Wednesday, May 30, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: #12

...and we're back!

#12: 1983 Redskins 47, Packers 48 (ρ=1.3044)
Redskins' season: finished 14-2, clinched the #1 seed in the NFC, and lost to the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII.
Packers' season: finished 8-8. Head coach Bart Starr was fired after the end of the season.
What happened: remember how I said a few weeks ago that sometimes a good offense needs help from its defense? This is the second installment of that series.
This was a Redskins team with a powerhouse offense—they scored 27 or more points in all but 3 games that season, and it was a big reason they returned to the Super Bowl that year. The problem for the 1983 Redskins was (a lot of the time, anyway) their defense wasn't anything special—they gave up 20 or more points in 10 games.
The Packers actually had a decent offense in '82 and '83, especially considering it consisted of quarterback Lynn Dickie, wide receiver James Lofton, and a bunch of other guys who went on to well-deserved obscurity. But the Packers had one of the worst defenses of the league that year, and most games were a race to see if the offense could score more points than the defense gave up.
So the Redskins came into Lambeau field, probably expecting a relatively easy win, and instead found they were facing an offense that was able to match them score-for-score throughout the game, and couldn't quite manage to have the lead when time expired.
Also of note: this game remains one of the highest scoring in the NFL, and holds the record for most points scored on Monday Night Football.

Next week: the Cowboys lose to one of the worst teams in recent history, and it costs them a spot in the playoffs.

Monday, May 21, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: Bye week

Real life™ intrudes. I have too much to do this week to give the next post the attention it deserves. I should be able to get to upset #12 next week. Until then, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: #13

#13: 2003 Packers 13, Cardinals 20 (ρ=1.2979)
Packers' season: finished 10-6, clinched the #4 seed in the NFC, and lost to the Eagles in the Divisional round of the playoffs (the infamous "4th and 26" game).
Cardinals' season: finished 4-12. Head Coach Dave McGinnis was fired after the end of the season.
What happened: this is another game where you really need to look at the game book. Specifically, two key stats: the gametime temperature was 102°F (39°C) and the gametime humidity was 7%. I can tell you from personal experience, being outside and active in this kind of weather is a combination that can kick your butt, especially if you're not ready for it.
The problem is, you're sweating like it's 102° (which is to say, a lot). But because the humidity is so low, sweat pretty much evaporates immediatly. Unless you're really diligent to stay hydrated and replenish your electrolytes, you can really get dehydrated easily and be wiped out almost before you know it.
With that in mind, it's pretty clear what happened—the Packers weren't ready to play in the heat. Their defense couldn't get off the field, allowing the Cardinals to control the ball for the entire second half. And the Packer offense, which scored 30 or more points ten times that season, barely managed 13 against a very unremarkable Cardinals defense.
Also of note: the Packers trailed the Vikings for the NFC North division title for most of the season. The loss to the Cardinals very nearly cost them a spot in the playoffs. But in the closing moments of week 17, the Cardinals beat the Vikings on a last-second, 4th down touchdown. That Vikings loss gave the division to the Packers.

Next week: the Packers again, this time in a track meet at Lambeau field.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: #14

#14: 1979 Falcons 28, Chargers 26 (ρ=1.2961)
Falcons' season: finished 6-10 in Leeman Bennett's 3rd season (and first losing season) as head coach..
Chargers' season: finished 12-4, clinched the #1 seed in the AFC, and lost to the Houston Oilers in the Divisional round of the playoffs.
What happened: this was Don Coryell's first full season as head coach of the Chargers, and they were already showing signs of the famed Air Coryell offense: Dan Fouts had 324 yards passing in this game, just 2 yards short of his season high. But part of the problem for the Chargers was all those passing yards didn't translate into a lot of points. 26 points was the median score for the Chargers in 1979.
Still, that could have been enough: they were facing a pretty bad Falcons' offense, that only made it past 25 points in 4 games all season. Unfortunately, this was one of those games, largely because the Chargers' defense gave up a season-high 375 yards to the Falcons. The Falcons were able to translate those yards into enough points to out-score the Chargers even in their home stadium.
Also of note: this is the 3rd of 4 games on the list where the home team lost.

Next week: a high-scoring offense withers on the sun-baked caliche of Sun Devil Stadium.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: #15

#15: 2009
Week 6: Eagles 9, Raiders 13
Eagles' season: finished 11-5, clinched the #6 seed in the NFC, and lost to the Cowboys in the Wildcard round..
Raiders' season: finished 5-11 in Tom Cable's first full season as head coach.
What happened: the 2009 Eagles won and lost by their offense. When they scored 24 or more points, they won, and when they didn't, they lost. But they were facing the Raiders, who had a pretty bad defense in 2009—every opponent they faced (except for one) scored a touchdown on them.
The problem was, the Eagles were that one exception. Looking at the stats (24 incomplete passes, 6 sacks, and only 67 yards rushing), it looks very much like a pretty epic break-down of the Eagles offensive line.
Also of note: the Eagles and Chiefs were the only opponents the Raiders faced in 2009 that didn't score at least 17 points. I also wrote about this game in the 2009 Week 6 Pick Results, as well as the top upsets for 2009.

Next week: sometimes even a good offense needs help from
the defense (part 1).