Questions That Come to Mind After Yesterday's Football Games

Last week, we shot our final round of this season’s Football Freakonomics segments in the Giants’ locker room. It was fun:

When it comes to hand hygiene — a topic we explored in our latest podcast — the Giants employ a strategy I’ve never seen before: hand cleanser right there at the urinal!

If you are a public-health official and don’t know which team to pull for on Feb. 5, I would imagine this would tip the scales in the Giants’ favor.


I'd say Brady for all the injury problems that he's been through but since he is the most likely hero I will say BenJarvus Green-Ellis who will put a big chunk of yards in the Super Bowl surprising everyone, specially Giants Defense


Well last night you could most definitely say that the unlikely hero for the Giants was Devin Thomas (with much help from Williams). I could see someone like Hynoski or Pascoe scoring a big TD because of the way Eli distributes the ball with a possible big play by Beckum thrown in there. But I would say that the only way the Giants win the game is if their stars show up and play big games. I do believe in the unlikely hero scenario in the Superbowl and I can only hope he is on the Giants side of the ball (well because I'm a Giants fan...).

Is it too much to ask for a late season David Tyree return? Could the Giants stop the Gronk or Hernandez and put consistent pressure on Brady? Does the world of Economics have a theory to help calm my nerves for the next two weeks!?!? Please HELP!!! GO GIANTS!!!!


I think the dome hurts the Giants who need a bit more unpredictability. Last night's conditions were perfect. They couldn't lose. But if they win my guess is Mario Manningham. Belichek is the master at schemes. To get pressure on Manning he'll have to give up something. Manning will figure it out and make him pay. The mistake the Giants could make is to rely to much on the run. It's attractive, but a mistake.

Caleb b

Kyle Williams should have been cut from the team immediately following the first punt. If I owned the Niners, security would have escorted him from the bench and to the parking lot within seconds. Returners learn in middle school - if you don't catch it, get AWAY from it. Inexcusable mistake.

Jesus Garcia

I'll say the history will be repeated. Let's hope for a similar quality of game!


Thinking about unlikely heroes on the Pats (I'm biased) I could see Matthew Slater on a special teams play like a fake punt or a forced fumble on a return; I don't think there are any unlikely heroes on the offense since all of the main skill players are so well regarded now unless Kevin Faulk comes up with some kind of last huge play before he retires; and on the defensive side it would probably come from Ninkovitch but I'm not sure he still qualifies after he strip sacked Tim Tebow in dramatic fashion already.

Kieran Brew

re: "Defense doesn't win Championships", perhaps this is similar to Billy Beane's supposed quote that "money ball doesn't work in the playoffs". Long term statistical info seems to have little bearing on the outcome of specific games, and short term playoff runs, as in the Giants current one and their previous run from the '07 season.

Consider what the lower ranked defense did over the last three playoff games:


First Downs: 58/54
Third Downs Made: 44.2%/28.2%
Fourth Downs Made: 50%/0%
Yards per Game: 404.7/321
Points per Game allowed: 13

Had they maintained these stats in the regular season, they'd have ranked much higher (#1 ppg allwd). But they also had injuries to the defense (5 db's still on IR), and having those players back and playing well has allowed them to put up the numbers above, and win.

And then consider individual plays, as in the sure TD catch by the Ravens that was knocked out by defender Moore. So while the best defensive teams through the regular season may not have won their respective championships yesterday, good defense (and poor special teams) won the day.

But another cliche is "that's why they play the game". Because if straight regular season stats were all that mattered to get to the Super Bowl, where is Drew Brees? And where are the GB Packers?



Thank you for not making me repeat my earlier post. Full season off/def rankings often mean nothing in the playoffs. The Giants were banged up all year and now they have their pass rush back and are dominant. Their 27th seasonal rank is simply irrelevant. 13 points per game allowed in the playoffs is amazing (minus two from a safety).

The last time an NFL defense played 3 playoff games and gave up less points per game was was the Bucs way back in 2002, and if you factor the safety they both gave up 37. But I got bored looking, it was tedious. The 85 Bears gave up 10 points in three games, I'm guessing that is the record.


Defense does win Championships.

The Patriots won as a result of a great defensive play to keep the Ravens from scoring after Woodhead's late fumble.

The Niners won in an alternate universe where the line judge swallowed his whistle and let Brandon Jacobs finish getting tackled.


Niners lose because of typical football coach mentality - always play your starters, don't give your scrubbeenies any plays during regular season if you can help it. Williams had run back two punts all year, then gets thrust into high pressure, high profile situation. Do you think that if he'd handled a dozen punts during the season, (in the blowouts, for example) he might have been a bit more prepared? It's like baseball managers who either 1) play their backups regularly, or 2) play their backups never. Guy sits on the bench for a month, and then you expect him to get a big hit in the bottom of the 9th. Fat chance.

Also, no sour grapes or anything, but on Williams' first bobble, I was sure the announcers said the Giants player who touched the ball had stepped out of bounds earlier. That would have made him ineligible to touch the ball, so it would have been dead ball, and 49er possession. Never heard a repeat of that or a replay after they came back from commercial. Anyone else hear that, or was I hallucinating?


Kieran Brew

I'm pretty sure the rule is that if a player on the kicking team steps out of bounds while running downfield, he cannot be the first to touch the ball. If the had ball glanced off the returner's knee, the player from out of bounds would then be the second player to touch the ball. No violation.


Dear Mr. Dubner and Freakonomics Blog,

I have a slightly technical question. I have subscribed to your RSS feed, however I only am able to subscribe to the 'general' feed, and the football related posts don't always appear in it. The feed syncs with the episodes that are also podcasts, but not simply the posted articles, of which many of the football 'tagged' posts are.

Is there any way to subscribe to all the football-related (football "tagged") posts?

(Readers' answers welcome).



Go ahead and buy the half point and take the Pats at(-2.5) bc you know the public will be all over the Patriots and move that line up!


I think the surprise hero for the Giants (can imagine them losing) would be either a checkdown receiver (I include Manningham, no way Belichick is going to let Cruz or Nicks beat him). I'm thinking more like Ballard.

If a defense player can be an unsung hero, Pierre-Paul has been superman every game. The only problem there is that he is so good that Belichick will be adjusting for him too.


This argument FORGETS.
1. a high power offense will score quickly and the defense will be on the field more.
2. a great team will get up big and play prevent defense giving up lots and lots and lots of yards but they dont really care.
3. a team with a disportionately good offense and bad defense will have a higher probability of falling in the shewked sides of the tails (high offense and low defense) due to clock management.

what really matters is the RED ZONE. how teams play in the two 20s. everything else d/n really matter much IMHO.