Football


It was a moderately surprising week. Two of the best NFC teams played on Thursday night and Philadelphia came out the victor. That said, you can no longer say that the Eagles are unambiguously the best 1 loss team as Kansas City has lost once, and has already beaten the Eagles. New Orleans looks good. Atlanta fans are puzzled over the loss to Miami. Green Bay suffered a huge loss with Aaron Rogers breaking a collarbone. The Giants are no longer winless, having beaten Denver.

Global Statistics:
Games  Home Wins HwPct Winning_Score Losing_Score Margin
91         45     49.5      27.68        16.76     10.92

Calculated Pythagorean Exponent:  2.68


Rank  Team    Median  GP   W   L   T  Pct   Pred   SRS    MOV   SOS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1     KC       8.5     6   5   1   0  83.3  69.6  12.52   7.83  4.69
2     PHI      4.0     6   5   1   0  83.3  69.2   8.52   7.17  1.35
3     MIN      6.5     6   4   2   0  66.7  61.1   4.45   3.17  1.28
4     PIT      4.5     6   4   2   0  66.7  59.6   2.96   2.67  0.29
5     NE       4.0     6   4   2   0  66.7  55.2   6.61   2.17  4.44
6     LA       3.5     6   4   2   0  66.7  66.7   3.91   6.83 -2.92
7     GB       3.5     6   4   2   0  66.7  55.7   1.34   2.00 -0.66
8     CAR      3.0     6   4   2   0  66.7  53.2   4.79   1.00  3.79
9     NO      14.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  64.5   8.78   5.80  2.98
10    BUF      6.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  62.1   3.75   3.00  0.75
11    ATL      4.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  56.9   1.96   2.40 -0.44
12    SEA      3.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  65.2  -0.51   4.60 -5.11
13    DEN      3.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  57.1   1.47   2.20 -0.73
14    WAS      2.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  52.3   3.88   0.80  3.08
15    MIA      2.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  29.8  -4.14  -4.60  0.46
16    JAX      9.0     6   3   3   0  50.0  71.8   7.92   7.67  0.25
17    BAL      5.0     6   3   3   0  50.0  44.4  -3.51  -1.67 -1.84
18    DET      2.0     6   3   3   0  50.0  55.2   3.18   2.00  1.18
19    HOU      0.5     6   3   3   0  50.0  62.2   6.38   5.00  1.38
20    TEN      0.0     6   3   3   0  50.0  42.3  -4.64  -3.00 -1.64
21    NYJ     -2.0     6   3   3   0  50.0  38.4  -3.60  -3.50 -0.10
22    ARI     -4.0     6   3   3   0  50.0  31.9  -9.72  -6.50 -3.22
23    CIN     -3.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  50.8  -0.86   0.20 -1.06
24    DAL     -4.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  46.4  -2.63  -1.40 -1.23
25    TB      -5.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  48.3  -2.23  -0.60 -1.63
26    LAC     -2.0     6   2   4   0  33.3  41.9  -0.20  -2.50  2.30
27    OAK     -3.5     6   2   4   0  33.3  48.9  -1.43  -0.33 -1.10
28    CHI     -4.5     6   2   4   0  33.3  28.5  -6.34  -7.17  0.83
29    IND     -8.5     6   2   4   0  33.3  21.0 -18.06 -12.67 -5.39
30    NYG     -4.0     6   1   5   0  16.7  35.1  -3.15  -4.50  1.35
31    SF      -3.0     6   0   6   0   0.0  33.5  -8.12  -5.50 -2.62
32    CLE     -8.5     6   0   6   0   0.0  20.2 -13.28 -10.50 -2.78
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There is so much going on this week that my best suggestion is to prowl Youtube for the poison of your choice. I caught the end of the Vikings – Bears game, just enough to see the interception that Trubisky threw. Y A Tittle passed away. Brandon Marshall is out for the year. Odell Beckham is injured. The best team with just one loss is probably the Philadelphia Eagles.

I’m not sure how much that means, as the best team with two losses, Jacksonville, is via scoring stats, superior. But we’ve seen different Jacksonville teams show up. It’s as if the Jaguars identity hasn’t been established yet. A few more games will tell.

I know it’s still early in the season, but over the short term, home field advantage has just about vanished.

Global Statistics:
Games  Home Wins HwPct Winning_Score Losing_Score Margin
77         39     50.6      27.61        16.16     11.45

Calculated Pythagorean Exponent:  2.92


Rank  Team    Median  GP   W   L   T  Pct   Pred   SRS    MOV   SOS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1     KC       9.0     5   5   0   0 100.0  75.8  17.52  10.60  6.92
2     GB       4.0     5   4   1   0  80.0  64.3   3.46   5.00 -1.54
3     PHI      3.0     5   4   1   0  80.0  72.1   8.65   7.60  1.05
4     CAR      3.0     5   4   1   0  80.0  58.0   4.18   2.20  1.98
5     ATL      5.0     4   3   1   0  75.0  61.2   4.99   3.75  1.24
6     DEN      4.5     4   3   1   0  75.0  69.4   6.93   6.00  0.93
7     JAX     21.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  81.9  11.16  11.20 -0.04
8     BAL     13.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  44.5  -1.91  -1.40 -0.51
9     DET      7.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  66.7   3.26   5.20 -1.94
10    BUF      6.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  63.2   5.62   3.00  2.62
11    NE       3.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  53.0   8.47   1.20  7.27
12    SEA      3.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  66.5  -2.44   4.60 -7.04
13    PIT      3.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  57.7  -0.30   2.00 -2.30
14    MIN      3.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  54.6   1.33   1.20  0.13
15    NYJ      3.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  39.8  -3.60  -2.80 -0.80
16    LA       2.0     5   3   2   0  60.0  66.1  -0.41   6.20 -6.61
17    NO       5.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  62.6   5.54   3.75  1.79
18    WAS     -1.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  51.6   7.12   0.50  6.62
19    TB      -1.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  51.7  -0.46   0.50 -0.96
20    MIA     -6.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  19.2  -6.80  -6.50 -0.30
21    HOU     -3.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  57.4   9.56   2.80  6.76
22    IND     -3.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  19.1 -21.30 -12.40 -8.90
23    CIN     -3.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  50.9   0.61   0.20  0.41
24    DAL     -4.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  46.0  -3.44  -1.40 -2.04
25    TEN     -6.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  32.2  -3.96  -6.40  2.44
26    OAK     -6.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  49.3   0.71  -0.20  0.91
27    ARI    -11.0     5   2   3   0  40.0  22.0 -13.96  -8.80 -5.16
28    LAC     -2.0     5   1   4   0  20.0  39.2   0.81  -3.20  4.01
29    CHI     -6.0     5   1   4   0  20.0  20.5  -7.40  -9.20  1.80
30    SF      -3.0     5   0   5   0   0.0  29.4 -12.99  -6.20 -6.79
31    CLE     -3.0     5   0   5   0   0.0  19.9 -14.70  -9.40 -5.30
32    NYG     -5.0     5   0   5   0   0.0  23.8  -6.24  -8.00  1.76

Been going through the 2017 Green Bay – Dallas game in my head, and can’t help but wonder what happens if Dak takes a knee at the one yard line in the Green Bay game. Green Bay has no choice. At that point it has to burn a time out and it’s unavailable for later. Zeke was on fire. I don’t believe the Green Bay team could have stopped him on the one. Continuing this thought experiment, Dak then takes a knee again, on first down, killing 45 seconds and giving Dallas 3 plays in 30 seconds to win the game.

I’m proposing this here (I first suggested this in fan circles) because the responses to this idea says a lot about fans and their particular attachment to teams. It’s a not uncommon response to say that if you can’t stop an opponent in 1:13, you don’t deserve to win. I like what I’ve heard, so offering the suggestion to a wider audience. What do you think happens if Dak takes a knee at 1:13?

It’s been an interesting week, if nothing else. I feel sorry for the way the game ended in Kansas City, as Washington deserved better than to give up 7 more points on the last play of the game. Buffalo surprised. The Rams look a lot more like the Rams of 1999 than they do the Rams of last year. Carolina pulled off a surprising upset. Or did they?

I’m not going to post complete OSRS and DSRS stats this time. Even SRS is a little unbelievable at this point. That said, certain comparisons are in order. The Patriots had the highest DSRS of any team last year, at around 7. This year they are -8, for a 15 point turnaround. The common issue I hear is no pass rush.

Atlanta’s SRS last year was 8.5, and this year it is around 5. Their OSRS was 11.2 or so, the best in the league and their defense was a below average -2.7. This year, Atlanta’s SRS is around 5, their OSRS a 4 and their DSRS a 1. So their DSRS has improved by almost 4 points, and their OSRS has declined by over 7 points. Matt Ryan is merely good, rather than top of the heap elite.

Dallas’s problems, if you listen to talking heads, is everything from Dak to the offensive coordinator, to the offensive line, to special teams, to the defensive coordinator, to the linebackers, with a surprising amount of fan venom directed at de-facto rookie Jaylon Smith. Getting past fan stupidity, I’ll note that OSRS and DSRS are both down, compared to last year. OSRS has shrunk less, about 2 points, while DSRS has shrunk on the order of 7 points. The issues are clearly more defensive than offensive. The new rookies (and Jaylon) have plenty of talent, but it will take time for these people to adapt to the speed of the NFL game. Dallas has replaced almost the whole of its secondary and injuries have depleted the linebackers and the backfield. People are playing that no one expected to play in the back 7.

Goff’s turnaround in performance has led to a series of questions about who is better, Dak, or Wentz or Goff. I went to high school in the same small town as Dak, so I’m hardly unbiased in this debate. The best comments I’ve seen recently are those of Mike Tanier, which I highly recommend. His Bleacher Report article, in my opinion, is a must read. Benjamin Morris reappears, in an article about two point conversions. Brian Burke recommends an article about Alex Smith, which suggests his NFL passer rating is misleading.

Global Statistics:
Games  Home Wins HwPct Winning_Score Losing_Score Margin
63         35     55.6      28.05        15.81     12.24

Calculated Pythagorean Exponent:  2.99


Rank  Team    Median  GP   W   L   T  Pct   Pred   SRS    MOV   SOS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1     KC      11.5     4   4   0   0 100.0  79.8  19.45  11.25  8.20
2     PIT     10.0     4   3   1   0  75.0  78.0  -2.84   7.75 -10.59
3     DET      9.5     4   3   1   0  75.0  73.8   4.36   7.25 -2.89
4     BUF      7.5     4   3   1   0  75.0  71.1  10.48   4.75  5.73
5     GB       5.5     4   3   1   0  75.0  66.6   0.97   5.25 -4.28
6     ATL      5.0     4   3   1   0  75.0  61.4   5.04   3.75  1.29
7     DEN      4.5     4   3   1   0  75.0  69.8  10.78   6.00  4.78
8     CAR      4.5     4   3   1   0  75.0  58.0   6.70   2.00  4.70
9     LA       3.5     4   3   1   0  75.0  71.2   2.77   9.25 -6.48
10    PHI      2.5     4   3   1   0  75.0  58.4   9.26   2.75  6.51
11    TB       2.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  57.7  -2.67   2.33 -5.00
12    JAX      9.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  76.1   7.52   8.75 -1.23
13    NO       5.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  62.9   6.72   3.75  2.97
14    DAL      3.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  47.7  -2.05  -0.75 -1.30
15    OAK      2.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  60.4   7.92   3.00  4.92
16    MIN      1.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  52.9   2.14   0.75  1.39
17    HOU      0.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  66.1   7.77   5.50  2.27
18    NE       0.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  50.6  10.41   0.25 10.16
19    WAS     -1.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  51.7  10.35   0.50  9.85
20    SEA     -1.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  64.5  -4.52   4.25 -8.77
21    BAL     -1.5     4   2   2   0  50.0  29.7 -11.25  -5.00 -6.25
22    TEN     -2.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  33.4  -1.83  -6.50  4.67
23    NYJ     -3.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  35.2   0.39  -4.25  4.64
24    ARI     -4.0     4   2   2   0  50.0  35.0 -12.23  -4.25 -7.98
25    MIA    -14.0     3   1   2   0  33.3   7.8  -7.37 -10.67  3.30
26    CIN     -3.5     4   1   3   0  25.0  46.6  -7.04  -0.75 -6.29
27    CHI    -13.5     4   1   3   0  25.0  16.9 -10.62 -10.75  0.13
28    IND    -15.5     4   1   3   0  25.0  12.5 -25.40 -16.25 -9.15
29    LAC     -2.5     4   0   4   0   0.0  31.7   2.78  -5.25  8.03
30    SF      -3.0     4   0   4   0   0.0  25.8  -8.82  -7.00 -1.82
31    CLE     -8.5     4   0   4   0   0.0  17.0 -22.63 -11.00 -11.63
32    NYG     -8.5     4   0   4   0   0.0  20.2  -6.52  -8.75  2.23

I know I’m passing a judgement on fragments of two games I’ve watched, but this is a view commonly held among my peers, a bunch of generic football fans (Update: not just generic fans. See here and here and here and here and here). People feel as if a light has been switched on in their brains, and they can see a lot deeper into the games they watch. I didn’t have a feel that Tony has a mature style just yet. He’s still trying to figure out how best to get his information across. But his ability to break down plays on the fly is far above the average. The only one in Atlanta who can come close to Tony is David Archer, who coincidentally, was also an NFL quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.

Tony is an analyst, a job separate from a play by play man. What he does generally could not be done by anyone short of a smart player or a good coach. That said, he appears to elicit quite a bit of jealousy among broadcasters, who quite simply, must have wanted the job themselves.

One example is Rick Kamyla of NBA-TV and 92.9 The Game, who upon hearing about Tony getting the gig, immediately announced that “Tony Romo is the most overrated quarterback in NFL history”, when, as far as I could tell, he could have cared less about Tony (unless he was on one of Rick’s fantasy teams).

Then there is Brent Musberger. Best I can fathom, he is of the opinion that the play by play guy runs the show in the booth, and the analyst is there to fill in audio gaps that the play by play guy cannot handle by himself. Maybe that’s the way it was back in the day, when Brent Musberger and Bryant Gumbel and Bob Costas were a trio of young “Turks”, arrogant and full of themselves. Over time most of this bunch mellowed. Perhaps Brent has been bothered enough to feel 30 all over again. Perhaps he doesn’t want to be best known for making a fool of himself over Katherine McCarron. I’m partial to the idea he clings to a notion of HOW THE SHOW SHOULD BE that’s defunct, or as Mark Twain might put it, ‘bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez’.

Just as the pundits decided that the NFL was boring, some truly epic games were played. The Thursday night game was good, Rams-49ers 41-38, the Atlanta – Detroit game was the kind people will remember for many years to come. On the back of a ferocious defensive rush Dallas got out of its Denver malaise and began playing football again. Even at 37, Larry Fitzgerald is a monster player.

I should warn people that simple rankings are not much to be believed at this point. It takes a few games to have enough results to be tame. You can add in games from the previous year, but then people might not recognize just how pathetic the New York Giants have been.

The nature of the recent sports scene has made me realize how much I miss Bill Simmon’s Grantland and Brian Burke’s Advanced NFL Stats. Both of these were edgy and ambitious, understanding of the new analytics and doing their best to apply it to games. Quite the opposite of the Sports Illustrated football preview, which was parochial and stodgy and the entire opposite of fearless. No, they were a dull recitation of how orthodox and Northeastern US focused they have become, statistically/sabermetrically illiterate in ways that all-22 will not fix. It read like a Frank Caliendo parody of Sports Illustrated, a bit senile and stuck in their ways.  So I cancelled my SI subscription.

I suspect I bought into Sports Illustrated because of how much I hated the form factor of ESPN the Magazine, which was foisted onto me without my wanting it for being a ESPN Insider. The classic ESPN cover was always an angry black man with his arms crossed who looked like he wanted to mug readers in a dark alley. They never seemed to get that Magic Johnson had hit on an incredible formula for being popular, which was to smile. I much prefer the look of people who seem as if I could share a meal with them.

But I guess people want numbers at this point. I can ponder the desert of cutting edge sports analysis later.

Global Statistics:
Games  Home Wins HwPct Winning_Score Losing_Score Margin
47         27     57.4      27.87        15.70     12.17

Calculated Pythagorean Exponent:  3.41


Rank  Team    Median  GP   W   L   T  Pct   Pred   SRS    MOV   SOS
------------------------------------------------------------------------
1     KC      14.0     3   3   0   0 100.0  84.1  17.10  12.00  5.10
2     ATL      6.0     3   3   0   0 100.0  71.9   3.66   7.00 -3.34
3     JAX     22.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  87.0  13.38  12.67  0.72
4     BAL     14.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  45.1  -6.79  -1.00 -5.79
5     DET     12.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  73.5   0.36   7.33 -6.97
6     DAL     11.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  52.7  -5.56   0.67 -6.22
7     OAK     10.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  70.2  14.77   6.00  8.77
8     MIN     10.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  62.5   4.42   3.33  1.09
9     BUF      9.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  73.6   6.50   4.33  2.17
10    WAS      7.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  64.0  14.20   3.67 10.53
11    TEN      6.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  67.9  14.25   5.67  8.58
12    CAR      6.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  59.9   2.74   1.67  1.08
13    NE       3.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  53.5   6.19   1.33  4.86
14    DEN      3.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  70.0   5.91   6.00 -0.09
15    PHI      3.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  60.4  10.34   3.00  7.34
16    GB       3.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  50.0  -4.42   0.00 -4.42
17    PIT      3.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  69.9  -1.26   4.67 -5.93
18    LA       2.0     3   2   1   0  66.7  77.1   6.48  10.67 -4.18
19    TB       2.5     2   1   1   0  50.0  59.7   1.73   2.50 -0.77
20    MIA     -6.0     2   1   1   0  50.0  20.8  -7.68  -6.00 -1.68
21    HOU     -3.0     3   1   2   0  33.3  24.3  -5.31  -7.00  1.69
22    IND     -3.0     3   1   2   0  33.3  14.1 -20.69 -12.33 -8.35
23    SEA     -6.0     3   1   2   0  33.3  33.1  -2.41  -3.67  1.26
24    CHI     -6.0     3   1   2   0  33.3  21.3  -5.95  -7.33  1.38
25    NYJ     -9.0     3   1   2   0  33.3  24.8  -2.14  -6.67  4.53
26    NO     -10.0     3   1   2   0  33.3  44.4   2.78  -1.67  4.45
27    ARI    -11.0     3   1   2   0  33.3  26.1 -15.29  -6.67 -8.63
28    CLE     -3.0     3   0   3   0   0.0  26.1 -16.24  -6.67 -9.58
29    SF      -3.0     3   0   3   0   0.0  20.4  -6.06  -8.33  2.27
30    LAC     -3.0     3   0   3   0   0.0  24.3  -1.22  -6.33  5.11
31    CIN     -4.0     3   0   3   0   0.0  11.5 -14.51  -9.00 -5.51
32    NYG    -14.0     3   0   3   0   0.0  10.2  -9.29 -11.00  1.71

The teams in the 2016 Championship are Atlanta and New England, and my system this year slightly favors Atlanta, given the same assumptions that we used initially. Atlanta is selected as the “home team”, though no home team is used in any of the final calculations.

Odds are presented from the home team’s point of view:

NFL Championship Round Playoff Odds
Home Team Visiting Team Score Diff Win Prob Est. Point Spread
Atlanta Falcons New England Patriots 0.092 0.523 0.6

 
We present a series of alternate calculations below. They are based on — what if Atlanta should be treated as a team with playoff experience, then median point spread, then Pythagoreans, and then the Simple Ranking system.

ATL – NE Alternate Calculations
Odds Method Score Diff Win Prob Est. Point Spread
ATL has playoff experience 0.839 0.698 6.2
Median Point Spread -0.68 0.34 -5.0
Pythagoreans -0.92 0.29 -6.8
Simple Ranking -0.11 0.47 -0.8

 
There is nothing consistent in any of the ratings methods. Median point spreads, when pumped into a logistic regression, have less correlation than Pythagorean, though in both cases, the confidence intervals are on the order of 0.15, as opposed to less than 0.05. Medians and Pythagoreans suggest New England has a large advantage, Simple Rankings say the game will be close, too close to bet. So two claim close games, toss ups more or less, one suggests an easy Atlanta victory, and the others suggest a substantial Patriots margin.
 

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