Vince Lombardi

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WELCOME to QuantCoach.com, the only site on the world-wide web that provides meaningful professional football coaching statistics. QuantCoach.com's revolutionary coaching statistics are derived from a peer-reviewed and generally accepted theory of competition known as Growth Theory. Veteran coach Bill Parcells once said, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." But Growth Theory teaches us that success "springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking." In professional football, those "recipes" are the plays that coaches design. Simply, QuantCoach.com's coaching statistics separate the contribution of plays to pro football success from the contribution of players.

THE ARCHIVES (2014-Part 3)

QC's Week 17 Thoughts

Better designed NFL teams started out 2014 on fire, going 16-0 in Week 1 and 51-10 (.836) through Week 4. When the season concluded on Sunday night, better designed teams stood 200-55-1 (.784). That is the second best winning percentage for better designed teams since the QuantCoach invented coaching statistics. The only year better was 2009, when the Saints (the best designed team in the NFC and No. 3 in the NFL) met and defeated the Colts (the second best designed team in the AFC and No. 2 in the NFL) in the Super Bowl.

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Since 2008, the Super Bowl has the exclusive province of teams that have been idle on wild-card weekend only twice, 2009 and last year when Seattle met and beat Denver. On the other hand, again since 2008, the Super Bowl always has featured at least one team who was idle on wild-card weekend. So, it's more likely than not that one of the teams that will be in Arizona for the Super Bowl is off this weekend (Seattle, Green Bay, New England or Denver) and one is playing. The question is, of course, which ones? Since 2008, only one team who was less than 1 full percent better designed than its opponents during the regular season has reached the Super Bowl (Baltimore, 2012, +0.73% play design +/-). If that trend holds, it eliminates New England and Baltimore in the AFC and Arizona and Carolina in the NFC. Good pass defense is usuallyl undervalued at playoff time, but the Patriots reached the 2011 Super Bowl ranked 28th in D-QCYPA (8.017). That would give some hope to dark horse Pittsburgh, who has an uncharacteristically poor pass D (8.009 D-QCYPA). But it seems too much for the Steelers to overcome Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, especially if RB Le'Veon Bell is not at full speed. Give QC P-rex and the Broncos out of the AFC and Tony Romo and Dallas out of the NFC. And look for Manning to once again hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

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The NFL is sometimes quite confounding. In Week 17, Tennesse was simply dreadful on offense in a 27-10 loss to Indianapolis. The Titans .0570 offensive play design figure matched the worst figure of the season, which had been turned in by the Jets in Week 5 in a 31-0 loss at San Diego. So, how did the Jets do in Week 17? They're .4578 was the best offensive play design figure of the season, edging the Colts .4480 mark in a Week 13 49-27 demolition of Washington. The offensive outburst lifted the Jets from No. 32 in play differential to No. 29, but it was not enough to save Rex Ryan's job as for the fifth consecutive year New York's play design differential softened. That is a record that may never be broken.

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Miam head coach Joe Philbin was on the other end of the Jets offensive explosion. In Philbin's three years in Miami, the Dolphins play design differential has been -1.04%, -1.04% and -1.19% and the record has been stagnant as well (7-9, 8-8, 8-8). Philbin will start 2015 on the hot seat as will St. Louis' Jeff Fisher, Jacksonville's Gus Bradley, and probably Tennessee's Ken Whisenhunt (who probably should have been let go so that the new franchise QB, either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston, will not have to start over with a new system in a year or two). Miami went toe-to-toe with the two best designed teams in the NFL, Denver and Green Bay, before succumbing in close losses. Also, QB Ryan Tannehill set a career high with 27 TD passes, and that is encourging. OC Bill Lazor needs to get at least .5 yard more per pass attempt out of Tannehill next year for the Dolphins to have a chance to make the playoffs and for Philbin to keep his job.

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As much as Mike Smith has accomplished in Atlanta, it was probably time for the Falcons to make a change after Carolina defeated Atlanta 34-3 to win the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record. Head coach Ron Rivera and his staff get credit for stablizing the Panthers when it looked like they would dissappear beneath the waves at 3-8-1. Carolina finished with the best play design differential in the division, -.11%, and plus-3 in turnovers, just behind the Falcons plus-5. When Smith won big in 2010 and 2012, his teams were +14 and +13 turnovers, respectively. But the Falcons never came close to matching the +5.05% play design differential they achieved in 2008 when QB Matt Ryan was a rookie. Smith's teams, which were +33 turnovers during his tenure, reflected Smith in that they usually played cleanly. That is exactly what Arthur Blank and Atlanta needed when Smith took over after the Bobby Petrino/Mike Vick fiasco. The Falcons need something else now. But in the next few years it is likely another NFL team will need a Mike Smith to clean up somebody else's mess and QC hopes he gets another chance.


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QC's Week 16 Thoughts

Detroit survived Chicago, 20-14, but the Lions dreadful special teams continued to plague them. Detroit set up the Bears first touchdown by muffing a punt and set up the second by roughing the punter and extending a drive. The Lions also had a field goal blocked. That Detroit had enough defense and running game to overcome all those missteps reflects well on the Lions defensive and offensive strength. But they won't survive in the playoffs if they are not solid in the kicking game. Nor will they cover, as they failed to do against Chicago (+6.5 or more). And, as Pete Axthelm said, "I hate a a team that did not cover the point spread and thinks it won."

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Speaking of the Bears, Chicago probably does not need as many changes as the media and public believe they do. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has to go. That's a foregone conclusion. And Chicago needs to bring in new and more bodies on defense in free agency and the draft. But GM Phil Emery did a good job his first year, particularly in addressing a woeful offensive line. In fact, he did such a good job that it looked the offense was poised to become elite under the leadership of HC Marc Trestman, OC Aaron Kromer, and QB Jay Cutler. The drama between Kromer and Cutler certainly puts Emery and Trestman in a bad spot. But there is no reason that feelings cannot be mended in the off-season. Emery has taken heat for the contract he gave Cutler in the off-season, but veteran starting NFL QBs cost big money under any circumstances. So Cutler's contract is hardly a reason to fire a GM who looks like he can identify talent. Trestman and Kromer may not survive Kromer anonymously burying (pun intended) Cutler in the media. But QC doesn't see any reason to axe Emery too.

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New Orleans saw its playoff hopes go up in smoke in a 30-14 loss to Atlanta in the Super Dome. The Saints have been terrible on defense all year and from time-to-time HC Sean Payton has been visibily upset on the sideline with DC Rob Ryan. So you would have to think there will be more than one Ryan looking for a job this off-season. (NY Jets HC Rex Ryan is certain to be terminated.) But Payton and QB Drew Brees need to look in the mirror too. After a -4 turnover performance against the Falcons, New Orleans stood -11 in turnovers for the year, tied with the Jets for the second worst in football. Moreover, Brees was sacked 5 times by Atlanta's anemic pass rush. Falcons DE Osi Umenyiora returning a fumble 86 yards for the clinching touchdown after the last of those sacks was a fitting end to a seaon that began with so much promise in New Orleans.

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One coach who will be back in 2015 is Miami's Joe Philbin. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said as much after Miami rallied to edge Minnesota, 37-35. In 2012, Philbin took over a 6-10 team that posted -.46% play design and -6 TO differentials. Since then, through Week 15, Miami's improvement has been mostly marginal: 2012: 7-9; 2013: 8-8; 2014: 8-7. The Dolphins also played the two-best designed teams in the NFL, Denver and Green Bay, toe-to-toe. Given that Philbin came in with a rookie QB, Ryan Tannehill, and brought in a new OC this year, Bill Lazor, giving Philbin another year to see if the team can breakthrough is a good idea. But Philbin will begin 2015 on the hot seat. And if the Dolphins back-slide and start next year slowly, he might not make it to the end of the season.


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QC's Week 15 Thoughts

Green Bay is the second best designed team in the NFL and has the best turnover differential, but the Packers are too soft to win the Super Bowl. QC knows that Jordy Nelso played like he was wearing oven mits and the Bills could not muster an offensive touchdown. But after Buffalo's 21-13 win, it remains that 3 of Green Bay's 4 losses have been to teams fielding extemely physical defenses, Seattle and Detroit being the other two. In addition to those two, Arizona is an NFC defensive bully. It will be surprising if the Packers can beat two of those teams on consecutive weeks to get out of the NFC and into the Super Bowl.

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As even a blind man could see how awful Johnny Manziel was in his first NFL start against Cincinnati, analyst Troy Aikman tried to toss Mr. Football a life raft during the broadcast by mentioning Manziel's performance was a party compared to Aikman's first NFL start. So QC looked it up. Aikman posted 4.2 QCYPA in a 28-0 loss to New Orleans compared to Maniel's 3.0 QCYPA. But Aikman was thrown in Week 1 and taking over a 3-13 team that would go on to finish 1-15. Manziel had the benefit of watching and (in theory) learning for 13 games and took over a team that was a competitive 7-6 and ranked No. 3 in play design differential. Nice gesture, Troy. But it was an apples to oranges comparison. Manziel is really bad.

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Chicago sunk to No. 28 in play design differential, worst in the NFC, and reports that head coach Marc Trestman will be fired surfaced after the Bears absorbed a 31-15 pounding from New Orleans. Based on past history, any coach who is not completing his first season with a team and is in the bottom five in the NFL in play design differential should not be surprised if he gets a pink slip. In light thereof, is Jacksonville's Gus Bradley getting a pass? All QC hears is how "everyone loves him" and "his players play so hard for him and have not quit." So what. The Jaguars rank No. 30 in play design and are almost a lock to finish with a worse play design differential than they had under Bradley's one-and-done predecessor, Mike Mularkey, for the second year in a row. The same year Bradley took over Jacksonville, Bruce Arians took over a 4-12 team that had a worse play differential under Ken Whisenhunt than Jacksonville had under Mularkey. Since that time, Arians team has won the play design battle in 17 of 30 games and won 21 of 30 games. Bradley's team has won the play design battle in only 5 of 30 games and won only 6 of 30 games. Jacksonville has won the design battle just once in 2014. Of course, if the 49ers had given Bill Walsh only 2 years, they would have missed out on the era of "The Genius." Walsh won only 8 of his first 30 games. When San Francisco netted 3 starters for its terrible defensive backfield in the 1981 draft, including future HOFer Ronnie Lott, suddenly the 49ers were 13-3, Super Bowl champs and on their way. The unit on the Jaguars that is the equivalent of the abysmal 1980 San Francisco secondary is the Jaguars abysmal offensive line. That O-line is yielding a ghastly .825 sack yards lost per pass attempt. If Bradley is too survive to see year four in Jacksonville, he will have to improve that area as Arians did in Arizona, where he inherited an O-line from Whisenhunt that lost an NFL worst .622 yards per pass attempt, and transformed it into a unit that now loses only .282 yards per pass attempt, 9th best in the NFL.

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Speaking of Arizona, it's interesting that the 11-3 Cardinals play design and player productivity differentials, -.0015 and -0.15, respectively, are nearly identical to the 7-7 49ers numbers (-.0017 and -0.07). It just goes to show that there is truth to the old adage that the sun doesn't shine on the same dog's butt every Sunday. Unless the dog's owner is Bill Belichick, that is.


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QC's Week 14 Thoughts

It is funny to listen to the fantasy football gurus question Denver because P-rex has not astro-passing numbers the last few weeks. The fantasy perspective totally misses the point that the '14 Broncos are a better team than the record-setting '13 version. Denver's 6.216 D-QCYPA was the best in the AFC going into its Week 14 meeting with Buffalo and Bills QB Kyle Orton (5.9982) could not even muster that. While P-rex did not throw a TD pass for the first time in over 50 games, his 8.650 QCYPA was outstanding. The Broncos remain rock solid Super Bowl contender and actually may be better suited for a trip to Foxboro than P-rex has ever been.

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On the other hand, Philadelphia showed its nothing more than a Super Bowl pretender in a 24-14 loss to Seattle. QB Mark Sanchez could generate only 5.100 QCYPA against the surging Seahawks defense. In the Eagles only other loss, a 53-20 wipeout at Green Bay, Philadelphia was -4 turnovers. Sanchez is more than adequate against bad defenses like Carolina, Tennessee and Dallas. But it would be stunning if he could get the Birds to Glendale for Super Bowl 49.

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It's too bad St. Louis' pass rush did not rush to participate in the 2014 season. In the first 5 games of the year, the Rams faced 141 pass attempts, but registered only 1 sack for minus-4 yars, an microscopic average of .028 yards lost per pass attempt. St. Louis was 1-4 in those games. Since that time, the Rams are 5-3 and has sacked opposing quarterbacks 34 times for 231 yads in losses on 294 pass attempts, a robust average of .786 yards lost per pass attempt. (By comparison, Carolina's .753 figure in 2014 is the best pass pressure figure for an entire year since QC began keeping coaching statistics). If St. Louis has pressured passers at that rate all year, the Rams would be fighting for a playoff berth rather than merely looking to spoil seasons in Arizona and Seattle.

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When Tennessee (2-11) hosts the New York Jets (2-11) this Sunday, it will be the first time since Week 15 of 2008 that teams with 4 or fewer combined wins have met in Week 15 or later in the season. While there is no dominantly good team in 2014, there is no shortage of dominantly bad teams as Oakland, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay join Tennessee and the Jets as teams who have won only a couple of games. All of these teams have negative play design and negative turnover differentials.



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QC's Week 13 Thoughts

Like race horses exiting the final turn at the top of the stretch, it is not until Thanksgiving has come and gone that the NFL season begins in earnest. All teams have had their byes. Pretenders have slid back and the true contenders have risen. There are 12 playoff spots up for grabs. The top 12 designed teams have won a little overr 2/3rds of their games. The middle 10 have won about half of their games. And the bottom 10 have won less than 1/3 of their games. There is no team as dominant as Seattle was in 2013, when the Seahawks led the NFL in both play design and turnover differentials, a nearly unbeatable combination. But there are a lot of good teams and even more dreadful teams. It should be a fascinating final month of the 2014 season and don't be surprised if the Super Bowl champion ultimately is somewhat of a surprise.

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Defending champion Seattle is making its move. The Seahawks have risen to No. 7 in play design differential and a tie for No. 3 in turnover differential. If there is one team that Green Bay, by far the best designed and mistake-free team in the NFC, does not want to see, it is Pete Carroll's team. Seattle looks like the only team that could win a playoff game in Lambeua Field because Seattle does not turn the ball over, runs the ball better than anyone in the NFL, and still plays tough pass defense, although the latter is not at their historic 2013 level.

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Although it does not show in the win-loss colums, Lovie Smith's team in Tampa Bay has been quietly and steadily improving since its bye. After Week 6, the Bucs went into their bye with a -6.46% percent play design differential. Since the bye, that deficit has shrunk to -1.25%. Tampa Bay's offense is a mess and the turnover differential has grown from -2 to -6. But Lovie's team is getting better and could pull a surprise or two in the last month of the season.

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QC was perplexed that Cleveland could even consider replacing QB Brian Hoyer with rookie Johnny Manziel. In 2013, the Browns QCYPA ranked 28th in the NFL at 6.314. With Hoyer this year, it has improved to No. 11 and 7.640. And Hoyer has done that without star WR Josh Gordon, who played all of 2013 but has only recently seen action in 2014. Hoyer has struggled the past 3 weeks, but almost all NFL QBs hit 2-4 games patches during a season when they are not at their best. To turn the offense over to an untested rookie based on a short stretch of difficulty when the overall improvement was been significant would not be prudent in QC's opinion.

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When Mike Zimmer was the DC in Cincinnati, the Bengals D-QCYPA improved each of his last 4 years. He's doing the same thing in Minnesota. In Leslie Frazier's last year, the Vikings ranked No. 23 in D-QCYPA at 7.667. So far in 2014, Minnesota ranks 13th at 7.180. With young defenders like Everson Griffen, Anthony Barr, Sharif Floyd, Harrison Smith, and Xavier Rhodes, the future looks promising on the defensive side of the ball. But what about on offense? Under Norv Turner, the Vikings 5.891 QCYPA is better only than the dreadful Oakland Raiders and NY Jets. Zimmer might want to consider replacing Turner in the off-season. It's true that the unexpected loss of Adrian Peterson hurt Minnesota's offense terribly. But San Diego's QCYPA diminished each of the last 5 years Turner was in San Diego ... and quickly rebounded to near the top of the league as soon as Turner left. Rookie QB Teddy Bridgwater certainly looks like he can handle football on the NFL level. QC wonders if his numbers were be better and the Vikings more successful if they had an "in the now" OC.


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QC's Week 11 Thoughts

Kansas City has won 7 of its last 8 games. During that stretch, Andy Reid's team has improved its play design differential more than 10% from -9.81% to +0.65%. A team that takes care of the ball and pressure's the passer like the Chiefs will always be a hard team to beat. But KC may not have the offensive play-making necessary to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender in a conference that features P-Rex Manning, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. If the Chiefs are off their control game even a little, they will be shown the playoff door.

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When Tennessee fell to Pittsburgh, 27-24, on MNF, it marked just the third time all year that quarterback (Zach Mettenberg) generated infinite player productivity and lost. Cleveland's Brian Hoyer fell to Baltimore when the Browns were not solid in the kicking game and Green Bay's Aaron Rogers lost an infinte productivity shootout to New Orleans Drew Brees when a couple deflected balls turned into turnovers. For the season, QBs that generate infinite productivity are 42-3 (.933).

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Speaking of Pittsburgh, oh how the defense of Steelers' coordinator Dick LeBeau has fallen. Coming into the year, Pittsburgh's D-QCYPA average over the past five years was a splendid 6.057. This year that number is a miserable 7.911. The D is injured, old and just flat out pretty bad. The Steelers survived the woeful Titans. But it is unlikely they can do much in playoffs.

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Every team in the NFC North has a postive play design differential and only Pittsburgh has a negative turnover differential. Every team in the AFC South has a negative turnover differential and only Atlanta has a positive turnover differential.


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QC's Week 10 Thoughts

Every year, Chase Stuart finds a statistic that QC finds fascinating. This year it is this: Arizona's 0.668 "Pythagenpat winning percentage" (whatever that is) is the third worst of any NFL team to start a season at least 8-1 and, here is the interesting part, the team with the worst Pythagenpat winning percentage to start at least 8-1 was the 1976 Oakland Raiders, who finished 13-1 and swept through the playoffs to win the Super Bowl. Does that mean QC is ready to re-think his Cardinals are at best a one-and-done playoff "lock?" Uh, no. But it did make QC dig a little deeper. Through nine games, Arizona's play design differential is a middle of the pack -.48%, but it's turnover differential is an outstanding +12. In contrast, after nine games, John Madden's Raiders play design differential was a solid +3.74%, but their turnover differential was a shaky -4. In addition, the Raiders played six of their first nine gams on the road, including an incredible five (five!!) in a row from Week 2 through Week 6. After surviving that brutal stretch on the road, Oakland cranked up its efficiency even higher and finished the regular season with a robust +6.66% play design differential, a figure that would rank second in the NFL behind P-Rex's Broncos in 2014. The Raiders finished the year -4 turnovers, but in the playoffs, Oakland turned that number around and was +6 turnovers in wins over New England, Pittsburgh and Minnesota. Since 2008, Arizona's -.48% play design differential is the worst of any of the 11 teams to start the year at least 8-1. The next worst is the 2013 Chiefs, who were 9-0 despite a -.28% play design differential. Of the seven teams that started the year 8-1 or better and had a play design differential of +3.78% or less, none won more than 1 playoff game and their overall playoff record was 4-7. In contrast, of the four teams who had a play design differential of +7.37% or better, two won the Super Bowl (2009 Saints and 2013 Seahawks), another reached the Super Bowl (2009 Colts), and only one flamed out early in the playoffs (2011 Packers). Overall, those four teams posted an 8-2 playoff record. QC's advice: Fade the Cardinals in the playoffs because their success is built on superior turnover differential, not superior play design differential, and in the playoffs almost all teams are turnover positive.

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The best designed team in the NFL is P-Rex Manning's Broncos, who thumped Oakland this week, 41-10. How boring. P-rex's team is always in the Top 10 of the play design differential statistic. The second best designed team in the NFL is Mike McCarthy's Packers, who crushed Chicago, 55-13, Monday night. Yawn. Since Aaron Rogers and McCarthy got together, Green Bay is always near the top of the play design statistic. The third best designed team in the NFL is the Cleveland Browns. The Cleveland Browns, you say?! Yes, the Cleveland Browns, QC says. This is not a misprint. After smacking Cincinnati 24-3, Mike Pettine's defense and Kyle Shannhahan's offense are a fine +4.54% better designed than their opponents. If the season ended today, Pettine and Shannahan would be QC's co-coaches of the year. (Note: QC considers assistant coaches and quarterbacks for coach of the year honors in addition to head coaches because assistant coaches and quarterbacks are play designers too.)

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QC's Week 9 Thoughts

If you are thinking that New England is poised to put its usual sleeper hold on the rest of the AFC East based on the Patriots 43-21 drubbing of Denver, don't be too hasty. Bill Belichick's team was only the second most impressive team in the division. The most impressive win was delivered by Miami, who blanked San Diego's high-powered offense, 37-0. The Dolphins pressured Phil Rivers like no other team had all year and the high-powered Chargers player productivity (1.74) was below the JaMarcus Cable, the Mendoza Line of NFL football. Look for the East to be contested to the end by Miami and New England and Buffalo might even have the staying power to make it a three team chase.

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Arizona moved to 7-1 with a 28-17 win over Tony Romo-less Dallas. The Cardinals are 2 games up in the loss column on every other team in the NFC except Detroit because they are + 10 turnovers, an average of + 1.25 per game. That is something you would expect from Tom Brady and New England, but probably not from Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians. The Cardinals dominated the turnover battle at the Giants and at home against the Eagles and Redskins. After hosting St. Louis this weekend, the schedule gets much tougher with Detroit, Kansas City, and Seattle coming to the desert and 4 of the last 6 games on the road including a visit to Seattle.

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New Orleans took command of the NFC Sout with 28-10 win at Carolina. It was the Saints first win on the road of 2014. Rob Ryan's defense flashed its 2013 form for the first time. With 5 of its last 8 games in the Super Dome and two road trips to defensively challenged Chicago and Tampa Bay, Sean Payton's club could close with a mighty rush if QB Drew Brees is over the turnover issues that plagued him earlier in the year.


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QC's Week 8 Thoughts

If there was any doubt that Jets owner Woody Johnson will thoroughly clean house at the end of season it was put to rest in a 43-23 embarrassment at home against Buffalo. The total ineptness of Rex Ryan's team was on full display. New York committed 6 turnovers, including 3 first quarter interceptions that got QB Geno Smith a seat on the bench. When the Jets weren't turning it over, their QCYPA was barely above 3 yards per attempt. On the other side of ball, journeyman Bills QB Kyle Orton posted 14.882 QCYPA on 17 attempts. It was the most productive day for an NFL QB since St. Louis' Kellen Clemens posted 15.750 QCYPA on 16 attempts in Week 10 of 2013 against Indianapolis.

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A week after shutting out A.J. Green-less Cincinnati with a lot of aggressive Cover 0, Indianapolis saw its defense collapse in a 51-24 loss at Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 522 yards and 6 TDs, including a pair to rookie WR Martavis Bryan, who looks like a keeper. If the Chuck Pagano's team is going to get past Denver's P-rex or New England's Tom Brady in the playoffs, the real Indianapolis defense needs to stand up.

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Tennessee looks like it has thrown in the towel on 2014. HC Ken Whisenhunt started rookie QB Zach Mettenberger in a 30-16 loss to Houston. Although Mettenberger's final statistics looked respectable, the game was not as close as the final score. Whisenhunt came into the season ranked No. 32 in play design +/- and turnover +/- among active NFL coaches. He has never been able to stick with a QB. A season that looked like it could be surprisingly pleasant after Jake Locker led the Titans to a surprising Week 1 victory in Kansas City is now swirreling the drain. QC tossed his Tennessee to win the AFC South future ticket in the garbage.

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On the other hand, the Chiefs have righted themselves after starting 0-2, suffering significant injuries on defense, and looking like perhaps the worst team in the NFL. Kansas City's pass rush battered Rams QB Austin Davis in a 34-7 wipeout. If that keeps up, it is possible that the AFC West will contribute 3 teams to the playoffs in 2014 just as it did in 2013.

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QC's Week 7 Thoughts

With the 2014 NFL season almost half over, it is gut-check time for these four teams, who probably did not expect it this early.

Seattle: The defending Super Bowl champs are just 3-3 after suffering a 28-26 upset in St. Louis. Reasons For Concern: The dominating pass defense is a thing of the past as the Seahawks .2184 D-QCYPA ranks just 6th in the NFC and their .230 pass pressure ranks 12th in the NFC. Takeaways have mostly dried up. Seattle is the most penalized team in the NFL and the locker room is uncertain in the wake of the trade of Percy Harvin. Reasons for Optimism: It took some wild special teams gambles by the Rams to eke out the win and the Seahawks offense, led by OC Darrell Bevell and QB Russell Wilson, still does not give the ball away. The brutal schedule eases over the next 3 weeks and if the takeaways return Seattle should be in good position to claim the NFC West over injury-ravaged Arizona and San Francisco.

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New Orleans. It is far from smooth on the bayou after Sean Payton's club snatched a 24-23 defeat from the jaws of victory in Detroit. Reasons for Concern: DC Rob Ryan's defense has gotten most of the heat, but QB Drew Brees has made some ghastly decisions that have become ghastly turnovers. Brees has got to stop that. The Saints are -8 turnovers and the +10 Packers and Aaron Rogers are guests in the Super Dome this week. Reason for Optimism: The NFC South is ghastly. New Orleans actually is the best designed team in the division, although that is a bit like being the skinniest chef in the kitchen. The Saints have already played half of their road games so they can only lose at most 4 more times on the road.

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Cincinnati. The Bengals could barely muster a pulse in a 27-0 loss in Indianapolis. Reason For Concern: In their first 3 games, Cincinnati was the best designed team in the NFL and had a road win in its pocket over its strongest competitor, Baltimore. In the past 3 games, the Bengals have yielded 43, 37 and 27 points. Against the Colts, "Bad" Andy Dalton played his first game of 2014. If WR A.J. Green is out for a pro-longed period of time, defenses will jam the box and dare OC Hue Jackson and Dalton to bet them deep. The Ravens visit this Sunday at the most importune time possible and a loss would negate the opening day road victory. Reason for Optimism: The Bengals O-line still provides Dalton great pass protection and running backs Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill are a dynamic 1-2 punch on the ground. If the defense can right the ship, Cincinnati can hang in there with running and defense until Green and TE Tyler Eifert return.

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Chicago. Da Bears fell to 0-3 at home with a 27-13 loss to Miami, which would have been worse if Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis had not missed two field goals. Cause For Concern: The defense still cannot stop anyone so when it does not receive turnovers, Chicago is pretty much at the opponent's mercy. Now rookie DB Kyle Fuller is out with a broken hand. Too often Marc Trestman forgets about Matt Forte. The chemistry has been quetionable since pre-season camp when TE Martellus Bennett body slammed Fuller. After the loss to Miami, Brandon Marsall reportedly dressed down several teammates, including QB Jay Cutler, and G Kyle Long lobbed a shot at the home fans. A trip to Gillette Stadium to meet with Patriots is up next and not usually a prescription to get well. Reason For Optimism: Just when it seems Chicago is about to go over the falls, Trestman finds a vine and hauls the Bears out of the water. The offense can carry the team if Cutler can get the ball to Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey and Forte and avoid turnovers. The pass rush has been inconsistent, but not non-existent. Chicago is still usually capable of generating some takeaways.

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QC's Week 6 Thoughts

Too often it seems the NFL recycles play designers and does not give young designers a chance. So QC wants to recognize two of those young designers. The "Offensive Coordinator of the Year" for the first third of the season is Cleveland's Kyle Shannahan. For years, most have thought Kyle's spot on an NFL staff derived mostly from his being the son of Super Bowl winning coach Mike Shannahan. In his first year away from pops and his protege, Baltimore OC Gary Kubiak, Kyle has proved he belongs. With a QB who had been rejected by several other teams, Brian Hoyer, and no wide receiver that anyone else wanted, the Browns have become one of the most productive offenses in the league. In a 31-10 beat down of Pittsburgh, Hoyer threw for 217 yards on only 17 attempts. Steelers HOF DC Dick LeBeau had no answer. Kyle has emphasized Cleveland's biggest strength, a terrific offensive line that got a lot better and nastier when it added G Joel Bitonio in the 2014 draft. Unfortunately, the Browns lost standout center Alex Mack to a leg injury. But if Kyle keeps coming up with those effective play designs, Cleveland may hang around in the race for the AFC North crown.

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The "Defensive Coordinator of the Year" for the first third is Detroit's Teryl Austin. When the Lions hired Jim Caldwell to replace Jim Schwartz, nobody paid much attention when he brought Austin with him from Baltimore and promoted him to DC. But everybody is noticing now. After Detroit throttled Minnesota rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater on the road, the Lions D is tops in the NFL. Most people exepected new OC Joe Lombardi and new WR Golden Tate and TE Eric Ebron to team with QB Matt Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson, and RB Reggie Bush to provide an explosive attack. But despite injuries in the secondary and to rookie LB Kyle Van Noy, it has been Austin's unit that has carried the team.

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What is a bad gambling beat? Assume you took 8.5 points against one of the worst designed, most turnover-prone teams in the league against one of the best designed teams. Suppose that your team's productivity was below the JaMarcus Cable and the team finished minus-2 in the turnover battle. Teams that meet those criteria lose by 9 or more points 70 percent of the time. Such was the case in Denver's 31-17 win over the New York Jets. But, because the Broncos got their final points on a pick-6 from Aquib Talib with less than 30 seconds to play, many who put their money on the Jets felt they had suffered a "bad beat." That's not true. Those who bet on Rex Ryan's team suffered a "late beat," but given the final statistics of the game, the outcome was exactly as expected. One of gambling's greatest traps is the "close loss." It has been shown that slot machine players who almost win on a spin of the slot put more money into a machine than those who actually win. It stands to reason that the same dynamic would apply in sports betting. So be careful out there and don't fall into this trap. And, please, don't bet on the Jets.

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QC's Week 5 Thoughts

As darn nearly everyone knows, teams that win the turnover battle win about 70 percent of all games, but in Week 5 of 2014, such teams were just 7-6 with MNF pending. Things were particularly weird in Tennessee where the +1 Titans blew a 28-3 lead and lost to Cleveland, 29-28, and New Orleans, where +2 Tampa Bay blew a 5-point fourth quarter lead and lost in overtime, 37-31. Was it voodoo? No, rather it was the rarest of NFL scoring plays: The safety. When the Browns blocked a Tennessee punt for the 2-point score, it cut their deficit to 28-15, but reduced their needs to win from 3 scores to 2, a much, much more meaningful reduction. When the Saints trapped Bucs QB Mike Glennon for a safety, it reduced their need from a touchdown to win to a field goal to force overtime. Reducing your needs is a great way to win NFL football games. In the end, the safety arguably was the margin of victory in both games, just as it was in Super Bowl 25, when the New York Giants edged Buffalo, 20-19, in what remains the narrowest margin of victory in Super Bowl history.

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QC’s 8th Commandment states there is almost no play design in special teams. So what is going on with Philadelphia calling that commandment into question. Two weeks ago, Dave Fipp’s special teams returned both a punt and a blocked punt for touchdowns in a loss at San Francisco. In Week 5, another blocked punt return for a touchdown provided the margin in a 34-28 win over the rallying St. Louis Rams. “It was a great call by coach Fipp, it was a great scheme rush,” said James Casey, who returned the block for the score. “They [i.e., the Rams] do a lot of different formations on the punt team, and normally a lot of teams don’t do that kind of stuff. It they’re going to do that, we’re going to rush them early on and get them out of it. We knew they were vulnerable to the rush with different formations than normal.” Here’s a tip of the cap to coach Fipp and his special teams play designs. Remember, the 8th Commandment says there is almost no play design in special teams, not that there is none at all. Well done, coach Fipp. And here is a message for St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher: A team need only be solid in the kicking game to win, nothing more. You might be overthinking this. It’s not unusual for a team that tries to scheme special teams too much to end up blowing itself up. But you probably already have learned that. (Nice backdoor cover though. At least some punters can still count on you. ;)

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Here is a crazy statistic: Through four games the hyped Rams pass rush designed by kamikaze blitz-designer Gregg Williams has 1 sack for just minus 4 yards. While the loss of DE Chris Long never helps a pass rush, pressure was expected to be St. Louis’ calling card. Against Philadelphia’s beat up O-line, the Rams did not record a single sack. One would think that one of these weeks this will change and when it does it will be quite an eruption. But as of now, we’re all still waiting ….

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If you are a Cincinnati fan, don’t worry too much about the 43-17 shellacking the Bengals took in Foxboro from the Patriots. The drubbing was no fault of QB Andy Dalton, who again was solid. And the Bengals defense is still stout. It just did not get the memorandum that an NFL bye week lasts, you know, just one week. When DC Paul Guenther’s stop troops return from their bye week(s) against Carolina, Cincinnati should return to form.

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Detroit lost a heart-breaker at home to Buffalo, 17-14, in a game in which Lions QB Matt Stafford was sacked 6 times for 27 yards in losses. But QC sees this as a good thing. Last year, Detroit ranked second in QC’s pass protection statistic as Stafford turned into a turnover machine by refusing to take sacks. Detroit did not fall to the Bills because Stafford now seems willing to eat the ball rather than serve it to the opposition with fava beans and a nice Chianti. The Lions lost because their kicker missed 3 field goals. New DC Terryl Austin is doing a "take note" job with the Detroit defense and as long as that continues Stafford does not have to try to win games with his arm alone, as he has in the past. This loss stung. But at the end of the year we may all look back and see it as a necessary part of Detroit’s growth process.

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At the end of the 2013 season the 8-8 New York Jets ranked 24th in play design differential. The team that ranked 23rd, Houston, made a coaching change. The team that ranked 25th, Baltimore, had won the Super Bowl the year before so it did not, but the team that ranked 26th, Minnesota, made a coaching change. New York, who has not won the Super Bowl since 1968, did not. Rather, Jets owner Woody Johnson came into the locker room in Miami to tell the team Rex Ryan would be back for another year. That’s not looking like a great decision after New York absorbed a 31-0 pounding from San Diego to fall to 1-4. The Jets’ 1.07 offensive player productivity was not only well below the "JaMarcus Cable"--the NFL's "Mendoza Line" and the measure of incompetence in the NFL--it was the least productivity generated by an NFL team since the Chiefs generated 1.03 in Week 17 of 2012 to cap a 2-14 season. If New York had looked at coaching statistics, it arguably could have seen this coming. The Jets play design differential has gotten worse every year that Ryan has been the head coach and their giveaways have hovered consistently around 30 per year. Add time to that mix and you have a great recipe for a crater.

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