What a Handsome North of the Red River Mountain Ram Man!
The room was too big. The ceiling too high. The ornate chestnut wooden doors were too broad, too tall. Jones-ing for a cigarette, her fire engine red lipstick singed the room like a giant redwood match stick, supernova flash bulbs blinked and winked out like bleach blonde heat lighting crashing over this decades decadent equivalent of a Sargent Pepper's album cover group photo. She exhaled her addictive smoke stream toward superstar hard bodies flowing over a red carpet river, rushing toward their Radio City future. Shrieks, boos, and screams met the Houston Texans shocking announcement, drowning out Roger Goodell's last words, "The Saint Louis Rams are on the clock!"
Madam X wishes to apologize for her crystal ball malfunction. Damn that fortune teller party line! I tried to tune into the Radio City draft future, and I get an old Bogart film. Before I peer into my crystal ball again, allow me to back track over haunted, burnt bridges and post some eye popping statistics, which will bolster my hypothesis on How to Win in the Modern NFL!
1. The Rams defense have accumulated more sacks then any NFL team in the last two years! How cool is that? Do you want to break the all time signal season sack record. Win one for the Deacon!
2. In 2013, the Rams had more sacks then any NFC West Team!
3. In 2013, The Rams allowed less sacks then any NFC West team. Yet, we finished in dead last in the NFC west! What the hell is going on here?
Conclusion- The Rams outstanding positive NFC West Sack differential did not translate into WINS! It didn't hurt either.
2013 NFL Offensive Line Rankings
A handful Teams with 10 or more wins, and their Offensive Line Rankings
32nd (last place) Arizona Cardinals
26th- Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks
24th Indianapolis Colts 20th- Kansas City
16th New England Patriots
17th- Saint Louis Rams
A handful of Losing Teams and their Offensive Line Rankings...
3rd ranked Washington
4th ranked Dallas ( Ok 8-8 record)
5th ranked Cleveland
6th ranked Minnesota
7th ranked Detroit
Conclusion- It would appear there is little or no correlation between offensive line ranking and Won/Loss Record.
Before any of you get your dandruff up , Let me say, I'm aware, a winning team can boast a superior offensive line. Yet, I believe that a great offensive line is not a necessary ingredient to winning. I don't believe that ONE Elite offensive lineman makes a big enough difference, to allocate 1st round draft resources towards a big ugly. Perhaps Jeff Fisher knows what I know, and that's why he has never selected an offensive lineman in the first round? Never say never, yet trends are my friends.
The difference between the NFL's best offensive lineman and the 25th best is 2 sacks a year! I've done a lot of research of this subject and it appears that an Average to an Above Average offensive line is all you need to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. The sum of an offensive line is greater than any individual offensive lineman.
Forgive me for glossing over the value of offensive lineman, without tossing a total tidal wave of data at you. I'll drown you with data at a later date. Let's take a peek under the hood of a rushing defense.
- In 2013, Six of the Nine Worst Rush Defenses made the Playoffs! I find that hard to believe! Half the teams who made the playoffs in 2013, had pathetic rushing defenses. Bottom of the barrel sieves!
Conclusion- When it comes to Winning, a powerful rushing defense is not a key ingredient! Not in the Modern NFL! Not during the regular season. The playoff season however is a different animal. More on that later.
I took all the 2013 Playoff teams YDS/A passing differentials and YDS/A rushing differentials. I included the Arizona Cardinals in my calculations, since they won 10 games. Fair enough?
Quick explanation of YDS/A rushing differential and YDS/A Passing Differential.
Example: During the 2013 regular season the New Orleans Saints offense averaged 3.8 yards per rushing attempt, but their defense allowed 4.6 yards per rushing attempt, thus the New Orleans Saints had a negative YDS/A rushing differential of minus 0.8. Understand? I used the same methodology to calculate YDS/A Passing differential. Are you with me so far?.
11/13 or 85% of playoff teams had positive YDS/A passing differentials
7/13 or 54% of playoff teams had positive YDS/ Rushing attempt differentials.
Philadelphia was the only playoff team to have greater that 1.0 yard positive YDS/A rushing differential. The Eagles offense averaged 1.3 yards more per rush then their defense allowed.
YDS/A Passing Differential. In 2013, 6/13 playoff teams had greater than a 1.0 yard positive YDS/A passing differential. The Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks passing offense gained 2.45 more yards per passing attempt then their defense allowed! Best YDS/A passing differential in entire NFL!
The Philadelphia Eagles averaged 5.1 yards per rush in 2013, the only team in the entire NFL to average 5 yards per rushing attempt! Tampa Bay averaged 6.3 yards per pass in 2013. the lowest yards per passing attempt in the NFL. Do the math people. Tampa Bay gained 1.2 more yards per passing play than the Philadelphia did per rushing play.
What about the Rams Ewe! Every team in the NFC West , except for the Saint Louis Rams had a positive passing differential greater than 1.0 yard per attempt. The 2013 Rams had a negative passing YDS/a differential of minus 1.26 yards per passing attempt. Only the Washington Redskins had a worse YDS/A passing differential! Thank God we got their draft pick.
1. A positive YDS/A passing differential has a very high correlation to a positive W/L record.
2. A positive YDS/A rushing differential does not have a significant correlation to a positive or negative W/L record.
3. When it comes to winning in the modern NFL, passing offense and passing defense matters more than Rushing offense and rushing defense.
Remember 6 of the 9 worst NFL rushing defenses made the playoffs in 2013!
Next, I decided to crunch the numbers for every 2013 NFL team's YDS/A passing differential. What did I find?
2. Only one team in the entire NFL with a losing record ( the 7-9 New York Giants) had a positive YDS/A passing differential. The NYG had a + 0.5 YDS/A passing differential.
3. The Kansas City Chiefs - 0.53 and Indianapolis Colts -0.52 YDS/A passing differentials stand alone as the only NFL teams with winning records and a negative YDS/A passing differentials! We know the Colts beat KC in a wild wildcard playoff shocker, and then lost to the New England Patriots in the next round. Total Playoff record for negative YDS/A passing differential teams...1 win and 2 losses.
4. We biologists like to say, "Treasure your exceptions." The Chiefs, Colts and the Giants were the only exceptions in 2013. I won't delve too deep into these team's seasons. But in passing, I will point out The Interception Exception to my YDS/A pass differential hypothesis. The Giants led the NFL in futility, throwing 29 Interceptions! Six more interceptions than the next team! The Chiefs threw a league low of 8 interceptions, while the Colts QB's were tied for 3rd, throwing only 10 interceptions!
Conclusion- During the 2013 NFL season, there was a very high correlation between winning records and positive YDS/A passing differential, and very high correlation between losing records and negative YDS/A passing differentials.
History Lesson... From 2003-2013 115 out of 132 or 87.1% of playoff teams had positive YDS/A passing differentials!
Before I move on, let me say, I am well aware that correlation doesn't necessarily equate causation. Yet, I ran my data through Scientific Method and T-Tests. So I have the right to say that the data SUGGESTS a high correlation between a positive YDS/A differential and winning records. Suggests is the key word.
Feel free to disagree with the conclusions the data suggests. Please don't say your wrong without backing up your opinion with corresponding data. It's easy to say, " Your wrong." or "That's stupid." If you must say those things, , please back up your conclusion with sufficient data. My data sets cover 11 seasons of playoff teams. My recent data set covers every 2013 NFL team Only 3 exceptions out of 32 teams. All three of those teams exceptions can be explained by the Interception Exception.
Rams Review- ( Although the data below is true, there is not sufficient data for me to run T-tests and draw scientific conclusions. Yet I find the following Ram's data interesting) Why? I believe the Rams can roar into the playoffs on the back of a positive YDS/A passing differential, and the following stats riding along, I feel it suggests how dangerous the Rams will be in the playoffs. I wouldn't want to face a team in the playoffs who,
Led the NFC West in Sacks.
Rams offensive line allowed fewer sacks than any NFC West team.
Rams were the only team in the NFC West with a negative YDS/A passing differential, a pathetic -1.26 YDS/A!
Rams had the 2nd ranked offensive line in the NFC West.
Rams led the NFL in stopping running backs behind the line of scrimmage.
Rams were 2nd in the NFC West behind the Cardinals in stopping the Run.
Before Sam Bradford's freak injury, Sam was on his way to his best year yet, as Sam had the 11th highest Passer Rating in the NFL. Not bad! Yet, Sam Bradford's 6.44 yards per attempt came in a lowly 34th among qualifying quarterbacks . I know Rams wide receivers dropped their share of passes. So, I asked myself, How much difference would it have made if the Rams receivers led the league with the fewest drops?
I recorded each dropped pass as a 7 yard completion and recalibrated the numbers. The results? Sam's new 6.71 YDS/A propelled him into 27th place.
Sam's stats probably would improve significantly under a different offensive scheme. Let us bow our heads and pray that Schotty accentuates Sam's strengths this year.
How does a positive YDS/A differential work out on the field Ewe?
The fewer plays it takes to score a TD, the less the chance a scoring drive is thwarted by penalty, interception or fumble. Your chances of screwing up are greater on a 14 play drive than on a 6 play drive. Does that make sense?
Even the worst NFL passing attempt team averages 1.2 yards more per passing play than the best rushing team. Am I still making sense?
Also every game runs out of time twice... Halftime and Game Over! Passing is the quickest way to score and slow down the clock, while a demonic pass defense forces turnovers, offensive mistakes until the offense runs out of downs or time.
If the Rams plan to win, and make the playoffs, the Rams must increase their YDS/A passing differential. There are two basic ways to attain such a goal. Offensively and Defensively. Duh! Right?
Quarterback. The Rams are going to keep Sam Bradford, therefore switching quarterbacks is not an option in 2014.
Drafting a #1 Wide Receiver is an option, and I predict the Rams will draft a WR in the first two rounds. In 2013, the Rams top receiver Chris Givens was ranked 79th in the league. Armed with a pathetic stat like that, you can make an argument that the Rams don't have #2 receiver, much less a true #1 WR!
We need a wide receiver who gains yards after the catch, and who takes pressure off of Tavon Austin, Quick, Cook, and Zak Stacy.
Coaching and offensive game planning- Changing offensive coordinators and wide receiver coaches is not an option in 2014. We can only pray that Schotty has figured out how to utilize Tavon Austin, Cook and whichever wide receiver the Rams draft in 2014. Don't get me started! This is stuff for whole another article.
Offensive Line- Before someone gets their panties in a wad about Big Uglies, and screams Robinson, take into count that Rams offensive line was ranked higher than Arizona (32) and Seattle(26). Stats show little correlation between great offensive lines and winning records. I'm not saying teams blessed with great offensive lines lose! I'm saying teams with negative YDS/A passing differentials lose. Don't get me wrong. I adore the running game! I (Oh how I do miss the days of Eric Dickerson! Jackie Slater and that classic wrecking crew! Memories!) If I had a time machine! Wait a minute Ewe! Seattle had a solid rushing attack, and they won the Super Bowl! If I had a time machine! Wait a minute Ewe! Wait a moment, wait a week, wait a lifetime!
It's time for a Fractured Fairy Tale! Cinderella "palace party girl" was different girl at home. She went from smudge faced omega bitch to the Prince's Palace Glass Slipper Zipper Unzipper! Yummy! The regular season and the playoffs are a lot like that!
Fractured Fairy Tale- The regular season and the playoff season are two different animals!
In the playoffs NFL Referees back off and throw fewer yellow flags, as they let the defensive big boys play. Watch regular season, run of the mill, defensive pass interference penalties suddenly morph into outstanding playoff defensive coverage plays! Richard Sherman can maul, curse, and hold a wide receiver in the playoffs and get away with assault and battery. Wide receivers have to fight, bite, and scratch for every playoff catch.
Why is the regular season a different animal than the playoff season Ewe? During the regular season it's entertaining TV viewing for your average NFL fan to cheer for elite quarterbacks threading pigskins thru needles, whilst gymnastic wide receivers make clutch,one handed grabs. It's exciting, it's freaking unbelievable. But, the playoffs are One And Done! So the NFL Big Wig Owners secretly order Referees to release the hounds, release the Kraken, and untie and undo the defensive muzzles! There will be biting, scratching , fighting, and physical football! Survival of the Fittest! Kill or be killed! It's the Playoffs!
Rushing attacks ratchet up in the playoffs. It's brutal. One and Done is all the drama you need! An undefeated, perfect regular season is wasted when a wild card team beats your ass like a step child! Pansy wide receivers on tip toe had better bash, smash, and thrash past a rabid school of piranha shredding, defensive backs in the playoffs. No more regular season pussy footing around! Oh come on! I'm sure I'm not the only human being on TST to notice this social Darwin post season playoff phenomenon! It happens every year, in much the same way beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon to Capistrano. Before I get Dumb and Dumber let me say high scoring offenses get you to playoffs, but 80% of the time, dominating defenses win the Super Bowl!
Demonic Dominating Defensive Dynasty-
It would behoove the Rams to come out of the NFL draft with at least 3 upgrades on defense.
Cornerback- We need a wide receiver leech at cornerback. A cornerback cornerstone who can blitz, play press, and man to man, so that Gregg Williams front SEVEN can torcher opposing offenses with a plethora of blitzes. We need defensive backs who crack wide receivers vertebrate the moment they touch the ball. Sure tacklers! We need a cornerback before the 2nd round is over! I prefer Justin Gilbert over any free safety in this draft.
Free Safety- We need a rangy free safety, with great instincts. Yet, I want a free safety who hits like a rhinocerous. The surest shortest path to winning the Super Bowl is the NFL #1 Defense. Snead and Fisher must draft defense to put the Nasty back in Rams Defensive Dynasty! Can you dig it? Draft for D! Our new free safety must make receivers suffer. I prefer Calvin Pryor over Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. I've watched plenty film on those Pryor and Clinton-Dix.. I haven't watched much tape on the rest of the 2014 safety draft class. I know their names. Jimmie Ward, Deone Bucannon and Dion Bailey. If any of you have seen them play, let me know.
Linebacker- Draft Jadeveon Clowney if we can't trade down. ( I believe Clowney can play DE, DT, and Outside lineback his first year) Clowney performed well in linebacker drills. . I'm cool with Mack, Mosely, and Shazier. Through November of last year our linebackers were allowing an obscenely high passing YDS/A . Worst in the NFL. We improved a little in December. Thank God. Alec Olgetree was a rookie, and I expect him to improve. Tight Ends and Wide Receivers were killing us over the middle. Perhaps we can place this albatross around Tim Walton's neck and throw him overboard? Splash! "Man overboard!"
If we want a demonic dominating defensive dynasty we must draft an OLB or Clowney within the first 3 rounds! And we need to draft depth at middle linebacker, a little later. (Don't get me wrong, I'm still on the Trade Down Bandwagon)
Defensive Tackle- I like the Rams signing DT Alex Carrington. He blocks a few extra points and field goals every year. In 2011 the Bills tried him out at OLB. He's a space eater. He's a versatile guy. Yet, If the Rams trade back their 13th pick and nab a defensive tackle of Aaron Donald caliber and an extra pick I won't cry. If we can't trade down and we stay at #2 we must draft Clowney, because he can play DT on rushing downs. Imagine Clowney, Quinn, Long, and either Brokers or Hayes rushing a terrified quarterback. Clowney is great against the run too. I would take Clowney at #2 over Watkins or anybody. ( I might prefer Mike Evans over Watkins) That's another article.
A smart GM looks 2-5 years into the future. It would be stupid to draft a Left Tackle to play guard or replace Jake Long for a month. If we must draft a Left Tackle like Robinson or Mathews, do it because we foresee the Big Ugly playing left tackle for a decade. I'm down with that, providing we traded down and got extra draft picks.
A smart GM point plugs holes in through free agency and drafts Best Player Available in the draft. Of course a smart GM manipulates the draft, and trades backwards or forwards to obtain the Best Player Available to fulfill a need, if at all possible.
An incestuous Coach uses late round picks for depth, special teams, offensive linemen, and to trade for proven vets! The 49'ers trading a 6th round pick for Anquan Boldin is a good example of such a trade. I was Harbaugh joking, but seriously a few trades like that crop up every year. Be prepared to jump on it Snead!
Snead signed Saffold, Dunbar, a Defensive Tackle, back up QB, and a defensive back. We didn't sign any uber expensive free agents. Jo Lonn Dunbar, a backup defensive tackle, drug addled defensive backs and wide receivers on parole come cheap.
Since the advent of relatively cheap rookie contracts and Salary Caps, it makes sense to draft the expensive positions like franchise QB's, dominate DE's, #1 WR's, and cornerbacks early in the draft. Plug in and sign solid starting guards, linebackers, 2nd tier WRs, DT's and rotational linemen thru free agency. And draft running backs late. I think Dubs could write a great article on this subject.
Final Thought - I believe the Rams will use 3 out of their first 5 picks on defense. Early defensive picks will emphasize stopping the pass. Conversely early offensive draft picks should supplement the passing game. A strong passing game should open up our running game. It's all good! But defense is better. If the Rams make the playoffs in 2014. A dominating defense will take the Rams further than a high octane offense.