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Archive for the 'Statgeekery' Category

Estimating ESPN’s QBR for Historical Seasons

Posted by Neil Paine on August 7, 2011

ESPN came out with a new quarterback rating ("Total QBR") on Friday, and if you haven't read Chase or Jason's takes, do so immediately. The early consensus seems to be this:

Pros:

  • It can't help but be better than the NFL's official passer rating
  • Based in large part on the strong analytical framework found in The Hidden Game of Football and the work of Aaron Schatz, Brian Burke, etc.
  • Takes into account all of a QB's actions (sacks, rushing carries, etc.)
  • Doesn't penalize QBs for dropped passes
  • Tries to parse credit between QB and receiver by breaking down Air Yards vs. YAC

Cons:

  • No adjustment for strength of schedule
  • A 'black box' -- we don't know the specifics about how it works
  • WPA-style clutch adjustments might be retrodictive, but aren't predictive
  • Splitting of credit between teammates appears to rely on subjective assessments

As soon as ESPN released the first batch of ratings from the 2008-10 seasons, I ran some correlations between existing stats and QBR:

                    r         R^2
    voa         0.9295      0.8639
    dvoa        0.9200      0.8464
    anypa_idx   0.8988      0.8079
    anypa       0.8960      0.8029
    rate_idx    0.8766      0.7684
    rate        0.8745      0.7647
    uAYA*       0.8647      0.7478
    aypa_idx    0.8478      0.7188
    nypa_idx    0.8445      0.7132
    aypa        0.8411      0.7075
    cmppct      0.7690      0.5913
    cmp_idx     0.7680      0.5898
    ypa_idx     0.7384      0.5453
    ypa         0.7340      0.5388
    tdpct_idx   0.7173      0.5146
    ypg         0.7146      0.5107
    tdpct       0.7027      0.4937
    intpct_idx  0.6013      0.3616
    intpct     -0.5989      0.3586
    skrate     -0.5546      0.3076
    skrate_idx  0.5516      0.3042
    (* = 2010 data only)

Basically, 86% of the variation in QBR is explained by Football Outsiders' VOA metric, and 81% is explained by our Adjusted Net YPA stat. Oddly enough, even though QBR factors in rushing plays, Ultimate Adjusted YPA correlates worse with QBR than Adjusted Net YPA -- in essence, uAYA tracks more closely with QBR if you remove its rushing components.

You can also explain 85% of the variation in QBR using the following formula composed of nothing but our Advanced Passing Indices:

QBR ~ -60.5 + 1.2 * Cmp%_Idx - 2.1 * YPA_Idx + 0.5 * TD%_Idx - 3.5 * Rate_Idx + 4 * AY/A_Idx + 0.9 * NY/A_Idx

This produces the following list of the best estimated post-merger "QBR" seasons (min 225 att):

Rk Player Year Age Tm G Cmp Att Yds TD Int Sk SkYds Cmp%+ Y/A+ TD%+ Rate+ AY/A+ NY/A+ predQBR
1 Dan Marino 1984 23 MIA 16 362 564 5084 48 17 13 120 127 140 148 141 141 153 95.8
2 Peyton Manning 2004 28 IND 16 336 497 4557 49 10 13 101 127 141 168 151 149 147 95.8
3 Kurt Warner 2000 29 STL 11 235 347 3429 21 18 20 115 138 158 125 128 136 158 90.0
4 Joe Montana 1984 28 SFO 16 279 432 3630 28 10 22 138 128 127 125 134 133 135 87.6
5 Dan Fouts 1982 31 SDG 9 204 330 2883 17 11 12 94 119 133 111 124 130 143 87.1
6 John Brodie 1970 35 SFO 14 223 378 2941 24 10 8 67 123 118 119 129 126 133 84.6
7 Steve Young 1991 30 SFO 11 180 279 2517 17 8 13 79 127 145 126 135 140 145 83.4
8 Mark Rypien 1991 29 WAS 16 249 421 3564 28 11 7 59 108 133 132 130 135 142 82.8
9 R. Cunningham 1998 35 MIN 15 259 425 3704 34 10 20 132 117 135 141 134 136 140 82.6
10 Ken Stabler 1976 31 OAK 12 194 291 2737 27 17 19 203 142 145 148 140 137 143 82.2
11 Steve Young 1992 31 SFO 16 268 402 3465 25 7 29 152 129 134 130 142 142 132 82.2
12 Steve Young 1994 33 SFO 16 324 461 3969 35 10 31 163 138 139 147 147 143 136 82.1
13 C. Pennington 2002 26 NYJ 15 275 399 3120 22 6 22 135 135 125 123 138 134 127 81.9
14 Joe Montana 1989 33 SFO 13 271 386 3521 26 8 33 198 152 145 132 149 145 138 81.8
15 Tom Brady 2007 30 NWE 16 398 578 4806 50 8 21 128 129 130 153 148 142 132 81.7
16 Erik Kramer 1995 31 CHI 16 315 522 3838 29 10 15 95 108 115 121 122 124 124 81.5
17 Brian Griese 2000 25 DEN 10 216 336 2688 19 4 17 139 125 123 121 135 134 125 81.3
18 Drew Brees 2009 30 NOR 15 363 514 4388 34 11 20 135 133 129 131 132 129 132 81.0
19 Dan Fouts 1983 32 SDG 10 215 340 2975 20 15 14 107 121 132 118 121 124 142 81.0
20 Dan Marino 1983 22 MIA 11 173 296 2210 20 6 10 80 106 107 127 125 123 120 80.6
Rk Player Year Age Tm G Cmp Att Yds TD Int Sk SkYds Cmp%+ Y/A+ TD%+ Rate+ AY/A+ NY/A+ predQBR
21 Bert Jones 1976 25 BAL 14 207 343 3104 24 9 29 284 124 139 127 139 143 134 80.4
22 Dan Fouts 1981 30 SDG 16 360 609 4802 33 17 19 134 111 118 115 125 126 131 79.9
23 Kurt Warner 1999 28 STL 16 325 499 4353 41 13 29 201 130 132 143 136 133 132 79.5
24 Brett Favre 1995 26 GNB 16 359 570 4413 38 13 33 217 117 125 135 130 131 124 79.3
25 Dan Marino 1986 25 MIA 16 378 623 4746 44 23 17 119 121 114 132 124 118 129 79.2
26 Jeff Garcia 2000 30 SFO 16 355 561 4278 31 10 24 155 121 116 119 127 125 122 79.0
27 V. Testaverde 1998 35 NYJ 14 259 421 3256 29 7 19 140 120 117 129 129 126 123 79.0
28 Bernie Kosar 1987 24 CLE 12 241 389 3033 22 9 22 129 123 117 116 127 125 123 78.8
29 Troy Aikman 1995 29 DAL 16 280 432 3304 16 7 14 89 123 122 97 122 124 130 78.4
30 Peyton Manning 2006 30 IND 16 362 557 4397 31 9 14 86 116 121 118 126 127 127 78.1
31 Joe Theismann 1983 34 WAS 16 276 459 3714 29 11 34 242 111 119 123 126 128 122 78.1
32 Norm Snead 1972 33 NYG 14 196 325 2307 17 12 8 66 126 107 109 121 115 120 77.7
33 Peyton Manning 2000 24 IND 16 357 571 4413 33 15 20 131 118 118 122 123 122 125 77.6
34 Peyton Manning 2005 29 IND 16 305 453 3747 28 10 17 81 125 124 124 129 127 129 77.6
35 Kurt Warner 2001 30 STL 16 375 546 4830 36 22 38 233 133 140 136 132 132 137 77.5
36 Steve DeBerg 1990 36 KAN 16 258 444 3444 23 4 22 191 106 117 114 128 132 119 77.5
37 Ken Anderson 1981 32 CIN 16 300 479 3754 29 10 25 140 123 117 123 137 132 125 77.4
38 Scott Mitchell 1995 27 DET 16 346 583 4338 32 12 31 145 105 117 120 120 124 121 77.3
39 Trent Green 2002 32 KAN 16 287 470 3690 26 13 26 141 107 126 123 120 126 128 77.3
40 Peyton Manning 2009 33 IND 16 393 571 4500 33 16 10 74 127 117 120 120 116 126 77.1

Finally, here are the predicted 2010 QBR leaders alongside the actual QBR leaders (min 225 att):

Player Year Age Tm G Att predQBR Rk Action Plays Actual QBR Rk
Tom Brady 2010 33 NWE 16 492 75.7 1 607 76.0 1
Aaron Rodgers 2010 27 GNB 15 475 71.5 2 627 67.9 4
Philip Rivers 2010 29 SDG 16 541 68.2 3 667 63.2 9
Peyton Manning 2010 34 IND 16 679 66.3 4 779 69.5 2
Josh Freeman 2010 22 TAM 16 474 64.0 5 626 63.5 8
Drew Brees 2010 31 NOR 16 658 62.3 6 760 65.9 6
Michael Vick 2010 30 PHI 12 372 61.9 7 547 66.6 5
Matt Schaub 2010 29 HOU 16 574 61.8 8 678 57.8 12
Ben Roethlisberger 2010 28 PIT 12 389 59.9 9 500 59.8 10
Matt Ryan 2010 25 ATL 16 571 59.8 10 709 68.6 3
Eli Manning 2010 29 NYG 16 539 58.1 11 654 64.3 7
Jon Kitna 2010 38 DAL 10 318 57.7 12 409 46.1 20
Matt Cassel 2010 28 KAN 15 450 57.6 13 566 51.2 15
Joe Flacco 2010 25 BAL 16 489 56.0 14 647 58.1 11
Shaun Hill 2010 30 DET 11 416 55.0 15 499 44.8 21
Kyle Orton 2010 28 DEN 13 498 53.5 16 612 46.6 19
Carson Palmer 2010 31 CIN 16 586 51.1 17 720 46.7 18
Ryan Fitzpatrick 2010 28 BUF 13 441 50.4 18 551 48.7 16
David Garrard 2010 32 JAX 14 366 50.3 19 510 57.3 13
Kerry Collins 2010 38 TEN 9 278 49.6 20 342 56.0 14
Alex Smith 2010 26 SFO 11 342 47.7 21 426 40.0 28
Mark Sanchez 2010 24 NYJ 16 507 45.2 22 619 47.4 17
Jason Campbell 2010 29 OAK 13 329 44.9 23 479 43.8 22
Matt Hasselbeck 2010 35 SEA 14 444 44.8 24 547 42.4 24
Chad Henne 2010 25 MIA 15 490 44.7 25 604 41.4 25
Sam Bradford 2010 23 STL 16 590 43.9 26 732 41.0 26
Jay Cutler 2010 27 CHI 15 432 41.9 27 596 42.6 23
Donovan McNabb 2010 34 WAS 13 472 40.9 28 596 41.0 26
Brett Favre 2010 41 MIN 13 358 39.4 29 459 25.8 30
Derek Anderson 2010 27 ARI 12 327 34.3 30 387 35.9 29
Jimmy Clausen 2010 23 CAR 13 299 19.2 31 397 11.7 31

27 Comments | Posted in History, Quarterbacks, Statgeekery

Which QB is Likely to be Best in 2011?

Posted by Neil Paine on February 10, 2011

File this under Chase's "Insane Ideas/Rants/Almost deleted before hitting Publish" category...

In light of the research Chase & JKL have done about the consistency of passing stats between seasons, I was wondering which quarterbacks were likely to be best in 2011 -- assuming there is a 2011 season -- if we take their 2010 numbers and strip away the factors that were heavily influenced by luck or other elements beyond a player's control.

18 Comments | Posted in Insane ideas, Quarterbacks, Rant, Statgeekery, Totally Useless

Quarterbacks: Career Playoff Drive Stats

Posted by Scott Kacsmar on February 3, 2011

Robert Duvall once said "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" in Apocalypse Now. I have never smelled napalm before, but there is something I enjoy. I love the smell of freshly produced spreadsheets on quarterbacks that will provide the data to expose myths and spit in the face of conventional wisdoms. I want to know why certain teams succeed and others fail, especially in the postseason. Well after my latest research efforts, I feel much more knowledgeable about certain quarterbacks and why their playoff record is what it is.

Just in time for a big quarterback match-up in Super Bowl XLV between Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers, I compiled playoff drive stats for two dozen quarterbacks that have played in the last thirty years. It was my goal to get every quarterback with at least 8 playoff starts since 1980, and I almost succeeded. Only Phil Simms, Joe Theismann, Jim Plunkett and Danny White were left out due to lack of complete career data. I also included a few active quarterbacks with 4-7 playoff starts to their credit. I used official NFL gamebooks to get this data. While many of these gamebooks offer drive summaries, I actually went through the play-by-play for each drive (over 3400 of them) to get a better understanding of how the game progressed and for more accurate statistics.

Here is a table of stats that you may be familiar with for the quarterbacks involved:

Player GP W L Att. Comp. Pct. Yards YPA TDs INTs Rating
Aaron Rodgers 4 3 1 135 94 69.63 1212 8.98 10 3 112.9
Kurt Warner 13 9 4 462 307 66.45 3952 8.55 31 14 102.8
Drew Brees 7 4 3 285 189 66.32 2052 7.20 15 2 102.0
Joe Montana 23 16 7 734 460 62.67 5772 7.86 45 21 95.6
Peyton Manning 19 9 10 718 453 63.09 5389 7.51 29 19 88.4
Troy Aikman 16 11 5 502 320 63.75 3849 7.67 23 17 88.3
Brett Favre 24 13 11 791 481 60.81 5855 7.40 44 30 86.3
Steve Young 20 12 8 471 292 62.00 3326 7.06 20 13 85.8
Tom Brady 18 14 4 637 395 62.01 4108 6.45 28 15 85.5
Ben Roethlisberger 12 10 2 329 201 61.09 2598 7.90 17 14 85.4
Warren Moon 10 3 7 403 259 64.27 2870 7.12 17 14 84.9
Jake Delhomme 8 5 3 226 130 57.52 1847 8.17 12 10 83.3
Matt Hasselbeck 10 5 5 360 211 58.61 2483 6.90 15 9 83.1
Tony Romo 4 1 3 135 80 59.26 832 6.16 4 2 80.8
Donovan McNabb 16 9 7 577 341 59.10 3752 6.50 24 17 80.0
John Elway 22 14 8 651 355 54.53 4964 7.63 27 21 79.7
Philip Rivers 7 3 4 229 134 58.52 1820 7.95 8 9 79.2
Eli Manning 7 4 3 193 113 58.55 1297 6.72 8 7 77.6
Dan Marino 18 8 10 687 385 56.04 4510 6.56 32 24 77.1
Randall Cunningham 12 5 7 365 192 52.60 2426 6.65 12 9 74.3
Dave Krieg 12 5 7 282 144 51.06 1895 6.72 11 9 72.3
Jim Kelly 17 9 8 545 322 59.08 3863 7.09 21 28 72.3
Steve McNair 10 5 5 311 184 59.16 1764 5.67 6 11 66.7
Mark Brunell 11 5 6 307 156 50.81 1833 5.97 11 11 66.3

Those are your conventional passing stats. Drive stats are something I have taken much interest in the last few years. I guess it started with my work on fourth quarter drives, and has since carried over to the full game. They offer more measures of efficiency and give better insight into how productive a team's offense or defense is and what style or tempo they may play at. Think about basketball and how the stats for a run and gun/fast break offense are going to be different than the numbers of a half-court offense.

The number of possessions a team gets in a game or season is one of the most overlooked parts of football. Every offense and defense is held to the same standard of points and yards scored/allowed, but did the defense that allows 20 points on 8 drives really play better than the defense that allowed 24 points on 13 drives? Some teams get the ball less than others year after year, meaning their offense has to play at a higher level on fewer opportunities. This would make the offense's stats look better, and the defense's look worse since they are not on the field as much as other teams. The Colts have often been a team in recent seasons that are at the bottom or close to it in offensive possessions every season. Jon Gruden, on a Monday Night Football telecast in Miami in 2009, is probably the only analyst I have heard reference this fact in the media.

If you are not familiar with drive stats, I would highly recommend a visit to that section on the FootballOutsiders site, where Jim Armstrong does a great job of putting out the drive stats on a weekly basis each season. They are listed for 1997-2010. You can familiarize yourself with the kind of numbers you can expect from an offense that is ranked at the top of the league, the average, and at the bottom, to use as a reference when you look over these playoff drive stats.

Disclaimer: the stats presented here are in the quarterback's name, but even more than usual this is really about the team's offensive performance as a whole rather than the individual quarterback. There are certain parts, like the breakdown on interceptions, that are mostly all about the quarterback, but overall drive stats are something you have to keep the team in mind first for. There are of course drives where a quarterback does nothing but hand the ball off every play. The entry "Joe Montana" is another way of saying "1981-90 49ers, 1993-94 Chiefs". Also I will note that I tried to include every drive a QB played in during the playoffs, whether or not they started the game did not matter. I will point out several things, but I will also leave the reader to make their own observations on all the various data presented below. Kneel down drives at the end of either half are excluded.

With that cleared up, on to the data.

25 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, History, Quarterbacks, Statgeekery

Super Bowl notes: Stat of the Year and Updated SRS Standings

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 26, 2011

My vote for Stat of the Year, courtesy of Big Lead superstar/PFR family member JKL: the Packers haven't trailed by more than seven points at any point this season. Let's take a look at Green Bay's six losses:

  • In Chicago, the Packers got up 7-0 and 10-7, trailed 14-10, took a 17-14 lead, and lost 20-17.
  • In week five in Washington, the Packers led for most of the game before the Redskins scored 10 fourth quarter points to force overtime. Washington won 16-13. Yes, Washington beat this team.
  • In week twelve, the Packers lost another close one in Atlanta. The teams exchanged scores all game, alternating with a Falcons field goal, Packers field goal, Falcons touchdown, Packers touchdowns, Falcons touchdown, Packers touchdown, Falcons field goal.
  • In Detroit, playing the majority of the game without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers lost 7-3.
  • The next week, a loss in New England without Rodgers looked disastrous in the standings but respectable on the field. The Packers got up 3-0 and then 10-7 and 17-7. Two Patriots touchdowns made it 21-17, but Green Bay responded with another touchdown. The Patriots scored last, winning 31-27.

The Packers never trailed by a score in any of their 13 victories, either. Even trailing early wasn't an impediment to a big game, like when the Falcons went up 7-0 in the playoff game. So how rare is it for a team to go an entire season without trailing by more than 7 points? As you could guess, extremely.

34 Comments | Posted in Simple Rating System, Statgeekery

Which Super Bowl Starting QBs Had the Biggest Hot Streaks Going Into the Game?

Posted by Neil Paine on January 25, 2011

While the Conference Championships put a damper on any hot streaks Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger may have had going into the Super Bowl, where does their recent play stand relative to all SB signal-callers prior to the game? And does a string of successful games before the Super Bowl actually correlate with playing well on Super Sunday?

To answer these questions, let's bust out the single-game opponent- & era-adjusted QB performance metric I introduced here. To make a long explanation short, eYAR is an estimate of the QB's Yards Above Replacement against an average opponent in the modern era. We can use it to rank games, seasons, careers, etc., and we can also use it to gauge how well a QB was playing in the games leading up to a Super Bowl start.

For instance, here are the hottest QBs over the 2 games prior to the Super Bowl:

Player Year Tm Prev2G Player Year Tm Prev2G
Roger Staubach 1975 DAL 252.8 Donovan McNabb 2004 PHI 88.3
Jim Kelly 1990 BUF 247.0 Joe Namath 1968 NYJ 87.9
Peyton Manning 2009 IND 241.6 Joe Theismann 1982 WAS 86.9
Dan Marino 1984 MIA 211.1 Fran Tarkenton 1973 MIN 85.9
John Elway 1989 DEN 207.5 Vince Ferragamo 1979 RAM 85.9
Joe Montana 1988 SFO 204.6 Terry Bradshaw 1975 PIT 83.8
Joe Montana 1989 SFO 188.9 Mark Rypien 1991 WAS 82.5
Bart Starr 1966 GNB 163.8 Jeff Hostetler 1990 NYG 82.1
John Elway 1987 DEN 162.4 Eli Manning 2007 NYG 81.9
Troy Aikman 1992 DAL 161.9 Fran Tarkenton 1976 MIN 77.2
Bob Griese 1971 MIA 157.8 John Elway 1998 DEN 77.2
Earl Morrall 1968 BAL 154.5 Roger Staubach 1971 DAL 76.9
Troy Aikman 1993 DAL 151.1 Jim Plunkett 1980 OAK 72.3
Kurt Warner 2008 ARI 151.0 Len Dawson 1969 KAN 71.6
Joe Montana 1981 SFO 149.4 Joe Montana 1984 SFO 69.1
Joe Theismann 1983 WAS 148.9 Bob Griese 1973 MIA 67.4
Terry Bradshaw 1978 PIT 148.6 John Elway 1997 DEN 66.3
Aaron Rodgers 2010 GNB 148.3 Phil Simms 1986 NYG 61.1
Matt Hasselbeck 2005 SEA 146.3 Jim Plunkett 1983 RAI 59.9
Troy Aikman 1995 DAL 145.7 Tom Brady 2001 NWE 57.0
Bart Starr 1967 GNB 142.9 John Elway 1986 DEN 54.8
Billy Kilmer 1972 WAS 139.8 Peyton Manning 2006 IND 54.4
Rich Gannon 2002 OAK 136.8 Tony Eason 1985 NWE 52.8
Craig Morton 1977 DEN 136.1 Kerry Collins 2000 NYG 51.6
Terry Bradshaw 1974 PIT 133.0 Brett Favre 1997 GNB 50.5
Ken Stabler 1976 OAK 130.7 Brad Johnson 2002 TAM 49.6
Terry Bradshaw 1979 PIT 129.0 Stan Humphries 1994 SDG 45.5
Jim McMahon 1985 CHI 128.1 Daryle Lamonica 1967 OAK 41.6
Kurt Warner 1999 STL 126.4 Trent Dilfer 2000 BAL 41.5
Ben Roethlisberger 2005 PIT 123.0 Steve McNair 1999 TEN 36.4
Joe Kapp 1969 MIN 120.7 Bob Griese 1972 MIA 35.4
Chris Chandler 1998 ATL 119.7 Fran Tarkenton 1974 MIN 35.3
Len Dawson 1966 KAN 118.2 Rex Grossman 2006 CHI 33.8
Roger Staubach 1977 DAL 108.1 Roger Staubach 1978 DAL 28.3
Johnny Unitas 1970 BAL 107.7 Doug Williams 1987 WAS 11.8
Jim Kelly 1993 BUF 106.9 Ben Roethlisberger 2010 PIT 10.4
Tom Brady 2007 NWE 105.5 Tom Brady 2003 NWE 9.3
Jake Delhomme 2003 CAR 101.3 David Woodley 1982 MIA 6.5
Kurt Warner 2001 STL 100.8 Neil O'Donnell 1995 PIT 0.7
Ben Roethlisberger 2008 PIT 100.4 Jim Kelly 1992 BUF -0.8
Brett Favre 1996 GNB 98.6 Drew Bledsoe 1996 NWE -3.3
Ken Anderson 1981 CIN 98.6 Jim Kelly 1991 BUF -20.8
Drew Brees 2009 NOR 95.4 Boomer Esiason 1988 CIN -40.0
Tom Brady 2004 NWE 95.2 Craig Morton 1970 DAL -53.8
Steve Young 1994 SFO 91.4 Ron Jaworski 1980 PHI -96.4

Prior to Super Bowl X, Staubach ripped the Vikings and Rams for a combined unadjusted 33-55-466-5-1 line (plus 78 rushing yds) that is pretty impressive when seen in the light of the era and opposition. Likewise, Kelly torched Miami and L.A. for 320 YPG in the 1990 playoffs, and Manning was nearly flawless against one of the best pass defenses ever in last year's AFC Championship Game. (All three of those QBs went on to lose the Super Bowl, though.)

6 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, Quarterbacks, Statgeekery

The Rivers Index, Playoffs Edition (2001-2010)

Posted by Neil Paine on January 21, 2011

Back in November, I developed what I called "The Rivers Index" (so named for Philip Rivers), a metric that measured how many games a QB should have won based on nothing more than his own passing performance. Today, I'm going to apply that same concept to the last 10 years of playoff competition, this time using 10 years of data and adjusting for opposing defenses + weather.

124 Comments | Posted in Quarterbacks, Simple Rating System, Statgeekery

CFB: Auburn’s Place Among BCS Champions

Posted by Neil Paine on January 13, 2011

Note: This post was originally published at CFB at Sports-Reference, S-R's new College Football site, so when you're done reading, go over and check it out!

Whenever a team wins a championship, the temptation is always to compare them to other champions from the past, and the 2010 Auburn Tigers are no exception. Using the Simple Rating System (SRS), let's take a look at where the newest title-holders stand among BCS champs...

On Monday, ESPN asked its users to rank the BCS Champions from #1-13, coming up with this list:

Team Total Pts #1 Votes
2005 Texas 147,259 3,238
2004 USC 141,467 2,710
2009 Alabama 138,222 2,104
2001 Miami-FL 130,473 2,474
2008 Florida 119,697 1,071
2006 Florida 102,270 478
2010 Auburn 92,789 1,042
1999 Florida State 87,367 446
2002 Ohio State 82,755 629
2003 LSU 79,905 404
2000 Oklahoma 78,115 388
1998 Tennessee 74,067 525
2007 LSU 73,156 200

The SRS, though, comes up with a different ranking:

Year School Conf W L T SRS SOS
2001 Miami-FL Big East 12 0 0 26.169 5.741
2004 Southern California Pac 10 13 0 0 26.062 8.788
2008 Florida SEC 13 1 0 25.370 6.701
2005 Texas Big 12 13 0 0 24.977 5.686
2009 Alabama SEC 14 0 0 23.693 7.747
1999 Florida State ACC 12 0 0 23.495 6.208
2000 Oklahoma Big 12 13 0 0 21.555 5.812
2003 Louisiana State SEC 13 1 0 20.847 4.033
2010 Auburn SEC 14 0 0 20.648 7.031
1998 Tennessee SEC 13 0 0 19.955 4.955
2006 Florida SEC 13 1 0 19.661 7.886
2007 Louisiana State SEC 12 2 0 18.414 6.659
2002 Ohio State Big Ten 14 0 0 18.134 4.739

7 Comments | Posted in BCS, Best/Worst Ever, College, Simple Rating System, Statgeekery

What Does the Season Series Tell Us About Playoff Matchups?

Posted by Neil Paine on January 12, 2011

All four of this weekend's playoff matchups feature rematches of regular-season games:

Patriots vs. Jets
Rk Tm Year Date Opp W# G# Day Result
1 NWE 2010 2010-12-06 NYJ 13 12 Mon W 45-3
2 NWE 2010 2010-09-19 @ NYJ 2 2 Sun L 14-28
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2011.
Steelers vs. Ravens
Rk Tm Year Date Opp W# G# Day Result
1 PIT 2010 2010-12-05 @ BAL 13 12 Sun W 13-10
2 PIT 2010 2010-10-03 BAL 4 4 Sun L 14-17
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2011.
Falcons vs. Packers
Rk Tm Year Date Opp W# G# Day Result
1 ATL 2010 2010-11-28 GNB 12 11 Sun W 20-17
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2011.
Bears vs. Seahawks
Rk Tm Year Date Opp W# G# Day Result
1 CHI 2010 2010-10-17 SEA 6 6 Sun L 20-23
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2011.

How much extra information (above & beyond the Simple Rating System) can we glean from these previous matchups of playoff foes?

10 Comments | Posted in Play Index, Simple Rating System, Statgeekery

Which Quarterbacks’ Offenses Exceed Expectations in the Playoffs?

Posted by Neil Paine on January 10, 2011

Curious after Peyton Manning & the Colts scored 16 points at home against the Jets on Saturday, I wanted to calculate how many points we should have expected them to put on the board, knowing the opponent and game location.

According to the Simple Rating System (SRS), the Jets' defense was +4.2 this season -- meaning they allowed 4.2 fewer PPG than an average team after accounting for strength of schedule. The average NFL team scored 22.0 PPG during the regular-season, so at a neutral site we'd expect an average team to score 17.8 PPG against the New York defense. And since the Colts were at home, 0.95 PPG (half the overall home-field advantage in 2010) should be added in as well, giving a final expectation of 18.8 PPG for a league-average team against the Jets at home. Since the Colts actually scored 16, we can score this performance as -2.8 points relative to average.

Additionally, we wouldn't have expected the Colts' offense to be average based on the regular season. Their offensive SRS was +3.7, which means Indianapolis "should have" scored 22.0 + 0.95 + 3.7 - 4.2 = 22.5 pts against the Jets at home. This yields a score of -6.5 pts relative to regular-season expectations.

Here's Peyton Manning's entire playoff career according to this methodology:

20 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, History, Quarterbacks, Simple Rating System, Statgeekery

PI Finds: Final 2010 Team Adjusted Rushing Yards per Attempt, SRS-Style

Posted by Neil Paine on January 6, 2011

As a follow-up to the 2010 team passing ratings I posted Tuesday, I ran the same process on team rushing performances. The formula for adjusted rushing yards per attempt was:

ARY/A = (Rush Yds + 18 * Rush TD) / Rush Att

(The 18 comes from Chase's post on the value of TDs.)

Using the PFR Team Game Finder, I plugged every team single-game rushing performance of the 2010 season into the formula above, then adjusted for strength of schedule and game location using an SRS-style recursive loop. The result was a set of ratings that best predicted every game according to these equations:

Home ARY/A = Lg Avg  ARY/A + .5*HFA + Home Rush Offense Rating + Away Rush Defense Rating

Away ARY/A = Lg Avg ARY/A - .5*HFA + Away Rush Offense Rating + Home Rush Defense Rating

Here were the ratings (again, negative is good for defenses):

4 Comments | Posted in PI Finds, Play Index, Simple Rating System, Site Features, Statgeekery

PI Finds: Final 2010 Team Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt, SRS-Style

Posted by Neil Paine on January 4, 2011

Taking into account opponent and game location, which 2010 teams had the best passing offenses and defenses according to Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt? Let's use the PFR team Game Finder and Doug's SRS methodology (or, if you prefer, Chase's Rearview Adjusted Yards Per Attempt methodology) to find out...

With the team game finder, I called up every team passing performance of the 2010 season. Using the CSV option, I dumped the results into Excel and was quickly able to create a table listing the home and road teams' passing stats for each game of the season:

2010 Game-by-Game Passing Stats

From there, I set up an SRS-style recursive loop where every game's home and road ANY/A are predicted by the following formulae:

Home ANY/A = Lg Avg  ANY/A + .5*HFA + Home Pass Offense Rating + Away Pass Defense Rating

Away ANY/A = Lg Avg ANY/A - .5*HFA + Away Pass Offense Rating + Home Pass Defense Rating

Here were the results (negative is good for defenses):

4 Comments | Posted in PI Finds, Simple Rating System, Site Features, Statgeekery

Most interceptions by Quarterback-Defender pairing

Posted by Chase Stuart on December 31, 2010

Which player has intercepted which quarterback the most? Who has picked off Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dan Marino or Joe Montana more than anyone else? Against which quarterbacks did Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders and Mel Blount pad their numbers? Those answers and more, below.

I used the same methodology I used in the most pick-sixes in NFL history post to determine which quarterback threw which interception to each defender. For the purposes of this study, I included all interceptions in any post-season game in league history and interceptions in any regular season games since 1960. For each interception thrown in any of those games, the defensive player was given X/Y interceptions against the quarterback, where X represents the number of interceptions thrown by that quarterback in that game and Y stands for the number of team interceptions thrown by the quarterback's team in that game. As a result, this post is more of an approximation than an exact science.

The leader in quarterback-defensive player pairing interceptions? Over a six-year period, Broncos cornerback Steve Foley terrorized Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts. Foley had two interceptions in a 17-0 shutout against the Chargers in November 1976; Fouts threw two picks while Clint Longley had three more, which means Fouts is blamed for 40% of the two interceptions Foley had that day, or 0.8 INTs. In December '77, with the Orange Crush at full bore, Foley picked off Fouts in a 17-9 Broncos victory. Their next matchup came in September 1978, and Foley intercepted Fouts again in a Denver win. On Monday Night Football in the 1979 season finale, Foley caught two passes from Fouts, only one fewer than Charlie Joiner. Fouts and Air Corywell was running at top speed in 1980, but Foley picked him off in both matchups, first in Denver and then in a road victory in San Diego. Their next meeting came in September '81, and Foley intercepted three Fouts passes. Maybe after that, Fouts learned not to throw the ball in Foley's direction. All told, including the "0.8 interceptions' in that '76 game, and Foley recorded 9.8 interceptions against the Hall of Fame quarterback.

12 Comments | Posted in Quarterbacks, Statgeekery

Carrying a team

Posted by Chase Stuart on November 21, 2010

At one point in the third quarter of yesterday's Panthers-Ravens game, Mike Goodson had 101 yards from scrimmage. At that same time, Carolina had 101 total yards of offense. Because yardage lost due to sacks are deducted from team totals, it's possible for one player to actually outgain his own team. In this instance, Steve Smith had 12 yards on two catches, the Panthers had been sacked two times for -12 yards, and every other touch in the game went to Goodson. These events made me wonder: has any player actually outgained his own team?

Since 1960, seven players have done that. Another two exactly tied their team's production. Let's stroll down memory lane:

#9) Rickey Watts. The Chicago Bears were 3-8 when the Detroit Lions came to town in late November, 1981. The Lions had allowed 20 points in each of their past four games, and were a game under .500. On the surface, a generic late-season game between two bad teams. But on a cold day in Chicago, history would be made. Vince Evans completed just 4 of 19 passes for 21 yards -- with two interceptions. Bob Avellini relieved him, and went 3 of 10 for 20 yards, with a pick. Bob Parsons threw an incomplete pass, too. But Detroit's coverage skills were matched by their pass rushing ability, as the Lions registered 7 quarterback sacks. All told, Bears quarterbacks dropped back 37 times for -20 yards and 3 interceptions (ANY/A of -4.2). Chicago scored just 7 points, courtesy of a 92-yard interception return by Todd Bell. Throw in 44 rushing yards, and the Bears were held to just 24 yards on the day, a number equaled by Watts on two receptions. The 24 yards of total offense is still the 3rd lowest figure in NFL history, with only the "Water Polo" game in 1940 producing more ineptitude. The Bears gained just four first downs. But there will be more from this game in a bit.

#8) Clark Gaines. Gaines pops up in trivia questions and PFR queries every once in awhile thanks to a 17-catch game against the 49ers in 1980. But four years earlier, as a rookie, he shouldered even more of his team's load. By 4 PM on Sunday, December 12th, the Jets season was officially over. But the rest of the offense decided to end things three hours earlier. During the last week of the regular season, Lou Holtz stepped down as head coach, leaving former New England coach Mike Holovak as the lame duck for the season finale. With the 9-4 Bengals coming into Shea Stadium, the outcome of the game was never in doubt. Cincinnati won 42-3, and embarassed Joe Namath in his final game. Namath completed just 4 of 15 passes for 20 yards, with a long of six. And, of course, threw 4 interceptions. Richard Todd wasn't much better, going 3-13 for 23 yards with 2 interceptions and a safety. All told, on 32 dropbacks, Jets quarterbacks gained just 8 yards. Gaines rushed 18 times for 51 yards and caught 3 passes for 21 yards. His 72 yards from scrimmage exactly matched the Jets' output that day.

6 Comments | Posted in Statgeekery

PI Finds: The Rivers Index

Posted by Neil Paine on November 11, 2010

Last week, I showed you how to set up an "expected W-L" method for a quarterback using the Play Index Team Game Finder, the QB's gamelogs, and a logistic regression formula. I found that our test case, Philip Rivers, should have been expected to win 27.7 games over the last 3 seasons (prior to the Chargers' win over Houston) based on his passing performance, but in actuality only won 24 games, a difference of -3.7 wins. Without context, though, that number doesn't really mean anything -- is that a lot, or a little? Today, I'm going to answer that question by comparing every QB's actual and expected W-L records, something I like to call "The Rivers Index" (in an homage to Doug's Manning and Dungy Indices).

27 Comments | Posted in PI Finds, Play Index, Quarterbacks, Statgeekery

PI Finds: Should Philip Rivers Have Won More Games?

Posted by Neil Paine on November 5, 2010

Using the PFR Play Index's Player Season Finder, you can run custom individual leaderboards across multiple seasons. For instance, here are the NFL leaders in Adjusted Yards per Attempt over the past three years:

Rk Player From To Tm G Cmp Att Yds TD Int AY/A
1 Philip Rivers 2008 2010 SDG 40 827 1270 10912 77 27 8.85
2 Drew Brees 2008 2010 NOR 39 1010 1480 11791 84 39 7.92
3 Aaron Rodgers 2008 2010 GNB 40 856 1346 10483 70 29 7.86
4 Tony Romo 2008 2010 DAL 35 771 1213 9536 63 30 7.79
5 Matt Schaub 2008 2010 HTX 34 796 1198 9552 54 31 7.71
6 Tom Brady 2008 2010 NWE 24 525 801 6076 40 17 7.63
7 Peyton Manning 2008 2010 CLT 39 961 1425 10686 75 30 7.60
8 Ben Roethlisberger 2008 2010 PIT 34 670 1057 8383 48 29 7.60
9 Kurt Warner 2008 2009 CRD 31 740 1111 8336 56 28 7.38
10 Donovan McNabb 2008 2010 TOT 38 771 1291 9440 52 29 7.11

As you can see, the leader (by far) is San Diego's Philip Rivers. In fact, 10th-ranked McNabb is closer to #2 Brees than Brees is to Rivers!

Statistically, it's tough to find a QB since 2008 who can touch Rivers. However, his team hasn't enjoyed the same lofty success: the Chargers are 24-16 over the past 3 years -- a respectable record, but one seemingly out of place next to Rivers' gaudy passing numbers. This disconnect between individual accomplishments and team performance has haunted many a quarterback in the past, and is now is the main reason Rivers isn't held up in the same group as Brady, Manning, Roethlisberger, and Brees as a quarterback. QBs are supposed to win, we're told, not amass seemingly empty stats.

26 Comments | Posted in PI Finds, Play Index, Quarterbacks, Statgeekery

Are the Jets (again) setting their fans up for a hard fall?

Posted by Chase Stuart on October 16, 2010

On the surface, it's easy to think that all is well for the Jets. They're tied for the best record in the league, rank in the top three of the SRS standings and are in the top five of nearly every set of power rankings out there. New York's only loss came by a single point to another consensus powerhouse, Baltimore. And in that game, the Ravens only touchdown followed a penalty on a field goal attempt earlier in the drive. Even still, despite 14 penalties and a bunch of ugly looking offensive plays, the Jets were in position to win the game at the end until Dustin Keller channeled his inner Helen and ran out of bounds before the first down marker on fourth down. The short of it? The Jets have beaten some good teams, and lost a toss-up game to another elite team. So surely the Jets are elite, right?

I'm not so sure. Digging into the statistics, the Jets look like a classic team that's not as good as their record. For starters, they lead the league with a sparkling +11 turnover margin. That's because the Jets tied an NFL record by going four straight games without an interception.

Yes, there are explanations one could give for the Jets great streak when it comes to protecting the ball. But most of them are meritless. From 1990 to 2009, 28 teams had a turnover margin of +9 or better through five games. Those teams, on average, had 5.2 turnovers, forced 15.6, and won 3.9 games. The Jets have had one turnover, forced 12, and won 4.0 games. But what should we expect for New York over the next eleven games? One way to answer that is to take a look at how those 28 teams did in their remaining 11 games:

Teams         Int    Fum   OppInt OppFum  Margin  Wins
First 5 gms    2.6   2.6    9.1   6.5     10.5    3.9
Last 11 gms   12.6   8.1   12.1   8.5     -0.2    5.9

What more needs to be said than this: the 28 best teams with respect to turnover margin through five games, of the last 20 years, turned the ball over more often than their opponents did over their remaining 11 games. They went from a 0.786 winning percentage over the first third of the season to a 0.532 winning percentage over the final two-thirds. If a team's success is predicated on winning the turnover battle, that team isn't likely to keep winning for long.

7 Comments | Posted in Statgeekery

Most pick-sixes in NFL history

Posted by Chase Stuart on October 15, 2010

Note: The initial post was based on an inaccurate query. Our apologies for the mistake. The below numbers are now accurate.

Which quarterback has thrown the most interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns in league history? While we don't have that exact data available, we can do a reasonably job of answering that question based on the tools we do have here at PFR, which include:

  • Individual game logs for all players, showing all interceptions thrown, dating back to 1960
  • Individual season logs for all players, showing all interceptions thrown, dating back to 1920
  • Scoring logs for all scores, showing all interceptions returned for a touchdown, dating back to 1940

For any game from 1960 to 2009 (2010 data not included), we can do a very good job approximating who threw the pick-six. For the vast majority of teams, only one player (at most) will throw an interception in any given game. Fifty years from now, if you look at the box score from this past Monday night, you will be able to know for sure that Brett Favre threw the interception that Dwight Lowery returned for a touchdown. The Vikings threw just one interception, and it was by Favre, so Favre must have thrown the pick-six. It doesn't matter if the team has thrown five interceptions, as long as all were thrown by the same guy, such as Keith Null against the Titans last year.

24 Comments | Posted in Quarterbacks, Statgeekery

LaDainian Tomlinson: Not Toast

Posted by Neil Paine on October 4, 2010

Sometimes you just gotta admit that you were wrong.

First of all, I was wrong to doubt the Jets before the season. In fact, after Sunday's 38-14 shellacking of Buffalo (admittedly not the greatest opponent, but one which at least played New England and Miami relatively close), I'm beginning to think New York is at worst the 2nd-best team in the NFL -- perhaps even the best if Ben Roethlisberger shows rust upon his return to Pittsburgh's lineup. Here are our Simple Ratings through week 4 (adjusted for a home-field advantage of 2.5 points, and obviously excluding Pats-Fins):

Rank Team Games Rating Rank Team Games Rating
1 PIT 4 13.72 17 HTX 4 -0.13
2 NYJ 4 12.60 18 CHI 4 -0.65
3 RAV 4 10.64 19 MIN 3 -1.07
4 KAN 3 9.45 20 SEA 4 -1.13
5 SDG 4 7.29 21 WAS 4 -1.21
6 OTI 4 5.85 22 RAM 4 -1.50
7 GNB 4 5.27 23 TAM 3 -2.61
8 ATL 4 4.99 24 DET 4 -3.29
9 CLT 4 4.27 25 NOR 4 -4.02
10 NWE 3 3.44 26 NYG 4 -6.08
11 CLE 4 2.75 27 JAX 4 -7.57
12 CIN 4 2.51 28 SFO 4 -9.18
13 PHI 4 2.30 29 RAI 4 -10.09
14 MIA 3 1.58 30 BUF 4 -10.28
15 DEN 4 0.85 31 CAR 4 -12.80
16 DAL 3 0.50 32 CRD 4 -13.58

In a year where it's looking like parity rules, the Jets are one of only a handful of teams that have separated themselves from the pack at all.

But the main purpose of this post isn't so much a mea culpa about the Jets in general, but rather one about a specific New York player... Back in April, I scoffed at NY's acquisition of LaDainian Tomlinson, calling him (among other things) "toast" and "completely washed up". I cited the fact that when a running back over age 30 posts a sub-3.5 YPC average, it almost universally means he's finished as a productive NFL player; in fact, among the 11 backs who had worse age-29 + 30 YPC averages than LDT did in 2008-09, all but Bill Brown & Dorsey Levens were totally out of the league by age 32. Simply put, 31-year-old RBs who play as badly as Tomlinson did in 2009 don't tend to play pro football much longer, much less contribute high YPC averages again.

15 Comments | Posted in Rant, Running Backs, Simple Rating System, Statgeekery

Seattle Seahawks, superstars?

Posted by Chase Stuart on September 12, 2010

It turns out that Pete Carroll didn't have much of a problem playing against a team that also got to pay its players. The Seahawks scored the biggest upset and the biggest cover of the day, shocking the San Francisco, 31-6. The 49ers were favored to win by 3 points, giving Seattle a 28-point cover against the spread. There's usually one huge upset by an underdog each season opener: from 1983 to 2010, there have been 27 underdogs to cover by at least 20 points in their first game of the season:

3 Comments | Posted in Statgeekery

Best Single-Game, Super Bowl, & Single-Season Quarterback Performances – Adjusted for Opponent/Era

Posted by Neil Paine on September 10, 2010

As a follow-up to last week's post about the 100 Greatest Single-Game Quarterback Performances since the merger, today I'm going to re-post the list after adjusting every QB game for the strength of the opposing defense (as you can imagine, this changes the rankings quite a bit). Commenter/PFR contributor Scott Kacsmar had a great idea about adjusting for era and opponent in one step, so instead of translating from the per-game rates of the season in question to the 1993-2009 period average, I simply translated from the regular-season per-game rates allowed by the defense faced. In other words, if a 1975 defense happened to allow numbers that would be average in 1993-2009, I wouldn't translate the raw stats of the QBs that faced them at all, even though the general offensive environment of 1975 was far different from that of 1993-2009.

Anyway, after that change here are the best QB games since 1970, adjusted for opponent:

74 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, History, Quarterbacks, Statgeekery

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