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Jarvis Landry And Outlier Wide Receivers

Writing is a tough business. That is especially true for sports writers, and sad news emerged yesterday: after four years, Grantland decided to suspend publication, effective immediately. There are a lot of great writers at Grantland, and the site’s lead football writer, Bill Barnwell, was one of the biggest supporters and promoters of this site. Bill was always willing and eager to link to Football Perspective from his larger platform, and that helped grow the readership of this site tremendously. I’ll always be grateful to him for the respect and admiration he showed for FP.

On a larger level, it’s frustrating and disappointing to see so many good writers unemployed: I wish all of them the best in their future endeavors. Another casualty is the Grantland NFL Podcast, hosted by Barnwell and Robert Mays. You can follow then on twitter at @BillBarnwell and @RobertMays, respectively, and I recommend that you do so you can follow them wherever they wind up. Their podcast made the NFL season simply more fun to follow, and hopefully we get to hear it again one day.

In one of their last podcasts, Mays noted that Jarvis Landry ran the 40-yard dash in 4.77 seconds, an incredibly slow time for one of the game’s most explosive young players.1 Mays made the comment that 5’11 wide receivers who run the 40 in 4.77 seconds aren’t supposed to do the things that Landry has done, and well, I agree.

In March 2014, I looked at the 40-yard dash times of all players since 1999, courtesy of the good folks at NFLSavant.com. I then took that database, and measured it against all wide receivers since 1999 who have averaged at least 50 career receiving yards per game (Landry is at 53 yards per game).

There are 51 wide receivers who entered the NFL since 1999, have averaged at least 50 receiving yards per game, and ran the 40-yard dash at the combine.2 In the graph below, I’ve plotted the height (on the X-Axis) and 40-yard dash time (on the Y-Axis, in reverse order, so the fastest and biggest receivers should be on the top right) of each of those wide receivers.  As you can see, Landry is indeed an outlier, as Mays suggested: [click to continue…]

  1. Landry did tweak his hamstring at the combine during this run, which obviously may have impacted things. []
  2. Michael Crabtree, Josh Gordon, Wes Welker, Roddy White, Allen Hurns, John Brown, Willie Snead, Mike Evans, and Brandon Marshall all have also averaged 50 yards per game, but either didn’t run the 40 at the combine or that data wasn’t collected by NFL Savant. []

Here are the SRS ratings as of this morning — that is, through seven weeks and the Patriots/Dolphins game last night. The formula here was pretty simple: I took the difference between each team’s points scored and points allowed in each game, and added 3 points for home field, and that was it. The Patriots have a HFA-adjusted average margin of victory this season of 16.1, against a schedule that (after iterating) has been 0.5 points below average. That gives New England an SRS of 15.7.


[click to continue…]


This week at the Washington Post, a look at one of the most surprising ten-game winning streaks in NFL history.

The 2014 Panthers entered December with a 3-8-1 record, and had not won a game in two months. Suffice it to say, they are one of the least likely teams to ever go on a 10-game winning streak. Prior to Carolina, there had been 140 teams since 1970 to go on a 10-game winning streak. On average, those teams had won 7.2 games in their previous 10 regular season games*, while all teams other than the 1975-76 Colts (who went 2-8 before going on an 11-game winning streak) had won at least four of their previous 10 games. The Panthers? They had gone an ugly 1-8-1 prior to ripping off 10 straight regular season wins.

You can full the article here.


The New England Patriots on Sunday provided one of the most incredible pass/run ratios in recent history. Last year, teams were very pass-happy against the Jets, as a result of New York having a great run defense and a terrible pass defense. The Jets pass defense is significantly better this year, but that didn’t stop the Patriots from pretending the run option didn’t exist.

New England finished the day with 54 pass attempts, 3 sacks, and just 9 carries, representing an incredible 86.4% pass ratio. If you consider that Tom Brady had two scrambles and a third “carry” that went down for zero yards but was a sack on a pass play where Brady managed to get back to the line of scrimmage, and the Patriots really meant to pass on 60 plays, while calling runs just six times. A fourth run was a Brady sneak, leaving just five rushing attempts for the rest of the team that totaled exactly one yard. Brady was effective but not stellar in the passing game, but it was pretty clear that passing was the best option for the Patriots offense on nearly every play.

Two other big notes from week 7: Washington fell behind 24-0 against Tampa Bay, but won in the final minute of the game. That gave Washington a remarkable victory in a game where the team posted a -9.3 Game Script, topping the Bears game against the Chiefs for largest comeback as measured by Game Script. And, on the far other end of the spectrum, Miami produced an unreal 25.9 Game Script, the top score of the season. There have been three Game Scripts this year of over 20 points, and two of them have come against the Texans. The third was the previous high of the season, Arizona’s 24.3 Game Script against the 49ers. [click to continue…]


New York Times, Post Week-7 (2015): Todd Gurley; AFC South

This week at the New York Times: Todd Gurley is awesome; the AFC South is not.

Incredibly, Gurley turned 21 in August: He is now the youngest player to rush for 125 or more yards in three consecutive games since at least 1960. Despite not getting his first N.F.L. start until Week 4, Gurley is already making history. He is the first rookie in the N.F.L. since Eric Dickerson in 1983, a Hall of Famer and another Rams player, to rush for 125 yards and average at least 5 yards per carry three times in his team’s first eight games.


But this year, the division may reach a new low. Through seven weeks, the four teams in the A.F.C. South have won just four of 19 games outside the division. That puts the division 11 games below .500 in interdivision games. That is the second worst performance in the last 30 years and the worst by any division through seven weeks since the N.F.C. East began the season 4-17 in 1998.>.

You can read the full post here


The Patriots are 6-0, while all other AFC East team has at least two losses. Given that New England is the best team in the division and already has a large lead, the odds of the Jets, Bills, or Dolphins winning the division are really, really low. But considering the rest of the AFC — the South has zero good teams, the West has one, and the North has two if Roethlisberger is healthy — it’s pretty likely that the AFC East will send a second team to the playoffs. Right now, 538 has the Jets playoff probability at 59%, Buffalo at 16%, and Miami at 15%. [click to continue…]


It’s time to start taking Clemson seriously. The Tigers began the season 6-0, but none of the wins were particularly dominant. Clemson beat up on a pair of non-Power 5 schools (Appalachian State and FCS Wofford), had solid but unspectacular home wins over mediocre ACC teams (Georgia Tech and Boston College), and squeaked by a decent Louisville team and a very good Notre Dame team.

But yesterday, Clemson laid waste to Miami, with a 58-0 final score going down as the most lopsided loss in Hurricanes history. At this point, the smart money is on Clemson to finish the regular season undefeated, landing the Tigers one of college football’s four golden tickets.

Clemson still has to face Florida State, and while the Tigers have lost three straight to the Seminoles, that game is in Clemson, and right now, Clemson is 10 points better in the SRS. The other remaining games: N.C. State (36th in the SRS), Syracuse (72nd) and Wake Forest (84th) in the ACC, before a season-ending rivalry game against South Carolina (77th).

The other interesting riser this week: Oklahoma. Given how good Baylor and TCU were last year, and the fact that the Sooners lost to Texas, it’s easy to think of the Big 12 as a two-team race. Not so fast! Oklahoma looks to be outstanding this year, and that 7-point win in Tennessee — the Vols’ worst loss this year — is looking better each week. The Sooners just destroyed a Texas Tech team that nearly (and probably should have) beaten TCU, so circle November 14th, November 21st, and November 27th on your calendars: those are the dates Oklahoma travels to Baylor, TCU travels to Norman, and the Bears head to Fort Worth, respectively. Given that each team hosts one game in this round robin, the ultimate Big 12 disaster scenario is a 1-1 record for each team during these games (well, other than Oklahoma State upsetting one of these teams, too). [click to continue…]


In my Washington Post article this week, I noted that Ryan Fitzpatrick was doing well as Jets quarterback in part because he was often playing with the lead. Fitzpatrick threw a whopping 58 times against the Eagles, and all but two of those plays came with the Jets trailing. In his other four games, Fitzpatrick threw just 18 passes while trailing. And, this year, Fitzpatrick has a 6.5 ANY/A average while throwing passes with the lead, and 4.8 ANY/A while throwing passes while trailing.1

But I thought it would be fun to see how every quarterback has fared this year while leading and then while trailing, with a minimum of 30 pass attempts in each situation. That’s what graphed below, and the two guys who really stand out are Cam Newton and Andy Dalton.  The Bengals quarterback has been outstanding this year in both situations, while the Panthers quarterback has been significantly more impressive this year while trailing.  In the graph below, the X-Axis shows ANY/A while leading; for Newton, that’s a pedestrian 5.5 ANY/A.  The Y-Axis shows ANY/A while trailing, which is an incredible 9.2. [click to continue…]

  1. Frankly, even that understates the split. Fitzpatrick was terrible in the Eagles game, which, admittedly, may have more to do with the Eagles defense than the Game Script. But Fitzpatrick averaged 2.98 ANY/A that day. In 13 passes against the Browns — all of which came in the 2nd quarter with the Jets trailing by 3 or 7 points — he averaged 7.1 ANY/A. And in 5 passes against Washington, Fitzpatrick averaged 20.2 ANY/A, which was largely the result of yards after the catch gained by his receivers. []

Running Back Class of 2008 Still Going Strong

Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Justin Forsett, Jonathan Stewart, Danny Woodhead, Mike Tolbert, Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, and Jerome Felton all entered the NFL in 2008. So did Steve Slaton, the rookie rushing leader that year, and Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Bush, Peyton Hillis, and Felix Jones. Analyzing where the ’08 class ranks in NFL history is a project for the offseason, but today, I thought it would be fun to look at rushing yards by running backs by class year.

The graph below shows that data through six weeks of the 2015 season. As you can see, players in their 8th NFL season — those who entered the league in 2008 — are doing quite well.

wk6 2015 rushing yards class year

The class with the most rushing yards so far in 2015 are the rookies. That class is currently led by Thomas Rawls, but has also received strong production from higher picks like Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, and T.J. Yeldon. After the class of ’15, there’s a gradual decline with respect to production by older classes. And then, there’s the class of 2008. [click to continue…]


This week at the Washington Post, a look at how the Jets built an offense the “wrong” way.

Fitzpatrick is the team’s leading passer, Ivory the leading rusher, and Decker and Marshall the two leading receivers.

It’s very rare for a team’s top passer, top running back, and top two weapons in the passing game to all come from other teams. In fact, the 2015 Jets will become just the second team in the last 10 years to meet those criteria, and just the 12th since 1970. The question now is how well this core can sustain this high level of play. As you can see from the table below, which illustrates the first 11 teams that featured out-of-house core fours, success isn’t that common for teams of this type.

You can read the full article here.


The Jets have long been one of the most run-happy teams in the NFL, particularly after accounting for Game Script.  That rung true again in week 6, when New York was in control for most of the game against Washington.  The Jets had a solid +6.1 Game Script, but most teams would still pass at least half of the time with that sort of game flow.  But not the Jets, who passed on just 38.8% of pass plays and recorded a league-high 41 runs in week 6.

Four of those runs were from Ryan Fitzpatrick (an 18-yard touchdown, a 15-yard scramble, and two kneels), but Chris Ivory and Zac Stacy rushed 33 times for 192 yards (less impressive: Bilal Powell with four carries for -2 yards). The Jets are always going to run the ball, and when the Game Script goes their way, they will put up some truly impressive rushing totals. There have been just four games this year where a team has rushed more than 40 times, and two of those came in New York’s last four games. With a date in Foxboro this weekend, tracking the Jets pass/run ratio will be very interesting if the Game Script doesn’t go the Jets way. In New York’s only loss, the Jets had 59 passes and just 16 runs.

Without Ben Roethlisberger — and with Le’Veon Bell — the Steelers have become quite the run-happy team. Pittsburgh has now run more than its passed over the last three weeks, including a pass ratio of just under 40% despite posting a negative Game Script against the Cardinals (don’t let the 12-point final margin of victory fool you). The Steelers have completed just 43 passes over the team’s last three games.

Below are the week 6 Game Scripts data. As you can see, the biggest comeback of the week belongs to the Carolina Panthers. [click to continue…]


This week at the New York Times, a look at how the famous rookie wide receiver class of 2014 is faring this year:

The 2014 N.F.L. draft provided the greatest rookie class of wide receivers in football history. Last year’s rookies recorded 12,611 receiving yards, the most receiving yards produced by any single class year in the N.F.L. last season. Even more incredibly, 2014 rookie receivers caught 92 touchdowns, 20 more than any other class year produced during the 2014 season. So how are these players doing as sophomores?

You can read the full article here.

Also, I wrote about how the NFL’s idea of parity is well, kind of a joke.

The Panthers have made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, making them the closest thing to an upstart among the unbeaten franchises. Both the Broncos and the Bengals have made it to the postseason in four consecutive years, while the Packers and the Patriots have made the playoffs in six straight seasons. Right now, the odds overwhelmingly favor each franchise making it to the playoffs again.

You can read the full article here.


Ben Watson, and Career Games at Older Ages

Ben Watson has played 153 regular season games, and 11 more in the postseason. Yet it was in his most recent game that he set his career high with 127 receiving yards. It was just the third 100-yard game of his career, and topped his previous career high by 20 yards. That just doesn’t happen to a player who was 34 years, 301 days old at kickoff…. right?

I looked at all players to enter the NFL since 1960 who have at least 500 career receiving yards and played in 100 career regular season games. Among that group, here were the three players who, prior to 2015, set their career-high in receiving yards at nearly 35 years old or older. [click to continue…]


Last week, Michigan topped the SRS. Following the Gift Six, the Wolverines fall to the fifth spot after one of the craziest games in recent history. Jumping into the top spot is Baylor, after the Bears scored 56+ points for the sixth time in six games this year.

Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman already has 16 touchdowns this year. 16! In six games!  Okay, the Bears have only played two games of note — against Texas Tech two weeks ago and against West Virginia on Saturday — but the Bears also have the track record to show that they’re a top five team.  Are they truly the best team in college football? We won’t find out more until a date with Oklahoma in four weeks, and the showdown with TCU two weeks later still looms as a de facto playoff game.

Without further ado, below are the SRS ratings through seven weeks. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. [click to continue…]

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What is Wrong With Jimmy Graham?

With just 21 catches for 204 yards and two touchdowns through five games, Jimmy Graham is hardly making a big impact in Seattle. Consider that over his last four years in New Orleans, he averaged 5.6 receptions, 69.7 yards and 0.73 touchdowns per game, while he is at 4.2, 40.8, and 0.4 in those metrics, respectively, so far with the Seahawks.

So what’s wrong? Well, let’s start by focusing just on receiving yards. The drop from 69.7 to 40.8 is quite significant, but is there one main factor driving it? We can break receiving yards down into several components. For example, we can parse out four different metrics from simple receiving yards:

Receiving Yards = Team Pass Attempts * (Targets/Team Pass Attempt) * (Receptions/Target) * (Yards/Reception)

[click to continue…]


Friend of the program Bryan Frye is back for another guest post. As regular readers know, Bryan operates his own fantastic site, http://www.thegridfe.com. You can view all of Bryan’s guest posts here, and follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.

Five weeks of regular season football have come and gone. Those five weeks have seen quarterbacks attempt 5,470 passes and take 5,817 dropbacks. Throw in rushes, and quarterbacks have been involved in 6,184 action plays thus far.1 That seems like a large number, but it is only a fraction of the average 20,764 action plays quarterbacks have been involved in over the last two seasons.2 There are still 358 games left in the regular season (69.9% of the schedule), and we cannot know with epistemic certainty what is going to happen between now and January 3.

However, it is still fun to take the plays we have seen (and the stats those plays have produced) and use them to assess the quarterback landscape of this young season. The following tables present raw, rate, and adjusted stats for the 35 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 70 passes this season.3 I’ll provide some brief commentary, but I’d like to let Chase’s educated audience come up with their own points. Without further ado, here are the raw stats… [click to continue…]

  1. Keep in mind this was written before the Thursday night game featuring Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. []
  2. Quarterbacks are currently on pace for just over 21,000 plays, which would be the highest total in history by a small margin. []
  3. The NFL official requirement for rate stat qualification. []

WP: Pre-Week 6 – 4th Down Aggressiveness

This week at the Washington Post, a look at some of good and bad fourth down decisions in both week 5 and this season.

The Atlanta Falcons are 5-0, and are quickly becoming one of the major stories of the 2015 NFL season. With a win tonight in New Orleans, the Falcons will match the team’s entire win total from the 2015 season. But without some aggressive coaching from Dan Quinn last weekend, the Falcons likely wouldn’t be among the league’s five remaining unbeaten teams.

With just under five minutes left in the third quarter, the Falcons faced a 4th-and-6 from the Washington 40-yard line, trailing by four points. Given that Atlanta had thrown incomplete passes on the previous two plays, most coaches would have punted or tried a long field goal. Instead, Quinn played to his team’s strengths, and Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones for a nine-yard gain. Atlanta wound up scoring a field goal on that drive, which put the team in a position to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, and eventually win in overtime.

You can read the full article here.


In the first four weeks, the biggest “comeback” as measured by Game Script belonged to the Atlanta Falcons, who defeated the Cowboys despite posting a Game Script of -5.4. But Chicago won on Sunday despite a Game Script of -8.9! This game seemed like a Chiefs win from before kickoff — when Kansas City was a 9-point favorite — until the very end.

The Chiefs led 14-3 early in the second quarter, 17-3 at halftime, and 17-6 entering the 4th quarter. With five minutes left, Kansas City led by that same score. With 3:11 to go, Jay Cutler found Marquess Wilson for a 22-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-6, giving the Bears new life. After the failed two point conversion, the Chiefs went 3-and-out, and Cutler took over on his own 33 with 2:04 to go. He drove the Bears down the field again, and found Matt Forte for the game-winning touchdown with 23 seconds remaining. The Bears drive chart reads: Punt, Fumble, Field Goal, Punt, Punt, Punt, End of Half, Field Goal, punt, Downs, followed by an 88-yard touchdown drive and a 67-yard touchdown drive. File this in your memory bank the next time a coach decides to take the conservative approach because his defense had been shutting down the opponent all day.

And while not on the same level, the Browns (-4.9), Bengals (-3.8), Steelers (-3.4), Bills (-2.7), and Falcons (-2.1) all won with negative Game Scripts. That always make the numbers a bit more interesting to look at. So let’s do just that: below are the week 5 Game Scripts data: [click to continue…]


This week at the New York TimesPeyton Manning is now being carried by his defense.

The Denver Broncos have been synonymous with offensive success since Peyton Manning joined the team in 2012. In Manning’s first three years in Denver, the Broncos scored 1,569 points, 100 more than any other team in football. But this year, the Broncos are 5-0 despite ranking 30th in offensive yards, 27th in yards per pass, and 31st in yards per carry. That’s because Denver’s success has been powered by a dominant defense.

It starts with the defense’s production on a per-play basis, where the defense leads all teams. The Broncos are allowing just 4.3 yards per play to opposing offenses; if that holds, it would be the lowest average allowed by any defense since the 2009 Jets. The Broncos are allowing a league-low 4.7 yards per pass attempt, thanks in part to an incredible 22 sacks, the most by any defense through five weeks. And there is no weakness to this unit, as the rush defense ranks in the top quarter of the league in both yards and yards per carry. Situation defense? The Broncos are covered there, too, as Denver’s third down defense has been the best in the league, allowing first downs just 29.7% of the time.

You can read the full article here

I also wrote this week about Devonta Freeman on Thursday at the Times.

In his first 18 N.F.L. games, Freeman had never gained more than 84 yards from scrimmage. In his first three starts, he has gained at least 149 yards in each one, making him the first Falcons player since Jamal Anderson (1998) with such a streak. He is currently the N.F.L. leader in yards from scrimmage (645) and total touchdowns (eight). And he is one of the best bargains in the N.F.L., too, costing the Falcons only $631,106 in salary cap dollars.

You can read the full article here.


Young Jaguars Could Power Next Great Offense

The Broncos, Bengals, Falcons, and Packers won in week 5 to get to 5-0, while New England blew out Dallas to reach a 4-0 mark. So why, today, would I write about a Jaguars team that is now 1-4?

Because while Jacksonville is again in the NFL cellar, it’s anything but business as usual. I’m not quite sure how long it is going to take, but it feels like the next great NFL offense could be germinating in northern Florida. That’s because a young trio that has emerged this year while the team generally flies under the radar.

Blake Bortles has thrown for 1,299 yards and 10 touchdowns this year, against just 4 interceptions. As a rookie, Bortles threw for over 270 yards just twice; he’s done it three times in five games this year. As a rookie, Bortles had multiple touchdown passes in a game twice; he’s also done that three times in five games in 2015 so far, including a career high four on Sunday. Bortles is on pace to complete 346 passes for 605 yards (57.1%) for 4,157 yards, with a 6.87 Y/A average and an impressive 12.03 yards per completion rate. He’s also on pace for 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, along with 45 sacks (but for only 198 yards). He’s averaging 6.19 ANY/A — that’s right around league average, a pretty big jump from his 3.81 ANY/A average as a rookie. [click to continue…]


Last week, I introduced the first edition of the SRS for the 2015 college football season. This week, we have a new number one: the Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan scored 38 points in a win over Northwestern yesterday; that matches the number of points allowed by the team all season. Michigan has now posted three consecutive shutouts, and all six games have come against FBS competition, allowing just 6.3 points per game in the process. Boston College is second in points allowed versus FBS competition, at 10 per game, but the Eagles are averaging only six points per game in those contests.

Michigan’s averaging a respectable 29.5 points per game this year; as a result, the Wolverines have an average points differential of 23.2 per game. The only teams better than that? Baylor (with a ridiculous 43.75 points per game differential) and Boise State (24), but Michigan’s tougher SOS gives the Wolverines the jump in the SRS.

Without further ado, below are the SRS ratings through six weeks. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. [click to continue…]


Week Four (2015) Fourth Down Decisions In Review

Boldest Coach of the Week:

Mike Zimmer coached the Vikings in week 4 the way every underdog should: he gave his team the best chance to pull the upset.  Playing in Denver, Zimmer chose to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Vikings own 44-yard line on 4th and 1 in the first quarter.  Then, in the 4th quarter, Zimmer went for it on 4th down at the Denver 48-yard line.  Trailing by 10 with 10 minutes to go is a pretty obvious situation to go for it on 4th-and-1, but it’s one not all coaches recognize.  His aggressiveness was rewarded, as Adrian Peterson burst through the line for a 48-yard touchdown. [click to continue…]


I’m short on time this week, so I will present the data and leave the commentary to you guys. Here are the Game Scripts data from week 4.

Well, okay, allow me one comment. Under Joe Philbin, the Miami Dolphins have been incredibly pass-happy, despite the fact that the team has often been more effective on the ground than through the air. Well, in Philbin’s last game as head coach, Miami passed on 81% of dropbacks, the highest rate of any team in week four. And, of course, while some of that was due to the team’s poor Game Script, note that Tampa Bay had nearly the same Game Script and passed on only 61% of all plays.

Miami rushed 11 times for 59 yards, so it was not as though the Dolphins rushing attack mandated a pass-happy approach. And Ryan Tannehill averaged 2.49 ANY/A on 47 dropbacks. You can probably figure out why Philbin was fired. [click to continue…]


This week at the Washington Post: what to do with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Colin Kaepernick made his first NFL start less than three years ago, on a Monday night in November 2012 against the Bears. His 10th career start came for the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, when he threw for 301 yards and rushed for 62 and nearly led San Francisco to a fourth-quarter come-from-behind victory. In his first 16 career starts — the equivalent of a full regular season — he accumulated the following stat line: 259 completions in 433 pass attempts for 3,627 yards, with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, along with 674 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. At that point, Kaepernick was still three weeks shy of his 26th birthday, and appeared to be one of the game’s most valuable assets: a young, talented quarterback.

You can read the full article here.

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Punting, Kicking Games Power Luck-less Colts

The Indianapolis Colts won a game without Andrew Luck in week four, but that doesn’t mean the defense is any good or that the offense can survive without Luck.  In fact, this was the rare game where the Colts got outplayed on both sides of the ball and still win.  It sure helps to have two All-Pro specialists on the team.

Take a look at the boxscore from the game.  The Colts won by 3 points, and PFR provides an expected points summary of many aspects of the game play.  By definition, the sum of those values have to equal +3 for the Colts, and -3 for the Jaguars.  On offense, the Colts were 3.57 points below average, and therefore, the Jaguars were 3.57 points above average on defense.  Indianapolis had a similar performance on defense, where it was 3.23 points below average, and Jacksonville was 3.23 points above average. [click to continue…]


This week at the New York Times, a record-breaking stat to highlight the 180-degree turn in Houston.

In 2014, the Houston Texans rushed on 52% of all plays, the most run-heavy ratio in the N.F.L. The team rushed a league-high 551 times last season, as the Texans quickly self-identified as a power-running team in head coach Bill O’Brien’s first season in the league.

Instead, the Texans — through four games — have become one of the most pass-happy teams in N.F.L. history. Including sacks, Houston had 52 pass attempts against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1, 59 against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 and 58 Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. In the process, the 2015 Texans became the first N.F.L. team with more than 50 pass attempts (including sacks) in three of its first four games. The Texans have recorded 209 pass attempts (including sacks) through four games, also the most in league history.

You can read the full article here.  And check back later in the day for some equally astonishing stats to chronicle the turnaround by the Jets defense.

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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 are the ratings for all 128 FBS teams. [click to continue…]


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…]

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