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Archive for October, 2007

PFR News

Posted by Chase Stuart on October 30, 2007

PFR is working with Samsung by looking at the defining moment in each week's games. This week, I chose the final touchdown in the Jacksonville-Tampa Bay game. We'd appreciate it if you could either vote for my submission or submit your own.

http://www.definingmoment.federatedmedia.net/

7 Comments | Posted in P-F-R News

Random trivia on past Super Bowl Winners

Posted by Chase Stuart on October 30, 2007

Quick thoughts for today:

Worst points differential in a single regular season game:


1994 sfo -32
1976 oak -31
2003 nwe -31
1979 pit -28
2006 ind -27
1992 dal -24
1988 sfo -22
1970 bal -20
2001 nwe -20
1993 dal -19
2005 pit -19
1990 nyg -18
1995 dal -18
1974 pit -17
1980 oak -17
1981 sfo -17
1997 den -17
1977 dal -15
1996 gnb -15
1982 was -14
1985 chi -14
2004 nwe -14
1973 mia -13
1983 rai -13
2000 bal -13
1968 nyj -11
1971 dal -10
1998 den -10
2002 tam -10
1975 pit - 9
1967 gnb - 7
1978 pit - 7
1999 ram - 7
1969 kan - 5
1986 nyg - 5
1987 was - 4
1989 sfo - 4
1966 gnb - 3
1984 sfo - 3
1991 was - 3
1972 mia 1

Fewest points scored in a regular season game:


1974 pit 0
2003 nwe 0
1973 mia 3
1975 pit 3
1988 sfo 3
1990 nyg 3
2000 bal 3
2001 nwe 3
1969 kan 6
1996 gnb 6
1967 gnb 7
1978 pit 7
1979 pit 7
1980 oak 7
1992 dal 7
2002 tam 7
2005 pit 7
1994 sfo 8
1982 was 10
1993 dal 10
1981 sfo 12
1986 nyg 12
1989 sfo 12
1966 gnb 13
1968 nyj 13
1970 bal 13
1971 dal 13
1977 dal 13
1987 was 13
2004 nwe 13
1976 oak 14
1984 sfo 14
2006 ind 14
1972 mia 16
1985 chi 16
1991 was 16
1998 den 16
1995 dal 17
1997 den 17
1983 rai 20
1999 stl 21

Most points allowed in a regular season game:


1976 oak 48
1970 bal 44
2006 ind 44
1968 nyj 43
1994 sfo 40
1983 rai 38
1985 chi 38
1988 sfo 38
1995 dal 38
1999 stl 38
2005 pit 38
1971 dal 37
2000 bal 36
1974 pit 35
1977 dal 35
1979 pit 35
1993 dal 35
1997 den 35
1980 oak 34
1981 sfo 34
1982 was 34
2003 nwe 34
2004 nwe 34
1984 sfo 31
1986 nyg 31
1987 was 31
1990 nyg 31
1991 was 31
1992 dal 31
1998 den 31
2001 nwe 31
1975 pit 30
1996 gnb 30
1989 sfo 28
1967 gnb 27
1969 kan 27
1973 mia 26
2002 tam 26
1972 mia 24
1978 pit 24
1966 gnb 23

11 Comments | Posted in History

Friday discussion question: what does 2007 say about Randy Moss?

Posted by Doug on October 26, 2007

In 2001, Randy Moss played his fourth NFL season, and he set career lows in yardage and touchdowns. It was during that season that he famously proclaimed that he plays when he wants to play (and presumably only when he wants to play).

In summer of 2002, I wrote this about him:

OK, I'll lay my irrational biases out on the table right up front: I like Randy Moss. I have a knee-jerk reaction to like guys like Moss because I think people dislike them for the wrong reasons.

None of us has any idea what kind of person Randy Moss is. The prevailing opinion on Moss is that he's a great natural talent, but his lack of work ethic is preventing him from reaching his full potential. Putting aside for a moment the fact that willingness to work hard and emotional maturity are, to a large extent, natural abilities too, the truth of the matter is that none of us has any idea at all how hard Randy works or has worked to get where he is.

And now, about this "I'll play when I want to play" business....

I think it's quite possible that Randy wasn't being completely truthful with those comments, and that his motivation for making them was embarrassment. He was off to the worst start of his career. For the first time in his life, he was showing signs of being a run-of-the-mill receiver. Maybe Moss thinks that being beaten physically is a bigger sin than being beaten mentally. Maybe he was giving the same effort he had always given and was still not getting the job done. So he had to make a choice on what to tell the world:

  • that he just flat gets beat sometimes; or
  • that he only gets beat when he decides to get beat.

Most people, I think, see the first option as being the more honorable one, but maybe Randy didn't. Not only did he want to convince the world that he alone is in control of his destiny, he wanted to convince himself that he was still Superman.

Am I a Randy Moss apologist? Yes. Do I know anything at all about what makes Randy tick? No. Do I have any psychological expertise to lend credence to what I've said above? No. But that doesn't stop anyone else from spewing their opinions on Randy Moss, so why should it stop me?

Chase dredged this article up after week four, implying that the early returns from 2007 put the final nail in the coffin of the theory I outlined above.

Do you agree? Can we conclude with a reasonable degree of certainty that Moss was dogging it for two years in Oakland? Or is it possible that a combination of health, system, supporting cast, and luck could account for the difference between this:

| Year  TM |   G |   Att  Yards    Y/A   TD |   Rec  Yards   Y/R   TD |
| 2005 oak |  16 |     0      0    0.0    0 |    60   1005  16.8    8 |
| 2006 oak |  13 |     0      0    0.0    0 |    42    553  13.2    3 |

and this:

| Year  TM |   G |   Att  Yards    Y/A   TD |   Rec  Yards   Y/R   TD |
| 2007 nwe |   7 |     0      0    0.0    0 |    44    732  16.6   10 |

18 Comments | Posted in General

Random trivia: Buffalo Bills edition

Posted by Doug on October 25, 2007

If things keep going as they have been, the 2007 Buffalo Bills will have gotten their leading rusher and leading passer from the 2007 draft.

Since the merger, six teams have had their Year N leading rusher and passer come from their Year N draft. Who are they?

"HINTS": two of them happened in this decade. I predict people will guess those relatively quickly. One was in the 90s. Three were in the 70s. I would be extremely surprised if anybody gets the 70s ones without technological assistance.

ANSWER EDIT:

+------+------+-------------------+-------+----------------+-------+
| team | year | leading_rusher    | round | leading_passer | round |
+------+------+-------------------+-------+----------------+-------+
| sfo  | 2005 | Frank Gore        |     3 | Alex D. Smith  |     1 |
| htx  | 2002 | Jonathan Wells    |     4 | David Carr     |     1 |
| ram  | 1996 | Lawrence Phillips |     1 | Tony Banks     |     2 |
| sfo  | 1974 | Wilbur Jackson    |     1 | Tom Owen       |    13 |
| phi  | 1972 | Po James          |     4 | John Reaves    |     1 |
| gnb  | 1971 | John Brockington  |     1 | Scott Hunter   |     6 |
+------+------+-------------------+-------+----------------+-------+

13 Comments | Posted in General

The Greatest Regular Season Game There Ever Wasn’t

Posted by Chase Stuart on October 24, 2007

As we all know, the New England Patriots (7-0) and the Indianapolis Colts (6-0) play in a week and a half. The teams should be a combined 15-0 when they play, which would make it the winningest match-ups of unbeatens since The Greatest Regular Season Game There Ever Wasn’t. While this Colts-Patriots game is the most recent one in a long line of match-ups, that game was the penultimate game in a rivalry that had been going on for over a decade.

1979: The San Francisco 49ers go to Stanford to fill their head coaching vacancy, hiring Bill Walsh to coach the team. With the 7th pick in the first round of the 1979 draft, the New York Giants selected from Morehead State, quarterback, Phil Simms. With the 26th pick in the third round, the San Francisco 49ers selected from Notre Dame, quarterback, Joe Montana. Seven rounds later, the 49ers would add a tall wide receiver out of Clemson, named Dwight Clark.

1980: In the first meeting between the two QBs, Phil Simms (15-28, 118 yards, 0 TD/1 INT) is sacked ten times as the host 49ers shut out the Giants, 12-0. Montana is 9-15 for 151 yards and a score, and his two INTs don't cost his team.

1981: The Giants hire Bill Parcells to coach the defense, and use the second pick in the draft to select Lawrence Taylor. Six picks later, the 49ers grab the star safety from USC, Ronnie Lott. Taylor would record 9.5 sacks, fulfilling his potential under the tutelage of linebackers coach Bill Belichick. He would run away with rookie of the year honors, and become the only rookie to ever win NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Lott was converted to cornerback immediately for San Francisco, and would intercept seven passes and return three for scores, good enough for second in the rookie of the year race.

In mid-November, Simms would separate his shoulder, costing him the rest of the season. Two weeks later, Montana (in his first full season as a starter) would complete 69% of his passes en route to a 17-10 victory over New York at Candlestick Park.

Six weeks later, the teams met again in San Francisco, this time in the post-season. Montana threw for 300 yards and a couple of scores, guiding the 'Niners to a 38-24 victory. Lott would avenge his loss to Taylor in the ROY race, by intercepting two passes and return one for a touchdown. In the NFC Championship Game the following week, Dwight Clark would catch 8 balls for 120 yards and two touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys. The last of those passes would be a forgettable touchdown to clinch the victory. San Francisco would finish the season by beating the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl, and Montana would be named MVP of the game.

1983: Bill Parcells is promoted to head coach of the Giants. George Seifert is promoted from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator of the 49ers. The 49ers draft Roger Craig, RB, out of Nebraska.

1984: On Monday Night Football, the 49ers and Giants square off again, this time in New York. It makes no difference as the Giants are blown out 31-10, thanks to three Montana touchdown passes. Simms would throw for nearly 300 yards, but they came with two interceptions. The 49ers would become the first team in history to win 15 games in a season, and would host the Giants in the playoffs for the second time in four seasons.

Montana was the center of attention, throwing for 300 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Lawrence Taylor would sack Montana twice, but the 49ers would still win, 21-10. Simms' numbers were eerily similar to what he'd done three months earlier, throwing no touchdowns and two interceptions -- one to Ronnie Lott. A few weeks later Montana would collect his second Super Bowl ring and MVP Trophy, as the 49ers beat the Dolphins, 38-16.

1985: Bill Beilchick is officially promoted to defensive coordinator of the Giants. With the 15th pick in the draft, the 49ers select out of Mississippi Valley State, wide receiver, Jerry Rice. Lott, after excelling at cornerback, goes back to playing safety. The teams wouldn't play each other in the regular season, but both teams would go 10-6 and make the post-season.

The 49ers would travel to Giants Stadium for the playoff game, where New York would host its first playoff game in over twenty years. The Giants would shut down Montana, Rice and Craig, who had become the first player to ever record 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. Taylor would have a sack, and the Giants would win 17-3. Simms completed fewer than 50% of his passes, but had the game's only two touchdowns. Montana, 7-1 in the playoffs at the time, would throw 47 times for 296 yards and an interception. The Giants would lose the next week to the Bears, who could shuffle pretty well.

1986: Lawrence Taylor is the first player in NFL history to have over 20 sacks in a season, and the first and only defensive player to ever take home NFL MVP honors. In week 13, the 10-2 Giants would go back to their personal house of horrors, Candlestick, to play the 7-4-1 49ers. Montana had been 4-0 at home against the Giants, and was making just his fifth start of the season following a serious early season back injury. Jerry Rice was on his way to leading the NFL in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, in just his second year in the league.

The game was scheduled for Monday Night, and the 49ers had revenge on their mind after the Giants had ended their 1985 season. Montana would throw for only 251 yards on 52 passes, however, allowing Phil Simms to steal the spotlight. He threw for 388 yards and a couple of scores on 38 attempts, leading the visiting Giants to a 21-17 victory.

The two teams would meet against in the playoffs, this time back at Giants Stadium. The 49ers had lost their last game to the Giants, along with their last playoff game to the Giants. History would repeat itself, as this Giants team was vastly superior to the squad the 49ers brought into the Meadowlands that day. Phil Simms would throw four touchdowns on just nine completions, while Montana would throw two interceptions in just fifteen attempts. Lawrence Taylor would chip in a pick-six, and the 49ers lost 49-3. In consecutive playoff games at Giants Stadium, Roger Craig would total 41 and 39 yards, while San Francisco was held to three points in each contest. New York would go on to win the Super Bowl that season, and cut the ring total lead from two to one.

1987: The strike shortens the season by a game, and Montana, Rice, Lott, Simms and Taylor all miss the Giants-49ers game, played with replacement players. Jerry Rice wins NFL Player of the Year honors, thanks to a ridiculous 15 touchdowns in the last six games of the season, where the 49ers needed to win every week to clinch home field. The Giants miss the playoffs entirely, and the 49ers suffer one of the greatest upsets of all time. San Francisco had outscored its opponents 124-7 in the last three games of the season, and hosted the 8-7 Vikings in the playoffs. Minnesota's 36-24 victory remains the only time since the merger that a team with five or more wins than its opponent lost a playoff game. (Such teams are 10-1 since 1970). Newly acquired QB Steve Young would also play in the 49ers loss to Minnesota, after he threw 10 TDs and 0 INTs in his first season with the 49ers. A QB controversy was beginning to brew by the Bay.

1988: Not counting the replacement players' game, New York had won three straight over San Francisco, including two at home in the playoffs. We wouldn't have to wait long for the rivlary to continue, as San Francisco flew east for week two of the season. Montana would throw for 148 yards and a score, while Young would throw for 115 yards and run for 48 more. Montana would find Rice for a 78-yard score, and the visiting 49ers would finally beat the Giants, 20-17. Simms would play well, throwing for 227 yards, two TDs and no interceptions, but the Giants missed Lawrence Taylor, who was suspended after testing positive for cocaine. The Giants and 49ers would both finish the season 10-6, but in dramatically different fashions.

New York would miss the playoffs on the last day of the season, losing the division on a tiebreaker to the Eagles. The 49ers would finish in a three-way tie for first in the NFC West, but won the tiebreakers and grabbed a bye. In the second round San Francisco would avenge its loss to Minnesota, before toppling the Bears and Bengals to win their third Super Bowl of the decade. Joe Montana would have another incredible Super Bowl performance, throwing for 357 yards and two scores, including the game winning touchdown pass. He'd lose MVP honors to Jerry Rice, however, who caught 11 passes for 215 yards.

1989: Bill Walsh would retire, and George Seifert was promoted to head coach of the team. Joe Montana would win his first NFL MVP award, as the 49ers looked to defend their Super Bowl title. The hype was off the charts when the 9-2 Giants went into Candlestick Park to play the 9-2 49ers late in the season. Only one other team in the NFL had even 8 wins, and it was the AFC's Broncos. This was truly the clash of the elite teams in the elite conference, a game fit for Monday Night. The 49ers would score 34 points and win, the most points New York had allowed in 24 games. Montana completed 82% of his passes and passed for three touchdowns, one to Rice. Simms would throw three picks and get sacked six times, as the 49ers announced their superiority to the nation.

The Giants would make the playoffs, but the defending Super Bowl Champions would add another trophy to their case this year. San Francisco outscored its opponents by exactly 100 points in three playoff games, and Montana would bring home his third Super Bowl MVP and fourth Super Bowl ring.

1990: Montana wins his second NFL MVP award, as the 49ers are focused on the three-peat, something no team had ever done before. But both teams had set their eyes on something even more noteworthy that year -- a perfect season.

New York beat Philadelphia on opening day, while the 49ers squeaked by the Saints. San Francisco topped Washington and Atlanta before its bye, while the Giants beat Dallas, Miami and Dallas before its bye. San Fran won at Houston and at Atlanta, and New York would win at Washington. Both teams stood at 5-0 after six weeks.

The two-time defending champs would beat two AFC teams, Pittsburgh and Cleveland, to go to 7-0. The Giants would win a couple of division games at home against Phoenix and Washington, matching the 49ers every win. San Fran would win at Green Bay and at Dallas, something they'd struggle to do again the rest of the decade. The Big Blue Wrecking Crew would beat Indianapolis, the Rams and the Lions, allowing just fourteen total points. San Francisco would blow out the Bucs, 31-7.

Both teams stood at 10-0, with their eyes towards a 16-0 season and immortality. Only four teams since 1970 had ever started a season 10-0. Three would make the Super Bowl, two would win it, and one would have a perfect 17-0 season. Never before had two teams started 10-0 in the same season before or since, preparing us for The Great Regular Season Game There Ever Wasn't. In just two weeks, the franchises would square off at Candlestick Park, with both undefeated seasons on the line. Montana. Simms. Taylor. Rice. Lott. Parcells. Belichick. Seifert. Monday Night Football. Can you imagine the hype that would take place for this Colts-Patriots games if it took place the first week in December instead of November? This was back when the NFC was the dominant conference, and the Giants and 49ers were the only two teams that mattered.

But before the matchup of two 11-0 teams could take place, each had to deal with a division rival, first. San Francisco hosted the Rams, a team they had beaten 30-3 at Candlestick Park in the playoffs ten months earlier. A threepeat and an undefeated season would ensure their place as the greatest team of all time. But Montana would throw three interceptions, Cleveland Gary would score three times, and Flipper Anderson would crush the 49ers' dreams with 149 receiving yards. San Francisco's perfect season was over at the hands of their in-state rival, and the 'Niners would respond by winning their next seventeen games against the Rams.

New York would face the Eagles, a team they'd struggled with in the past. Simms would play poorly, completing fewer than half his passes and throwing two INTs to go along with his two scores. The Eagles and Rams got to play spoiler, and prevented us from seeing two 11-0 teams take the same field. Think Michigan(11-0) @ Ohio State (11-0) last year, type hype. Now? The Colts need to win at Carolina, and the Patriots need to win at home against the Redskins. Neither has a very daunting task against these inferior NFC opponents, so this one may end up being the greatest regular season game there was was.

The Aftermath

The game may have lost its hype, but it didn't lose its substance.

The top two defenses in the league both brought their A game. The 49ers held Simms to just 153 yards on 32 passes, and kept New York out of the end zone entirely. The Giants defense? They shut down Jerry Rice to the tune of one catch for thirteen yards. You can count on one hand the number of times that happened to Jerry Rice in his prime. Montana had similar numbers to Simms, completing 12 of 29 passes for 152 yards, and the game's only touchdown on a pass to John Taylor. The 7-3 final would be the lowest score in any game that season.

The Giants would lose home field to the 49ers, and their starting quarterback. In a 17-13 loss to the up and coming Bills, Simms broke his foot. Jeff Hostetler would be forced to replace him for the rest of the season. The Giants and 49ers would both earn byes and win handily in the second round, setting up a titanic rematch from their earlier game. Once again it was in San Francisco, and once again the Giants would not reach the end zone. In eight quarters of football that season, San Francisco's often overlooked defense did not allow a single touchdown to the NFL's other great team.

Hostetler completed 15 of 27 passes for 176 yards, while Montana was 18 of 26 for 190 yards and a score. Nursing a four point lead in the fourth quarter,

Montana rolled to his right, unaware that [Leonard] Marshall was closing in on his blind side. At the exact wrong moment, Montana stopped rolling right and sidestepped Lawrence Taylor by jumping backward, right into the path of the 6-3, 288-pound Marshall. The impact that flattened Montana was so violent his subsequent fumble ended up 14 yards down the field.

The 'Niners recovered the fumble, but the Giants would soon force a punt. Marshall would have another sack and another fumble, and be the co-star of the game. Montana would never start another game for the 49ers.

Following an unsuccessful drive, the Giants seemingly were forced to punt. After lining up in punt formation, Giants linebacker Gary Reasons would run for 30 yards and the game changing first down.

Reasons, the signal-caller on punt formation, took a direct snap in front of punter Sean Landeta and veered right. It was wide open for him. Moments before, Reasons was given the green light by Giants coach Bill Parcells. ''The proverbial gaping hole,'' Reasons said. ''The 49ers were dropping people off the line to set up the return, and I knew I could exploit that.'' The daring move set up Bahr's fourth field goal, a 38-yarder with 5:47 remaining, and the Giants were down 13-12.

Steve Young would take over for the 49ers and complete his only pass for 24 yards to Brent Jones. A Roger Craig fumble with under three minutes to go gave the Giants new life, as who else -- Lawrence Taylor -- pounced on the ball. Hostetler would complete two big passes to set New York for a game winning field goal with no time left. Bahr's kick was close, but good, giving him his fifth of the day -- and sending the Giants to Tampa for the Super Bowl. In a rematch against the Bills, Scott Norwood would miss a forgettable field goal late, and the Giants would win their second Super Bowl.

Simms would lose his starting job to Hostetler the next season, and Montana would lose his to Young. Bill Parcells "retired", and Ronnie Lott would head to the Raiders. Roger Craig's fumble would be his last carry ever as a 'Niner, as he'd join Lott in L.A.. Lawrence Taylor would never make another Pro Bowl. Their two classic battles in 1990 would truly mark the end of an era, a rivalry that had started over a decade earlier at the NFL Draft. The Giants would defend their NFC Crown by beating the 49ers on Monday Night Football in the first week of the 1991 season, but the luster had been stripped from the game. The 49ers would win in the regular season in 1992, and then obliterate the Giants in the playoffs in 1993, 44-3. Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms retired after that game.

Fortunately, the Colts-Patriots rivalry seems to only be gaining steam. And we can only hope they provide us with two games as good as the last time Bill Belichick coached in a big rivalry.

12 Comments | Posted in History

Why a touchdown is worth ten yards

Posted by Doug on October 22, 2007

Last week Chase posted a through-six-weeks list of quarterbacks ranked by what he called "rearview adjusted yards per attempt." The rearview part means that the numbers had been tweaked to modify the differing schedules that each QB had played against during the first six weeks. The adjusted part means that, following some decades-old research by Pete Palmer, John Thorn, and Bob Carroll, he wasn't just using yards, but was rather giving a 10-yard bonus for each touchdown pass and a 45-yard penalty for each interception thrown.

Over at the footballguys.com message board, Chase decided to use that post as a starting point for his case for David Garrard as the league's through-six-weeks MVP. The resulting thread went about like you'd expect it to go, but a little bit of interesting discussion emerged. One of the main points of contention is that someone who has thrown six TDs in five games can't possibly be as valuable as someone who has thrown 21 in six games. That is, many people thought the 10-yard bonus for a touchdown pass is too low. A bit of discussion about the appropriateness of the 10-yard bonus broke out in the comments to Chase's original post as well. So I figured I'd spend a post talking about why I think it's about right.

First, let's get some disclaimers out of the way. It's clear that there is no static TD-to-yard translation that is going to be right for all situations. Some touchdowns are worth more than others, and some yards are worth more than others. We're trying to hit the average here.

Now, the key to understanding this is to realize that we're not saying that a TD is equivalent to ten yards. We're saying that the marginal value of a TD, compared to a non-TD pass of the same yardage in the same situation, is about the same as the marginal value of ten generic yards. Here is a hypothetical situation, which has been sterilized to remove some of the issues in the disclaimer mentioned above.

It's the first game of the season, the first drive of the game. Your team is on offense. You and your opponent are evenly matched. You have first-and-ten at your own 30 yard line. Which would you rather see on the next play?

  • A 69-yard pass that puts you at 1st-and-goal at the one,
  • A 70-yard TD pass, followed by a 15-yard excessive celebration penalty (so you'll kick off from the 15 instead of the 30)?

If you have to think about it --- if it's not immediately clear --- then you must think that the marginal value of the TD, compared to a same-yardage pass that is not a TD, is worth approximately 15 yards. Try this experiment next weekend: take every TD pass you see and ask yourself, "if I were coaching the offensive team, and I could trade that TD for the ball at the one and 10 yards of field position on my opponent's next possession, would I do it?" Better yet, write down how many yards of field position you would trade to erase that TD and put the ball at the one instead. Average those numbers.

I don't know if ten is exactly the right answer, but it feels about right.

21 Comments | Posted in General

Random trivia: T.J. Houshmandzadeh edition

Posted by Doug on October 19, 2007

A big game against the Chiefs last weekend pushed T.J. Houshmandzadeh's yards per reception average into double figures. But if he continues to catch so many passes for so few yards (relatively speaking), he will challenge the record for lowest yards per catch average for a receiver with 1000 or more yards.

Who currently holds the record for lowest yards-per-reception average for a single season among players with 1000 or more receiving yards?

[REMINDER: this one isn't too hard to look up if you have the right tools (and if you don't, what are you waiting for?), so don't forget the p-f-r trivia protocol. Technology-assisted answers can be posted, but only after the correct answer has been guessed the old fashioned way. You could, of course, use technology on the sly and then pretend to be guessing the old fashioned way, but that would be really sad.]

ANSWER EDIT:

+------------------+------+------+-------+------+
| name             | year | rec  | recyd | ypr  |
+------------------+------+------+-------+------+
| Cris Carter      | 1994 | 122  | 1256  | 10.3 |
| Hines Ward       | 2001 | 94   | 1003  | 10.7 |
| Marty Booker     | 2001 | 100  | 1071  | 10.7 |
| Brett Perriman   | 1996 | 94   | 1021  | 10.9 |
| Roger Craig      | 1985 | 92   | 1016  | 11.0 |
| Andre Johnson    | 2006 | 103  | 1147  | 11.1 |
| Mike Furrey      | 2006 | 98   | 1086  | 11.1 |
| Cris Carter      | 1995 | 122  | 1371  | 11.2 |
| Ozzie Newsome    | 1984 | 89   | 1001  | 11.2 |
| Eric Metcalf     | 1995 | 104  | 1189  | 11.4 |
| Sterling Sharpe  | 1993 | 112  | 1274  | 11.4 |
| Rod Smith        | 2002 | 89   | 1027  | 11.5 |
| Al Toon          | 1988 | 93   | 1067  | 11.5 |
| Muhsin Muhammad  | 2000 | 102  | 1183  | 11.6 |
| Shannon Sharpe   | 1994 | 87   | 1010  | 11.6 |
| Jerry Rice       | 1996 | 108  | 1254  | 11.6 |
| O.J. McDuffie    | 1998 | 90   | 1050  | 11.7 |
| Haywood Jeffires | 1991 | 100  | 1181  | 11.8 |
| Lionel Taylor    | 1961 | 100  | 1176  | 11.8 |
| Carl Pickens     | 1996 | 100  | 1180  | 11.8 |
+------------------+------+------+-------+------+

37 Comments | Posted in General

Through six weeks: rearview adjusted yards per attempt

Posted by Chase Stuart on October 18, 2007

Two months ago, I blogged on one of my favorite statistics: rearview adjusted yards per attempt. Adjusted yards per attempt is a statistic most of us are familiar with by now -- its calculated by simply adding 10 "yards" for every touchdown pass, and subtracting 45 "yards" for every interception. Then you divide passing "yards" by pass attempts, so it's basically a more precise version of yards per attempt. Quarterbacks that throw for a lot of yards per attempt with a good number of interceptions get rightly penalized (think Ben Roethlisberger last year), while quarterbacks that don't throw any interceptions get a nice boost even if they have a low yards per attempt ratio (think David Garrard this season).

So what does "rearview" add to the equation? It adjusts the performance for strength of schedule. This is particularly important to do when we're looking at mid-season numbers, which are more heavily susceptible to radically different strength of schedule numbers. When you combine the rearview adjustment with the change by adjusting the yards per attempt, you've got rearview adjusted yards per attempt.

So who are the leaders in that category this year?

For starters, all NFL QBs averaging 5.97 adjusted yards per attempt, so that should be considered our baseline for good performance. I've subtracted that number from every QB's results, so you can get a better sense of who is doing better and worse than average. Here are the results for all QBs with a minimum of 40 pass attempts this season:


Player RAY/A AY/A SOS
Tom Brady 3.13 3.30 -0.16
David Garrard 3.10 2.33 0.77
Jeff Garcia 2.63 2.63 0.01
Peyton Manning 2.23 2.08 0.15
Kurt Warner 2.15 2.42 -0.27
Jon Kitna 1.97 0.83 1.14
Derek Anderson 1.67 0.96 0.71
Tony Romo 1.63 1.29 0.34
Jake Delhomme 1.59 1.61 -0.03
Donovan McNabb 1.58 0.99 0.58
Matt Schaub 1.30 1.39 -0.09
Jay Cutler 0.84 0.13 0.71
Brett Favre 0.80 0.24 0.56
Philip Rivers 0.79 0.02 0.77
Jason Campbell 0.57 0.40 0.16
Ben Roethlisberger 0.54 1.42 -0.88
Kelly Holcomb 0.52 -0.18 0.70
Eli Manning 0.43 -0.21 0.64
Joey Harrington 0.31 -0.13 0.44
Trent Green 0.18 -0.85 1.03
Chad Pennington 0.12 -0.73 0.85
Carson Palmer -0.10 0.19 -0.29
Matt Hasselbeck -0.24 0.97 -1.22
Damon Huard -0.39 -0.09 -0.30
Daunte Culpepper -0.78 -0.21 -0.57
Trent Edwards -0.89 -1.14 0.25
Brian Griese -0.89 -0.39 -0.50
J.P. Losman -0.95 -1.50 0.56
Alex Smith -1.33 -0.90 -0.43
Drew Brees -1.74 -2.22 0.48
Steve McNair -1.80 -0.55 -1.26
Marc Bulger -1.88 -1.42 -0.46
Kyle Boller -1.96 -1.02 -0.94
Kellen Clemens -2.06 -1.40 -0.66
Josh McCown -2.33 -1.43 -0.90
Cleo Lemon -2.37 -1.80 -0.57
Vince Young -2.53 -1.91 -0.62
David Carr -2.65 -1.78 -0.87
Matt Leinart -2.73 -1.62 -1.11
Rex Grossman -2.74 -3.28 0.53
Tarvaris Jackson -3.55 -2.68 -0.87
Trent Dilfer -4.92 -3.49 -1.43
Gus Frerotte -5.45 -3.98 -1.47

What's that mean exactly? Let's take Mr. Brady as an example. He's thrown for 1771 yards, 21 TDs and 2 INTs, a total of 1891 adjusted yards. He's thrown 204 passes, giving him an average of 9.27 AY/A. Since the league average QB is at 5.97 adjusted yards per attempt, Brady's 3.30 adjusted yards per attempt better, represented in the middle column. Tom has had a slightly easier than average schedule, though, as shown by the -0.16 number in the right column. Therefore, his rearview adjusted yards per attempt is 3.13 AY/A better than the league average.

Notes

  • Wow is David Garrard having an incredible season. On top of his zero interceptions, he's doing it against a pretty difficult schedule. In fact, he's only a hair behind Brady despite having significantly inferior wide receivers.
  • We haven't heard a lot about it, but Carson Palmer is having a very down year. Sure he lit up the Browns, but he's thrown two interceptions in each of the past four games, all Bengals losses.
  • Jon Kitna, Trent Green and Chad Pennington have faced the three toughest schedules in the league. Gus Frerotte, Trent Dilfer, Steve McNair, Matt Hasselbeck and Matt Leinart have faced the five easiest.
  • Brian Griese has played a lot better than Grossman, but he has faced a much easier schedule. As bad as Steve McNair has looked, Kyle Boller hasn't been any better Warner was way better than Leinart this year, despite facing a tougher (but still easier than average) schedule.

Below are the rankings for the defenses, using rearview adjusted yards per attempt allowed:


Team RAY/A AY/A SOS
Washington Redskins 3.00 2.02 0.98
Tennessee Titans 2.42 1.45 0.97
Oakland Raiders 2.07 0.87 1.20
New England Patriots 1.82 1.28 0.54
Buffalo Bills 1.19 0.00 1.20
Philadelphia Eagles 1.19 0.25 0.94
Indianapolis Colts 1.17 1.35 -0.19
Kansas City Chiefs 1.01 0.70 0.32
Pittsburgh Steelers 0.88 1.20 -0.32
New York Giants 0.71 -0.05 0.76
Dallas Cowboys 0.60 0.73 -0.14
Green Bay Packers 0.47 0.05 0.42
Houston Texans 0.43 -0.43 0.86
Denver Broncos 0.11 -0.67 0.78
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0.03 1.19 -1.15
Carolina Panthers -0.08 0.37 -0.44
Cincinnati Bengals -0.21 -0.54 0.34
Minnesota Vikings -0.21 -0.25 0.04
San Diego Chargers -0.27 -0.57 0.30
St. Louis Rams -0.40 -0.98 0.58
Atlanta Falcons -0.50 -0.50 -0.01
Chicago Bears -0.73 -1.05 0.32
Miami Dolphins -0.76 -1.73 0.97
Jacksonville Jaguars -0.95 -0.63 -0.32
Cleveland Browns -1.20 -0.73 -0.47
Detroit Lions -1.22 -0.09 -1.13
New York Jets -1.26 -1.61 0.36
Baltimore Ravens -1.33 0.60 -1.93
Seattle Seahawks -1.48 -0.22 -1.27
San Francisco 49ers -1.77 -0.37 -1.40
Arizona Cardinals -1.88 0.05 -1.93
New Orleans Saints -3.15 -3.03 -0.12

Washington actually leads the league in adjusted yards per attempt allowed, with 2.02 fewer yards per pass against them than the league average. But they're doing it while facing the third toughest slate of passers in the league! As a result, we can conclude that Washington's pass D has been simply outstanding this year. And the Titans aren't too far behind, facing a similarly tough schedule.

Notes

  • Look how far down the Ravens defense is. They've faced some terrible passers, which has really inflated their numbers. And the Saints pass defense has just been pathetic so far this year.
  • Five toughest schedules? Oakland, Buffalo, Washington, Tennessee and Miami. And the Redskins and Dolphins still have more games left with Brady and Romo. Five easiest? Arizona and Baltimore in a landslide, followed by San Fran, Seattle and Tampa Bay.

11 Comments | Posted in General

2007 and the Workhorse Running Back: Trend or Anomaly?

Posted by Jason Lisk on October 17, 2007

If it seems like the top running backs are rushing the ball fewer times so far this year, it's because they are.

You would have to go back a decade to see as few high carry performances through the first six weeks. The two highest carry games so far this year are Larry Johnson with 31 on Sunday against Cincinnati, and Steven Jackson with 30 in his final game played so far this year. The last season in which no running back had at least 33 carries in a game in the first six weeks was 1996 (Thurman Thomas, 32 attempts, week 1).

The number of games where a running back had at least 27 carries in a single game is at its lowest rate for all the years available. Meanwhile, the percentage of games with a running back between 15 and 20 attempts is at its highest rate.

Here are the individual game, individual running back rushing attempt patterns for the years which we have game by game data (1995-2007), through the first six weeks of each season:

Year     33+  30-32  27-29  24-26  21-23  18-20  15-17     Tm Gms
===================================================================
2007      0     2      7     21     23     39     44         178
2006      1     5      9     19     29     35     36         174
2005      2     3      9     18     31     35     32         176
2004      4     7      5     18     38     30     35         176
2003      4     3      9      9     26     23     39         176
2002      1     7      7     16     24     26     37         176
2001      2     6      5     20     25     31     35         170
2000      3     5      9     15     27     22     32         172
1999      1     5     10     15     32     29     35         172
1998      3     6     12     15     35     32     25         162
1997      5     3     11     15     17     22     38         164
1996      0     3      9     17     18     25     30         162
1995      1     3      5     15     19     34     35         166
===================================================================

While there was a slight decline in the last two years from the peak of 2004, the change in running back usage this year is more dramatic. So, is it a temporary anomaly, or a trend?

Here are some of my thoughts:

RUNNING BACK WORKLOADS AND COMMITTEES

Clearly, the biggest reason for this change is that the NFL coaches are avid readers of the PFR blog, and the league has read the earlier posts on running back overuse and injuries.

Of course, I'm joking. But there has been increased focused on the issue of running back workloads in recent seasons, including pieces published in Pro Football Prospectus 2006 and 2007, and on Football Outsiders.com. Several teams in recent years have employed more of a shared carries scenario. Up until this year, however, it seemed that it was a subculture, and the workhorse running back philosophy was still predominant. Is it simply a matter of a copy cat league, following the footsteps of teams that reached the championship game last year? At this point, I think it is debateable whether it is a philosophical shift among a majority of the league, or whether the change so far in 2007 is out of necessity.

INJURIES

Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and fantasy football players talking about how this year is a crazy year for injuries. But are early injuries to blame for this decline in high carry games, and is the injury rate that different? The injury rate has been approximately 25%, for injuries in the first 6 games of the following season, for backs who did not miss a game from weeks 12-17 the previous year, and averaged 15.0 or more attempts (7% suffered a season ending injury in the first 6 games).

So far this year, 7 of the 17 running backs (41.2%) who met those criteria have missed at least one game with injury--one is a season-ending injury (McAllister), and another has that potential (Jackson) depending on whether the Rams want to risk bringing Jackson back later this year on a currently 0-6 team. The injury rate for this year's group is a little higher, but with the sample size, not enough to make any definite statements that 2007 is substantially different than previous years.

In fact, if we were to expand the criteria to all backs that were healthy at the end of 2006, and averaged at least 10.0 attempts per game, we bring in 9 more running backs, all of whom have played in every game--several of whom barely missed the previous cutoff. I have little reason to believe that the injury rates among the 10.0 to 14.9 group is substantially different from the 15.0 to 16.9 group or the 17.0 to 18.9 groups. 7 out of 26 otherwise healthy backs at the end of 2006 having an injury causing missed game(s) so far in 2007 would be roughly in line with recent history.

However, I do think injuries have played a role, just in a different way. Which brings me to . . .

THE LACK OF HEALTHY STAR RUNNING BACKS OF PEAK AGE

This chart shows the chronological age of the Top 12 Running Backs (by Standard Fantasy Points) for each season going back to 1990:

Year      21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30+
=========================================================
2006       1    0    3    0    0    1    6    0    0    1
2005       0    1    0    1    0    3    3    1    0    3
2004       0    0    2    1    3    1    1    0    1    3   
2003       0    1    0    2    3    3    1    0    1    1
2002       1    0    2    2    2    1    1    0    2    1
2001       0    2    0    3    0    0    2    3    1    1
2000       0    1    1    1    0    1    4    2    0    2 
1999       1    0    0    1    2    3    1    1    1    2
1998       0    1    0    1    3    3    1    0    2    1
1997       0    0    2    3    4    0    1    1    1    0
1996       0    1    2    3    0    1    2    2    0    1
1995       0    2    1    0    1    3    4    1    0    0
1994       1    1    0    0    3    4    1    2    0    0
1993       1    0    1    6    1    0    1    0    0    2
1992       0    0    3    4    0    3    0    0    0    2
1991       0    2    1    0    1    1    3    0    3    1
1990       1    1    1    5    1    1    0    1    0    1   
TOTAL      5   13   19   33   24   29   32   14   12   22 
=========================================================

Between 1990-2005, 47% of the Top 12 Running Backs were between ages 24-26. 2006 was the only year during this period where there were no 24 or 25 year old backs in the Top 12, and there was only one 26 year old (Willie Parker). And it's not as if the cutoff at the Top 12 is excluding some near misses. Kevin Jones was the top 24 year old last year (by fantasy points) at 23rd. Ronnie Brown was the top 25 year old, at 25th. Willie Parker was the only 26 year old in the top 30 in running back fantasy points.

Why do I think this is significant? Because the running backs between ages 24 and 26 in one season become the 25 to 27 year old running backs the next season (don't try that kind of advanced math at home). Here are the injury rates of the running backs from my previous study with 138 or more (23.0 per game) attempts through the first 6 games of a season, sorted by age. The number given is the number who missed 5 or more games of the final 10, after playing in the first 6.

24 years old or under: 3 of 11
25-27 years old: 1 of 17
28-30 years old: 0 of 3
31 years or older: 2 of 4

And here are the running backs from the 126-137 attempt group through first six games, sorted by age, and number who missed at least 5 of the remaining games:

24 years old or under: 2 of 12
25-27 years old: 0 of 17
28-30 years old: 1 of 12
31 years or older: 0 of 1

If you look at the high workload group (138 or more attempts), the 25-27 year olds make up almost half of the running backs starting the season with a high workload from 1995-2006. The number of 28 to 30 year olds starting a season with high workloads drops dramatically.

It is that 25 to 27 year old group that is in large part absent in 2007. Some of this is due to what were considered relatively weaker draft classes about four to five years ago at the running back position. But I think some of it also has to do with recent usage patterns of young running backs.

Ronnie Brown is emerging this year as a top back at age 26, and has not seen high workload games early in his career. Willie Parker, who emerged as a full-time back last year at age 26, is likely to be the only back joining the high workload group (121 attempts through first five games). Most other backs in this age group have not made it to 2007 without significant injury.

Clinton Portis would be the standard bearer for this group, but missed 8 games last year, and is sharing the workload in Washington. Kevin Jones, Julius Jones, and Cadillac Williams all looked very promising their rookie seasons, but also had periods of high rushing attempt games. Were they just lucky their rookie years, or did they get physically worse due to the early career usage pattern? Another back who would be part of this age group, Domanick (Davis) Williams, now 27, was a promising young running back for the Texans, but as noted in my earlier post, did not survive high workload games in 2004, and probably will never play a meaningful role as a starter in the NFL again. We will have to see if Steven Jackson, at age 24, is the latest victim, as he had a three game stretch of high workload games at the end of 2006, and suffered the groin injury in a game with 30 attempts earlier this year.

I'm not sure you can answer with certainty whether early workloads ruined these backs or not, but the fact remains that none of them did make it to 2007 healthy enough to carry a full workload, when they should be in their prime. In my opinion, this has contributed to a perfect storm in 2007, leading to the drop in high carry games. So, trend or anomaly?

It largely depends on what teams do with the current group of young running backs over the next few years. Until now, Joseph Addai, Laurence Maroney, Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, and Marion Barber III have not approached 30 carry games, and most have been part of platoons to this point in their careers. It will be interesting to see if the majority of these players make it to their mid-20's fairly healthy or not, and how teams choose to use them over the next few years.

In conclusion, I will note that high workload games of 27 attempts or more show a positive correlation with the week of the season, and increase as the year progresses. The correlation coefficient between the high workload games and numerical week of the season is +0.61. So, I expect that the high workload games will increase by total number, but it will be interesting to see if they increase to the level of the previous decade or not, over the remainder of 2007.

3 Comments | Posted in General

Devin Hester

Posted by Doug on October 16, 2007

Let me preface this by saying that there is more to being a returner than just scoring touchdowns, so I don't claim that the calculations I'll do below are a rating of the all-time great kick returners. It's just the all-time great touchdown-scoring kick returners. Obviously there is a lot of overlap between the two, but they're not synonymous.

Very simple scheme. Take each player's touchdowns scored on kick returns and subtract the number of touchdowns an average returner would have been expected to score on the same number of returns. That gives us his Kick Return Touchdowns Over Average. Do the same thing for punt returns to get his Punt Return TDs Over Average. Add them together to get Total Return TDs Over Average, by which we'll sort the list.

Lots of fine print follows the table:

+---------------------+------+------+-----------+------+------+-----------+------------+
| name                | kr   | krtd | krtdAdded | pr   | prtd | prtdAdded | TotTDAdded |
+---------------------+------+------+-----------+------+------+-----------+------------+
| Devin Hester*       | 46   | 4    | 3.7332    | 73   | 5    | 4.4160    | 8.1492     |
| Ollie Matson        | 143  | 6    | 5.1706    | 65   | 3    | 2.4800    | 7.6506     |
| Gale Sayers         | 91   | 6    | 5.4722    | 27   | 2    | 1.5280    | 7.0002     |
| Jack Christiansen   | 59   | 0    | -0.3422   | 85   | 8    | 7.3200    | 6.9778     |
| Dante Hall          | 360  | 6    | 3.9120    | 188  | 5    | 2.9760    | 6.8880     |
| Eric Metcalf        | 280  | 2    | 0.3760    | 351  | 10   | 6.4800    | 6.8560     |
| Bobby Mitchell      | 102  | 5    | 4.4084    | 69   | 3    | 2.4240    | 6.8324     |
| Travis Williams     | 102  | 6    | 5.4084    | 13   | 1    | 0.8560    | 6.2644     |
| Deion Sanders       | 155  | 3    | 2.1010    | 212  | 6    | 3.7520    | 5.8530     |
| Rick Upchurch       | 95   | 0    | -0.5510   | 248  | 8    | 5.7760    | 5.2250     |
| Billy Johnson       | 123  | 2    | 1.2866    | 282  | 6    | 3.3840    | 4.6706     |
| Abe Woodson         | 193  | 5    | 3.8806    | 123  | 2    | 0.7520    | 4.6326     |
| Tamarick Vanover    | 226  | 4    | 2.6892    | 197  | 4    | 1.9200    | 4.6092     |
| Timmy Brown         | 184  | 5    | 3.9328    | 71   | 1    | 0.2240    | 4.1568     |
| Brian Mitchell      | 607  | 4    | 0.4794    | 463  | 9    | 3.4480    | 3.9274     |
| Steve Smith         | 98   | 2    | 1.4316    | 169  | 4    | 2.2720    | 3.7036     |
| Mel J. Gray         | 421  | 6    | 3.5582    | 252  | 3    | 0.0160    | 3.5742     |
| Eddie Drummond      | 213  | 2    | 0.7646    | 108  | 4    | 2.7840    | 3.5486     |
| Joey Galloway       | 4    | 0    | -0.0232   | 138  | 5    | 3.5200    | 3.4968     |
| Antwaan Randle El   | 78   | 1    | 0.5476    | 207  | 5    | 2.8720    | 3.4196     |
| Jon Vaughn          | 103  | 4    | 3.4026    | 0    | 0    | 0.0000    | 3.4026     |
| Darrick Vaughn      | 103  | 4    | 3.4026    | 0    | 0    | 0.0000    | 3.4026     |
| Andre Coleman       | 193  | 4    | 2.8806    | 43   | 1    | 0.5040    | 3.3846     |
| Terry Kirby         | 101  | 3    | 2.4142    | 1    | 1    | 0.9600    | 3.3742     |
| Lemar Parrish       | 61   | 1    | 0.6462    | 131  | 4    | 2.7040    | 3.3502     |
| Freddie Solomon     | 32   | 1    | 0.8144    | 177  | 4    | 2.3920    | 3.2064     |
| Tony Horne          | 143  | 4    | 3.1706    | 7    | 0    | -0.0560   | 3.1146     |
| Terrence McGee      | 158  | 4    | 3.0836    | 0    | 0    | 0.0000    | 3.0836     |
| Pacman Jones        | 63   | 0    | -0.3654   | 63   | 4    | 3.4080    | 3.0426     |
| Desmond Howard      | 359  | 0    | -2.0822   | 244  | 8    | 5.1040    | 3.0218     |
| Emlen Tunnell       | 43   | 1    | 0.7506    | 220  | 4    | 2.2400    | 2.9906     |
| Cecil Turner        | 108  | 4    | 3.3736    | 27   | 0    | -0.4080   | 2.9656     |
| Ron J. Brown        | 199  | 4    | 2.8458    | 0    | 0    | 0.0000    | 2.8458     |
| Dave Meggett        | 252  | 1    | -0.4616   | 349  | 7    | 3.2960    | 2.8344     |
| Dick Christy        | 117  | 0    | -0.6786   | 67   | 4    | 3.4640    | 2.7854     |
| Michael Bates       | 373  | 5    | 2.8366    | 10   | 0    | -0.1200   | 2.7166     |
| Raymond Clayborn    | 57   | 3    | 2.6694    | 0    | 0    | 0.0000    | 2.6694     |
| LeRoy Irvin         | 4    | 0    | -0.0232   | 147  | 4    | 2.6640    | 2.6408     |
| Goldie Sellers      | 27   | 2    | 1.8434    | 19   | 1    | 0.7840    | 2.6274     |
| Bert Zagers         | 26   | 0    | -0.1508   | 28   | 3    | 2.7760    | 2.6252     |
| Darrien Gordon      | 5    | 0    | -0.0290   | 314  | 6    | 2.5760    | 2.5470     |
| Derrick Witherspoon | 80   | 3    | 2.5360    | 0    | 0    | 0.0000    | 2.5360     |
| Lenny Lyles         | 81   | 3    | 2.5302    | 0    | 0    | 0.0000    | 2.5302     |
| Dave Williams       | 88   | 3    | 2.4896    | 1    | 0    | -0.0080   | 2.4816     |
| Henry Ellard        | 19   | 0    | -0.1102   | 135  | 4    | 2.5760    | 2.4658     |
| Charley Warner      | 86   | 3    | 2.5012    | 17   | 0    | -0.1360   | 2.3652     |
| Vitamin Smith       | 44   | 3    | 2.7448    | 48   | 0    | -0.3840   | 2.3608     |
| Dave Hampton        | 113  | 3    | 2.3446    | 0    | 0    | 0.0000    | 2.3446     |
| Justin Miller       | 106  | 3    | 2.3852    | 6    | 0    | -0.0560   | 2.3292     |
| Ray Mathews         | 42   | 0    | -0.2436   | 61   | 3    | 2.5120    | 2.2684     |
+---------------------+------+------+-----------+------+------+-----------+------------+

Fine print:

1. rather than computing a yearly average punt returner, I compared all players to the same baselines: .0058 kick return TDs per return and .008 punt return TDs per return. Because of the small samples involved, the averages tend to vary quite a bit from year to year. I eyeballed the list for about 20 seconds and didn't recognize a clear long term trend in one direction or the other. Obviously, I could have missed something, so it's possible that I'm penalizing one era compared to another.

2. I counted fair catches in the denominator when computing the punt return TD percentages.

3. This counts all seasons from 1950--2006. I added Hester's '07 numbers by hand. I also included Hester's '06 postseason numbers, but no one else's postseason numbers are included. Hence the asterisk by Hester.

3 Comments | Posted in General

Random trivia: Adrian Peterson edition

Posted by Doug on October 15, 2007

What is the fewest carries in a game for a player who rushed for 200 or more yards?

ANSWER EDIT:

This is regular season only.

+----------------+------------+-----+-----+
| name           | date       | rsh | yd  |
+----------------+------------+-----+-----+
| Bobby Mitchell | 1959-11-15 |  14 | 232 |
| Dan Towler     | 1953-11-22 |  14 | 205 |
| Cliff Battles  | 1933-10-08 |  16 | 215 |
| Thurman Thomas | 1990-09-24 |  18 | 214 |
| Barry Word     | 1990-10-14 |  18 | 200 |
| Bo Jackson     | 1987-11-30 |  18 | 221 |
| John Fuqua     | 1970-12-20 |  20 | 218 |
| Jim Brown      | 1963-09-22 |  20 | 232 |
| Adrian Peterson| 2007-10-14 |  20 | 224 |
| Ahman Green    | 2003-12-28 |  20 | 218 |
| James Brooks   | 1990-12-23 |  20 | 201 |
| LeShon Johnson | 1996-09-22 |  21 | 214 |
| Terry Miller   | 1978-11-26 |  21 | 208 |
| Eric Dickerson | 1984-11-04 |  21 | 208 |
| O.J. Simpson   | 1973-12-09 |  22 | 219 |
| Jamal Lewis    | 2003-12-21 |  22 | 205 |
| Clinton Portis | 2003-12-07 |  22 | 218 |
| Corey Dillon   | 2000-10-22 |  22 | 278 |
| Warrick Dunn   | 2000-12-03 |  22 | 210 |
| Willie Parker  | 2006-11-12 |  22 | 213 |
| Walter Payton  | 1977-10-30 |  23 | 205 |
+----------------+------------+-----+-----+

13 Comments | Posted in General

Random trivia

Posted by Doug on October 12, 2007

What college has produced the most total career NFL passing yards?

FINE PRINT: players who attended multiple colleges are counted with each college (e.g. Troy Aikman counts for both Oklahoma and UCLA).

USELESS HINTS:

1. The answer will possibly be different at the end of this season than it is now.

2. The current answer is not very surprising, but the possible end-of-2007 answer is (a little).

3. If the answer does switch this year, there is a decent chance that it will switch back again in 08 or 09.

ANSWER EDIT:

+----------------+--------+
| College        | PassYd |
+----------------+--------+
| Notre Dame     | 178637 |
| Purdue         | 175535 |
| Stanford       | 142220 |
| Washington     | 136805 |
| Oregon         | 125311 |
| Miami (FL)     | 123911 |
| UCLA           | 116054 |
| Alabama        | 114884 |
| USC            | 112268 |
| Arizona St.    | 98819  |
| Michigan       | 91091  |
| LSU            | 86751  |
| Maryland       | 84030  |
| Penn St.       | 82890  |
| Washington St. | 81477  |
| Georgia        | 81009  |
| California     | 80514  |
| BYU            | 80369  |
| Pittsburgh     | 71720  |
| Rice           | 67752  |
+----------------+--------+

Notre Dame:

+------------------+-----------+--------+
| name             | years     | PassYd |
+------------------+-----------+--------+
| Joe Montana      | 1979-1994 | 40551  |
| Joe Theismann    | 1974-1985 | 25206  |
| Steve Beuerlein  | 1988-2003 | 24046  |
| Daryle Lamonica  | 1963-1974 | 19154  |
| Rick Mirer       | 1993-2003 | 11969  |
| George Ratterman | 1947-1956 | 10473  |
| Frank Tripucka   | 1949-1963 | 10282  |
| Kent Graham      | 1992-2001 | 7801   |
| Johnny Lujack    | 1948-1951 | 6295   |
| Ralph Guglielmi  | 1955-1963 | 4119   |
| Tommy O'Connell  | 1953-1961 | 3261   |
| Terry Hanratty   | 1969-1976 | 2510   |
| George Izo       | 1960-1966 | 1791   |
| Boley Dancewicz  | 1946-1948 | 1551   |
| Blair Kiel       | 1984-1991 | 1296   |
| Bob Williams     | 1951-1955 | 981    |
| Angelo Bertelli  | 1946-1948 | 972    |
| George Wilson    | 1966-1966 | 764    |
| Ken Karcher      | 1987-1988 | 756    |
| Joe Gasparella   | 1948-1951 | 677    |
| Emmett Mortell   | 1937-1939 | 655    |
| George Terlep    | 1946-1948 | 652    |
| Rusty Lisch      | 1980-1984 | 547    |
| Paul Hornung     | 1957-1966 | 383    |
| Ed Rutkowski     | 1963-1968 | 380    |
| Johnny Blood     | 1925-1938 | 299    |
| John Huarte      | 1966-1972 | 230    |
| Jim Leonard      | 1934-1937 | 193    |
| Jarious Jackson  | 2000-2003 | 114    |
| Craig Hentrich   | 1994-2006 | 91     |
+------------------+-----------+--------+

Purdue:

+----------------+-----------+--------+
| name           | years     | PassYd |
+----------------+-----------+--------+
| Jim Everett    | 1986-1997 | 34837  |
| Len Dawson     | 1957-1975 | 28711  |
| Jeff George    | 1990-2001 | 27602  |
| Bob Griese     | 1967-1980 | 25092  |
| Drew Brees     | 2001-2006 | 16766  |
| Gary Danielson | 1976-1988 | 13764  |
| Mike Phipps    | 1970-1981 | 10506  |
| Cecil Isbell   | 1938-1942 | 5945   |
| Mark Herrmann  | 1982-1992 | 4015   |
| Scott Campbell | 1984-1990 | 2983   |
| Sam Vacanti    | 1947-1949 | 2338   |
| Kyle Orton     | 2005-2005 | 1869   |
| Lou Brock      | 1940-1945 | 519    |
| Lew Pope       | 1931-1934 | 230    |
| Rodney Carter  | 1987-1989 | 71     |
| Roy Horstmann  | 1933-1934 | 62     |
| Bob DeMoss     | 1949-1949 | 60     |
| Mark Stevens   | 1987-1987 | 52     |
| John Galvin    | 1947-1947 | 34     |
| Steve Bryant   | 1982-1987 | 24     |
| Johnny Drake   | 1937-1941 | 24     |
| Leroy Keyes    | 1969-1973 | 14     |
| Shawn McCarthy | 1991-1992 | 11     |
| Paul Pardonner | 1934-1935 | 6      |
+----------------+-----------+--------+

38 Comments | Posted in Trivia

Now Serving: Crow

Posted by Chase Stuart on October 11, 2007

Over the last five years, I don't think anyone's knocked Tom Brady more than me. In fact, sometimes I felt as if I was the only one to say or write something critical about the GQ model from Michigan. I heard over and over again that he was a winner, that he made his teammates better, that he was the best QB in the league -- and I was having none of it.

Basically, my argument rested on his mediocre numbers. Brady ranked 13th last season in rearview adjusted yards per attempt, my number one statistic to rank QB performance. Adjusted yards per attempt is the best measure of how a passer played (rearview simply adjusts for strength of schedule), and Brady has never ranked higher than 8th in a single season in that metric! Here's how Brady's best seasons have ranked since the merger, after adjusting for the number of attempts:

Year   Rank
2005  85th best of all time
2004 182nd best of all time
2003 231st best of all time
2001 480th best of all time

Here's what I wrote last year, in my rant:

Not a very inspiring list, is it? You may notice that I left out Brady’s 2002 season. That’s because he averaged 5.68 adjusted yards per pass that year, which was below the league average. So in his one “record-breaking” season [when he led the NFL in touchdown passes], Brady finished below the league average for QBs in the single most important statistic.

I had a hard time understanding why everyone loved Tom Brady, considering he had exactly zero of the top 80 QB seasons of all time, and one of the top 175 seasons. Surely, it was all based on his post-season play -- but all his career averages are worse in the playoffs than in the regular season. And 2001 continues to stick in my craw, because no QB has ever done so little to win a Super Bowl -- he led his team to zero points in the AFC Championship Game, and did little more in the other two games.

But sadly, I'll stop here. Because while I had lots of good arguments before (at least, in my opinion) for why Brady was overrated, they're all moot points now. The only way I could have been more wrong about Brady was if I called him a girl (which, come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I did off-line).

128.7 QB Rating. 16 TDs in 5 games. 9.20 adjusted yards per pass. 74.1% completion percentage.

Brady's in the middle of one of the greatest seasons of all time. He just might end up having the greatest season of all time. Right now the league is averaging 5.98 AY/A, which means Brady has added 508 yards over the league average this season. The highest yards over league average mark is from Manning in '04, with 1,581 (a record Brady is on pace to break).

What else is there to say? I was wrong -- give him some weapons, and the guy is unstoppable. I often find myself cringing when reading Bill Simmons, but he hit the nail on the head with his analysis of the 2007 Patriots -- the ceiling has been removed. At this point, nothing -- nothing -- would surprise me. If you told me that Brady threw for 6 TDs against the Cowboys on Sunday, I'd probably say "yeah, he's awesome." Any other QB (except for Manning) and I'd be floored. If you said Joe QB had a perfect QB rating in a game, I'd say "wow". If I hear that Brady did it, I'd say something like "well yeah, it was bound to happen eventually."

It goes past Brady, of course. People don't realize how good this Patriots team is. Unlike a lot of sports writers, I have heard of the laws of probability, and always dismiss silly talk about going 16-0. With this Patriots team, you simply can't do that. When I see the Patriots winning 20-0 at halftime, I don't even get upset anymore. I just know that this is what the Patriots do, and there's no sense in getting worked up. Yes, I'll root as hard as I can against them for the 2.5 quarters that the Colts give them a game in the AFC Championship game, but that's really about it.

And no, I'm not even going to indulge in any notion that the Pats won't be hosting the AFC Championship Game on January 20th, 2008. No, the Chargers/Raiders/Titans/Jaguars/Bengals/Ravens aren't going into Foxboro and beating the Patriots. The Colts? Maybe they'll give New England a bit of a game, but that's it. The Super Bowl? Please. There's not a team in the NFC that can stay within single digits of the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and we'll get a preview of that this weekend.

As for the Colts, where do they have an edge? The Patriots have the better coach, and will have home field. The Patriots passing attack vs. the Colts pass D? Advantage New England. Patriots running game against that thing Indianapolis calls a run D? Sammy Morris, who couldn't make the roster of the 0-5 Dolphins, is averaging 4.9 yards per carry for the Pats. When New England has Maroney, Morris and Faulk going, look out. The Colts running game against the Patriots run defense? Addai rushed for fewer than three yards per carry against New England last year, and no one will be able to run on this front seven. The Pats run D has looked great so far this year without Seymour or Rodney Harrison (he returned last week), so imagine what they'll look like soon. Seymour/Wilfork/Warren, with Green as a reserve, form the best DL in the league. Reports indicate that Seymour is in terrific shape, and will be playing at his typical Pro Bowl level very soon. Bruschi/Vrabel/Seau/Thomas/Colvin? As good as any linebackers in the league, including Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Maybe, maybe, the Colts have an edge in the passing game vs. the Patriots pass defense. Manning's still incredible, and the Colts have the most talented weapons in the NFL. But the Colts aren't going to win a shootout in Foxboro in January, and I doubt they'll win one at the RCA Dome in November. So yes, the ceiling has been removed for Brady and the 2007 Patriots. I'd put the odds of them winning the Super Bowl at over 50% right now, which is incredible. Everyone understands that the Pats are the best team in the league, but few seem to realize just how good this team is. I can't look down on others right now though: until this year, I was way wrong for not realizing how good Tom Brady is.

28 Comments | Posted in Rant

Crazy power rankings

Posted by Chase Stuart on October 10, 2007

On Monday Night, the Dallas Cowboys won a game despite never running a play with the lead. Believe it or not, it's not the first such game the Bills have lost this year -- in week one, the Broncos also took their first lead on a game winning field goal as time expired.

While I'm certainly no Bills apologist, an 0-2 record from those two games doesn't (in my humble opinion) accurately reflect how they played in those two games. Of course, if either field goal missed, Buffalo would have gone 2-0. But what about the fact that they ran zero plays from scrimmage when trailing the opponent?

It got me to thinking of one of my favorite stats that no one uses -- time of possession when winning, tied, or trailing. Unfortunately, I don't have TOP data easily accessible, but I do have data from the Footballguys.com Data Dominator on the number of pass attempts and rush attempts (sack data not included, unfortunately) in each of those three situations.

This led me to the idea of a different type of power rankings. I ranked each team by the number of plays run when winning, losing, or tied in the game. I then calculate their percentage the same way the NFL calculates winning percentage: (Wins + Ties * 0.5) / Total Games. Take the Patriots, for example. They've run 246 plays while in the lead, and only 19 when trailing. Another 60 came when tied, with a lot of those at the starts of games. Their winning percentage is therefore 0.849 (276/325). Here's the list for all 32 teams.

	 Pct	 W	 L	 T
NE	0.849	246	 19	 60
PIT	0.841	221	 13	 71
IND	0.762	230	 61	 31
JAX	0.731	144	 35	 57
WAS	0.635	108	 42	 95
GB	0.629	144	 64	101
TB	0.629	134	 67	 59
CHI	0.515	119	110	 70
BAL	0.514	140	130	 78
DAL	0.503	112	110	 94
BUF	0.498	 86	 87	 78
OAK	0.492	 95	 99	 47
SEA	0.490	101	107	 83
SD	0.475	120	135	 47
ATL	0.462	 63	 85	139
DET	0.451	 92	120	 74
PHI	0.371	 51	113	 77
TEN	0.367	 51	118	 82
MIN	0.364	 46	110	 80
HOU	0.360	 64	145	 81
NYJ	0.356	 57	141	 94
CAR	0.345	 58	148	 85
NYG	0.344	 58	153	 94
STL	0.340	 40	137	127
DEN	0.326	 68	170	 55
CIN	0.285	 59	168	 27
CLE	0.281	 70	195	 20
ARI	0.274	 50	191	 71
MIA	0.232	 31	178	 65
KC	0.213	 37	195	 43
SF	0.197	 24	172	 48
NO	0.188	 28	197	 46

That list bears some resemblance to most people's power rankings, although it's important to remember that there is no strength of schedule adjustment here. According to Sagarin, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Carolina have faced the easiest schedules. Meanwhile, Buffalo, New Orleans and Cincinnati have faced the toughest. Buffalo ranks higher on this list than nearly every power rankings list you'll find, despite not even factoring in that they've played the toughest schedule in the league. A couple of kicks go the other way, and Buffalo would easily be 3-2, with forgivable losses at Pittsburgh and New England (the top two teams on this list).

Margin of victory isn't factored into this analysis explicitly, but it's not ignored, either. In a blowout, you're simply not going to run many plays from scrimmage with the lead. Conversely, if you're up by 21 early and win by 31, you'll get lots of credit in this ranking system for running nearly all your plays with the lead.

Do I really think that the Giants are worse than the Vikings? No. I don't think the Cowboys are worse than the Bears or Bucs, and I'd take the Bengals over the Rams when they play each other. Ideally, these numbers would be adjusted for strength of schedule, which would knock Dallas down even further, but "feel" more accurate.

Are these useful? I don't really know. But it helps to get an idea of how the games have gone this year, and that's something that I like to know. The Titans are 3-1 with a two point loss to the Colts, so you could argue they're easily a top five team.

On the other hand, the 2 point loss to the Colts underscores the fact that Tennessee never held the lead in the game. They were down 14-3 pretty early on, and the Colts never let the Titans take over the game. The blowout win over the Saints makes it easy to forget that New Orleans held a lead for about five minutes in the third quarter. In the season opener, Jacksonville was winning for almost two full quarters. Tennessee won by three, and Jacksonville was without their field goal kicker for the day (and as a result, eschewed a 36 yard field goal attempt in the second half). That game could have easily have gone either way. Against Atlanta, the Titans were tied or trailing until one minute to go in the third quarter, and Atlanta had 1st and goal from the 1 down by a TD with two minutes to go in the game.

Yes, Tennessee deserves a load of credit for winning three games. When ranking what they've accomplished to date, they might deserve to be in your top five. But the point is they could be ever so slightly less talented (or lucky) and be 1-3 instead of 3-1 right now. For predictive purposes, I think that's something you shouldn't overlook.

17 Comments | Posted in General

Hand Grenades and Horseshoes

Posted by Jason Lisk on October 9, 2007

There are numerous ways to define heartbreak in the NFL. Many fans can point to their team's playoff failures as evidence of heartbreak, and there is no doubt that coming close in the playoffs can be heartbreaking. Today I am going to focus on teams that just missed out on the playoffs. If you miss the playoffs on a tiebreaker, there is no way to make up for it. You make the playoffs, there is still the hope of tomorrow.

I went back to 1978 to find how many times each team made the playoffs on a tiebreaker, missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker, or finished within one game of forcing a tiebreaker to make the playoffs.

A team is considered to have won a tiebreaker even if, for example, they lost a division tiebreaker but won a wildcard spot tiebreaker. A team is considered to have lost a tiebreaker if they did not make the playoffs, and had the same record as another team that made the playoffs in a spot they could have otherwise claimed. Similarly, a team was "one back" if they finished within 1 game of a playoff spot. I did not calculate tiebreakers to know whether the "one game back" teams would have made the playoffs if they won one more game.

The franchises are listed below, in order of my H&H (hand grenades and horseshoes) index. The H&H index is simply # of times tiebreakers lost x 2 + # of times "one game back" - # of times tiebreaker won to make playoffs. Of course, feel free to arrange this list however you would like. That formula isn't exactly scientific.

franchise   tie won    tie lost    one back    H&H
===================================================
Dolphins       2          6          4          14
Packers        0          5          4          14
Seahawks       2          3          7          11
Saints         0          3          4          10
Raiders        0          1          7           9
Patriots       1          1          7           8
Bengals        1          2          4           7
Broncos        3          4          2           7
Cardinals      0          2          3           7
Chiefs         3          2          6           7
Bills          1          1          4           5
Chargers       1          0          6           5
Oilers/Titans  1          0          6           5
Panthers       0          2          1           5
Eagles         1          1          3           4
Giants         3          2          3           4
Steelers       2          1          4           4
Browns         2          1          3           3
Cowboys        2          1          3           3
49ers          1          1          2           3
Bears          2          1          2           2
Lions          2          1          2           2
Rams           2          1          2           2
Ravens         0          0          2           2
Colts          3          0          4           1
Jaguars        1          0          2           1      
Jets           4          1          3           1
Bucs           1          0          1           0
Falcons        2          0          2           0
Texans         0          0          0           0
Vikings        6          0          5          -1 
===================================================

A few random notes:

-- The Dolphins and Seahawks have had the most seasons end (10) within 1 game of a playoff spot since 1978.
-- The Vikings may have a lot of playoff heartbreak, but they are 6 for 6 in making the playoffs on tiebreakers. They would have been 7 for 7 but for the last second loss at Arizona in 2003.
--The 49ers have only lost one tiebreaker, but that was in 1991 when they were the 2nd best team according to the simple rating system, but lost on a head to head tiebreaker within their division to the Falcons.
--The Ravens and Texans are the only two franchises not to go to a tiebreaker for a playoff spot so far.

7 Comments | Posted in General, History

Random trivia

Posted by Doug on October 8, 2007

I've got a lot going on for the next few weeks and months and blogging will undoubtedly have to be de-prioritized at times (even more than it already has been). Fortunately, Chase is still kicking in, but in those days where we have nothing else to post, I'm going to try to post some random trivia questions. Here's the first. It's a two-parter:

1. since the merger, what percentage of the time does the team that wins the turnover battle win the game (only counting games where the turnovers aren't even)?

2. what is the largest turnover deficit in a single game by a winning team?

ANSWER UPDATE:

1. 78.3%. Here it is by margin:

+1: 66.4%
+2: 80.4%
+3: 88.1%
+4 or more: 94.2%

2.

+------+-----+------------+-------+-----------+
| team | opp | date       | score | TO_margin |
+------+-----+------------+-------+-----------+
| PIT  | TAM | 1983-10-30 | 17-12 |        -7 |
| CIN  | KAN | 1976-11-21 | 27-24 |        -6 |
| TEN  | CLE | 2000-11-19 | 24-10 |        -6 |
| BUF  | NYJ | 1970-10-04 | 34-31 |        -5 |
| BAL  | CHI | 1970-11-29 | 21-20 |        -5 |
| WAS  | NOR | 1971-10-31 | 24-14 |        -5 |
| SFO  | MIN | 1972-12-16 | 20-17 |        -5 |
| MIN  | NOR | 1975-11-16 | 20-7  |        -5 |
| CLE  | MIA | 1976-11-28 | 17-13 |        -5 |
| DEN  | KAN | 1985-12-14 | 14-13 |        -5 |
| BUF  | NYG | 1987-10-18 | 6-3   |        -5 |
| MIA  | NWE | 1990-10-18 | 17-10 |        -5 |
| SDG  | ARI | 1995-12-09 | 28-25 |        -5 |
| CHI  | DET | 1998-10-04 | 31-27 |        -5 |
+------+-----+------------+-------+-----------+

20 Comments | Posted in General, Trivia

The Battle of New York

Posted by Chase Stuart on October 5, 2007

Since the two teams fight for the back of the newspaper every day, there's a natural rivalry between the Jets and the Giants, and by extension, their fans.

The most famous phrase spoken by a New York QB? Is it "We're going to win this game, I guarantee it!" or "I'm going to Disney World"? For that matter, who is the best QB in New York history? Namath or Simms (Jim Kelly fans, please sit this one out)?

The best nickname for a defense? The Big Blue Wrecking Crew, or the New York Sack Exchange?

Best team nickname? Gang Green or Big Blue?

The best RB in New York history? Curtis Martin rushed for 1,000 yards in ten straight seasons, a feat matched only by Barry Sanders. Tiki Barber? He totaled 13,440 yards in seven years, the most by any player in an seven year stretch ever.

The best HC in New York history? Bill Parcells, or Bill Parcells?

While the rivalry might seem lifeless now, in the mid-'80s, the Giants and Jets were more bitter rivals. In 1986 -- when the star defensive players both made the cover of Sports Illustrated -- the Jets started 10-1 and the Giants finished 14-2. A Super Bowl match-up seemed plausible, but one of the most bitter losses in Jets history kept them out of the conference championship game. In the twenty seasons since, the two franchises both went to the playoffs just twice, 2002 and 2006.

Let's stroll through the history of the Jets and Giants:

1925: Tim Mara purchases the Giants for $500, and the city of New York has its first football team.

1934: The Giants win their first championship, beating the previously undefeated Chicago Bears, 30-13. The Bears (twice) and the Dolphins remain the only franchises to have a perfect regular season.

1959: Harry Wismer, along with seven other owners, announce the berth of the American Football League. Wismer will charter the New York franchise, nicknamed the Titans.

1960: Don Maynard, cut by the Giants following the 1958 season and out of the NFL in '59, becomes the first player signed by the Titans. He would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

1963: The Titans are re-named the Jets.

1964: After being drafted by the Jets in the first round of the AFL draft, and in the fourth round in the separate NFL draft by the Giants, Matt Snell becomes the first player to snub the Giants in favor of the Jets. The Ohio State great would later rush for 121 yards in Super Bowl III, and score the winning team's only touchdown.

1964-65: Joe Namath, the highly regarded quarterback prospect, leads Alabama to the National Championship. He is drafted by the NFL's Cardinals, but signs with the Jets, a decision that sends shock waves through both leagues. He's given the largest contract in the history of professional sports, and known as the $427,000 man. Rumor has it that the Giants, who had owned the first pick in the NFL draft that season, passed on drafting Namath to avoid the risk of losing him to the Jets. Former Jets coach Walt Michaels claims that "St. Louis was the patsy for the Giants. They just couldn't stand the publicity if they lost him." Namath is reported to have said that the Cardinals asked him if he'd play for the Giants. The large contract given to Namath helped pave the way towards the NFL's acceptance of the start-up league. The following year the leagues would have their respective champions play (which made the AFL happy), and the year after that, the two teams would have a common draft (which made the NFL owners' accountants happy).

January 12, 1969: The Jets defeat the NFL Champion Baltimore Colts, 16-7. Namath is named MVP of the game, and is immortalized for fulfilling his guarantee. Three days earlier, at a Miami Touchdown Club dinner, Namath gets fed up with a line of questioning minimizing the Jets' chances. He responds by saying "We're going to win this game. I guarantee it."

Pre-season, 1969: The Jets and Giants play against each other for the first time. What was the biggest win for the Jets in 1969? Don Maynard, who was still angry at his former club, argued that it wasn't winning Super Bowl III:

The Super Bowl was one thing, but playing in Yale Bowl before 70,000 people for an exhibition game, that was another kind of Super Bowl. That game meant something. We knew if we didn't beat the Giants, everyone would have said the Super Bowl was just a fluke. We couldn't let that happen."

The Jets blow out the Giants 37-14, while Namath would throw three touchdown passes. The Jets and Giants have played each other in every pre-season since.

1970: The first season of football played after the AFL-NFL merger marks the first of ten regular season Jets-Giants games. Two weeks prior, the Jets played the Colts for the first time since Super Bowl III, and Namath fractures his hand, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. Backup QB Al Woodall passes for 164 yards, but Frank Tarkenton leads New York's senior franchise to a 22-10 victory.

1974: The first of three truly memorable Jets-Giants games. Namath had long been the arch-nemesis of the Giants franchise, as he was the quintessential anti-Giant. Having missed the 1970 game, this would be his only regular season chance to participate in the rivlary. He would not dissapoint.

With eight minutes to go, the Giants led 20-13 when Namath guided his charges to the Giant 3. He called 34 Wham, a running play sending Emerson Boozer off-tackle and, hopefully, three yards into the end zone to tie the game. At the line, however, Namath saw something-- linebacker Brad Van Pelt planning to slide toward the middle. But Namath didn’t audible. He didn’t even hint to his own players that he planned a change. He just called for the ball and swung into action.

Namath's improvisation fooled everyone, down to Boozer. The Jets ran the play with such sincerity that the Giants were utterly fooled; Namath wobbled on a weak side bootleg toward the end zone.

At the last second Spider Lockhart and Eldridge Small reached striking distance—they could at least make Namath pay by slamming him to the ground. Namath had the gall, no, the balls, to raise one hand and waving off the defenders, warning them not to ruin his glorious moment. Astonishingly, both pulled up as Namath tied the game. “They had to respect the man’s magic,” Mark Kriegel wrote in “Namath.”

Namath, of course, showed no mercy. A new NFL rule called for overtime and Namath piloted the Jets to football’s first regular season overtime touchdown, passing to Boozer in the end zone for a 26-20 win. In his last great act, Namath finished off his rivals—the Giants dropped their remaining games, finishing 2-12—while lifting his own team, as the Jets reeled off six straight wins to end the season at a respectable 7-7.

1981: Jets 26, Giants 7, in the first Jets-Giants game played at Giants Stadium. Wesley Walker was the star of the day with six catches for 142 yards and a TD. Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko would each record 20 sacks in 1981.

1982: If injuries come in threes, this was the first. Phil Simms suffers a season-ending injury in the pre-season game against the Jets.

1983: The Jets play their last home game on Long Island: After failing to get money to renovate Shea Stadium, owner of the Jets, Leon Hess decided to move his team to Giants Stadium.

1984: In their inaugural season at the Meadowlands, the Jets host the Giants and lose, 20-10. This is the first time the Giants will play a road game at Giants Stadium. Marion Barber III's father, fumbles twice for the Jets.

1986: The Giants win their first Super Bowl, 39-20 over the Denver Broncos. Phil Simms becomes the first player to shout "I'm going to Disney World" after winning the Super Bowl.

1987: The Giants, suffering from a Super Bowl hangover, salvage a 6-9 season by at least beating the Jets, 20-7.

1988: After three relatively nondescript games, the most famous game in this rivalry occurs. The Giants rebounded from a disappointing '87 season, and would once again play the Jets in the regular season finale. The 10-5 Giants needed a win to make the playoffs, while the 7-7-1 Jets were playing the role of spoiler. After being down most of the game, Phil Simms throws his third score of the game to put the Giants up 21-20. But with under a minute to go, Ken O'Brien finds Al Toon for the game winning touchdown. That reception was Toon's 93rd of the season, which led the league. It remains the franchise single-season record, and he's still the only Jet to lead the league in receptions in a season.

1990: Wide Right. The Giants win their second Super Bowl, 20-19.

1992: With the 14th pick in the NFL draft, the New York Giants select tight end Derek Brown. With the 15th pick in the NFL draft, the New York Jets select tight end Johnny Mitchell. The two first round pick TEs, selected back to back, would naturally be compared to each other for years -- except neither would last in New York past 1995.

1993: Jets 10, Giants 3. This game was played on Halloween, which is the only interesting thing I can think of.

1996: The "Toilet Bowl" pitted the 0-3 Jets against the 0-3 Giants. The senior team emerged victorious, in a 13-6 win that was every bit as ugly as you would think.

1997: Giants legend Bill Parcells comes back to the Meadowlands, but this time to coach the Jets.

1998: Jason Sehorn, one of the very best cornerbacks in the league, injures his knee returning a kick in the pre-season game against the Jets. He would miss the entire season, and would never be the same player again.

1999: Parcells' fourth game in this series, but his only manning the Jets sidelines. Ray Lucas, the star Rutgers product born in New Jersey, would throw for 4 TDs. But Amani Toomer stole the show with 181 yards and three scores, leading the Giants to a 41-28 victory. Bill Parcells would, uh, retire after the season.

2003: The third of the significant Jets-Giants pre-season injuries, along with the third memorable game. Chad Pennington suffers a fracture in his non-throwing hand after being hit by Brandon Short, and would miss the first six games of the season. His first start of the year would come against the Giants, in the team's most recent regular season match-up.

For the second Jets-Giants game in a row, the Jets QB would throw four touchdown passes. Santana Moss would catch three scores, including one to cut the lead to 28-21 with six minutes remaining. Pennington would drive the Jets down the field, before finding Anthony Becht in the end-zone for the game-tying touchdown.

In overtime, the miscues began. The Giants drove into Jets territory, but Brett Conway hooked a 39-yard field goal. The Jets followed that up by taking too long to decide what to do, facing a 4th and 3 at the Giants 32. After Herm Edwards finally sent out the field goal unit, James Dearth snapped the ball with one second left on the play clock. But place kicker Doug Brien was still in his pre-kick routine, and his weak attempt was blocked. The Giants would storm down the field and kick a 29-yarder, for their third straigth win in the series.

10/07/2007: Jets @ Giants, 1 PM.

2010: The Jets and Giants begin play in their new joint stadium.

Finally, here's a list of every player to suit up for both franchises.

| name             | pos       |
+------------------+-----------+
| Raul Allegre     | K         |
| Cary Blanchard   | K         |
| Johnny Bookman   | DB        |
| John Booty       | DB        |
| Terrell Buckley  | DB        |
| Jim Carroll      | LB        |
| Jonathan Carter  | WR        |
| Brett Conway     | K         |
| Mike Dennis      | DB        |
| Steve DeOssie    | LB        |
| Jumbo Elliott    | T         |
| Joe Fields       | C-G       |
| Larry Flowers    | DB        |
| Sam Garnes       | DB        |
| Chris Godfrey    | G-T-DE-DT |
| Scott Gragg      | T         |
| Ray Green        | DB        |
| Lee Grosscup     | QB        |
| T.J. Hollowell   | LB        |
| Erik Howard      | NT-DT-DE  |
| Proverb Jacobs   | T-DT      |
| Chuck Janerette  | DT-T-G    |
| Dave Jennings    | P         |
| Curley Johnson   | RB-P-TE   |
| Pepper Johnson   | LB        |
| Gordon King      | T-G       |
| Lance LeGree     | DT-DE     |
| Leonard Marshall | DE-DT     |
| Don Maynard      | E-FL-HB   |
| Ed McGlasson     | C         |
| Kareem McKenzie  | T         |
| Dave Meggett     | RB        |
| Chuck Mercein    | RB        |
| Bob Mischak      | G-TE      |
| Chad Morton      | RB        |
| Lonnie Palelei   | G-T       |
| Roman Phifer     | LB        |
| Joe Prokop       | P         |
| Kenyon Rasheed   | FB        |
| Lee Riley        | DB        |
| William Roberts  | G-T       |
| Coleman Rudolph  | DE-LB     |
| Adam Schreiber   | G-C       |
| Omar Stoutmire   | DB        |
| Billy Taylor     | RB        |
| Maurice Tyler    | DB        |
| Roscoe Word      | DB        |

14 Comments | Posted in General

Re-run: Favre vs. Marino

Posted by Doug on October 4, 2007

Since I don't have anything else to post today, and since Favre is breaking one of Marino's records every week, I might as well post a link back to this post from a few months ago where I analyzed their careers at length. Readership of this blog obviously drops in the offseason, so some of you may have missed it the first time around.

My conclusion was as follows:

My vote

Marino.

Marino has slightly, but clearly, better numbers. Marino’s ability to avoid sacks adds to that edge a little bit. Marino’s failure to win a ring shouldn’t enter into it at all. The only reasonable argument for Favre, in my view, is that he would have posted better numbers than Marino had he had Marino’s supporting cast. It’s going to be subjective, as always, but the objective parts of the argument are so close that I really can’t fault anyone for voting for Favre on that basis.

Four games, no matter how good or bad, probably shouldn't change a decision made on the basis of 240 games, but if it was close before (which it was), then it's just a tad closer now.

7 Comments | Posted in General, History

Simple ratings through four weeks

Posted by Doug on October 3, 2007

Here is a link to last week's ratings and here is a link to the formula.

nwe 2007   19.9   -5.1    4- 0-0
dal 2007   13.0   -6.7    4- 0-0
gnb 2007   12.8    3.0    4- 0-0
pit 2007   12.6   -3.4    3- 1-0
ind 2007   10.6   -3.7    4- 0-0
sea 2007    8.0   -0.5    3- 1-0
phi 2007    7.5    4.7    1- 3-0
nyg 2007    6.0    9.0    2- 2-0
ten 2007    4.8   -1.2    2- 1-0
ari 2007    3.2    2.2    2- 2-0
was 2007    2.7    1.3    2- 1-0
hou 2007    2.2   -1.3    2- 2-0
tam 2007    2.1   -7.2    3- 1-0
min 2007    2.0    0.0    1- 3-0
jax 2007    1.7   -2.3    2- 1-0
cin 2007   -0.2    5.5    1- 3-0
cle 2007   -1.3    0.9    2- 2-0
det 2007   -2.5   -0.7    3- 1-0
sdg 2007   -3.4    5.1    1- 3-0
oak 2007   -4.3   -4.8    2- 2-0
kan 2007   -4.3   -1.8    2- 2-0
bal 2007   -4.4   -1.7    2- 2-0
car 2007   -5.5   -4.3    2- 2-0
den 2007   -5.9   -0.1    2- 2-0
atl 2007   -5.9    0.1    1- 3-0
sfo 2007   -7.1    2.1    2- 2-0
chi 2007   -8.0    0.7    1- 3-0
nyj 2007   -8.4   -0.6    1- 3-0
buf 2007   -8.4    4.6    1- 3-0
mia 2007   -9.5    0.7    0- 4-0
stl 2007  -15.4    0.6    0- 4-0
nor 2007  -15.9    5.8    0- 3-0

If you count all wins by less than 7 points as 7-point wins, and all wins by more than 21 points as 21-point wins, you get this:

nwe 2007   15.7   -5.3    4- 0-0
ind 2007   13.1   -0.2    4- 0-0
pit 2007   11.6   -2.4    3- 1-0
gnb 2007   10.8    0.3    4- 0-0
dal 2007    9.1   -8.1    4- 0-0
sea 2007    8.4   -0.1    3- 1-0
ten 2007    7.7    2.1    2- 1-0
tam 2007    4.0   -5.3    3- 1-0
jax 2007    3.2    0.2    2- 1-0
hou 2007    3.1   -0.1    2- 2-0
ari 2007    2.8    2.8    2- 2-0
nyg 2007    2.6    5.4    2- 2-0
phi 2007    1.7    3.5    1- 3-0
det 2007    0.8   -2.0    3- 1-0
min 2007    0.6    0.6    1- 3-0
was 2007   -0.2   -2.9    2- 1-0
cle 2007   -1.2    0.5    2- 2-0
den 2007   -1.5    1.7    2- 2-0
cin 2007   -2.3    4.7    1- 3-0
oak 2007   -3.0   -3.7    2- 2-0
kan 2007   -3.3   -1.8    2- 2-0
sdg 2007   -3.8    3.9    1- 3-0
bal 2007   -4.2   -2.4    2- 2-0
car 2007   -4.6   -3.3    2- 2-0
sfo 2007   -4.7    2.0    2- 2-0
atl 2007   -5.7    0.6    1- 3-0
buf 2007   -6.3    4.2    1- 3-0
chi 2007   -7.3    0.7    1- 3-0
nyj 2007   -9.0   -2.0    1- 3-0
nor 2007  -10.1    8.3    0- 3-0
mia 2007  -13.0   -0.8    0- 4-0
stl 2007  -14.8    0.9    0- 4-0

11 Comments | Posted in General

Two promises

Posted by Doug on October 2, 2007

Back before the college football season started, I mocked the human polls and devised an algorithm to mimic them. I still haven't gotten around to catching up with what that "poll" would look like for the 2007 season, but I promise that I will do that at some point before too long. (<--- Promise #1)

Even without running it, though, it does seem clear that my algorithm isn't going to be as accurate as I hoped. So here I am admitting I was wrong. My apologies to all those graduate assistant strength-and-conditioning coaches and newspaper sports page interns. They have indeed been giving their rankings a bit more thought than I was giving them credit for.

Promise #2 is to someday (within the next two weeks) do the programming for a new rating system that I'm about to tell you about. I'm hoping that putting the promise in writing will make me more likely to keep it. It starts with a comment that was recently added to one of my old rating system posts, and is similar to other comments on rating systems. I can't find it at the moment, but I'll paraphrase it:

Does this system take into account the strength of the team at the time? For example, if the Patriots suffer some injuries and end up 8-8, then the Jets, Chargers, and Bills should get credit for losing to a great team --- a team that truly was playing lights-out at the time --- rather than some generic 8-8 team.

I think arguments could be made both fer and agin' that mode of thinking, but I'm going to set them aside for now and focus on the question: assuming you do want to incorporate at-the-time strength of opponents into your rating system, how do you do it?

Measuring at-the-time strength of schedule instead of overall strength of schedule necessarily means that you are treating the Week 2 Patriots as a different team than the Week 14 Patriots. It's possible, I'd even say likely, that both of those teams are of similar strength, but we don't want to assume it. If you take this thinking to its extreme, then you'd have to assume that there is no team called the "Patriots." Rather, there are 16 Patriot teams, one for each week. There may be some correlation between their strengths, but if you really want to go all the way with the at-the-time SOS philosophy, you can't assume it. And I guess that leaves you making no strength of schedule adjustments at all.

OK, so we don't want to be that extreme. If we're to conclude anything at all about strength of a team's schedule, we have to make some sort of assumption that every team bears some resemblance to its incarnation of the previous week, and of the next week. Consider this:

Week 1:  Vikings over Falcons by 21
Week 2:  Jags over Falcons by 6
Week 3:  Panthers over Falcons by 7
Week 4:  Falcons over Texans by 10

If we assume the minimum amount of continuity between the possibly-different teams that took the field wearing Falcon jerseys --- that is, if we want to allow the possibility that the Falcons' strength is continuously in flux --- then we don't want to infer too much about the relative strengths of the Vikings and Texans by comparing how they did against the Falcons. Those were different Falcon teams, after all. The minimum amount of continuity would be one game, so let's compare Falcon opponents only if they played the Falcons in consecutive games. So I can compare the Vikes to the Jags via the Falcons, and I can compare the Panthers to the Texans via the Falcons, but I won't (directly) compare the Vikings to the Texans.

Over the years I've learned that the simple rating system can do just about anything you want if you just figure out how to redefine what a "game" is. So I propose to regard this data as follows:

The Vikings are 15 points better than the Jags
The Panthers are 1 point better than the Jags
The Panthers are 17 points better than the Texans

Those are my games. And likewise there was a "Falcons-Lions game," which the Lions won by 24 points (do you see why?), and a "Falcons-Titans game," which the Titans won by 3, and so on.

And then I'll run the simple rating system on this collection of games. As you can see, there will still be an implied connection between the Week 1 Falcons and the Week 3 Falcons, but it will be indirect. And the connection between the Week 1 Falcons and the Week 17 Falcons will be so indirect as to be practically meaningless.

You need not write in to tell me that this is a pointless academic exercise; I already know that. But pointless academic exercises are my schtick, so I'm going to roll with it. I'm under no illusion that this will provide a better rating system, but I do think that, by taking a look at the teams whose traditional simple rating are very different from what this rating shows, we might find out some interesting things that we didn't know before.

6 Comments | Posted in BCS, College

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