By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts paramedic of pigskin
The Cold, Hard Football Facts first responses to the afternoon games of Week 2 are low-lighted by our new Golden Nuggets Award, our pathetic follow-up to a great Week 1 picking NFL games
, and the Chief Troll's foray deep into the heart of SEC country this weekend, we're I left a long line of confused Auburn fans in my wake.
ONE - Golden Nuggets Award for the Jets
The Golden Nuggets award this week goes to Kerry Rhodes and the rest of the Jets defense.
Rhodes spit out more trash this week than Oscar the Grouch, saying that his team would try to "embarrass the Patriots
." It took some balls to say it ... and even more to back it up.
Considering the fact that the Patriots had dominated the Jets this decade, including an 8-0 record at the Meadowlands since 2001, it sounded like tough talk from that little punk in your neighborhood who knew he was about to get his ass kicked, but wanted to get in a few verbal shots before suffering another physical beating.
Except this time Rhodes and his mates delivered: the defensive front harried Tom Brady all day (even if the stat sheet showed zero sacks), Rhodes, Darrelle Revis and the New York secondary smothered New England's receivers, and the normally unflappable Brady was held to a pathetic 53.1 passer rating. It was his worst statistical effort since posting a 51.5 rating, also against the Jets, on a nasty day in December 2007 (the Patriots won that day, 20-10).
The Jets this time walked away with a 16-9 victory and an early lead in the race for the AFC East crown – behind a rookie quarterback, no less.
The winning points came on a 9-yard pass from Mark Sanchez to Dustin Keller on the first drive of the third quarter, set up by a 43-yard kick return by Leon Washington.
Beating a questionable Texans team in Week 1 was a nice start. Verbally and then physically abusing your tormentors of the past decade is a colossal start that instantly legitimizes the Jets – at least for now.
TWO - Time to worry in Title Town
Our rumors of Green Bay's remise (yes, we just made up a word) into the realm of NFC contenders we're greatly exaggerated.
We expected big things out of the Packers this year. As noted in our preseason predictions and elsewhere, we anticipated that Aaron Rodgers would continue to improve over his great performance of 2008 and that the defense would recover from its dreadful showing last year and look more like the unit of 2007.
So far, it's not shaping up that way.
Sure, the Packers earned a huge 21-15 Week 1 victory over the Bears – but it took a personal-record four picks by Chicago QB Jay Cutler for the Packers to stay in the game. Green Bay did not commit a turnover that night.
The Packers won the turnover battle again in Week 2 – nabbing two Carson Palmer passes while losing only a Ryan Grant fumble.
Even with this advantage, the Packers suffered a humiliating 31-24 loss in Green Bay to the Bungles.
These are very bad signs: The Packers are already +5 in turnovers after two weeks – a mark that almost always equals 2-0.
Yet Green Bay is just 1-1 with a gift victory and an embarrassing loss to show for it. So far, so bad.
THREE - The average Auburn University cheerleader weighs just 85 pounds
Longtime readers of the Cold, Hard Football Facts know that, even though this is almost exclusively a pro football site, I'm the world's biggest SEC fan outside of the old Confederacy.
I spent this weekend down in SEC country for Auburn's non-conference game at home against West Virginia (the old fam is West Virginia hillbillies ... which explains a lot around here).
I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that the crowds and the electricity around these SEC stadiums are just mind-blowing ... quite literally nothing in the NFL like it in terms of scope and size of the tailgating scene, not to mention the amazing collection of young hotties.
I don't have many Cold, Hard Football Facts from the game (a 41-30 Auburn win) except for this one: research, and this photo, prove that one middle-aged Troll is roughly the size of three Auburn cheerleaders put together.
By the way, if you want to make friends at Auburn, this is the way to do it: In addition to wearing my brand new XXXXL Auburn t-shirt to the game, I sported a camouflage-style Georgia Bulldogs ballcap that I bought at a gas station along I-85 on the road from Atlanta. (Fashion tips are another service we provide free of charge!)
It's a brilliant ensemble if you're looking to strike up a conversation in the SEC. Most people just said, "you look confused." In fact, 200 people must have said that in the tailgate lots and at the game. But when I opened my mouth and responded with a Boston accent so thick you could float a bottle cap on it, my confusion made more sense to them. It set North-South relations back about 144 years ... but it made more sense.
As one recent Auburn grad said to me, "Alabama is our biggest rival. But even we root for them to beat Georgia. They're the nastiest fans in the SEC."
FOUR - Kyle Orton is the Horseshoe
It wasn't just the Week 1 win, it was the fact that he frequently won games in Chicago despite abysmal stats.
The 2009 season is looking no different. The Broncos are off to a quick 2-0 start following their 27-6 win over Cleveland in Week 2 and Broncos fans who thought their team got the short end of the stick in the Cutler deal are starting to feel a little better. (As CHFF readers know, we were among the few out there who felt the deal might work in Denver's favor
... but more on that later.)
But it is interesting to note that the Broncos, who were absolutely atrocious on defense last year, have surrendered just 13 points in their first two games -- against teams (Cincy and Cleveland) who have combined for 51 points in their two games against other opponents. It's also interesting to note that his Bears teams routinely pulled out spectacular plays on defense and special teams to save his hide.
So maybe that's part of the Horseshoe's hidden talents: Orton has such a bad reputation as a passer that teammates step it up about 22 notches out of fear and end up winning.
FIVE - A Nobel Prize in Mathematics
The Nobel Prize for Mathematics this year goes to the CHFF staff for finally figuring out the secret to beating the Patriots in the regular season:
Keep them from scoring touchdowns!
Pure genius. In fact, our scientific genius reminds us of a little song from our youth:
show video here
Brady's Patriots are 23-2 in their last 25 regular season games (that's pretty good, for those of you keeping score at home). The two losses have something in common: the Patriots failed to score a touchdown in both games: a 21-0 defeat at Miami back in December 2006, and this week's 16-9 loss at the N.Y. Jets.
The last defeat for Brady's Patriots when they scored a touchdown was a 17-14 home loss on Nov. 12, 2006 also to the Jets.
It seems that familiarity breeds some success for New England opponents: since Nov. 12, 2006, Brady's Patriots have not lost a regular-season game outside the AFC East.
Even Matt Cassel's Patriots were better outside the division than within it (though, of course, the samples are small): They went 4-2 against the AFC East and 7-3 against the rest of the division.
SIX - We suck
It's probably the single worst week in the history of CHFF. However, there is some consolation: for the second week in a row we picked a road dog to win outright and both delivered (Denver in Week 1, Baltimore here in Week 2).
For the year now, we are 20-11 straight up and 15-16 ATS entering the Monday night game.
SEVEN - Gore & Hill a dangerous combination
Much of it has to do with our budding love affair with 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill.
We were among the very first to jump on the Hill bandwagon – in fact, we play the tuba – and were among the few that picked the 49ers to reach the playoffs this year
. We talked about his surprising statistical performances quite a bit over the summer – performances made all the more impressive by the fact that he quarterbacked a bad team that won when he played and lost when he didn't.
Now, Hill hardly won this game for the 49ers. That honors falls to running back Frank Gore, who torched the Seahawks defense like Joan of Arc in the marketplace of Rouen (16 carries of 207 yards, 12.9 YPA, and 2 TD ).
But Hill has a Brady- or Starr-esque ability to avoid the critical mistake. He's attempted 57 passes this year without a pick, and has thrown just nine INTs in 12 NFL starts (424 attempts), a rate of 2.1%. The 49ers are now 9-3 in those 12 games.
EIGHT - Sometimes stats lie
Here's a pop quiz:
Team A gained 166 yards of offense
Team B gained 409 yards of offense
Team A quarterback completed 7 of 24 passes for 109 yards
Team B quarterback completed 24 of 39 for 241 yards and 1 TD
Team A held the ball for 21:21
Team B held the ball for 38:39
It was Team A, Oakland, in a 13-10 win over Kansas City.
The Raiders gained 69 of their 166 yards on their final drive, with Darren McFadden scoring on a 5-yard run with 1:12 to play, to cap the win.