By Shawn Maher (@ShawnBenMaher)
Cold, Hard Football Facts’ Soothsayer of the Hallowed Hogs
For the Hog Report and our fellow acolytes of trench warfare, Week 10 was a mecca of muck. Two of the most elite groups of d-hogs in the NFL, the Texans and the Bears, slugged it out on the mess that is known as Soldier Field. In the end, it became a war of wills and, even if it was named as the Hog Report’s Trench Warfare of Week 10, even we could not predict it.
Even if the Hog Report and Cold, Hard Football Facts’ quality stats did predict the Texans to emerge from the brutality victorious.
Entering into Week 11, we now prepare ourselves for the stretch run. We know now that the NFC West is a division for those that pine for the days of leather helmets and wishbone offenses (except for Seattle’s unexpected pint-sized rookie sensation) and that another NFC team on the opposite coast is more than ready for their bye week to recharge and a no-win November.
Roasted Pork Butt: The Giants’ Hogs Were Slain By David in Stripes
Arriving at Cincinnati, the Giants’ offensive line was banged up, as were its skill-position counterparts, but no one could doubt the formidable stature of the d-hogs and their league-leading NPP%.
The Bengals o-hogs had been steadily improving, thanks to the increased health of tackle Andrew Whitworth, the surprising play of right tackle Andre Smith, and the emergence of rookie guard Kevin Zeitler.
Cincinnati did only allow a 3.57 NPP% to the Steelers, but following week their bye week they were lambasted for a 12.77 NPP%. Granted, the Broncos have overtaken the top spot in the Defensive Hog Index for good reason, but the previous occupant of the top spot would surely dominate, no?
Nope, mark it zero. The Giants racked up no sacks or interceptions. Andy Dalton sat comfortably in the pocket and shredded Big Blue for 4 TDs.
Of course, the dagger was the o-hogs in blue’s inability to slow down Geno Atkins and the Bengals’ pass rush. Eli Manning threw 2 INTs, both of which were under heavy duress, to say the least. Throw in four Bengals sacks, and that is good for a 14 NPP% on the day.
With those numbers, it is no wonder the Giants lost. The last time a team won a game while throwing to picks, taking four sacks, and failing to make a notch in either column defensively? That would be the 1979 Vikings.
In fact, only three teams in the history of professional football have won in that manner. And the Vikings had the advantage of Tommy Kramer completing 73.1% of his passes. In fact, Kramer, the Raiders’ Kenny Stabler in 1978, and the Bills’ Dennis Shaw in 1970 all threw for 2 TDs.
Manning had none. He also only threw for 4.67 YPA, while the rushing game almost gained two more yards per attempt at 6.45. With that kind of NPP%, a rushing YPA inflated by garbage time yards while down 31-6 is barely even a moral victory.
With no joy in the Meadowlands, the Giants’ d-hogs have a week to figure out where it all went wrong. The o-hogs have a week to figure out how to become adequate. And Manning has a week to look at things.
Prime Cut: The Broncos’ D-Hogs Take the Reins at the Top of the DHI
The new number one in the DHI is elite for many reasons. The most obvious is the fact that Von Miller is just about as close to unstoppable as there is at the moment. While many compared him to the late Derrick Thomas when entering the NFL, he has been nearly as dangerous.
Through nine games, Miller has 10 sacks and 31 tackles. In fact, the Broncos have 31 sacks and a fourth-best 11.29 NPP%. On all the Hog Index measurements, Denver is in the top 10. They have the second-best rushing YPA allowed with 3.57 and are ranked 10th by only allowing 36.72% of third downs to be converted.
Against the Panthers, the Broncos dropped Cam Newton seven times and bashed their way to a 20.93 NPP% while Carolina’s vaunted backfield only rushed for 2.48 YPA. Unless that might be deemed a fluke, last week, as previously mentioned, they had a 12.77 NPP%, a 17.78 NPP% against San Diego, and even an 11.43 NPP% against New England’s OHI-best hogs, who have a microscopic 4.79 NPP% on the season.
Speaking of highly ranked o-hogs, the Broncos’ have really come into their own, allowing their d-hogs to be in a position to pin back their ears and rush the passer. Denver is ranked fifth in the OHI and second in NPP% allowed with 4.97.
As we have discussed previously, NPP% differential is a big indicator of a Super Bowl contender, with 5 usually being about the minimum. The Broncos have a differential of 6.32. The Patriots are coming up short at 3.73 while the Texans are just shy of the mark with 4.28.
Based on the NPP% differential and their play the past few weeks, the Broncos might be edging into a favorite for the AFC berth into the Super Bowl. If nothing else, they are the current favorite of the Hog Report to watch play.
Best Worst Stat: The Jaguars D-Hogs are the Greatest in Pass Rush Futility
The Hog Index and the rest of the Cold, Hard Football Facts were originated in 2004 to cut through the mess and deliver, well, just the facts, ma’am. Entering Week 11, the Jaguars’ d-hogs have the league’s worst NPP%. But this should be nothing new to them.
In the ninth year of the Hog Index, the Jaguars have been last in NPP% for three of those years. In that time, three teams have had less than 5 NPP%, and two of them were the Jaguars.
2012 Week 11 Jacksonville – 4.56 NPP%
2009 Week 11 Jacksonville – 4.79 NPP%
2006 Week 11 Washington – 4.49 NPP%
2004 Week 11 Jacksonville – 5.96 NPP%
In fact, the Jaguars have only managed to record two sacks, their season high, three times this season so far. In their Week 10 loss to the Colts they recorded a double-digit NPP%, 10.71, in their losing effort. In their only win, which was against the Colts, they racked up only 2.71 NPP%.
Such a futility over time has to shame everyone involved. No matter how many moustaches or uniform changes happen in the Sunshine State, somebody needs to find some d-hogs that do not belong in the slaughter house. Perhaps the most important element in today’s game has been severely neglected.
Trench Warfare of Week 11: Buccaneers at Panthers
Panthers’ defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has recently hinted that his defensive unit is not to blame for Carolina’s struggles. Facing off against an up-and-coming Buccaneers defense, McDermott’s hogs will be able to prove their mettle against a Tampa Bay offensive line that has been playing outstanding lately.
Both units ranked ninth overall in their respective indices. Carolina has a defensive 9.14 NPP%, while Tampa Bay’s offense is only allowing a 6.29 NPP%. But Charles Johnson (8.5 sacks), Greg Hardy (6.5 sacks) and Dwan Edwards (5.0 sacks) all line up as interior linemen on passing downs, and Tampa Bay has recently lost All-Pro guard Carl Nicks for the season.
The biggest question is if Carolina can stop Doug Monster, king of the awful nickname. Martin has grown some new-found patience and gotten over the rookie hump, rushing for 5.9 yards on 6.06 YPA. He was, however, held to 68 yards with 3.58 last week against the Chargers.
The Panthers were able to hold the Broncos to 2.95 YPA on the ground last week. Will they put the brakes on Martin’s runaway season?
Overall, the quality stats favor the Buccaneers, and for good reason. Tampa Bay is the better overall team, but nothing is scarier than pigs with something to prove.