With Sex Cannon coming to Qwest (whee!) I thought we (royal) could theme this week's Statapalooza around confidence in the face of complete ineptitude. Guts can take you far, to the Super Bowl, halfway around the world, but, somehow, incompetence always catches up to those who glide far from the shores on a Wile E. Coyote-like defiance of reality. Good numbers, honest statistics, reflect reality. Let's see what they say about the Hawks, Bears and some of this Sunday's players.
Old Deeds for Old People, and New Deeds for New: I never much cared for Thoreau. Something about living in your best friend's backyard, a mile from your mom's house, but telling everyone else what's wrong with their life struck me as hubris at its richest. Still, that doesn't mean his thinking is entirely without merit. One thing that always jived with me was his opinion that elders' opinions should not be respected just because they're elder. In sports, youth is and shall always be served. Which might be a bit of a problem, because Sunday the Hawks' worst and oldest starting offensive lineman faces Tommie Gun Harris. "How earthy old people become - moldy as the grave!" Earthy indeed, as in flat on the floor looking back as your quarterback is sacked. The Washington Post pins 2.5 sacks on Chris Gray, and credits Harris for 7. If that's not at least 3.5 and 8 come Monday, well, I'll be elated.
Beware Falling Punters: After a pair of blocked punts earlier in the season, Ryan Plackemeier looks gun shy. He was one of the league's best punters in 2006, but his and the surrounding Hawks' punt unit has come to earth this season like so many poorly kicked footballs. The Hawks are 1.6 points below average punting the ball this season, the Bears a resounding 16.6 points above average returning punts.
Our Mirror, Our Light, Our Comfort, and Our True Guide: Ferdinand Magellan truly believed he was chosen by God to circumnavigate the globe. Columbus too - it was a different time. Fanny Goodwife was once chosen by God to cobble her shoes. That belief gave Magellan the confidence to get 2/3rds around the world but it was also his undoing: He died when he and a small group of shipmates decided to take on 1,500 Polynesians. Sex Cannon knows about going far and getting sacked. The Hawks feature the fifth best pass rush in football, the Bears, the 17th best pass protection. Not a cardinal mismatch in of itself, but to add a spear to the skull to the cutlass in the gizzard, Grossman panics under pressure and implodes against top 10 pass rushes. In five seasons his overall completion percentage is 54.1% and he throws a pick every 24.3 attempts. To give some context, Beck's throws a pick every 36.2 attempts. Against top 10 pass rushes, Grossman's completion percentage drops to 45.5% and his attempts per pick ratio soars to one pick every 19.4 attempts. Grossman's DVOA (-30.5%) is twice as bad as noodle armed game manager Brian Griese (-14.2%). The commentators and sports journos will talk about revenge, but a better word would be regression. Or, contrarily, a lot of suck catching up to him.
Spread `em, Bread `em and Stick `em in Boiling Oil: The Bears are horrendous against slot receivers, to the tune of 67.2% DVOA against. The Hawks have the best bunch of slot guys in football. Ooh, Yeaahh!!
Smell the Glove: Branch gets a bit of a soft landing against a team that's just mediocre against #1 receivers, -3% (13th). Only a mismatch if you think Branch is a potentially elite receiver.
God Healed My Foot: The preliminary word is that shaun will miss Sunday's contest, and the timing couldn't be better. The Bears are rotten against receiving backs, 6.7% DVOA against or 28th in the league, while the Hawks have two of the best receiving rushers in football: Weaver (28.8%) Morris (57.3%).
I'm going to hit you with a phrase that has dogged you throughout your career. "Washed-up." Like both Death Stars, for all its impressiveness and destructive capability, the Hawks run D has one weakness, a well placed shot directly at Kelly Jennings causes the whole thing to explode. Luckily, Cedric Benson couldn't hit a wamp rat with a Y-Wing Fighter from a foot away. The Bears rushing attack is pitiful, nearly 40% per play worse than the Hawks. The Hawks rush defense is a matter of some contention. Their front seven grades out as top ten, but their overall rush defense is just 15th. That has something to do with a free safety playing strong safety, and a DB coach playing free of scrutiny. The Hawks still allow too many long run plays (20% of all plays), but, get this, the Bears rushing offense only produces rushes of 10+ yards on 4% of all plays. That means, you guessed it, Sex Cannon bears the brunt of the Bears offense this Sunday. Did I say Whee!?