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Today at 538:

First downs per route run

Gaining a first down is one of the most important things a wide receiver can do, and he has a chance at it whenever he runs a route. Yards per route run is the wide receiver version of yards per pass, but by replacing yards with first downs in the numerator, we can focus on a less-popular (but very important) statistic that shows us which guys move the chains.

Evans ranks first in this category: He has picked up a first down on a remarkable 15.3 percent of his routes. One reason for that is that Evans runs deeper routes, and he easily leads the league with 62 first-down receptions (no other player has more than 50).

You can read the full article here.


Checkdowns: Jason Lisk on Overtime

A good article today from Jason Lisk with his thoughts on the best overtime proposal:

My concept is that the team with the last clear chance to avoid overtime kicks off. Here were the rules I put forth then:

1. Eliminate the coin flip at the start of overtime. The team with the “last clear chance” to avoid overtime must kick off to start the overtime period.

2. If either team has scored in the final five (5) minutes of regulation, and regulation ends in a tie, then the last team to score in regulation was the team with the “last clear chance”, unless that team scored the maximum number of points possible on that possession of 8 points (resulting from a touchdown and 2-point conversion). In the event the last team to score did score 8 points on the final scoring drive, then the other team kicks off to start overtime.

3. If neither team scored in the final five (5) minutes of regulation, and regulation ends in a tie, then the last team to punt the football was the team with the “last clear chance”, and must kick off to start overtime.

Ties are going to become more common under the new overtime structure, where teams can trade field goals and soak up much of the 15 minute period. I don’t know if we are at the point where we need to have another rules change for overtime, but Jason’s is interesting because the main goal is preventing games from ever getting there.

What do you think of the current overtime rules? What would you propose?


Week Thirteen NCAA SRS Rankings: Where Do We Stand?

The rankings haven’t changed much from last week. Here’s how the top 15 teams in the SRS last week fared in week 13:

  • #1 Alabama handled Auburn in the Iron Bowl, 30-12. The Crimson Tide is a lock for the playoffs, even if they lose in the SECCG (which they’re not going to do).
  • #2 Ohio State beat Michigan in perhaps the game of the college football season, 30-27 in double overtime. Ohio State seems like a lock for the playoffs; the Buckeyes regular season is over, as Penn State won the Big 10 East.
  • #3 Michigan lost to Ohio State. Michigan’s playoff chances appear dead in the water.
  • #4 Washington had the single best game of the week, according to the SRS, beating Washington State in the Apple Cup, 45-17.  It was the 5th best single game score of the year. Washington looks to be in a “win and they’re in” situation, as the Huskies will face Colorado in the P12CG.
  • #5 Clemson blew the doors off of South Carolina, 56-7, to finish the regular season 11-1.  The Tigers are in a “win and they’re in” scenario against Virginia Tech in the ACCCG.
  • #6 Colorado beat Utah, at home, 27-22, to capture the Pac 12 South.  The Buffaloes may well be in a “win and they’re in” situation in the P12CG against Washington.  More on that in a bit.
  • #7 Wisconsin handled Minnesota, 31-17.  Wisconsin won the Big 10 West, and will face Penn State in the B10CG.
  • #8 Southern Cal beat Notre Dame, 45-27, but USC’s season is over now that Colorado has won the South.
  • #9 Louisville shockingly lost to Kentucky, 41-38. Louisville finished the year 9-3, with two straight bad losses.
  • #10 Washington State lost to Washington, ending WAZZOU’s playoff hopes.
  • #11 Oklahoma was off.  The Sooners can still win the conference at 10-2 with a win in the de facto B12CG this weekend against Oklahoma State.
  • #12 Penn State beat Michigan State, 45-12.  The Nittany Lions will face Wisconsin in the B10CG.

Below are the week 13 SRS results: [click to continue…]


Week 12, 2016: Gameday Thread

Let’s fire up the weekly game thread. As always, post whatever you find interesting or noteworthy during today’s games.

I’ll start with a surprising Jets anecdote.  New York’s pass defense was disastrous the first five weeks of the season: opponents averaged 9.24 yards per attempt (excluding sacks), easily the worst in the league.  In fact, only Oakland (8.48) was within a half-yard of the Jets futility.

But since then? The Jets pass defense ranks first in yards per attempt, at 5.99 (the Broncos are second at 6.01), over six weeks and five games. Here’s the game-by-game look:


I used Y/A because of the crazy split, going from last over the first 5-game sample to first over the last 5-game sample. But the trend holds if we use ANY/A, too. Here is the same graph, but with ANY/A plotted in orange, along with an orange best-fit trend line:


Of course, the Jets pass defense faces a very tough today, as the Patriots are coming to town.


The 2016 Bills Are The 1973 Bills, Reincarnate

In 1988, the Dolphins went 6-10. That was the only sub-.500 season the Don Shula/Dan Marino Dolphins ever had.

You probably won’t be shocked to learn that those Dolphins finished dead last in rushing yards and first in passing yards. After all, Miami finished first in pass attempts, and the team ranked 2nd in NY/A; meanwhile, the Dolphins ranked last in rushing attempts, and 23rd in yards per carry. The presence of Marino, a bad running game centered around Lorenzo Hampton and Troy Stradford, and a 6-10 record all paved the way for the 1st/last split.

In 2005, the Cardinals went 5-11, and also ranked 1st in passing yards and last in rushing yards. That team’s running game was terrible: Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington were the backs, and the team ranked last in yards per carry *and* rushing attempts (and rushing TDs), as Arizona finished 190 rushing yards behind every other team. But with Kurt Warner at the helm, a bad record, and that running game, Arizona finished 50 passes (including sacks) more than than any other team, and 327 more yards.

That doesn’t sound so weird, does it? But since 1970, those are the only teams to rank 1st in passing yards and last in rushing yards (seven others raked 1st/2nd and last/2nd to last). And only three teams have done the reverse, finishing first in rushing yards and last in passing yards.

The first, unsurprisingly, was the O.J. Simpson-led Buffalo Bills in 1973 during his historic campaign. Buffalo went 9-5 and finished first in YPC and 2nd in attempts, as Simpson had a 332/2003/6.0 stat line, while Jim Braxton (108/494/4.6) and Larry Watkins (98/414/4.2) produced solid numbers in support. Joe Ferguson was not very good at quarterback: Buffalo ranked last in pass attempts, 3rd-to-last in NY/A, and therefore last in passing yards (and TDs).

The presence of the 2003 Ravens in this group is not going to surprise any folks, either. The 10-6 Ravens had a great defense and a fantastic running game led by Jamal Lewis, who rushed for over 2,000 yards. Baltimore finished 1st in rushing attempts and 3rd in yards per carry, with Lewis doing most of the heavy lifting there. With Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright, the passing attack was pretty bad: it ranked 27th in NY/A and 32nd in attempts, so the last-place ranking in passing yards makes sense.

The third team is one most of you could probably guess: it’s the 2006 Michael Vick-led Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta finished 1st in rushing attempts *and* 1st in yards per carry, joining the famous 1978 Patriots as the only teams since the merger to pull off that feat. The Falcons rushed for 2,939 yards, the most by any team since 1984. The passing game led by Vick was not very good: Atlanta ranked 29th in NY/A, and since it ranked 32nd in attempts, it ranked last in passing yards.

So why bring up those teams today? The 2016 Bills rank 2nd to last in pass attempts (by 1, to Miami) and 2nd in rushing attempts (Dallas), in a very 1973 Bills-like fashion. Buffalo easily leads the league in yards per carry (5.3), although right now the Cowboys (thanks to quantity) are only half a yard per game behind the Bills. LeSean McCoy is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, Mike Gillislee is at 5.8, and Tyrod Taylor is at 6.4; that group is powering an insanely efficient running game.

The passing game, meanwhile, is nearly as bad as the running game is good. That’s mainly because of a drop in yards per completion (from 8th last year to 25th in 2016). Taylor averaged 7.10 ANY/A this year and 5.73 this year; Buffalo ranks in the bottom 5 of the league in NY/A, so given the 31st-place ranking in attempts, it’s not too shocking that the Bills are last in passing yards (though the 49ers are less than 50 yards ahead of them).

As a result, the Bills look a lot like the ’73 Bills, and those two teams could make up half of the franchises since 1970 to rank last in passing yards and first in rushing yards.


The Dolphins have now won five straight games for the first time since 2008, with Sunday’s win being the most remarkable: Miami won with a Game Script of -6.8, as the offense had a very slow start to the day:


In week 11, Miami was the only team to win with a noteworthy negative Game script: technically, the Raiders and Giants won with them, too. Below are the full results from week 11: [click to continue…]


From Matt To Dak: The Difference A Year Makes

Do you remember the 2010 Panthers? That was the last pre-Cam team in Carolina. That team wast not very good at passing, but got significantly better once Newton arrived. In 2010, Carolina averaged just 2.85 ANY/A, but that jumped to 6.29 the following year, for an increase of 3.43 ANY/A. Here’s the breakdown:

Games Passing
Rk Player Year
Age Draft Tm Lg G GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int TD% Int% Rate Sk Yds Y/A AY/A ANY/A Y/G W L T
1 Cam Newton 2011 22 1-1 CAR NFL 16 16 310 517 59.96 4051 21 17 4.10 3.29 84.5 35 260 7.84 7.17 6.24 253.2 6 10 0
2 Armanti Edwards 2011 23 3-89 CAR NFL 16 0 1 1 100.00 11 0 0 0.00 0.00 112.5 0 0 11.00 11.00 11.00 0.7
3 Legedu Naanee 2011 28 5-172 CAR NFL 15 10 1 1 100.00 27 0 0 0.00 0.00 118.7 0 0 27.00 27.00 27.00 1.8
4 Jimmy Clausen 2010 23 2-48 CAR NFL 13 10 157 299 52.51 1558 3 9 1.00 3.01 58.4 33 223 5.21 4.06 2.98 119.8 1 9 0
5 Matt Moore 2010 26 CAR NFL 6 5 79 143 55.24 857 5 10 3.50 6.99 55.6 13 90 5.99 3.55 2.67 142.8 1 4 0
6 Brian St. Pierre 2010 31 5-163 CAR NFL 1 1 13 28 46.43 173 1 2 3.60 7.14 48.7 3 23 6.18 3.68 2.58 173.0 0 1 0
7 Tony Pike 2010 24 6-204 CAR NFL 1 0 6 12 50.00 47 0 0 0.00 0.00 60.1 1 10 3.92 3.92 2.85 47.0 0 0 0
8 Armanti Edwards 2010 22 3-89 CAR NFL 3 0 1 1 100.00 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 79.2 0 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.0 0 0 0
9 Brandon LaFell 2010 24 3-78 CAR NFL 14 2 0 1 0.00 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 39.6 0 0 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.0 0 0 0

[click to continue…]

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The 0-11 Browns Are Looking To Challenge History

The Browns have lost their first 11 games of the season, becoming just the sixth team since 2000 to begin the season 0-11.

  • In 2008, the Lions went 0-16.
  • In 2007, the Dolphins began the year 0-13, and ended the streak with an overtime win against Baltimore in game fourteen.

I’m short on time today, so here’s a quick look at all teams that began the season 0-10, along with how long that streak continued, and which opponent broke the streak.

TeamYearFirst WinOppRecord
Cleveland Browns2016Game ??????
Oakland Raiders2014Game 11KAN3-13
Indianapolis Colts201114TEN2-14
Detroit Lions2008n/an/a0-16
Miami Dolphins200714BAL1-15
Detroit Lions200113MIN2-14
San Diego Chargers200012KAN1-15
Indianapolis Colts199711GNB3-13
Cincinnati Bengals199311RAI3-13
Indianapolis Colts198614ATL3-13
Buffalo Bills198412DAL2-14
Houston Oilers198411KAN3-13
Houston Oilers198311DET2-14
New Orleans Saints198015NYJ1-15
Tampa Bay Buccaneers197713NOR2-12
Tampa Bay Buccaneers1976n/an/a0-14
San Diego Chargers197512KAN2-12
Buffalo Bills197111NWE1-13
Philadelphia Eagles196812DET2-12
Oakland Raiders196214BOS1-13
Washington Redskins196114DAL1-12-1
Dallas Cowboys1960n/an/a0-11-1
Chicago Cardinals195312CHI1-10-1
Chicago Rockets194711BCL1-13
Brooklyn Tigers1944n/an/a0-10
Chi/Pit Cards/Steelers1944n/an/a0-10
Chicago Cardinals1943n/an/a0-10
Detroit Lions1942n/an/a0-11
Pittsburgh Pirates193911PHI1-9-1
Oorang Indians192311LOU1-10

The Chiefs have been the streak-breaker four times, but sadly for Cleveland fans, Kansas City is not on the schedule this year.


538: Are the Giants Going To Do It Again?

Today at 538: Are the Giants going to do it again?

It’s easy to dismiss the success of the 7-3 New York Giants. The team ranks 23rd in scoring, tied with the 49ers, and is 11th in points allowed; overall, the Giants have outscored opponents by only 4 points all year. In fact, the Giants haven’t won a single game by more than 7 points. Meanwhile, they rank 20th in yards per game and 16th in yards allowed per game and have benefited from a favorable schedule: The team has played only three true road games this year.1

Ahead of Week 11’s games, the Giants ranked 16th in both ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings and Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, and their 6-point home win against a bad Bears team is unlikely to move those needles. And even after Sunday’s win, the Giants rank only 17th in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Elo ratings.

You can read the full article here.

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It was a very good week for Oklahoma.

The Sooners were easy to write off early in the 2016 season, after two bad losses in the first three weeks. Oklahoma failed to cover by 23 points against Houston (33-23 loss, as a 13-point favorite) and Ohio State (45-24, as a 2-point favorite), which appeared to knock them out of the national discussion.

But Houston did the Sooners a favor by knocking off Louisville on Thursday night, eliminating (for now) the Cardinals from the playoff picture. Houston recorded a single-game SRS score of 79.5 for that performance, the top game of the week. And the better Houston looks, the more forgivable that loss is from Oklahoma’s perspective.

Oklahoma also doubled-up on West Virginia, 56-28, the third-best game of the week. And the fourth-best game of the week came from Oklahoma State, who destroyed TCU. The Sooners and Cowboys face off in two weeks in a de facto Big 12 playoff game: the teams are 8-0 and 7-1 in conference play, respectively, with every other team having at least two conference losses.

Below are the single-game ratings from week twelve: [click to continue…]

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Week 11, 2016: Gameday Thread

What’s on your mind today? Philadelphia/Seattle is probably the best game on the slate, although Arizona/Minnesota is one I will definitely keep an eye on. I’m also excited to watch some Titans football, which is not a misprint.

Tennessee is on the franchise’s best six-game scoring streak since 1961. No, really: here is the trailing one, three, and six game points totals for every streak in Titans/Oilers history:


As always, leave your thoughts/notes in the comments. With the Jets on a bye, this is shaping up to be a terrific Sunday.


Blair Walsh In Perspective: Game-By-Game EPA

Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh was released by the Vikings this week, and given his struggles this year, it’s hard to argue with Minnesota’s decision. Walsh will be infamously remembered for missing a chip shot in the playoffs against the Seahawks last year, and those demons have carried over to his 2016 performance.

How much so? I looked at every kick of Walsh’s career, beginning in his rookie season of 2012. For every made extra point in 2012, 2013, or 2014, I gave him +0.01 points, and +0.06 points for every made extra point in 2015 or 2016. Then, for every miss, he received -0.99 or -0.94 points, as applicable.

Extra points were easy; field goals were slightly harder. The graph below shows the average success rate on field goals in 3-year increments, from 2012 to week 10 of 2016:


I used those numbers to give Walsh points for each field goal attempt, too. For example, 48-50 yard kicks have been made 70% of the time over the last five years, so if Walsh attempted a 49-yard field goal, I gave him +0.9 points if he made it, and -2.1 points if he missed it.

Using that methodology, here is how Walsh has fared in every regular season game of his career:


As a rookie, Walsh was at +11.4 in this system, and would be even higher if I era-adjusted in sample (for convenience, I treated 2012 games the same as 2015 games, which probably is not appropriate). In 2016, he had -7.1 points by this system, including two miserable games in weeks 1 (missed extra point, missed 37-yarder, missed 56-yarder) and 9 (missed extra point, missed 46-yarder in a game the Vikings lost in overtime).


ANY/A Differential, Through 10 Weeks (and TNF) (2016)

The average pass attempt this year, including sacks, has traveled 6.37 ANY/A. On offense, the Falcons and Patriots pace the lead, as both teams are averaging 9.0 ANY/A. The Cowboys, behind rookie Dak Prescott, are third at 8.3, and no other team is within half a yard of the Cowboys. That’s a good reason why Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, and Prescott are three of the frontrunners for MVP.

At the bottom of the offensive rankings? The Ravens, Jets, and Texans. The struggles of Brock Osweiler and Ryan Fitzpatrick have been well-documented, while Joe Flacco‘s decline hasn’t been as widely discussed (other than here, of course).

Below are the Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt averages for each team, on both offense and defense, through ten weeks and last night’s game: [click to continue…]


Are the Texans The Worst 6-3 Team Ever?

Regular readers are familiar with Pythagenpat Records, and using them to see how much of an outlier teams are in a given season.

You can read the link for background information, but here is the quick summary.

The Texans have scored 161 points and allowed 188 in 9 games this year. We use this formula to determine the appropriate exponent for Texans games:

(Points Scored + Points Allowed)/(Games Played)^0.251

This helps to control for things like pace of games, and scoring frequency. For Houston, that exponent is 2.50. Then, we use that to calculate the team’s Pythagenpat Record using this formula:

(Points Scored ^ 2.50) / (Points Scored ^ 2.50 + Points Allowed ^ 2.50)

[click to continue…]


Week 10, 2016 Game Scripts: Break Up The Titans

The Titans were the big Game Scripts story of week ten, as Tennessee rolled out to a 21-0 lead against the Packers. The Titans have been remarkable over the last few weeks: since the start of week five, the team is averaging 33.7 points per game, the most in the NFL.

Tennessee has scored at least 25 points in six straight games for only the third time in franchise history, and only the second time since the merger. The Titans have crossed the 35-point mark in three straight games, a franchise first.  The team is 2nd in yards per carry and 6th in yards per attempt; this is an offense flying high right now. [click to continue…]

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Today at 538: the Steelers and Seahawks had some interesting two-point conversion decisions in week ten.

According to ESPN Stats & Information Group, there have been 1,045 two-point conversion attempts since 2001, with teams converting 501 of those tries. That’s a 47.9 percent conversion rate; given that a successful attempt yields 2 points, that means the expected value from an average 2-point try is 0.96 points.

Interestingly, that’s almost exactly what the expected value is from an extra point these days. Since the NFL moved extra-point kicks back to the 15-yard line last season, teams have a 94.4 percent success rate, which means that an extra point has an expected value of between 0.94 and 0.95 points.

This means that, all else being equal, the average team should be indifferent between going for two or kicking an extra point. Unless the game situation (i.e., late in the second half) or team composition (e.g., a bad kicker, or an offense or an opposing defense that is very good or very bad) changes the odds considerably, the decision to go for two or kick an extra point shouldn’t be controversial. In the long run, things will even out, because the expected value to the offense is essentially the same in both cases.

That’s the long run. In the short run, there will be ugly outcomes. And we saw two of those play out this weekend.

You can read the full article here.


The story of the college football season had been the lack of any crazy upsets. It felt as though we were on a predetermined path to the college football playoffs, with Alabama, Clemson, Washington, and the Ohio State/Michigan winner taking the four spots.

Then, Saturday happened. The six best teams this year have combined to lose just five games, and *three* of them came in week eleven:

  • Pittsburgh went into Clemson and won, 43-42. This was a shocking upset: the Tigers were favored by 21.5 points.
  • Less of an upset was seeing USC (+10) go in to Seattle and double up the Huskies, 26-13.  This registered as the 2nd most dominant win of the week, behind only Ohio State’s 62-3 thrashing of Maryland.
  • And then the most shocking development of the weekend: Michigan, #1 in the SRS last week, falling to Iowa in Iowa City.  The Wolverines were 24-point favorites, and would have been 22.7-point SRS favorites over a Hawkeyes team that ranked 44th in the SRS a few days ago.

Oh, and in addition to Ohio State taking care of business, Alabama crushed MSU, 51-3, for the 3rd best SRS game of the week.  Below are the single-game SRS ratings from week 11: [click to continue…]


Week 10, 2016: Gameday Thread

What’s on your mind today? Is it the highly-anticipated AFC East/NFC West showdown between the Jets and the Rams, or perhaps Patriots/Seahawks?  Post whatever you see today, or just whatever is on your mind, in the comments below.


There was just one 4th quarter comeback in week nine, and it came in the Lions/Vikings game.  Trailing 13-9 with 4:14 left, Minnesota embarked on a 19-play, 79-yard drive for a touchdown to take a 16-13 lead.  That would have been the only 4th quarter comeback of the week, but Matthew Stafford completed two passes for 35 yards to put Detroit in position for a field goal to tie the game.  Matt Prater connected from 58 yards, and the Lions won in overtime.

But the Lions led for most of that game, and finished with a Game Script of +2.3.  Only one other winning team in week nine had a fourth quarter score to take the lead: Miami, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown against the Jets. But Miami led 14-13 at halftime, and 20-13 at the end of the third quarter; the Dolphins finished with a Game Script of +2.3.

So there were no teams that won games in week nine with a negative Game Script.  Below are the full results: [click to continue…]


538: Are The Eagles Better Than Their Record?

Today at 538: the Eagles appear to be much better than your average .500 team.

The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the more confusing teams in the NFL. At 4-4, it’s easy to assume that the Eagles are an average team, yet Philly has outscored opponents by 57 points this season, the third-best differential behind the 7-1 Cowboys and 7-1 Patriots. Furthermore, Football Outsiders has the Eagles first in the NFL in defense-adjusted value over average, a metric that measures team performance on a play-by-play basis. So what’s the deal — are the Eagles secretly one of the best teams in the league, or have they somehow gamed the system?

The obvious reason the Eagles are 4-4 despite putting up impressive numbers in the two stats mentioned above is that they clustered a lot of very strong play into just four games. In the team’s four wins, the Eagles have outscored opponents by a total of 76 points, an average of 19 points per victory. That makes Philadelphia one of four teams with an average margin of victory of at least 19 points in wins, joined by the Steelers (19.3 in four wins), Cardinals (23.3 in three wins) and 49ers (28.0 in one win).

You can read the full article here.

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Week Ten (2016) College Football SRS Ratings

A little late to the party this week, so here are last week’s ratings as a reminder. Given the late publishing date, I am also including the games from Tuesday and Wednesday night, which means Western Michigan is now 10-0 in these rankings.

The big win of week ten was by Ohio State, as the Buckeyes recorded the single biggest SRS win of the season. Playing at home against Nebraska (ranked 31st, SRS of 48.8), the Buckeyes won 62-3. That’s a 56-point HFA-adjusted margin of victory, which gets adjusted down to a 40-point win after the adjustment we use here in the SRS (i.e., the average of 24 and 56). That translates to an 88.8 single-game rating, which trails only Alabama’s 52-6 neutral site win over USC (90.5) for the top rating of the season. [click to continue…]


Checkdowns: The Bill Barnwell Show, talking Week 10

Today at ESPN, you can hear me talk about football for 42 minutes before talking about the Jets.


The 2016 Presidential Election

In light of last night’s surprising results, I can’t get too focused on writing an article about football. There will be really good articles written by smart people out there today, but it all starts and ends with the maps. Here was 2012:


And here is 2016, according to the NYT:

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-8-14-03-am [click to continue…]


Adam Steele is back for another guest post. You can view all of Adam’s posts here. Adam is now on Twitter, and you follow him @2mileshigh. As always, we thank him for contributing.

In 2014, Football Perspective ran a pair of crowd sourcing exercises to determine the greatest quarterbacks and running backs of all time. These experiments were a lot of fun and generated a great deal of debate amongst the participants, so I thought it would be worthwhile to give crowd sourcing another shot. NFL quarterbacks are the most discussed and analyzed athletes in America, but we can’t properly debate the merits of the league’s famous signal callers without considering the effects of their supporting casts. As of today, there is no mathematically accurate way to measure the strength of a QB’s teammates and coaches, but there are plenty of people around who possess the football knowledge to make educated guesses. Basically, this is the perfect candidate for crowd sourcing. I want to keep things simple to maximize reader participation, so there are just a handful of guidelines I expect participants to follow:

1) Please rate a QB’s supporting cast based on how they affected his statistical performance, not his win/loss record or ring count. The supporting cast umbrella includes the direct effect of skill position teammates, offense lines, coaches, and system, but also the indirect effect of defense, special teams, ownership, and team culture. You’re free to weigh these components however you see fit. The rating for each supporting cast will account for the quarterback’s entire career, using a 0-100 scale. As a rule of thumb, a 100 rating equates to an all star team, 75 is strong but not dominant, 50 is average, 25 is weak but not terrible, and 0 is equivalent to the 1976 Buccaneers.

2) Ratings should be roughly weighted by playing time. The years in which a QB is the full time starter should count more heavily than seasons where he’s a backup or spot starter. And this almost goes without saying, but supporting casts are best evaluated in the context of their respective eras.

3) You may rate as many supporting casts as you wish. Since I will be compiling the results by hand, it doesn’t matter how you order your list, as long as it’s easy to read. I ask that you refrain from rating the supporting casts of quarterbacks you’re not reasonably familiar with; if you don’t know anything about a QB’s career, don’t guess! Any quarterback with at least 1,500 pass attempts is eligible to be rated, and I’ve provided a list of these quarterbacks here. Feel free to break up your ratings into multiple posts on different days, but just be sure to post with the same username each time so I can properly count the results. I plan on keeping the poll open for one week, but reserve the right to extend the duration if interest from new participants remains high enough.

Have fun!


538: Mid-Season Awards (2016)

Today at 538: my mid-season awards column!

Offensive Player of the Year: David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals running back leads the league with 1,112 yards from scrimmage through eight games. He’s averaging over 80 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving per game, which has only been accomplished by four other players in NFL history. But what’s most impressive has been his consistency: Johnson has gained at least 100 yards from scrimmage in every game this year, making him just the 12th player since 1960 to do that in each of his team’s first eight games. Every other player this year has at least three team games in which they failed to gain 100 total yards.4 He’s also averaging 4.5 yards per run and 11.6 yards per reception while scoring eight touchdowns, showing that Johnson’s season hasn’t been fueled only by a heavy workload.

You can read the full article here.

For the 49ers, run defense is more of a suggestion

For the 49ers, run defense is an aspirational thing.

In 2013, the Bears allowed 100-yard rushers in six straight games: those players were Eddie Lacy, Reggie Bush, Ray Rice, Benny Cunningham, Adrian Peterson, and DeMarco Murray. Chicago was the 5th team since 1960 to allow such a streak.

In 2007, the Browns began the season by allowing 100-yard games to Willie Parker, Rudi Johnson, LaMont Jordan, Willis McGahee, Sammy Morris, and Ronnie Brown.

In 2006, the Rams had their own six-game stretch of allowing opposing running backs to hit the century mark: those backs were LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Maurice Morris, DeAngelo Williams, Frank Gore, and Edgerrin James.

In 1998, the Bengals allowed an opposing runner to hit the 100-yard mark in six straight games: Priest Holmes, Kordell Stewart, Eddie George, Napoleon Kaufman, Terrell Davis, and Fred Taylor were the stars there.

The first time, since at least 1960, that a team allowed a player to rush for at least 100 yards in six straight games came in 1979, against the Raiders.  Oakland only allowed six 100-yard rushers all season, but it happened in consecutive weeks  by Paul Hofer, Earl Campbell, the 7th best player named Mike Williams in NFL history, Rob Lytle, Chuck Muncie, and Mike Pruitt.

But now, for the first time in NFL history, the San Francisco 49ers have allowed a 100-yard rusher in seven straight games. Fozzy Whittaker went 16-100 in week 2, Christine Michael had 20-106 in week 3, Ezekiel Elliott had 23-138 the next week, David Johnson went off for 27-157 in week 5, LeSean McCoy ran roughshod 19-140-3 the following week, and Jacquizz Rodgers had 26-154 last week.

Today? Mark Ingram had 15 carries for 158 yards.  Up next week? A rematch against David Johnson and the Cards.


Week 9, 2016: Gameday Thread

Let’s fire up the gameday thread. Two articles from this week of note in preparation of Sunday Night Football:

  • At 538, is the Broncos pass D better than ever?
  • At 538, are the Raiders penalties part of the reason for the team’s success?

Tonight’s game should be really fun to watch, if nothing else because it’s cool to see both of these teams playing well at the same time. In Elo ratings parlance, 1500 is the rating of an average team. Well, this is the first time since 2003 that both the Raiders and Broncos are above-average in Elo ratings.

That’s crazy, although largely because of Oakland’s below-average play. Just once, in 2011, was Oakland above 1500 and Denver below 1500. The graph below shows the Elo ratings for both teams entering all Raiders/Broncos games since 1960, along with the average rating of the two teams. It includes tonight’s game as the last data point: [click to continue…]


On average, the fumbling team has recovered 56% of all fumbles this year. But that hasn’t been the case with the Giants. New York has fumbled 11 times this year, which means you would expect them to recover 6.2 of those fumbles. But the Giants have 8 lost fumbles this year, which means the team has recovered only 3 of those 11 fumbles, or 3.2 fewer fumbles than expected.

That’s really bad, although not the worst in the league. Carolina has fumbled 7 times, so we would expect the Panthers to have recovered 3.9 of those fumbles. Instead? Carolina is 0-for-7, so the Panthers have recovered 3.9 fewer fumbles than expected.

But the Giants haven’t recovered the ball frequently when their opponent fumbles, either. New York’s opponents have 8 fumbles, so you would expect the Giants to have recovered 3.5 of them (or, stated another way, that their opponents should have recovered 4.5 of them). But Giants opponents have lost just one fumble this year, so New York has recovered 2.5 fewer fumbles than expected in this area of the game, too. Add it up, and that means the Giants have recovered 5.7 fewer fumbles than you would think. And that New York has recovered just 21% of all footballs to hit the ground in their games, regardless of the fumbling team

Here’s the data for all 32 teams through week 8 plus Thursday night. Here’s how to read the Steelers line. Pittsburgh has 9 fumbles of its own, but has only lost 2 fumbles, so the Steelers own fumble recovery percentage is a robust 78%, and Pittsburgh has recovered 2.0 more fumbles than expected. Meanwhile, Steelers opponents have 10 fumbles, and Steelers opponents have lost 5 of them, so the Steelers have recovered 50% of all fumbles here, too.1 This means the Steelers have recovered 0.6 more fumbles than expected of their opponents, and therefore 2.6 more fumbles overall than expected. The final column shows that Pittsburgh has recovered 63.2% of all fumbles in play this year, second most to those always-lucky Browns. [click to continue…]

  1. Note that “Opp FR%” means percentage of opponents fumbles that your team recovers. So Denver, at 72.7%, has recovered a lot of those fumbles. []

538: Is Denver’s Pass Defense Even Better? 

Today at 538: yes, really, Denver’s pass defense is even better this year.

Football studies have generally shown that offenses are more consistent from year to year than defenses, and regression to the mean is always a key part of any analysis for a historically great unit. As a result, we wouldn’t expect Denver’s 2016 pass defense to be anywhere near as good as the 2015 one. And that’s exactly what you see with most of the other teams on the list above.

The other pass defenses on the top 20 list above were, on average, 1.53 net yards per attempt better than average against the pass in their dominant season; however, in their first eight games of the following season, they were just 0.52 NY/A better than average. That’s a sign of how difficult is it for dominant defenses to sustain that level of excellence over a long period. Defensive backs and pass rushers are two of football’s most health-dependent roles, and even one player losing a step or leaving in free agency can sink a unit. But so far this season, the Broncos have been even better that last season, jumping from 1.30 NY/A better than league average to 1.73.

You can read the full article here.


The Washington Redskins have made five Super Bowls in their history:

  • To conclude the 1972 season, with Republican Richard Nixon in office as President of the United States;
  • At the end of the 1982, 1983, and 1987 seasons, with Republican Ronald Reagan as the sitting POTUS;
  • In January 1992, during the final year of Republican George H. W. Bush’s presidency.

During the Super Bowl era, Washington has gone 272-180-3 while a Republican is in office. That translates to a .601 winning percentage, the best of any team.

But the Redskins have been a lot worse with a Democrat in office. In fact, Washington has a lowly 150-201-5, a 0.428 winning percentage that is the fourth worst of any team during the Super Bowl era. Washington’s best years came under Reagan, Bush, Ford, and Nixon, while the franchise’s worst years have been under Obama, Clinton, and LBJ.  Take a look: [click to continue…]

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