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Jeff Fisher and the Losingest Coach Kings

Bryan Frye once chronicled the NFL’s passing kings: that is, the career leaders in passing touchdowns throughout every year in NFL history. There are ten men who have been the career leader in touchdown passes, but only eight (soon to be nine) men who can say that they, at one point, had the most losses of any head coach in pro football history. Let’s begin in the natural place: the beginning.

Ted Nesser (1920-1921): 14 career losses

Nesser was the head coach of the Columbus Panhandles in the inaugural 1920 season of the APFA, the predecessor to the NFL. The Panhandles lost their first five games, and finished the season with the most losses in the league. The next year, Nesser’s Panhandles again led the league in losses (8), before the team moved on without him for the 1922 season.  Nesser was a great player — he made the PFRA’s Hall of Very Good — but was 37 by the time he came to the Panhandles as player/coach.

Jim Thorpe (1922-1925): 25 career losses

Yes, that Jim Thorpe took over from Nesser as the career leader in losses. Thorpe also coached in 1920, and by the end of the ’22 season, he was at 15 career losses. He held the title of losing coach in pro football history for four more years — even though he was done coaching after ’23 — finishing his career with 25 losses.

Carl Storck (1926-1928): 26 career losses

Probably the last name on the list you won’t recognize, Storck coached the Dayton Triangles from 1922 to 1926.  He had a winning record his first year, but went just 4-23-4 the rest of his career.  In his last game as a head coach, in 1926, he finally passed Thorpe for most career losses. [click to continue…]


Today at 538: A look at how bad the Rams offense has been under Jeff Fisher.  After a 3-1 start this year, things have quickly gone downhill.

Since then, L.A. has gone 1-7, with the lone victory coming in a 9-6 snoozer against a bad Jets team featuring quarterback Bryce Petty in his first NFL start. And if there’s a theme to the Rams’ unyielding mediocrity under Fisher, it’s a bad offense that seems to get worse the more resources it’s given.

L.A. ranks last in scoring, yards and first downs, and in the case of the latter two categories, for the second year in a row.

You can read the full article here.


Week Fourteen NCAA SRS Rankings: Alabama Finishes #1

The college regular season is over, other than Army/Navy this weekend. Let’s start with a review of the final week of the season for the B12, and the conference championship games for the rest of major college football.

Washington’s destruction of Colorado lead the way, while yet another Alabama blowout only comes in second due to the weaker opponent (yes, Florida is nearly ten points worse than Colorado; 2016 is weird). Also, Temple with a huge upset win over Navy comes in third. [click to continue…]

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Week 13, 2016: Gameday Thread

Behind Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and an incredible offensive line, the Dallas Cowboys running game has been really, really good. In week 1, Dallas was outrushed by the Giants in the team’s only loss this year, 113-101. But since then, the Cowboys have outrushed their opponent in every game.

No team has ever outrushed its opponent in all 16 regular season games. And only two teams have outrushed their opponent in 100% of all games, with both instances occurring in 1969. Ironically, one of those teams was the Cowboys, who led the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing yards allowed; on average, Dallas outrushed its opponents that year by 88 yards per game. Calvin Hill and Walt Garrison powered the offense, while Bob Lilly, George Andrie, Lee Roy Jordan, and Chuck Howley were the stars of the front seven.

In the AFL, Kansas City did the same thing in every game that year, including the playoffs. Like Dallas, the Chiefs led their league in both rushing yards and rushing yards allowed; for KC, a three-headed monster of Mike Garrett, Robert Holmes, Warren McVea handled the load on offense, while just about everyone was a star in the KC front seven.  No, really: Curley Culp, Buck Buchanan, Bobby Bell, and Willie Lanier all made the Pro Bowl, and Jerry Mays (Pro Bowler every year from ’64 to ’68) and Jim Lynch (’68) were Pro Bowlers the prior year. [click to continue…]


The Browns Are 0-12…. In the ANY/A Battle, too

You know the Browns are 0-12, and you know that the Browns are not very good at passing or stopping the pass.  Cleveland is 31st in the league in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (ahead of only the Texans), and 31st in the league in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt allowed (ahead of only the Colts).

But did you know that Cleveland has had the worse ANY/A in every game this season? Take a look at the ANY/A for Cleveland’s offense (in brown) and defense (in orange) from each game this year: [click to continue…]


Today at 538: The Cowboys started the year 9-1 against the spread; the Browns, meanwhile, can’t seem to beat anyone, even with the help of Las Vegas:

On the other end of the spectrum are the Cleveland Browns, who have the league’s worst record against the spread. Cleveland has been an underdog in all the games it’s played so far this season (12), the only team in the league with that distinction. (On average, the Browns have been underdogs by 7.1 points.) It’s been an ugly season for Cleveland — remarkable not only because the Browns have failed to win a game but also because they are just 2-10 against the spread!

Since 1978, 20 teams (including this year’s Browns) have been underdogs in every game. And the majority of those teams were even larger underdogs, on average, than Cleveland has been. So these were really bad teams. But none was as bad against the spread as Cleveland has been so far this season: Among those 19 other teams, the worst record was a more respectable 5-11, set by another Browns team, the one from 16 years ago:

You can read the full article here.


Week 12 Game Scripts Data

I’m short on time today, so here are the Game Scripts from week 12. I’ll leave the commentary to you.

TeamH/ROppBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio

Also, as always, the season page is now updated.


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…]

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