The NFL on REO: Dominance

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The Insane Ramblings of Gowdy Cannon

On to 2017…

Yes, I’m the guy who wrote a 2500-hundred word counseling session on how Tom Brady is the most overrated quarterback of all-time. But don’t let that keep you from reading what I’m about to write. You should appreciate it primarily because I wrote the Brady article.

While players can be overrated or underrated to team success I do not think there is any way to get around claiming team superiority in an objective way. For example, we could argue all day whether Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan was the best QB in the NFL last year, but we cannot argue that New England was the best team. That was objectively settled on the field.

With that philosophy as a backdrop, I think it wise to give the Patriots their due for what they have accomplished the last 16 NFL seasons. Even more impressively than the 49er run of the 80s and 90s (due to the rise of things like free agency), the Patriots of the 2000s have owned the NFL. They have ruined the NFL’s desire for parity, which the league is absolutely built to achieve.

You know they have won five Super Bowls and have barely lost two others. But the consistency goes way beyond that. Consider this list of accomplishments since 2001:

  • New England has been one of the final four teams, playing 11 times.
  • New England has failed to at least tie for the AFC East only once, 15 years ago.
  • New England has outright won the AFC East 14 of 16 times.
  • New England has won 25 playoff games, or as many as the Browns, Lions, Raiders, Texans, Bills, Jaguars, Redskins, Rams, Buccaneers, Chargers, Chiefs, Dolphins, Bengals, Titans, Cowboys and Bears have won…COMBINED.
  • New England has won 11 or more games 13 times.
  • New England has zero losing seasons.

And on and on it goes. This franchise doesn’t just win the Super Bowl on average every three years but is always a contender. They are always either good or great or otherworldly. It has been a wonder to behold, even if most of the country hates them like I do.

Bill Belichick and for the most part Brady have been the constants. They have proven they can lose or get rid of anyone (Romeo Cornell, Randy Moss, Josh McDaniels, Jaime Collins, Vincent Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski) and not miss a beat as far as wins and losses. New England has been a tad fortunate that the AFC East has been terrible this century, with 22 different coaches and 40 starting QBs having had a turn for the other three teams. But the Patriots are so good versus everyone that I doubt it would matter which division they played in.

 

How have they done it? By being good at everything.

Since 2001, they have finished in the Top 10 in offensive points per game all but one season and in the Top 10 in defensive points per game all but three times. They have proven that the adage “defense wins championships” is often too simplistic, although the other extreme is also false. Only twice have they failed to finish in the top half of the league in defensive points per game and those two seasons (02 and 05) were two of the worst seasons in the run, featuring “only” 19 total wins between the two seasons, a playoff miss and only one playoff win total.

On a micro-level you can see it more clearly. While I will not rehash any of my Brady article since it is entirely unnecessary, I think looking at their success highlights how much of a team game football truly is and how it takes 35-40 players, multiple coaches and the occasional good break to have a run as New England has had.

For example, beyond the Tuck Rule break (ruled correctly to be clear) in that game, Adam Vinatieri still had to make two clutch FGs to pull that game out. Same for Vinatieri vs. Tennessee, kicking a block of ice football 48 yards to win that game on the way to another Super Bowl. Malcom Butler had to read and react perfectly in Super Bowl XLIX to pull that win from the jaws of defeat. Julian Edelman had to make a near impossible catch last year to keep the tying drive alive vs Atlanta. New England’s defense had to shut Atlanta out over the last 20 minutes and force them to move backwards on two drives that could have been FGs to give the offense a chance. And of course Brady made some all-pro throws the last three scoring drives for New England last year to give them a chance.

What is special about this team is how they find a way to win when someone or some unit is off. The defense got torched by Smoking Jake Delhomme in the fourth quarter in the 03 Super Bowl and the offense bailed them out with 18 points in the final period to win. The offense was mostly ineffective in their first SB win vs St. Louis and the defense led them to the victory, scoring one TD on a pick 6 and setting up the other. Scott Kacsmar for Football Outsiders has studied and broken down stats for the NFL for years to find things that correlate to wins and losses. He says that when NFL teams fail to hit 7.0 yards per pass on offense, they win less than 25% of their playoff games this century. Yet New England is 9-7 in such games. In playoff games the last decade the team with the higher QBR rating by their quarterback wins 71% of the time. The team with the most wins despite having the lower QBR by their quarterback? New England with 4.

New England once murdered Peyton Manning and the Colts record breaking offense in the playoffs in 2005 with Patriot wide receiver Troy Brown playing defensive back. That’s how good this franchise is at plugging in pieces and winning no matter what.

What they have done since 2001 is in my opinion, the most impressive thing I have seen in professional sports. Because the NFL just doesn’t get dominated like this. New England almost never misses the playoffs. They almost never go one and done. They never get blown out. They just win. The five championships are just part of the story. And as you can see below, they are in position yet again this year for us to see more of the same.

So even though I loathe them, I give them their due. They are the most dominant longterm franchise in pro sports in my lifetime. They deserve that recognition.

 

 


Phill’s Pre-Season Power Rankings

Do you want to know why our power rankings are better than most of the others you will find out on the internet? Because we won’t make you scroll through page after page to find out who is next on the list. We list them all on the same page. You’re welcome.

Additionally, I am only going to be ranking the Top Ten. I have no interest in keeping track of all 32 teams because after you get past numbers 12 or 13, it’s all just a gigantic coin toss. I will post the power rankings periodically throughout the season – most likely quarterly. Use the comment section below to argue and tell me why I am wrong.

10. Kansas City

Honestly, I don’t love KC this year, but I couldn’t justify putting anyone else in this spot. This is a team that can only go as far as Alex Smith can take them and he just can’t take them that far.

9. New York Giants

This is the year the Giants will make some noise in the league. They were 11-5 last year and while they might not win as many games (they probably will) they should be a tough out in the playoffs. And if Eli goes “Super Bowl Eli” mode, then we could be talking about three-time Super Bowl champ Eli Manning. Weird.

8. Tennessee

It’s playoffs or bust for the Titans after an eight season drought. By the end of the season, the drought will be over and the Titans will be starting their new streak: Playoff wins.

7. Dallas

They will take a step back this season but still have enough talent to be competitive. Their offensive line will keep them in games.

6. Seattle

They are almost unbeatable at home and are good enough to win some road games. That alone gets them into the playoffs. Plus, they play in the same division as the 49ers and the Rams.

5. Green Bay

Aaron Rogers is the best QB I have watched in my life from a skills standpoint. He can throw the ball better than anyone in the league. He is not a tactician like Manning and Brady though – he free-lances, ad-libs, and generally plays the position in a most unorthodox manner. But on the right team, that is enough to win and win big. This Green Bay team looks like it has the right parts to make a deep run.

4. Oakland

All the MVP talk last year for Carr was a little overblown but he did have a very solid season. He should only be better this season as long as his leg has healed well. Adding Lynch to the offense could be huge or it could be another aging running back that refuses to accept he has lost something.

3. Pittsburgh

They have one of the best QB, WR, RB trios in the league. Maybe the best. Is that enough for them to contend in 2017? I think so.

2. Atlanta

This is a team that should be the defending Super Bowl champs. That was a monumental collapse. I believe it will have lasting effects on the team this season. I have them at second for now because of how last season ended, not because I think they will remain the second best team in the league throughout the season.

1. New England

Is there any debate about this? They are the defending Super Bowl champions and they got better this offseason. This team will be scary good this season. Their aggressiveness in the offseason feels like a team that is doing everything they can to make one last push for a championship. This push will probably last two or three years and it is clear Belichick, Brady, and company intend to go out in a blaze of glory.


Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading. If you enjoy what we do with our NFL coverage, spread the word. Tell your friends, your neighbors, and your coworkers. We are doing our part to improve the conversation and dialogue about the NFL. And stick around because we have some pretty fun things lined up for this season.
 

Gowdy Cannon

I am the pastor of the bilingual ministry of Northwest Community Church in Chicago. Our church is intentional in trying to bring English and Spanish speakers together in worship and community. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married two years. I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to adult immigrants in my community. I am, at times, a student at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

26 thoughts on “The NFL on REO: Dominance

  • August 9, 2017 at 2:54 pm
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    Phill and Gowdy, I enjoyed reading your NFL analysis. We’ll thought out.

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  • August 9, 2017 at 3:25 pm
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    They deserve their due assuming they aren’t cheating on a massive level. They have already been caught cheating twice so I just assume they are still doing it. One day Ernie Adams will be the subject of an epic 30 for 30.

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    • August 9, 2017 at 5:40 pm
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      I decided against mentioning the scandals for space reasons. But that will follow them forever. I’m almost to the point of saying since it won’t affect ring count then it doesn’t matter to me. Individual legacies can be affected but not teams.

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  • August 9, 2017 at 4:05 pm
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    I know there are several Tennessee Titans fans who contribute to this website, but to have them in the top ten at this point ranked ahead of the Chiefs and over the Texans (glaring omission) is nonsense. And you have them ranked ahead of the Chiefs I don’t care if I ruffle your feathers, you’re proving to trust your heart over your brain at this point. I just don’t see how a team who hasn’t been to the playoffs (top 12 teams) in the past 8 years could merit a top 10 ranking before the season begins. As the season progresses and they win a few games against zero or 1 loss, then put them in the top ten. But there is nothing besides your own bias to justify them in the top 10 right now.

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    • August 9, 2017 at 4:13 pm
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      I ranked them. It’s my list. No one else contributed to it. I appreciate your response, even if we disagree. I’ll defend my ranking as follows:

      1. The Titans ended the season 9-7.
      2. They beat 5 playoff teams last year – the Chiefs being one.
      3. On paper – they improved this offseason, losing no one of note and adding playmakers at WR, CB, and special teams.
      4. I am projecting Mariota to become a top 5-10 QB this season. He was already close last year.
      5. They have a top 3 O-line, ended the season with offense and defense both in the top half of the league, and should only get better this season.
      6. While the Texans won the division last season, I don’t see their defense being quite as good this year. (They were insanely good last year and that is hard to duplicate.) And their offense will either be lead by a no-name journeyman or a rookie. I think the Titans jump over them.

      I could go on but I’ll leave it at that. I wasn’t going with my heart. If I had been, I would have put them top 5.

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      • August 9, 2017 at 5:42 pm
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        I agree with Phill even though I didn’t do the list. They were on the doorstep last year and they’re clearly on the way up.

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        • August 9, 2017 at 5:45 pm
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          In addition to Texans and Chiefs the Dolphins and Lions are two playoff teams from last year that are easy to rank behind the titans right now. If MM played in NY he’d be a household name already.

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      • August 10, 2017 at 8:50 am
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        Your first 2 reasons stated above are facts. But even with those facts, they still didn’t make the playoffs last year.
        Reason 3 means nothing until it’s proven on the field. Paper doesn’t win games.
        I agree with reason 4, but it’s still a yet-to-be-seen projection. I was a Marcus Mariota fan when he was in college at Oregon after he and his Ducks whooped my Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville by 50 points. (I was at that game).
        Reason 5 doesn’t mean they should be in the Top 10. Top half in the NFL is 16 teams. Plus the ending part of this reason is, again, pure speculation.
        The beginning of reason 6 makes no sense at all. The Texans defense is a monster. It is unwise to use hopes and speculation for your own team as a criteria, then turn around and use hopes and speculation against a proven top defense. Obviously, you can think what you want. But recent past facts prove otherwise about the Texans. And their QB last year was Osweiler. Not necessarily a top half of the league QB.

        I realize it is your list. I’m just saying the Titans haven’t made the playoffs (Top 12) in eight years, yet you’re putting them in a Top 10 list from the get-go. Give it a few weeks. I’m not denying that they have tremendous potential. Their chances of being a top 10 team are 99% great than my San Francisco 49ers, who I rank as #31 out of 32 teams. That’s Realism.

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        • August 10, 2017 at 9:13 am
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          Of course there is speculation involved, as well as projection. That’s how this works. The Titans went 5-3 in the second half of the season, beating teams like Green Bay, Denver, Kansas City, and Houston. They were on their way up by season’s end. Based on what they did this offseason – free agency and draft – I thin it is very reasonable to conclude they have improved. They addressed their biggest needs. Their core players are young and should only get better. None of those things are unreasonable or wishful thinking. So, if they were 5-3 the last half of the season, and they have improved during the offseason, it’s reasonable to project improvement for this season which would put them at 10, 11, or 12 wins. That is easily a Top Ten team.

          I get what you are saying though. With this sort of thing, much of it has to be based on what you think will happen. I think the Texans will take a step back on defense. I think the Titans will take a few steps forward as a team.

          For what it’s worth, I am not alone in thinking the Titans are a Top 10 team. Peter King, of Sports Illustrated, has them as his number 4 team. And he is in no way a Titans’ homer.

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        • August 10, 2017 at 9:22 am
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          I also think it helps to NOT see the playoffs as a legit Top 12. I would have said the Titans were better at season’s end than the Lions and that’s not even close to ridiculous. Because of conference alignment it happens. Sometimes 8-8’s get in on one side while 10-6’s miss on the other.

          Also, Miami is starting Jay Cutler at QB this year so moving the Titans ahead of them is pretty easy too.

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          • August 10, 2017 at 9:55 am
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            I would have the Titans just outside the top 10. But definitely not ahead of the Texans. They must prove they deserve it first, and not just on paper or because Peter King ranks them WAY too high.

            And I understand all the math about the NFL, Gowdy. True the top 12 teams don’t all make the playoffs. But do you really think the AFC South has any of the best teams? And the Titans haven’t even won that division.

  • August 10, 2017 at 9:23 am
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    It’s funny that all the conversation on here has been about the Power Rankings while all the Facebook conversation has been about Brady and the Pats. Two different worlds…

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  • August 10, 2017 at 10:24 am
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    David said: “I would have the Titans just outside the top 10. But definitely not ahead of the Texans. They must prove they deserve it first, and not just on paper or because Peter King ranks them WAY too high.

    And I understand all the math about the NFL, Gowdy. True the top 12 teams don’t all make the playoffs. But do you really think the AFC South has any of the best teams? And the Titans haven’t even won that division.”

    So I can’t project but you can hold the past 8 years against them?

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    • August 10, 2017 at 10:36 am
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      The past 8 years is historical fact. The future is totally undecided. It definitely comes across as more wishful thinking and blind fandom on your part as a Titans fan. I’m just an outside observer with a more honest take on things.

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      • August 10, 2017 at 10:47 am
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        So now I’m dishonest? You aren’t pulling any punches Dave. :)

        As we have seen, year after year, the past has very little bearing on the new season. Every year, there are a handful of teams that missed the playoffs the year before that jump into the playoffs. Every year there are teams that made the playoffs that fall off the map. What the Titans did for the past 8 years is relevant but it does not determine what they will do this year. I believe I have made my case well using stats, trends, and yes, projections. The Titans were 9-7 last year. Same record as the mighty Texans. The Titans missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker. I believe they have improved this offseason. They were better in the second half of the season than in the first half. All of those things are reasonable and not about me being a homer. Last season, I predicted they would win 8 games. Based on the previous two seasons, many people probably laughed at that. They finished one better than I thought.

        BTW, my referencing Peter King wasn’t to imply I made my choice because an expert is high on the Titans. I was simply giving you an example that it’s not just Titans fans that think this team is on the rise. Pro Football Focus has rated them as the 3rd most talented roster in the league. USA Today has them at 8 as well. My point is, it is not just Titans’ homers that think this team is ready to take the next step. It is reasonable based on how they ended 2016, the additions they made in the offseason, and the projected improvement of key players like Mariota.

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        • August 10, 2017 at 11:20 am
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          I’m not calling you a dishonest person. I was stating that I have a more honest take in this debate. As fans, we all have tendencies to think with our hearts over the facts concerning our teams. It just so happens that I’m not elevating my team to a higher level than they have proven they deserved. So for this argument, I am more honest than you.

          Again, most of what you just listed citing the Titans rise to arbitrary Top Ten status is nothing more than hearsay and hope. I actually want Tennessee to be good and playoff-bound. But let them earn it. That’s my argument. It’s all right if you as a fan think they should be ranked 2-5 positions better than they deserve right now. Just don’t post it for everyone to see without someone calling you out on it.

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          • August 10, 2017 at 11:31 am
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            The honest thing was a joke, which is why I used the smiley face after it.

            I’m trying to figure out your argument because from my perspective, it seems like you think the Top 10 should be just a regurgitation of the how the teams finished last season and not taking anything that happened since as well as player improvement into account. That’s not interesting. It’s a list with literally no thought put into it.

            I have not denied that I am projecting improvement for the Titans. I have cited multiple other “experts” that believe the same thing I do: that the Titans are going to be a playoff type team this season. You can disagree with that, but reducing my take on it down to me being a homer is dismissive and unfair. If you have read what I have written in the past about the Titans, it’s clear I don’t gloss over their problems. I am an optimist when it comes to my teams, but when the team has been bad, I have been very upfront about that. I’ll leave it at that since it doesn’t appear that any of the evidence I give is being understood or accepted as evidence but just more ramblings of a biased fanboy. I guess Peter King, PFF, PFT, USA Today and others are biased fanboys as well.

          • August 10, 2017 at 12:33 pm
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            The Titans were a playoff-type team last year, but they weren’t a playoff team. And I’m not being dismissive or unfair to you at all. You posted your thoughts. I’m challenging you on them. All the “what-ifs” and “I-think-this-will-happen-this-year” and “we-got-better-on-paper” talk doesn’t mean anything until they prove something in real life on the field. How hard is that to understand?! Let the Titans do something in the season to prove what you’re saying and THEN put them in the top ten. But until that happens, a top ten rank is unjustified. And yes, that reasoning is based upon 8 preceding years of non-top-ten finishes. In other news, the 49ers are still #31 out of 32 teams.

  • August 10, 2017 at 11:36 am
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    Let’s say the Titans were #13 in an end of season poll last year. How uncommon is it for a team to jump 5 spots in the offseason? Especially when the team jumped seven wins from the previous year and a good offseason? This is about as normal and reasonable thing there is.

    Also whatever the national perception of MM is, I am positive it’s higher in reality. Many QBs jump in year 3 as well so I’m bracing for him to be out of this world this year.

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    • August 10, 2017 at 12:25 pm
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      It’s not uncommon at all for that to happen. I’m merely stating let’s let the Titans earn it before we put them into a Top 10 poll. Because right now, they haven’t displayed as a Top Ten team on the field. You know what else isn’t uncommon? Stating absolute facts. They haven’t been a top ten team in 8 years. Let them prove it for a few weeks on the field before giving them undeserved credit.

      And I’ve already stated my affinity for Marcus Mariota. I don’t disagree with you about him. As a matter of fact, I thought he was pretty good in college even though he didn’t play in the SEC.

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      • August 10, 2017 at 12:49 pm
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        I feel they have earned it based on being just outside the Top 10 – even by your admission – last year, after jumping 7 wins and then making good offseason moves. That is the point of preseason polls, to predict this stuff. But if you think moving them up three spots needs to be challenged, then keep challenging.

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  • August 10, 2017 at 12:44 pm
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    David, I ask this in all sincerity, have you seen other Power Rankings before? You seem to want a list that shows how the teams ended last season. But that is boring and takes literally no thought and no ability to spot trends or developments. And it doesn’t factor in progression, digression, improvements or anything else. Based on what these teams did last year, what they did over the offseason, and the players they have on the roster and their improvement or worsening, this is how I would rank the teams right now. I realize this is speculative. That’s the whole point of doing a list like this.

    “All the “what-ifs” and “I-think-this-will-happen-this-year” and “we-got-better-on-paper” talk doesn’t mean anything until they prove something in real life on the field. How hard is that to understand?!”

    It’s not hard to understand at all. It’s the only thing you have really said in this entire conversation. Of course they have to prove it on the field. That doesn’t mean that you can’t predict or assume, based on what they have done, that they belong in this conversation. It’s not fanciful or wishful thinking either. Too many people that know way more about football than either of us think the same as I do. Now, the Titans could completely choke this season and make me look like an idiot. I’m fine with that.

    One last question on this topic. The Packers were 10-6 last year. They got destroyed by the Titans 47-25 last year. They are number 5 on my list. Why are you not pushing back on that? The Steelers had a worse records last year than the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Raiders, yet I have them at number 3. Why are you not questioning that? Based on the reasoning you are using to determine these rankings, this makes no sense.

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    • August 10, 2017 at 1:29 pm
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      All your other teams on the list were playoff teams last year, except one obvious addition…the Titans. So apparently, you like to stick close to teams that made the playoffs last year. Why not include the Bucs? Or the Eagles perhaps? Or even the defending AFC South champions? Why not include more parity other than your so often near-miss favorite team? Again, let them earn it first. They have not been one of the top 10 teams in the NFL for the last eight seasons. So why start anointing them before they have proven anything?

      Will the Titans be a top ten NFL team in 2017? They have a real possibility. I have not denied this. And I will have no problem admitting that they are if they win 10 games and make the playoffs.

      The Packers made the NFC CG. The Steelers made the AFC CG. The Titans didn’t even make the playoffs. Yet you have them listed ahead of their division champion, who didn’t even make your list.

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  • August 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm
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    Not to beat a dead horse (too late?) but here is an example of my philosophy on these rankings:

    2015: The Oakland Raiders were young and improving and finished the season 7-9.

    Virtually every reputable power ranking I could find right before the 2016 season started, had them either in the Top 10 or at 11 at worst. They had all the signs of a team on the rise. A young, dynamic QB. A good O-Line. An improving defense. They finished 2016 with a 12-4 record and would have probably won at least a game in the playoffs had Carr not gotten injured on the final game of the regular season. (Bonus stat: The Raiders had not made the playoffs prior to 2016 in 14 years.)

    I, and many others, see the Titans similarly. Except, they ended last season 2 games better than the Raiders did in 2015. Their QB is young and dynamic. They have a top O-Line. Their defense is improving. There is every reason to expect the Titans to continue their ascent. It’s logical and has historical precedent.

    That is what people do with these Power Rankings. You look for trends. You look for where teams are headed. Just ranking them based on their 2016 record would be pointless.

    Reply
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