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Debunking Keys to the Game

The mass of NFL analysis reminds me of this line from The Simpsons: "Excuse me, but 'proactive' and 'paradigm'?  Aren't these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important?" In other words, it's hackneyed gobbledygook. When you hear an analyst use phrases like "physical", cite player versus team stats, talk about a team's need to score early or mention a team's need to establish the run game or conversely stop the run game/force the other team to pass, you can safely stop listening, stop reading and do something else.

Any defense that is playing well is always playing "physical", have you ever heard someone say "boy the Hawks' defense is really dominating out there, must because everyone is playing so soft, arm tackling and giving big cushions in coverage." No, because playing good defense is playing physical defense. Period.

Player versus team stats are less than meaningless. Does anyone think that despite the high turnaround in talent and coaching in Arizona that Shaun Alexander gains some sort of boost just from playing a team with a red bird on its helmet. Player versus team stats are the product of small sample size and meaningless coincidence. Any time someone sites such a stat you can ignore it.

Do I even need to explain the score early thing? Does anyone not understand that staking a lead improves the chance a team will win a contest? Regarding rushing, teams that are winning rush the ball more. Teams that are losing pass the ball more. Rushing the ball more often does not make a team win more often, it's just something coaches do when they have a lead because rushing more effectively kills the clock and is less likely to lead to a disastrous turnover. Saying that a team needs to prevent the run, force the other team to pass, establish the run or not rely on the pass is tantamount to saying that a team needs to end the game with a pare of kneel downs. You're using effect to describe cause--it's backwards.

Football has more than it's fair share of this garbage floating around. Do yourself a favor, tune it out. If you're curious as to some other findings regarding football's most bandied truisms, take a look at this page. It's a little dated and I hope to update it soon, but it still might help those who have been raised on the wisdom of player-analyst (and really has any word been more bastardized the past few years than analyst?) cut through the crap.