Two years ago I observed the Patriots make ridiculous plays in the third game of preseason, as if they deliberately wanted to lose points to the other team.  Last year I expected it, and was richly rewarded.  This year I predicted some specific gags in the Pats-Bucs game thread before they happened, and I was pretty richly rewarded. 

I don’t want to be biased just where New England is concerned.  Looking around the league, I spotted a truly parallel crazy performance by New Orleans, a team that idolizes the New England way of managing a football team.  Two weeks earlier N.O. had solved their fourth down fears of success by jumping offsides against a punt, and then in the same game they bumped into the punter.  Not to be outdone, the Dallas-Oakland game scored two fourth down punt penalties on successive fourth downs in the same drive.  Talk about helping your opponent with a shovel.  I once had a thread about how football would look if both teams were dead set on making the opposition win.  All of these NFL teams seemed to have their hearts in a similar place, except they didn’t want to get caught doing it.

So, for week three of preseason, I made an untrustworthy performance rule.  If an absolutely dominant team in a contest, in this case New England, New Orleans and probably San Francisco also this week, is rolling the ball slowly backwards on the ground where nobody is near the ball and the ball wobbles toward the goal line all by itself, as if the offense wants to give the defense another free touchdown just by grabbing the ball, and if the real defense doesn’t show up until the second quarter, and if this particular action happens twice or more, then one of my options is to pretty much throw that game out of my calculations.  Actually, what I do is look beyond the long rash of disastrous plays.  Usually the baloney-serving team straightens up and flies right in the second quarter of the third game.

 

First, my opinionated first down numbers, sometimes with yellow flags flying all over the place:

gb   cin   -7  This serious beatdown looks plausible, so I’ll go with it.

jac   bal   5  Good to see Baltimore acting like its old self.

az   ten   2  New England plays both of them.  This is actually Arizona’s best performance so far, the others being all horrid.

phi   cle   5  Philly doesn’t seem to have its stuff together at all this year.  That may be because Michael Vick has bruised ribs right now.

atl   mia   2  Good for Miami, although Atlanta has been sinking.

ne   tb   -2  RomneyRot

sea   kc   4  KC is warming up.

chi   nyg   7  I suspect this really reflects how the Giants are.

sd   min   0  S.D. isn’t acting like they want the AFC West title.  Minnesota is over that Brett Favre thing.

ind   was   1  Two bad teams performed about as expected against each other.

pit   buf   1  Not an effort that I would have expected from Pittsburgh.  However, Pittsburgh didn’t fumble or toss an easy interception once in the whole first quarter.  Maybe Pittsburgh just lost a starting guard to an ACL injury. 

det   oak   0  Oakland looks half-respectable.

hou   no   5  Obamaloney

stl   dal   7  Believable.  St. Louis has been horrid all preseason.

sf   den   3  GreenPartyGarbage

car   nyj   3  About what would be expected.  Jets had some offense.  Some. 

 

In my power rankings, Green Bay has been really laying other teams out in preseason.  Maybe they didn’t get the memo.  In any case, you need to be warned that preseason numbers are based on scant evidence.  They probably will spot trends in the middle of the pack but the top end is pretty bad.

1   gb   16.0   (last wk. 3)  Note:  shaky numbers during preseason.  Green Bay is good, though.

2   no   13.1   (last wk. 2)

3   ne   12.5   (last wk. 1)  Their offensive line problems are real for this week at least, and maybe their defensive backfield is average, but overall, positioning this high isn’t unexpected.

4   nyg   11.2   (last wk. 14)  They just flat out beat someone good in the first half.  If Chicago tampered with its own play, that doesn’t particularly show up.

5   bal   10.9   (last wk. 9)

6   sf   10.9   (last wk. 8)

7   det   10.6   (last wk. 11)

8   dal   10.6   (last wk. 22)

9   sd   9.7   (last wk. 7)

10   hou   9.6   (last wk. 6)

11   kc   9.3   (last wk. 10)

12   pit   8.9   (last wk. 4)

13   cle   8.7   (last wk. 26)

14   den   8.6   (last wk. 15)

15   nyj   8.3   (last wk. 23)

16   oak   8.3   (last wk. 25)

17   cin   8.0   (last wk. 13)

18   jac   8.0   (last wk. 20)

19   atl   7.8   (last wk. 5)

20   sea   7.7   (last wk. 12)

21   min   7.6   (last wk. 18)

22   ten   7.2   (last wk. 19)

23   car   6.4   (last wk. 17)

24   mia   6.2   (last wk. 24)

25   chi   6.2   (last wk. 21)

26   buf   4.5   (last wk. 30)

27   phi   4.5   (last wk. 16)

28   was   4.1   (last wk. 27)

29   tb   3.9   (last wk. 28)

30   az   3.8   (last wk. 29)

31   ind   3.6   (last wk. 31)  Don’t sing Luck’s praises just yet.

32   stl   -0.6   (last wk. 32)  So bad, my stats wouldn’t even grudge them zero victories this year. 

Again, preseason numbers are shaky.  I’d rather work with shaky numbers than with no numbers at all, because I’ve seen some spectacular point-spread flubs and subsequent power rating readjustments in week one of the regular season.