By Shawn Maher
Cold, Hard Football Facts’ Pork Powered ****** (@ShawnBenMaher)

The moment of truth is coming.

We have reached the turning point in the season, and the most formidable groups of hogs have begun to overpower the competition. While some surprises are undoubtedly lurking around the corner, the Hog Report’s front-running hogs look ready to stampede to the playoffs.

At the same time, some hogs have already started to see the slaughterhouse. The butchering has already begun in the city of brotherly love.

Roasted Pork Butt: Decimated Eagles O-Hogs Rally, D-Hogs Have their Fat Trimmed

Jim Washburn and Andy Reid of the Philadelphia EaglesPhiladelphia’s offensive line has gone through a catastrophic rash of injuries this season, which contributed to the beatings that cost Michael Vick his job. But, as the Hog Report pointed out last week, they have dramatically reversed their performance as of late.

The d-hogs have rightfully been the ones on the chopping block.

The release of defensive end Jason Babin and firing of defensive line coach Jim Washburn were a culmination of the most under-performing group of linemen in the league. In the past two weeks, they have generated the same NPP% as the offense.

That 3.51 NPP% is outstanding for the offensive line, but a complete bust in generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

And the 6.90 defensive NPP% against America’s Dumbest Team is nothing to write home about.

The offensive line, opening up holes for Bryce Brown and company, has generated 7.44 YPA and is the fourth-ranked rushing offense in the Offensive Hog Index.

Against the Cowboys, Philly’s offensive line allowed a 2.86 NPP%, meanwhile the defense allowed a Tony Romo miracle. The NPP% differential against the Cowboys, 4.06, was at least a playoff-worthy number if it were to be sustained across the course of a season. Still it is nothing compared to the season-long NPP% differential by the hogs led by the Brothers Manning.

NPP% Differential Leaderboard: Super Bowl Caliber Hogs

 D-NPP%O-NPP%NPP% Differential

After a bye-week regrouping, the Giants have found their way to the top of the heap. But, just like the Redskins game indicated, their top spot may be tenuous. The Giants were unable to sack RGIII and generated a goose-egg of an NPP%.

The Giants also lost offensive tackle Sean Locklear to a gruesome knee injury, which means David Diehl is back to allowing defenses the quickest route possible to laying out Eli Manning.

As far as the other Manning’s group of hogs and their second-ranked NPP% differential, they managed to grind out a win against a surging Tampa Bay team. The offensive NPP% was an immaculate 2.63, and the offensive line did not allow a sack. The d-hogs only generated a NPP% of five yet remain atop the Defensive Hog Index. But only allowing Doug Martin and the Buccaneers 3.38 YPA rushing is certainly a positive takeaway.

As another example of the NFL’s desert mirage of parity, Tom Brady’s hogs come in fourth. That is also despite a disappointing game from a unit on a historical streak.

Best Worst Game of the Week: Pats’ O-Hogs Falter, Keep Top Spot and Get Win

After a five-week span in which they only gave up two sacks and a 0.71 NPP%, all while opening up running holes good for 4.39 YPA, New England’s offensive line had a game to forget against Miami. Tom Brady was sacked four times and only threw for 5.95 YPA compared to his season average of 7.7.

They are still tops among o-hogs in converting 52.63% of third downs, but their performance against was one of the worst in the Belichick era. In fact, only two other games compare, and they were the home and away Jets series in 2000.

Pats in the Belichick Era with 40 Att, 4 sacks and less than 250 Yds
YearOpponentAttYdsSacks INTNPP%

The team is certainly hoping for Logan Mankins to mend quickly to give the offensive line a spark, because New England’s guards should be preparing for a healthy dose of perhaps the greatest hog of them all.

Trench Warfare of the Week: Houston Texans at New England Patriots

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans bears down on Matt Stafford of the Detroit LionsWhile momentarily retaining their top spot in the OHI, the Patriots could easily be dethroned by J.J. Watt and his bulls on parade. Watt already has 15.5 sacks per year and should be considering where his defensive player of the year trophy would look best.

He has four sacks in the past two weeks, including a three-sack performance against Detroit that he is surely hoping to replicate.

The Texans were able to push around Tennessee for one of their best games in the trenches, posting a nil offensive NPP% and 17.65 on the other side of the ball. New England was better than usual on defense, pressuring their way to a 9.38 NPP%, but offensively they had the previously mentioned 11.36 disaster.

If Chandler Jones and Mankins fail to suit up, will the Patriots be able to reverse their fortunes against the Texans? Overall, the Cold, Hard Football Facts’ quality stats give the game to Houston, and the Texans are just decimating the trenches currently, led by Watt and the criminally-underrated offensive tackle Duane Brown.

 Expect a little December Foxborough magic, but Watt will be impervious to the Belichick incantations. The Texans win what could be a divisional-round rematch.