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2015 Billick/Coryell Team of the Year

In 2014, I came up with the Billick Index and the Coryell Index, which provide a simple measure of the degree to which a team is one-sided.

Let’s use the 2015 Broncos as an example. Denver’s offense scored 32 touchdowns this year, while the average offense scored 37.7. As a result, Denver’s offense was 5.7 touchdowns below average. Meanwhile, the defense allowed only 29 touchdowns, meaning the Broncos were 8.7 touchdowns below average here. Add those two together, and there were 14.4 fewer offensive touchdowns scored in Denver games than in the average 16 games in 2015.

That would put Denver pretty high on the Billick Index, which measures touchdowns scored at lower rates than average. The strongest Billick Index team was the Rams, who finished in the bottom five in offensive touchdowns scored and whose defense ranked in the top five in touchdowns allowed. There were just 55 touchdowns scored in St. Louis games this season.

But the Rams were not the most extreme team this year. Consider that the Saints allowed more touchdowns to opposing offenses — 57 — than offensive touchdowns scored in Rams games on both sides of the ball! [click to continue…]

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Thoughts on the Jets Run Defense and Damon Harrison

Jets defensive tackle Damon Harrison is a free agent, which leaves New York in a tricky position. According to Pro Football Focus, Harrison was the 7th-ranked interior defensive lineman, and the number one rated nose tackle. Not coincidentally, Harrison was rated as the single top run defender among all defensive lineman. As a result, he’s likely to command a pretty decent contract on the open market, and is also pretty valuable to the Jets.

On the other hand, Harrison was on the field for only 53.9% of all Jets defensive snaps in 2015. And given that the vast majority of Harrison’s value comes in the rushing game, and not the passing game, there’s a limit to the sort of contract he will receive. But what I wanted to highlight today is the interesting way in which the Jets have managed to get 8 years of strong run defense and great nose tackle play with a lot of moving parts. From 2008 to 2015, the Jets rank 3rd in yards per carry allowed.

In 2007, the Jets run defense was pretty mediocre; in ’08, the Jets traded a third and a fifth round pick1 for Kris Jenkins. That turned out to be a great trade initially, as Jenkins was an All-Pro caliber player2 during his 23 games with New York, but injuries ended his career. [click to continue…]

  1. Which turned into Charles Godfrey and Gary Barnidge. []
  2. He was a Sporting News first-team All-Pro in ’08, and an AP 2nd-team choice that year. []
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Carson Wentz and Non-Division 1/FBS Top Ten Picks

North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz may be a top-five pick in the NFL Draft this year, although a number of mocks also have him falling outside of the top ten, too. It’s early in draft season, but I thought it would be fun to look at just how weird it would be to have someone from NDSU be selected in the top ten.

The table below shows all players drafted in the top ten since 1967 (the first year of the common draft) from non-Division 1 or FBS schools. The last? Steve McNair, who played at Alcorn State, back in 1995. [click to continue…]

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38 Questions In Review: Part III

Before the season began, I hosted a contest where I asked you to submit 38 questions. Each question asked you about 38 pairs of numbers, with the contestant trying to guess which number will be bigger. I also calculated the percentage that each “side” of the bet received, based on 82 entries.

In early January, I looked at the first 19 questions (that post has been updated since the playoff results).  Yesterday, I looked at the remaining set of questions. Today, the contest results.

Here were the answers to each question, along with the percentage of entries that guessed correctly: [click to continue…]

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38 Questions In Review: Part II

Before the season began, I hosted a contest where I asked you to submit 38 questions. Each question asked you about 38 pairs of numbers, with the contestant trying to guess which number will be bigger. I also calculated the percentage that each “side” of the bet received, based on 82 entries.

In early January, I looked at the first 19 questions (that post has been updated since the playoff results).  Today, we’ll look at the remaining set of questions. Tomorrow, the contest results.

20t: Number of COMBINED receiving TDs by Pierre Garcon; Eddie Royal; Jarvis Landry; and Percy Harvin (0.671) vs. Number of receiving TDs by the player with the MOST in this group: Dez Bryant; Odell Beckham; Julio Jones; and A.J. Green (0.329) [click to continue…]

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From 1978 to 1980, Earl Campbell averaged 22.7 carries per game. Those carries went for 4.9 yards, giving him an incredible 110.5 rushing yards per game. That makes him jut the 5th (and at the time, 3rd) player to average 110 rushing yards per game over any 3-year period. On the other hand, Campbell averaged just 13 receptions for 63 receiving yards during those three seasons: that’s less than a catch per game.

The Houston offense during this time? Well, that’s a different matter. The Oilers were pretty middle-of-the-road in most categories, including points and Net Yards per Attempt. Take a look: [click to continue…]

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In December, I noted that Antonio Brown was leading the NFL in Adjusted Catch Yards per Team Attempt. Now that the season is over, I wanted to update that post. Based on the end-of-year numbers, Brown once again led the NFL in that metric, just slightly edging Julio Jones.

ACY/TmAtt is pretty simple to calculate. Let’s use Brown as an example. He gained 1,834 yards, caught 10 touchdowns, and picked up 84 first downs. If we give 20 yards for each touchdown and 9 yards for each first down (excluding the ones that were touchdowns), you can see that Brown gained 2,700 Adjusted Catch Yards. By contrast, Julio Jones gained 1,871 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns, and had 93 first downs. That’s slightly more impressive — mostly based on the first downs total — and translates to 2,796 Adjusted Catch Yards.

But Jones played for the Falcons, who had 653 pass plays in 2015; Brown’s Steelers had only 623, which means Jones had more opportunities to pick up targets, receptions, first downs, and yards. On a per-team pass attempt basis, Brown gained 4.33 ACY/TPA, while Jones averaged 4.28. In other words, slight edge to Brown.

Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery had a sneaky good year. He was only on the field for 502 offensive snaps, which is about half that of the average star receiver (and about half of Chicago’s team snaps total). If you were to double his numbers, he’d have a 1600-yard, 86-first down season, which is even more impressive when you consider that the Bears were a run-heavy team.1 When calculating the ACY/TPA for players who played in fewer than 16 games, I used a straight line multiplier based on games played. For example, Jeffery had 1,238 Adjusted Catch Yards, and the Bears had 556 team pass attempts. That would give Jeffery 2.23 ACY/TPA, but we multiply that by 16/9 (since Jeffery only played in 9 games) to get at a 3.96 ACY/TPA number found in the table. Since Jeffery only played in about half of the games in St. Louis and in Minnesota, even that may understate things: if we used 8 games in the denominator instead of 9, he’d vault to number one on the list. [click to continue…]

  1. Jeffery had monster games in Detroit and San Diego, though, so it’s unlikely that he would have kept up this pace over a full season. []
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2015 Playoff Game Scripts Data

With the playoffs over, let’s take one last look at Game Scripts data from the 2015 season. Some high-level notes:

  • In the wild card round, all four road teams won. No road team won another game in the postseason.
  • Just two teams won playoff games this year with negative Game Scripts: the Broncos against the Steelers (-0.5) and the Seahawks against the Vikings (-2.5). The Steelers led 10-6 for much of the 2nd quarter, and 13-9 in the third quarter. In fact, Denver trailed 13-12 until there were three minutes left in the game. The frigid game in Minnesota was a tale of three quarters… and a disastrous fourth. The Vikings entered the 4th quarter up 9-0, but Seattle scored the final points of the game to emerge with a 10-9 win.
  • The most pass-happy game by a winning team in the playoffs? That came by the Patriots in the division round against the Chiefs. Even without adjusting for Game Script, it was pass-happy, but a 76.4% pass ratio with a +8.3 Game Script is incredible. Remember, New England attempted a pass on 24 of its first 26 plays, and the Patriots finished with just 10 non-kneel runs.

Below are the 2015 playoffs Game Scripts data: [click to continue…]

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Yesterday, we looked at how often the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year lead his draft class in AV; today, we do the same but for defensive rookies.1

This season, Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters ran away with the award, taking 45 of 50 votes (Buffalo cornerback Ronald Darby (4) and Jets defensive end/tackle Leonard Williams (1) had the remaining votes). Now, how often does the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year wind up leading his draft class in AV? We saw that yesterday, 9 of the first 40 AP OROY wound up being the career leader from their class in offensive AV. On the defensive side, the results were even grimmer: just six of the first 40 AP DROY winners led their draft class in AV: Jack Lambert, Mike Haynes, Lawrence Taylor, Charles Woodson, Brian Urlacher, and Julius Peppers. [click to continue…]

  1. Since no undrafted player has ever won Offensive or Defensive Rookie of the Year, I have limited this analysis to only drafted players for administrative convenience. []
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In 2015, Rams running back Todd Gurley was named the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year. Gurley received 27 of 50 votes, edging out Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (17). Amari Cooper (Oakland) had 4 votes, while Tyler Lockett (Seattle) and David Johnson (Arizona) each received 1 vote.

From 1967 to 2006, nine of the 40 Offensive Rookie of the Years wound up leading their draft class in AV.1 And all nine of those players were running backs: Franco Harris, Tony Dorsett, Marcus Allen, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, Edgerrin James, and Clinton Portis.

The table below shows every AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, along with the career leader in AV from that draft. Here’s how to read it, using 2000 as an example. 2005 as an example. That year, Cadillac Williams was the AP OROY, and had 8 points of AV as a rookie. He finished his career with 26 points of AV, while the career leader in offensive AV from the 2005 Draft is Aaron Rodgers, who has 112 points of career AV.

YearAP OROYRookie AVCareer AVCareer AV LeaderCareer AV
2015Todd Gurley88
2014Odell Beckham1123Same23
2013Eddie Lacy1032Same32
2012Robert Griffin1832Russell Wilson65
2011Cam Newton1976Same76
2010Sam Bradford933Antonio Brown60
2009Percy Harvin1143Matthew Stafford64
2008Matt Ryan1496Same96
2007Adrian Peterson1188Same88
2006Vince Young933Jahri Evans103
2005Cadillac Williams826Aaron Rodgers112
2004Ben Roethlisberger11108Philip Rivers121
2003Anquan Boldin1084Andre Johnson95
2002Clinton Portis1571Same71
2001Anthony Thomas1026Drew Brees147
2000Mike Anderson1336Tom Brady160
1999Edgerrin James21113Same113
1998Randy Moss17123Peyton Manning177
1997Warrick Dunn1595Orlando Pace100
1996Eddie George1276Marvin Harrison124
1995Curtis Martin10101Same101
1994Marshall Faulk16133Same133
1993Jerome Bettis1279Will Shields114
1992Carl Pickens555Jimmy Smith94
1991Leonard Russell525Brett Favre155
1990Emmitt Smith8129Same129
1989Barry Sanders13120Same120
1988John Stephens822Randall McDaniel118
1987Troy Stradford1022Rich Gannon98
1986Rueben Mayes1128Jim Everett87
1985Eddie Brown1158Jerry Rice159
1984Louis Lipps1055Boomer Esiason105
1983Eric Dickerson1590Dan Marino144
1982Marcus Allen18103Same103
1981George Rogers1145James Brooks84
1980Billy Sims1557Anthony Munoz132
1979Ottis Anderson1380Joe Montana123
1978Earl Campbell1367James Lofton100
1977Tony Dorsett16107Same107
1976Sammy White1151Steve Largent102
1975Mike Thomas1247Walter Payton127
1974Don Woods1334Mike Webster116
1973Chuck Foreman1381Dan Fouts122
1972Franco Harris13101Same101
1971John Brockington1353Ken Anderson121
1970Dennis Shaw819Terry Bradshaw105
1969Calvin Hill1172O.J. Simpson98
1968Earl McCullouch629Ron Yary96
1967Mel Farr1041Gene Upshaw109

What sticks out to you?

  1. Since no undrafted player has ever won Offensive or Defensive Rookie of the Year, I have limited this analysis to only drafted players for administrative convenience. []
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I’m on vacation this week, but fortunately, there have been some great guest posts in the interim. But we have a long offseason ahead of us, so I figured I’d use this time wisely.

What topics would you be interested in reading about this offseason? Feel free to throw out there whatever you want: it’s brainstorming time. If there’s something you want me to research and write about, now’s the time.

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Munir Mohamed, a reader of Football Perspective, is back for another guest post. And I thank him for it. You can read all of Munir’s posts here.


How do the Broncos stack up with the best playoff defenses?

The Broncos just capped off a run that saw the defense carry Peyton Manning and a below-average offense to a Super Bowl title. Denver held the highest scoring team in the league to just 10 points in the Super Bowl. As a result, debate ensued as to where the Broncos ranked among other great Super Bowl winning defenses. And just last week, Chase looked at the net points allowed by each Super Bowl champion. [click to continue…]

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Guest Post: Adam Harstad on Sammy Watkins

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


It’s probably not really news at this point, but the 2014 WR class has been pretty good. How good?

Well, Jarvis Landry just broke the old record for receptions through two seasons… by 26 grabs. Jordan Matthews joined the short-list of receivers to top 800 yards and 8 touchdowns in each of their first two seasons, (a list which, since the merger, contained just five names prior to last year). Mike Evans joined Randy Moss and Josh Gordon as the only players in history with 2200 receiving yards through their age 22 season.

Allen Robinson just became the youngest player to top 1400 yards and 14 touchdowns in the same year. And 2nd-4th on that list? Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, and Lance Alworth.) Outside of the first two years of the AFL, no undrafted receiver in history has produced more yards or touchdowns in his first two years than Robinson’s teammate, Allen Hurns. [click to continue…]

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Guest Post: QB Playoff Support: Part II

Adam Steele is back, this time with some playoff support stats for eight more quarterbacks. You can view all of Adam’s posts here.


Two weeks ago, I published a study detailing the playoff supporting casts of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Today I’m going to look at eight more notable quarterbacks under the same microscope. Below are the career tables for each QB, in no particular order. [click to continue…]

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Help Shape The Future of Football Perspective

We’ve built up one of the most intelligent and loyal communities on the internet here at Football Perspective. But writing a post every day can be a bit of a challenge. That would have turned into an even larger time commitment had I not been lucky to receive some great guest articles. And while I have been fortunate enough to receive some free-lance submissions in every sense of the word, a better scenario would be one where those writers get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Right now, the site doesn’t make any real money. That’s somewhat by (lack of) design, and somewhat the product of poor management. I didn’t create Football Perspective to make money; I created it to have an outlet for my thoughts. The fact that I have posted an article here for 1,341 consecutive days is a point of pride, but no one owes me anything. It’s my choice to write, or not to write, and the fact that I have repeatedly chosen to write must mean it makes sense (or that I am an irrational actor).

But as the site has grown, and as the time commitment to FP has increased, and as guest writers are getting more interested in creating great content, I’m realizing that I have done a poor job of keeping up with the growth of the site. There is just one ad at the top of the page, and that doesn’t bring in any notable revenue. If I, as a site owner, was generating revenue, I’d be able to compensate guest writers. So that falls on me, and to the extent it limits my guest submissions, well, then it falls a little bit on all of us.

I have spent some time trying to think of what’s the right vision for this site, but my readers are much better at this stuff than I am. Nobody knows this site better than you, and nobody is more interested in hearing your thoughts than me. The great thing about this community is that I believe the future of this site is just as important to you guys as it is to me. Does that mean going to a real ad-based model (which I would probably need some help in implementing)? Does it mean teaming up with a larger site — bringing FP to a different platform? What other solutions are out there? I don’t really know, which is why I open this up to you.

I end a lot of posts asking you to please leave your thoughts in the comments. But today, I really mean it.

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AP MVPs Have Not Won A Super Bowl in 16 Years

Count the shared AP MVP in 2003 between Peyton Manning and Steve McNair, and none of the last 17 AP MVPs have won a Super Bowl. That’s despite the fact that all 17 played on teams that made the playoffs, and often while playing for excellent teams. During that stretch:

  • Three have played on teams that lost in the Wild Card round of the playoffs;
  • Five have played on teams that lost in the Division round of the playoffs;
  • Two have played on teams that lost in the AFC or NFC Championship Games; and
  • A whopping seven AP MVPs since 2000 have lost in the Super Bowl.

This might be the part where we say that football is a team game, and one player can’t make the difference that it can in other sports. That might sound nice, except:

  • In seven of the last 16 years, the AP MVP played on teams that made the Super Bowl. That makes it seem like one player is pretty important.
  • Incredibly, six of those seven were favored in the Super Bowl! That’s the most amazing part of this streak: the 2001 Rams were favored by 14 points in the Super Bowl; the 2007 Patriots were favored by 12.5 points; the 2015 Panthers were favored by 5 points; the 2009 Colts were favored by 4.5 points; the 2002 Raiders were favored by 3.5 points; and the 2013 Broncos were favored by 2.5 points. Only the 2005 Seahawks had the AP MVP and were underdogs during this stretch.
  • From 1993 to 1999, five of the eight Super Bowl champions had the AP MVP.

So maybe there is an AP MVP curse, in a similar way to the Madden curse. The table below shows how each AP MVP’s team has fared in the playoffs in each year: [click to continue…]

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Anderson clinches the title for Denver

Anderson clinches the title for Denver

The Denver Broncos didn’t exactly ride the team’s offense to a Super Bowl title, but C.J. Anderson did have a great postseason run. The Broncos back rushed for at least 72 yards and gained at least 83 yards from scrimmage in all three games. He had 32.6% of all yards from scrimmage gained by Denver players in the postseason, which ranks 15th among the leaders in that category on the 50 Super Bowl champions.

The player with the most yards from scrimmage in a single postseason is John Riggins, who rushed for an incredible 610 yards and picked up 625 yards from scrimmage for Washington after the 1982 season. But on a per-game basis, Marcus Allen a year later was even better: in three games, Allen rushed for 466 yards and four touchdowns, while also gaining 118 yards through the air. That gave him an incredible 584 yards from scrimmage and 5 touchdowns in three games, and one of the most famous highlights in NFL history.

Allen also holds the record for most yards from scrimmage during the postseason among the 50 Super Bowl champions. Anderson ranks a respectable 15th in this category: [click to continue…]

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A quick checkdown today, looking at the net points allowed in the playoffs by each of the 50 teams that won the Super Bowl. What do I mean by net points? It’s pretty simple:

(Touchdowns allowed to opposing offenses) * 7 + (Field Goals allowed) * 3 – (Touchdowns scored by the defense) * 7 – (Safeties scored by the defense) * 2

I have decided to ignore special teams touchdowns — both for and against that team — as this is just a look at defenses. And obviously this is a very basic look: it doesn’t incorporate number of drives faced, average starting field position, missed field goal attempts, or quality of opposing offense (or era). But hey, I said it was a quick checkdown!

Here’s how to read the table below. Let’s use the 1985 Bears as an example. You may know that Chicago shut out both NFC opponents en route to the Super Bowl, where the Bears allowed 10 points. But that’s a bit misleading, because Chicago’s defense was better than that. The 1985 Bears played in three playoff games, and the defense scored two touchdowns and recorded a safety (total of 16 points). The defense did allow 10 points, via a touchdown and a field goal, but that means the Bears defense allowed -6 net points in the playoffs, or -2 NP/G. [click to continue…]

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For years, Peyton Manning kept ruining Gary Kubiak’s life. From 2006 to 2010, both men were in the AFC South, and Kubiak never managed more than 9 wins or a division title. He finished his time in Houston with a 61-64 record, before joining the Broncos in 2015. That makes Kubiak just the 7th head coach who had a losing career record prior to the season in which his team won the Super Bowl.

The coach with the worst career record before winning it all? That would be Bill Walsh, who held an 8-24 record entering the 1981 season. [click to continue…]

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The 2012-2015 Broncos: What Can We Learn?

Here was something I tweeted a few days before Super Bowl 50:

The 2012 Broncos were awesome. Peyton Manning, while not having the scorched-earth campaign he would enjoy a year later, still led the NFL in ANY/A and Total QBR, and received 19.5 of 50 votes for Most Valuable Player (Adrian Peterson picked up the other 30.5). The Broncos finished 2nd in points and 4th in yards, while on defense, the team ranked 4th in points and 2nd in yards. Perhaps more impressively, the Broncos defense ranked 1st in Net Yards per Attempt, and in the top three in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and yards per carry.

The Broncos did have an easy schedule, but they were one of four teams that stood head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL, along with the Patriots, Seahawks, and 49ers. Of course, a Joe Flacco pass to Jacoby Jones, combined with a Rahim Moore blunder, wound up ruining the dream season. [click to continue…]

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Thoughts on Tony Dungy and the Hall of Fame

In the Hall of Very Good Mustaches

In the Hall of Very Good Mustaches

Tony Dungy was selected for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Dungy is the 23rd head coach selected to the Hall of Fame: among that group, he ranks 12th in wins with 139, 9th in winning percentage at .668, and 7th in wins over .500. Those are all impressive numbers, given the sample; the “worst” mark on his resume would be the lone championship, which places him in the bottom six among Hall of Fame coaches (John Madden and Sid Gillman each won one; George Allen, Marv Levy, and Bud Grant won zero titles).

Dungy entered the league in 1996. Excluding Bill Belichick, who is clearly the best coach of this era, where does Dungy rank among the other Super Bowl-winning head coaches? Is he the best choice for the Hall of Fame among this group?

Statistically speaking…. yes. Dungy ranks 5th in wins among this group, but first in winning percentage (in fact, his winning percentage is even higher than Belichick’s!). Perhaps most importantly, he ranks first in wins over .500, which blends raw wins and winning percentage. Coughlin and Shanahan have two rings, but both have combined to win just 52 games more than they have lost; Dungy himself is at +70. [click to continue…]

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Super Bowl 50: The Best Defensive Super Bowl Ever?

Where does Super Bowl 50 rank among the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history?

Von Miller captures the Super Bowl MVP

Von Miller captures the Super Bowl MVP

Super Bowl 50 will go down as one of the bigger upsets in Super Bowl history, but it’s clearly not one of the biggest ever. Even given the recency of the game, it still falls far behind Super Bowl III (Jets/Colts), Super Bowl IV (Chiefs/Vikings), Super Bowl XXXII (Broncos/Packers), Super Bowl XXXVI (Patriots/Rams), or Super Bowl XLII (Giants/Patriots, 2007).  All five of those games had double-digit point spreads, but went to the underdogs.

Super Bowl XXV (Giants/Bills) featured a 6.5-point spread and was one of the more memorable upsets. And two recent underdogs won with 4.5-point spreads — Ravens over 49ers, Saints over Colts.  From a purely point spread look, Super Bowl 50 would slot in right there, at tied for #7, as the line closed at 4.5 points.  From a purely subjective standpoint, I’d probably put this game in the middle of those two:  the Saints game looked like a big upset, but the stats guys were on New Orleans, and the line may have only been in the Colts favor because of the team’s experience edge.  I picked the 49ers to win by six points, which is what I had Carolina winning by yesterday, too.  But with Denver a 12-4 team and the #1 seed, I think this game feels like less of an upset than Ravens/49ers. [click to continue…]

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Super Bowl 50: Post Your Thoughts Here

This year, I will be live-blogging the Super Bowl at 538: Here’s a link:

http://fivethirtyeight.com/live-blog/super-bowl-50-panthers-vs-broncos/?#livepress-update

But I wanted to make a place for everyone who wants to write about the Super Bowl, so please leave your previews/in-game reactions/post-game thoughts here. Enjoy!

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This may be my favorite project of the 2015 season. Of course, that may be because it has nothing to do with the 2015 season, but it was a football historian’s dream project: a look at the best plays from each of the 50 yard lines, beginning at the 50 and moving to the opponent’s one-yard line (you can probably guess that one).

With 49 Super Bowls in the history books, the NFL’s biggest game has seen some of football’s biggest plays. To celebrate Super Bowl 50, the following recounts the most exciting, most impactful and most memorable play from each hash mark from midfield to the 1-yard line.

The plays were selected based on a combination of memorable moments, big plays in the biggest game that led to the biggest changes in win probability. Note that only plays from 50 yards and in are included, so plays such as David Tyree’s helmet catch (which started at the Giants 44-yard line) and Los Angeles Raiders running back Marcus Allen running with the night from 74 yards out against the Redskins, are not included. Still, there’s no shortage of sterling Super Bowl moments, including one memorable play with the snap right at midfield.

The graphics team at the Washington Post did a fantastic job, so please take a look. And much credit goes to Pro-Football-Reference.com, and Mike Kania (@zempf) in particular, for helping me narrow down the list of candidates at each yard line.

The toughest choice to make? Three of the most memorable plays happened at the ten yard line: The Tackle, by Mike Jones, Joe Montana to John Taylor to beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, and the Sickest Man in America, when Jackie Smith dropped a sure touchdown.

Anyway, please take a look: I am sure any historian will enjoy this trip down memory lane.

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


On Saturday, the Hall of Fame selection committee will meet, lock themselves in a room, and debate the relative merits of the 15 modern-era finalists for induction. After an intense discussion, the results will be announced nationally as the final event in the festivities leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl.

While the list of 15 finalists includes several names who have been waiting longer than they should for their call, the one that stands out the most to me is Terrell Davis, who has been a semi-finalist more than anyone else in this year’s class, reaching the top 25 ten times in his ten years of eligibility.

Hopefully the Hall of Fame committee can manage to make room for him in what could easily be a stacked class. Whatever they do this Saturday, however, will not change one simple fact: Terrell Davis should have long ago been elected to the Hall of Fame. [click to continue…]

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538: 2013/2015 Broncos and the 1982/1984 Dolphins

The 2013 Broncos had one of the greatest offenses of all time and made it to the Super Bowl.  Two years later, Denver is again in the Super Bowl, on the strength of a superb defense.  How rare is that?  Well, the only team that really fits that profile is the Miami Dolphins, who made the Super Bowl in 1982 and 1984, and had a similar swing (albeit in the other direction).

Over at 538, I look at the  similarities between those two teams, and other teams that have swung from an extreme offensive/defensive identity to an extreme defensive/offensive identity just two years later.  A special thanks to Adam Harstad, who was the one who gave me the simple but creative methodology to display these results.

In the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Miami Dolphins made it to the Super Bowl on the strength of an incredible defense that allowed the NFL’s fewest yards, first downs, passing yards and net yards per pass attempt. The offense wasn’t very good, but the defense — known as the Killer Bees because the last names of six starters began with the letter B — guided the team to the Super Bowl, as Miami ranked second in points allowed and third in takeaways.

Just two years later, the Dolphins were back in the Super Bowl, and once again, the team was one-dimensional. But, remarkably, it was the offense that was the dominant unit, as Miami led the NFL in points, yards, first downs and net yards per pass attempt, while a second-year quarterback named Dan Marino set single-season records for passing yards and passing touchdowns.

You can read the full article here.

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Guest Post: Brady vs. Manning and Playoff Support

Adam Steele is back, this time throwing his hat into the never-ending Brady/Manning debate. Fortunately, this isn’t your typical Brady/Manning post, as Adam brings some new stats to the table. You can view all of Adam’s posts here.


By any statistical measure, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have performed at a nearly identical level in the postseason. Of course, many observers don’t care about passing statistics, and prefer to judge quarterback based on playoff W/L record alone. And as we all know, Brady has a significant edge over Manning in this regard. But if we’re going to judge quarterbacks by the performance of their entire team, it’s only fair to also evaluate the parts of the team the QB has no control over – defense and special teams.

Using PFR’s expected points estimations, I recorded the defensive and special teams EPA for Brady’s and Manning’s teams in each of their playoff games. The “Support” column is the total EPA contributed by defense and special teams. Brady first: [click to continue…]

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This week at the Washington Post, an ironclad, inarguable ranking all 106 players on the Broncos and Panthers. The list is a combination of best players, most valuable players, and also most important ones. For example, two players who maybe aren’t quite as good as these rankings imply have a pretty critical role on Sunday:

11. Michael Oher, T, CAR
Oher, who started for the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, joins Harry Swayne (San Diego, Denver, Baltimore), Jon Runyan (Tennessee, Philadelphia), and Fred Miller (St. Louis, Chicago) as the only offensive tackles to start in Super Bowls for different teams.

12. Mike Remmers, T, CAR
Given the Broncos’ league-best pass rush, the pressure will be on Oher and Remmers to contain Denver’s terrifying edge-rushers. Remmers, an undrafted free agent in 2012 who has been with six franchises in four seasons, could be the key to the game — for both teams.

You can read the full article here.

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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.


Despite a fourth trip to the Super Bowl, 2015 has been the worst year of Peyton Manning’s storied career. Statistically speaking, he has never been worse, even as a 22 year old rookie starting all sixteen games for a 3-13 team.1 Relative to league average, Manning produced the worst completion rate, yards per attempt, touchdown rate, interception rate, passer rating, and adjusted net yards per attempt of his career.2 Manning ranked last among the 36 qualifying passers in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. And his normally stellar sack rate also took a hit, with the second worst output of his career (behind only 2001).3

If we look to advanced metrics to try to uncover some hidden gem about his performance that may be overlooked by standard box score stats, we don’t have much luck. ESPN’s QBR (which only goes back to 2006, mind you) takes into account far more than any other popular metric, and it normally adores Manning. From 2006-2014 (excluding 2011, obviously), Manning ranked 1st, 3rd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in Total QBR.4 This year, he ranked 30th with a subpar 45.0 rating.

Football Outsiders’ DVOA and DYAR don’t do Manning any favors either. Not only was 2015 by far the worst season of his career by both metrics, it was also the only below average season of his career. From 1998-2014, his average season was 32.47% better than average by passing DVOA. His worst season by the metric was a 7.70% effort as a doe-eyed rookie. Over that same period, he averaged 1,664 passing DYAR per season, and his average season was worth 2.89 DYAR per pass.5 This year, Manning was 26.00% below average, as measured by DVOA, and he lost 328 DYAR from his career total. His -0.95 DYAR per play was easily worse than his previous low of 1.18 in his inaugural season.

If the stats aren’t enough, the infamous “eye test” also backs up the belief that this was Manning’s worst-ever season. He struggled to jive with Gary Kubiak’s offense, especially when asked to run bootlegs and throw on the run. His limited power to make pre-snap adjustments, in concert with his decreased mobility, resulted in him taking more abuse in the pocket than he ever had before.6 He threw errant passes and made uncharacteristically poor decisions, causing him to lead the league in interceptions until week 17, despite missing six games. He struggled with nagging injuries, had the worst game of his entire career, and was benched for an inexperienced and marginally talented fourth-year backup. [click to continue…]

  1. A team that also went 3-13 the prior year and earned the right to draft him first overall. []
  2. Using Pro Football Reference’s Advanced Passing Index Scores as my measurement of choice. []
  3. Of course, being Peyton Manning, he was still better than average; his Sack%+ score was 110 in the regular season. []
  4. Among all quarterbacks with at least 224 action plays. His second place rank in 2013 becomes a first place rank if you finagle the threshold to exclude Josh McCown’s 269 play, 85.2 QBR bout. []
  5. Using the average of his averages rather than a weighted average of all DYAR on all pass plays. The point here is to show his average season, not his average performance over the course of his career. []
  6. I covered this in more detail after his poor week 2 performance. You don’t have to call me a prophet, but I won’t stop you. []
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