams NYG and SF will go head to head at Candlestick.

Take a look after the jump for our Games of the Week, plus predictions for week 6. There might be a few surprises...!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Week 5: Upsets & Injuries

What an up and down week for our rookies, one had a huge 2nd  half comeback at home, another jumped out to an early lead only to see it disappear. While we had our 1st new sighting of the season, but at the expense of one of our usual 5.

The matchups this week weren't great. Indianapolis and Andrew Luck, with their head coach Chuck Pagano in hospital, had to host Green Bay. Washington were playing the undefeated Atlanta Falcons while Brandon Weeden travelled to the defending champs in New York.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

OLR Week 5: Introducing Defensive Adjustment

As we showed last week, OLR is a stat that can be influenced hugely by the strength of an opposition defense. When Green Bay, an offensive line unit that has consistently ranked amongst the worst in the NFL, came out top in week 4 thanks to facing a terrible Saints front 7, it was clear we needed to introduce a defense factor into the OLR calculations.

And so we have.

This week sees the first OLR statistics that factor in the strength of the defensive front 7 based on their performance through the first 5 weeks of the season, and straight away we can see the effect of this new addition on our top 5 scorers from week 5. Although as sods law would have it, one team's OL performed so well in week 5 that even a weak opposition couldn't drag them out of the top spot.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Five(ish) Plays that Paid Off - Week 4: Bush It to the Limit

Apologies for how late these Plays that Paid Off have come! Unfortunately, real life has gotten in the way this week with familial duties, so will likely have to put most of Week 4's breakdowns up next week. Still, at least we got one off this week! This play comes nominated by Greg Roscow on Twitter, who nominated two plays in one tweet. If I have time, I may look at the Manningham run (though there is a different play from that game that I will break down when and as I can get to it), but for now, we'll focus on Reggie Bush's 21-yard effort that started a drive ending in Miami's first touchdown of that game. After explaining how outside zone run blocking works last week, this play gives us an opportunity to explore its cousin, the inside zone. Enjoy!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Tashard Choice League - & Games Of The Week - Week 5

Last week saw something of a picks explosion, with 10-5 being the worst record. Was it  luck, or are we finally beginning to get a handle on what has been a crazy season so far?

This week sees 4 teams take their bye, and all 4 have some work to do. Dallas and Detroit have found themselves with serious issues to face if they're to live up to the playoff expectations of their fan base, while Oakland need to figure out how to perform on the road and Tampa need to start putting up 60 minutes of football so they can claim real victories as opposed to moral ones.

Week 5 sees the only divisional game take place in what has quickly become the most fun division in football, the NFC West. With the undefeated Arizona Cardinals looking to make it to 5-0 on the road in St. Louis on Thursday night. After that sunday sees the renewal of hostilities between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as Denver travel to New England.

So sit back and enjoy week 5 with out recommendations of what to watch, and out picks.

Week 4: Not All Interceptions Are Made The Same

With Andrew Luck and the Colts on a bye week we're down to a fab 4 in week 5. And with that comes a new name to the top of these rookie ranks.

We've also seen the first rumblings that one team may need to move away from it's rookie quarterback to someone with more NFL experience, which we disagree with.

So let's get into these 4 games now, starting with someone I really didn't expect to see top the rankings this week...

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

OLR Week 4: Packing A Punch

What a turnaround. The Packers Offensive Line should have been lambasted for their horrendous performance in week 3 on Monday Night Football, but they managed to get off (almost) for free thanks to the Inaccurate Reception that ended the game. Of course, their terrible game versus an admittedly inspired Seahawks DL did not escape our OLR analysis, and the Packers graded out as 28th in the NFL allowing 8 sacks in the game. Cut to week 4, and there is a huge turnaround, with the Packers the NUMBER ONE offensive line unit in the NFL! How can this be? They've not ranked above 26th so far this entire season? The answer is simple, and they're down in the Bayou.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 3: Mojo Magic

The final Play that Paid Off for Week 3 looks at one of the most common running plays used in the NFL - the Power O - and shows exactly why it is so popular: when executed properly, it can lead to huge plays on the ground.
Remember, we are always wanting more nominations to be broken down, so when you're watching the football tomorrow and on Monday night, any time you see a play that particularly impresses you, please nominate away! You can nominate either by tweeting a description of the play with the hashtag #TPL5plays or by nominating in our Facebook group. If we break down a play you nominated, you'll get a mention in the blog and everything!

On with the play...

Friday, 28 September 2012

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 3: InSanuty

Our next Play that Paid Off serves as a warning to teams who do not respect wildcat quarterbacks' passing ability, especially on deep balls. This play, the first play from scrimmage in the matchup between the Bengals and the Redskins, was nominated by Kyle Clark is our Facebook group - nice one Kyle! As always, I'm going to noodge you (that's right, I'm breaking out the Yiddish) to nominate as many plays as you like this Sunday and Monday, either in the Facebook group, or by tweeting out a description of a play with the hashtag #TPL5plays - if we go with a play you nominated, you'll even get a mention, just like Kyle!

This play highlights how pre-snap adjustments by the defense, in this case a reaction to the 'wildcat' package,  can take a team out of sound coverage and put them in bad positions that the offense can easily exploit. The play also shows how Cincy OC Jay Gruden, younger brother of Chucky, was able to use the formation to create a favourable mismatch between the team's best receiver and an out-of-position Redskins defender. Enjoy!

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 3: The Music City Miracle - Motown edition

When I decided to start the 'Five Plays that Paid Off' series, I wasn't expecting to break down two punts within the first three weeks of the season, but then again, who was expecting Tennessee to pull out this sneaky little number? This play comes nominated by James Tipper in our Facebook group - nice one James! Remember that you too can nominate a play to be broken down - and get your name in TPL - by nominating a play in the group (which you should be joining anyway, for all your Facebook-hosted football-y goodness) or by tweeting a description of a play you would like to see broken down using the hashtag #TPL5plays.

Right, on with the play, a callback to one of the most famous returns in Titans history...

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Michael Pick League & Games of the Week - Week 4

It's official, Ed Hochuli and his buddies are back!! Personally, we're going to miss the #FreeEdHochuli campaign, as well as some of the madness that ensued from poor refereeing (well, it was enjoyable when your team wasn't the one getting screwed over).

The spotlight has never been on the officiating to such an extent before, and we can only imagine the uproar if the returning refs have a bad day, but it will be great to see Ed Hochuli's biceps back, and Mike Carey's exaggerated hand gestures.

The replacement refs have made picking games this season even more tricky than usual. Most teams have felt that bad calls have cost them games, or at least damaged their chances. No where was that clearer than on Monday Night Football with the crazy ending in Seattle. You could see the anger in Steve Young's eyes in the postgame discussion, mostly because it was also being reflected back off of Trent Dilfer's head.

But we're back to normal now, and every weekend won't be full of whining at the refs (it definitely will) or constant second guessing of calls (again, this will definitely still happen). So without further ado, lets get into our games of the week:

Week 3: Interceptionless In Seattle

Aaaaall the talk has been about the replacement referees botching calls left, right and centre. And no where was it more impactful that in Seattle. You all know the story, and I won't talk up your time with it here, but the important point from this pieces persepective was that it favoured one of our rookie quarterbacks, and saved the rookies from a winless weekend.

With the real refs returning for week 4 we might get a better sense of just how good these rookies are when they don't get the benefit, or injustice, of bad calls. And as the volume of tape builds, will defenses start to figure them out?

But for now, let's look at their week 3 performances, and it's a familiar name at the top:

Five Plays that Paid Off - Week 3: Cash & Kerry

When the Eagles were dominated by the Cardinals last Sunday, perhaps no play summed up Philadelphia's night as well as James Sanders' fumble return for a 93-yard touchdown. Now, the return itself is incredibly straight forward, and doesn't really need analysing - he simply picked up the ball, with all other 21 players on the field behind him, and outpaced them for a touchdown thanks to some blocks thrown by team mates. More interesting to us is the actual fumble, caused by Kerry Rhodes on a blitz. So, in a break from our regular Plays that Paid Off, we delve a little bit into speculation and look at who we believe was responsible for Rhodes coming unblocked on the blitz, what could have been done to block Rhodes, and what options were open to Vick that would have prevented the fumble. Enjoy!

This play was nominated in our Facebook group by Nick Wadlow, though I missed his nomination until after this piece was written - an example of great minds thinking alike! So, a retroactive shoutout to Nick for nominating this play to be broken down - nice one Nick!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Rimington Profiles - Episode 4

It's finally back, the next episode in our Rimington Profiles series. After a long hiatus (thanks in so small part to there actually being some football to talk about), Episode 4 is now with you. Today, we look at another 5 guys in the running for consideration as the best Centre in college football, including representatives from the WAC, ACC and Big Ten. How have they fared on Saturdays, can we expect to see them playing on Sundays some time in the next few years? Find out after the jump.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Wild (NFC) West

M.D. Jennings interception - Touchdown Seahawks!!
For years now, the NFC West has been the laughing stock of the NFL. Over the last 5 full seasons (’07-’11) the NFC West is 68-132 in non-divisional games, easily the worst record in football, it’s been picking up top 5 picks with regularity. They even managed to send a 7-9 team to the playoffs. But now, three teams are restoring the reputation of a tarnished name. San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle are legitimately good. More than that, they’re dangerous. 

Off the back of a strong 13-3 regular season, and overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers were the pre-season favourites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy with Vegas. They backed that up with an opening week win in Lambeau Field against Green Bay. The very same Packers were just man-handled by Seattle (and the refs) on Monday Night Football. Arizona, predicted by many to finish with the worst record in football, went into Foxboro and shutdown the much vaunted Patriots offense to come away with a 20-18 win before bullying a 2-0, and much fancied, Philadelphia Eagles.

All of a sudden, these teams have turned the NFC West from a laughing stock and walk-over to a scary prospect.

The NFL is cyclical, teams wax and wane, but how did an awful division get itself 3 teams that cause opponents fits every week?

OLR Week 3: Also Rans? Nevermore.

With week 3 of the NFL in the books, it's time to check in on the OLR rating for each team and have a look at how they performed. In previous weeks we've seen how the New York Jets dominated in week 1, before being surpassed by the Buffalo Bills to the OLR Weekly Title in week 2. Whilst neither of these teams was a disaster in week 3, the Jets had a fairly anaemic running game once again, and the Bills finally allowed their first sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick for the season, and so neither team makes it to the top of the pile. Indeed, only one of the previous winners scrapes into the top 10! This week we have a new #1, and with a score that beats anything we've seen previously, they can be very proud of their achievement.

At the other end of the table, there are some very obvious (and increasingly regular) selections who, if you watched any of their games at all, will see just why they're rooted down in the late 20s and 30s of this all-NFL ranking. For a full breakdown of the week scores, check after the jump.