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Super Bowl Shorts, Volume II: Betting the Over/Under

| February 7th, 2023


The Number: 50.5.

Here are some things to consider when looking at that number.

  • From Lineups.com: “…in 54 Super Bowls played [with an over/under], the total has gone over in 27 of them, and the total has gone under in… 27 of them.” The game itself offers no historical insight. This is a coin flip bet.
  • Nobody likes to bet the under on Super Bowl Sunday. Who the hell wants to root for less points? But as Dannehy pointed out last week, these are superior pass rushes. And historically, in the Super Bowl, the great pass rush beats the great offense. (See: whenever the Giants and Pats met in a Super Bowl.)
  • DBB considers Thanksgiving the line of demarcation for the NFL season. Before that day – a day in which I am reminded how much I love stuffing only to not eat it again for a year – a team’s form is rather inconsequential. Since that day:
    • Eagles are averaging 34.1 points per game with Jalen Hurts.
    • Eagles are allowing 19.4 points per game, albeit against some shockingly poor quarterbacks.
    • Chiefs are averaging 27.3 points per game.
    • Chiefs are allowing 19.6 points per game.

I like the loser of this game around 20 points. That means the winner needs to hit 31 for the over, and that signals the game as something of a blowout. Unlikely.

Bet the under. 

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Super Bowl Shorts, Volume I: Orlando Brown Jr. (My Chief to Watch)

| February 6th, 2023


Player to Watch on the Kansas City Chiefs.

Orlando Brown Jr. is an interesting football player.

As left tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, he has historically gotten off to slow starts but finished seasons as one of the more dominant tackles in the sport. It happened in 2021. It happened in 2022. And now he’s just weeks away becoming a filthy rich individual, with teams across the league desperate for offensive line help.

The Chiefs tagged Brown this past season. It is unlikely they would do that again. But what better opportunity for the player? Brown will square off against an historically elite pass rush with a hobbled quarterback behind him. If he keeps the pocket clean for Patrick Mahomes in February, he’ll be lining his pockets as one of the richest offensive linemen in the league history come March.

And there’s a team in Chicago that would gladly pay full freight.

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Super Bowl Teams Prove Importance of Applying & Denying Pressure

| February 3rd, 2023


It isn’t a coincidence that the teams playing in the Super Bowl are among the best at getting pressure on the opposing quarterback and keeping their quarterbacks clean.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ defense put up video game numbers, finishing with 70 sacks during the regular season, taking quarterbacks down on 11.2 percent of their drop backs, according to Pro-Football-Reference. The Eagles had the most sacks in a season since the 1987 Bears (also 70). The 1984 Bears hold the single season record with 72 and the 1989 Minnesota Vikings totaled 71. Four Philadelphia defensive linemen had more than 10 sacks, led by 2022 free agent addition Haason Reddick’s 16.

Who was second in the league in sacks? The Kansas City Chiefs, 55, a total that would typically lead the league. The Chiefs also had a dominant individual as defensive tackle Chris Jones managed 15.5 sacks. The rest of their pressure was spread out across the defensive roster.

But the teams also kept their quarterbacks relatively clean.

The Eagles were eighth in the league in pressure percentage allowed at 17.7%, while the Chiefs were 16th at 19.4%. It must be noted, however, that both teams have quarterbacks who hold onto the ball. Kansas City tied for the league-high with 2.6 seconds in the pocket, while Philly came in at 2.4.

The Bears have a lot of work to do.

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The Value of David Montgomery: Volume III, Proposed Role & Contract

| February 2nd, 2023

Proposed Montgomery Role

Based on everything we’ve seen so far; we can say this about David Montgomery’s NFL profile:

That has a place on an NFL roster, but it should not be as an every down back who gets 200+ carries a year, which has been his role for the last 4 seasons. A ratio of 201 carries to 41 pass targets, like Montgomery saw in 2022, makes him a net negative for the offense, but he could be valuable if used correctly. The Bears last year insisted on using all of their running backs in an every-down situation, rotating them on a per-drive basis. The lead back (Montgomery if healthy) would play every snap for 2 drives, and then the backup would play every snap for 1 drive. This doesn’t play to either Montgomery or Herbert’s strengths, as it forces both to play in situations where they are not effective.

If the Bears insist on using both of their main backs on a per-drive basis, then they need to find a better runner than Montgomery to be their lead back. If, however, the Bears decide that they want to bring Montgomery back, they will need to reconfigure how they use their running backs. They can rotate them situationally, such that Herbert is naturally on the field in more run-heavy situations and Montgomery is naturally on the field in more pass-heavy situations, and thus use both their strengths better.

Take, for instance, this very basic situational split:

  • Khalil Herbert could play in more neutral situations that will favor the run:
    • 1st and 2nd down for the 1st 3 quarters, except the last 2 minutes of the 1st half.
    • When the Bears have a lead in the 4th quarter and are trying to run out the clock.
  • David Montgomery could play in situations that favor the passing game and short yardage runs:
    • 3rd and 4th down for the 1st 3 quarters.
    • The last 2 minutes of the 1st half.
    • When the Bears are trailing in the 4th quarter.

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The Value of David Montgomery: Volume II, Pass Game

| February 1st, 2023

This is the 2nd in a 3-part series looking at David Montgomery. In part 1, we saw that Montgomery is bad at running the football. Today, we’re going to explore his impact in the passing game. 


Receiving

Let’s start by looking at how effective each Bears running back is catching the ball. The table below shows a host of advanced statistics for Montgomery and Herbert, as well as how they compared to the 67 running backs who ran at least 100 routes in 2022. All data is from Pro Football Focus, and values in the top 25% are highlighted in green, while values in the bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

A few thoughts:

  • This is a complete reversal from the running data. David Montgomery is one of the better receiving backs in the NFL, while Khalil Herbert is one of the worst.
  • Montgomery’s efficiency here makes sense. Even though he’s slow for a running back, he’s still faster than most linebackers, who are the defenders typically covering him. And when he does break a tackle, he doesn’t have the whole defense already flowing to him from nearby, so he’s able to pick up more yards. Throwing him the football is a way to get him the ball in space, which lets him take advantage of his strengths while minimizing the lack of speed that makes it hard for him to get to open space on a handoff.
  • I find it very odd that Montgomery saw so few pass targets considering how bad Chicago’s WRs were and how good he is as a pass catcher. And this isn’t just due to the Bears not passing much; Montgomery was solidly below-average in routes run/target, which means the ball didn’t go his way very often even when they did throw it.
  • Khalil Herbert is a mess here, which is why I don’t think the Bears can count on him as their primary running back going into 2023, regardless of how good he is running the ball.

Pass Blocking

Catching the football isn’t the only part of the passing game a running back impacts; they are also tasked with helping in pass protection. Let’s take a look at how effective Montgomery and Herbert were in this area, once again using PFF for statistics. Ranks are compared to 59 running backs with at least 25 pass blocking snaps, and once again top 25% values are highlighted in green, while bottom 25% are highlighted in red.

A few thoughts:

  • These are small sample sizes, so it’s hard to say too much definitively about the data. But I did find it interesting that Herbert was asked to block more frequently than Montgomery when they were on the field for passing plays, even though Herbert is a worse pass blocker. I am going to guess that is largely due to Montgomery being so much more useful as a pass catcher than Herbert.
  • I put blocking grades in here because there’s just not much data otherwise. I find it odd that Montgomery and Herbert had similar blocking grades despite Montgomery giving up 4 pressures on 54 blocking snaps, compared to 4 on 32 snaps for Herbert.
  • No matter how you look at it, Montgomery is an adequate pass blocker, but doesn’t seem like anything special. Herbert, on the other hand, seems to struggle here a bit as well.

Tomorrow, a potential role and contract for Montgomery.

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The Value of David Montgomery: Volume I, Run Game

| January 31st, 2023

After four productive years in Chicago, David Montgomery is now a free agent, which leaves the Bears in the difficult situation of trying to figure out how much they are willing to pay to keep him around. On the surface, he has the case to command a sizable contract. Since entering the NFL, Montgomery has 915 carries (6th in NFL) for 3,609 yards (10th) and 26 rushing touchdowns (15th). Montgomery has also contributed 155 receptions for 1,240 yards and 4 touchdowns, bringing his rookie contract totals to an impressive 4,849 yards from scrimmage and 30 TDs.

Of course, volume stats don’t tell the full story, so this week I want to take a closer look at David Montgomery’s performance to see if we can get a better idea of how good he is, and thus how large of a contract he might be worth. We’ll start today by looking at his contributions in the run game, follow-up tomorrow with a look at his role in the passing game, and finish with an examination of what a realistic free agent contract could look like.


Advanced Rushing Statistics

Volume stats are nice, but to really understand a player’s value, we need to examine their efficiency. Thankfully, we have a whole host of data available to us, including a number of advanced statistics.

Before we look at the data, I want to mention that RYOE is Rushing Yards Over Expected, which is based on both the position and the movement of all 22 players on the field at the time of handoff. Basically, it projects how many yards an average NFL running back would get in a given carry based on historical data, and then compares how that specific running back did on that play. RYOE % is then the % of carries where a back exceeds the expected rushing yards.

The table below shows how Montgomery fared in a host of advanced rushing statistics compared to 48 running backs with at least 90 carries in 2022. Khalil Herbert’s statistics are also shown for good measure. All RYOE stats are pulled from Next Gen Stats, while yards before run, after run, and broken tackles are from Pro Football Reference. Any values in the top 25% (top 12) are highlighted in green, while those in the bottom 25% are in red.

A few thoughts:

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Championship Sunday Predictions: Birds, Bengals to Meet on the Final Sunday

| January 27th, 2023

The four best teams in the NFL remain. That’s all we can ask for in the final weeks of an NFL season.


49ers at Eagles (-2.5), Over/Under 46.5

  • Let’s look at some regular season rankings:
    • Yards per game: Eagles 3, Niners 5
    • Points per game: Eagles 3, Niners 6
    • Yards allowed per game: Niners 1, Eagles 2
    • Points allowed per game: Niners 1, Eagles 8
    • Opposing passer rating: Eagles 3, Niners 6
    • Sacks: Eagles 1, Niners 11
    • Interceptions: Niners T-1, Eagles T-4
    • Turnover differential: Niners 1, Eagles 3
  • What do those stats show? There is no advantage in this game. It is going to be decided by a big play here, or a big play there, or a costly turnover at the wrong moment, or a brilliant special teams moment. I give the Eagles a slight edge at quarterback, and a slight edge for the home field. And that slight edge is reflected in my score prediction.
  • Eagles 24, 49ers 23

Bengals (-1) at Chiefs, Over/Under 47.5

  • The Chiefs had been favored in 14 consecutive postseason games, and the only reason they are not favored this week is because of the health of their quarterback. What will Patrick Mahomes look like Sunday evening? There is a strong chance we won’t know until the game kicks off, and that makes it near-impossible to predict with any semblance of certainty.
  • Joe Burrow’s postseason stats: 5-1, 68.1% completion, 1,556 yards, 8 TDs, 2 INTS, 98.4 rating. Against the best competition, Burrow is at his best. Is he the best quarterback in the sport?
  • With a hobbled Mahomes, I don’t think the Bengals are the better team. I think they are the significantly better team. So…
  • Bengals 31, Chiefs 20

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Dannehy: Bears Should Prioritize Offensive Line

| January 26th, 2023


There is no foolproof method to build an NFL team, but as the Chicago Bears head into a crucial offseason, they should prioritize strengthening their offensive line.

As the debate about offensive line vs. wide receiver rages across the Twittersphere, it’s important to take a step back, look at what the Bears have on their roster and how they can best maximize that talent. That starts with quarterback Justin Fields, who has flaws as a passer, but has shown great touch on deep balls and is as electric a runner as there has been in the league, at any position.

Playing his first two seasons behind a subpar offensive line hasn’t allowed Fields to showcase his ability as a passer. At Ohio St., he did most of his damage from inside the pocket – his 4.4 speed was seen as a bonus. But there haven’t been clean pockets to work from in Chicago, which has made evaluating the quarterback that much more difficult.

When the Bears have kept the pocket clean, Fields has shown the ability to go through his progressions and make the right read. Furthermore, it allows the team to open up his greatest asset as a passer: the deep ball.

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