Another week is in the books for the 2012 season, and every week creates more of a bizarro season. Down is up, up is down and no one knows what each game has in store.
Despite all of the ulcer-inducing action, a constant still remains the same: teams with superior line play have emerged victorious.
Three of the top-four ranked teams in NPP% emerged victorious, and the top team at disrupting the passer, the Chicago Bears, was on a bye week that kept it from joining that trifecta.
None of this was more evident during Monday night’s thrilling finish. Peyton Manning took the crown as the all-time leader in comeback victories in no small part to the disruptive power of his d-hogs’ generation of negative pass plays.
Three Prime Cuts
The Broncos’ D-Hogs Stampede Philip Rivers on the Path to Victory
Manning’s masterpiece will stay ingrained in the minds of many fans when recalling his comeback from a 24-0 halftime deficit to beat the Chargers, and rightfully so. But still, in order to become only the second team to rally from such a large deficit since 1993, the comeback would have never launched if not for the extra possessions and points created by the Broncos’ pass rush.
The 17.78 NPP% caused by the Broncos is astronomical, to say the least, but the timing of their big plays tells an even bigger story.
It is only the 11th time in the new millennium that a defense has trailed then caused four sacks and four interceptions on the way to victory, according to Pro Football Focus. The Broncos’ pass rush was also directly responsible for Philip Rivers’ two fumbles.
- Three of the four interceptions were caused in the fourth quarter, and the first the four came at the end of the third quarter.
- A third-quarter sack by Elvis Dumervil caused a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
- Rivers’ second interception, the first in the fourth quarter, was returned for a touchdown.
- All four sacks took place in the second half. The last sack, again by Dumervil, led to a Broncos victory formation.
- Both of Manning’s fourth quarter touchdown passes came on the heels of negative pass plays. One was Derek Wolfe’s drive-killing sack that forced a punt and the other was following a Broncos interception.
Out of the 11 teams that were previously mentioned, only one came close to the Broncos’ clutch defensive performance. The Redskins’ defense in 2010 was down 14-10 at halftime and then took the lead with a pick-six at the end of the third quarter.
Overall, it was an unparalleled defensive performance that allowed Manning to take the comeback crown in style.
The Buccaneers’ D-Hogs Grab the No. 4 Spot, but it is a Hollow Victory
Even though the Buccaneers’ ranking is a victory for a team that seemed lost on defense last year, they have achieved it on the strength of the two least-predictive factors of success in the Defensive Hog Index. They are tops in the league in rush defense, allowing only 3.07 YPA, and are allowing opponents to convert 3rd downs only 29.85% of the time, good for the fifth spot.
Unfortunately, the Bucs’ d-hogs are hardly disrupting passers, which explains their 2-3 record. A 17th-ranked NPP% is not going to hack it, and has not so far against superior teams.
Sure, shutting down Kansas City’s running game was a feat to be lauded. The Chiefs entered the game rushing for 5.20 YPA, but Tampa Bay held them to 2.67. On the strength of their rushing attack, Kansas City was converting 3rd downs at a 46.48%, but in losing to the Buccaneers they only converted 35.29%.
Their lack of pass rush is directly related to their win-loss column, however. Observe the NPP% of the teams they have played so far in the Week 6 Offensive Hog Index, and it is obvious that Tampa Bay’s high ranking should be enjoyed while it lasts.
The Bucs must find a way to crank up the pass rush, or teams with a sub-10 NPP% will continue to exploit Tampa Bay’s weak link.
As the NFC South Turns: The Falcons D-Hogs are the Anti-Buccaneers
The Atlanta d-hogs are an enigmatic group. They are only ranked 21st in the DHI, but they have achieved the second-highest ranking in the most telling category: NPP%. At the same time, they are the second-worst team in rushing YPA, allowing an embarrassing 5.23 YPA.
This porous rushing defense could be partially attributed to Atlanta’s tendency to jump out in front of teams, allowing them to rush the ball in lieu of gaining big chunks of yardage in the passing game.
Against the Raiders on Sunday, however, this theory was shaken.
Down 13-7 at half, the Falcons’ offense was struggling to find its stride. After tying up the game at 13 in the third quarter, Atlanta’s defensive hogs put the clamps down on Oakland’s Carson Palmer. He threw a pick-six to Asante Samuel while under duress, and the Falcons went up 20-13 on the timely play.
Their putrid rushing defense did allow the Raiders to tie the game back up on a Darren McFadden rushing touchdown, but Matty Ice did what he does and drove the team down the field for a winning field goal. Still, the Falcons’ timely defensive pressure jump-started a Falcons team that began the fourth quarter with two straight punts.
Roasted Pork Butt: The 49ers’ Season Summarized in NPP% Differential
In a huge surprise, the 49ers hogs were pushed around by those in the Giants’ stable, in what was considered by the Hog Report to be the best match-up of the week. San Francisco intercepted exactly zero passes and matched that with a goose egg in sacks.
This unimpressive feat has only been accomplished three times in the Jim Harbaugh-era: in both of this season’s losses, and during a loss at the hands of his brother John and the Ravens in 2011. This season the 49ers have achieved their 12th-ranked spot in the DHI based mostly on their stout run defense. Their 6.37 NPP% is sitting at 28th in the league.
It has been shown over the years the defensive hogs that perform at a high-level in NPP% often find themselves playing in February. Last season’s 49ers looked on the fast track to a Super Bowl appearance, but their Super Bowl aspirations were based on their second-ranked 10.81 NPP%.
It overlooked their NPP% differential.
By taking into account how both their offensive and defensive hogs give a team a chance to win, both last year’s 49ers and this year’s edition do not have the look of a Super Bowl champion about them.
Of course, the first thing that jumps out is that the 2008 Steelers, despite their outrageous defensive NPP%, were not very impressive in NPP% differential. The Hog Report did some number crunching of the Steelers’ playoff numbers, and everything ends up making sense.
On the way to a Super Bowl victory, the Steelers still put up an 11.97 defensive NPP% against far superior competition. Their offense only allowed a 8.25 NPP%, giving them a 3.72 differential. That falls right in line with the other recent world champions.
And, for the record, the Giants have a 12.14 defensive NPP% in 2012 compared to a miniscule 4.31 offensive NPP%. That 7.83 differential reinforces that their Week 6 performance was every bit as dominant as it appeared.
Trench Warfare of Week 6: Green Bay at St. Louis
On the surface, this seems like a mismatch. But, on the other hand, these two teams match up very well in the trenches. St. Louis has a highly underrated group of d-hogs, and all three of their wins have come within the friendly confines of their own Edward Jones Dome – the location of Sunday’s showdown. Their offensive line has been more than sketchy, but has truthfully performed over their talent level.
Like the Rams, Green Bay has a fearsome pass rush led by Clay Matthews. Rookie bookend Nick Perry has been solid as well, and looks like he will likely end up playing against the Rams. Their o-hogs have been up and down, but, like the Rams, held up admirably last week against a couple intimidating pass rushers in J.J. Watt and Cameron Wake.
Looking at the numbers, the edge is only very slightly towards the Packers:
The Rams want to make a statement against the team that handed in the most striking performance in Week 6: a Packers team that simply dismantled the Texans.
Against the Dolphins, the Rams offensive line allowed only a 7.14 NPP% and ran for 6.0 YPA.
Still, against an even more impressive defense, the Packers o-hogs put up a 5.13 NPP% but only 3.19 rushing YPA.
The difference here will probably not come in the trenches, however. Despite that, this should be a game highly recommended for those that enjoy the utter destruction of d-hog pass rushers, as the Rams’ Chris Long and Robert Quinn will pin back their ears like heat seeking missiles after their elusive target in Aaron Rodgers.
Conversely, Matthews and Perry will blow past the Rams’ overmatched tackles.
Whatever advantage the Rams have in the rushing game will be far outweighed by the Packers’ scoreability, essentially the yards gained per point, a CHFF measure of offensive efficiency. The Packers’ offense jumped up 10 spots in scoreability after hanging up 42 points on the Texans to move to the 9th position. Their 8.05 yards per point against the Texans is less than half the Rams’ 24th-ranked 16.84.
Of course, anything can happen during any game, especially when an NFC West team is involved.