By Shawn Maher (@ShawnBenMaher)
Cold, Hard Football Facts' Pied Piper of Pigs
As the season progresses, small sample sizes become acceptable sample sizes and the hog impostors become weeded out from the flashes in the pan.
The Bears’ star-studded cast of defensive dynamos continues to rule the Defensive Hog Index, while the Texans spent their bye week at the third spot, eyeballing a run towards the top.
Today being Halloween, the Hog Report is going to go trend-or-treating, examining some of the scariest monsters of this holiday: the NFL’s nastiest hog units.
Over the past few weeks certain groups have solidified their status as elite, and some have shown spookily similar stats to undead hogs of seasons past.
Roasted Pork Butt: Dallas’ O-Hogs Produce Historical Week 8 Pig Slop
Granted, Dallas was forced to deal with a formidable group of d-hogs from the Giants, who entered the game with a second-ranked 12.24 NPP%. The two units have trended in much different directions since they met in Week 1, and Dallas left the game at an exactly average ranking of 18 in the Offensive Hog Index.
But the Dallas offensive line has become abysmal at opening up holes in the running game, now ranked last at 3.59 YPA. This led to Dallas passing the ball 62 times because they were only opening up holes large enough to run for 1.12 YPA.
The Giants were able to pin their ears back and sack Tony Romo four times and force four interceptions, including one jaw-dropping pick six by Giants’ defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
The number of eight negative passing plays is very coincidental, as the Cowboys were only the third team of all time to throw for more than 60 attempts and rush the ball for less than 1.50 YPA. The coincidence is that all three of those instances occurred in Week 8.
The other two historical instances came at the hands of the Raiders, something that probably will not happen with the current Raiders’ d-hog unit and their 30th-ranked NPP%.
Unsurprisingly, all three of these teams lost.
Teams with more than 60 pass attempts and 1.50 R/YPA or less
1965 Week 8
1989 Week 8
2012 Week 8
Over the past three weeks, the Giants have been terrorizing quarterbacks into a 15 NPP%. This surely does not give the Cowboys any solace, however, as their interior o-hogs seem destined for the slaughterhouse.
New England’s O-Hogs Back to an Elite Level
At the beginning of the season, things appeared to be in dire straits for the Patriots’ offensive line. Center Dan Koppen is now in Denver, left tackle Matt Light hung up his cleats, right guard Brian Waters never showed up for camp, and left guard Logan Mankins had to have offseason surgery after playing 2011 on a torn ACL.
But second-year left tackle Nate Solder has played nearly as well as Matt Light did in his prime, using his outstanding technique and blazingly-quick feet. Solder and Mankins lead an offensive line keeping Tom Brady upright at a great clip. They currently top the Offensive Hog Index for good reason: their retooled lineup with a healthy Mankins has become one of the best units Tom Brady has ever been behind.
Even though they squared off against a St. Louis d-hog group sporting a 7th-ranked 10.74 NPP%, they left London with no sacks or interceptions. Except for a hiccup against Denver’s dangerous d-hogs, New England’s performance as of late has been outstanding.
WK 8 vs STL
WK 7 vs NYJ
WK 6 vs SEA
WK 5 vs DEN
They have generated a minuscule 2.86 NPP% over the past three weeks. So far in 2012 they have a 5.04 NPP% and have rushed for 4.34 YPA. While the Patriots’ horrendous defensive passer rating will likely sink them in the long run, the current group of o-hogs compares favorably to great New England teams of the Belichick era:
- 2003: 7.87 NPP%, 3.39 R/YPA
- 2004: 8.00 NPP%, 4.07 R/YPA
- 2007: 4.94 NPP%, 4.10 R/YPA
Broncos’ Hogs Spur Peyton Manning, Haunt Drew Brees
Even though at the beginning of the season it looked like Peyton Manning might sully his illustrious career, both he and his hogs have righted the ship. Whether it’s Colts or Broncos, Manning is at his best when he has powerful steeds to ride.
Against the Saints, Manning’s linemen gave up no sacks and Manning threw no interceptions. Even more telling, Manning was 4/7 on deep balls for 124 yards, a 17.71 YPA, thanks to his protection. Manning finished with 10.17 YPA and the Broncos rushed the ball for 5.49 YPA while blowing the Saints’ defensive line off the ball.
In fact, the Broncos’ offensive line has handed in four straight outstanding performances in protection:
- vs Saints: 0 INT, 0 sacks, 0.00 NPP%
- vs Chargers: 1 INT, 0 sacks, 3.33 NPP%
- vs Patriots: 0 INT, 2 sacks 4.35 NPP%
- vs Raiders: 0 INT, 0 sacks 0.00 NPP%
On the other hand, the Broncos’ d-hogs did not turn in a great performance, only generating a sack and an interception for a 4.65 NPP%. They can show that they rattled Drew Brees into a less-than-stellar passing performance. His line of 22/42 for 213 yards and 5.07 YPA indicate discomfort in a dirty pocket. Brees also only completed 1/7 on deep targets for 18 yards and a 2.57 YPA.
Brees was not only disrupted and uncharacteristically inaccurate on the deep pass, but he did not even have enough time to attempt them. Those are statistics that Elvis Dumervil and company will be able to wear with pride.
The Best Terrible State Line: 49ers Dominate Despite their O-Hogs
The 49ers’ win over the Cardinals on Monday Night Football was a curious statistical case. On the one hand, Alex Smith was able to complete 18/19 with 10.74 YPA and no interceptions. But he was sacked four times throughout the contest, despite his high YPA.
Considering that the Calais-Campbell-led Arizona d-hog group is ranked 4th overall in the DHI, with a 3rd-ranked 11.95 NPP%, pressure on Smith was likely to be allowed by an offensive line ranked 30th in NPP%. In fact, the only other quarterback to ever overcome a porous offensive line to put up an eerily similar stat line to Smith did in 1974.
Ken Anderson, who, as supported by the Cold, Hard Football Facts, is criminally overlooked by Canton. Anderson was a young quarterback in his third year out of Augustana College in 1974. He did not have a rocket arm but was smart and underrated athletically.
He played in an offense whose passing concepts were designed by Bill Walsh, an assistant to Paul Brown in tandem with Bill Johnson, who coordinated the running game. San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh runs an offense similar to Walsh’s early incarnation of the West Coast offense in San Francisco: run-based and rife with double-tight-end sets featuring two running backs.
So, it is unsurprising that the only other quarterback to pass for over a 90% completion rate while being sacked for more than three times and win would be Ken Anderson, another quarterback whose physical talents were not his primary skill and who had to overcome a poor offensive line.
Teams with Better than 90% Completion Rate and Over Three Sacks
2012 San Francisco
In a Halloween week of the statistical undead, it appears that the Bengals’ 1974 performance rose from the grave and possessed Smith and the 49ers.
Trench Warfare Week 9: Chicago at Tennessee
No, that is not a typo. Chicago’s stacked defensive front is as dominant as anyone could want, putting up numbers comparable to the ’85 Bears, as the Hog Report pointed out last week.
Also pointed out in last week’s column was that the Titans’ offensive line was becoming one of the best units in the league, allowing Chris Johnson to once again run like CJ2K.
And this week, after a near-miss against the Colts, Tennessee’s o-hogs are ranked second in the OHI and are rushing for 4.37 YPA. The Bears are only allowing 3.76 YPA, which is the perfect test to show if the Titans are for real, or just taking advantage of weak competition.
The Bears have a decided advantage overall in CHFF’s quality stats, but the battle in the trenches should be interesting for a variety of reasons. Defenders getting penetration throw a wrench into Tennessee’s zone-blocking scheme, so will they be able to keep the Bears out of the backfield and let Johnson accelerate?
And can Tennessee left tackle Michael Roos, not the most fleet of foot, keep up with Shea McClellin and Julius Peppers on the edge, or will they put a beating on Matt Hasslebeck’s old bones?
The Bears’ offensive line is, of course, a bit of a mess. But they get a chance to play the Titans’ d-hogs, ranked last on the DHI. Will they keep Jay Cutler upright enough to actually allow him to step into a throw?
Or will we see more of those Cutler back-foot-beauties as Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan finally get to spend some time actually sacking the quarterback instead of generating another game of single-digit NPP%?
The Titans are a team that would love to play spoiler if given the chance, but likely will not put the heat on Cutler or the clamps on Matt Forte needed to pull out a win.