The Billy Ball Test
Special Commentary by PalmerSucks
January 15, 2010
Welcome to Divisional-Round Weekend, the best two days of football watching there is. Both AFC games include �Billy Ball� teams, which emphasize defense and the running game at the expense of passing.
Three Billy Ball squads made the playoffs, two remain. Both the Jets and the Ravens will be matched up against pass-first teams, giving us the perfect �laboratory� to test which philosophy works best. (The Jets and Bengals, of course, cancelled each other out.)
A couple months ago, when the Bengals were red-hot and boasting they�d found that Billy-Ball formula key to winning the tough AFC North, I warned they might not like the results come January. Sure enough, the Bengals will be munching potato chips along with the Stillers as they watch this weekend�s games. (Leave it to the Bungals to discover ball-control football now that it�s the passing teams who usually win it all.)
The Jets come all cocky into San Diego, not caring a bit that they were gifted into the playoffs, not only by teams with nothing to play for but by NBC, which contributed by moving New York�s last regular-season game to Sunday Night (virtually guaranteeing yet another opponent would have nothing to play for). Jet fans can�t boast enough about their �number-one defense� which they�re sure will carry them past Philip Rivers and his aerial show. The Jets aim to kill the clock with their run game and keep San Diego�s power-forward-sized receivers on the bench. (New York�s done a masterful job of playing �hide the quarterback� this season, chalking up a league low 390 pass plays.)
The Ravens have taken the Billy Ball concept to new heights, having pounded the Patriots last week despite one of the all-time worst playoff performances by a QB. �Average Joe� Flacco comes fresh off a Hall-of-Shame 4 of 10 �passing� day (including an interception and no TDs) notching a � this is not a misprint � 10.0 QB rating.
You thought Dilfer was something? Flacco makes him look like Marino in his prime. Still, the Ravens don�t seem to care � and why should they, as long as they can ring up 80-yard sprints from the line of scrimmage?
They�ll face the Colts, whose idea of a plunge is an 12-yard out to Dallas Clark. Sure, the Colts will run the occasional stretch play to keep the defense guessing, but really � they�re not fooling anyone about how they prefer to attack the opponent. Again, Billy Ball faces the golden-armed QB, giving us another chance to see which scheme reigns supreme.
The results, I believe, are significant to the Stillers, as this year�s failure even to make the playoffs has led to a lot of finger-pointing and talk of how the team has to get �back to basics� (translation: pound the ball instead of passing it so much). The team, and the fans spouting this line, should pay careful attention to this weekend�s results.
My money�s on Billy Ball to do what it does best: fail this time of year. Once again, I believe, the teams with superior passing games will prevail, �number-one defense� or not. If history is any guide, YPA, not YPC, again will be the stat of choice. In other words, look for San Diego to be booking their tickets to Indy come Monday.
Should the Jets and/or Ravens move on, however, watch out! The �good-old-fashioned smash-mouth Stillers football� crowd will be out in force. Enjoy the games, and buckle up your �Chin� straps!
(The views of PalmerSucks are not necessarily those of Stillers.com � but should be.)