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Last year, Atlanta won its fourth game of the year in week eleven.

Last year, Carolina won its fourth game of the year in week fourteen.

This year, both the Falcons and Panthers have started the season 4-0. But both teams have feasted on some pretty easy schedules. Which gets us to the real question: how good are these teams, really?

For Carolina, it’s easy to buy into the idea that this 4-0 streak is mostly a mirage. The Panthers have beaten Jacksonville, Houston, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay. Those four teams are 4-12 this year, after the Saints defeated the Cowboys in overtime on Sunday Night Football. And two of those wins came against each other! Carolina may very well have gone 4-0 against four teams that won’t win 20 games combined this year. [click to continue…]


Last year, I introduced the first edition of the College Football SRS Ratings after five weeks.  And while it’s too early to put too much weight on these ratings, they help to at least begin framing the discussion of which are the most impressive teams in college football.  As a reminder, here is the methodology:

1) For each game not played at a neutral site, 3 points are given to the road team. After that adjustment, all wins and losses of between 7 and 24 points are recorded exactly as such. This means that a 24-10 road win goes down as +17 for the road team, -17 for the home team.

2) With one exception, wins of 7 or fewer points are scored as 7-point wins and losses of 7 or fewer points are scored as 7 point losses. So a 4-point home win goes down as +7 (and not a 1) and a 1-point home loss is a -7 (and not a -4). The one exception is that road losses of 3 or fewer (and home wins of 3 or fewer) are graded as ties. So a 21-20 home victory goes down as a 0 for both teams.

3) Wins/Losses of more than 24 points are scored as the average between the actual number and 24. This is to avoid giving undue credit to teams that run up the score. So a 75-point home win goes down as a 48-point win.

Once we have a rating for each team in each game, we then adjust each result for strength of schedule. This is an iterative process, where we adjust the ratings hundreds of times (to adjust for SOS, you have to adjust for the SOS of each opponent, and the SOS of each opponent’s opponent, and so on.) in Excel. Then we produce final ratings, where the SRS rating is the sum of the Margin of Victory and Strength of Schedule in every week.

After five weeks, what are the results? As usual, the table is fully searchable (type “-0” for example, to see a list of undefeated teams, SEC to see all SEC teams, or ACC-Coas if you really want to see how the ACC Coastal is doing). Right now, the number one team is Alabama.  Despite the Crimson Tide already having one loss, Bama has an average (adjusted) Margin of Victory of 17.6 points per game against an average opponent that is 39.9 points better than average (average includes all football teams at all levels, so all FBS teams will have a positive grade). Below shows the ratings for all 128 FBS teams.

As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs.

4Southern CalP121P12-South421.333.754.93-1
9West VirginiaB123B12416.636.252.83-1
11Ohio StateB102B10-East518.132.450.55-0
15Texas A&MSEC4SEC-West515.833.749.55-0
16Notre DameInd1Ind-West514.634.549.14-1
18Boise StMWC1MWC-Mntn520.22848.24-1
20North CarolinaACC3ACC-Coas516.930.747.64-1
22Kansas StB124B12415.431.847.23-1
28Brigham YoungInd2Ind-West50.845.346.13-2
29Florida StACC4ACC-Atl419.326.345.64-0
32North Carolina StACC5ACC-Atl521.323.244.54-1
33Oklahoma StB126B1251628445-0
34Georgia TechACC6ACC-Coas510.43343.42-3
36Western KentuckyCUSA1CUSA-East514.328.642.94-1
39Virginia TechACC9ACC-Coas54.436.941.32-3
42Michigan StB107B10-East58.832.2415-0
43East CarolinaAmer3Amer-East52.538.440.93-2
44Mississippi StSEC8SEC-West51030.540.53-2
45Georgia SouthernSun1Sun513.426.539.94-1
47Louisiana TechCUSA2CUSA-West511.82839.83-2
49Iowa StB127B1244.833.838.52-2
53Air ForceMWC2MWC-Mntn46.631.4382-2
54Arizona StP127P12-South50.337.237.53-2
56Texas TechB128B1255.431.336.73-2
57Miami FLACC10ACC-Coas412.623.836.43-1
58Bowling GreenMAC2MAC-East51.934.536.43-2
59Middle Tennessee StCUSA3CUSA-East59.526.435.92-3
61Penn StateB1010B10-East57.628.335.94-1
67Northern IllinoisMAC3MAC-West53.830.934.72-3
69Ohio U.MAC4MAC-East510.623.734.34-1
70Utah StMWC3MWC-Mntn4-1.535.433.92-2
71Oregon StP1210P12-North4-4.638.333.62-2
72Wake ForestACC12ACC-Atl51.13233.12-3
75Central MichiganMAC5MAC-West5-1.233.532.32-3
76Boston CollegeACC13ACC-Atl59.92231.93-2
77South CarolinaSEC14SEC-East5-4.736.531.82-3
78San José StMWC5MWC-West51.72930.72-3
86Appalachian StSun2Sun415.513.228.73-1
89Southern MissCUSA5CUSA-West58.519.828.33-2
90Ball StMAC8MAC-West5-5.633.327.72-3
93Arkansas StSun3Sun5-3.530.426.92-3
94Western MichiganMAC9MAC-West4-8.934.625.81-3
96Florida Int'lCUSA6CUSA-East50.824.2252-3
98Washington StP1212P12-North4122.623.62-2
99Colorado StMWC7MWC-Mntn53.519.422.92-3
104South FloridaAmer10Amer-East4-1.923.721.81-3
105San Diego StMWC9MWC-West5-1.823.221.42-3
107Texas-San AntonioCUSA7CUSA-West5-11.430.819.41-4
108South AlabamaSun6Sun5-8.527.619.13-2
109Texas St-San MarcosSun7Sun4-1129.918.91-3
110Florida AtlanticCUSA8CUSA-East4-8.42718.71-3
112Kent StMAC11MAC-East5-2.320.518.22-3
115Central FloridaAmer12Amer-East5-1228.816.80-5
118New MexicoMWC10MWC-Mntn54.111.315.43-2
119Fresno StMWC11MWC-West5-15.330.715.41-4
120Eastern MichiganMAC12MAC-West5-8.523.314.81-4
121Miami OHMAC13MAC-East5-13.82713.21-4
122Old DominionCUSA10CUSA-East5-12.522.710.22-3
124Georgia StSun10Sun4-9.517.47.91-3
125North TexasCUSA12CUSA-West4-23.429.25.80-4
126New Mexico StSun11Sun4-13.919.65.80-4
  • Okay, it’s no surprise to see Alabama or Oklahoma at the top. These blue bloods of college football both have played very well this year, and have great points for/points allowed ratios despite difficult schedules. But what about Michigan at #3? Yes, it’s very early, but the Wolverines have outscored opponents 122-14 over the last four games. The one loss came on the road in week 1 to Utah, who ranks #7 in these ratings, by just 7 points.
  • How about Navy checking in at #5?? Navy has beaten East Carolina, Air Force, and UCONN by the combined scores of 106-50. No, it’s not reasonable to expect the Midshipmen to keep this up, but so far, it’s been a great year for Navy.
  • Remember, the SRS only looks at points scored, points allowed, game location, and schedule strength. So how come Michigan is ahead of Utah? Well, Utah obviously recorded huge scores in the blowout win over Oregon and in the victory against Michigan. But the Utes beat #70 Utah State, at home, by just 10 points, while a 21-point victory against #119 Fresno State also lowers these ratings. Michigan’s blowouts are carrying the day right now, while Utah’s schedule strength is hurting them. But that will change as the Utes go through the Pac-12 gauntlet.

Finally, here are the single-game SRS ratings for each FBS team in week 5. Obviously the big wins by Alabama and Florida top the charts.

Oklahoma_B1244West Virginia24HomeWin2017B1252.769.7
Arizona St_P1238UCLA23RoadWin1518P1246.964.9
Baylor_B1263Texas Tech35NeutWin2826B1236.662.6
Boise St_MWC55Hawai`i0HomeWin5538MWC22.260.2
Navy_Amer33Air Force11HomeWin2219MWC37.956.9
Louisville_ACC20North Carolina St13RoadWin710ACC44.454.4
North Carolina_ACC38Georgia Tech31RoadWin710ACC43.353.3
Notre Dame_Ind22Clemson24RoadLoss-20ACC51.451.4
Western Kentucky_CUSA49Rice10RoadWin3933CUSA17.950.9
Texas A&M_SEC30Mississippi St17HomeWin1310SEC40.450.4
East Carolina_Amer49SMU23RoadWin2626.5Amer22.649.1
Clemson_ACC24Notre Dame22HomeWin20Ind4949
Brigham Young_Ind30Connecticut13HomeWin1714Amer3549
Ohio State_B1034Indiana27RoadWin710B1038.248.2
Pittsburgh_ACC17Virginia Tech13RoadWin47ACC41.248.2
Oklahoma St_B1236Kansas St34HomeWin20B1247.147.1
Georgia Southern_Sun51Louisiana-Monroe31RoadWin2023Sun22.345.3
Toledo_MAC24Ball St10RoadWin1417MAC27.644.6
Cincinnati_Amer34Miami FL23HomeWin118ACC36.344.3
Florida St_ACC24Wake Forest16RoadWin811ACC3344
Kansas St_B1234Oklahoma St36RoadLoss-20B1243.943.9
Vanderbilt_SEC17Middle Tennessee St13RoadWin47CUSA35.842.8
Missouri_SEC24South Carolina10HomeWin1411SEC31.842.8
Boston College_ACC7Duke9RoadLoss-20ACC42.742.7
Central Michigan_MAC29Northern Illinois19HomeWin107MAC34.641.6
Auburn_SEC35San José St21HomeWin1411MWC30.641.6
Virginia Tech_ACC13Pittsburgh17HomeLoss-4-7ACC48.241.2
Louisiana Tech_CUSA43Louisiana-Lafayette14HomeWin2925Sun16.141.1
Purdue_B1021Michigan St24RoadLoss-30B1040.940.9
Indiana_B1027Ohio State34HomeLoss-7-10B1050.440.4
West Virginia_B1224Oklahoma44RoadLoss-20-17B125740
Mississippi St_SEC17Texas A&M30RoadLoss-13-10SEC49.439.4
Bowling Green_MAC28Buffalo22RoadWin69MAC29.938.9
Georgia Tech_ACC31North Carolina38HomeLoss-7-10ACC47.537.5
Iowa St_B1238Kansas13HomeWin2522B1215.437.4
Ohio U._MAC14Akron12RoadWin27MAC28.635.6
Penn State_B1020Army14HomeWin67Ind28.535.5
Air Force_MWC11Navy33RoadLoss-22-19Amer54.335.3
Washington St_P1228California34RoadLoss-6-7P1242.235.2
Utah St_MWC33Colorado St18HomeWin1512MWC22.834.8
Wake Forest_ACC16Florida St24HomeLoss-8-11ACC45.534.5
LSU_SEC44Eastern Michigan22HomeWin2219MAC14.733.7
Southern Miss_CUSA49North Texas14HomeWin3528CUSA5.733.7
South Alabama_Sun24Troy18RoadWin69Sun24.433.4
North Carolina St_ACC13Louisville20HomeLoss-7-10ACC42.932.9
Connecticut_Amer13Brigham Young30RoadLoss-17-14Ind4632
Massachusetts_MAC24Florida Int'l14HomeWin107CUSA24.931.9
Duke_ACC9Boston College7HomeWin20ACC31.831.8
Memphis_Amer24South Florida17RoadWin710Amer21.731.7
California_P1234Washington St28HomeWin67P1223.630.6
Ball St_MAC10Toledo24HomeLoss-14-17MAC46.829.8
Michigan St_B1024Purdue21HomeWin30B1029.329.3
Army_Ind14Penn State20RoadLoss-6-7B1035.828.8
South Florida_Amer17Memphis24HomeLoss-7-10Amer38.228.2
Arkansas St_Sun49Idaho35HomeWin1411Sun17.128.1
Texas Tech_B1235Baylor63NeutLoss-28-26B1253.827.8
Tulane_Amer45Central Florida31HomeWin1411Amer16.727.7
Buffalo_MAC22Bowling Green28HomeLoss-6-9MAC36.327.3
Middle Tennessee St_CUSA13Vanderbilt17HomeLoss-4-7SEC34.227.2
Akron_MAC12Ohio U.14HomeLoss-2-7MAC34.227.2
Texas-San Antonio_CUSA25UTEP6RoadWin1922CUSA5.227.2
Marshall_CUSA27Old Dominion7HomeWin2017CUSA10.227.2
Eastern Michigan_MAC22LSU44RoadLoss-22-19SEC46.127.1
San Diego St_MWC21Fresno St7HomeWin1411MWC15.326.3
South Carolina_SEC10Missouri24RoadLoss-14-11SEC3726
Northern Illinois_MAC19Central Michigan29RoadLoss-10-7MAC32.225.2
San José St_MWC21Auburn35RoadLoss-14-11SEC3524
Colorado St_MWC18Utah St33RoadLoss-15-12MWC33.921.9
Miami FL_ACC23Cincinnati34RoadLoss-11-8Amer29.821.8
Kent St_MAC20Miami OH14HomeWin67MAC13.120.1
UCLA_P1223Arizona St38HomeLoss-15-18P1237.419.4
Appalachian St_Sun31Wyoming13HomeWin1815MWC4.219.2
Louisiana-Monroe_Sun31Georgia Southern51HomeLoss-20-23Sun39.816.8
Kansas_B1213Iowa St38RoadLoss-25-22B1238.416.4
Idaho_Sun35Arkansas St49RoadLoss-14-11Sun26.815.8
Louisiana-Lafayette_Sun14Louisiana Tech43RoadLoss-29-25CUSA39.714.7
SMU_Amer23East Carolina49HomeLoss-26-26.5Amer40.814.3
Florida Int'l_CUSA14Massachusetts24RoadLoss-10-7MAC21.114.1
Wyoming_MWC13Appalachian St31RoadLoss-18-15Sun28.613.6
New Mexico_MWC38New Mexico St29HomeWin97Sun5.712.7
Old Dominion_CUSA7Marshall27RoadLoss-20-17CUSA28.811.8
Miami OH_MAC14Kent St20RoadLoss-6-7MAC18.111.1
Fresno St_MWC7San Diego St21RoadLoss-14-11MWC21.410.4
Hawai`i_MWC0Boise St55RoadLoss-55-38MWC48.110.1
Troy_Sun18South Alabama24HomeLoss-6-9Sun1910
Rice_CUSA10Western Kentucky49HomeLoss-39-33CUSA42.99.9
New Mexico St_Sun29New Mexico38RoadLoss-9-7MWC15.38.3
Georgia St_Sun3341HomeLoss-8-11fcs19.38.3
Central Florida_Amer31Tulane45RoadLoss-14-11Amer18.37.3
North Texas_CUSA14Southern Miss49RoadLoss-35-28CUSA28.20.2
UTEP_CUSA6Texas-San Antonio25HomeLoss-19-22CUSA19.3-2.7

Leave your thoughts in the comments. And get used to these ratings becoming a Sunday tradition.

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Joe Philbin, Ryan Tannehill, and Non-Winning Seasons

We are in year 4 of the Joe Philbin/Ryan Tannehill era in Miami, one that has been defined by a season of scandal surrounded by a constant stream of mediocrity.  The Dolphins went 7-9, 8-8, and 8-8 during the last three seasons, but entered 2015 with higher expectations. Then, after an ugly opening week win against Washington, Miami lost to Jacksonville before getting embarrassed by the Bills last weekend. So with the Dolphins at 1-2 and underdogs on Sunday against the Jets in London, rumors are swirling that it won’t take much to cause Miami to move on from Philbin — perhaps as soon as after the Jets game, if it’s a repeat of last Sunday for Miami.

Let’s say that doesn’t happen, but that Miami finishes the year with another 7-9 or 8-8 record. How rare would it be if Philbin and Tannehill stay in Miami and the team fails to post a winning record for the fourth season in a row? [click to continue…]


Week Three (2015) Fourth Down Decisions In Review

Boldest Coach of the Week:

John Harbaugh’s Ravens were the only team to go for it on 4th down twice before the 4th quarter, as Baltimore converted a 4th-and-5 in the 3Q after going for it in the 2nd quarter on his own 27.  The latter decision was particularly bold: the Ravens were the only team to attempt a fourth down conversion in the first 20 minutes of the game, and going for it so close to a team’s own end zone is practically unheard of in the first half of games.   Harbaugh’s aggressiveness was rewarded, as Anthony Levine took a fake punt right end for 3 yards. On this play, fortune favored the bold: Cedric Peerman tackled Levine behind the line of scrimmage, but in the process, he caused Levine to fumble.  Levine fumbled forward and recovered, picking up the first down.

Half-Hearted Decision of the Week

Ken Whisenhunt wisely went for it on 4th-and-1 from the Indianapolis 4-yard line when up by 10 points with 20 minutes remaining.  That’s a smart decision, for many reasons, not the least of which is that being up by 13 can be a double-edged sword.  And while the Titans converted, Whisenhunt then kicked a field goal from the 3-yard line three plays later. That came back to bite Tennessee. The Colts scored two touchdowns to take the lead, and ultimately won by two points after a Titans failed on a two-point try in the final minute. [click to continue…]


For most NFL fans, the book on Andy Dalton has been written in permanent ink.  But this week at the Washington Post, I write why 2015 may in fact be his breakout season.

So, through three weeks, it’s easy to dismiss the great numbers that Dalton has produced as the product of a small sample size. On 94 passing drop backs, he’s thrown for 866 yards and 8 touchdowns with just two sacks and one interception. That translates to a 10.32 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average, the best in football through three weeks. But is there any reason that Dalton, who has had hot streaks before, can maintain this level of play?

You can read the full article here.


In week 3, Arizona picked off two Colin Kaepernick passes and returned them for touchdowns… in the first six minutes of the game. The Cardinals led 28-0 before we were halfway through the second quarter! On average, Arizona led by 24.3 points during every second of game play, the most dominant Game Script so far in 2015 (it would rank 5th last year).

But while the Cardinals provided the biggest blowout of week three, it was hardly the only one. A full half of all 16 games had a double digit Game Script, and only the Jets managed to finish within one score of their opponent. Three other games finished with double-digit margins; there simply weren’t that many nail biters last weekend.

The Falcons, though, did pull off an impressive upset: Atlanta trailed 14-0 midway through the first quarter against the Cowboys, and then 21-7 midway through the second. Atlanta even went into halftime down 11, but scored three second half touchdowns while shutting out the Cowboys to pull away with the victory. In the process, the Falcons became just the 11th team since 1990 to trail by at least 11 at halftime and still win by at least 11 points.

Below are the week 3 game scripts: [click to continue…]


This week at the New York Times, we begin with a look at the impressive triplets being groomed in Oakland: quarterback Derek Carr, running back Latavius Murray, and wide receiver Amari Cooper.  They made a bit of history on Sunday:

Against the Browns, Carr threw for 314 yards, Murray rushed for 139 yards, and Cooper gained 134 receiving yards. It was the first time the Raiders had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver since 2010. But perhaps more impressive, this game marked only the 12th time since 1970 that any franchise had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver, with all three being 25 years or younger.

You can read the full article here.

Also, here is yet another ode to the greatness that is Aaron Rodgers.


It has been over three years since Rodgers lost a regular-season game at Lambeau, excluding a November 2013 game against the Bears in which he left the game because of an injury after two pass attempts. Putting aside that contest, the Packers have won 20 consecutive regular-season home games under Rodgers, with an average margin of victory of over 16 points.

The raw totals are mind-boggling. In Rodgers’s last 18 games at home (excluding that Bears game), he has completed 394 of 572 passes (68.9 percent) for an incredible 5,212 yards (9.1 yards per attempt), with 48 touchdowns and zero interceptions. During that time, the Packers have gone 17-1 and averaged 34.8 points per game, with the only loss coming in the 2013 playoffs to the San Francisco 49ers.

You can read the full article here.


Last year, the Cardinals started the season 8-1, but did so in a fashion that screamed, “UNSUSTAINABLE!” Here is what I wrote at the time last year:

The Cardinals have scored 223 points and allowed 170. That translates to just a 0.668 Pythagenpat winning percentage. That’s easily the worst of any team since 1990 to start 8-1 or 9-0.

The Cardinals promptly followed that up by going 3-2 over their next five games despite being outscored by 10 points! But then Ryan Lindley took over, and Arizona lost their final three games of the year.

This year, the Cardinals started the season in a fashion not-too-dissimilar from what we saw from them last year: Arizona defeated New Orleans, 31-19, but only thanks to a 55-yard touchdown to David Johnson in the final two minutes.

But since then, Arizona won 48-23 against the Bears and 47-7 against the 49ers yesterday. Through three weeks, the Cardinals have outscored opponents by a whopping 77 points, which is tied for the 13th best margin through three weeks among all teams since 1950. The good news for Arizona fans: the first 12 all made the playoffs, three won it all, and five more lost in the title game. [click to continue…]


What am I looking to watch today? Some quick thoughts on each game.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers

Luke McCown last threw a touchdown pass on December 30, 2007.  Cam Newton was a freshman at Florida, and this was three weeks after Tim Tebow just won the Heisman Trophy.  It was a long time ago, although we will stretch back a few weeks earlier later in this preview.

The Panthers are on track to become one of the worst 3-0 teams in a long time. A win over Jacksonville is the best trophy on the wall, matched up against wins vs. a Ryan Mallet-led Texans team and whatever you want to call this version of the Saints. The Panthers are banking wins, though, and could get to 4-0 next week courtesy of a visit to Tampa Bay.

Carolina 20, New Orleans 6

Oakland Raiders @ Cleveland Browns

The last time the McCown brothers both started on the same day? December 9, 2007. But let’s not focus on Josh McCown or even Johnny Manziel: Derek Carr appeared to have his breakout game last week. Can he keep that up against a Cleveland defense that was very strong against the pass in 2014, but has been inconsistent so far this year? [click to continue…]


Guest Post: Quarterback Tiers Based On Age and Talent

Today we have a guest post from James Deyerle, a longtime reader of this blog and the PFR blog, and who lives in Richmond, VA. As always, we thank our guests for contributing to the site.

If there’s one thing NFL fans can’t resist, it’s ranking quarterbacks, but while those conversations are often framed with stats, playoff success, awards, and more, it misses a big part of how fans and front offices treat quarterbacks. For example, despite similar stat lines in 2014 Vikings fans are justified in feeling very differently about Teddy Bridgewater than Bears fans feel about Jay Cutler.

One of the biggest reasons is age: Cutler was 31 and in his 9th season last year, while Bridgewater was only a 22 year old rookie, making him one of the youngest rookies in the past 15 years to see significant playing time. A collection of studies on quarterback aging from Chase, Neil Paine, and Brian Burke show that as a group, quarterbacks rapidly improve into their late 20s, peak for a few years, and then begin an accelerating decline throughout their 30s. This expected improvement lends promise to Bridgewater’s young career while the projected decline condemns Cutler’s, which informs our opinions and feelings on these quarterbacks. As such, I decided to create a system that more accurately reflects a team’s quarterback situation. [click to continue…]


It’s safe to say that no team has exceeded expectations through two weeks quite like the Jets. In week 1, New York was a 3.5-point home favorite against the Browns, but won by 21 points (a 17.5-point cover). In week 2, the Jets won 20-7 in Indianapolis, despite being 7-point underdogs (a 20-point cover). The Jets are the only team to cover by 17+ points in each of the first two weeks; in fact, Arizona (+10 against New Orleans, +23 against Chicago) is the only other team to even cover by at least five points in both games so far.

The last team to pull off this feat? The 2007 Patriots. Yes, another day, another Tom Brady/Ryan Fitzpatrick comparison. From 1978 to 2014, there were 19 teams that covered by at least 17 points in each of their first two games. How did those teams do the prior year, and during the rest of that season?

I’ve included the relevant data for each team in the table below. Here’s how to read the line of the ’06 Chargers. San Diego covered by 24 points in week 1, and 21 points in week 2. The Chargers won 9 games in 2005, but the hot start in ’06 was a sign of things to come, as San Diego won 14 games. That was an improvement of 5 wins, although the Chargers season ended in the Division round of the playoffs. [click to continue…]


This week at the Washington Post, a look at the offensive line struggles that have tanked the Colts and Eagles offenses to date

The Eagles experienced unprecedented offensive turnover this offseason for a team that ranked third in points scored just one year ago. And while much was made of the departures of running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, and the arrivals of quarterback Sam Bradford and McCoy replacement DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia also decided to release both of the team’s starting guards, Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis (a first-team All-Pro in 2013).

The Eagles did retain the rest of the starting offensive line, but that hasn’t stopped that unit from struggling mightily through two weeks. According to Pro Football Focus, Eagles halfbacks averaged an NFL-high 2.43 yards per carry before contact in 2013. Last year, Philadelphia halfbacks averaged 2.29 yards before contact, good enough for a third-place ranking. Eagles running backs were the beneficiaries of lots of space before getting hit over the past two seasons, which helped the team rank second in rushing yards, second in yards per rush and first in touchdowns during that time.

You can read the full article here.


On Sunday, New England defeated Buffalo by the misleading score of 40-32. The Patriots may have won by only one score, but New England held an 11-point lead at halftime and a 24-point lead after three quarters. The Patriots were in control of the game for most of the contest, and held an average lead of 9.8 points during each second of game play (the “Game Script”).

Teams with large leads don’t pass very often; in general, you’d expect a team with a Game Script of +10.0 to pass around 50% of the time. But New England threw on 80% of all snaps! That even includes three Tom Brady kneels, and one run each by wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Excluding those plays, New England passed on 61 of 71 plays, an astonishing 86% pass rate. Much of that number owes to a stout Buffalo run defense, but that’s a remarkable pass-happy performance regardless of Game Script or opponent; given that it came in a game where New England dominated, it was even more noteworthy. By comparison, Minnesota had a Game Script of +10.4 against Detroit, and passed on just 31.7% of plays. In fact, none of the other 31 teams passed as often as New England in week two. [click to continue…]


This week at the New York Times, a look at how four young quarterbacks gave their team’s long-suffering fans some hope:

Bortles helped the Jaguars upset the Miami Dolphins, 23-20, courtesy of a number of big plays. Bortles was responsible for eight plays of at least 15 yards, including a 28-yard scramble on one third down. A second-year quarterback, he was responsible for 76 percent of Jacksonville’s yards on the day, and helped drive the team to the game-winning field goal.

Carr was responsible for 83 percent of Oakland’s offensive output on a day in which the Raiders were extremely pass-happy. Carr saved his best work at the end of the game: Taking over at his 20-yard line, trailing by 33-30 with 2 minutes 10 seconds remaining, Carr marched the Raiders to the game-winning score. He was seven for nine for 65 yards, and connected with Seth Roberts for a 12-yard touchdown with 26 seconds remaining.

You can read the full article here.


Arizona Is 14-2 In Carson Palmer’s Last 16 Games

Part II this week focuses on Arizona, which has been one of the best teams in football when Palmer stays healthy.

Expectations were not very high for the Cardinals entering 2015, despite the return of their starting quarterback, Carson Palmer. But through two weeks, the Cardinals lead the N.F.L. with 79 points. And dating to the 2013 season, Arizona has a 14-2 record and has outscored its opponents by 160 points in its last 16 games started by Palmer. Over that stretch, Palmer has completed 365 of 568 passes for 4,479 yards and 32 touchdowns with just 12 interceptions in what amounts to a full season’s worth of action. In other words, Arizona with a healthy Palmer deserves to be in the discussion for best team in the league.

You can read the full article here.


Brees may not be throwing for awhile

Brees may not be throwing for awhile

Ian Rapoport is reporting that Drew Brees may miss several games with a shoulder injury. That’s tough news for all involved, including those who will now have to watch a bad Saints team led by Luke McCown (or Garrett Grayson). But it also could mark the end of a weird bit of trivia.

Believe it or not, Marques Colston and Brees have connected for 72 touchdowns, tied with Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates for the 5th most in NFL history by any receiver/quarterback combination. I’ve written about that streak before, but here’s something else unique to consider: Colston has never caught a touchdown pass from anyone other than Brees. [click to continue…]


38 Questions Summary

On September 7th, I announced the 38 Questions Contest. There were 82 entries, so that gives us some data to analyze. Let’s look at what turned out to be the most lopsided questions:

1) Number of wins by the team with the second-most wins (72) vs. Number of wins by Washington and Oakland combined (10)

I am not surprised that more people voted for the first option there, but the magnitude caught me off guard. Last year, the team with the second-most wins had 12 wins, although it had been 13 in each of the previous five years. If you had to guess, 13 is probably the most likely answer here, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that Washington and Oakland aren’t likely to combine for 13 (or more) wins.  This one looked like a slam dunk after week one, but is on shakier ground after week two. [click to continue…]


It’s a little late, but good news: I have the week 1 Game Scripts!

Regular readers know all about Game Scripts, but you can learn more about them here. Essentially, Game Scripts is the term I’ve used to represent the average margin of lead or deficit over the course of every second of a game.

In week 1, three won in week 1 despite having a negative Game Script: the Dolphins trailed by 1 point, on average, throughout the game against Washington, Dallas had a -2.7 Game Script against the Giants, and the Chargers came back from a 21-3 deficit to win, which produced a -4.8 Game Script.

Below are the results of every game from week 1. [click to continue…]


What Can We Learn About The 49ers Defense From Week 1?

Yesterday, we looked at what Tennessee’s offensive explosion in week 1 might mean for the rest of the year. Today, let’s do the same but for the 49ers defense. The 49ers were 2.5-point underdogs against Minnesota in week one, and the Over/Under in the game was 41.5 points. This translates to a projected a final score of 22-19.5 in favor of Minnesota. As it turns out, San Francisco won the game, 20-3, which means the Vikings were held 19 points below their expected total. That’s the 4th best performance by a team by this methodology since 2002.

The most impressive game? That came in 2003, in the Lawyer Milloy game. The Bills shut out New England, 31-0, while the pre-game spread projected New England to score 21.75 points. That wasn’t a sign that Buffalo was about to break through (the team finished 6-10), but it did provide some insight into a Bills defense that jumped from 27th (in 2002) to 5th (in 2003) in points allowed. [click to continue…]

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The Titans were 3-point underdogs against Tampa Bay in week one, and the Over/Under in the game was 41 points.  This translates to a projected a final score of 22-19 in favor of Tampa Bay. Of course, Tennessee scored 42 points, outscoring its projection by a whopping 23 points, tied for the fourth biggest number in all week 1 games since 2002.  In the graph below, I’ve plotted each team’s expected points scored in week 1 on the X-axis, and their actual week 1 score on the Y-axis. [click to continue…]


This week at The Washington Post, I look at how Peyton Manning is currently in the worst four-game slump of his career:

Peyton Manning just finished the worst four game stretch of his career. For a player who has started 281 career games, that’s a pretty bold statement. Then again, few quarterbacks have reached the incredible peaks that for years Manning turned into his permanent residence.


If we take a simple rolling, four-game average of Manning’s ANY/A in each game relative to the average ANY/A allowed by the opposing defense in that game, Manning’s last four games would rate as the worst of his career

You can read the full article here.


Guest Post: How Good Was The Super Bowl Champ Last Year?

Longtime commenter Jason Winter has chimed in with today’s guest post. Jason is a part-time video game journalist and full-time sports fan. You can read more of him at his blog: https://jasonwinter.wordpress.com/, and follow him on twitter at @winterinformal.

As always, we thank Jason for contributing. He submitted this article a couple of weeks before the season began, but I was a bit tardy in posting. But hey, it’s still relevant.

A couple of months ago, I happened upon Peter King’s NFL power rankings, where he listed Baltimore as his #1 team. “Really?” I thought. I mean, they were pretty good last year, going 10-6, but they were the #6 seed in the AFC and hadn’t done anything really notable in the offseason. Surely you wouldn’t rank them above obvious powerhouses like Seattle, New England, Green Bay, Indianapolis, or Denver, right?

We know that the best teams in any given year rarely are the best the next year. And sometimes teams can have complete turnarounds – for better (like the 1998-1999 Rams) or worse (like the 1993-1994 Oilers). But how uncommon would it be for a team like the 2014 Ravens to actually be the best team – or at least the Super Bowl winner – the next year?

Excluding the years following the two strike-shortened years, I took every Super Bowl-winning team in the NFL in the 16-game-season era and looked at how good they were the year before winning it all. I charted each team’s wins and SRS the previous year, as well as their league-wide rank in wins and SRS in those years. In case of ties, I averaged out the ordinal rankings, which is why you’ll see several fractional rankings in the table below. [click to continue…]


This week at the New York Times, some thoughts on Marcus Mariota’s insanely productive debut:

Mariota became the youngest player in N.F.L. history to throw for four touchdowns in the first half of a game. Just one other rookie quarterback has thrown four first-half touchdowns in a single game: Johnny Green of Buffalo in 1960. Mariota also joined Matthew Stafford, Drew Bledsoe, and Fran Tarkenton as the only players since 1950 to pass for four touchdowns in a single game before turning 22 years old, and he and Tarkenton are the only rookie quarterbacks to throw for four touchdowns in their team’s first game.

You can read the full article here.

I also wrote about the A.F.C. East going 4-0 in week 1. You can read that article here.

The Dolphins may be the most balanced team in the division, with a better defense than New England and a more reliable offense than either New York or Buffalo. But Miami is also the one team without a clear identity. The strength of the team last year was the rushing attack and running back Lamar Miller, but Miami had a curious tendency to refrain from relying on the ground game. That trend continued in Week 1: Before the final, run-the-clock-out drive, Miller had only 9 carries (for 49 yards). The Dolphins finished the day with 18 carries, five fewer than any other team that won in Week 1. The rush defense, which was supposed to be bolstered by the off-season acquisition of Ndamukong Suh, was shredded for 161 rushing yards, the third highest total of the week. But one bright spot for the Dolphins was on special teams. According to Football Outsiders, Miami had the worst special teams in the N.F.L. in 2014; on Sunday, Jarvis Landry’s 69-yard fourth-quarter punt return was the game winner.

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Instant Analysis: Jets Top Browns In Week 1

fitzmagicFor the fourth straight year, the Jets have opened at home. Each time, the Jets have been blessed with the good fortune of getting to face one of the weaker teams in the league. And each time, the Jets have emerged victorious. Given that I spent half of my Sunday at the game, my week 1 analysis is going to be limited to the wonder that was Jets/Browns.

The optimistic view is that over 60 minutes, the Jets were pretty clearly the better team. New York averaged 4.3 rushing yards per play with 9 first downs, while holding the Browns to 3.7 rushing yards and just 5 rushing first downs. And, frankly, that’s pretty misleading, because Cleveland’s top two rushers were the team’s quarterbacks, who gained 58 yards on 8 carries, carries which came with a large cost: three fumbles. Cleveland running backs had 20 carries for just 46 yards. [click to continue…]


2015 NFL Predictions

Welcome back, NFL. With the NFL season finally here, I thought I would get in my pre-season predictions before it was too late. Prior to Thursday Night’s game between the Steelers and Patriots, I posted my predicted records for those two teams: 11-5 for New England, and 8-8 for Pittsburgh. But let’s run through my full standings, since, you know, these things are always so useful. [click to continue…]


TTaylorTyrod Taylor was a sixth round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. Since then, he’s thrown just 35 passes over four years, before signing with the Bills as a free agent in the 2015 offseason. Now, after beating out Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel in training camp, Taylor will be the Buffalo Bills opening day starter in 2015.

How rare is this? Taylor was in the NFL for at least four seasons and never started a game in his NFL career; now he’s his team’s opening day starter. Since 1970, there are just four other quarterbacks who meet that profile. In reverse order… [click to continue…]


WP: Pre-Week 1 – How Valuable Is An All-Pro Center?

This season, I will be writing weekly articles at The Washington Post. My first article looks at how valuable Maurkice Pouncey is to the Steelers.

Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a severe lower leg injury in an Aug. 23 preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, landing the team’s top offensive lineman on the short-term injured reserve list, which will sideline him until at least Week 9, though the injury may keep him out for even longer. Given that the team once again figures to have one of the weaker defenses in the NFL, Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes rest on the offense performing at a peak level. So how much worse should we expect the Steelers offense to be without Pouncey?

The Steelers were very successful on offense in 2014, ranking among the top eight teams by most metrics, including traditional categories such as points, yards and first downs, as well as advanced tools, including Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and Advanced Football Analytics’ EPA model. One hidden reason for the team’s success on offense last year was great health: According to Football Outsiders, no offense lost fewer games to injury last year than Pittsburgh.

You can read the full article here.


Nick the Kick

Nick the Kick

On Tuesday, I explained the formula used in my system of grading field goal kickers, which is based on field goal success rate adjusted for distance and era.  Yesterday, I looked at the single-season leaders using that methodology. Today, we look at the best field goal kickers since 1960 on the career level.

And frankly, it’s not much of a question as to who is the best kicker ever. Until presented with evidence to the contrary, that honor belongs to Nick Lowery (you can tell him about that here). The table below shows the top field goal kickers ever; let’s walk through Lowery’s line as an example.

Lowery played from 1978 to 1996. The length of his average field goal attempt was 36.6 yards, and the length of his average made field goal was 34.8 yards. Lowery attempted 479 field goals in his career; based on the distance of those kicks and the era in which he played, we would expect an average kicker to have made about 337.6 of those attempts. Instead, Lowery made 383 of them, a whopping 45.4 field goals above expectation. Thought of another way, Lowery’s expected field goal rate was 70.5%, while his actual was 80.0%, so he was successful an extra 9.5% of the time he lined up to kick. That’s remarkable. In short, Lowery was the most valuable field goal kicker in NFL history. [click to continue…]


In 1983, there were 46 field goal attempts of 52 yards or longer. That year, just 17 of them were successful… and four of them came from Baltimore Colts rookie kicker Raul Allegre. But that’s just the highlight for perhaps the best kicking season ever.

During the Colts last year in Baltimore, fans voted Allegre the team’s most valuable player. And with good reason: Allegre attempted 35 field goals, but given the distances of those kicks and the kicking environment in 1983, we would have expected Allegre to make 21.2 of those attempts. Instead, Allegre connected on 30 field goals, giving him 8.8 more field goals above average. That’s the highest rate in any single season ever. Yesterday, I unveiled a methodology for ranking kickers, based on two factors: the length of each field goal attempts and the year in which they kick was attempted. Using that formula, I then was able to grade every field goal kicking season since 1960.

Let’s use Nick Lowery’s 1985 season to walk through the table below. That year, playing for the Chiefs, Lowery went 4/4 on kciks from 20-29 yards, 10/11 from 30-39 yards, 7/7 from 40-49 yards, and 3/5 from over 50 yards. (Note that while I have the data on the specific distance of each attempt, it made sense to present it for consumption in this way.) He attempted 27 kicks, and given the distances and the era, was expected to be successful on 17.2 of them. Instead, he made 24, giving him 6.8 field goals above average. If you prefer to think in terms of rates, Lowery was expected to be true on 63.7% of kicks, but actually made 88.9% of his attempts; that’s 25.2% above expectation, the highest rate by any kicker with at least 25 attempts. The table below shows the top 300 seasons since 1960: [click to continue…]


Six years ago, I took my first crack at analyzing field goal kickers. I have been meaning to update that article for each of the last three offseasons, and with the sun setting on the 2015 offseason, I didn’t want to let this slip yet again.

Ranking field goal kickers is not difficult conceptually, but it can be a bit challenging in practice. One thing I’ve yet to refine is the appropriate adjustments for playing surface, stadium, time of game, temperature, and wind. That’s a lot of adjustments to deal with, all on top of the most obvious adjustment: for era.

But as I understand it, Rome was not built in a day; further, I believe that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. As a result, I’m okay with only getting part of the way there for now, and punting (which is very, very different from kicking) the rest of this process to next offseason.

Let’s begin with the obvious: era adjustments are really, really, important.  To provide some examples, I looked at the field goal rates at four different increments: 22-24 yard kicks, 31-33 yard attempts, kicks from 40-42 yards away, and finally, field goal attempts from 49-51 yards.  In the graph below, I’ve plotted the success rate at those four distances for each year since 1960, along with a “best-fit” curve at each distance. Take a look: [click to continue…]


38 Questions: A Football Perspective Contest

Below you will find 38 pairs of numbers. In each case, you tell me which number will be bigger. One point for each correct answer. Most points wins.

Ties — and I expect there to be a nontrivial number of them — go to the side that had fewer votes. For example, here is a pair:

Number of wins by the Lions
Number of wins by the Ravens

Let’s say 41 people take the Lions and 54 take the Ravens. If the Lions and Ravens end up with the same number of wins, then each Lions-backer will get a point and each Ravens-backer will not.

GRAND PRIZE: the main prizes will be (1) honor and (2) glory. There will also be some sort of trinket to be named later. By the time this thing is over, more than five months will have passed, so that gives me some time to scrape something together. But you probably shouldn’t enter unless honor and glory are sufficient.


1. Everyone is limited to one entry per person. This will be enforced by the honor system. If caught breaking this rule, you, your children, and your children’s children will be banned from all future FP contests.

2. I won’t enter the contest myself, which will allow me to arbitrate any dispute impartially. Any ambiguities in the rules will be clarified by me in whatever way causes me the least amount of hassle.

3. While there are quite a few items that refer in some way to the NFL postseason, unless specifically stated, all the items below refer to regular season totals only. For example, here’s a pair:

Margin of the Titans biggest win.
Number of Passing TDs thrown by Marcus Mariota.

This one will be decided based on the Titans regular season and Mariota’s regular season numbers. I’d hate for there to be confusion when Tennessee wins a playoff game by 28.

4. If you try to get cute and complain that the Titans one-point win over the Colts was actually their “biggest win” even though it wasn’t their win with the biggest point margin, see rule #2. Ignoring your comment is generally my hassle-minimization strategy of choice.

5. You may enter until 1:00 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, September 13th, 2015. However, you can earn a bonus of two (2) points if you enter before kickoff of Thursday’s game.

6. In the event that the contest ends in a tie, the winner will be the person whose entry was submitted first.

HOW TO ENTER: Cut-and-paste the list of questions below into your editor of choice, delete the choices you don’t like (thereby leaving the ones you do like), and then cut-and-paste your 38 answers into the comments of this thread. Do not worry about whether the players are linked to their PFR page or not. Please do not edit the text in any way other than deleting half of it. If you want to leave non-entry comments, you are free to do so either at the very end of your entry or in a subsequent comment, but please do not put commentary in the body of your entry. [click to continue…]

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