Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Giants: random midweek thoughts

This is a Giants blog, not a Jets blog, but I want to add just a comment or two about the Jets-Patriots game this past Monday night. Really this is more about Bellichick than it is about the Jets. I am really impressed with Bellichick and his team construction strategy along with his game planning skills. A few years ago, when Moss was in his prime, Bellichick used Moss to power his vertical passing game. In 2007, we all remember that the Patriots were the highest scoring team in NFL history and Brady threw 50 TD passes, the single season record. In my opinion, in response to that vertical passing game, Rex Ryan and the Jets brought in Cromartie as the second CB to play opposite Revis. Cromartie is big, athletic, has long arms, and good straight line speed. He is a perfect CB to cover a big WR who is a pure vertical threat because of those physical skills. IMO, Bellichick countered right back by remaking the roster and the strategy this season. He saw Moss' skills declining and instead built a passing attack that used quickness rather than pure vertical speed. Instead of attacking the outside of the field with speed, he is attacking the middle of the field with quickness. He is using his excellent young TEs, his pass catching RBs and small quick WRs in Welker and Branch to attack. The Jets weakness on defense is the middle of the field, with LBs being good tacklers and run stoppers but not good pass defenders. The Jets S group is also better at blitzing than it is at pass defense. This weakness is accentuated with one of the starting safeties out because of injury. On the outside, Cromartie (and to a lesser extent, even Revis) have the physical makeup to play a WR like Moss, but not the quicker Branch and Welker. Very impressive job by Bellichick.

Everyone is forgetting that the Vikings went to the NFC Championship game last year and that they have gotten back their key WR from that run, Sidney Rice. They seem to have a lot of weapons on offense: Rice, Harvin and ex-Giants TE Shiancoe in the passing game and Adrian Petereson, the best RB in football to handle the running game. They do have some questions at QB and the OL has not been playing great this year, even though they do have some big names in the OL. The team may be more energized with the replacement of coach Brad Childress, a very unpopular figure in the locker room. All things considered, this is a very dangerous game for the Giants. They really need to win, because it is both a conference game as well as against a team that will be a common opponent with the Eagles, both important tie breaker factors for the playoffs.

Eli has had his worst games against the Vikings. We all remember the awful 4 INT game in Giants Stadium as well as a few other stinkers. In all he has 9 INTs and only 2 TDs against the Vikes.

Eagles have two games left against the Cowboys, the first one this week in Big D. All together now: "Let's go Cowboys".

Giants seem to have found someone who can make some big plays in coverage on ST in Devin Harris, although it may be just a one week wonder, motivated as he surely was to make a big showing against his former team. It would be nice if the Giants could find some buzz in their KO and punt return game also. Ward had a good KO return last week, so maybe he keeps that job. But punt returns have done nothing this year. Best move Reynaud has made is to wave his arms emphatically when the punt is short and he wants to keep his Giants teammates away from it so as not to create a fumble.  How about running up and catching the ball and preventing a 15 or 20 yard roll on those short punts?

Speaking of punts, I have a proposal for what statistic to use to measure the quality we want from a punter. Everyone looks at gross yards and net yards on punting, which are surely the right measures. Furthermore, you might look at number of times the punter drops the ball inside the 20 since that can affect total yardage. Those measures are fine, but the statistic we use to measure the length of punts and the net yards is average. While that is somewhat instructive and a straightforward stat, it seems to be the wrong stat. What we want out of the punter is consistency. If he booms a 65 yarder one time and then shanks a 15 yard punt the next time, his average is the same as if he hits two 40 yard kicks, but the affect on the team is worse. On his two 40 yard punts, he is giving the defense a chance both times by not giving up field position. In the other circumstance, he is putting pressure on the defense on the 15 yard punt and not really compensating for it by getting more yards on the other punt in this hypothetical case.

You could look at the standard deviation of punt, which is a measure of how widely spread the sample is, but that it is a bit too esoteric a number and not intuitive to most people. I think what we should be measuring is the 90th percentile. In other words, we want to have 90% of the punters kicks to be good ones and are willing to live with 10% weaker kicks. The 90th percentile should be around 40 net yards and this, combined with average net yards will be the best statistic to describe the quality of the punter.

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