Brady vs. Manning: Who Really Has the Upper Hand?

There are lots of different ways to measure who truly has "the upper hand" in the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry.  Brady supporters will cite his teams' 9-4 head-to-head record as the decisive edge, while the Manning camp may point out that their quarterback has the better stats over the 13 meetings.  These arguments dovetail with each quarterback's general reputation—Brady as the winner, Manning as the stat-sheet stuffer.

Of course, neither Brady nor Manning play defense, so a "head-to-head" comparison is a bit short-sighted to begin with.  Jake Plummer was 2-0 against Brady, and Jay Fiedler put up better numbers in his four head-to-head matchups against Manning.  Somehow, I doubt a "Fiedler vs. Manning" post would generate much debate.

So how do we begin to truly evaluate which quarterback has performed better in 13 Manning vs. Brady games?  Well, let's start by looking at their WPA, EPA and passing success rate (SR) during each of their games:


Game LinkYearPlayerWPAEPASR
WP/Boxscore200112-T.Brady0.049.240.44
18-P.Manning-0.14-14.180.41
WP/Boxscore200112-T.Brady0.2915.310.70
18-P.Manning-0.052.070.45
WP/Boxscore200312-T.Brady0.346.540.59
18-P.Manning-0.264.690.49
WP/Boxscore200312-T.Brady0.200.240.55
18-P.Manning-0.42-20.440.36
WP/Boxscore200412-T.Brady0.6720.060.63
18-P.Manning0.6814.150.49
WP/Boxscore200412-T.Brady0.151.980.41
18-P.Manning-0.06-5.130.52
WP/Boxscore200512-T.Brady0.1813.280.49
18-P.Manning0.3820.420.63
WP/Boxscore200612-T.Brady-0.30-4.220.46
18-P.Manning0.5315.10.56
WP/Boxscore200612-T.Brady0.031.190.41
18-P.Manning0.599.590.53
WP/Boxscore200712-T.Brady0.487.700.47
18-P.Manning0.185.840.49
WP/Boxscore200912-T.Brady0.2112.380.57
18-P.Manning0.4212.810.57
WP/Boxscore201012-T.Brady0.2210.680.61
18-P.Manning0.1917.920.60
WP/Boxscore201212-T.Brady0.3410.660.56
18-P.Manning0.1411.290.50
Total12-T.Brady2.85105.040.53
18-P.Manning2.1874.130.51

We can see that Brady has a fairly significant edge in EPA, and a decent one in WPA.  He's also a bit ahead in success rate, but both have put up excellent rates in that category—for reference, those marks would rank fourth and sixth among 2013 quarterbacks.  So case closed—Brady is the winner, right?

As you might expect, it's not that simple.  First of all, plotting their EPAs graphically reveals a fairly eye-opening trend:


Brady and Manning have switched places, with Peyton getting the upper-hand in EPA in five of the past six matchups, after Brady took five of the first six.  Unsurprisingly, that nearly mirrors the trend of Brady dominating early in the win column, before Peyton surged back in the mid-to-late 2000s.

Brady's overall EPA is much higher because of a few wild negative-EPA outliers in Manning's history.  Manning's standard deviation in EPA is 12.36 from a 5.70 average, while Brady's is a much neater 6.81 from a 8.08 average.  With a garish cumlative minus-25.57 EPA in the two playoff games against the Pats, it's no wonder that Peyton developed a reputation as a postseason choker.

Speaking of those two games, they point us towards an important factor to consider when comparing production.  Manning's playoff clunkers were indisputably atrocious, but it's hard to imagine any quarterback in the league experiencing much success against those suffocating early-00s Patriots defenses in a Foxboro snowstorm.

Thus, it might be instructive to measure each quarterback's production against the defenses they had to face.  The graphs below overlap each quarterback's EPA vs. the defense's average passing EPA per game from that season, playoffs included.  So the bigger the gap, the more the quarterback outperformed against that defense's season average:



Obviously the comparison is imperfect, as Brady and Manning do not play each other every game of the season, so the defense's numbers are almost entirely based off performance against other teams.  Moreover, they do not consider the context of a specific game—perhaps Manning's recent EPAs are higher because his team has generally fallen behind early, necessitating a pass-heavy approach that pumps up his numbers.

However, they do provide some standard to compare their stats against, rather than accepting them in a vacuum.  And when we do use this standard, we find that Brady's edge in average EPA is not really an edge at all.  Manning has faced better defenses, as the Patriots have on average produced an EPA per game of about 2.5 points lower than the Colts and 2012 Broncos.  Thus, Brady's average EPA is roughly 6.82 points higher than the defensive average, while Manning is actually a smidgen better, at 6.92 points above average.

That's basically a wash, and debunks both the surface stats that portray Manning as having put up much better numbers than Brady in their head-to-head meetings, and the initial EPA reading that gives Brady the advantage.

One other factor to consider is "clutchness," which we can measure through both WPA and context-specific stats.  Again, Brady has the edge in WPA, which fits in with his reputation as the better crunch-time quarterback.

However, we can take their fourth-quarter head-to-head stats (per Pro-Football-Reference's Game Play Finder) and find an argument to the contrary.  Though Manning's 10 to 6 touchdown edge is nullified by virtue of having thrown 59 more passes, he still has a comparable YPA and completion percentage.  Moreover, you could also point to the fact that Brady has thrown the same number of interceptions:


This isn't particularly surprising when you consider that Manning has had a couple signature fourth-quarter comebacks (2006 AFC Championship, "4th-and-2"), as well as a couple near misses (the last two meetings, the 2003 "goal-line stand" regular season game).  Indeed, if you eliminate his minus-0.42 WPA clunker from the 2003 AFC Championship, Manning's average WPA rises to 0.22.  Brady's average WPA is...0.22.

It's not really fair to eliminate Peyton's worst performances and anoint him superior to Brady, because those stinkers did happen, and they are forever a part of the rivalry's legacy.  But for the most part, we can see that at least statistically, Brady vs. Manning is essentially a wash.

And really, it's fitting that we don't have a definitive answer, because these two quarterbacks are equals in almost every way.  We've debunked the notion that Brady is somehow more "clutch" and that Manning owns the numbers, which is really just a convenient mainstream narrative to try and flesh out some difference between the two.  There are only a small handful of meetings left between the two, so instead of fruitlessly arguing until you are blue in the face, perhaps this Sunday night would be better spent simply enjoying this wonderful matchup.

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35 Responses to “Brady vs. Manning: Who Really Has the Upper Hand?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, this Brady "clutch" myth and being the THE winner etc...
    At the end of the day, since Brady had to carry his team trou the playoffs with an average Defense, well... he choked. Like PM. Year-in, year-out...
    Just look at the career of Brady backwards, as if his 2012 season was his first, and the 2001 his last. Everybody would say Brady can´t win big games, can´t carry a team, needs a lot of help from his defense, an´t win the big games... When he won the SBs he pretty much had average stats...
    And he was lucky. Actually Warner and Delhomme outperformed him, and McNabb had Reid who played it slow when needing points. Conclusion: Both are great RS QBs but can´t carry their teams w/o a lot of defense help during the playoffs.

    Karl, Germany

  2. Steve says:

    @Karl

    I think that is a general feature of "good QBs" in the modern NFL. Refs are really reluctant to throw flags in the playoffs, esp. in later rounds. The only elite QB with elite postseason numbers is Drew Brees, who put up those numbers in (mostly) losing efforts in the first 2 rounds when the refs kept things under control.

    You saw the Super Bowl last year. On 3rd down at the end of the game, Smith on Crabtree was most obvious helmet-to-helmet hit--the kind they talk about cracking down on all year--and they still didn't throw a flag because it was the Super Bowl.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Steve,
    and lets not forget the Raven's player who blantantly punched and pushed a referee directly in front of the camera. He received no penalty...

    Cheers,
    J

  4. Anonymous says:

    Not sure why you'd only look at games in which they've played each other. Looking at EPA and WPA over all games played for both QBs seems like the way to measure who is better.

  5. Anonymous says:

    @ Steve & Anon I

    Yes, BAL was handed the SB victory, like PIT was vs. SEA, and NE vs. SL... That´s the ugly things that go on behind closed doors in the NFL. And there is no chance Brian Burke can measure when the fix was in, and when not...
    Anyway, back to topic. Most recently retired Warner was as good in the playoffs as RS, Aikman was, Montana of course, Bradshaw, any many many others. But Brady & PM are clearly playoff chokers. Not even can we see with our own eyes when PM is nervous and off in the playoffs, we also can see that with cute Brady. Most recently both playoff games he was off vs. BAL (in one he got lucky).
    So in the end: I don´t believe the hype, sit back & relax, and will bet against PM in the playoffs again. Brady i will not do this year, b/c his D has dramatically improved... NE migh go all the way this year. The table is made...

    @ Steve again; it can´t be the refs in general, b/c playoff PPG, Y/PP, Yds etc. are all up despite bad january weather. In short; QB play is better not worse in the post season.

    Karl, Germany

  6. Anonymous says:

    Herr Karl,
    I was not trying to imply that there is/was any smoky, backroom conspiracies in the NFL, just offering an example of the refs reluctence to call penalties late in the playoffs. If anything, Jim Harbaugh 'handed' the SB to the Ravens through weak playcalling and gameday coaching - John was clearly the better coach in that particular game.
    Anyhow, Joe Flacco has just as many rings as Peyton Manning and better (IIRC, which I may not) playoff stats - he is certainly not a choker. But you never hear the 'all that matters is wins and rings' crowd defend him as a great QB.
    On your last point: probably the fact that very good QBs tend to be in the playoffs contributes to the greater statistical performance. Would the reluctence of refs to throw flags in the playoffs counteract this to a degree? Without penalties stopping the game clock, the number of possessions/plays would likely be constricted (as per Brian Burke's 'underdog strategies'). I'm not sure if the actual penalties in the playoffs are lower - or at least late in the playoffs - perhaps because teams that are least-penalized tend to win more? Perhaps the fact that teams relatively less prone to mistakes being most likely to be in the playoffs would bias the playoff penalty data.
    At any rate, looking forward to a crushing Manning victory in this upcoming regular-season matchup.. but I really don't have a horse in the ring as I don't care for either team but do enjoy watching both QBs. Postseason will be all Cam Newton and the reborn "Blockade Runner" Ron Rivera - new pinnacles of clutchitude and momentumness will be reached by the fearsome Panthies!

    Cheers,
    J

  7. Anonymous says:

    Oops, I misspoke a bit. I don't think its a 'fact' that less penalized teams win more or make it deeper into the playoffs; I don't know. Just offering a possible explaination for the appearance of less penalties in the (later) playoffs.

    Cheers,
    J

  8. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps a further layer of context should be added to the Manning-Brady debate. Who has had the better supporting cast over the years? Something along the lines of this article:

    http://www.footballperspective.com/john-elway-the-quarterback-version-of-dick-butkus/

    Because nobody would debate that Manning has a far superior receiving corp this year. NE's best receiver is only slightly better than Welker, Denver's WR3, in EPA/P this year.

    Cheers,
    J

  9. Anonymous says:

    The NFl is fixed.Would you leave a multi-billion dollar business up to chance?Everyone needs to visit thefixisin.net.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Didn't you watch Jurassic Park? No matter how 'fixed' and controlled the park is by its owner, "...uh....life.... uh.... finds a way."

    Cheers,
    J

  11. Anonymous says:

    Jurassic Park was a movie? Right?Or did that really happen?Professional and college games are fixed all the time.The website and the facts are real. But turn "non-fiction " if you live in a bubble or were raised by wolves.

  12. Stat Guy says:

    Peyton Manning has the huge upper hand by himself without anyone else, but NE's defense is one of the best, that's all they're counting on. Tom Brady's lost his touch, but he's facing an average defense. I say Denver wins by a little.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Looked at that website... I suppose innuendo and circumstantial evidence are types of 'proof.' Its about as informative as a David Icke presentation, but without the uplifting spiritual messege. A typical NFL game has far to many moving parts for a fix to be effective. While I will agree that 'conspiracy' is a fact of life - it is observable among a group of friends in middle America all the way up to politicians in the UN and CEOs of international corporations - the actual documentable effect of such is hard to come by. What I gathered from the website you posted is a hypothesis that is 'proven' by (often contradictory) innuendo. No matter what happens the site seems to regard the outcome as proof of the hypothesis.
    Now lets look at a few samples from the site:
    "Lastly, because it can't be helped, did you know the NFL has a dedicated Tim Tebow page on its website? Think he's going to play back-up to Mark Sanchez all year? Think again." (on the 2012 season. Where is Tebow now? Not even in NFL Europe, thats where.)

    "Then there was the blackout. Somehow the extended halftime didn't derail the Ravens momentum, but a record-tying kickoff return for a TD (to make the score 28-6) and a 35-minute power delay did. The game changed on a dime the moment the lights went out in New Orleans. No one knows why this happened, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apparently didn't care it was going on. But there's no way the NFL could've orchestrated this themselves. Just so you know." (about the 2012 SB, notice how the 49ers actually went 3-out after the blackout? The game DIDN'T turn on a dime after the blackout)

    "Are you buying what Matthew Stafford and the Detriot Lions are selling? Two huge comeback in two weeks to keep them undefeated?

    Methinkith something up.

    Could the Lions be the "destined" for the Super Bowl? They would be an excellent story. Not only do you having a rising QB star in Stafford, but the Lions have never been to a Super Bowl in their history. On top of that, can you imagine the Lions success=the rebirth of Detriot storylines? With the city of Detriot falling apart economically (symbolic of the entire country), could the Lions do what the Saints supposedly did for New Orleans?" (about the 2011 season)

    "Why will Tim Tebow succeed?

    Because the NFL wants him to succeed." (from the 2011 season, where is Tebow now? Not even good enough to play for the Danube Dragons)

    " I can't believe I didn't put 2 and 2 together on this a bit earlier, but perhaps the Indianapolis Colts' woes aren't all due to Peyton Manning's neck injury.
    It wouldn't be...no, it couldn't be...yes, that's right - Indianapolis will be the host city for Super Bowl XLVI. And in perhaps one of the biggest "coincidences" in the Super Bowl's 46 year history, there has never been a hosting city's team play in the Super Bowl. Never.
    Clearly, with Manning out of the picture, the Colts were never a contender this year...much to the NFL's behind-the-scenes delight. When will this lucky streak come to an end for league? Likely when it benefits them the most." (from the 2011 season)

    That is plenty. That stuff is rediculous. This site, and most stats sites, will give credit for crazy in-game occurances to natural variance - something that can be easily demonstrated and proven. The site you've recommended uses an extremely complex, labrynthine hypothesis that utilizes constantly changing innuendos and bits of circumstantial evidence that can't really be proven at all.

    Do you remember the movie Congo? Those scientists thought they had everything under control until the man-gorillas smashed their heads in and the volcano erupted. Or maybe its more like the movie The Andromeda Strain... Remember, just like you're site, Michael Crichton uses FACTS to write his fiction.

    Cheers,
    J

  14. Anonymous says:

    @ J...
    There is no doubt in my mind that games are fixed in the NFL. It´s not a must the NFL itself has the fingers into it (even tough they surley have their dirt too), but surely Vegas and/or some mobsters. It´s no conspiracy theory. It´s real. Just read Moldeas book "How organized crime influences pro football" or have a look to europe where every other week news come out of fixed games in the upper pro leagues. Is the USA now a safe haven? Of course not...
    Back to the topic: "On your last point: probably the fact that very good QBs tend to be in the playoffs contributes to the greater statistical performance". But you can´t forget that also the best defenses go to the playoffs (so the numbers should be the same as in the RS). Sure, more quality (pass-)offenses than defenses make it there. But that can´t explain everything for that the playoff numbers are up compared to the RS, since we still have to keep in mind that games are played in worse conditions... The only explanation is that when evenly matched (great) offenses and defenses meet each other, the offense has the (slight) upper hand. That all makes PM and Brady look even worse in the playoffs.

    Karl, Germany

  15. Anonymous says:

    @ J...
    Sure "thefixisin" isn´t a good resource, if at all.
    But we shall not ignore the facts the great investigative journalist Dan E Moldea has gathered together. We shall remember "They call it a game" by Bernie Parrish... And, if europe soccer matches are fixed by gambling syndicates, why shall we believe in the NFL, when around the corner the NBA is fixed, when mobster Franzese talks about his game fixing (US) experience?
    It´s sooo easy to fix. Let the ref throw a holding flag vs the O at the right time, pressure the S before a game that he shall fall down at the right time, pressure or bribe the RT that he shall miss his blocks on key 3rd downs, get the RB on your side to fumble at the opps 1-YL, get Vanderjagt in your pocket to shank a FG wide wide in a game decisive moment, and so on, and so on... You just need ONE player and/or ref in your pocket. No more, no less.

    Karl, Germany

  16. Anonymous says:

    More movies huh?And you think those hamburgers are real meat that your eating?And the stock market is completely legit?And Obama is on your side.While your at it Infowars.com is a great informative site.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Go to covers.com. Under Sports Betting Headlines click on Match fixing expert.Try to read it with your eyes open.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Herr Karl,
    yeah, I certainly agree that organized crime is involved in sports. And I am in no way trying to pretend that the USA is substantiall different in this, or most, regards. I recall reading about the Italians in NY trying to get into basketball fixing. Should be pretty easy, only 20 or so players involved in total with maybe 12-14 putting in serious time. Three referees. Overall few moving parts and should be easy. They bribe two starters for the favoured team to throw the game.... it ends up the players are professional type-A personalities and forget all about the bribe and play and win. The mob tries again with two other starters on another team and same thing happens. Try the referees, they too are professionals and get too involved in doing their jobs to remember the fix. What can the mob do? You can't kill or break Patrick Ewings legs, or even one of the refs because that is just asking for the FBI to come keep a close eye on your crew. So yes, it is obvious that organised crime is involved, I just don't see there being a real effect on games except at the margins. And what about the Yakuza fixing the 49ers and MS13 independently fixing the Ravens? Perhaps all the fixing will effect things at the margins, but all the fixing may well just cancel itself out, too.

    And that is enough of that hijacking. I still think it would be interesting to compare the talent aroud Brady and Manning through their careers. Nobody would deny that Brady's pedestrian performance this year is largely due to his Junior College receiving corp for the first 5 games. And don't forget Flacco - he had an amazing postseason last year and the talent around him, while good, was certainly not as good as Manning and Brady have had around them in the past. The fact that this site had last years Ravens offense at 17th and their defense at 16th makes his playoff performance even more amazing. With an average offense he put up one of the the greatest postseasons in history.
    As far as great passing offenses meeting great defenses in the playoffs I seem to remember an older article posted by Brian Burke that suggested passing defense performance is fairly dependant upon how good the passing offense it is facing is; a passing defense tends to be as good as the passing it is facing is bad. Running defense is more likely to be good even against good running. So perhaps in the playoffs, even a very good pass defense has a much harder time against the (mostly) uniformly excellent passing attacks they will be facing. I tried a few searches for the article but could not find it, will try to search more later. And I may certainly be remembering this stuff wrong, haha.

    Anon-To answer your questions: those were documentaries, not movies. Soilent green IS meat. Yes, it is an entirely noumenal incidence. I've been against Obama since before you and he were BORN! Reading infowars is kind of like reading the Illiad.

    Cheers,
    J

  19. Anonymous says:

    @ J

    When the fix goes in, it´s not going like you think/write. It´s much more subtile. And no, refs & athletes are not "type-A personalities". They are average Joe´s like you and I (some have high moral standards, others are low-lifers), but with great athletic ability... Just to finish that of: There are many cases in the NFL where match fixing is evidenced. And as you know, dirty things that come out are always only the tip of the iceberg. Just read the books i mentioned, and do some other research.

    Back to topic: Of course Brady´s slip in effieciency has a lot to do with the receivers around him. It´s as I preach year-in, year-out; The QB (or his almost equal backup) is only as good as the talent around him. As Jim Glass once wrote here; "if Brady was picked in the 6th round by DET, he´d be nowhere".

    Flacco got tremendous lucky. He had his hot streak at the right time and then hit the 100-Mio-$-Jackpot. Big mistake by BAL to judge him on a 4 game sample size.

    About the D/O-Burke-Article: Yeah I remember something similar. Hope (if he reads it) Brian Burke can help us out with a link.

    "So perhaps in the playoffs, even a very good pass defense has a much harder time against the (mostly) uniformly excellent passing attacks they will be facing." That would make a mockery of the myth "defense wins championships". Hahaha. Anyway, it´s true, as I wrote in my article at the community some yrs ago. What I found is that more often than not, SB winners field better passing attacks than (pass-)defenses...
    And, at the end of the day, all those facts make PM and Brady look even worse in the playoffs.
    After all, I don´t believe the hype since long, when another "Brady-Manning bowl" is up.

    Karl, Germany

  20. Anonymous says:

    Herr Karl,
    I don't think we disagree in any substantial regard (other than the overall effect of fixing, which I'm happy to drop as it is a hijack and will continue on pointlessly). I'm fairly familiar with most of your comments as well as the stuff you've put up in the community and always enjoy reading your stuff. Flacco definately got lucky, but it was still an amazing performance and very fun to watch. I just think it should be pointed out that people who will judge Manning a failure and Brady a success based mostly their playoff records will ignore guys like Flacco (they wont call him an elite QB, even though by their criteria he is - his statistical performance was amazing, and more importantly he got the wins and rings) and Dilfer (played poorly, but got the wins and rings) because they obviously show that the popular notions of great QBs are fairly baseless. And Dan Marino is probably the best of all time, yet he didn't get any wins or rings! The fact that he was able to amass such stats with a fairly weak team around him makes him all the more an all-time great; but the playoff wins and SB rings were not there.
    Defense v. offense seems pretty simple: initiative. The offense is initiating the action and will have an overall advantage because of this. Just like in chess the black plays for draw because white always starts with the initiative. Both chess and football by their very nature favour the attack. As it is, in this upcoming game Manning essentially has 4 knights against Brady's 2. Both defenses are, according to Sterling Xie's most recent rankings on the site, roughly the same at 14 and 16 but the Bronco's passing attack has been almost in a league of its own. I fully expect a fairly crushing victory for Denver.... but then again Belichick is one heck of a good coach.

    Cheers,
    J

  21. Anonymous says:

    Herr Karl,
    but I do think most NFL players have to be extremely competative and win-oriented to even make it to the league let alone stay in it. The few non-competative people that do make it tend to opt out pretty quick; like the guy who quit to become Noam Chomsky's teachers aide, or the guy that quit to smoke comically oversized marijuana cigarettes. People at the apex of any profession will tend to be competative, focused people. This is not to say their are not durchschnittslich Hans; I know lots of people who are type-A but not athletic... but they all do tend to excell at what they care about.

    Cheers,
    J

  22. Steve says:

    Penalties are called about 15% less often in the playoffs and that is a statistically significant difference. The number doesn't change much if you add controls for down, distance, whether the game is close, and the quarter.

    Passing obstruction penalties (illegal contact, PI, defensive holding) are 14% less common on passing plays in the playoffs but given the small sample size that isn't statistically significant. The test has very low power.

    It's possible that teams are much more disciplined in the playoffs so they commit fewer penalties but most penalties are calculated risks. Many penalties are caused by nerves which should go UP, not down. I would have expected people to commit more penalties under the stress of the playoffs, not fewer.

    It's also possible only more disciplined teams make it to the playoffs. That might be true, but only middy and adding controls for the teams on offense and defense doesn't change the result that penalty rates drop substantially in the playoffs.

    Do they do it rig games? I doubt it. I think its a combination of both instructions to "let the players play" and a belief that the right thing to do is to "let the players play."

  23. Anonymous says:

    @ J...
    Yeah that Flacco playoff performance was extraordinary (aided by the needed luck to prevail in the end, of course. But who didn´t needed it? Remember Montana 89; just before the TD, there was an almost sure Int a play or two before, or take Doug Williams; the knee a little more twisted and Jay Schroeder would have been the hero, E Manning & the catch, etc...). And it happened at the best time for him. I don´t want to take anything away from it.
    To the PM/Brady cases. I´ll go with Jim Glass again: "Great coaches don´t win you championships alone, they need the talent around. But bad coaches indeed can lose you games."
    Same here with QBs. They can´t win you championships alone, but they can lose you games/championships single handedly. In the playoffs when the score is close, it seems PM is tighten up, the pressure on his shoulders must be incredible high (so his psyche seems to give in), he is hyper nervous, and thus (seen with my own eyes more often than not) way off target.
    I believe in stats, hot/cold streaks, small sample size and all (I mean that´s the reason we are all here), but not everything can explained by stats. In this case sample size. I explained it before in the "PM playoff myth" article.
    And Brady too can´t lead his team alone. Since the time he carries the load on his shoulders "alone" (speak when his D became average by the mid 2000s), the pressure seems to crack him. Early in the playoff game vs BAL i remember very well, in the 1st Qtr, he threw a simple out so wide and wobbling I said to myself "Omg, he´s nervous, hope this ends up well for him". I didn´t.
    Still I think he´s got a decent chance to win it all this year. His defense is pretty good (9th in Y/PP at 5.7) again....

    Karl, Germany

  24. Anonymous says:

    @ J

    "Defense v. offense seems pretty simple: initiative. The offense is initiating the action ...". Sure that explains a little. But there is more behind it. Look at soccer, or hockey. Indeed "defense wins championships" there, even tough the O takes the initiative. But the neanderthals rules allow "catenaccio" tactics. There isn´t much Ovechkin can do if the little cute goal is walled by an heavy padded goalie and 5 defenders in front of him.
    That´s what makes football so great: The rules are not set in stone (even tough the 70s pundits would like it that way :-) ...

    Karl, Germany

  25. Anonymous says:

    @ Steve...
    Didn´t know that the Pens are down in the playoffs. I guess that makes SEA the top NFC favourite. Especially since they have a great Pass-D and the Pass-O is also very effiecient. They have the slight edge over NO.... But in the end it comes to a complete different way, hope something like PHI at CAR :-)

    Do they rig? I think so. The tuck rule implemented for NE, the non-call tuck rule when Warner "fumbled". The 1.000 holdings during that infamous 100-Yd-Harrison-Return, the 1.000 calls at the "exact right time" vs SEA, a big comeback in the SB every year nowadays, a multi billion dollar gambling business, shady guys on rosters and in NFL offices, all the evidence, ... no, there is no doubt that games are fixed. It´s just impossible to measure, even by advanced stats. As it is (almost) impossible to extract QB-performance from team performance.

    Karl, Germanmy

  26. Wizard says:

    Karl, you like to ramble a lot, don't you? A rambler and a policeman (has to come to the defense of Sterling and others). "The fix is in" So, you think some games are fixed? I guess it has been concealed pretty good, then huh? "But Brady & PM are clearly playoff chokers. " say what???? where is your evidence? It is pretty clear you are biased when you say "cute Brady" Maybe you should go back to just being a policeman. you had a little more credibility.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Wizard,

    I might ramble here and there. But my posts have at least some merit. I am not saying I own the final truth. But at least I bring up some points, numbers & sources. Where is your evidence that games are not fixed? Where is your evidence that PM and Brady lately are no playoff chokers?

    You are a little cry baby like some of those posters on Espn: "If you are not with me, and I have no arguments, I just yell at you."

    You should go back to just being a barker, you had a little more credibility.

    Cute and lovely greetings from Karl, Germany

  28. James says:

    Karl said "But you can´t forget that also the best defenses go to the playoffs (so the numbers should be the same as in the RS). Sure, more quality (pass-)offenses than defenses make it there. But that can´t explain everything for that the playoff numbers are up compared to the RS, since we still have to keep in mind that games are played in worse conditions..."

    More quality pass offenses make the playoffs AND offense has a disproportionate impact over the defense. When offenses and defenses meet, offenses control ~60% of the outcome to defenses' ~40%.

    The 60/40 split has been independently discovered using a variety of methods by Brian Burke, Keith Goldner, Chase Stuart, Neil Paine, and Aaron Schatz, all of which found offense mattered more than defense. http://www.footballperspective.com/scoring-is-60-of-the-game/

  29. Anonymous says:

    That was another epic PM choke. How big should the sample size get for the stat geeks* to accept that fact? He can´t play as long as Blanda to convince you all. PM was clearly in (his ugly) playoff-mode...He was wearing gloves on BOTH hands. And the balls were coming out like a stone, all wobbly. If you can´t throw with a glove, put it off...
    Kidding about momentum, clutch, choking & whatelse in the game thread isn´t enough to mask these facts. This just looks arrogant and wrong.
    About the 80-yd-tying-Drive. It was a close call on Ninkovich´s PI on 3rd, but the hold Pen vs Talib was correct. Still, on that play PM got lucky that there actually was a hold. Either the ball was massively underthrown or a complete miss-comunication...
    Anyway, even w/o those plays, PM looked terrible, his stats do too, and he was even fumbling untouched. Brutally bad for a 100-Mio-$-Baby. Even an early +3 in turnovers, and 24 point lead wasn´t enough for him to settle down and put the game away...
    Not that Brady didn´t got lucky (one pass he was almost intercepted for a pick 6), but overall he was extremely accurate.
    "(PM) went 0-for-6 with an interception when throwing under duress. Five of those incompletions, including the interception, came in the second half." (from ESPN)
    That means he was 8/13 for 61 yds in the 1st half when not pressured. That´s pretty bad (4.7 Y/A). And 11/17 for 89 yds in the 2nd half/OT, pretty bad too when not under pressure (5.2 Y/A). Overall (incl. sacks) he had a 3.5 Y/PP.
    The wind also can´t excuse PM: Into the wind he was 11/23 for 93 yds (4.0 Y/A), with the wind 8/13 for 57 yds (4.4 Y/A).
    OTOH Brady settled down in the 2nd half/OT, going 24/33 for 263 yds after halftime.
    After all, good that the above mentioned Pens didn´t decide the outcome. Certainly the wrong team would have won.
    PM would look better in my eyes if he hadn´t that extreme variance in his games, but be constant trou-out a full season incl. playoffs. Often super hero, but when he is bad, he looks worse than your ordinary backup.
    OK, without all those crazy 6-TD games and comebacks he wouldn´t be folk & stats hero, but certainly he´d have more superbowl rings by playing on a lower but same performance level...

    (* I am too, but i accept it´s not all about stats, I am open to all aspects)

    Karl, Germany

  30. Anonymous says:

    @ James

    thank you very much for the great link. It would be super if you could also link the Burke article.

    Thanks in advance,

    Greetings from Germany, Karl :-)

  31. Anonymous says:

    James I guess you mean this one from Brian Burke (as Chase Stuart linked it in his post):
    http://www.advancednflstats.com/2011/01/top-offenses-top-defenses.html
    I thought there was another one. My mistake. So much great articles, I sometimes get confused...

    Thanks, Karl, Germany

  32. Anonymous says:

    Herr Karl,
    Manning did look terrible - and not just his performance his face looked sickly as well in the terrible cold. The commentators for the game alluded to a pre-game interview where Manning admitted the cold adversely effects his damaged nerves and requires a glove to help counteract the effects. I thought Manning would adjust to the wind, but he never really did. Brady struggled initially with the wind, but compensated and delivered mostly very accurate passes.
    During the game my question about the talent around both QBs was somewhat answered. The network posted the number of 1000-yard WR/RBs that each QB has had, and Manning has had far more of each during his career. With that fairly superficial stat it seems like Manning may have had more talent around him during his career - he certainly had more offensive talent around him last night.

    Cheers,
    J

  33. Anonymous says:

    Hi J,

    but the cold and damaged nerves can´t explain all.
    Remember that one i wrote at the "PM playoff myth article": "8 of 12 times PMs teams lost their first playoff game. 4 of those were at home after a bye week. But more intriguing is that the Colts were favourites in 7 of that games by an average of almost 6 points!" And those are only the 1st round games. He also had a bad post season in the SB winning run.
    I know most posters/writers with stats knowledge will repeat the same again and again: small sample size, the D was underperforming in those loses (compared to their season average), fumbles, drops, randomness, hot/cold streaks, poor luck, etc...
    My Q is; How high is the chance that all those negative events come of all things when he is having his subpar games when it matters most? What you think?
    My answer you know, It´s enough for me to see his wobbling ducks when he is nervous. That has nothing to do with small sample size or outside influences.
    I know the guy is a legend. But it shouldn´t go that far that he is praised for the wins, but everybody else is "guilty" when he loses.
    It seems he is untouchable in both communitys, yet he has only one superbowl ring. Of two random picked NFL players who play 14 years, one of them has a ring by pure chance. But those players would be on .500 teams on the long run. The legend often has 1st round byes, is the player with the largest influence on plays, and has HFA more often than not. A legend who is praised for his greatness should carry his team at least once trou a 3 game stretch besides all the random influences, not the other way around.

    Karl, Germany

  34. Anonymous says:

    Herr Karl,
    could it be as simple as the Bill James observation, "Winning close games is not a skill but losing them might be"? Could it be winning playoff games is not a skill but losing them might be? And that Peyton Manning might possess that skill?

    I still don't really 'believe' in choking/pressure arguments. I've studied psychology and physiology in high-stress situations fairly extensively and most evidence points to the conclusion that stress is unlikely to hinder the performance of professionals. Maybe young players in their first few seasons but after a season or two all players are going to be fine with playoff-level stress. Lt. Col. David Grossman has done a few very accessible works in this field, and while he writes about military performance, he uses research examples from sports, as well. I think Brian Burke can attest to this: even when pilots are crashing their planes and about to die, they remain fairly calm in their radio communications and keep efficiently going about their job of flying the plane up to the last moment.

    Cheers,
    J

  35. Anonymous says:

    Hi J,

    do you have a link to that Bill James article? Thanks in advance if you can post it here...

    Out of own experience, I know that choking exists: I still do, even after 25 yrs of billards (and before baseball). Now I may not a good example b/c I never made it to the real tiny top of the top levels.
    But if I see Snooker world championships for example, "potting machines" miss easy pots or position in high pressure situations, nerves get wrecked, unbeatable players become human (best example is the 1985 final)....
    Back to PM: Even if we use the poisson distribution for players who should win superbowls by pure chance over a 14 yr span (roughly 2/3 win win zero or just one, while roughly 1/3 win two or more), PM still is underachieving since his teams got all the advantages of bye weeks and HFAs. As an average 6-point favourite, his teams should have won at least 2/3 of their early playoff games, not the other way around. From there on, the chance was at least 20% to win it all each year (at least 67% winning chance in 1st round, 57% in 2nd (if we only use HFA to his teams advantage), 50% in the superbowl as a very low estimation). And if we now use the (low) 20% estimation for all his playoff years he should have won 2 or 3 superbowls already, and be in 5 superbowl finals. He falls well short, even if he´d go all the way this year...

    Karl, Germany

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