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Archive for June, 2007

Toughest postseason slates

Posted by Doug on June 29, 2007

On Monday I posted the easiest and toughest schedules of all time according to the Simple Rating System. In the comments, some people asked which teams had the toughest postseason schedules. I'll answer that in this post.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's post about the strongest and weakest divisions sparked a little discussion about how to measure the strength of a group of teams. In that discussion, James G had this to say:

One thing could possibly make Brian happier is if division’s were rated by what the average (some record) team in the NFL’s record would have been in that division. I think you might find the toughest division for a 14-2 team isn’t necessarily the same as the toughest division for a 10-6 team.

He's right. Strength of schedule is relative. If you're a +10 team according to the SRS, you'd rather play two zeros than play a +10 and a -10. Well, if you want to maximize your expected wins, you'd rather. Conversely, a -10 team would rather play the +10 and the -10 than play two zeros.

So I've decided to rate the postseason slates on three different scales:

(1) what is the probability than a league average team would go undefeated against that group of teams?

(2) what is the probability that a typical playoff team (SRS = +6) would go undefeated against that group of teams?

(3) what is the probability that a legitimate candidate for best team in the league in a given year (SRS = +10) would go undefeated against that group of teams.

For example, look at the Patriots' 2006 postseason:

Game #1: at home against the Jets (+2.0)
An average team would have roughly a 55% chance of beating the Jets at home.
A typical playoff team would have roughly a 66% chance of beating the Jets at home.
A great team would have roughly a 73% chance of beating the Jets at home.

Game #2: on the road against the Chargers (+10.2)
An average team would have roughly a 24% chance of beating the Chargers in San Diego.
A typical playoff team would have roughly a 33% chance of beating the Chargers in San Diego.
A great team would have roughly a 41% chance of beating the Chargers in San Diego.

Game #3: on the road against the Colts (+5.9)
An average team would have roughly a 31% chance of beating the Colts in Indy.
A typical playoff team would have roughly a 42% chance of beating the Colts in Indy.
A great team would have roughly a 49% chance of beating the Colts in Indy.

Putting it altogether (and sweeping some rounding discrepancies under the rug), we might estimate that an average team, a typical playoff team, and a great team would have a 4.0%, 9.2%, and 14.8% chance, respectively, of winning all three of those games. In the table that follows, I will summarize that thusly:

nwe 2006   0.040  0.092  0.148   nyj  +2.0, *sdg +10.2, *ind  +5.9

The asterisks denote road games.

As it turns out, it matters very little which of those three numbers we use to sort the list. I chose the last one for no particular reason. Here is a list of all teams since 1970 that played exactly three postseason games, sorted from toughest slate of opponents to easiest.

NOTE: I'm lazy and a bad programmer, so the "visiting team" in the Super Bowl will have an asterisk that you'll have to mentally remove. In the calculations, however, the game was correctly treated as a neutral-site game.

Tm   Yr    AvTm   PlTm   GrTm      opp1        opp2        opp3
===================================================================
dal 1975   0.016  0.043  0.078  *min  +8.9, *ram  +9.1,  pit +14.2
min 1987   0.017  0.045  0.080  *nor  +9.8, *sfo +13.1, *was  +3.7
atl 1998   0.022  0.056  0.097   sfo +10.6, *min +14.9,  den  +8.9
ram 1989   0.022  0.057  0.099  *phi  +5.1, *nyg  +6.4, *sfo +10.7
hou 1979   0.023  0.058  0.099   den  +4.1, *sdg +11.8, *pit +11.9
min 1973   0.023  0.058  0.100   was  +7.4, *dal +12.8,  mia +13.2
hou 1978   0.024  0.062  0.106  *mia  +7.6, *nwe  +5.0, *pit  +8.2
phi 2001   0.027  0.066  0.111   tam  +4.0, *chi  +7.9, *stl +13.4
car 2005   0.027  0.069  0.116  *nyg  +7.5, *chi  +1.4, *sea  +9.1
gnb 1995   0.031  0.074  0.121   atl  +0.1, *sfo +11.8, *dal  +9.7
dal 1980   0.031  0.075  0.124   ram  +6.5, *atl  +7.8, *phi  +9.7
nyj 1982   0.030  0.075  0.126  *cin  +3.4, *rai  +5.1, *mia  +8.0
jax 1996   0.032  0.078  0.130  *buf  +2.9, *den  +7.6, *nwe  +5.1
ind 1995   0.035  0.084  0.139  *sdg  +1.5, *kan  +7.6, *pit  +4.6
dal 1992   0.037  0.087  0.141   phi  +8.9, *sfo +11.8, *buf  +4.3
nwe 2001   0.037  0.087  0.142   oak  +3.6, *pit  +7.4, *stl +13.4
ind 2003   0.037  0.087  0.142   den  +5.5, *kan  +8.3, *nwe  +6.9
nwe 2004   0.036  0.087  0.142   ind +11.4, *pit  +9.0, *phi  +5.6
was 1986   0.039  0.090  0.145   ram  +1.9, *chi  +7.6, *nyg  +9.0
nwe 2006   0.040  0.092  0.148   nyj  +2.0, *sdg +10.2, *ind  +5.9
mia 1971   0.038  0.091  0.149  *kan  +5.1,  bal +10.4,  dal  +9.9
oak 1976   0.039  0.093  0.151   nwe  +8.6,  pit +15.3, *min  +9.3
sfo 1988   0.042  0.098  0.158   min +10.9, *chi  +6.6, *cin  +6.1
tam 2002   0.046  0.103  0.163   sfo  +0.6, *phi  +8.3,  oak +10.6
dal 1970   0.046  0.105  0.167   det +14.0, *sfo  +6.5,  bal  +0.4
ram 1979   0.046  0.105  0.167  *dal  +3.3, *tam  -2.8,  pit +11.9
sdg 1994   0.046  0.106  0.168   mia  +4.2, *pit  +4.7, *sfo +11.6
buf 1991   0.050  0.110  0.171   kan  +6.4,  den  +3.4,  was +16.6
dal 1971   0.048  0.109  0.173  *min  +6.5,  sfo  +6.3, *mia  +7.7
sea 1983   0.051  0.112  0.175   den  -2.8, *mia  +7.7, *rai  +6.8
gnb 1997   0.051  0.114  0.178   tam  +2.7, *sfo  +5.1,  den +10.7
kan 1993   0.051  0.114  0.178   pit  +1.5, *hou  +7.2, *buf  +4.8
mia 1972   0.052  0.115  0.179   cle  +0.3, *pit +10.0, *was  +6.3
nyg 1990   0.053  0.119  0.185   chi  +3.4, *sfo  +5.8, *buf  +8.6
pit 1974   0.055  0.120  0.186   buf  +1.0, *oak  +9.0, *min  +6.1
den 1986   0.053  0.120  0.187   nwe  +5.7, *cle  +3.6, *nyg  +9.0
den 1998   0.054  0.120  0.187   mia  +5.9,  nyj +11.2, *atl +10.0
mia 1984   0.057  0.124  0.191   sea  +9.0,  pit  +3.3,  sfo +12.7
was 1972   0.061  0.133  0.203   gnb  +7.0,  dal  +6.1,  mia +11.0
den 1977   0.062  0.135  0.207   pit  +6.2,  oak +10.4,  dal  +7.8
nwe 1996   0.068  0.141  0.210   pit  +5.2,  jax  -1.5,  gnb +15.3
min 1976   0.068  0.144  0.218   was  +3.0,  ram +10.5,  oak  +8.5
dal 1982   0.074  0.154  0.228   tam  +1.0,  gnb  +6.1, *was  +7.4
rai 1983   0.081  0.162  0.237   pit  -0.1,  sea  +1.5, *was +13.9
gnb 1996   0.076  0.161  0.240   sfo  +8.0,  car  +7.1, *nwe  +5.1
dal 1978   0.081  0.164  0.241   atl  -4.6, *ram  +3.2,  pit  +8.2
mia 1973   0.079  0.164  0.243   cin  +3.1,  oak  +6.8, *min  +8.6
sfo 1989   0.080  0.165  0.244   min  +4.3,  ram  +4.6, *den  +9.3
buf 1990   0.079  0.164  0.244   mia  +4.7,  rai  +6.6,  nyg  +7.7
sea 2005   0.079  0.165  0.244   was  +6.0,  car  +5.1, *pit  +7.8
pit 1975   0.079  0.164  0.244   bal  +8.6,  oak  +6.8, *dal  +4.1
was 1983   0.081  0.167  0.247   ram  +2.9,  sfo  +8.7,  rai  +6.8
pit 1978   0.085  0.171  0.250   den  +5.0,  hou  -0.4, *dal +11.0
sfo 1984   0.084  0.171  0.250   nyg  +0.8,  chi  +4.7, *mia +10.6
stl 2001   0.082  0.169  0.250   gnb  +6.6,  phi  +7.7,  nwe  +4.3
dal 1993   0.084  0.172  0.254   gnb  +3.2,  sfo  +9.7, *buf  +4.8
nyg 1986   0.085  0.174  0.256   sfo  +7.0,  was  +5.5,  den  +5.2
was 1987   0.089  0.178  0.258  *chi  +4.0,  min  -2.5, *den  +4.4
min 1974   0.088  0.179  0.262   stl  +5.8,  ram  +3.9,  pit  +6.8
den 1987   0.089  0.180  0.263   hou  +1.7,  cle +10.6,  was  +3.7
den 1989   0.098  0.190  0.272   pit  -3.7,  cle  +4.4,  sfo +10.7
oak 2002   0.096  0.189  0.273   nyj  +3.2,  ten  +1.8, *tam  +8.8
phi 2004   0.103  0.194  0.274   min  -1.7,  atl  -2.2,  nwe +12.8
sfo 1981   0.095  0.190  0.275   nyg  +3.4,  dal  +6.1, *cin  +5.5
buf 1993   0.101  0.195  0.279   rai  -0.7,  kan  +2.9,  dal  +9.6
nyg 2000   0.100  0.196  0.281   phi  +3.1,  min  +1.9,  bal  +8.0
sfo 1994   0.104  0.202  0.288   chi  -1.9,  dal +10.1,  sdg  +3.6
chi 1985   0.105  0.205  0.293   nyg  +3.9,  ram  +2.6, *nwe  +5.8
cin 1981   0.106  0.206  0.293   buf  +1.3,  sdg  +4.4,  sfo  +6.2
phi 1980   0.106  0.206  0.293   min  -0.3,  dal  +8.0,  oak  +4.2
nwe 2003   0.107  0.208  0.297   ten  +6.5,  ind  +7.0,  car  -0.9
dal 1977   0.116  0.215  0.299   chi  -3.6,  min  -1.6, *den +11.3
cin 1988   0.112  0.215  0.304   sea  -0.7,  buf  +6.4,  sfo  +4.8
pit 1995   0.117  0.218  0.305   buf  -0.9,  ind  -1.3,  dal  +9.7
bal 1970   0.119  0.224  0.313   cin  +0.5,  oak  +1.0, *dal  +7.0
dal 1995   0.118  0.224  0.314   phi  -1.7,  gnb  +6.0, *pit  +4.6
chi 2006   0.127  0.236  0.327   sea  -3.6,  nor  +4.0,  ind  +5.9
was 1991   0.126  0.237  0.329   atl  +3.4,  det  +1.0, *buf  +3.6
stl 1999   0.128  0.240  0.334   min  +4.4,  tam  +2.6, *ten  +1.0
pit 1979   0.128  0.241  0.334   mia  +4.3,  hou  +4.4, *ram  -0.6

I should point out that the ratings shown (and used in the calculations) are regular season ratings. The 1999 Tennessee Titans were a +1.0 in the regular season, but by the time they played the Rams in the Super Bowl they had beaten three more good teams, so the +1.0 probably does shortchange them to some extent.

I'll close with the four-game teams.

Tm   Yr    AvTm   PlTm   GrTm      opp1        opp2        opp3        opp4
===============================================================================
nwe 1985   0.005  0.020  0.041  *nyj  +9.0, *rai  +4.3, *mia  +7.0,  chi +15.9
pit 2005   0.006  0.021  0.044  *cin  +3.8, *ind +10.8, *den +10.8,  sea  +9.1
ten 1999   0.011  0.036  0.071   buf  +7.1, *ind  +6.1, *jax  +6.4,  stl +11.9
bal 2000   0.014  0.044  0.082   den  +5.0, *ten  +8.3, *oak  +9.7, *nyg  +2.4
den 1997   0.014  0.044  0.083   jax  +5.5, *kan  +8.4, *pit  +5.3, *gnb  +7.7
ind 2006   0.019  0.055  0.100   kan  +1.0, *bal  +9.3,  nwe +10.2, *chi  +7.9
oak 1980   0.020  0.058  0.105   hou  +1.6, *cle  +1.8, *sdg  +6.0, *phi  +9.7
buf 1992   0.020  0.058  0.106   hou  +5.5, *pit  +3.6, *mia  +1.5,  dal  +9.9
car 2003   0.022  0.063  0.112   dal  -0.5, *stl  +5.9, *phi  +4.4, *nwe  +6.9
mia 1982   0.042  0.106  0.173   nwe  -2.7,  sdg  +5.1,  nyj +10.3,  was  +7.4
was 1982   0.046  0.112  0.182   det  +1.5,  min  +1.2,  dal  +8.4, *mia  +8.0

8 Comments | Posted in General, History

Best and worst divisions

Posted by Doug on June 27, 2007

Here is a list of every division since 1970, sorted by the average of their teams' ratings according to the simple rating system. The Record column shows the division's combined record in interdivisional games.

 Yr   Division   Record  avRating      Teams (with NFL rank)
======================================================================
1970 NFC Central 22-10-0   +7.4   min 1, det 2, chi 8, gnb 17
2004 AFC East    25-15-0   +6.3   nwe 1, buf 5, nyj 6, mia 18  
2005 AFC West    24-16-0   +6.2   den 2, sdg 3, kan 7, oak 20
1976 AFC Central 22-10-0   +5.5   pit 1, cin 3, cle 17, hou 18 
2002 AFC West    24-16-0   +5.2   oak 1, kan 4, den 7, sdg 20
1975 AFC Central 24- 8-0   +5.2   pit 1, cin 7, hou 9, cle 22  
1984 AFC West    31- 9-0   +5.0   sea 3, den 4, rai 5, kan 14, sdg 15
1979 AFC West    27-13-0   +4.7   sdg 2, den 6, oak 7, sea 11, kan 13  
1979 AFC Central 24-16-0   +4.5   pit 1, hou 4, cle 9, cin 18
1977 AFC Central 19-13-0   +4.4   hou 6, pit 7, cle 11, cin 12
1991 NFC West    22-18-0   +4.3   sfo 2, nor 3, atl 9, ram 24 
1991 NFC East    27-13-0   +4.3   was 1, phi 6, dal 7, nyg 13, pho 23
1998 AFC East    24-16-0   +4.2   nyj 2, mia 6, buf 7, nwe 9, ind 23   
1999 AFC West    20-20-0   +4.1   kan 3, oak 4, sea 7, den 9, sdg 20
1999 AFC East    29-11-0   +4.1   buf 2, ind 6, nyj 11, nwe 14, mia 16 
1972 NFC Central 17-13-2   +4.0   gnb 4, min 8, det 10, chi 16
2004 AFC West    22-18-0   +4.0   sdg 3, den 8, kan 10, oak 24
1974 NFC East    17-13-0   +3.9   was 1, dal 6, stl 7, phi 10, nyg 22 
2006 AFC East    23-17-0   +3.8   nwe 1, buf 12, nyj 13, mia 16
1992 NFC East    23-17-0   +3.7   dal 2, phi 3, was 7, nyg 16, pho 19  
2004 AFC North   24-16-0   +3.6   pit 4, bal 7, cin 11, cle 22
2005 NFC East    24-16-0   +3.6   nyg 6, was 8, dal 12, phi 19
1990 AFC West    23-17-0   +3.5   kan 3, rai 4, sea 11, sdg 13, den 15
1998 NFC West    20-20-0   +3.4   sfo 3, atl 4, nor 14, car 16, stl 17
2002 NFC South   25-14-1   +3.3   tam 2, atl 6, nor 12, car 24 
2002 AFC East    23-17-0   +3.2   mia 5, nwe 8, nyj 10, buf 19 
1977 AFC West    21-17-0   +3.2   den 1, oak 2, sdg 10, sea 20, kan 21
1983 NFC East    23-17-0   +3.2   was 1, dal 3, stl 16, nyg 19, phi 23
2000 AFC East    23-17-0   +3.2   ind 4, mia 6, nyj 9, buf 20, nwe 22
1992 NFC West    26-14-0   +3.2   sfo 1, nor 4, ram 18, atl 22
1983 NFC West    22-18-0   +3.1   sfo 2, ram 6, atl 10, nor 12
1976 NFC Central 17-14-1   +3.0   min 5, chi 9, det 13, gnb 20
1982 NFC East    13- 6-0   +3.0   dal 2, was 4, nyg 13, phi 15, stl 19
1970 NFC East    16-12-2   +3.0   stl 4, dal 5, was 7, nyg 9, phi 20
1981 NFC East    26-14-0   +2.9   phi 1, dal 3, nyg 8, was 16, stl 24   
1971 NFC West    17-13-2   +2.8   ram 4, sfo 6, atl 11, nor 15
1998 NFC Central 23-17-0   +2.8   min 1, gnb 8, tam 13, det 20, chi 21
1995 NFC Central 25-15-0   +2.8   det 4, gnb 5, min 7, chi 10, tam 25
1995 AFC West    26-14-0   +2.8   kan 3, den 8, oak 11, sdg 12, sea 15 
2006 AFC North   21-19-0   +2.8   bal 3, cin 7, pit 10, cle 27
1989 NFC West    25-15-0   +2.7   sfo 1, ram 6, nor 7, atl 26
1973 NFC West    19-13-0   +2.6   ram 1, atl 8, sfo 14, nor 23
1975 AFC East    14-16-0   +2.5   mia 2, bal 5, buf 6, nwe 18, nyj 23
1993 NFC East    22-18-0   +2.4   dal 2, nyg 6, pho 7, phi 13, was 24 
1985 AFC West    25-15-0   +2.4   rai 6, sea 7, den 9, sdg 11, kan 18
1987 AFC Central 19-17-0   +2.3   cle 2, hou 11, pit 12, cin 23
1984 NFC East    24-15-1   +2.2   was 6, stl 7, dal 12, nyg 13, phi 18
2003 AFC East    24-16-0   +2.2   nwe 4, mia 11, nyj 17, buf 19
1986 AFC West    23-17-0   +2.2   sea 5, den 8, kan 13, rai 15, sdg 21
1986 NFC West    23-17-0   +2.1   sfo 3, ram 11, nor 16, atl 17
1988 NFC West    23-17-0   +2.1   ram 3, sfo 6, nor 11, atl 24
1991 AFC West    22-18-0   +2.0   kan 5, den 10, rai 11, sea 12, sdg 18
1997 AFC Central 23-16-1   +1.9   jax 4, pit 6, ten 11, bal 17, cin 19
1989 AFC West    20-19-1   +1.9   den 2, kan 12, rai 13, sdg 16, sea 19
2006 AFC South   22-18-0   +1.9   jax 5, ind 6, ten 18, hou 26
1985 AFC East    21-19-0   +1.9   nyj 2, mia 4, nwe 5, ind 21, buf 27
1996 NFC Central 20-20-0   +1.8   gnb 1, min 16, chi 17, det 22, tam 24
2004 AFC South   21-19-0   +1.8   ind 2, jax 12, hou 14, ten 25
1987 AFC East    18-17-0   +1.7   ind 4, nwe 8, mia 10, buf 14, nyj 17 
1987 NFC West    23-15-0   +1.7   sfo 1, nor 3, ram 19, atl 28
1999 NFC Central 23-17-0   +1.7   min 8, tam 13, det 15, gnb 17, chi 22
1996 AFC West    24-16-0   +1.7   den 3, oak 8, kan 10, sea 20, sdg 21
1990 NFC East    25-15-0   +1.7   nyg 2, phi 6, was 7, dal 20, pho 25
1993 AFC West    24-16-0   +1.7   den 4, kan 9, sdg 10, rai 18, sea 20 
1982 AFC East    10-10-1   +1.6   nyj 1, mia 3, buf 11, nwe 18, bal 26
1988 AFC East    24-15-1   +1.6   buf 4, ind 8, nyj 12, nwe 14, mia 17
1978 NFC East    21-19-0   +1.6   dal 1, phi 9, was 14, nyg 21, stl 22
1971 NFC Central 17-14-1   +1.6   min 5, det 9, gnb 14, chi 16
1970 NFC West    15-16-1   +1.5   ram 3, sfo 6, atl 18, nor 23 
1972 AFC West    16-16-0   +1.5   oak 3, kan 12, den 17, sdg 20
1986 NFC East    23-17-0   +1.4   nyg 1, was 7, dal 10, phi 20, stl 25
2005 AFC North   22-18-0   +1.4   pit 5, cin 11, bal 18, cle 23
1984 NFC West    24-16-0   +1.4   sfo 1, ram 11, nor 19, atl 24
2000 NFC Central 24-16-0   +1.4   tam 5, gnb 12, min 14, det 15, chi 26
2001 NFC Central 21-19-0   +1.3   chi 2, gnb 6, tam 8, min 26, det 29
1978 AFC West    21-19-0   +1.3   den 4, sdg 6, oak 8, sea 12, kan 25
1989 AFC Central 23-16-1   +1.3   cin 3, cle 8, hou 18, pit 21
2003 AFC South   22-18-0   +1.3   ind 3, ten 5, jax 22, hou 28
1988 NFC Central 16-24-0   +1.2   min 1, chi 2, gnb 19, det 22, tam 23  
1985 NFC Central 19-21-0   +1.2   chi 1, gnb 13, min 16, det 19, tam 24
1997 NFC Central 25-15-0   +1.2   gnb 3, det 8, tam 10, min 16, chi 29
1978 AFC Central 24-16-0   +1.1   pit 2, hou 13, cin 16, cle 19
1988 AFC Central 25-15-0   +1.1   cin 5, hou 9, cle 13, pit 25
1997 AFC West    21-19-0   +1.0   den 1, kan 2, sea 15, oak 26, sdg 30
1973 NFC East    12-17-1   +1.0   dal 3, was 6, stl 16, phi 18, nyg 21
1980 AFC West    22-18-0   +1.0   sdg 6, oak 7, den 14, kan 16, sea 24
1980 NFC East    19-21-0   +0.9   phi 1, dal 2, was 17, stl 20, nyg 27
1982 NFC Central 12-12-1   +0.9   gnb 5, det 10, min 12, tam 14, chi 24 
2001 AFC Central 19-17-0   +0.8   pit 4, bal 10, jax 12, cle 16, ten 20, cin 21
2006 NFC East    20-20-0   +0.8   dal 9, phi 11, nyg 17, was 23
2006 AFC West    22-18-0   +0.7   sdg 2, den 14, kan 15, oak 32
2000 AFC West    17-23-0   +0.7   oak 1, den 7, kan 19, sea 23, sdg 27
1974 AFC Central 16-15-1   +0.7   pit 3, cin 11, hou 16, cle 20
1994 AFC East    21-19-0   +0.7   mia 6, nwe 8, buf 13, ind 14, nyj 18
1994 NFC Central 23-17-0   +0.7   gnb 4, min 9, det 10, chi 17, tam 26
1977 AFC East    15-15-0   +0.6   mia 5, bal 8, nwe 9, nyj 22, buf 25  
1974 AFC West    17-14-1   +0.6   oak 2, den 13, kan 17, sdg 21
1983 AFC West    22-18-0   +0.6   rai 5, kan 8, sea 9, den 21, sdg 25  
1979 AFC East    19-21-0   +0.6   nwe 3, mia 5, buf 15, nyj 21, bal 22
1980 AFC Central 25-15-0   +0.5   pit 9, cle 10, hou 12, cin 21
1980 AFC East    20-20-0   +0.4   nwe 5, buf 8, bal 18, mia 19, nyj 23 
2003 NFC North   19-21-0   +0.4   gnb 2, min 13, chi 24, det 27
1981 AFC West    22-18-0   +0.4   sdg 6, kan 9, den 14, sea 21, oak 22 
1992 AFC Central 21-19-0   +0.4   hou 6, pit 9, cle 13, cin 24
2003 AFC West    19-21-0   +0.4   kan 1, den 8, oak 25, sdg 29
1972 AFC Central 18-14-0   +0.4   pit 2, cin 11, cle 14, hou 24
2001 NFC West    21-19-0   +0.3   stl 1, sfo 5, atl 25, nor 27, car 30
1981 NFC Central 18-22-0   +0.3   det 5, tam 10, gnb 17, min 18, chi 20 
1978 AFC East    20-20-0   +0.3   mia 3, nwe 5, nyj 10, buf 23, bal 27
1996 AFC Central 19-21-0   +0.3   pit 5, hou 12, cin 15, jax 18, bal 23
1974 AFC East    16-14-0   +0.2   mia 4, nwe 8, buf 12, nyj 18, bal 24
1997 AFC East    17-23-0   +0.1   nwe 5, nyj 9, mia 13, ind 24, buf 25
2003 NFC West    21-19-0   +0.1   stl 7, sea 10, sfo 12, ari 32
1994 NFC East    19-21-0   +0.1   dal 2, phi 12, nyg 16, ari 19, was 25
1986 AFC Central 21-19-0   +0.1   cle 9, cin 12, pit 18, hou 22
1971 AFC West    17-13-2   +0.0   kan 8, oak 10, sdg 18, den 21
2001 AFC West    18-22-0   -0.0   oak 9, sdg 14, den 15, kan 17, sea 19
2003 AFC North   17-23-0   -0.0   bal 6, pit 20, cin 21, cle 23
1979 NFC East    23-17-0   -0.1   dal 8, phi 10, was 12, stl 19, nyg 23
1995 NFC West    21-19-0   -0.1   sfo 1, atl 14, nor 22, car 23, stl 27
1977 NFC East    18-12-0   -0.2   dal 4, was 14, phi 15, stl 16, nyg 23
1970 AFC West    16-14-2   -0.2   kan 10, oak 11, sdg 15, den 19
1975 NFC East    18-12-0   -0.2   dal 10, stl 11, was 12, phi 19, nyg 21
1993 AFC Central 19-21-0   -0.2   hou 3, pit 11, cle 19, cin 27
1971 NFC East    15-14-1   -0.3   dal 2, was 7, stl 19, phi 20, nyg 25
1973 AFC West    14-14-4   -0.3   oak 7, den 10, kan 12, sdg 25
1994 NFC West    19-21-0   -0.4   sfo 1, nor 22, atl 23, ram 24
1972 NFC East    16-14-0   -0.4   was 6, dal 7, nyg 9, stl 21, phi 25 
1989 NFC East    19-21-0   -0.4   nyg 4, phi 5, was 11, pho 25, dal 28
1987 NFC East    18-17-0   -0.4   was 7, nyg 15, stl 16, phi 18, dal 20
1976 NFC East    18-12-0   -0.4   dal 10, was 12, stl 14, nyg 19, phi 23
1981 NFC West    18-22-0   -0.4   sfo 2, atl 7, ram 19, nor 27
1990 NFC West    20-20-0   -0.5   sfo 5, nor 17, atl 19, ram 23
2005 AFC South   20-20-0   -0.5   ind 1, jax 10, ten 29, hou 30
1994 AFC Central 16-24-0   -0.5   cle 3, pit 5, cin 27, hou 28 
1980 NFC West    18-22-0   -0.6   atl 3, ram 4, sfo 25, nor 28
1995 NFC East    17-23-0   -0.6   dal 2, nyg 18, phi 19, was 21, ari 28
2000 AFC Central 18-18-0   -0.6   ten 2, bal 3, pit 8, jax 16, cin 29, cle 30
1996 AFC East    19-21-0   -0.7   nwe 6, buf 7, mia 14, ind 19, nyj 30
1981 AFC Central 20-20-0   -0.7   cin 4, pit 12, hou 25, cle 26
1973 NFC Central 15-16-1   -0.8   min 5, det 11, gnb 19, chi 24
1994 AFC West    22-18-0   -0.8   sdg 7, kan 11, rai 15, den 20, sea 21
1991 AFC Central 15-25-0   -0.9   hou 4, cle 16, pit 20, cin 25
1976 AFC East    13-17-0   -0.9   bal 4, nwe 6, mia 15, buf 24, nyj 26
2002 NFC East    22-18-0   -1.0   phi 3, nyg 16, was 26, dal 28
1977 NFC West    13-19-0   -1.0   ram 3, atl 13, sfo 19, nor 27
1993 NFC Central 20-20-0   -1.0   gnb 8, min 14, chi 15, det 16, tam 25
1992 NFC Central 15-25-0   -1.0   min 5, gnb 14, det 17, chi 21, tam 23
1983 AFC East    22-18-0   -1.0   mia 4, nwe 14, nyj 17, buf 24, bal 26
1982 AFC West    12-11-0   -1.0   sdg 6, rai 7, kan 16, sea 23, den 27
1987 AFC West    17-19-1   -1.0   den 5, sea 9, rai 13, sdg 24, kan 26
1973 AFC East    14-16-0   -1.0   mia 2, buf 13, nyj 17, nwe 20, bal 22 
1989 NFC Central 18-22-0   -1.1   min 10, chi 14, gnb 17, det 20, tam 23
2001 AFC East    21-19-0   -1.1   nwe 7, mia 11, nyj 13, ind 23, buf 31
1985 NFC West    18-22-0   -1.1   sfo 3, ram 10, nor 23, atl 25
1993 NFC West    17-23-0   -1.1   sfo 1, nor 21, atl 23, ram 26
1971 AFC East    13-16-1   -1.2   bal 1, mia 3, nwe 22, nyj 23, buf 26
1988 NFC East    17-23-0   -1.2   phi 7, nyg 10, was 16, pho 18, dal 27
1998 AFC West    22-18-0   -1.4   den 5, sea 12, kan 18, oak 25, sdg 28
1996 NFC East    22-18-0   -1.4   dal 9, was 11, phi 13, nyg 25, ari 27
1990 NFC Central 15-25-0   -1.4   chi 10, min 12, det 18, gnb 22, tam 26
1973 AFC Central 16-14-2   -1.4   pit 4, cin 9, cle 15, hou 26 
1997 NFC East    15-24-1   -1.5   nyg 12, was 14, dal 18, phi 20, ari 27
1982 AFC Central 10-10-0   -1.6   pit 8, cin 9, cle 22, hou 28
1972 NFC West    12-19-1   -1.6   sfo 5, ram 15, atl 18, nor 23
2001 NFC East    18-22-0   -1.6   phi 3, nyg 18, was 22, ari 24, dal 28
1995 AFC Central 14-26-0   -1.6   pit 6, hou 13, cin 20, cle 24, jax 29 
1978 NFC Central 16-24-0   -1.6   min 11, gnb 15, det 18, chi 20, tam 24
2002 AFC South   19-21-0   -1.7   ten 13, ind 15, jax 18, hou 30
1992 AFC West    18-22-0   -1.7   kan 10, sdg 11, rai 15, den 20, sea 27
1996 NFC West    16-24-0   -1.7   sfo 2, car 4, stl 26, nor 28, atl 29
2006 NFC North   18-22-0   -1.7   chi 4, min 24, gnb 25, det 28
2003 NFC South   19-21-0   -1.8   tam 14, nor 15, car 18, atl 30
1974 NFC Central 15-17-0   -1.8   min 5, gnb 14, det 15, chi 25
1990 AFC Central 18-22-0   -1.8   hou 8, pit 14, cin 16, cle 27
2000 NFC West    17-23-0   -1.9   stl 10, nor 18, car 21, sfo 24, atl 28
1990 AFC East    19-21-0   -1.9   buf 1, mia 9, ind 21, nyj 24, nwe 28
1993 AFC East    18-22-0   -2.0   buf 5, nyj 12, mia 17, nwe 22, ind 28
1999 NFC East    16-24-0   -2.0   dal 10, was 12, nyg 24, phi 25, ari 27
1976 AFC West    17-21-0   -2.0   oak 7, den 8, sdg 16, kan 21, tam 28
2005 NFC South   21-19-0   -2.1   car 9, tam 16, atl 17, nor 31
2002 AFC North   16-23-1   -2.2   pit 11, cle 14, bal 22, cin 32
1975 NFC Central 15-17-0   -2.2   min 4, det 13, gnb 16, chi 25
1984 NFC Central 11-28-1   -2.2   gnb 8, chi 9, tam 20, det 23, min 25
1985 NFC East    22-18-0   -2.3   nyg 8, dal 12, was 20, phi 22, stl 28
1980 NFC Central 16-24-0   -2.3   det 11, chi 13, min 15, tam 22, gnb 26
1986 AFC East    16-24-0   -2.3   nwe 6, mia 14, nyj 19, buf 24, ind 27
2004 NFC East    19-21-0   -2.4   phi 9, was 21, nyg 23, dal 30
2006 NFC South   17-23-0   -2.4   nor 8, car 19, atl 20, tam 30
2005 AFC East    16-24-0   -2.5   nwe 13, mia 15, buf 26, nyj 27
1975 AFC West    12-20-0   -2.6   oak 8, den 14, kan 17, sdg 24
1983 NFC Central 15-25-0   -2.6   det 7, chi 15, gnb 18, min 22, tam 27
2003 NFC East    19-21-0   -2.6   phi 9, dal 16, was 26, nyg 31
1971 AFC Central 11-20-1   -2.6   cle 12, cin 13, pit 17, hou 24
2000 NFC East    19-21-0   -2.7   phi 11, nyg 13, was 17, dal 25, ari 31
1981 AFC East    16-24-0   -2.7   mia 11, nyj 13, buf 15, nwe 23, bal 28
2004 NFC South   19-21-0   -2.8   car 15, atl 17, tam 19, nor 28
1997 NFC West    18-22-0   -2.8   sfo 7, car 21, stl 22, atl 23, nor 28
1985 AFC Central 15-25-0   -2.8   pit 14, cin 15, cle 17, hou 26
1986 NFC Central 14-26-0   -3.0   chi 2, min 4, det 23, gnb 26, tam 28
2005 NFC West    16-24-0   -3.0   sea 4, ari 24, stl 25, sfo 32
1978 NFC West    18-22-0   -3.0   ram 7, nor 17, atl 26, sfo 28
1972 AFC East    13-16-1   -3.1   mia 1, nyj 13, bal 19, buf 22, nwe 26
2005 NFC North   17-23-0   -3.1   chi 14, min 21, gnb 22, det 28
1991 NFC Central 18-22-0   -3.2   det 14, chi 15, min 17, gnb 22, tam 27
1995 AFC East    17-23-0   -3.2   mia 9, buf 16, ind 17, nwe 26, nyj 30
1999 AFC Central 17-19-0   -3.3   jax 5, ten 18, bal 19, pit 23, cin 29, cle 31
1975 NFC West    11-21-0   -3.3   ram 3, atl 15, sfo 20, nor 26
1983 AFC Central 16-24-0   -3.3   cin 11, pit 13, cle 20, hou 28
1984 AFC Central 13-27-0   -3.4   pit 10, cin 17, cle 21, hou 27
1984 AFC East    16-24-0   -3.4   mia 2, nwe 16, nyj 22, ind 26, buf 28 
1976 NFC West    12-25-1   -3.5   ram 2, sfo 11, nor 22, atl 25, sea 27 
2002 NFC West    17-23-0   -3.5   sfo 17, sea 21, stl 25, ari 31
2002 NFC North   13-27-0   -3.5   gnb 9, min 23, chi 27, det 29
1987 NFC Central 14-24-1   -3.5   chi 6, min 21, gnb 22, tam 25, det 27
1998 AFC Central 15-25-0   -3.5   jax 11, ten 15, pit 22, bal 24, cin 29
1989 AFC East    14-26-0   -3.6   buf 9, ind 15, mia 22, nwe 24, nyj 27
2004 NFC North   17-23-0   -3.7   gnb 13, min 16, det 27, chi 31
1992 AFC East    17-23-0   -3.8   buf 8, mia 12, nyj 25, ind 26, nwe 28
1970 AFC Central 11-20-1   -3.9   cle 12, cin 13, pit 22, hou 24
1999 NFC West    13-27-0   -3.9   stl 1, car 21, atl 26, sfo 28, nor 30
1979 NFC West    13-27-0   -4.0   ram 16, nor 17, atl 24, sfo 26
1982 NFC West     7-15-0   -4.0   sfo 17, nor 20, atl 21, ram 25
1988 AFC West    14-25-1   -4.1   sea 15, den 20, rai 21, kan 26, sdg 28
1974 NFC West    12-20-0   -4.6   ram 9, sfo 19, nor 23, atl 26
1998 NFC East    16-24-0   -5.5   dal 10, nyg 19, ari 26, was 27, phi 30
1979 NFC Central 14-26-0   -5.7   chi 14, tam 20, gnb 25, min 27, det 28
1991 AFC East    16-24-0   -5.8   buf 8, nyj 19, mia 21, nwe 26, ind 28
2006 NFC West    17-23-0   -5.8   sea 21, stl 22, ari 29, sfo 31
1977 NFC Central 14-24-0   -6.4   min 17, chi 18, det 24, gnb 26, tam 28
1970 AFC East    11-19-0   -6.8   bal 14, mia 16, nyj 21, buf 25, bos 26
2004 NFC West    13-27-0   -6.8   sea 20, ari 26, stl 29, sfo 32

13 Comments | Posted in General, History

More SRS trivia: toughest and easiest schedules

Posted by Doug on June 25, 2007

More observations from the simple rating system: the easiest and hardest schedules since the merger.

But before I do that, I need to clarify one thing about the simple rating system: it's not my system. I didn't invent it. In fact, it's one of those systems that has been around for so long that no one in particular is credited with having developed it (as far as I know anyway). People were almost certainly using it before I was born. I like the system and use it a lot because it's fairly easy to interpret and understand, and because the math behind it is nifty. But I just realized that I had never been clear enough about the fact that it's not my system. I just use it.

With that out of the way, here is a look at the easiest and the hardest schedules since 1970 according to the SRS. As you'll see from the list, it's pretty clear that a good way to have an easy schedule is to be a good team in an otherwise poor division/conference. Conversely, the hardest schedules are generally faced by bad teams in otherwise very strong divisions/conferences. Next time I'll take a look at the toughest and easiest divisions since the merger.

The units for the numbers in the avSOS column are points. E.g. an avSOS of -6.3 for the 1970 Dolphins means that the average team on Miami's schedule that year was 6.3 points worse than a league average team. The string of numbers after avSOS indicates (among other things) that the best team the Dolphins played was the 11th best team in the league and that they played six games against the four worst teams in the league.

Tm   Yr   avSOS       SRS ranks of teams beaten / lost to / tied
======================================================================
mia 1970   -6.3  11 14 18 21 21 23 24 25 25 26 / 12 14 20 26 /
stl 1999   -5.9  19 21 21 22 24 26 26 28 28 29 30 30 31 / 15 18 25 /
bal 1970   -5.8  8 15 16 17 20 21 21 24 25 26 26 / 10 16 / 25
buf 1991   -5.2  11 15 19 19 20 21 21 22 25 26 27 28 28 / 5 14 26 / 
min 1975   -5.2  6 13 15 16 16 20 22 23 24 25 25 26 / 12 13 /
tam 1979   -5.1  13 14 16 22 23 25 25 27 28 28 / 14 17 23 24 26 27 /
jax 1999   -4.8  9 11 19 19 21 23 23 26 28 29 29 30 31 31 / 18 18 /
mia 1972   -4.3  8 9 12 13 13 19 19 20 21 22 22 24 26 26 /  /
ari 1998   -4.1  14 17 20 21 27 27 28 30 30 / 10 10 12 18 19 19 25 /
nyj 1991   -3.8  16 18 21 21 22 26 27 28 / 4 8 8 12 14 15 26 28 / 
mia 1991   -3.7  15 22 25 26 26 27 28 28 / 4 5 8 8 14 18 19 19 /
chi 1977   -3.7  3 17 21 23 24 24 26 26 28 / 6 13 16 17 27 /
chi 1979   -3.6  15 16 19 20 21 25 25 26 27 28 / 3 5 8 20 27 28 /
phi 2000   -3.6  8 17 18 25 25 26 28 29 30 31 31 / 2 12 13 13 17 /
car 1999   -3.6  17 25 26 28 28 29 30 31 / 1 1 5 12 15 23 26 30 /
cin 1970   -3.5  11 12 15 22 23 24 25 26 / 2 7 10 12 22 24 /
ram 1975   -3.5  1 5 13 15 15 16 19 20 24 25 26 26 / 10 20 /
pit 1983   -3.3  9 11 17 18 20 25 26 27 28 28 / 7 11 14 20 21 22 /
nyg 1985   -3.3  10 14 20 22 22 23 24 26 28 28 / 12 12 13 15 17 20 /
dal 1971   -3.3  4 7 19 19 20 20 22 23 25 25 26 / 7 15 16 /
ten 1999   -3.2  1 4 5 5 19 23 23 26 29 29 30 31 31 / 16 19 28 /
sea 2006   -3.2  14 17 22 22 25 28 29 30 32 / 2 4 15 24 29 31 31 /
car 2005   -3.2  13 16 17 17 21 22 24 26 27 28 31 / 12 14 15 16 31 /
sea 1982   -3.2  8 24 27 27 / 7 9 18 22 28 /
dal 1998   -3.1  12 16 19 19 26 26 27 27 30 30 / 1 5 14 18 21 25 /
den 1998   -3.1  9 10 11 12 12 18 18 25 25 27 28 28 29 30 / 6 19 /
nwe 1973   -3.1  19 22 24 25 26 / 2 2 12 13 13 17 17 18 22 /
stl 2006   -3.1  14 23 24 25 28 29 31 32 / 2 4 15 19 21 21 29 31 /
cle 1983   -3.1  7 11 13 14 17 25 26 27 28 / 9 11 13 18 21 22 28 /
atl 1977   -3.1  3 18 19 23 24 27 28 / 3 9 14 17 19 25 27 /
pit 1970   -3.0  12 13 21 24 25 / 10 11 12 13 17 18 19 20 24 /
mia 1984   -2.9  6 7 10 12 16 16 18 22 22 26 26 27 28 28 / 5 15 /
chi 2006   -2.9  12 13 17 21 22 24 24 25 28 28 29 30 31 / 1 16 25 /    
dal 1976   -2.8  4 9 12 14 19 19 22 23 23 24 27 / 12 14 25 /
nwe 1991   -2.8  4 8 17 19 28 28 / 8 10 10 16 19 20 21 21 23 25 /
buf 1970   -2.8  21 21 26 / 3 8 9 13 14 16 16 19 22 26 / 14
sdg 1992   -2.8  13 15 15 19 20 23 24 26 26 27 27 / 6 9 10 10 20 /
sea 2004   -2.8  15 16 17 18 19 26 28 32 32 / 1 5 6 26 29 29 30 /
sfo 1984   -2.8  6 11 11 13 17 18 19 19 20 21 23 24 24 25 27 / 10 /
chi 1986   -2.7  4 9 10 12 17 18 20 22 23 23 26 26 28 28 / 4 11 /
ram 1977   -2.7  2 11 13 15 17 19 19 26 27 28 / 13 14 18 27 /
nyg 2000   -2.7  8 11 11 16 17 25 25 26 28 30 31 31 / 2 10 15 17 /
cin 1982   -2.7  7 15 22 23 26 28 28 / 6 8 /

...

cin 2004   +2.5  7 8 9 18 21 22 23 30 / 1 4 4 5 6 7 22 25 /
min 1972   +2.6  4 10 10 15 16 17 23 / 1 2 4 5 6 16 21 /
chi 1970   +2.6  9 17 18 20 23 25 / 1 1 2 2 6 14 15 17 /
kan 1999   +2.6  4 8 9 9 14 15 19 20 23 / 4 6 7 7 13 20 22 /
phi 2005   +2.6  3 7 20 22 25 32 / 2 4 6 6 8 8 12 12 17 24 /
cle 1979   +2.6  4 5 8 10 13 18 19 21 22 / 1 1 4 7 11 12 18 /
sdg 2000   +2.6  19 / 1 1 3 6 7 7 8 10 18 19 20 21 23 23 24 /
sea 1989   +2.6  3 9 13 13 16 16 24 / 2 2 4 5 8 11 12 12 25 /
bal 1978   +2.6  4 5 12 14 22 / 1 2 3 3 5 9 10 10 19 23 23 /
mia 2004   +2.7  1 22 29 32 / 1 4 5 5 6 6 7 8 11 20 25 26 /
ram 1971   +2.8  6 6 9 11 14 15 16 17 / 1 2 3 7 15 / 11
nwe 1975   +2.9  5 20 24 / 2 2 5 6 6 7 9 10 11 23 23 /
buf 2006   +2.9  5 13 16 16 24 25 26 / 1 1 2 3 4 6 13 18 28 /
nyg 1983   +2.9  10 18 23 / 1 1 3 3 5 6 7 8 9 16 23 25 / 16
sdg 1972   +2.9  12 17 19 24 / 1 2 3 5 7 10 12 14 17 / 3
kan 1979   +2.9  7 7 11 11 18 22 22 / 1 2 2 4 6 6 9 20 23 /
oak 1999   +2.9  2 3 7 8 11 13 20 22 / 3 7 9 9 16 17 18 20 /
buf 1977   +3.0  9 13 22 / 1 2 5 5 8 8 9 11 14 20 22 /
oak 2005   +3.0  8 12 26 29 / 2 2 3 3 6 7 7 13 15 19 23 27 /
ind 1998   +3.0  2 28 29 / 2 3 4 6 6 7 7 9 9 12 14 16 24 /
nor 1971   +3.0  2 4 6 14 / 4 5 6 7 11 11 12 16 / 10 24
bal 2004   +3.1  4 5 6 11 18 21 22 23 30 / 1 2 4 9 10 11 22 /
nyj 1999   +3.1  2 7 9 10 14 16 16 27 / 2 4 5 6 6 12 14 24 /
chi 1971   +3.1  2 5 7 9 15 17 / 3 4 5 6 9 14 14 21 /
tam 1982   +3.3  3 10 11 20 24 / 1 2 4 12 /
sdg 2005   +3.3  1 6 7 8 13 20 20 26 27 / 2 2 5 7 12 15 19 /
oak 2004   +3.4  5 8 15 19 25 / 2 3 3 4 8 10 10 12 14 17 28 /
pit 1977   +3.4  4 6 10 11 11 12 19 20 22 / 1 2 6 8 12 /
nwe 1998   +3.4  3 6 7 14 15 18 22 23 23 / 2 2 4 5 6 7 17 /
ten 2006   +3.5  5 6 11 12 17 23 26 26 / 1 2 3 5 6 9 13 16 / 
nor 1998   +3.5  10 13 16 17 17 23 / 1 3 3 4 4 6 7 9 16 26 / 
car 1998   +3.5  14 17 17 23 / 2 3 3 4 4 6 7 8 10 13 14 27 /
stl 1998   +3.5  2 7 9 21 / 1 3 3 4 4 6 14 14 16 16 26 30 /
nyj 2000   +3.5  4 5 6 6 12 20 22 22 26 / 1 3 4 7 8 15 20 /
den 1999   +3.6  4 4 7 15 17 20 / 3 3 5 7 8 11 13 14 16 20 /
det 1970   +3.7  3 4 6 8 8 11 12 13 17 17 / 1 1 7 23 /
ram 1991   +3.7  13 18 22 / 1 2 2 3 3 5 9 9 11 12 14 17 23 /
cle 2004   +3.7  7 11 14 21 / 1 3 4 4 5 6 7 9 11 18 23 30 /
pho 1991   +3.8  6 9 24 26 / 1 1 2 3 6 7 7 10 13 13 17 17 /
kan 1977   +3.9  10 26 / 1 1 2 2 6 8 9 10 11 12 18 20 /
sfo 1973   +3.9  8 10 18 19 23 / 1 1 2 4 5 6 8 11 23 /
cin 1979   +3.9  1 9 10 19 / 1 2 3 4 4 6 8 9 12 13 15 22 /
was 1970   +4.2  2 4 13 19 20 20 / 1 4 5 5 6 9 9 11 /
cle 1975   +4.2  7 17 26 / 1 1 4 5 7 8 9 9 12 13 14 /
nyj 1975   +4.2  17 18 18 / 1 2 2 4 5 5 6 6 10 11 24 /
bal 1982   +4.6   / 1 3 3 6 9 11 12 18 / 5
nor 1970   +4.6  2 9 / 1 3 3 4 6 8 13 16 18 18 19 / 6   
gnb 1970   +5.1  1 8 15 18 20 22 / 1 2 2 3 5 6 8 14 /

12 Comments | Posted in General, History

Trivial observations from the simple rating system

Posted by Doug on June 22, 2007

Wednesday's post about the 49ers forced me to dust off the simple rating system and get it updated with 2006 data.

Last May I wrote a long post about the SRS. Read that if you're interested in the nuts and bolts. For now, you just need to know that I frequently use the SRS as my quick gauge of team strength that allows me to compare teams across divisions and across years.

Given their terrible point differential and weak schedule, it is predictable that the SRS thinks the 2006 49ers were the worst 7-9 team ever. Just for fun, I decided to find the best and worst (according to the SRS) teams at each record.

            BEST               WORST
Record    tm  yr  rating     tm  yr  rating
===========================================
 3-13    ind 1997  -4.3     ari 2000 -15.2
 4-12    cin 1979  -1.3     ari 2003 -12.6
 5-11    phi 1982  +0.8     stl 1985 -10.1
 6-10    den 1999  +3.4     nor 1973  -8.8
 7- 9    kan 2004  +5.3     sfo 2006  -8.7
 8- 8    jax 2006  +7.5     stl 2004  -6.0
 9- 7    sdg 2005  +9.9     ari 1998  -7.4
10- 6    sfo 1991 +10.9     chi 1977  -3.6
11- 5    sfo 1995 +11.8     atl 2004  -2.2
12- 4    pit 1979 +11.9     det 1991  +1.0
13- 3    gnb 1996 +15.3     bal 1970  +0.4

[NOTE: non-16-game-schedule teams have been mixed in with the closest 16-game record.]

That 1999 Broncos team, by the way, was the first team since the 1931 Frankford Yellow Jackets to play an entire season without facing a team that ended up with a losing record.

Another trivial observation: 2006 saw the smallest spread between the league's best and worst teams in nearly a decade. The Raiders may have looked worse than a typical worst-in-the-league team, but objectively they were actually pretty good for a worst-in-the-league team.

 YR     Best        Worst         Diff
=======================================
2006  nwe +10.2   oak  -9.6       19.8
2005  ind +10.8   sfo -11.1       21.9
2004  nwe +12.8   sfo -13.6       26.5
2003  kan  +8.3   ari -12.6       20.9
2002  oak +10.6   cin -10.5       21.1
2001  stl +13.4   buf  -9.5       22.9
2000  oak  +9.7   ari -15.2       25.0
1999  stl +11.9   cle -14.1       25.9
1998  min +14.9   phi -12.8       27.6
1997  den +10.7   sdg  -8.9       19.6
1996  gnb +15.3   nyj -10.1       25.4
1995  sfo +11.8   nyj -11.2       22.9
1994  sfo +11.6   hou  -7.3       19.0
1993  sfo  +9.7   ind -11.3       20.9
1992  sfo +11.8   nwe -11.0       22.8
1991  was +16.6   ind -17.3       33.9
1990  buf  +8.6   nwe -14.6       23.2
1989  sfo +10.7   dal -10.4       21.1
1988  min +10.9   sdg  -7.4       18.2
1987  sfo +13.1   atl -13.9       26.9
1986  nyg  +9.0   tam -15.4       24.4
1985  chi +15.9   stl -10.1       26.0
1984  sfo +12.7   buf -12.0       24.8
1983  was +13.9   hou -11.5       25.5
1982  nyj +10.3   hou -10.9       21.2
1981  phi  +8.7   bal -15.8       24.5
1980  phi  +9.7   nor -10.4       20.2
1979  pit +11.9   det -11.0       23.0
1978  dal +11.0   sfo  -9.1       20.1
1977  den +11.3   tam -10.7       22.1
1976  pit +15.3   tam -19.7       35.0
1975  pit +14.2   nor -14.1       28.3
1974  was +10.2   atl -12.3       22.6
1973  ram +13.4   hou -16.7       30.0
1972  mia +11.0   nwe -17.4       28.4
1971  bal +10.4   buf -13.4       23.9
1970  min +15.1   bos -15.9       31.0

20 Comments | Posted in General

The 49ers

Posted by Doug on June 20, 2007

Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I'm hard at work teaching summer school, and my free time is going toward a complete re-design of my other website: footballguys.com.

Just a quick post here to point out that the 2006 San Francisco 49ers had the worst point differential of any 7-9 team in history.

TM   YR              PF   PA          NextYr
============================================
sfo 2006   7- 9-0   298  412  -114
stl 1995   7- 9-0   309  418  -109    6-10-0
tam 1995   7- 9-0   238  335   -97    6-10-0
ari 1996   7- 9-0   300  397   -97    4-12-0
stl 1981   7- 9-0   315  408   -93    5- 4-0
bal 1983   7- 9-0   264  354   -90    4-12-0
atl 2001   7- 9-0   291  377   -86    9- 6-1
sea 1989   7- 9-0   241  327   -86    9- 7-0
min 1979   7- 9-0   259  337   -78    9- 7-0
nor 2001   7- 9-0   333  409   -76    9- 7-0
hou 1981   7- 9-0   281  355   -74    1- 8-0
ind 1990   7- 9-0   281  353   -72    1-15-0
oak 1981   7- 9-0   273  343   -70    8- 1-0
atl 1994   7- 9-0   317  385   -68    9- 7-0
dal 1990   7- 9-0   244  308   -64   11- 5-0
nor 1984   7- 9-0   298  361   -63    5-11-0
chi 2003   7- 9-0   283  346   -63    5-11-0
nor 1994   7- 9-0   348  407   -59    7- 9-0
nyg 1999   7- 9-0   299  358   -59   12- 4-0

There has, in fact, only been one 6-10 team ever to post a worse point differential. And the 49ers compiled this differential against a weak schedule. San Fran was 31st out of 32 last year according to the simple rating system.

So they were either really lucky to be 7-9, or they were a clutch team that played their best football when it counted the most. You can probably guess which way I'd lean.

Here is one more interesting stat: the 49ers were outscored 113-251 in first halves of their games last year. Again, that's a stat in which people will see what they want to see. But to my eye, it looks like the 49ers will need to improve greatly in 2007 just to finish with the same record. Fortunately for them, they do appear to have gotten better in the offseason, so it looks like that might happen.

15 Comments | Posted in General

Will the Colts be tired this season?

Posted by Doug on June 18, 2007

I was listening to the footballguys.com podcast: The Audible earlier this week, and two thoughts came to mind.

First, it's been awhile since I plugged The Audible. Right now they are, among other things, having fifteen-minute conversations with beat writers from each NFL team. If you've got a commute or if you listen to headphones while you get your exercise in, The Audible makes ideal listening material.

And in particular, I got an idea as I listened to the interview with Colts' beat writer Mike Chappell from the Indianapolis Star. Chappell mentioned that, because they had such a long season last year, the Colts have been taking it easy during the offseason. Coach Tony Dungy has given them more time off and has made practices less intense.

Part of the curse of being me is that I am totally incapable of hearing something like this without trying to set up some sort of study on it. We know NFL teams that win a lot of games in Year N tend, as a group, to decline in the Year N+1. Part of that is due to regression to the mean, a phenomenon that transcends football. Part of it might be due to the structure of the NFL: the salary cap making it harder to keep star players, having the last draft slot, and so on. But might part of it be also due to the fact that Super Bowl teams play more games and have a shorter offseason?

From what I can gather, football can be a physical game. I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that a team that has six months to recover from a 16-game season has an advantage over one that has five months to recover from a 20-game season.

Of course teams that play 19- or 20-game seasons will tend to do better the next year, as a group, than teams that play 16. Here is a meaningless chart that confirms that:

Playoff games played Year N      Av Wins Year N+1
=================================================
              0                        7.3
              1                        8.8
              2                        9.1
              3+                      10.3

But that's to be expected. It's simply another example of causation and correlation not being synonymous. Year N+1 wins are not caused by playing playoff games in Year N. Rather, both of them are caused by the same unnamed factor: being good.

But the interesting (to me, that's who!) question is: given two teams with the same number of regular season wins in Year N, does the one that played more postseason games in Year N figure to do better than, worse than, or the same as the team that played fewer?

Answer: the same. More specifically, if your intuition tells you that "the same" was the right answer, then there is nothing in the data that should cause you to seriously re-consider that. In particular, here is what I did. I looked at all pairs of seasons starting in 1978 (the first year of the 16-game schedule), not counting pairs that included a strike year. For each number of wins starting at 9, I looked at all teams with that number of regular season wins in Year N and then ran a regression of Year N+1 wins versus Year N postseason games played.

For no group of teams did the input variable appear to be significant. For what it's worth, the coefficient was positive for most groups of teams. For example, here are the results for the 12-win group:

Year N+1 wins =~ 8.14 + .58*(postseason games played in Year N)

So based on what the data shows for 12-win teams, every playoff game played in Year N is associated with .58 more wins in Year N+1. But as I said above, that .58 is probably not big enough to infer a real effect, in the same sense that you probably wouldn't conclude that a coin was biased if it came up heads 56 times out of 100, unless you already had some other reason to believe it was biased.

Age, offseason movement, schedule strength, and countless other factors obviously play roles here too, and they haven't been accounted for. This was just a quick check and it failed to find evidence for a tiring factor, perhaps because Super Bowl coaches like Dungy adjust their teams' schedules accordingly.

10 Comments | Posted in General

Pick your poison

Posted by Doug on June 15, 2007

I bought my annual college football magazine last week. It predicts my Oklahoma State Cowboys to be an offensive juggernaut with a porous defense. The overall product, according to the experts, should be just on the good side of mediocre; probably somewhere between 6-6 and 8-4.

This isn't going to be a post about the 2007 college football season or about my Oklahoma State Cowboys; they merely serve as a jumping-off point for a Friday discussion question:

If you're going to root for a mediocre team, would you rather they have:

  • a mediocre offense and a mediocre defense,
  • a good offense and a bad defense, or
  • a bad offense and a good defense?

I think I'd rather have one good unit and one bad one than two average ones. That way, at least you've got something to believe in. Now, having rooted for some mediocre teams with great defenses and terrible offenses (like the early-80s Leslie O'Neal-led Oklahoma State Cowboys) and also some mediocre teams with spectacularly great offenses and astonishingly poor defenses (like the late-80s Barry Sanders-led Oklahoma State Cowboys), I say it's no contest. I want the good offense.

I have to admit that a small part of that is probably the contrarian in me rebelling against the standard old-school Defense Wins Championships refrain; I take a perverse pride in playing the part of the rube who is wowed by big points. But it's more than just that. When you're rooting for a team with a great offense, you never really feel out of the game. Down 21? No problem, we can get that back in a couple of minutes with a few breaks. There's hope. Whether it turns out to be enough or not, your team is going to do something about that lead. But with a bad offense it just seems hopeless. Your bumbling offense turns it over in your own end early in the game, the other team capitalizes, and the resulting seven-point lead that feels completely insurmountable.

19 Comments | Posted in Rant

He played for BOTH of them

Posted by Doug on June 13, 2007

A couple of weeks ago I suggested a time-waster game where you try to construct the best team of (skill-position) players for a given franchise, subject to the constraint that they only played a small fraction of their careers for that franchise. The runaway winner was the Seahawks, who had Jerry Rice, Franco Harris, Warren Moon, Harold Jackson, Ahman Green, et al.

Here is a variation on that game. Try to find the best team of skill-position players (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE) for each pair of franchises. For instance, here is the Rams/Colts team, which obviously features a very strong running back tandem:

Rams / Colts - 79248
QB: Chris Chandler - 29794
RB: Marshall Faulk - 19154
RB: Eric Dickerson - 15411
WR: Ricky Proehl - 8897
WR: Jessie Hester - 5903
TE: Jack Bighead - 89

Those numbers are total (passing + rushing + receiving) yardage figures.

As you can see, they lack a decent tight end. But just about every "team" lacks something. This game is much tougher than the other one. According to my database query (which might have missed a few players), here are the top few teams:

Packers / Falcons - 90156
QB: Brett Favre - 59274
RB: Dave Hampton - 5692
RB: Tom Moore - 3597
WR: Andre Rison - 10228
WR: Eric Metcalf - 7964
TE: Henry Childs - 3401

Eagles / Cowboys - 87594
QB: Randall Cunningham - 34907
RB: Herschel Walker - 13084
RB: Chris Warren - 9631
WR: Jimmy Smith - 12286
WR: Terrell Owens - 11874
TE: Mike Ditka - 5812

Giants / Vikings - 86945
QB: Fran Tarkenton - 50677
RB: Herschel Walker - 13084
RB: Hugh McElhenny - 8528
WR: Gary Ballman - 5568
WR: Bob Schnelker - 3667
TE: Bob Tucker - 5421

Buccaneers / Browns - 86152
QB: Vinny Testaverde - 46920
RB: James Brooks - 11583
RB: Errict Rhett - 4695
WR: Keenan McCardell - 11133
WR: Mark Carrier - 8799
TE: Rickey Dudley - 3022

Jets / Patriots - 82051
QB: Vinny Testaverde - 46920
RB: Curtis Martin - 17448
RB: Keith Byars - 8770
WR: Bake Turner - 3554
WR: Tim Dwight - 3218
TE: Jermaine Wiggins - 2141

Ravens / Browns - 80424
QB: Vinny Testaverde - 46920
RB: Earnest Byner - 12866
RB: Leroy Hoard - 6394
WR: Derrick Alexander - 7181
WR: Michael Jackson - 5415
TE: Brian Kinchen - 1648

Eagles / Vikings - 80270
QB: Randall Cunningham - 34907
RB: Herschel Walker - 13084
RB: Billy Barnes - 5207
WR: Cris Carter - 13940
WR: Harold Jackson - 10553
TE: Jerry Reichow - 2579

Rams / Colts - 79248
QB: Chris Chandler - 29794
RB: Marshall Faulk - 19154
RB: Eric Dickerson - 15411
WR: Ricky Proehl - 8897
WR: Jessie Hester - 5903
TE: Jack Bighead - 89

Buccaneers / Cowboys - 78446
QB: Vinny Testaverde - 46920
RB: Ron Springs - 4778
RB: Alonzo Highsmith - 1623
WR: Keyshawn Johnson - 10662
WR: Joey Galloway - 10052
TE: Jackie Harris - 4411

I don't know if I care for the scoring system, but for obvious reasons it's not really worth taking the time to change it. As Seinfeld says, "I don't know how official any of these rankings really are."

Excluding recent expansion teams, the pair of franchises with the least overlap appears to be the Bengals and Giants, whose only skill-position player in common appears to be wide receiver Ed Marshall.

Here is a full list.

11 Comments | Posted in General, History

5123

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 11, 2007

In baseball, the numbers 511 and 714 have a significance that's unparalleled in football. You probably don't know what 5,123 signifies. If I asked you to name the record for total yards by a single player in a season, it's unlikely you'd know that the answer is 5,123. Even worse, I'd expect very few people even know who holds the record. It's not Dan Marino (5,077), although he is the only other player to accumulate 15,000 feet in a season. Warren Moon, Kurt Warner, Dan Fouts and Rich Gannon all topped 4800 yards in a year, but none of them is the record-holder, either. Warner, Fouts and Moon all have two seasons among the top 11 of all time, alongside some career years from Neil Lomax and Mark Brunell.

The player who has gained more yards in a single season than anyone else in the history of the sport was escorted off his team's practice field last Friday, and appears set to play for his third team in three years despite being just 30 years old.

Daunte Culpepper

It was just two and a half years ago when Daunte Culpepper passed for 4,717 yards, 39 TDs and only 11 INTs, while rushing for an additional 406 yards and a couple of scores. Culpepper's 28 more passing touchdowns than interceptions ranks third all time, behind Dan Marino (1984) and Peyton Manning (2004). Culpepper averaged 320.2 yards per game that year, and followed that up with 679 yards and 6 scores in two playoff games. Daunte Culpepper took the field 18 times in 2004, and recorded over 300 yards in twelve of those games. When something happens that consistently, it's difficult to dismiss it as a fluke. Culpepper combined passing and rushing brilliance as well as anyone besides Steve Young in the history of the league. And now? Not a single team appears to want him.

But back to the title of this post: 5123. How did he do it? The typical explanation is two parts "he had Randy Moss" and one part "he was never really that good." But that can't be it, for lots of reasons. For starters, it has to be more than Moss since no other QB has done the 5,000 yards in a season thing while playing with him. And really, how good has Moss been without Culpepper? Ronald Curry led the Raiders in receiving yards in 2006, not Randy Moss. Even if you believe Moss to be the greatest WR of all time, is he so much better than Marvin Harrison or Jerry Rice, so that Manning, Young and Montanta couldn't do what Culpepper did?

Further, 2004 was Randy Moss' worst season as a Viking. He played in just 11 games (and suited up but did not record a reception in two others) while recording then-career lows in receptions (49) and receiving yards (767). To put it another way, Daunte Culpepper accounted for 4,356 non-Randy Moss yards in 2004, which would have ranked as the 36th best season of all time. So 5123 has to be explained by a lot more than just "Randy Moss."

Moss was hurt that year and unproductive, but many argue that Moss' mere presence on the field opens things up for his teammates, leaving his true impact immeasurable. That may be true, of course, but it leaves one to wonder: why wasn't the mere presence of a healthy Moss for all those years enough to allow a Vikings QB to record 5,000 yards? In 1998, the Vikings had Cris Carter and Randy Moss and an unbelievable season out of Randall Cunningham, but Vikings QBs in the aggregate still accounted for "just" 4,633 yards.

Nate Burleson led the Vikings in receiving in 2004, not Randy Moss. But this just adds to the confusion for explaining how 5123 came about. Nate Burleson stinks. He's not any good. Despite being in the prime of his career and being handed starting roles, he's recorded only 520 yards since 2004. I'm not sure how you can start in 16 games, play in 12 others and only get 520 receiving yards, but Burleson did it. In 2006, Burleson ranked sixth among Seahawks WRs and TEs in receiving yards, despite the five men in front of him all missing games last year. And somebody once claimed that Nate Burleson may be the worst receiver to ever have 1,000 yards in a season. The explanation that Nate Burleson was a good receiver is simply not acceptable in deciphering how Daunte Culpepper set the NFL single season record for yards in 2004.

So it's not Burleson, who led the team in yards. And it's not (entirely) Moss, who has some ethereal ability to change defenses but had the worst season of his career. It certainly wasn't the great coaching, as Mike Tice was widely recognized as a below average head coach. The Vikings defense was porous in 2004, although far from historically bad. And a bad defense can only pad individual offensive player stats to the extent that it results in many attempts. But the Vikings ranked 8th in pass attempts that season, and Culpepper's 637 pass + rush attempts isn't out of line with the other all time great single seasons (Warren Moon had 639 and 688, Gannon 668, Fouts 631, Brunell 637).

Marcus Robinson and Jermaine Wiggins put up big yardage numbers, but really, are they unusually talented for a third wide receiver or tight end? Robinson was on his third team in three years and Wiggins was on his fifth team in five years. The Minnesota running backs didn't get many touches and weren't great, but they weren't bad, either. Onterrio Smith, Mewelde Moore, Moe Williams and Michael Bennett rushed 289 times for 1,360 yards, at a healthy 4.7 YPC clip.

When thinking about who should set the all time record for yards in a season, here's what I envision. A great QB, two excellent wide receivers, a strong offensive line, good receiving but bad rushing RBs, and maybe a terrible defense. Or perhaps an extremely deep set of skill position players with great coaching and an accurate and mobile QB; a team that created tons of mismatches for defenses every week.

Seven teams have had a pair of players record 1300 or more yards in a season, and the '95 Lions, '00 Rams and '05 Cardinals each had two WRs top 1400 yards. The 1989 Redskins, 1980 Chargers, 2004 Colts and 1995 Falcons all had three 1,000 yard wide receivers, with the Redskins and Chargers trios each topping 1100 yards. The '90 Oilers, '00 Rams and '84 Chargers had four players top 700 receiving yards, and last year's Saints would have joined that group if Joe Horn had been a little healthier. The 1984 Chargers and '83 Dolphins each had five players with 600+ receiving yards. Yet none of those teams with incredibly talented players and QBs matched what Culpepper did with the '04 Vikings. No, the best the Vikings skill position players can do is claim to be one of two teams with 9 players to record 207 receiving yards in a season, an honor shared with the 2001 Detroit Lions.

How would you describe the '04 Vikings? Their top WR (Nate Burleson) should be out of the league soon, their second WR is a Hall of Fame talent who was hurt for a good chunk of the season, the supporting cast of receivers and tight ends was largely retreads, the running backs were mediocre but with good hands, the defense stunk and the coaching wasn't any good. That hardly sounds like a recipe for excellence.

So what's the explanation? I have nothing else to presume other than Daunte Culpepper's a lot better than people realized. Or maybe, rather, it's Daunte Culpepper was a lot better than people realized. Let's scroll back in time and re-examine Culpepper's career. Culpepper was drafted in 1999 but sat his entire rookie season.

In 2000, Culpepper had one of the greatest seasons ever by a first time starter. His 4,407 combined yards currently ranks 33rd best all time. He averaged 8.3 yards per pass, and had twice as many passing TDs as interceptions.

In 2001, Culpepper was injured and played in only 10 full games. The Vikings went 1-5 in those other games, and 4-6 when he played in every game. He actually averaged more yards per game in 2001 than his incredible 2000 season.

In 2002, Culpepper really regressed as a passer. He had five more INTs than TDs, but it's worth noting that he rushed for over 600 yards and 10 TDs. Do we have an explanation for why Culpepper became a great runner but a bad passer in '02? Well Randy Moss was in the middle of his "play when I want to play" routine, and Mike Tice had created the ill-conceived 'Randy Ratio'. D'wayne Bates -- the Northwestern product who recorded 13 catches his first three seasons with the Bears before signing with Minnesota -- was the team's number two WR with Cris Carter gone. Byron Chamberlain was the main TE, and he recorded 29 yards the rest of his career. Chris Walsh and Kelly Campbell were the backup WRs, and Michael Bennett was the RB. And the Vikings had one of the worst defenses in the league. Going 6-10 on that team doesn't sound too bad, considering the coaching and defensive disadvantage the Vikings had most weeks, along with the inferior supporting cast. And it's not like Culpepper was terrible: his 4,462 total yards that year ranks as the 22nd most in a single season.

In 2003, Culpepper missed two more games, but once again set a career high for total yards per game. And unlike the previous year, he had a sparkling 25/11 TD/INT ratio and played like a star.

We know what happened in 2004, and since then it's been all downhill. But it's easy to forget how absolutely brilliant Culpepper was the first five seasons of his career. He was a yardage machine, and usually had a strong TD/INT ratio, averaging 1.74 touchdowns to INTs over that period. So if the explanation for the record isn't that Nate Burleson's the next Jerry Rice or that Mike Tice is the next Bill Belichick, I'm left with the thought that Culpepper used to be a superstar QB. And it wasn't all that long ago.

Perhaps a look at who should own the record will shed some light on this one. The 2000 Rams QBs totalled 5,578 yards, easily the most of all time. The '90 Oilers (5339), '85 Chargers (5,166), '04 Vikings (5123), '84 Dolphins (5,099) and '95 49ers (5,000) are the only teams to have their QBs as a group top 5,000 yards in a season. What did the 2000 Rams have? The greatest receiving RB of all time still in his prime, two HOF WRs both in their primes, an excellent third WR with great speed and a veteran 4th wide receiver that has 669 career receptions. The Rams had one of the best offensive minds coaching them of this era and a historically bad defense that forced the Rams to get into shootouts every week. And, of course, two pretty darn good QBs in Warner and Trent Green, both who were playing as well as they ever did. The two QBs ranked first and second in adjusted yards per pass that year.

Does that sound anything like the 2004 Vikings? Randy Moss wasn't playing near the level of Torry Holt that year, but that's as close as the Vikings got. Replace Isaac Bruce with Nate Burleson, Az-Hakim with Marcus Robinson, Marshall Faulk with Onterrio Smith and Mike Martz with Mike Tice, and somehow I doubt that Rams team comes within shouting distance of 5,123.

Which begets the question of the day. We know no QB has ever done as much (5123) as Culpepper did in one year. But has any QB ever done as much...with as little?

26 Comments | Posted in General

Why I like rival leagues

Posted by Doug on June 8, 2007

The prospect of a new professional football league always excites me. Until last week, I wasn't sure why it did, but I knew it did. After some thought, I think I've figured it out. Indulge me as I spend a Friday explaining myself. If you're roughly my age (35), I think some of this might resonate with you.

I posted some thoughts last week about the United Football League, the new venture of a bunch of rich guys including Mark Cuban. In the comments to that post were several interesting thoughts about why the league would or wouldn't succeed and tips for Cuban about how to make it successful. Here is an interesting one from Jason:

I think a new league can’t be successful unless it either:

a) Offers a significantly different product from the NFL; or

b) Offers a significantly better product than than the NFL

You're not going to displace google by making minor improvements to their search algorithm. You're not going to take down the iPod by creating a product with the same features for the same price but which is a tenth of an ounce lighter. And you're not going to topple the NFL by playing NFL-style football with players comparable in quality to those in the NFL. Since no investor on the planet has the money to make (b) a reality, (a) is probably the best bet for any rival league that wants to survive. I really find it hard to argue with any of that.

And so the comments (and the rest of the blogosphere) included some proposed rule tweaks that the new league could consider. Anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile knows that I'm a big fan of rule tweaks. I've got a whole category devoted to them, in fact.

But for some reason I don't want the UFL to create its own brand of football. I want them to play NFL-style football.

I wanted to be a fan of the Arena league. When it first hit the scene, a friend and I --- we were high school sophomores at the time I think --- read all about it and were pumped up for the start of the season. But it didn't take. I just didn't buy it. A few years later I went to a game, and I just couldn't get past the fact that I was watching football in a venue where I was clearly supposed to be watching basketball. It's sort of like when you start watching the movie Rounders. After the first few minutes, you're thinking, "this looks like it could be a good movie, but how dumb do they think we are if they think we're going to buy Matt Damon as some sort of gritty tough guy?" But thirty minutes into it, you get sucked into the story and are able to temporarily suspend any disbelief you had about Damon's street-smarts.

For me, arena football was just like that, except I never got sufficiently sucked into the story.

The situation with the XFL was largely the same. I wanted to watch it. I wanted to like it. But it was just too wrestlemania. Not the game itself, but the whole atmosphere. And the rule tweaks seemed more gimmicky than well-thought-through.

Had Mark Cuban called me last week and ask me to spend a few minutes thinking about what I'd like to see in the new league, I'd have said:

1. Be willing to soak up a lot of financial losses for a lot of years.
2. Make a splash by signing a few big name players from college or from the NFL.
3. Play gimmick-free football.

Does this sound familiar? I just realized that what I want is a return of the USFL.

Ah, the USFL...

I loved the USFL. But why did I love the USFL so much? Was it because they played essentially gimmick-free NFL style football? Was it because they had some big name stars? Was it because they had a franchise in my hometown of Tulsa for a year? No, it wasn't any of those things. In retrospect, it's clear that I loved the USFL for the same reason that I spent a substantial portion of my life honestly believing that Tommy Kramer, Sammy Winder, and E.J. Junior were all-time greats:

It's because I was 12 years old at the time.

More precisely, my current memories of the USFL are so fond because the USFL was in existence when I was 12. Ask anyone over the age of about 27, and they'll tell you: the world was perfect when they were 12 years old. (At least the sports world was. I think for music it's more like 20 years old.)

Donald Trump could have put helmets on donkeys in 1984 and I'd have been right there watching. It would have been awful, and I probably would have realized at the time that it was awful. But by now I would have forgotten that. My memories of watching donkeys run counter-treys would be so intertwined with memories of my carefree youth that I'd be telling Cuban, "really, the only way you're going to be successful is by using donkeys."

Despite generally being a supporter of progress, innovation, and unique ways of doing things, and despite seeing myself as someone who is usually above "The Sports World was Perfect When I was 12" Syndrome (more commonly known as being an Old Fart), I just can't help myself in this case. I will always be excited by rival sports leagues and I will always root for them to succeed. Unfortunately, I seem to be doomed to constant disappointment, because no league will be able to live up to the standard set by my idealized image of the USFL.

22 Comments | Posted in Rant

Road weary

Posted by Doug on June 6, 2007

A couple of weeks ago I threw out a crazy theory that possibly some teams might be at a slight disadvantage late in the season because of the peculiar characteristics of the cities they call home.

I was thinking primarily of heat and possibly altitude, but Commenter Extraordinaire JKL suggested a different theory:

I might suggest a different possibility, rather than altitude. Denver has 2 major factors that make it unique in the NFL. The obvious one is the altitude. The other one is that Denver is the only team within the Mountain Time Zone, so every time Denver plays a road game, it is in a different time zone. (And conversely, every time a team comes to Denver, it is playing in a different time zone).

So I decided to check and see if road teams playing in different time zones tend to fare worse than road teams playing in the same time zone. I took every regular season game since 1978 and ran a regression of road team's point differential versus the following input variables:

1. the difference between the road team's win total for that year and the home team's win total for that year. Technically, to account for strikes and ties, I used win percentage times 16 instead of wins. And I threw out the game in question.

2. the absolute time zone difference between the road team's city and the home team's city. E.g. when Denver travels to Miami, that's a time zone difference of two. When Jacksonville travels to Miami, that's a time zone difference of zero.

The results:

The time zone difference variable had a coefficient of -.14, which would mean that a trip from one coast to the other would cost you about .42 points. However, the coefficient was not statistically significant (and wasn't close to being statistically significant), which means that, given the 30 years of data we looked at, we have no real reason to suspect that the true coefficient isn't zero.

OK, so it looks like there's probably not much there. Doesn't hurt to check.

But then I forgot about the time zone thing and just started playing around with the data a little, and I noticed something:

Week 1: road teams lost by an average of 2.78 points.
Week 17: road teams lost by an average of 4.22 points.

Now, that split suggests, but doesn't necessarily prove, that there is a general sort of "road wearying" affect on teams. The later it is in the season, the harder it is to win on the road. To be a little more rigorous, I ran a regression of the road team's point differential versus the road team's win difference (as above) and the week number.

The week number turned out to be highly significant (p=.006, if you're into that kind of thing). Here is the equation:


Pt. differential =~ -2.19 + 1.22*(win diff) - .0924*(week)

So if two evenly-matched teams (windiff=0) are meeting in week 1, the road team should be about a -2.28 point underdog. If those same two teams meet in week 17, the road team should be a 3.76 point underdog. Interesting.

Just because it's June, and because I enjoy a good conspiracy theory, let's calculate which franchises have been most helped and hurt by their schedules since 1978. As you'll see, the NFL seems to have a slight preference for playing late-season games in domes and in milder climates. This means that teams like Buffalo, Green Bay, and Chicago tend to play slightly more early-season home games and thus slightly more late-season road games, whereas the California and Florida teams have the reverse.

Assuming that every passing week does indeed cost the road team about a tenth of a point, here is a list of how many points the schedule has helped or hurt each team from 1978--2006. A positive number means the team has been helped.

San Diego Chargers         +19.4
Hou/Ten Oilers/Titans      +15.7
San Francisco 49ers        +15.5
Oakland/LA Raiders         +15.2
Miami Dolphins             +14.6
AZ/STL Cardinals           +11.4
Seattle Seahawks           +11.3
Dallas Cowboys              +9.8
Detroit Lions               +7.0
Baltimore Ravens            +6.3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers        +6.1
St. Louis/LA Rams           +4.3
Carolina Panthers           +2.4
Minnesota Vikings           +2.0
Philadelphia Eagles         +1.9
Cincinnati Bengals          +1.5
Houston Texans              +1.1
Indy/Balt Colts             +0.0
New York Jets               -1.2
Jacksonville Jaguars        -1.3
Atlanta Falcons             -1.8
New Orleans Saints          -2.5
Pittsburgh Steelers         -3.9
Washington Redskins         -5.5
New York Giants             -7.0
Kansas City Chiefs          -7.1
New England Patriots        -9.1
Denver Broncos             -13.4
Cleveland Browns           -13.5
Chicago Bears              -19.0
Green Bay Packers          -26.8
Buffalo Bills              -33.4

Check out the Bills' schedule by quarters of the season:

Games 1--4: 60.2% home games
Games 5--8: 52.8% home games
Games 9--12: 50.0% home games
Games 13--16: 37.0% home games

This year, the Bills play four of their last six on the road.

14 Comments | Posted in General

Losing Tiki

Posted by Doug on June 4, 2007

The Giants will in 2007 be without Tiki Barber, who was the league's 4th-leading rusher in 2006. I thought I'd take a quick look at teams who lost a top-10 rusher and see how much their offensive production suffered. Since 1970, there have been 25 such squads. Here is the quick summary:

           YearN   YrN+1
========================
RshYd/G    114.4   102.9
Yd/Rsh      4.14    4.00

Att/G         32      33
PassYd/G     224     226
PassTD/G    1.40    1.28
INT/G       1.15    1.25

Points/G    21.7    20.3

After losing the top ten rusher, these teams ran slightly less, passed slightly more, and were slightly less efficient in both phases. The net effect was a drop of about a point and a half per game.

But hold on. Teams with excellent performances in a particular category will tend, as a group, to regress regardless of whether they lose key players or not. Look at the year-to-year comparison of teams that had a top-ten rusher in Year N and then did not lose him the following year.

           YearN   YrN+1
========================
RshYd/G    124.3   115.2
Yd/Rsh      4.26    4.10

Att/G         29      30
PassYd/G     206     211
PassTD/G    1.30    1.28
INT/G       1.14    1.17

Points/G    21.9    20.9

If these figures are to be taken as a baseline, then it appears that losing a top-10 rusher has historically cost an offense something like 0.4 points (compared to what they might have scored had they kept him). And interestingly, it's the passing game, not the ground game, whose efficiency seems to decline more. There are all sorts of little things that could be affecting the data we see here, but I think it's safe to say that, at the very least, the Giants have a chance to maintain their 2006 level of production this season.

Allow me to state clearly, before some helpful soul points it out for me, that the Giants are not the same entity as the average of 25 different teams from the NFL's past, and that their future is not determined by that average. Those 25 teams include some, like the 1999 Colts, who had great running backs (Edge James) ready to step in, others, like the 1999 Lions, who had a grim lot to choose from (Greg Hill was their leading rusher), and all points in between.

Tiki Barber will be replaced by some combination of Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Drouhgns, and possibly rookie Ahmad Bradshaw, a seventh round pick from Marshall who has a skill set vaguely similar to Barber's and is garnering some minicamp kudos. The one thing that seems clear to me is that, five years from now, if someone runs a similar study, it will be easy to see why the Giants 2007 rushing attack turned out like it did. If Jacobs can be as good in a featured role as he was in limited time, people will say, "it was obvious that teams like the 1999 Colts and 2007 Giants would continue to run the ball effectively. They had fantastic young backs ready to step in!" If Jacobs turns out to be too stiff, Droughns can't revive his Denver self, and Bradshaw follows the same career path as most 7th-round rookies who garner minicamp kudos in May, people will say, "it was obvious that teams like the 1999 Lions and 2007 Giants would have big dropoffs. They had absolutely nobody to replace their departing star!"

Predicting their fate right now is, of course, a much trickier proposition. But I will say this: according to these aggregated fantasy draft results, you can probably get Brandon Jacobs and Eli Manning by using your 4th and 7th round picks, and that seems like a good package for the price. If Jacobs turns out to be the real deal, you got yourself a great runner in the 4th round. If not, then the Giants will throw about 600 times and Eli will rack up some numbers in spite of himself.

I'll leave you with a quick look at the 25 other teams who lost a top-10 rusher:

                                   Year N       Year N+1
Tm   Yr    Top-10 rusher         RYd/G   Y/R   RYd/G   Y/R  top rusher
=======================================================================
ind 2005  Edgerrin James       | 103.6  3.95 | 107.9  4.15 (Addai)
den 2004  Reuben Droughns      | 128.8  4.49 | 139.7  4.72 (Anderson)
mia 2003  Ricky Williams       |  98.8  3.61 |  65.9  3.50 (Morris)
den 2003  Clinton Portis       | 139.9  4.74 | 128.8  4.49 (Droughns)
nor 2001  Ricky Williams       |  84.0  4.02 |  93.4  4.20 (McAllister)
min 2000  Robert Smith         |  99.2  4.99 |  59.8  3.67 (Bennett)
bal 2000  Jamal Lewis          | 124.4  4.30 | 104.5  3.87 (Allen)
ind 1998  Marshall Faulk       |  89.0  3.90 |  98.8  4.14 (James)
det 1998  Barry Sanders        | 102.9  4.28 |  68.4  3.58 (Hill)
sfo 1998  Garrison Hearst      | 127.1  5.02 | 111.2  5.00 (Garner)
nwe 1997  Curtis Martin        |  89.4  3.91 |  89.0  3.90 (Edwards)
phi 1997  Ricky Watters        | 111.4  4.18 |  99.7  4.13 (Staley)
min 1994  Terry Allen          |  91.8  3.81 |  92.7  4.31 (Smith)
nwe 1993  Leonard Russell      | 104.1  3.64 |  79.9  2.97 (Butts)
min 1992  Terry Allen          | 108.4  4.18 |  93.5  3.80 (Graham)
ram 1989  Greg Bell            | 115.0  4.24 |  97.9  3.94 (Gary)
sdg 1988  Gary Anderson        | 101.6  4.63 |  96.1  4.33 (Butts)
nyg 1988  Joe Morris           |  94.6  3.38 | 103.9  3.27 (Anderson)
sdg 1984  Earnest Jackson      | 104.5  3.80 | 103.3  4.10 (James)
atl 1983  William Andrews      | 129.8  4.58 | 111.5  4.08 (Riggs)
was 1979  John Riggins         | 134.4  3.83 | 115.9  3.90 (Jackson)
sfo 1977  Delvin Williams      | 141.6  3.78 | 119.2  3.64 (Simpson)
bal 1977  Lydell Mitchell      | 141.1  3.75 | 121.7  3.93 (Washington)
nyj 1975  John Riggins         | 144.4  4.20 | 121.6  4.28 (Gaines)
dal 1974  Calvin Hill          | 149.8  4.35 | 146.9  4.07 (Newhouse)

9 Comments | Posted in Fantasy, General

Some defensive player stats now at p-f-r

Posted by Doug on June 1, 2007

File this under: one more thing I could (and should) have done a long time ago.

P-f-r now has five years worth of tackles, assists, sacks, and so forth for individual defenders. So you can check out, e.g., Shawne Merriman's numbers on his page and on the appropriate Chargers' team pages (2005 and 2006). For Pro Bowl players whose careers started before 2002, like Jason Taylor, you'll see full stats from 2002--2006 and just team affiliations before that. For less productive players whose careers started before 2002, you just get the 2002--2006 stats and a note indicating that those are not the career totals.

6 Comments | Posted in P-F-R News