Wednesday, October 10, 2007

FO, FO why have you forsaken me!

Football Outsiders offer a much enhanced statistical understanding of football than other media outlets, but there are two major failings in their coverage. The first is that, despite their tendency to act like they are above bias, there is still human bias in their findings. This is unavoidable, but should be acknowledged.
The second and much bigger problem, the Dave Toub problem, is that they think of special teams as the time in between offense and defense. An interlude to the important aspects of football. Happily, we at bearsgeek will do our best to dispel this notion. (we should think of a cool name for this and try to launch some sort of platform for the understanding of special teams as a meaningful part of football)
I'm going to use excerpts from this weeks Any Given Sunday to expound my claims.
Those two fumbles, both forced by Charles Tillman, kept the Bears in the game and saved them from a fourth loss in five contests. This is another annoying tendency of FO, they don't like to acknowledge that takeaways can be part of a team's strategy. Since Lovie came to Chicago I simply expect takeaways in big situations, it's about time the rest of the football world caught up. Here they give Peanut credit, but they still treat it as luck rather than skill!
In no small part, the Bears defense deserves credit for this play. The defensive line began to dominate. Lance Briggs was everywhere, and Brian Urlacher made a crucial interception. At the same time, the Packers were clearly burdened by a lack of sustainable running attack.
Whether or not that game has playoff implications likely depends on whether or not the Bears really have recaptured their 2006 form on defense.
The D-line has been better than '06. Briggs' is absolutely proving that he's worth Urlacher money and the secondary held strong in the second half despite being comprised of Archuleta(injured) Tillman(injured) Manning(second string FS starting at corner) and McGowan(fifth safety). The Defense has given up 3 points or less in one of the halves of every game this year. The Bears have won both games in which they turned the ball over less than 4 times. The playoff implications are quite simply down to the offense taking care of the ball.
The problem is that while the (Packers) starting corners are good, the rest of the defense is not up to the task. The Packers will see more and more receivers on the field against them, and they do not have the personnel to contain them.
If this is true, god I hope it's true, a certain Mike Martz will scheme at least one win over GB and the North title race will swing very much in Chicago's favor after they beat Minnesota this week.
These nitpickings aside, the 2007 Packers are a much more complete team than the 2007 Bears, and nothing in Green Bay on Sunday goes to disprove the notion. The Packers had 154 more yards of total offense, but the turnovers killed them.
The Packers dodged Devin Hester but did so at an extreme cost. Kicker Mason Crosby had four meaningful kickoffs, and he always kept his kickoffs short. As a result, the Bears started on at least the 30-yard line each kick and three times started outside the 35-yard line. Only once did Chicago score with the advantageous field position, but the other three times they were able to flip field position and pin the Packers inside their own 25-yard line. Meanwhile, the Packers only reached the 30-yard line on one of their six kickoff returns. Due to penalties, they twice started inside their own 20-yard line.

154 more yards of total offense is absolutely meaningless if you start your possessions on average over 20 yards farter back than the other team. Also the Bears had three more takeaways than GB, which skews that stat so far beyond useful that it may as well have come from Joe Thiesman's mouth.
Even the most ardent Bears fan would admit that this game was somehow “stolen.”
I would argue that the Bears are a significantly more complete team than Green Bay and that they won their second game this year behind a competent offensive performance, superior special teams and half of an amazing defensive effort. Imagine what would happen if the defense showed up for the whole game!

Ned Macey's opinion may be that the Packers are better than the Bears. Great, he should say "I think" before he writes that and then he should point to some evidence that backs up his point. Unfortunately he reverts to the old statistical stallwort "Total Yards" to make his point. This stat is meaningless, everyone at FO knows that, why is someone writing for them who hasn't figured it out yet? The DVOA numbers support his theory. The Bears offense is horrible, but as long as they don't turn the ball over it isn't really very important. The defense looks ordinary, but that looks to be more down to the fluke of Sunday's first half and the wearing down caused by offensive turnovers. Very importantly the Bears special teams boost of 2.2 DVOA points (7.3 over 5.1) fails to accurately account for the difference of 4 blocked kicks and well over 150 total yards of gained field position for each game. Also, it makes sense to expect the Bears to continue Lovie Smith's trend of forcing takeaways and to commit fewer turnovers. The Bears "weren't a very good football team" in the first quarter of the season, just like in '05 "(they) suck(ed)!" But I see much more evidence that points towards that changing than I see that points to it staying the same.

1 comment:

Marcus said...

And another thing: coming into this game, the Bears' offense was by a pretty embarrassing margin the worst offense in the league. That offense scored 27 points on the vaunted (even by me) Green Bay defense. The fact that the only caveat to that statement is, "Well, they only scored that many points because their defense set them up and because the Packers were actually scared of Chicago's special teams," is, I'd say, pretty much the argument for Chicago being a more complete team--Unless by saying Green Bay is more complete Macey simply means that no aspect of Green Bay's team is glaringly worse than the rest of the team.

Macey is my least favorite writer at FO, and one of their worst analysts I think, but at least he cares about the NFC North. He and MDS seem to be the only two FO guys who really think any teams west of Pittsburgh matter.