By Shawn Maher (@ShawnBenMaher)
Cold Hard Football Facts’ Trench Warfare Talisman
With only three weeks left until a load of under-performing hogs get sent to the slaughterhouse, the Hog Report saw several teams continue to separate from the pack towards a playoff run.
That being said, we took a long hard look at a few stories from the other half. A group of o-hogs whose number was up weeks ago, a group of d-hogs knock-knock-knocking on the playoffs’ door, and a group of o-hogs who may have played well enough to save their bacon this offseason.
But, first, we take a look at the front-running hogs.
Hog Report’s Super-Bowl Barometer: New York Giants Take the Lead in NPP% Differential
The Hog Report looks first and foremost at the Offensive Hog Index and the Defensive Hog Index to gauge the state of the NFL’s linemen. But, as we have discussed, NPP% is the most predictive factor of Super Bowl championships.
It’s a passing league and the name of the game is pressure.
The difference between how well a team’s hogs get after the quarterback and how well they protect their own is a no-brainer predictor of success. The threshold for a Super-Bowl run is a 3.5 differential.
In a dismantling of the Saints in the Crescent City, the Giants maintained the top spot with their offense only giving up a 5.71 NPP%. The defense only generated a 6.82 NPP%, sacking Drew Brees and forcing two interceptions out of him is not a bad turnout at the Superdome.
The rest of the front-runners also fell since last week, with the Patriots and Texans bringing each other down. Ultimately, the Patriots and top-ranked offensive line only gave up a 5.41 NPP% against the third-ranked d-hogs. New England is beginning to set the stage for an AFC championship rematch against a Broncos team second in NPP% differential.
Green Bay has also made large strides and apparently found a running game. Their 5.60 YPA against the Lions bodes well for their playoff chances. Seattle’s severe dismantling of the Cardinals also puts them in the playoff picture, but that breakdown will come in due time.
Prime Cut of the Week: The Beleaguered Chargers’ O-Line Shuts the Steelers Down
At this point, the Chargers were actually happy to have an undrafted rookie left tackle, Kevin Haslem, available to start. And his bookend on the right side, Reggie Wells, was picked up off the scrap heap before the week. The interior of the line, however, was still the same nucleus of the 30th-ranked offensive line in the OHI.
Against a Steelers team fighting for its playoff life, the Chargers had
- 200 yards passing
- No interceptions
- One sack
- And a whopping 42 pass attempts
Despite Philip Rivers’ abysmal 4.76 YPA, the Bolts still convincingly won 34-24. Their offensive line showed up in a big way with a 2.33 NPP%. Norv Turner may have received a farewell gift of a game ball for his efforts, but that does not mean the Chargers are not fighting to put together some impressive game tape for the next regime.
Roasted Pork Butt: The Seahawks Throttle the Cardinals in the most Emasculating Way
First and foremost, the fact that the Seahawks ran over the Cardinals while averaging 6.76 YPA and staggering total of 284 yards. Secondly, although Arizona is the top team in defensive NPP%, they only managed an 8.70 mark against the Seahawks.
That is almost a full four points below the 12.66 NPP% that the Cardinals sported entering the game.
The Seahawks took the time to announce themselves as playoff contenders at the expense of any pride that the Cardinals might have left after a 58-0 loss. Their rookie bookend offensive tackles helped allow the Seahawks to wallop Cardinals quarterbacks into a 16.67 NPP% and Arizona only rushed for 2.69 YPA.
The Seahawks rose up five spots in the DHI after that performance.
And the Cardinals? Only two other times has a team played that poorly up front since 1997, and only once was it a team not from Arizona.
Best Worst Stat of the Week: The Vikings Plow Their Way to a Win
The Vikings passing game has been anything but stellar as of late, but offensive linemen take solace in the fact that poor passing means a heavy dose of run blocking. And when those linemen get to block for Adrian Peterson inexplicably running harder than he did before shredding his knee, they will road-grade their way to 171 yards, two touchdowns, and a victory.
Of the four games that teams have won since 2009 in such a smash-mouth manner, three of the winners were unsurprisingly from the NFC North. Twice it was the Bears, but this time the Vikings set the Bears on the losing side of a team with such a listless aerial display.
Wins With Less Than 100 Yards, a Sack and an Int w/no TDs
Trench Warfare of Week 15: Giants at Falcons
Both of these teams are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Falcons are currently 11-2 with a playoff spot wrapped up, while the Giants are 8-5 and holding on to a tenuous position atop the NFC East.
On the other hand, the Giants are coming off a 52-27 thrashing of the Saints, while the Falcons had quite the opposite experience against the Panthers.
Carolina’s offensive line is a patchwork affair, but the Falcons’ pass rush still only managed a microscopic 2.78 NPP%. Meanwhile, on the way to a 30-20 Carolina win, the Panthers rushed for 195 yards and 6.09 YPA, while the Falcons only mustered 3.18 YPA.
And the Giants 10.99 NPP% on the season is something surely in the back of Matt Ryan’s mind.
In the overall Cold, Hard Football Facts Quality Stats matchup, the Falcons just barely squeak out the advantage. The Falcons hope to see Sean Weatherspoon and William Moore back to disrupt Eli Manning and shut down the running game, and the Giants have altogether too many holes. After such a stinker, expect Atlanta to toughen up and show some toughness in the trenches on their home turf.