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What do I know? Heading into Week 16

Did You Know?

The best time of the day to play football is

. That’s according to Roger Smith, Christian Guilleminault and Bradley
Efron, researchers at Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic. Their work
entitled “Circadian Rhythms and Enhanced Athletic performance in the National
Football League” in the publication “Sleep” (Vol. 20, No. 5, 1997) suggests
that this time is when players’ lungs use oxygen most efficiently, they’re most
coordinated and their muscles have the potential to perform at their peak. They
examined 25 years of Monday Night games to determine that West Coast teams
traveling east were not at a disadvantage because of jet lag. West Coast teams
won more often and by more points than did East Coast home teams and they often
beat the Vegas point spread. They concluded that the West Coast teams did so
well because, when they kicked off shortly after


eastern time, it felt like

6 p.m.

to them. That’s
right in the sweet spot for peak athletic performance. The East Coast teams, on
the other hand, were nearing their lowest points of athletic performance as the
games were finishing up around


but to the West
Coast teams, it only felt like

9 p.m.
So, for the scribes
out there who argue the San Diego Chargers were playing at a competitive
disadvantage last night, I say Bah Humbug! After their 42-17 waxing of the
Titans, I say the proof is in the (figgy) pudding. 

What the
Hell Were You Thinking

That quote from Steve
Sweeney in “There’s Something About


is exactly what I would be asking
Mike Tomlin after last Sunday’s game. The Steelers had just gone up by two
points against the Packers with just


left on the clock in a game
they absolutely had to win. Then Tomlin inexplicably called for an onside kick.
What makes the call even more curious is the rationale he used to defend his

“We had 30 minutes of evidence we could drive the ball on them,”
Tomlin said. “We also had 30 minutes of evidence to show they could drive the
ball on us.”

I admit I’m
a little slow, but if I am interpreting that correctly then he said the
Steelers defense could not stop the Packers if they got the ball. But then he
added that “

I never thought if they missed the onside kick that

Green Bay

would score a touchdown.
I thought my defense would hold them to a field goal.” Huh? Did he realize that
the score at the time he made this decision was 30-28, as in four touchdowns
already scored by the Packers and no field goals?

Even the Packers knew it was a desperate move.

“The onside kick just showed that they really
couldn’t stop our offense,”


quarterback Aaron
Rodgers said. “It was a gutsy call for one,” Rodgers said. “I don’t think they
felt like they could hold up. We got on a roll there and were scoring

Receiver Donald Driver added, “Greg Jennings
said the same thing when they did that. It was like they knew they couldn’t
stop our offense. After we got on a roll, they realized they didn’t want us on
the field at all.”

Now I know he delivered the Steelers their
sixth Super Bowl and for that, I give him some major leeway, but if Ben
Roethlisberger hadn’t delivered a record-setting performance last Sunday, Tomlin
would be under some pretty intense scrutiny, if he’s not already. “I don’t look
for feedback,” Tomlin said when asked whether he had received any in the
aftermath of the game. “I’m just trying to win football games. My 8-year-old
asked me what I was thinking.” Tomlin was asked how he explained himself at
home, he joked, “I just told him to be quiet.”

Third Down Defense

It seemed to me that part of the defending Super Bowl champion’s
problem this year can be directly attributed to their third down defense (or
lack thereof). So, I did some research to see what was going on. Sure enough,
the Steelers rank 27th in the league, allowing a whopping 42 percent
conversion rate on third downs this season. Only five teams have performed
worse. Looking at the Top 10 teams in this category, their combined winning
percentage is .600. Furthermore, there is only one team in the Top 10 with a
losing record, the Oakland Raiders at 5-9. Comparing that to the Bottom 10

 teams in this category, their winning
percentage is .460. This provides further evidence to my theory that to win in
this league, teams must demonstrate the ability to get off the field on third
downs. Now that’s all well and good except for the fact that the 24th
and 31st rated teams in this category are the 11-3 Chargers and 14-0
Colts, respectively. I have to consider them outliers though because among the
Bottom 10 teams in this statistic, half of the teams have losing records and
the Chargers and Colts are the

only teams with records above .500.
Contrast that to the Top 10 in this category where 70 percent of the teams have
winning records (with only


having a losing
record) and the theory seems to hold up. In fact, those seven teams with
winning records (with third down defensive conversion percentage in the Top 10)
represent over half of the winning teams in the entire league.

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