Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Upon Further Review: Lions Cover 37-25

And just like that, BadNFL is showing signs of life. My week 7 pick turned out quite nicely, and overall I'm feeling cautiously more in tune with the games. We'll see if it continues, but in the meantime, your week 7 Upon Further Review is here.

Don't be fooled by the final score; this game was too close for comfort for 57 minutes. Although the Lions played generally better than the Redskins for most of the game, they were still behind heading into the latter half of the 4th quarter. There were two reasons: the Redskins' Brandon Banks and his seemingly out-of-nowhere dominance in the return game, and Nate Burleson's idiotic fumble. The Burleson play was quite sloppy and took sure points off the board for Detroit, but the real story of the game for the Redskins was Brandon Banks, without whom the Skins would have been blown out of the building.

But blown out they were not, and this was an extremely tight game most of the way through. It was at the end, however, that the fireworks started. The Lions surged to a late 3-point lead, at which point they were covering the spread, and Shanahan proceeded inexplicably to bench McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman. As Bears' fans could have predicted, Grossman immediately turned the ball over, and the incomparable rookie DT Ndamukong Suh scooped the ball up and took it in for a score.

Along the way, many of my expectations for this game proved correct. The Skins' offense continued to struggle, failing to generate much yardage. In particular, the offensive line stunk, yielding 7 sacks and countless hits on McNabb. The Lions were able to run the ball well, for over 4 YPC. But more importantly, Stafford shook off some early rust and threw for 4 touchdowns. My feeling about DeAngelo Hall also proved somewhat accurate -- although he had a nice early interception in the redzone, Calvin Johnson exploded against him for 101 yards and 3 TDs. I also located a statistic, courtesy of Peter King, to back up my assertion that Hall remains wildly overrated: this year, he has allowed the highest completion percentage against of any cornerback in football.

Add it all up, and it produced a nice cover by the Lions. Perhaps I should have gone with the Dolphins, who I liked but leaned away from because of the contrarian theory, but the Lions ended up working out just fine. 


1. Keep an eye on the Lions. They now sport a nice +18 point differential on the year, including +45 at home. They also move to 6-1 against the spread. As I noted last week, they continue to be underrated among prognosticators, particularly at home.

2. The Skins are a mess, but the window for exploiting their failings may be closing. Many analysts are now recognizing that McNabb's numbers have been horrendous, and the claim that the Skins were suffering bad luck remains ludicrous. More worrisome is Shanahan's decision to bench McNabb and bring on Rex Grossman, as well as his conflicting and incoherent explanations for his decision. They have a bye week next week, but it seems unlikely that the marketplace will continue to overvalue the Redskins moving forward.

3. Keep a long-term perspective. An 0-6 start was pretty depressing, but in the long-run, it's important to stick to one's instincts -- BadNFL is still way under .500, but at least I'm no longer staring directly into the abyss. The importance of the long-term perspective, and riding out anomalies in the first few weeks of the season, is demonstrated by the recent performance by the Raiders. All year long, the sharps have loved Oakland (readers will remember that BadNFL did too). And despite some early struggles, Oakland has now reached 4-4 and is looking like a legitimately competitive team. One can only hope that we'll be able to use similar adjectives about BadNFL someday.

4. The "Hilton 100 theory" picks up steam. I noted last week that those picks were 2-0, beating the spread by an average of 10.5 points. This week, the three qualifying picks (including the Lions pick) went 3-0, beating the spread by an average of 9.75 points. I recognize that the sample size is small, but in the two weeks I've tracked it, we're now at 5-0 with a double digit differential. That's pretty incredible. I'll keep tracking it on this blog, and may try to further work in some Hilton stats into my predictions.

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