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This week at the New York Times: a look at the big days by some older plays.

This is just a placeholder for now. The article should be up shortly.


After twelve weeks, there were still about a dozen teams jockeying for the final four spots. And with Notre Dame’s loss in Palo Alto, we no longer have to ask that pesky Oklahoma/Notre Dame question.

This year seems likely to be the perfect one for a four-team playoff, as the gap between the 4th and 5th most deserving teams — assuming results go as planned next weekend — matches the natural divide from the on-field results.

  • The SEC has one dominant team this year, Alabama. Assuming the Crimson Tide defeat Florida in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama will make the playoff. But the SEC did get a little lucky: if not for Arkansas gaining a first down on an absurd lateral, Ole Miss would have won the SEC West this year. What would the committee do with an 11-2 Mississippi team that beat Bama but lost 38-10 to Florida and by 13 points to Memphis, but won the SEC and beat the Gators in the rematch? Tough to say, but I think we’re all better off that we don’t have to ask that question this year. Assuming Alabama wins, the Tide will finish at 12-1 and very deserving of a playoff spot, while every other SEC team will have at least three losses.
  • The Big 10 had four good teams this year, but it happened to have one of them in the Big 10 West, which may as well have been in Mountain West. With 14 teams and just 8 conference games (the same as the SEC), each team plays one game against the other six teams in its division, and only two games against the teams from the other division. This is how a team like Kentucky can finish with a weak schedule despite “playing in the SEC” — the Wildcats faced Auburn and Mississippi State from the West, the weak SEC East, and a soft nonconference schedule. Iowa had a similar setup, getting Maryland and Indiana from the Big 10 East, the underwhelming Big 10 West, and a pretty easy nonconference schedule (other than Pitt). The difference: Kentucky went 5-7, while Iowa rode this schedule to 12-0. Over in the Big 10 East, Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State were the class of the division. They went undefeated against the rest of the East, but Michigan State swept Michigan and Ohio State, albeit in skin-of-teeth fashion: the Spartans never led in either game until the clock hit triple zeroes. Regardless, we now have a great B10 Championship Game, and the winner of Iowa/Michigan State will obviously be a very deserving playoff team. Iowa would be 13-0, and Michigan State would be 12-1 with wins over Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, and Oregon, with the one loss coming in controversial fashion on a bad call against Nebraska.
  • The Big 12, like the Big 10, had four good teams this year. Unlike the Big 10, all four teams played each other in the conference’s round robin schedule. Oklahoma went 3-0 against Oklahoma State, Baylor, and TCU, which was enough to make up for the Sooners slip against Texas earlier in the year. The Cowboys, Bears, and Horned Frogs all finished 10-2 (assuming TCU beats Texas next weekend), making an 11-1 OU team the clear deserving choice. It doesn’t hurt that Oklahoma also had the most impressive nonconference win of the group, a 31-24 double overtime victory in Tennessee.

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Analyzing Team Stats Through 11 Weeks (And 3 Games)

The Carolina Panthers defense is really, really good. Let’s begin with the pass defense. Carolina has faced 444 pass attempts, and allowed 2,462 yards, 13 TDs, and 18 INTs. Carolina has also sacked opponents 33 times for 199 yards. That translates to an impressive 4.0 ANY/A allowed average, the best in the league. But let’s try to get a more precise measure of the passing game. First, we can add passing first downs: Carolina has allowed 134 of those (including the 13 TDs), so let’s add 9 yards for each non-TD first down allowed. Then, we should remove the 4 spikes the defense has faced.1 Now, Carolina has allowed 6.34 Adjusted ANY/A. That may not mean much in the abstract, so here’s some context: Denver has allowed 6.31 Adjusted ANY/A, and the Cardinals are 3rd at 7.27 ANY/A. The Chiefs, Jets, and Rams are the only other teams that have allowed less than 8 Adjusted ANY/A. So the Carolina pass defense has been pretty fantastic.

What about the run defense? Carolina has faced 255 rush attempts, and allowed 976 yards, 7 TDs, and 49 first downs. The Panthers are also the only team in the league that has not faced a kneel, but for every other defense, we need to back out those data as well. Therefore, using 20 yards per touchdown and 9 per (non-TD) first down, Carolina has allowed 5.86 Adjusted YPC this season. That’s the second best mark in the league, behind only Baltimore.

In the graph below, I’ve plotted each team’s defense.  The X-Axis represents Adjusted ANY/A allowed, while the Y-Axis shows Adjusted YPC allowed.  Given that I like to see the best units in the upper right corner, I have plotted all values in reverse order. [click to continue…]

  1. Thanks to the great Bryan Frye, of The GridFe, for the spikes and kneels data. []

Week 11 Game Scripts: Analyzing Patriots/Bills 2

In week 11, there were four large blowouts from a Game Scripts perspective: Carolina over Washington, Seattle over San Francisco, Tampa Bay over Philadelphia, and Kansas City over San Diego. There were also two large comebacks: Baltimore won with a -4.6 Game Script: the Ravens trailed 13-3 entering the 4th quarter, and took the team’s only lead after the clock hit triple zeroes. The Colts trailed 14-0 and 21-7 against the Falcons, and ultimately won with a -5.9 Game Script.

Below are the Game Scripts data from week 11. There were no extreme results this week: every team passed on between 41% and 76% of all plays. So let’s take a different approach this week. After ten weeks, I calculated the pass identities of each of the 32 teams. Well, week 11 brought a fascinating matchup from a Game Script perspective in New England/Buffalo. Let’s take a look: [click to continue…]


NYT Checkdowns: Panthers/Cowboys Preview

On paper, a matchup between a 10-0 team and a 3-7 team might seem like a good reason to spend more time with your family. Think again. The 10-0 Carolina Panthers travel to Dallas to take on a 3-7 Cowboys team that is anything but typical.

For starters, the 3-7 Cowboys are actually favored by 1.5 points to beat the Panthers on Thanksgiving. This marks the first time since 1978 that a a team with 7 more wins than its opponent was an underdog, excluding end-of-season games where playoff bound teams have rested starters. The reason that Dallas is favored, of course, is because Tony Romo is now back. Romo led the N.F.L. in a variety of metrics last season, including completion percentage, touchdown rate, and passer rating, but the star quarterback’s value has never been so clear than it has over the last three months. The Cowboys went 0-7 with Romo injured and out of the lineup; meanwhile, Dallas has gone 7-0 in its last seven regular season games started Romo.

You can read the full article here.



The math has been clear for so long, and been presented by so many writers, that this topic is essentially beating a dead horse. Late in games, it has always made sense for a team, after scoring a touchdown to cut a lead from 14 to 8 points, should go for two. The trailing team gets two bites at the apple: if it converts, a touchdown now wins the game. If the team fails, they get a second chance to erase that mistake. Only if the odds of missing *both* attempts were higher than the odds of making the first attempt would this strategy fail to make sense.

Yet it never happens. In fact, Brian Billick with the 2001 Ravens was the last coach to go for 2 late in a game after scoring a touchdown to cut the lead to 8 points.

More astonishingly, just once since the 2-point conversion rule was introduced in 1994, has a team ever been trailing by 14 points, scored a touchdown, and then converted a 2-point attempt. Once! And it came by none other than Bill Belichick as coach of the 1994 Cleveland Browns.

Trailing 20-6 in the 4th quarter against the Denver Broncos, the Browns were in a tough spot. Starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde was out with a concussion, leaving Mark Rypien as the team’s hope for a comeback. After a Cleveland touchdown early in the fourth, Rypien hit Derrick Alexander to cut the lead to 20-14. [click to continue…]


Thoughts on the Oklahoma/Notre Dame Debate

If there’s one good rule of sportswriting, it’s that premature writing is sure to backfire. With Oklahoma (and Gameday) traveling to Stillwater, and Notre Dame on the road in Stanford, there’s a better than even chance that either Oklahoma or Notre Dame finishes with one loss. According to ESPN’s FPI, the Sooners have a 67% chance of beating1 rival Oklahoma State, while Notre Dame is an underdog this weekend, expected to beat the Cardinal just 38% of the time.  By the power of multiplication, this implies only a 26% chance of both Notre Dame and Oklahoma finishing the regular season with an 11-1 record.

The SRS says that Oklahoma is the better team, but the only means the Sooners would be favored on a neutral field. But when it comes to making the playoff, we are more interested in rewarding performance than putting the best four teams in.  Two years ago, I wondered whether Ohio State going 13-0 in a watered-down Big 10 was more impressive than Auburn going 12-1 in the SEC.  Now, I ask:

Which is harder: Going 11-1 against Oklahoma’s schedule or 11-1 against Notre Dame’s schedule?

[click to continue…]

  1. Of note: This ignores the fact that Sooners star quarterback Baker Mayfield left the game last week with a head injury, and is not certain to play this weekend. []


This week at the New York Times: the Kansas City Chiefs are making history, and invoking memories of a distant relative:

The 1970 Cincinnati Bengals have been widely credited with bringing the West Coast Offense to the N.F.L. The team’s head coach, Paul Brown, and offensive coordinator (and future San Francisco 49ers head coach) Bill Walsh were faced with a challenge, as quarterback Virgil Carter was a smart player with a weak arm. Under Walsh’s tutelage, the Bengals operated a short-passing game that was effective in those run-heavy days of the N.F.L. A year later, Carter led the N.F.L. in completion percentage.

But that 1970 Cincinnati team is famous for another reason: Of the 158 teams from 1970 to 2014 that started an N.F.L. season with a 1-5 record, it is the only one to make the playoffs. It actually began the season 1-6, before winning its final seven games to finish 8-6.

Now, 35 years later, the Kansas City Chiefs are poised to join them.

You can read the full article here.

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The chaos continues in college football. In week 12, two more undefeated teams lost, with Ohio State losing at the last second to Michigan State, and Oklahoma State losing, 45-35, against Baylor. That leaves just two undefeated teams remaining in the Football Bowl Subdivision: Clemson and Iowa. The Tigers are now #3 in the SRS, mostly because both Oklahoma and Alabama have slightly higher margins of victory and strengths of schedule than Clemson.

Iowa is down at #15 in the SRS, mostly because of strength of schedule. the Hawkeyes played a terrible North Texas team and an FCS Illinois State out of conference, while Indiana, Minnesota, and Maryland aren’t doing much for Iowa’s schedule. On the top end, only three opponents — Wisconsin (#26), Pittsburgh (#28), and Northwestern (#47)– rank in the top sixty. Against that backdrop, Iowa’s margin of victory simply isn’t good enough to vault them into the top ten of the simple rating system. (For comparison’s sake, Baylor, North Carolina, and Navy have all faced weaker schedules, but have strong enough MOVs to rank ahead of Iowa.)

But this is mostly an academic discussion. For purposes of the 2015 season, Iowa remains in great position to make the playoff. The Hawkeyes have a sneaky tough matchup in the season finale, as Iowa travels to Lincoln, Nebraska to face a 5-6 Cornhuskers team that will be fighting for its own postseason berth. Yeah, Nebraska has six losses, but those games have come by a combined 23 points, and Nebraska has lost several of those games in the final seconds.

Three teams remain in complete control of their playoff destiny: Clemson, Alabama, and Iowa. If all the favorites win, that will leave the committee with a very interesting decision for the final spot, having to choose between Oklahoma and Notre Dame. And if Iowa loses, but Michigan State finishes 12-1, the Spartans may simply take Iowa’s spot, so that won’t help solve any Sooner/Irish debate. It’s still too early to panic for any of the contenders — I think we are only in the middle of the chaos — but the end of the regular season is shaping up to be very, very interesting.

Last week, I noted that the Big 12 would be fine, unless the winner of Bedlam lost on Saturday. And while Oklahoma did beat TCU, Oklahoma State suffered its first loss of the season, setting up a nightmare scenario for the Big 12. If the Cowboys beat the Sooners, the Big 12 may have Baylor as its only hope of making the playoffs.

And, for what it’s worth, Baylor is now up to #4 in the SRS. Below are the ratings through week 12:
[click to continue…]


Team Pass Identities Through 10 Weeks (2015)

I’ve published the Game Scripts data from every game this year at the 2015 Game Scripts page, available here. What would it look like if we plotted Game Script score (on the X-Axis) against Pass Ratio (on the Y-Axis) for every game this year? Something like this:

avg game script

(Note that this looks pretty similar to how it was through seven weeks last year, although the constant (i.e., league-average pass ratio) has increased by nearly a full percentage point.)
[click to continue…]


Week 10 Game Scripts – The Saints Give Up

Reminder: the 2015 Game Scripts page is now updated.

Drew Brees threw just 28 passes last week, and was sacked two more times. For some teams, that’s not unusual, but the Saints have always been very pass-happy under Brees. In fact, since Brees came over in 2006, there have been only 48 games where New Orleans had less than 35 pass attempts (excluding sacks). In only four of those games were the Saints losing after three quarters, and in only one of those games were the Saints trailing by more than 7 points through three quarters.

Until Sunday. New Orleans trailed by 23 points entering the 4th quarter, which would be prime territory for a pass-happy game for most teams. In fact, since 2006, there had been 31 games where New Orleans trailed by double digits entering the 4th quarter; on average, the Saints threw 45 passes (excluding sacks) in those games, with only one game (a 29-attempt game in week 17 against Carolina in 2009 which Brees did not play in) coming in with fewer than 36 attempts!

That makes the Saints game in week 10 all the more remarkable. A 28-pass attempt game by Brees when the Saints get blown out? That’s unheard of. The Saints ran Tim Hightower on the game’s final seven plays. Running out the clock while getting blown out is one strategy, I suppose. Obviously New Orleans wasn’t going to win once they were down by 33 points, but it is pretty rare to see a team just sit on the ball like that. Frankly, they would have been better off from a health perspective having Brees take a knee on each play.

Below are the Game Scripts data from week 10.

TeamH/ROppBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio

In addition to New Orleans, Chicago was a team that checked out as very run-heavy. The Bears ran 37 times and on 69% of all plays; both numbers were the highest of any team in week ten.

On the other side, the Steelers and Browns were both very pass-happy. Cleveland passed nearly 80% of the time, which is very high even given the -11.3 Game Script. Meanwhile, the Steelers still passed on 64% of all plays. Then again, neither team could get the running game going: the Browns rushed 14 times for 15 yards, while Pittsburgh produced an only-good-by-comparison 21 for 60 stat line.

Green Bay threw on 78% of all plays in a game that was close throughout with the Lions. And Jacksonville and Baltimore both threw on just over two-thirds of their plays in a game that was close throughout. This isn’t too surprising, though, as all three of these teams have exhibited pass-happy tendencies in the past.

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WP: Pre-Week 11 – Stats Comparison


This week at the Washington Post, comparing how teams are faring this year in DVOA, the SRS, and ESPN’s new FPI:

The Patriots and Panthers are the two remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, but many stats-based rating systems do not have them as them as the top two teams in football.

Bill Parcells famously said: “You are what your record says you are.” That tautology makes for a good sound clip, but for a very boring set of rankings.  For determining which teams should make the postseason, it makes sense to focus on records.  But for predicting how teams will play in the future, there’s no need to be bound by the binary result from each game.  Today, let’s compare how teams fare in terms of record and three rating systems: the Simple Rating System ratings from Pro-Football-Reference.com, the DVOA ratings from Football Outsiders, and ESPN’s Football Power Index ratings.

You can read the full article here.


How many interceptions will a team throw in a game?  That’s dependent on a number of things, of course, but I want to focus on three things: how interception prone the team is, how interception prone the opposing defense is, and the Game Script.

Suppose you knew what the Game Script of a game would wind up being; given that you have a general sense of the offense’s and defense’s interception rates, what weight would you put on each variable to predict a team’s interception rate?

The same is true for other statistics.  For example, what about rushing yards?  How many yards would you project Team A to run for against Team B, if you knew the rushing stats for  Team A’s offense, Team B’s defense, and the Game Script?

Or passing yards.  Or completion percentage.  The interplay between offense and defense is always interesting — some research suggests about 60% of the result is due to the offense, with 40% based on the defense — but throwing in Game Scripts adds an interesting element.

Oh, and one final thought: how would you go about trying to answer these questions.  What studies would you run?  What would you like me to do?


New York Times, Post Week-10 (2015): Rob Ryan


Also at the New York Times today: newly-fired Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is not very good.

This is Ryan’s 12th season in the N.F.L., and he has consistently fielded below-average defenses. Among the 18 coaches who have been defensive coordinators for at least ten seasons since 1990, Ryan’s defenses have allowed more points per game and more yards per game to opponents than any other:

You can view the full table here.




This week at the New York Times, a look at a record-breaking number of “long” touchdown passes on Sunday:

The modern N.F.L. is defined by the short-passing game. And on Sunday, the short-passing game helped set a record for long plays. It might seem counterintuitive, but some of the longest pass plays of the season came from some of the shortest passes of the day:

On a 2nd-and-11 play in the first quarter from the Chicago 13-yard line, the backup Bears tight end Zach Miller ran a curl to the left flat. Quarterback Jay Cutler dumped the ball off to Miller, who caught the ball at the 15 yard line, before rumbling 85 yards through poor Rams tackling for a touchdown.

You can read the full article here.


The graph below shows the probability that a player who averages half a touchdown per game will score 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 touchdowns in any given game:


How did I generate that? Using something called the Poisson Distribution, which Doug Drinen wrote about nine years ago. Let’s reproduce the relevant text here: [click to continue…]


The Panthers were 3-8-1 entering December 2014. Carolina has not lost a game since. There have been 108 different “teams” to win 12 straight regular season games, with teams being broadly defined (if a team wins 13 straight games, that counts as two separate 12-game streaks; if it wins 14, that’s three separate streaks, and so on). Previously, just one team in history had ever posted a losing record in one 12-game period before winning 12 straight games. That was the 2003-2004 Pittsburgh Steelers; Pittsburgh struggled in 2003, and then began the ’04 season with a 1-1 record during Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie year. But beginning in week three — Roethlisberger’s first career start — Pittsburgh won 16 consecutive regular season games.

But Pittsburgh went “only” 5-7 in their previous 12 games before the long winning streak began. As a result, Carolina’s 3-8-1 record in their previous 12 games is worst record by 1.5 games of any team to win 12 straight games. The table below shows all 108 teams, the year and game number when the streak began, and the team’s record and winning percentage in their previous 12 games. [click to continue…]


Last week, I looked at how the Big 12 schedule was backloaded. There are four top teams in the conference, and the six-game round robin among those teams was placed at the back third of each team’s schedule. So far, just two of those six games have been played: Oklahoma State beat TCU last weekend, and Oklahoma beat Baylor last night. That means the winner in Bedlam in two weeks — which takes place in Stillwater — has a leg up on the rest of the conference. The winner in Bedlam will be the Big 12 champion assuming they win next weekend. Of course, that’s no sure thing, given that next week Oklahoma hosts TCU and Oklahoma State hosts Baylor. And yes, for those keeping score at home, that does mean the Cowboys got home draws against TCU, Baylor, and OU this year.

If the Bedlam winner wins next week, too, they are almost certainly going to make the college football playoff. The only way they don’t is if literally everything here happens:

  • Ohio Sate beats Michigan State, Michigan, and wins in the B10 Championship Game
  • Notre Dame wins in Boston against Boston College and in Palo Alto against Stanford
  • Clemson beats Wake Forest and South Carolina and then wins in the ACC Championship Game
  • The winner of the SEC Championship Game wins their in-state rivalry game (UF-FSU and Bama-Auburn)
  • The committee decides that Notre Dame is more deserving than the B12 champ.

The odds of that happening would be, by my back-of-the-envelope calculations, under five percent. So while the Big 12 won’t occupy a top four spot in this week’s playoff standings, and may even fail to place a team in the top five, there’s little reason to think the B12 won’t send a team to the playoffs for the second year in a row. That is, unless the Bedlam winner loses at home next week.

Below are the SRS ratings through eleven weeks. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. [click to continue…]

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Week 9 (2015) Game Scripts: Buffalo Runs To Victory

Reminder: The 2015 Game Scripts page is now updated for week 9 results.

Last week, I wrote about the Rams heavy commitment to the running game. Well, in week 9, the Buffalo Bills had just 15 pass plays — 12 pass attempts and 3 sacks — while passing on just 29.4% of all plays. Both of those numbers set new team lows for the 2015 season.

Below are the Game Scripts data for each team in week 9. [click to continue…]


Today’s guest post/trivia question comes from Adam Harstad, a co-writer of mine at Footballguys.com. You can follow Adam on twitter at @AdamHarstad.

While researching my article on DeAndre Hopkins’ receiving first downs, I came across a striking statistic. Since 1994 (as far back as Pro Football Reference has queryable play-by-play data), there have been three seasons where a receiver gained at least 800 receiving yards and had at least 49.5% of that receiving yardage come while his team was trailing by at least 14 points.

Amazingly, all three seasons belonged to a different Arizona Cardinals receiver. In 1995, Rob Moore gained 907 receiving yards, and 475 (52.4%), came while his team was down by at least two touchdowns. In 2000, David Boston gained 1156 receiving yards, and 591 (51.1%), came while his team was trailing by 14 or more. In 2003, Anquan Boldin gained 1377 receiving yards, and 682 (49.5%) came while trailing by at least 14.

Three different seasons. Three different receivers catching passes from three different quarterbacks, (Dave Krieg, Jake Plummer, and Jeff Blake, respectively). The only common thread uniting them was the franchise they played for. [click to continue…]


This week at the Washington Post, a look at the most indispensable non-quarterbacks in the NFL.


Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams

Since entering the starting lineup in week four, the Rams rookie has averaged 22 carries a game for 131 yards, producing an exceptional 5.85 yards per carry average. No team has thrown fewer passes in the league this year or gained fewer passing yards than St. Louis. Incredibly, Nick Foles has failed to hit the 200-passing yards mark in any of his last seven games, despite throwing at least 20 passes in each contest; that makes him the first quarterback to meet those marks since Matt Hasselbeck in 2008. Gurley is the Rams offense, making him the most indispensable running back in football.


You can read the full article here.


This week at the New York Times, a look at some star wide receivers, and how their numbers have dipped without their top quarterbacks.

Brown has averaged 10.7 yards per target this year on passes from Roethlisberger, but 4.5 on passes from Vick. Brown caught fewer passes per target and averages fewer yards per completion on targets from Vick, and he has also been targeted less frequently when Vick is in the game. Brown has done better with another Steelers backup, Landry Jones. On 16 targets from Jones, Brown has averaged 14.0 yards a pass, including a 57-yarder against Oakland that set up the game-winning field goal.

You can read the full article here.


With six teams on bye this week, that left 26 teams playing in week nine. Not a single one of the main quarterbacks for any of those teams averaged fewer than 4.00 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. That’s incredible: overall, quarterbacks this week averaged an insane 7.12 ANY/A. Take a look: the table below shows the passing stats from all 30 players who threw a pass in week 9. I have calculated the Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt for each player as well, along with their VALUE (ANY/A minus league average multiplied by number of dropbacks) provided relative to league average, with one catch: league average is 7.12. As a result, all of the quarterback grades feel a little depressed. [click to continue…]

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Rob Gronkowski is in a scoring slump. It’s one of the worst scoring slumps of his career. But more on that in a bit.

Jerry Rice once1 caught 67 touchdowns over a 57-game period. This stretch was during all of 1987, 1988, and 1989 (including playoffs) and the start of the 1990 season. That pro-rates to an insane 19-touchdown per-season average for three-and-a-half seasons. Then again, the weirder thing is when Rice doesn’t top a receiving category.

Lance Alworth once caught 55 touchdowns2 over one 57-game stretch from 1963 to 1967.

Only three other players since 1960 have ever had more than 50 touchdowns in any 57-game stretch (including playoffs): Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Art Powell, each of whom topped out at 53 touchdowns in 57 games. Cris Carter, Sonny Randle, Sterling Sharpe were at 49, Larry Fitzgerald was at 58, and Gary Collins, Anthony Freeman, Marvin Harrison, and Andre Rison were at 47.  Calvin Johnson topped out at 46 at one point in 2013.  Dez Bryant hit 46 in his last 57 after the Lions playoff game, but then went three straight games without a touchdown catch. [click to continue…]

  1. Well, he actually did it three times, although the same 55 games were in all three stretches. []
  2. Three times, like Rice, with 55 of the same games. []

Antonio Brown caught caught 17 passes (on 23 targets) for an incredible 284 yards today against the Raiders. He also had two carries for 22 yards. But while 306 yards from scrimmage is insane, Brown wasn’t a one-man show: DeAngelo Williams rushed 27 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns, while catching two passes for 55 yards. Together, the duo combined for an insane 531 yards from scrimmage. That’s the most in the NFL by any duo since at least 1960… by a whopping 50 yards!

TeamOppYearDuo YFSPlayer 1YFSPlayer 2YFSBoxscore
PITOAK2015531Antonio Brown306DeAngelo Williams225Boxscore
OAKHOU1963481Art Powell247Clem Daniels234Boxscore
DETDAL2013451Calvin Johnson329Reggie Bush122Boxscore
PHIDET2007442Kevin Curtis221Brian Westbrook221Boxscore
BUFMIA1991422Thurman Thomas268Andre Reed154Boxscore
PITATL2002421Plaxico Burress253Hines Ward168Boxscore
INDBAL1998420Marshall Faulk267Torrance Small153Boxscore
CLENYG1965414Ernie Green222Jim Brown192Boxscore
PHISTL1962411Timmy Brown249Tommy McDonald162Boxscore
RAMMIA1976410Ron Jessie220Lawrence McCutcheon190Boxscore
WASDEN1987402Timmy Smith213Ricky Sanders189Boxscore
NYJBAL1972401Rich Caster204Eddie Bell197Boxscore
CHIMIN2013400Alshon Jeffery249Matt Forte151Boxscore
STLWAS2006400Steven Jackson252Isaac Bruce148Boxscore

But hey, Cleveland fans: the Steelers duo still wasn’t quite as good as Jerome Harrison and Josh Cribbs.


Last week’s ratings can be seen here.

The schedules of Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and TCU are very backloaded. Other than Oklahoma’s game against Tennessee, none of the four teams had much of a threat in the nonconference schedule, and the B12 schedule just so happened to be incredibly backloaded. These four teams are the class of the Big 12, but many of their games were scheduled for later in the year. Below are the SOS ratings of each opponent in each game for these four teams, with weaker games in red and tougher games in blue:

b12 values

Let’s use that same formatting but insert the opponent’s names. For Oklahoma, the three games against the other three teams are the last three games on the Sooners schedule. For the other three schools, the three round robin games are three of their final four games. There is a bit of randomness involved — if Texas or Kansas State or West Virginia was good this year, we wouldn’t have this situation — but it does make for an excellent final month of the season.

b12 teams

Below are the SRS ratings through ten weeks. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. [click to continue…]

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Today’s guest post/contest comes from Adam Harstad, a co-writer of mine at Footballguys.com. You can follow Adam on twitter at @AdamHarstad.

This guy can pick up first downs

This guy can pick up first downs

Regular readers of Football Perspective are well acquainted with the sneaky-greatness of DeAndre Hopkins, who led the NFL in percentage of his team’s receiving yards in 2014 despite not even leading his own team in targets.1 And, indeed, by “percentage of team receiving yards”, Hopkins is having another terrific season; his 37.0% share is slightly above the league-leading 35.0% he posted last year, (though it trails the 38.6% share he carried through his team’s first 14 games in 2014).

But Hopkins is having an even better season by a far less esoteric statistic: receiving first downs. As best as I have been able to determine, the all-time record for receiving first downs in a season is 92, set by Marvin Harrison in 2002 and tied by Calvin Johnson in 2012.2 Through eight games this year, Hopkins has converted for a new set of downs a remarkable 54 times, putting him on pace for 108, a ridiculous 17.4% more than the previous NFL record. (For context, if a quarterback wanted to break Peyton Manning’s single-season passing yardage record by 17.4%, he would need to throw for 6430 yards.) [click to continue…]

  1. Hopkins had 127 targets in 16 games, or 7.9 per game. Then-teammate Andre Johnson had 146 targets in 15 games, or 9.7 per game. []
  2. Obviously play-by-play data is virtually impossible to come by for older seasons. Thanks to frequent guest contributor Bryan Frye, I have complete first-down data going back to 1992; however (a) the best first-down conversion rate by a receiver with 80 catches over that span was 85%, (Michael Irvin’s 75 first downs on 88 catches in 1993), (b) only 2.9% of 80-catch receiver since 1992 even managed to top an 80% first-down rate, and (c) there were only 12 seasons prior to 1992 that even had more than 92 total receptions. Assuming an 85% conversion rate, a receiver would have needed 109 receptions to beat 92 first downs. Assuming an 80% conversion rate, he would have needed 116 receptions. Art Monk had 106 receptions in 1984, but given his sub-13 yard per reception average, I find it impossible to believe he converted on 88% of them. So with all due respect to Jerry Rice’s 1990 season and Charley Hennigan’s 1964, I feel pretty confident calling 92 receiving first downs the all-time NFL record. []

This week at the New York Times, a look at how it’s a season for old quarterbacks:

Through eight weeks this season, over half of all passing yards have come from quarterbacks who are on the “wrong” side of 30. The same is true of passing touchdowns. What’s more incredible is that 55 percent of all wins this season have come from quarterbacks who are 30 years or older. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the two oldest starting quarterbacks in the N.F.L., but are two of the four quarterbacks on 7-0 teams. The top four leaders in passing touchdowns are 34 or older: Brady, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning. And the seven leaders in passing yards through eight weeks were 30 or older, too: Rivers, Brady, Matt Ryan, Palmer, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning.

You can read the full article here.


WP: Pre-Week 9 – Midseason Awards

This week at the Washington Post, a look at some unusual midseason awards.

Unsung Rookie of the Year: Offense – Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings

With the types of seasons being had by a pair of SEC stars in Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Alabama’s Amari Cooper, there is little hope for Diggs — a fifth round pick out of Maryland — to bring home any hardware at the end of the season. But after being inactive during the first three games of the season, the Vikings wide receiver has been the model of consistency since then, catching six or seven passes each week for at least 87 yards. Over the last five weeks, Diggs ranks fifth among all players in receiving yards despite the Vikings bye week taking place during that stretch.

You can read the full article here.


Let’s start with a piece of good news: I have created a 2015 Game Scripts page, where you can access the Game Scripts data from every game this season. That will likely be updated on Tuesday or Wednesday of each week.

The Rams are suddenly interesting to watch on offense. St. Louis traded into the top ten to draft Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin, and both players showed off their talents in week eight. Gurley had a 71-yard run, the highlight of a 20-carry, 133-yard day, while Austin ran for a touchdown and caught a 66-yard touchdown. Together, the duo combined for 265 yards from scrimmage as part of a run-heavy day for St. Louis. The team rushed 41 times compared to just 23 dropbacks, giving St. Louis the most run-happy identity of the week.

In losing efforts, two other teams stood out as run-happy. One, surprisingly, was Green Bay: The Packers were blown out, the sort of environment that usually leads to a 40-pass day. Instead, Aaron Rodgers had just 25 pass attempts, while the Packers finished with 21 carries. That ratio was supported by the efficiency metrics, though, as Green Bay shockingly averaged just 2.0 Net Yards per Attempt (compared to 4.3 yards per carry on the ground.)

The table below shows the week 8 Game Scripts data: [click to continue…]

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