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Archive for November, 2009

PI Finds: Brees’ Banner Night

30th November 2009

Two weeks after their debacle at Indianapolis, the New England Patriots suffered another embarrassing defeat in front of a national television audience on Monday night, as Drew Brees ravaged their defense en route to a 38-17 New Orleans Saints blowout. Here are the worst losses by the Patriots during the Bill Belichick era:

Year Day Date Team Points Opponent Points Location Margin
2003 Sun 9/7/2003 Patriots 0 Bills 31 Buffalo -31
2008 Sun 9/21/2008 Patriots 13 Dolphins 38 Foxboro -25
2000 Thu 11/23/2000 Patriots 9 Lions 34 Detroit -25
2005 Sun 10/2/2005 Patriots 17 Chargers 41 Foxboro -24
2008 Sun 11/30/2008 Patriots 10 Steelers 33 Foxboro -23
2009 Mon 11/30/2009 Patriots 17 Saints 38 New Orleans -21
2006 Sun 12/10/2006 Patriots 0 Dolphins 21 Miami -21

Brees was also at the helm of the Chargers' offense during that 41-17 game in 2005, so he's actually engineered two blowouts over the Belichick Patriots in his career.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in PI Finds | 28 Comments »

HOF 2010: John Randle

30th November 2009

In September, we noted that 131 candidates were placed on the preliminary list of modern-era nominees for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Saturday, that list was narrowed down to 25 semifinalists. By January 7th, that list will be reduced by a mail ballot to 15 modern-era finalists. Floyd Little and Dick LeBeau are the two senior nominees this year, which means there will be 17 modern-era finalists from which the Hall will select between four and seven new members (but no more than five from the semifinalist list; classes of six or seven can only be achieved if one or two senior nominees are selected). On Saturday, February 6, 2010, the day before Super Bowl XVIV, the members of the Class of 2010 will be announced.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in HOF, Player articles | 15 Comments »

NCAA: SRS ratings through thirteen weeks

29th November 2009

Last week's SRS rankings

Peter R. Wolfe's college games scores

While little changed at the top -- only Ndamukong Suh and the Cornhuskers stand in the way of the seemingly inevitable Texas-Floribama BCS Championship Game -- it was a wild rivalry week in college football. The only two one-loss teams both lost to their biggest rivals; Oklahoma State got smashed by SRS-favorite and Bedlam rival Oklahoma; Clemson, Utah, North Carolina and Ole Miss, all in the top 25 in the AP, lost battles to their in-state rivals, as well. Up top, Texas A&M and Auburn both came oh-so-close to pulling off big upsets, to the dismay of most of the population of Fort Worth, Cincinnati and Boise. There are now six undefeated teams in the FBS, zero one-loss teams, and nine two-loss teams (with six of them in BCS conferences, and half of those in the Big 10).

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in BCS, College | 8 Comments »

Gary Kubiak and Coaching Scared

25th November 2009

I'm stunned, absolutely stunned (your sarcasm meter should start going off about now) by the double standard that exists with complaining about coaching decisions. All last week, I heard about how a decision is judged on what happens thereafter. Well, by that standard, I saw plenty of decisions that were bad enough to merit complaint, but not a single talking head is yelping about it. Okay, so those were not in prominent prime time games. Well, then Gary Kubiak, with one timeout in hand, in position for a deep field goal from the thirty yard line with a kicker who had already missed from the same distance and had missed a last second attempt to tie the week before, uses that timeout by instructing his quarterback to take the snap and fall to the center of the field behind the line of scrimmage. Kris Brown, even with that excellent centering job, missed the kick badly. I mean, if ever there was a bone-headed decision that also lead to a bad result, this was it, in front of the whole Monday night football watching universe.

Two days later, and I'm still waiting for the firestorm.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Rant, Statgeekery | 14 Comments »

NFL ratings through 11 weeks

25th November 2009

On Monday, I posited a way to predict future NFL team performance while ignoring things like points scored, points allowed and win-loss record. Instead, I argued that we should break each team into four parts: passing efficiency, rushing efficiency, defensive passing efficiency and defensive rushing efficiency.

Passing efficiency is defined as simply net passing yards per attempt ((passing yards minus sack yards lost), divided by (pass attempts plus sacks)). Rushing efficiency is just yards per carry; the defensive statistics follow the same method. After comparing each team to the league average in each of the four categories, we can see how many yards per attempt better than average each team is. We add up the four yards per attempt measures relative to league average to come up with a total score, multiply by five, and viola! Team ratings!

Does this sound kooky? Sure. But my research indicates that it may be more accurate than common perception. Let's see what the numbers say through ten weeks. For both offensive and defensive ratings, positive numbers are good and negative numbers are bad. In addition to the four categories (passing offense, rushing offensive, passing defense, rushing defense), I've included total offense and total defense grades, for you to sort as you desire.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Statgeekery | 28 Comments »

Tecmo Super Bowl Game of the Week: Patriots at Saints

24th November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at PFR! And as usual, thanks are in order to Matt Knobbe and the Tecmo Super Bowl Repository, who present your Tecmo Super Bowl Game of the Week for Week 12, featuring the New England Patriots and the undefeated New Orleans Saints. The highlights:

(How did we do this? Matt and the other dedicated folks at the message board have spent a lot of time over the years updating this classic Nintendo football game, including the introduction of a 32-team ROM a few seasons ago. Sounds complicated, but don't worry, it's easy for you to enjoy the fruits of their labor: just get yourself an NES emulator, download the 2009 version of Tecmo here, and play to your heart's content. And be sure to check back at Matt's site for roster updates and more Tecmo-related goodness all season long.)

Posted in Tecmo Super Bowl, YouTube Finds | 8 Comments »

Malcolm Gladwell, google searches, and quarterback draft status versus performance as predictor of future playing time

24th November 2009

25209092779_Steelers_at_BengalsLast week, a high level cat fight broke out over Malcolm Gladwell's book "What The Dog Saw" when Dr. Steven Pinker wrote a critique in the NY Times. That critique included a reference to one essay in the book, which originally ran last December in the New Yorker, entitled "Most Likely to Succeed: how do we hire when we don't know who's right for the job?" In that essay, Gladwell states, in reference to what he calls the quarterback problem, that "[t]here are certain jobs where almost nothing you can learn about candidates before they start predicts how they’ll do once they’re hired." Pinker responded that "[i]t is simply not true that a quarterback’s rank in the draft is uncorrelated with his success in the pros."

Gladwell fought back on his blog. His responses were primarily attacks upon the individuals later cited by Pinker to support the position that draft position does matter, contrary to what Gladwell claimed, with minor reference that the critiques failed to appreciate the difference between aggregate performance and per play performance. He closed with:

I have enormous respect for Professor Pinker, and his description of me as “minor genius” made even my mother blush. But maybe on the question of subjects like quarterbacks, we should agree that our differences owe less to what can be found in the scientific literature than they do to what can be found on Google.

This, of course, piqued my interest. I admit to having heard reference to Gladwell's essay that originally ran last December, but had not paid it much attention. When I see defenses that are primarily based on attacks of the person, and what I see as an initially questionable assumption (per play statistics are all important; aggregates do not matter), well, I feel compelled to dig further. I happen to believe that the merits of an argument rise and fall on the quality of the facts and analysis, and not on who made it. This is true whether the arguments are presented in a scientific journal or on a blog. Oh, and I wanted to add something that could be found with a Google search.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in NFL Draft, Statgeekery | 23 Comments »

PI Finds: Ravens Don’t Relish the Red Zone

23rd November 2009

The Baltimore Ravens can't buy a red-zone touchdown these days -- against the Colts on Sunday, they had four chances from inside Indy's 20, and four times they came away with nothing so show for it. This isn't a new development, either; since they scored two red zone TDs against the Patriots on October 4th, they have scored just 5 total TDs from inside the opponent's 20 in their past 6 games:

G# Date Opp Result Qtr Type Dist Scorer Passer
6 10/18/2009 MIN L 31-33 4 Passing 12 Derrick Mason Joe Flacco
7 11/1/2009 DEN W 30-7 4 Passing 20 Derrick Mason Joe Flacco
7 11/1/2009 DEN W 30-7 4 Rushing 7 Ray Rice
8 11/8/2009 CIN L 7-17 4 Rushing 2 Ray Rice
9 11/16/2009 CLE W 16-0 3 Rushing 13 Ray Rice

Perhaps most damning is the fact that they only scored 1 red zone TD (in two trips) against the miserable Browns, the NFL's 4th-worst scoring defense and its 2nd-worst D by yards per play allowed. Through the New England game they had scored 12 red zone TDs in four games, but they've sputtered badly of late once they get in the shadow of the opponent's goal posts, as Flacco's QB rating (a healthy 89.1 across all situations) is just 66.5 in the red zone. Compare that with Kurt Warner (110.3 red zone rating), Drew Brees (106.4), Peyton Manning (96.4), Tom Brady (95.8), Eli Manning (94.8), or even David Garrard (85.0), and it's easy to see why the Ravens aren't putting the necessary points on the board when they get close to the opponent's end zone. With their hopes of a return trip to the playoffs slipping away (they're 2-5 since beating Cleveland on September 27), Baltimore will have to start finishing their drives or the season could quickly become a bust.

Posted in PI Finds | Comments Off on PI Finds: Ravens Don’t Relish the Red Zone

NFL teams underrated through ten weeks

23rd November 2009

5341885  Marshall FaulkI don't advocate gambling on football games, and neither does the P-F-R blog. Point-spread data are very useful as historical guides to understanding the perception at any point in time and to measure how the public may improperly value certain teams. The past is never a perfect prediction of the future, and the results of this post are intended for educational purposes, only.

About a year ago I wrote a preliminary post on how to grade the best defenses in NFL history. I focused on four categories to rank defenses, as I didn't think there was one best stat to use. Today I'm going to use four "basic" categories to grade each team; rushing yards per carry, net yards per pass attempt, rushing yards per carry allowed, and net yards per pass attempt allowed.

I'm ignoring things like touchdowns, fumbles and interceptions. Why? Interception rates are essentially random, and fumble recovery rates are too. Touchdowns are slightly more predictable, but they don't correlate with future success as well as yards do. Therefore, instead of assigning some arbitrary value to touchdowns scored, I chose to leave them out. I could probably improve the formula by assigning a small weight for touchdowns (and maybe an even smaller weight to turnovers), but I'm trying to use some "basic" stats. On the other hand, I'm leaving in sack and sack yardage data, based on the work done by Jason to show that such numbers are predictable.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in History, Statgeekery | 7 Comments »

NCAA: SRS ratings through twelve weeks

22nd November 2009

Last week's SRS ratings

Thanks to Peter R. Wolfe, who makes the final score of all college football games publicly available, here are the NCAA SRS ratings through twelve weeks:

rk team conf confrk MOV SOS SRS W L
1 Texas B12 1 24.8 45.1 69.9 11 0
2 Florida SEC 1 23.0 43.6 66.6 11 0
3 Alabama SEC 2 20.1 45.5 65.6 11 0
4 TCU MWC 1 24.2 41.4 65.6 11 0
5 Virginia Tech ACC 1 12.2 50.2 62.4 8 3
6 Oregon P10 1 13.5 48.7 62.3 9 2
7 Cincinnati BigE 1 20.9 40.4 61.3 10 0
8 Georgia Tech ACC 2 12.0 49.0 61.0 10 1
9 Boise St WAC 1 23.2 36.8 60.0 11 0
10 Oklahoma B12 2 13.0 46.9 59.9 6 5
11 Clemson ACC 3 13.8 45.8 59.7 8 3
12 Arkansas SEC 3 11.4 46.6 58.0 7 4
13 Ohio State B10 1 15.0 42.8 57.7 10 2
14 Texas Tech B12 3 12.4 44.8 57.2 7 4
15 Penn State B10 2 16.4 40.8 57.1 10 2
16 Miami FL ACC 4 7.9 49.2 57.1 8 3
17 Nebraska B12 4 12.0 45.1 57.1 8 3
18 Pittsburgh BigE 2 15.3 41.5 56.8 9 1
19 Mississippi SEC 4 12.1 43.6 55.7 8 3
20 Stanford P10 2 8.7 47.0 55.7 7 4
21 LSU SEC 5 9.1 46.3 55.4 8 3
22 California P10 3 8.2 46.4 54.7 8 3
23 Oklahoma St B12 5 10.3 44.0 54.3 9 2
24 Oregon St P10 4 9.5 44.4 53.9 8 3
25 Southern Cal P10 5 6.0 47.6 53.6 7 3
26 Arizona P10 6 6.0 47.4 53.4 6 4
27 Tennessee SEC 6 7.1 46.3 53.4 6 5
28 North Carolina ACC 5 7.6 45.4 53.1 8 3
29 Iowa B10 3 7.0 45.1 52.2 10 2
30 Brigham Young MWC 2 11.7 40.4 52.1 9 2
31 Auburn SEC 7 5.9 46.1 52.1 7 4
32 Missouri B12 6 6.0 45.6 51.6 7 4
33 West Virginia BigE 3 6.6 44.3 50.9 7 3
34 Boston College ACC 6 5.7 45.1 50.8 7 4
35 Florida St ACC 7 0.8 49.5 50.2 6 5
36 Utah MWC 3 10.1 39.8 49.9 9 2
37 Air Force MWC 4 12.1 37.7 49.8 7 5
38 Connecticut BigE 4 5.6 44.2 49.8 5 5
39 Georgia SEC 8 1.0 48.8 49.8 6 5
40 Notre Dame INDY 1 3.3 46.4 49.7 6 5
41 Nevada WAC 2 12.4 37.0 49.4 8 3
42 Houston CUSA 1 12.7 36.6 49.3 9 2
43 Wisconsin B10 4 6.7 42.3 49.0 8 3
44 UCLA P10 7 0.8 48.0 48.8 6 5
45 Kentucky SEC 9 5.0 43.7 48.7 7 4
46 Central Michigan MAC 1 16.1 32.5 48.6 9 2
47 South Carolina SEC 10 0.1 48.5 48.6 6 5
48 Navy INDY 2 6.4 41.5 47.9 8 3
49 Wake Forest ACC 8 -1.1 48.9 47.8 4 7
50 Texas A&M B12 7 2.9 44.8 47.7 6 5
51 East Carolina CUSA 2 6.0 41.1 47.0 7 4
52 South Florida BigE 5 8.8 38.2 46.9 7 3
53 Michigan St B10 5 3.6 43.2 46.8 6 6
54 Fresno St WAC 3 7.6 39.1 46.7 7 4
55 Kansas B12 8 0.8 45.6 46.4 5 6
56 Mississippi St SEC 11 -2.8 48.7 45.9 4 7
57 Arizona St P10 8 1.5 44.4 45.8 4 7
58 Kansas St B12 9 1.0 43.8 44.8 6 6
59 Rutgers BigE 6 10.4 33.9 44.2 7 3
60 Virginia ACC 9 -5.3 49.4 44.1 3 8
61 Minnesota B10 6 -3.0 47.0 44.0 6 6
62 Washington P10 9 -7.6 51.5 43.9 3 7
63 Central Florida CUSA 3 3.8 39.8 43.6 7 4
64 Southern Miss CUSA 4 8.6 34.9 43.6 7 4
65 Purdue B10 7 -1.2 44.7 43.5 5 7
66 Temple MAC 2 10.1 33.3 43.5 9 2
67 Troy SunB 1 5.2 37.1 42.3 8 3
68 Duke ACC 10 -0.8 42.7 41.9 5 6
69 Michigan B10 8 1.0 40.4 41.4 5 7
70 Iowa St B12 10 -1.6 43.0 41.4 6 6
71 North Carolina St ACC 11 -1.4 42.7 41.3 4 7
72 Marshall CUSA 5 0.0 41.2 41.2 6 5
73 Baylor B12 11 -5.5 46.3 40.8 4 7
74 Middle Tennessee St SunB 2 6.7 34.0 40.7 8 3
75 Northern Illinois MAC 3 10.0 30.6 40.6 7 4
76 Colorado B12 12 -5.7 46.1 40.4 3 8
77 Louisiana Tech WAC 4 0.3 39.9 40.2 3 8
78 Bowling Green MAC 4 0.9 38.8 39.7 6 5
79 SMU CUSA 6 -0.4 39.6 39.3 6 5
80 Northwestern B10 9 1.6 37.7 39.2 8 4
81 Ohio U. MAC 5 5.0 33.9 38.9 8 3
82 Tulsa CUSA 7 1.6 37.2 38.9 4 7
83 Illinois B10 10 -5.7 44.1 38.5 3 7
84 Vanderbilt SEC 12 -7.2 45.5 38.3 2 10
85 Syracuse BigE 7 -6.7 44.5 37.7 4 7
86 Indiana B10 11 -4.9 41.6 36.8 4 8
87 Louisville BigE 8 -6.7 43.1 36.4 4 7
88 Buffalo MAC 6 -0.2 36.4 36.2 4 7
89 Idaho WAC 5 -2.6 38.8 36.2 7 4
90 Alabama-Birmingham CUSA 8 -2.9 39.1 36.2 5 6
91 Maryland ACC 12 -11.2 47.1 35.9 2 9
92 Wyoming MWC 5 -8.7 44.0 35.3 5 6
93 Utah St WAC 6 -5.6 40.7 35.1 3 8
94 UNLV MWC 6 -7.1 42.0 35.0 4 7
95 Louisiana-Monroe SunB 3 0.9 33.9 34.8 6 5
96 Colorado St MWC 7 -8.0 42.7 34.6 3 8
97 San Diego St MWC 8 -6.5 40.0 33.5 4 7
98 Hawai`i WAC 7 -3.3 36.0 32.7 5 6
99 Western Michigan MAC 7 -2.1 34.1 32.0 5 6
100 Arkansas St SunB 4 -1.6 33.4 31.8 2 8
101 UTEP CUSA 9 -5.6 37.1 31.5 3 8
102 Florida Atlantic SunB 5 -7.8 38.1 30.3 3 7
103 Kent St MAC 8 -3.1 33.3 30.2 5 6
104 Toledo MAC 9 -6.4 36.5 30.1 5 6
105 Louisiana-Lafayette SunB 6 -4.5 34.2 29.8 6 5
106 Florida Int'l SunB 7 -10.5 38.9 28.3 3 8
107 Memphis CUSA 10 -13.0 41.1 28.1 2 9
108 Akron MAC 10 -10.3 37.5 27.2 2 9
109 Washington St P10 10 -23.2 50.0 26.7 1 10
110 Army INDY 3 -5.7 32.2 26.5 5 6
111 San José St WAC 8 -18.2 44.1 25.9 1 9
112 Miami OH MAC 11 -16.3 41.7 25.5 1 11
113 North Texas SunB 8 -9.7 34.4 24.8 2 9
114 Ball St MAC 12 -11.0 35.8 24.7 1 10
115 New Mexico MWC 9 -16.6 41.2 24.6 1 10
116 Rice CUSA 11 -18.2 41.4 23.2 2 9
117 Tulane CUSA 12 -18.0 39.2 21.2 3 8
118 New Mexico St WAC 9 -17.5 36.8 19.3 3 8
119 Western Kentucky SunB 9 -20.0 37.0 17.1 0 10
120 Eastern Michigan MAC 13 -20.9 37.7 16.9 0 11

And the conference ratings:

conf rat
SEC 53.2
B12 51.0
ACC 50.4
P10 49.9
BigE 48.0
B10 46.0
MWC 42.3
WAC 38.4
CUSA 36.9
MAC 33.4
SunB 31.1
  • Worst teams in a Big 6 conference? Washington State (26.7 SRS, 1-10), Maryland (35.9, 2-9), Louisville (36.4, 4-7) and Indiana (36.8, 4-8).
  • Best teams outside of the Big 6 conferences? TCU (65.6, 11-0), Boise State (60.0, 11-0), BYU (52.1, 9-2), Utah (49.9, 9-2) and Air Force (49.8, 7-5).
  • Most dominant win this season? Oklahoma beating Texas A&M 65-10 in Norman (MOV of 38, SOS of 47.7, for an SRS score of 85.7). Runners up: Oregon 42-3 over Cal (30, 54.7, 84.7); Texas Tech over Oklahoma this weekend 41-13 (24.5, 59.9, 84.4) and Stanford over USC 55-21 (30.5, 53.6, 84.1).
  • Most embarrassing loss by an FBS team? Toledo losing at home to Western Michigan (SRS of 32.0) 58-26 (MOV of -29.5, SOS of 32.0, SRS score of 2.5).
  • Worst loss by a Big 6 conference team? Texas A&M falling 62-14 (and it wasn't even that close) to Kansas State. MOV of -34.5, SOS of just 44.8, for an SRS score of only 10.3.

Posted in College | Comments Off on NCAA: SRS ratings through twelve weeks

PI Finds: Rivers Seems to Have the Broncos’ Number

20th November 2009

781091108148_Chargers_v_GiantsPhilip Rivers leads the Chargers into battle against the Denver Broncos again on Sunday, and San Diego has to feel pretty good about its chances with No. 17 at the helm.

That's because, out of all the players in NFL/AFL history to face the Broncos franchise, no quarterback has ever performed better against Denver than Rivers -- and it's not particularly close. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in PI Finds | 9 Comments »

Announcement: Professional Sports Leagues Steroid Policies

20th November 2009

Sports-Reference, with the help of researcher Greg Spira, is proud to present our definitive, comprehensive reference page regarding the performance-enhancing drug policies in place for various North American sports leagues/associations. In it, you'll find a list (in FAQ format) of the various PED regulations in pro sports leagues, in addition to lists of every athlete suspended under each league's policies.

We want this page to be your best source for information about steroid/PED policies in pro sports. However, pages like these are constantly growing and evolving with new information, so if you know of a policy or a suspended athlete not listed on the page, send us an e-mail and we'll be sure to include it on the site.

Posted in Announcements | 5 Comments »

Tecmo Super Bowl Game of the Week: Chargers at Broncos

19th November 2009

Courtesy of Matt Knobbe and the Tecmo Super Bowl Repository, here's your Tecmo Super Bowl Game of the Week for Week 11, featuring the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. The highlights:

(How did we do this? Matt and the other dedicated folks at the message board have spent a lot of time over the years updating this classic Nintendo football game, including the introduction of a 32-team ROM a few seasons ago. Sounds complicated, but don't worry, it's easy for you to enjoy the fruits of their labor: just get yourself an NES emulator, download the 2009 version of Tecmo here, and play to your heart's content. And be sure to check back at Matt's site for roster updates and more Tecmo-related goodness all season long.)

Posted in Tecmo Super Bowl | 5 Comments »

Checkdowns: Smart Football Retrospective on 4th-and-2-gate

19th November 2009

One of my favorite football blogs is Chris Brown's Smart Football, and yesterday he had a very thoughtful post about Bill Belichick's controversial decision:

"It’s not really fair to pick on Tony Dungy, who was an excellent football coach, because his excellence had nothing to do with any training in statistics or probability. But his comment that 'you have to play the percentages and punt' is symptomatic of a wider issue, which is that when something 'feels horribly wrong' we inherently want the evidence to comport with that feeling and we convince ourselves that it does. Dungy is a conservative guy, he likely would say that punting gives him plenty of chances to win, he’s a defensive coach so he has no qualms about showing faith in his defense, and, bottom line, the idea of putting that much significance on one play just didn’t sit well with him. That’s all fine, but it has nothing to do with the percentages. Yet his brain and experience had told him that somehow the percentages supported it too, and thus Belichick’s move was the 'risky gamble.'"

You already know how us stat geeks feel about Belichick's call, but it's nice to see someone with a great deal of expertise in the X's and O's also think critically about the decision to go for it.

Posted in Checkdowns, Coaches | 18 Comments »

My college football rankings — week 11 edition

18th November 2009

To the non-college football fans this year, my apologies for making things so college heavy this month. The college game has held more of my interest more lately, for reasons most of you should be able to figure out.

Last Sunday, I posted my weekly NCAA SRS ratings. These simple ratings are designed to measure how good teams actually are, and how likely they are to win in the future. A week ago I posted by Week 10 college football rankings, which was the list I would submit if I was a voter in the AP or any other poll. As I wrote last week, strength of schedule and margin of victory still play a role in these rankings, but for the most part, "a win is a win." If there is one guiding principle behind why each team is slotted where it is, it is this: each team has accomplished slightly more this season than the team behind them, and has accomplished slightly less than the team behind them.

I also value SOS more than MOV now, because we're focused on accomplishments. When doing the SRS, we want to know which teams are the best -- the theory being that (roughly) you can't choose who you play but you can choose how much you beat them by. Great teams blow out inferior opponents, so blowing out teams is a sign that you're a very good team. But for college football rankings, we care more about who you beat than by how much you beat them. Not all wins should be treated equally -- a lucky win is not the same as an impressive win -- but I'm generally dialing down the MOV factor and increasing the weight on the SOS factor in these rankings.

After the list below, I also am listing each team's three best wins and worst losses on the season. The "best" win is the opponent who has the best SRS (after adding/subtracting 3 points to/from the opponent's SRS in road/home games); the "worst" loss is the opponent with the worst SRS (same).
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in College | 6 Comments »

Fifth Down Blog post

18th November 2009

Every Tuesday for the remainder of the season, P-F-R will be teaming up with the New York Times' Fifth Down Blog. This week's column looks at the incredible season Titans running back Chris Johnson is enjoying. A small excerpt of that article appears on page B12 of today's print edition, for those of you still inclined to read your news in hard copy.

Posted in Announcements | 1 Comment »

Remember when 300 yard passing games were for losers?

17th November 2009

One of the Sunday traditions on NFL Countdown was to list the 300 yard passers and 100 yards rushers from each week of action, and then point out how more frequently the 100 yard rushers won. It was a prime exhibit for those who get their correlations crossed with their causations to use in order to point out that establishing the run is what wins in football. If you've been paying attention this year, you may have noticed that even that old canard about 100 yard rushers versus 300 yard passers has disappeared. I'm going to show you some astonishing numbers. Here is the W/L record when a player has 100 yards rushing, or 300 yards passing, going back to 2002 (oh, and curse you Donovan McNabb and Tommy Maddox).

	300 yard passers				100 yard rushers	
2009	41	18	0.695		45	19	0.703
2008	47.5	28.5	0.625		100	30	0.769
2007	43	38	0.531		105	37	0.739
2006	39	29	0.574		112	47	0.704
2005	29	33	0.468		115	23	0.833
2004	36	45	0.444		135	44	0.754
2003	29	31	0.483		107	44	0.709
2002	44.5	34.5	0.563		96	40	0.706

Those numbers include six shootouts in which both teams had a 300 yard passer, as well as two games where each team had a 100 yard rusher, and one game where one team had two rushers reach that mark. In games where one team has a 300 yard passer and the other doesn't, the record for the 300 yard passer is 35-12 (.744), compared to 42-17 (.712) in games where a team has at least one 100 yard rusher and the other does not.

Up until last year, teams that had a passer reach 300 yards won about half the time. The numbers for 100 yard rushers have held steadily north of 70%. Last year's mark of 0.625 was the highest since 1962 (NFL), when passers went 15-5-1 when throwing for 300 yards, and this year's percentage is exceeding last year. Last year, the 47 games won by teams with a 300 yard passer were the most ever. And so far this year, we are at 41, and every team still has seven games left. To put that in historical perspective, from 1970-1977, quarterbacks who threw for 300 yards won a total 45 games, over 8 seasons. We are almost there in nine weeks.

Weather should slow that pace down, but judging by the ratios from the last seven years (on average, there were forty-three 300 yard games from 2002-2008 through game 9), we are looking at somewhere in the range of ninety-eight 300 yard passing games in 2009. That would be the highest total ever. The previous high (90) was in 1995, the expansion year when Carolina and Jacksonville joined. That total dropped immediately to 50 the next year, so it was a freak anomaly partially aided by the expansion dilution year. The two other spikes in the percentage of 300 yard games were also directly attributable to either profound rule changes or massive expansion. The rule changes in 1978 to assist the passing game resulted in a four-fold increase in 300 yard games within a few years. The formation of the AFL and expansion from 12 to 22 professional teams led to a spike in high passing yardage games in the NFL from 1961 to 1963.

This one seems different. We are eight years removed from the last expansion. We are five years removed from some rules changes. I know Chase has some thoughts on this that he might write up. What do you think? Anomaly, or definite trend?

Posted in General | 19 Comments »

Belichick, Peyton Manning, and 4th down decisions

16th November 2009

Internet message boards, twitter feeds and sports media are blowing up over Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on 4th and 2 from his own 28-yard line, up by six points, with 2:08 remaining. First, a quick review of the play.

The Pats came out with three WRs to Brady's left, with Wes Welker the nearest receiver to Brady on that side of the field. On Brady's right was Randy Moss isolated out wide, with Kevin Faulk in the backfield. Indy came out looking like they were going to blitz six -- they had the four WRs in tight, man-coverage, and safety Melvin Bullitt about fifteen yards deep to Brady's right. Brady then sent #33, Kevin Faulk, to go line up as the inside WR on the right side, and #33 (Bullitt) for the Colts came in to line up against him. Indy was now going to rush six against NE's five, while NE knew all five of their WRs were in single coverage. Brady recognized that he was going to have to make a quick and accurate pass.

It turns out that Faulk was the primary read all along, as he took twp steps, did a quick fake left, and then curled right just a yard or so past the first-down marker. Since the drive started after a touchback, the Pats needed to get to exactly the 30-yard line for the first down. The ball hit Faulk's hands but he bobbled the ball; Bullitt pushed Faulk backwards, and by the time he landed with possession of the ball, he was on New England's side of the 30-yard line.
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Posted in Coaches, Insane ideas, Statgeekery | 51 Comments »

Checkdowns: Belichick Was Right

16th November 2009

I had a feeling about this at the time, and Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats only confirms my initial belief: if you crunch the numbers, Bill Belichick made the correct decision when he decided to go for it on 4th-and-2 at his own 28 with 2:08 to go in the game vs. Indy last night...

"With 2:08 left and the Colts with only one timeout, a successful 4th-and-2 conversion wins the game for all practical purposes. A conversion on 4th-and-2 would be successful 60 percent of the time. Historically, in a situation with 2:00 left and needing a TD to either win or tie, teams get the TD 53 percent of the time from that field position. The total win probability for the 4th-down conversion attempt would therefore be:

(0.60 * 1) + (0.40 * (1-0.53)) = 0.79 WP (WP stands for win probability)

A punt from the 28 typically nets 38 yards, starting the Colts at their 34. Teams historically get the TD 30 percent of the time in that situation. So the punt gives the Pats about a 0.70 WP."

And if you consider that Manning is an assassin from anywhere on the field, it will actually make it look like a better decision by Belichick. As Brian says, "you can play with the numbers any way you like, but it's pretty hard to come up with a realistic combination of numbers that make punting the better option. At best, you could make it a wash."

Now, I know Rodney Harrison and Trent Dilfer were ripping Belichick pretty hard on TV, but that's only because hindsight is 20/20. Had the conversion succeeded, they would have praised the coach for his "guts" and "decisive leadership". It's the great thing about being able to analyze decisions like this after the fact -- you can tailor your analysis to fit the result, rather than what the right choice was at the time. Unfortunately for Belichick, he didn't have that privilege. But maybe he can take some solace in knowing that, statistically, he made the right call, talking heads be damned.

EDIT: Here's an Excel sheet where you can enter the probabilities you think were correct last night, and see how often the Patriots would win. "1stDprob" is the probability of getting the 1st down on 4th-and-2; "1stdwp" is the Pats' win probability if they convert on 4th-and-2; "failed1stdcltwp" is the Colts' win probability if the Pats' 4th-and-2 fails; "puntprob" is the probability of the Pats getting off a punt; and "coltsdrvwp" is the Colts' win probability if Belichick punts and asks them to drive down the field. As you can see, even if you believed that Indy would win 70% of the time if you failed on 4th-and-2 and only 30% if you punted, it still comes out a wash... There's no doubt Belichick made the right decision.

Posted in Checkdowns | 32 Comments »

NCAA: SRS ratings through eleven weeks

15th November 2009

With just one week left in the college football regular season, the college football rankings should be more precise than ever this week. And, as members of the national media are becoming more apt to notice, it appears we've got a Big 4, not a Big 3. With a blowout victory over rival Utah last night, TCU now is within half a point of Florida and Alabama, while the Horned Frogs' in-state rival now have a field-goal lead over all schools.

A quick review of the SRS system. All games are included, even games against FCS opponents. The SRS is simply the sum of a team's margin of victory and its strength of schedule. Strength of schedule is easily calculated; it's the average SRS rating of all of a team's opponents (iterated hundreds of times to ensure that we get "true" strength of schedule ratings). Margin of victory could be easy to calculate, except I've decided to adjust the typical MOV in order to give us more accurate results. In addition to giving each road team three points, there's a cap and a floor for each game. Wins of fewer than 7 points (after including HFA) are counted 7-point wins; wins of greater than 24 points are counted as the average of 24 points and the actual margin of victory (after including HFA). The only exception is FCS games are uncapped.

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Posted in College | 4 Comments »