Tuesday, June 26, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: #8

Yeah, Buccaneers and Saints again. Remember when I said the Saints were the team to appear the most on this list? We've still got a few more to go.

# 8: 2009 Week 16: Buccaneers 20, Saints 17 (OT) (ρ=1.3187)
Buccaneers' season: finished 3-13. This was Raheem Morris' first season as head coach.
Saints' season: finished 13-3, clinched the #1 seed in the NFC, and won Super Bowl XLIV.
What happened: through the first 13 games of the 2009 season, the Saints cut a pretty impressive swath through their opponents, averaging a dominating 35.8 points scored per game. Something happened for those last three games, and the Saints offense fell off a cliff, scoring just 44 points total in those last three games.
The 2009 Buccaneers were a team with a mediocre defense and a really bad offense. Bad enough that the Saints came within a doinked field goal of winning the game in spite of their offensive struggles. But after scoring on their first three drives, the Saints offense dried up, and (thanks in part to a special teams touchdown), the Buccaneers were able to start moving the ball on the Saints defense right about that same time.
Also of note: one of the ironies of the bounty scandal associated with this era of the Saints is that they had a very unremarkable defense, at least in terms of points allowed to their opponents. 19 teams in the league allowed fewer points than the Saints during the 2009 regular season.

Next week: the oldest second oldest game on the list.

Monday, June 18, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: #9

# 9: 2011 Saints 20, Buccaneers 26 (ρ=1.3163)
Saints' season: finished 13-3, clinched the #3 seed of the NFC, and lost to the 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Buccaneers' season: finished 4-12. Head coach Raheem Morris was fired after the end of the season.
What happened: in both 2010 and 2011, the Buccaneers games followed a simple rule: when they held their opponent to 21 points, they won, and when they didn't, they mostly lost. The difference between their 10-win 2010 season and their 4-win 2011 season is the Buccaneers mostly didn't hold their opponents to 21 points in 2011.
The Saints turned the ball over 4 times, including three interceptions thrown by Drew Brees. Other than the playoff loss to the 49ers, it's the only game all season the Saints turned the ball over more than twice.
It says something about how weak the Buccaneers' offense was that even with 3 extra chances (*) at the ball, they were only able to score 26 points, and nearly lost anyway. (*) The final interception came at the very end of the game, where the Buccaneers could just kneel out the clock.
Also of note: I wrote about this game in the week 6 pick results and the top upsets of 2011.

Next week: the first upset featuring a team that went on to win the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: #10

#10: 1977 Rams 26, Saints 27 (ρ=1.3153)
Rams' season: finished 10-4, clinched the #2 seed in the NFC, and lost to the Vikings in the Divisional round of the playoffs.
Saints' season: finished 3-11. Head coach Hank Stram was fired after the end of the season.
What happened: the Saints started out as a bad team, and stayed that way for a long time. They didn't win more than 5 games in a season until 1978, didn't have a winning season until 1987, and didn't win a playoff game until 2000. In the mid to late 70's, the Rams (along with the Cowboys and Vikings) were one of the big powerhouse teams of the NFC.
But this was an era where (even more than now) teams needed to play good defense to win games. This was a problem for the 1977 Rams. If you look at their season stats, and sort by defensive rushing yards allowed... it's not pretty. Every loss the Rams had that season, they gave up at least 133 yards rushing. The 253 yards rushing they gave up to the Saints was the record for the season, and one of the few times during this era they gave up more than 200 yards rushing.
Unless your opponent turns the ball over 6 times, giving up 200 yards rushing makes it really hard to win a game, no matter how weak your opponent is.
Also of note: Hank Stram is far better known as the long-time head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, leading them to their first (and so far only) Super Bowl victory.

Next week: Drew Brees has a bad day in the middle of a record-setting season.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: #11

#11: 2008 Week 7: Cowboys 14, Rams 34 (ρ=1.3152)
Cowboys' season: finished 9-7, and out of the playoffs.
Rams' season: finished 2-14. Head coach Scott Linehan was fired 4 games into the season.
What happened: little, if anything went right for the Cowboys in this game. QB Tony Romo had an injured finger, so backup Brad Johnson started for the Cowboys. In spite of facing an epically bad defense (only the 0-16 Lions gave up more points than the Rams in 2008), Johnson had a miserable game. He complete just 50% of his passes, threw 3 interceptions, and was sacked 3 times.
Johnson and the offense didn't get any help from their defense, either. In spite of facing one of the league's worst offenses (only the 4-11-1 Bengals scored fewer points in 2008), the Cowboys couldn't find a way to stop them.
Also of note: the Cowboys are the second losing team on this list (along with the 2000 Steelers at #22) not to make the playoffs. This is also the game with the widest point margin, and the only one more than +13 points.
I also wrote about this game in the 2008 Week 7 pick results, as well as 2008's top 10 Upsets.

Next week: the Rams again, with their only appearance on the losing side of an upset (for this list, anyway).