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Statapalooza: Essential Pass Rush

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Before we break into the playoff previews, let me first say. When I was previewing the Redskins, I had time to amass tape before the game. Since the Hawks secured the 3 seed, the only Packers game I know of that's been broadcast in my area was the Bears' blowout in week 16. It's more than probable that that was an aberration, and I didn't record it. Therefore, the essential scouting portion of the following posts will be accomplished through redacting. That is, creating something new and cohesive from gathered information from various authors and commentators. When specific, I'll provide a link. A year ago, I wouldn't have any problem doing this, but the more I learn about the NFL, the more wary I am of 2nd hand information. It's amazing how much garbage is out there. So, be aware, this is almost entirely 2nd hand information. That doesn't mean it's faulty, I've developed a good eye for football BS, but I certainly wouldn't stand by it like I would that which I have seen with my own eyes. Further, whenever possible, I'll use good statistics rather than scouting, like in this following post.

Okay, with that out of the way, I think the Hawks can beat the Packers. A few essential units must play well, and the Hawks pass rush must be lights out, but the Packers are by no means the juggernaut their 13-3 record might imply. Injuries and ineffectiveness have thinned essential positions for the Pack, not least of which their right offensive line. None of the major sports websites even list a starter at right guard, though it is assumed formerly deposed second year man Daryn Colledge will reassume the spot. Perhaps more tantalizing, the man playing opposite Patrick Kerney, Mark Tauscher, accounts for 6 of the Packers' 19 sacks allowed.  Though Green Bay led the NFL in sacks allowed and adjusted sack rate, as Mike Tanier points out in this piece, it's more a product of scheme than quality blocking. So, to try and cut through the noise I developed a somewhat simple system I will now explain.

In Pro Football Prospectus 2007, Aaron Schatz compiled a list of every NFL team ranked by their ability to hurry a quarterback. I listed every team on the Packers schedule (twice, natch, for division foes), and then split them into two sections, teams good at hurrying quarterbacks, and teams bad at hurrying quarterbacks, 8 apiece. Good being teams in the top 16, bad being teams in the bottom 16. Because sacks and hurries do seem to be connected, I then removed any of the good teams that had fallen ten or more places in adjusted sack rate and removed any of the bad teams that had risen ten or more places in adjusted sack rate from 2006 to 2007. That removed Carolina from the good list and the New York Giants from the bad list. Here's the remaining good teams: Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, Bears, Vikings, Vikings and Chiefs. Bad: Redskins, Rams, Lions, Lions, Chargers and Broncos. The average DVOA pass defense ranking of the good teams: 14.57. Bad: 17.71. It should be noted, too, that the bad teams include the Skins when they were at their peak, pre key losses. From these lists I evaluated Favre's performance (and only Favre's) based on Adjusted Yards per Attempt as defined in The Hidden Game of Football (by Bob Carroll, Pete Palmer and John Thorn). Witness the results:

Favre against Bad "hurry" teams: 8.29 AYpA

Favre against Good "hurry" teams: 5.67 AYpA

Using this list compiled by Pro Football Prospectus, Favre v Bad would rank among the all time great quarterback performances, just hundredths of a yard worse than 1999 Kurt Warner (8.37). Favre v Good, though, is a couple ticks below league average. Kerney has a winning matchup, as does Rocky Bernard/Craig Terrill. If they, and the collected efforts of the rest of Seattle's front 7 can create consistent pressure, Seattle will have a huge step up in winning on Sunday.