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Scoring 3 Different Ways In One Game

Last night, Dion Lewis scored a touchdown for the Patriots on a kickoff return, along with scoring touchdowns on a reception and on a rush attempt. Earlier this year, Tyreek Hill did the same thing to provide the margin of victory over the Broncos.  Those were the 12th and 13th times since 1960 that a player has scored touchdowns three different ways in a game.

  • In 1995, Jimmy Smith pulled off a unique hat trick against the Broncos: He recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a fumble return touchdown, scored on a lateral on a kickoff return, and caught a touchdown.
  • In 1976, Freddie Solomon, then with the Dolphins, scored via punt return, catch, and run against the Bills.
  • In 1969, Travis Williams of the Packers scored via an 83-yard punt return, a 96-yard kickoff return, and on a 1-yard run against the Steelers.
  • In 1965, Gale Sayers did it three times.
    • Against the Vikings, Sayers scored three touchdowns in the 4th quarter — one on a catch, one on a kickoff return, and one on a rush.
    • Later in his rookie season, Sayers rushed for four touchdowns, caught a touchdown, and had a touchdown on a kickoff return against the 49ers.
    • Two years later, Sayers had another hat trick — and again against San Francisco — by scoring via a kickoff return, punt return, and rushing touchdown.
  • Also in 1967, Saints Walter Roberts pulled off a hat trick against the Eagles, with a kickoff return, fumble return, and receiving touchdown.
  • In 1962, Timmy Brown of the Eagles did what Sayers did in ’65 and what Hill and Lewis did this year.  Against the Redskins, Brown had a 99-yard kickoff return, a 3-yard rushing touchdown, and a 10-yard touchdown reception.
  • In the AFL in 1961, Abner Haynes nearly single-handedly pulled off an incredible 4th quarter comeback against the Bills, with a 69-yard touchdown catch, 3-yard touchdown run, and 87-yard kickoff return touchdown in the final frame.
  • Bobby Mitchell — the other great running back on the Browns in the early ’60s — did it twice. Against the Cowboys in 1960, he had a 46-yard touchdown catch, 30-yard touchdown run, and 90-yard kickoff return touchdown.  A year later, against Washington, Mitchell scored on a punt, catch, and run.

And for completeness’ sake, prior to 1960, Frank Minini, Joe Scott, Spec Sanders, Billy Hillenbrand, Hugh Gallarneau, Jay Arnold, Hank Bruder, Buckets Goldenberg, Art Folz, and Roddy Lamb had a touchdown hat trick at one point in their careers.

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The Seahawks and Falcons face off today, and the over/under for the game is 51 points. If that sounds like a lot of points, that’s because it is: it’s the first Seahawks game where the over/under is greater than 50 points since 2004.

13 of 16 Falcons games this season went “Over”, and there was a push in the Falcons/Panthers game in December with an over/under of 49 points. The Seahawks maybe have their worst defense in years (which isn’t much of an insult) with Earl Thomas out, and are facing a dominant Falcons offense.  So it makes sense that this is expected to be the highest scoring Seattle game in years.  Although earlier this year, on the road in a dome against another NFC South team, the over/under was 50 points.

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There is a lot of talk about the large point spread in the Patriots/Texans game. New England is a 15.5-point favorite over Houston tonight, tied for the second largest spread ever in a non-Super Bowl playoff game behind only Minnesota/Arizona in 1998.  The over/under is 44.5, which means the projected final score is 30-14.5.

Let’s say the Texans pull off the upset. Are they more likely to do so in a low-scoring game, or in a shootout?  If Houston wins 14-13, they will have come in under their projected points total by 0.5, but held New England to 17 fewer points than expected.  If the Texans win 31-30, they would have exceeded their projected points total by 16.5 points, while holding New England to exactly the number of expected points.

So, which result is more likely? My intuition says a low-scoring game, but what do the numbers say? There have been 24 games since 1985 where a team won despite being an underdog of at least 14 points.  As it turns out, intuition is correct: on average, these underdogs exceeded their projected points for total by 7.8 points, but held their opponents to 13.3 fewer points than expected. [click to continue…]

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The Chargers franchise started in Los Angeles in 1960, before moving to San Diego in 1961.  The team spent 56 years in San Diego before deciding to move to Los Angeles yesterday. That’s the longest amount of time any professional football team has spent in one city before relocating.

The Cleveland Browns existed for 50 years, from 1946 to 1995, before Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore. Cleveland was given an expansion team three years later, and the new Browns entered the league in 1999.

The Rams also began in Cleveland, playing there from 1937 to 1945.  The team moved west to Los Angeles in 1946, and remained in the greater Los Angeles area1 until 1994, when the franchise moved to St. Louis.  That means the Rams existed in LA for 49 seasons before moving to the midwest.  Of course, after 21 seasons in St. Louis, the Rams returned home last season.

The Cardinals were one of the NFL’s original franchises, playing in Chicago from 1920 through 1959.  Then, after 40 seasons in Chicago, the Cardinals moved to St. Louis in 1960.  The team stayed there for 28 years, before moving to Arizona in 1988.

The Houston Oilers were one of the AFL’s initial franchises in 1960, but Bud Adams took the franchise east to Tennessee in 1997.  So after 37 years in Houston, the Oilers moved, but the city received the expansion Texans a few years later.

The only other team to move after 25 years in one city was the Colts, of course.  The franchise began in complicated fashion: the franchise was awarded to Carroll Rosenbloom in 1953, although it really was a legacy of the ’52 Dallas Texans.  The Colts stayed in Baltimore for 31 years, before Robert Irsay – who had traded for the Colts in 1972 – moved the team to Indianapolis after the 1983 season.

What do you think of the Chargers moving to LA?

  1. The team played in Anaheim from 1980 to 1994. []
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2016 Approximate Value Released

With the All-Pro votes now in, the initial 2016 Approximate Value numbers have been released by PFR. Here are the leaders:

Query Results Table
Games Misc
Rk Player Year Age Draft Tm Lg G GS Yrs PB AP1 AV
1 Matt Ryan 2016 31 1-3 ATL NFL 16 16 1 1 1 21
2 Damon Harrison 2016 28 NYG NFL 16 16 1 0 1 18
3 Aaron Rodgers 2016 33 1-24 GNB NFL 16 16 1 1 0 18
4 David Bakhtiari 2016 25 4-109 GNB NFL 16 16 1 0 0 17
5 Von Miller 2016 27 1-2 DEN NFL 16 16 1 1 1 17
6 Bobby Wagner 2016 26 2-47 SEA NFL 16 16 1 1 1 17
7 Drew Brees 2016 37 2-32 NOR NFL 16 16 1 0 0 16
8 Calais Campbell 2016 30 2-50 ARI NFL 16 16 1 0 0 16
9 Ezekiel Elliott 2016 21 1-4 DAL NFL 15 15 1 1 1 16
10 Julio Jones 2016 27 1-6 ATL NFL 14 14 1 1 1 16
11 Sean Lee 2016 30 2-55 DAL NFL 15 15 1 0 1 16
12 Andrew Luck 2016 27 1-1 IND NFL 15 15 1 0 0 16
13 Alex Mack 2016 31 1-21 ATL NFL 16 16 1 1 0 16
14 Khalil Mack 2016 25 1-5 OAK NFL 16 16 1 1 1 16
15 Le’Veon Bell 2016 24 2-48 PIT NFL 12 12 1 1 0 15
16 Jack Conklin 2016 22 1-8 TEN NFL 16 16 1 0 1 15
17 Kirk Cousins 2016 28 4-102 WAS NFL 16 16 1 0 0 15
18 Aaron Donald 2016 25 1-13 LAR NFL 16 16 1 1 1 15
19 Devonta Freeman 2016 24 4-103 ATL NFL 16 16 1 1 0 15
20 David Johnson 2016 25 3-86 ARI NFL 16 16 1 1 1 15
21 Zach Orr 2016 24 BAL NFL 15 15 1 0 0 15
22 Dak Prescott 2016 23 4-135 DAL NFL 16 16 1 1 0 15
23 Tyrod Taylor 2016 27 6-180 BUF NFL 15 15 1 0 0 15
24 Olivier Vernon 2016 26 3-72 NYG NFL 16 16 1 0 0 15
25 Travis Frederick 2016 25 1-31 DAL NFL 16 16 1 1 1 14
26 Chris Harris 2016 27 DEN NFL 16 15 1 1 1 14
27 Dont’a Hightower 2016 26 1-25 NWE NFL 13 13 1 0 0 14
28 T.Y. Hilton 2016 27 3-92 IND NFL 16 16 1 1 0 14
29 Zack Martin 2016 26 1-16 DAL NFL 16 16 1 1 1 14
30 LeSean McCoy 2016 28 2-53 BUF NFL 15 15 1 1 0 14
31 Benardrick McKinney 2016 24 2-43 HOU NFL 16 16 1 0 0 14
32 C.J. Mosley 2016 24 1-17 BAL NFL 14 14 1 1 0 14
33 Matthew Stafford 2016 28 1-1 DET NFL 16 16 1 0 0 14
34 Aqib Talib 2016 30 1-20 DEN NFL 13 13 1 1 1 14
35 Russell Wilson 2016 28 3-75 SEA NFL 16 16 1 0 0 14
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2017.

You can view the top 100 players here, and individual player AV by team is available as well.

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Additional Thoughts On The 2016 Falcons Offense

Atlanta had “only” 175 drives on offense this year, tied with Washington for the fifth fewest drives in the NFL. That’s partially because the offense was so good — Atlanta had the 2nd fewest number of drives end in a 3-and-out, behind only New Orleans — but also because the defense was below average, keeping the offense off the field.

Despite that, Atlanta scored a whopping 540 points. But here’s another way to think about it: the Falcons had just 11 turnovers and 48 punts, meaning just 59 drives ended in a punt or a turnover. That’s the fewest in modern history, one fewer than the 2007 Patriots (who had just 167 drives). And Atlanta scored 58 offensive touchdowns, meaning the offense had nearly as many drives end in a touchdown as a punt or turnover. And that’s just, well, crazy: [click to continue…]

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The Packers won every home playoff game for over 60 years. Green Bay was 13-0 at home in playoff games until Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons won as 6.5-point underdogs at the end of the 2002 season. Since that 13-0 start, the Packers are a much less intimidating 5-4 in the postseason. Below is the points differential in every playoff game in Green Bay in NFL history:

[click to continue…]

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Three games this year had an over/under of 38 points: Rams/Seahawks in week 2, Jaguars/Vikings in week 14, and Broncos/Chiefs in week 16. But today, with the Brock Osweiler-led Texans — Houston ranked 30th in offensive DVOA — facing off against the Connor Cook-led Raiders, in his first ever start, the over/under in Houston is just 37 points.

In addition to being the lowest in a game this season, it’s also the lowest in a playoff game in five years.  Two years ago, the Ryan Lindley Cardinals and Panthers faced off in Carolina; the over-under was 37.5, and Lindley had one of the worst playoff games ever. But the last time a playoff game had an over/under of 37 or lower was in 2011, when Tim Tebow and the Broncos traveled to Pittsburgh. Tebow wound up having an incredible game, leading Denver to a 29-23 win in a game where the over/under was just 34.

In a game with the worst quarterback in the NFL during the 2016 regular season against a quarterback who has never made an NFL start, you can understand why we have the lowest over/under of the season.

But betters, take note. From 2002 to 2015, there were 18 playoff games where the over/under was less than 37.5. In those games, 11 went over, 1 was a push, and 6 went under.

What do you predict today? I was leaning Oakland, but I think the loss of Donald Penn will change things. This feels like a true toss up.

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Post Your 2016 Playoff Predictions here

Post your playoff predictions in the comments. Here are mine:

Wild Card Round

(5) Oakland over (4) Houston
(3) Seattle over (6) Detroit
(3) Pittsburgh over (6) Miami
(5) New York Giants over (4) Green Bay

Divisional Round

(1) Dallas over (5) New York Giants
(2) Atlanta over (3) Seattle
(1) New England over (5) Oakland
(2) Kansas City over (3) Pittsburgh

Conference Championships

(1) New England over (2) Kansas City
(1) Dallas over (2) Atlanta

Super Bowl

(1) New England over (1) Dallas

This is a pretty chalky set of picks, but it feels like there are a few tiers in the NFL:

Tier 1: New England. Okay, the Patriots do seem vulnerable without Rob Gronkowski. Tom Brady averaged 9.33 Adjusted Yards per Attempt during the regular season (excluding sacks). On passes to Gronk, Brady averaged an unreal 15.8 AY/A, with 540 yards and 3 touchdowns on 38 targeted passes. On all other passes, he averaged 8.85 AY/A. That’s still great, but an offense with the two highest targeted players are Julian Edelman and James White has the ability to be contained in the playoffs. And while the Patriots don’t have a great defense, the team easily led the NFL in both points allowed and points differential. [click to continue…]

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Regular readers know I am fascinating by the Coach of the Year award.  Here is what I wrote in the preseason:

But even if I wasn’t getting odds, I think I’m still going with Bill O’Brien this year.   Houston was good last year, but if Brock Osweiler hits, and Jadeveon Clowney turns into a star, O’Brien’s Texans will look very good. I think we’ll see O’Brien getting the bulk of the credit for any success in Houston this year, and he’s as good a choice as any.

Here were the Vegas odds entering week 17: not sure much has changed since then, although the Chiefs jumped the Raiders for the 2 seed, which I suppose has increased Reid’s odds and decreased Del Rio’s chances.

Jason Garrett – Dallas 1/2
Dan Quinn – Atlanta 4/1
Bill Belichick – New England 15/2
Jack Del Rio – Oakland 15/2
Andy Reid – Kansas City 15/2
Adam Gase – Miami 12/1

It feels like Garrett and Belichick are the frontrunners — you know, they happen to coach the #1 seeds in each conference — and I can certainly understand the support for Quinn and Reid, who coach the teams that grabbed the #2 seeds.  I still like O’Brien, and think you can spin an easy argument for him: the Texans finished 9-7 despite ranking 29th in DVOA!  Now maybe that’s because they were lucky, but they probably received some good coaching, too.  I think the harder part is that Houston’s offense was awful, and O’Brien is an offensive guy, so doesn’t he deserve some of the blame for that?

Not on the list, but Ben McAdoo seems like another guy who — despite the shortcomings on offense, which is his side of the ball — has done a nice job of getting his team to overachieve.  The Giants finished 11-5 and McAdoo was able to integrate a lot of new faces on defense very quickly. Mike Mularkey also did a good job of building a team in his image, although Tennessee’s pitiful 2-4 record in the division makes it tough.

Who would you vote for? Who do you think will win the award?

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Nobody wants to be compared to Ryan Leaf, so it tells you all you need to know about Jared Goff‘s rookie season that such a headline doubles as a legitimate question. Let’s start with the raw stats, even though we know the passing environment has changed significantly since 1998:

Passing Rushing
Rk Player Year G QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Rate Lng Int Sk Yds Y/A AY/A NY/A ANY/A Att Yds TD Y/A Lng
1 Jared Goff 2016 8 0-7-0 112 205 54.6 1089 5 63.6 66 7 26 222 5.3 4.26 3.75 2.82 8 16 1 2.0 6
2 Ryan Leaf 1998 10 3-6-0 111 245 45.3 1289 2 39.0 67 15 22 140 5.3 2.67 4.30 1.93 27 80 0 3.0 20

[click to continue…]

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This year, Blake Bortles has thrown just one touchdown while playing with the lead. That’s part of a larger development: over his three-year career, Bortles has thrown just four touchdowns while playing with the lead, with half of those coming in what looked like the Jaguars breakout game against the Colts last December.

Bortles has thrown 6 touchdowns while tied, which means his other 58 touchdowns have come while the Jaguars were trailing.  If we count a TD pass while tied as half a TD pass while trailing, and half a TD pass while leading, that would give Bortles 7 touchdown passes while “leading” and 61 touchdowns while “trailing” since he entered the NFL in 2014.  As you might imagine, that’s a pretty significant outlier.

The graph below shows quarterback data since 2014; the X-Axis shows touchdown throws while “trailing” and you can see that Bortles leads the NFL in that category.  The Y-Axis shows TD passes while “leading” and as you could have guessed, Tom Brady leads in that category.  Brady and Bortles represent the two biggest outlier in the entire graph: [click to continue…]

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Okay, yes, I’m a little late here, but I didn’t want to just forget about week 15. Those expecting week 16 Game Scripts, well, that will be up tomorrow.

Week 15 may feel like a long time ago, so here’s your primer: the Colts destroyed the Vikings, 34-6, and had the best Game Script (+17.8) of the week. Atlanta had a similar margin and Game Script against the 49ers. But the big story were the two upsets of the week.

Houston benched Brock Osweiler and inserted Tom Savage into the lineup after falling behind early against Jacksonville; the Texans trailed 13-0 in the 2nd quarter, and 20-8 late in the third, before ultimately winning 21-20. Houston won with a Game Script of -7.4, the 5th worst Game Script by a winning team all season.

The fourth lowest? That came by Tennessee the same day against the Chiefs. In a game that feels much less relevant now — Tennessee is out of the playoffs, while Kansas City has since clinched — the Chiefs led 14-0 in the first quarter and 17-7 entering the fourth. Kansas City even led 17-16, with the ball, with two minutes to go, but lost on a last-second field goal, 19-17. The final Game Script was -8.0 for the Titans.

Below are the week 15 Game Scripts: [click to continue…]

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Oakland is going to the playoffs, but the Raiders will do so without starting quarterback Derek Carr. The third-year quarterback had a breakout season, driven in large part by his ability to minimize bad plays: Carr leads the NFL with a 2.8% sack rate, and his 1.1% interception rate ranks 4th in the league. Oakland went 12-3 in games started by Carr, but after breaking his fibula in a win over the Colts, the Raiders are now turning to Matt McGloin to lead them in the postseason. [Update: With McGloin hurt, Connor Cook will now be making his first career NFL start in the playoffs, the first quarterback to do that since at least 1950.]

Oakland isn’t the only team switching quarterbacks as we enter January. Houston started massive bust Brock Osweiler for the first 14 games of the season, and were rewarded with the worst quarterback play in the NFL. The Texans turned to Tom Savage early in the Jaguars game last week; Savage led Houston to a come-from-behind victory to earn the starting job. He struggled against Cincinnati in his first start, but he’s going to be the guy in the playoffs despite starting just one or two games all year (Houston could, in theory, rest Savage this week, as the Texans are locked in to the 4 seed).

Finally, there are the Miami Dolphins. After years of “will he or won’t he?” play from Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins are finally going to the playoffs…. but maybe without Tannehill. The perennially on-the-verge-of-breaking-out quarterback sprained his ACL and MCL against Arizona three weeks ago, leading his status for the playoffs in doubt. But backup Matt Moore led a game-winning drive against the Cardinals, excelled against the Jets, and was up-and-down in an overtime win against Buffalo on Sunday.

Assuming Moore starts in the playoffs, he’ll be the third quarterback this season to start a playoff game despite fewer than six regular season starts. Here’s every example in NFL history where that happened: [click to continue…]

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We’re a fan of progressive leaderboards here at Football Perspective, and it’s time to take a look at the all-time single-season leaders in completion percentage.

Officially, Sammy Baugh was the single-season leader in completion percentage from 1945 to 1981, as he completed 70.3% of his passes in 1945. To qualify for the completion percentage crown, a player needs to throw at least 14 passes per team game, or 224 passes in a 16-game season. Baugh threw 182 passes in 1945, during a ten-game schedule for the Redskins, though Baugh himself missed two games. But let’s up the minimum to 224 passes, since completion percentage can be misleading over a small sample size. That’s certainly not “fair” to Baugh, but this is a fun post designed to look at the progressive leaders in history, so omitting everyone from ’45 to ’81 would be pretty boring.

In 1942, Sammy Baugh completed 58.7% of his passes for the Redskins. Washington went 10-1, finishing 3rd in points and 3rd in yards in a 10-team league, and won the NFL championship. As a team, Washington finished 3rd in ANY/A, too.

That record held for five years, until 1947, when Baugh completed 59.3% of his passes.1 But it didn’t come with much success: the team finished 4-8, thanks to a very bad defense. Still, don’t blame Baugh: Washington finished 4th in points and 2nd in yards, and easily led the NFL in ANY/A. But the pass defense was nearly as bad as the pass offense was good, and the team lost 13 more fumbles than it recovered, leading to the bad record.

In 1953, Otto Graham smashed the non-Baugh record, completing 64.7% of his passes for the Browns in one of the greatest passing seasons of all time. The Browns had an unreal +5.0 Relative ANY/A that season, and began the season 11-0 before losing the team’s final two games.

In 1974, Ken Anderson completed 64.9% of his passes as part of a strong season for the Bengals. Cincinnati had a good passing offense — it finished in the top 5 in ANY/A — but the team finished just 7-7, in part because the defense finished last in takeaways. [click to continue…]

  1. Over in the AAFC, Otto Graham completed 60.6% of his passes, but I’m going to ignore the AAFC today. []
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Non-Offensive Touchdowns

This year, the Chiefs have returned four interceptions for touchdowns, and also scored via a fumble return, kickoff return, and punt return. That’s seven non-offensive touchdowns for Kansas City, the most in the league. In addition, Kansas City hasn’t allowed a single non-offensive touchdown, so the Chiefs obviously lead the league in net non-offensive touchdowns: [click to continue…]

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Yes.

Take a look at the Broncos pass defense this year, compared to the Broncos pass defense last year:

Year Tm G Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate Sk Yds NY/A ANY/A
Sk% EXP
2016 DEN 14 260 483 53.8 2562 10 2.1 12 2.5 5.8 5.1 10.7 183.0 67.5 40 221 4.9 4.2 7.6 72.16
Year Tm G Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate Sk Yds NY/A ANY/A
Sk% EXP
2015 DEN 16 344 573 60.0 3193 19 3.3 14 2.4 6.2 5.7 10.3 199.6 78.8 52 351 5.1 4.7 8.3 59.89

Three years ago, I looked at the Seattle pass defense and calculate how many standard deviations above average the Seahawks were. At the time, I compared them to an average of the other 31 defenses rather than an average of all 32 defenses, including themselves. I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong answer there, but I’m going to use the latter methodology today, which will explain why the numbers are slightly different.

Anyway, Seattle was 2.80 standard deviations above average in ANY/A allowed in 2013. That’s because Seattle’s pass defense allowed 3.19 ANY/A, while the league average was 5.89 ANY/A. That’s a difference of 2.70 ANY/A, and the standard deviation among the 32 pass defenses that year was 0.97. Divide 2.70 by 0.97, and you see that Seattle was 2.80 standard deviations above average.

The 2016 Broncos? They are allowing just 4.25 ANY/A. That is over a full yard “worse” than Seattle, but worse needs to be put in quotes. For starters, the league average is 6.25 ANY/A this year; in addition, the rest of the league is bunched together. The standard deviation for the 32 pass defenses is 0.74 ANY/A. That means the Broncos have a Z-Score of 2.69 standard deviations better than average (here, negative is better).

That puts Denver as the 5th best pass defense, by this metric, since 1970: [click to continue…]

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Which Teams Are Trending Up Or Down?

The Eagles have outscored their opponents by 17 points this year, but Philadelphia is obviously trending in the wrong direction. The Eagles began 3-0 with wins of 19, 15, and 31 points, but have now lost five games in a row.

So what if instead of using traditional points differential, what if we used a weighted version based on when the game occurred? To do this, we multiply the Eagles points differential in each game this season by the game number; that means the team’s third game counts for three times as much as the first game, and the ninth game counts for three times as much as the third game. With 14 games so far this year, to determine the team’s weighted points differential, we sum the weighted results and divide by 105 (14+13+12+11…+1).

By doing this, Philadelphia’s points differential moves from +1.21 to -3.72. Here’s how: [click to continue…]

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Browns Continue To Lose … Against the Spread, Too

Cleveland is 0-14 this year, but that’s maybe not the saddest stat of the Browns season. Everyone expected Cleveland to be bad, but Cleveland has also been really bad relative to expectations. After losing against on Sunday to the Bills, and again failing to cover against the spread, the Browns are now just 2-12 against the spread this season.

Cleveland covered in games against the Dolphins and Titans early in the year, but the Browns have now failed to cover the spread in eight straight games. The graph below shows the number of points Cleveland was expected to lose by in black, and the actual points differential in orange. Since the Browns have been underdogs and lost every game, the range goes from 0 to -30: [click to continue…]

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Are The Dolphins the New Texans?

Fresh off of Miami’s largest win of the season — and only the team’s second win by more than 7 points — it might seem like an odd time to question the Dolphins. But Miami is now 9-5 and has now only outscored opponents by 1 point. That’s right: it took a 21-point win over the Jets to finally put Miami’s points differential in the black. Miami lost by 32 to Baltimore, which obviously stands out as a big outlier, but the team also lost by 15 to Cincinnati and 13 to Tennessee. And while it doesn’t impact the team’s points differential by much, another loss came by 7 to New England despite a Game Script of -15.6.

A few weeks ago, I asked if the Texans were the worst 6-3 team ever. We may be getting to that point now regarding the 9-5 Dolphins. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Miami has also faced the second easiest schedule in the league this year, behind only the Patriots. Miami gets to face the bad NFC West, the mediocre NFC North, and has had two games against the Jets already. Five of Miami’s nine wins came against the Jets, Browns, 49ers, and Rams, and three more came against below .500 teams. As a result, combine a weak SOS and an average MOV, and the Dolphins have a negative Simple Rating System grade.

The graph below shows each team’s winning percentage on the X-Axis, and SRS on the Y-Axis.  The farther south of the trend line, the more a team is “overachieving” in record relative to SRS (think Miami, Detroit, and the Giants), and the farther north of the trend line, the more a team is “underachieving” in record relative to SRS (think Philadelphia, San Diego, Atlanta). [click to continue…]

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What Can We Expect from Bryce Petty?

Tonight’s game between the Jets and Dolphins certainly falls short of any threshold necessary for primetime television.  That said, for Jets fans, is there anything to get excited about with Bryce Petty?  What does he need to show over the final three games to enter 2017 as part of the conversation for quarterback of the future?

Petty was a 4th round pick who didn’t play last season; his first start came in New York’s 10th game this season, and he will likely that he’ll finish the year with five starts.

Since 1990, here are the quarterbacks who were drafted in the 3rd round or later, didn’t start in the first half of their rookie season, but started at least 3 games in the second half of that season.  Petty wouldn’t meet this definition, but I wanted to run the numbers for context:

Nick Foles
Ryan Lindley
T.J. Yates
John Skelton
Keith Null
Charlie Frye
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Luke McCown
Mike McMahon
Kent Graham
Tom Hodson

Okay, not exactly a promising group there.  What about players more like Petty — 3rd round or later, didn’t start a game in their rookie year, then didn’t start again until the second half of the season of their second season, and started at least 3 games?

Brodie Croyle
Scott Zolak
Bobby Hoying
Aaron Brooks
Koy Detmer
A.J. Feeley
Derek Anderson
A.J. McCarron
Josh McCown

A couple of promising names there, perhaps, with Brooks (at least to me) sticking out as the most promising case. Over the second half of the ’00 season, Brooks ranked 8th in AY/A.  As for Petty? He hardly has shown much yet: he currently ranks last in Adjusted Yards per Attempt over the second half of the year.  But if he has any chance of throwing his hat into the 2017 ring, it starts tonight.

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Here are the top 6 teams in Net Yards per Pass allowed: Denver, Minnesota, Arizona, Jacksonville, the Giants, and the Rams. Those teams rank 21st, 22nd, 25th, 28th, 18th, and 29th, respectively. The Patriots (3rd in NY/A, 10th in NY/A allowed) are the only team to rank in the top ten in both categories, and Cincinnati of all teams (12th, 12th) is the only other team to rank in the top 12 in both categories.

The graph below shows each team’s rank in the simplest of categories: net yards per attempt on offense is on the X-Axis, and net yards per attempt allowed is on the Y-Axis.

Because the best teams have high NY/A averages and low NY/A allowed averages, the correlation coefficient between NY/A and NY/A allowed would be negative if the league was very top-heavy: that is, if the best teams were great at both metrics, and the worst teams were bad at both metrics, the correlation coefficient among all teams in these categories would be closer to -1.0. Instead, the correlation coefficient this year among teams is 0.10, indicating a weak but positive relationship.

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The Falcons blew out the Rams in week 14 in one of the most embarrassing games of the season. Atlanta was up 21-0 at halftime, 28-0 early in the third quarter, and then 42-0 entering the fourth quarter. Two late Los Angeles touchdowns muted the final score, but the 22.0 Game Script tells all.

That was the second biggest Game Script of the season, but it was also only the second most notable Game Script of the week. That’s because of the crazy Jets/49ers game. San Francisco scored two early touchdowns, taking a 14-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game! The 49ers led by 11 or 14 points for the next 50 minutes of game action, too. But New York scored a touchdown, a two point conversion, and a field goal in the second half of the fourth quarter, and ultimately won in overtime, 23-17. Even considering the six plus minutes of overtime, the 49ers finished with a Game Script of +11.5. That’s the largest Game Script of any team that lost since at least 2012, and maybe longer.

Below are the full Game Script results from week 14:

TeamH/ROppBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio
ATL@RAMBoxscore42142822322556.1%442365.7%
GNBSEABoxscore38102815.2263046.4%422661.8%
CIN@CLEBoxscore23101312.9323845.7%312258.5%
CARSDGBoxscore28161211.8293843.3%442068.8%
TENDENBoxscore131038.9234235.4%54985.7%
PIT@BUFBoxscore272078.8314242.5%301862.5%
MIAARIBoxscore262336.7263145.6%362757.1%
NWEBALBoxscore302376.5392660%541479.4%
KANOAKBoxscore211386.3262749.1%423058.3%
TAMNORBoxscore161156.2283544.4%421672.4%
HOU@INDBoxscore221753.3264138.8%461575.4%
MIN@JAXBoxscore251693342954%412463.1%
DETCHIBoxscore201731.5382857.6%331766%
WAS@PHIBoxscore27225-1.2232350%502566.7%
NYGDALBoxscore1073-2.9313348.4%402561.5%
NYJ@SFOBoxscore23176-11.5414050.6%282750.9%

There have been some games that followed a similar pattern to 49ers/Jets, but what makes that game stand out is how San Francisco was up 14-0 with 11 minutes left in the first quarter. In fact, I only see 25 games since 1998 where a team ran an offensive snap down 14 with over 55 minutes left in the game; the Jets were the fifth to win such a game, with the Giants the previous last such team to do so.

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments. And the 2016 Game Scripts page is now updated.

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Carson Palmer’s Decline Has Been Severe

In 2015, Carson Palmer finished first in ANY/A, as did his Arizona Cardinals. It was a magnificent passing season for Palmer, who was 36 years old last season. In the offseason, I noted that it was a big outlier, but there were a couple of ways you could interpret the data:

If you’re a Palmer fan, the results here can both show how much of an outlier Palmer is, but also might be considered inspiring. Peyton Manning was really good at age 36 and then historic at age 37; Gannon and Steve Young had great years at 36, and then were even better at age 37. The same goes (with a slightly lower baseline) for John Elway, Kurt Warner, and Tom Brady. Supporting cast is undoubtedly a big part of this, and Palmer seems to be playing with one of the best ones. The wildcard in the room is how much his meltdown in the NFC Championship Game impacts him mentally.

The general rule of thumb, I think, for an older quarterback is to project them to be OK until they aren’t. What does that mean? Well, I think of Adam Harstad’s mortality tables. Just because a quarterback is old doesn’t mean he’s going to have a 5 or 10% decline: guys like Manning, Gannon, Young, Elway, Warner, Brady, and Brees are examples of that. But once that decline hits, it’s often severe and permanent. For now, though, Palmer is still one of the rare quarterbacks who had his best season at age 36.

Well, we have our answer. While teams like the Texans, Panters, and Jets have suffered notable declines in the passing game, all three teams are dwarfed by the decline in pass efficiency endured by the Cardinals this season: [click to continue…]

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538: Is the AFC South Not As Terrible As We Think?

Today at 538: Is the AFC South suddenly not as terrible as we all think? Did you know: the AFC South had a better record this year than the NFC West?

Titans offense

Tennessee has turned into one of the most fun teams in football. After an uneven first month, second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota has been incredible. I looked at stats for each quarterback starting with his team’s fifth game and ending with the 12th. Over that span, Mariota led the NFL in both passer rating (117.7)5 and touchdown passes (21), while throwing just three interceptions. The Titans led the NFL in scoring in that same period, finishing with 8 more points than the New England Patriots have scored since Tom Brady’s return. For the season so far, DeMarco Murray is secondin the NFL in rushing, and the Titans rank third in both rushing yards and yards per carry. Tennessee’s offense will be tested in their next two games, against the Denver Broncos and Chiefs: If the Titans win, the AFC South may be sending the hottest offense in the league to the playoffs.

You can read the full article here.

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In 2012, the Atlanta Falcons were 11-1 through 13 weeks, just like the Cowboys are this season. And just like this year, the NFC, no other team had more than 8 wins at that point, with an NFC West squad — then, the 49ers, this season, the Seahawks — holding the second best record at 8-3-1.

Through 13 weeks, how often does a team lead its conference by at least 2.5 games?  I am defining through 13 weeks to mean:

  • In 1993, to mean through 14 weeks, since there were two weeks of byes that year.
  • From 1970 to 1989, to mean through 12 weeks, since there were zero bye weeks before 1990.
  • From 1990 to 2016 (1993, excepted), to mean through 13 weeks! That’s simple, isn’t it?

That gives us 94 seasons to analyze conference data in the post-merger era. This year, the Cowboys are at +2.5, while the Raiders and Patriots are tied at 10-2 in the AFC; that means the AFC leader is at +0. On average, the #2 team in a conference has been 1.1 games behind the #1 team in the conference through 13 weeks. Here is the breakdown: [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…]

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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…]

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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.

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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.

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