cstelter wrote:agree it's far from conclusive that they are doctoring the balls, but it's nearly a slam dunk that *something* uncommon is going on with the Patriots.
So to me, that unexplained anomaly plus the evidence of flat balls at half time during the AFCC game combine to provide 'lot's of circumstantial evidence'. Quite often the simplest solution is the right one. Here the simplest explanation for the anomalous data might just be that they found a way to doctor the balls starting in 2007 which not so coincidentally was the first year they provided their own balls. I can't think of any simpler explanations and none of the explanations floated above seem as simple as the ball doctoring explanation.
But like you-- I can see how YMMV...
... and if "ball doctoring" is the explanation, the question then becomes what were they doing and was it illegal? If it was illegal, and so different from what everyone else was doing that it gave them a tremendous edge in securing the football, how did it go unnoticed by every team they played for 7 years?
I don't find it as difficult to believe as you. Unless there is an interception or fumble recovery, few opposing team members would have access to the balls. The ref's who handle the ball and place it are really the only ones who might be in a position to alert anyone or even become suspicious. How many indiviuals are we talking about-- maybe 3 refs for maybe 30 touches each a game? Maybe 6-8 times a year? If they actively test the ball ahead of time or have the pervading sense that all is right-- I can easily see themselves shrugging off a few times when they might think, hmmm. *this* one feels a bit flat today. In fact 7 years might be about right for suspicions to accumulate and bubble over.
I just can't buy it. The Patriots threw 80 interceptions and lost over 50 fumbles in the regular season over that period of time (and undoubtedly committed some postseason turnovers as well). We're talking about a minimum of 130 times opposing players touched Patriots footballs and obviously a far greater number of touches for officials over an extended period of time. What could the Pats have possibly done to the football that would provide them with a substantial enough advantage to account for the fumble differential while also remaining undetectable for all that time? I don't believe for a second that an unnoticeable difference in PSI could even begin to account for that difference on it's own and if the balls were deflated enough to make them that
much easier to carry and hang on to, I suspect it would be noticeable enough that they would have been caught a long time ago.
Maybe they were using slightly under-inflated footballs and that combined with other factors to produce such an impressive result but at this point, it's not even clear that they illegally modified the PSI of footballs in the AFC Championship, much less for the last 7 seasons.
Considering their sustained success over a long period of time, I think it's worth considering the possibility that they simply do a much better job. For example, the analysis at the link
you posted above shows that, since 2010, the Pats are well above the next closest team (the Texans) with a rate of 187 offensive plays per fumble. The Texans rate is 140 offensive plays per fumble. That's a difference of 47 plays but the difference between the Texans plays per fumble and the lowest-ranked team over that period, the Eagles, is substantial. The Eagles fumbled an average of once every 76 plays. If we can accept that Houston can be 64 plays better than Philly in this regard, why can't we accept that NE could be 47 plays better than Houston, when it's clearly possible for such a margin to exist?
I'm not sure I trust this analysis anyway. The author gives us year-by-year stats for the Patriots offensive plays per fumble prior to 2010 but then groups everything together after 2010. That's a red flag to me. Why did he suddenly start grouping seasons?
If they're prospering by doctoring balls, you would think that would give them an advantage every year (and that's the implication of the analysis, correct?) yet in 2013 they ranked in the upper third of the league in fumbles. After looking at NFL.com's stats, I don't even know where the author of the analysis got some of his numbers. For example, he says that since 2010 the Pats have a fumble rate of 187 offensive plays per fumble. However, according to NFL.com they ran 5470 plays from scrimmage in that period and fumbled 73 times. That's a rate of one fumble every 75 plays. If we only count fumbles lost (they lost 30 from 2010 through 2014), we end up with one fumble lost every 182 plays from scrimmage. Mayeb he included postseason stats and only counted fumbles lost to arrive at 187. that's justa guess but if that is what he did, if he only counted fumbles lost, I think that undermines his point anyway.
As an interesting footnote to this discussion, the 2014 Vikings fumbled less than the 2014 Patriots. I didn't realize it but the Vikes had both the fewest fumbles in the league last year (11) and the fewest lost (just 2). They lost one fumble every 490.5 plays!