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How will the Broncos do without Peyton Manning? There are certainly reasons to think Denver will be fine, and Von Miller is one of the biggest reasons. Last year, the Broncos ranked in the bottom 3 in offensive ANY/A and 2nd in defensive ANY/A. According to Football Outsiders, the Broncos ranked 25th in passing DVOA and 1st in DVOA on pass defense. Sure, Mark Sanchez is not great, but he’s pretty familiar with taking a team with a bad offense and a great defense to the playoffs.

Among the 50 Super Bowl winners, Denver had arguably the worst passing offense during the regular season of those teams.  The table below displays each team’s Relative ANY/A — i.e., each team’s ANY/A relative to league average.  The Broncos offense averaged 5.14 ANY/A, which was just over a full ANY/A below average.  On the X-Axis, I have plotted how each Super Bowl winner fared in offensive RANY/A; on the Y-Axis, I have shown defensive ANY/A.  So the 2015 Broncos will be (relatively) high and to the left; the 2002 Bucs/2013 Seahawks will be very high and in the middle, and the ’98 Broncos/’06 Colts will be down and to the right.  Teams like 1966 Green Bay and 1991 Washington were really, really good and balanced, so they are up and to the right. [click to continue…]

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Charles Tillman announced his retirement on Monday, marking the end of a remarkable career. From a game-saving interception (video here) during his rookie season to stop a Daunte Culpepper game-winning touchdown pass to Randy Moss, Tillman was known for delivering big plays in key moments for the Bears. But he will always be remembered for doing something cornerbacks don’t really do: or, given the rate at which he did it, maybe he should be remembering for intercepting passes at an abnormally high rate for a player who forced so many fumbles.

From 2003 to 2015, there were 49 players who recorded 20+ interceptions. During those same years, 52 players recorded at least 15 forced fumbles. Tillman had 38 interceptions and 44 forced fumbles.  To put that remarkable figure in context, take a look at the graph below, which shows all 95 players with either 20+ interceptions or 15+ forced fumbles from ’03 to ’15: [click to continue…]

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Checkdowns: AFC/NFC Players of the Week

Hey look, these two again!

Hey look, these two again!

Pro-Football-Reference.com is constantly adding fun stuff to the site, and I just noticed that this page, listing all AFC/NFC Players of the Week going back to 1984. Some thoughts:

  • Brady was so honored five times in 2007. That was the most ever, although it was equaled by Cam Newton last year. Barry Sanders ’97, Terrell Davis ’98, and Tomlinson ’06 are the only non-quarterbacks with four such honors in a season.
  • Joe Montana had 8 OPOW awards in the NFC, and 5 in the AFC. No other player has more than two in both conferences (Brees has 20/2; Esiason has 10/2).

[click to continue…]

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Kevin Durant and Hardy Nickerson

Kevin Durant made headlines this week by announcing that he was leaving Oklahoma City and joining the Golden State Warriors. Durant is one of the best players in the NBA, and chose to join the team that just set the single-season record for NBA wins. Which made me wonder: who is the most Durant-like player in NFL history? This would be akin to say, LaDainian Tomlinson joining the 2008 Patriots.

But that, of course, didn’t happen. Which means there is no perfect example. The best one I could find, by the numbers (more on this in a minute), is a wholly unsatisfying one: Hardy Nickerson joining the 2000 Jaguars. Yes, you surely remember that sexy tale of intrastate drama: Nickerson, at age 34, made his fourth straight Pro Bowl in 1999. The voters had Ray Lewis (first-team All-Pro by just about everyone) as the best inside linebacker in football, but Nickerson joined Junior Seau and Zach Thomas in picking up the rest of the awards (Nickerson was a 2nd-team Associated Press choice, a 1st-team Football Digest and USA Today Choice, and was the NFC first-team choice by Pro Football Weekly). The Bucs had a dominant defense, and Nickerson therefore picked up 17 points of AV.

That year, the Jaguars went an NFL-best 14-2. So Nickerson, one of the best players in football, joined the best team in football. That’s the Durant-like quality to his move, even if he’s a DINO (Durant In Name only). I looked at every player to change teams from 1960 to 2015, and measured their AV in the previous season and their new team’s wins from the previous season. I graphed that below, with wins on the X-Axis and AV on the Y-Axis.  Nickerson, who joined a 14-win team and had an AV of 17, is in a red dot: he stands out the most of any player on here, I think. [click to continue…]

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I’ve got no time today, so just a fun checkdown. Here is a look at the franchise record-holders in rookie receiving yards.

TeamReceiverYearYards
Oakland RaidersAmari Cooper20151070
Carolina PanthersKelvin Benjamin20141008
Buffalo BillsSammy Watkins2014982
New York GiantsOdell Beckham20141305
San Diego ChargersKeenan Allen20131046
Jacksonville JaguarsJustin Blackmon2012865
Cincinnati BengalsA.J. Green20111057
Atlanta FalconsJulio Jones2011959
Baltimore RavensTorrey Smith2011841
Denver BroncosEddie Royal2008980
Philadelphia EaglesDeSean Jackson2008912
Kansas City ChiefsDwayne Bowe2007995
New Orleans SaintsMarques Colston20061038
Detroit LionsRoy Williams2004817
Tampa Bay BuccaneersMichael Clayton20041193
Arizona CardinalsAnquan Boldin20031377
Houston TexansAndre Johnson2003976
Miami DolphinsChris Chambers2001883
Cleveland BrownsKevin Johnson1999986
Minnesota VikingsRandy Moss19981313
New England PatriotsTerry Glenn19961132
New York JetsKeyshawn Johnson1996844
St. Louis RamsEddie Kennison1996924
Seattle SeahawksJoey Galloway19951039
Indianapolis ColtsBill Brooks19861131
Washington RedskinsGary Clark1985926
San Francisco 49ersJerry Rice1985927
Dallas CowboysBob Hayes19651003
Tennessee TitansBill Groman19601473
Pittsburgh SteelersJimmy Orr1958910
Chicago BearsHarlon Hill19541124
Green Bay PackersBilly Howton19521231

Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

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For a variety of reasons, I was curious to know what percentage of receiving yards was gained by each class of players. As it turns out, second-year players gain the most receiving yards of any class. Year two players have the advantage of added experience over rookies, and also are less likely to be out of the league even if they aren’t very good, relative to older players. Even bad players usually make it to the field in year two.

One reason to study this data is to analyze receiver production versus draft class. Because of passing inflation, you can’t simply compare the receiving yards gained by the 1973 class to the receiving yards gained by the 2003 class. But what you *could* do is measure the percentage of yards gained by each class, which should control for era. For example, the famed 2014 rookie class (with Odell Beckham, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Allen Robinson, et al.) was responsible for 13% of NFL receiving yards in 2014 and then 19% of receiving yards last year. Those numbers are both really, really good. [click to continue…]

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Some Thoughts on the 2016 NFL Schedule

Some thoughts as I review the 2016 schedule:

Monday Night

  • There are 17 games on Monday evenings this year: two during the opening week (Pittsburgh/Washington at 7:10 Eastern, Rams/49ers at 10:20), one every other week, and as usual, none during week 17.
  • Carolina, Chicago, Houston, Minnesota, the Giants and Jets, Philadelphia, and Washington each have two MNF games this year. Meawhile, the Browns, Jaguars, Chiefs, Dolphins, Chargers, and Titans do not play on Monday this season.
  • Since hosting two games on Monday Night Football in 2011, the Jaguars have not played on Monday Night Football. Every other team has played on MNF at least once since 2013, but Jacksonville’s streak will extend to at least 2017 now.
  • The Vikings host the Giants in week four. Minnesota has not had a home game on Monday Night since December 20, 2010. That was the second-longest stream in the NFL, a week shorter than Houston. The Texans streak will continue for another year: Houston plays two Monday Night games this year: in Denver and in Mexico (against Oakland).

Thursday Football

  • There are 18 games on Thursday this year, although not all are on what is labeled the Thursday Night Football schedule. There is no game in week 17, but three on Thanksgiving — Minnesota/Detroit, Washington/Dallas, and Pittsburgh/Indianapolis — and one every other week during the season.
  • Every team plays on Thursday at least once this year, with Carolina, Minesota, Dallas, and Denver getting that honor two times. The Panthers and Broncos play in the season opener and then later during the traditional TNF schedule, while the Vikings and Cowboys play (other teams) on Thanksgiving and then each other one week later on TNF. The NFL seems to be making a new trend out of this: last year the Packers and Lions played a memorable TNF game a week after both teams played on Thanksgiving, the Bears and Cowboys played seven days after both franchises played on Thanksgiving 2014.

[click to continue…]

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Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan was hired a year ago and given the enviable position of a lot of cap space. He used that to sign Darrelle Revis to a blockbuster deal, but he also made a couple of smart trades, adding Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick for a 2015 5th and 2016 6th round pick, respectively (while also getting back a 7th round pick later traded for Zac Stacy). There were six veterans who switched teams between 2014 and 2015 that wound up producing double digit points of AV last year; half of those were acquired by the Jets.

The table below shows the 44 veterans who changed teams in 2015 and produced at least 7 points of AV: And, courtesy of Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap, the table has been revised to include each player’s 2015 cap hit and $/AV: [click to continue…]

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Checkdowns: Footballguys.com Free Agent Tracker

At Footballguys.com, there is a very useful tool to help track free agents. The FBG Free Agent Tracker, which is always being updated, let’s you know the status of all the free agents, which is particularly useful this time of year. In addition, Footballguys assigns an importance rating of 1-5 for each player. That’s subjective, of course, but it’s better than nothing (another great option is what Bill Barnwell is doing over at ESPN).

And while free agency isn’t over, I thought it would be useful to “check in” on how teams are doing. According to Footballguys, the Bears have added the most value so far this season, courtesy of adding Jerrell Freeman (linebacker, Colts), Danny Trevathan (linebacker, Broncos), Akiem Hicks (defensive end, Patriots), and Bobby Massie (offensive tackle, Cardinals). Meanwhile, the Dolphins have lost the most, with Lamar Miller (running back, Texans), Olivier Vernon (defensive end, Giants), Derrick Shelby (defensive end, Falcons), Rishard Matthews (wide receiver, Titans), Brent Grimes (cornerback, Bucs), and Brice McCain (cornerback, Titans) all moving on.

On a net basis, the most-improved team this free agency period? That would be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are only down Sam Young (offensive tackle, Dolphins) and up Tashaun Gipson (safety, Cleveland), Chris Ivory (running back, Jets), Prince Amukamara (cornerback, Giants), Brad Nortman (punter, Panthers), and Mackenzy Bernadeau (center, Cowboys). The table below shows the amount of points gained, lost, and net for each team so far: [click to continue…]

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Thoughts on the Jets Run Defense and Damon Harrison

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

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

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

  1. Which turned into Charles Godfrey and Gary Barnidge. []
  2. He was a Sporting News first-team All-Pro in ’08, and an AP 2nd-team choice that year. []
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I’m on vacation this week, but fortunately, there have been some great guest posts in the interim. But we have a long offseason ahead of us, so I figured I’d use this time wisely.

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

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AP MVPs Have Not Won A Super Bowl in 16 Years

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

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

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

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

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

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Anderson clinches the title for Denver

Anderson clinches the title for Denver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Super Bowl 50: Post Your Thoughts Here

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

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

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

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James White had 16(!) Targets in AFCCG

It wasn’t shocking that Patriots running back James White played a big role in the AFC Championship Game. In my preview article at the Washington Post, I wrote that the Broncos were well-equipped to pressure Brady, which could lead to a lot of passes to his safety valve. Of course, I was thinking of a different safety valve:

But the difference-maker may wind up being Julian Edelman, who is Brady’s security blanket against the pressure. Without a pass-catching running back like a Shane Vereen (now with the Giants) or Dion Lewis (36 receptions in six games before tearing his ACL), Brady looks to Edelman as his hot receiver to understand how to get open quickly against the blitz.

As it turns out, White was only able to convert 5 of his 16 targets into receptions, for a paltry 45 yards. It’s fair to wonder if a Vereen or Lewis would have been more productive, including on deep throws (where Tom Brady went 0/5 on passes intended for White). To be fair, some of those “targets” were Targets In Name Only: they were throwaways as Brady was under pressure. But still, it turned out to be a wildly inefficient game. Pro-Football-Reference.com has target data going back to 1992, and White gained the fewest receiving yards in playoff history among the 51 players with 15+ targets in a game. [click to continue…]

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As always, the AP All-Pro selections need to come with a few disclaimers.

  • The way the AP selects its second team is dumb. Well, that’s being kind, because it assumes the AP actually selects a second team. It doesn’t.
  • The way the AP selects its first team is kind of dumb, too. Voters can vote for the same player at different positions! That can lead to odd “splitting the ballot” scenarios, and also to the crazy result that happened in Oakland this year. Kudos to Jason Lisk for shining some light on this topic every year.

With that said, let’s get to the results.

Quarterback

Cam Newton, Carolina, 40; Carson Palmer, Arizona, 6; Tom Brady, New England, 3; Russell Wilson, Seattle, 1. [click to continue…]

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Pre-Week 19: How Good Does The Broncos D Need To Be?

This week at the Washington Post, a look at how good the Broncos defense needs to be to win the Super Bowl.

This year’s Denver offense posts a minus-8.8 percent DVOA rating, which would make it the worst offense to make the Super Bowl since 1989.  If we useestimated DVOA ratings, only the ’79 Rams (-13.1 percent) were worse.  The worst offense by any Super Bowl champion prior to 1989, using estimated DVOA, was the 1980 Raiders, at -7.7 percent.  Therefore, by either measure, the Broncos would be an incredible outlier to even make the Super Bowl, much less win it.

The 2000 Ravens’ profile looks remarkably similar to this year’s Broncos teams.  That Baltimore squad had an offensive DVOA of minus-8.1 percent, and a defensive DVOA of minus-23.8 percent; the 2015 Broncos have an offensive DVOA of minus-8.8 percent, and a defensive DVOA of minus-25.8 percent.  That makes this Broncos team look like a carbon copy of the ’00 Ravens, despite Baltimore having a journeyman Trent Dilfer at quarterback, with the Broncos having arguably the greatest quarterback of all time.

You can read the full article here.

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A great article from Bill Barnwell this week, as he chronicled the rise of the improving Oakland Raiders.  At 6-7 and not playing in the NFC East or AFC South, the Raiders are not in the playoff hunt, but that’s not the only measure of a team’s success. Remember, Oakland started 0-10 last year.  Even that may be a bit of an understatement of where the team was, because the Raiders also lost their final six games of the 2013 season. [click to continue…]

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

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

You can read the full article here.

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This week at the Washington Post, a look at the offensive line struggles that have tanked the Colts and Eagles offenses to date

The Eagles experienced unprecedented offensive turnover this offseason for a team that ranked third in points scored just one year ago. And while much was made of the departures of running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, and the arrivals of quarterback Sam Bradford and McCoy replacement DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia also decided to release both of the team’s starting guards, Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis (a first-team All-Pro in 2013).

The Eagles did retain the rest of the starting offensive line, but that hasn’t stopped that unit from struggling mightily through two weeks. According to Pro Football Focus, Eagles halfbacks averaged an NFL-high 2.43 yards per carry before contact in 2013. Last year, Philadelphia halfbacks averaged 2.29 yards before contact, good enough for a third-place ranking. Eagles running backs were the beneficiaries of lots of space before getting hit over the past two seasons, which helped the team rank second in rushing yards, second in yards per rush and first in touchdowns during that time.

You can read the full article here.

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This week at The Washington Post, I look at how Peyton Manning is currently in the worst four-game slump of his career:

Peyton Manning just finished the worst four game stretch of his career. For a player who has started 281 career games, that’s a pretty bold statement. Then again, few quarterbacks have reached the incredible peaks that for years Manning turned into his permanent residence.

…..

If we take a simple rolling, four-game average of Manning’s ANY/A in each game relative to the average ANY/A allowed by the opposing defense in that game, Manning’s last four games would rate as the worst of his career

You can read the full article here.

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2015 NFL Predictions

Welcome back, NFL. With the NFL season finally here, I thought I would get in my pre-season predictions before it was too late. Prior to Thursday Night’s game between the Steelers and Patriots, I posted my predicted records for those two teams: 11-5 for New England, and 8-8 for Pittsburgh. But let’s run through my full standings, since, you know, these things are always so useful. [click to continue…]

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WP: Pre-Week 1 – How Valuable Is An All-Pro Center?

This season, I will be writing weekly articles at The Washington Post. My first article looks at how valuable Maurkice Pouncey is to the Steelers.

Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a severe lower leg injury in an Aug. 23 preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, landing the team’s top offensive lineman on the short-term injured reserve list, which will sideline him until at least Week 9, though the injury may keep him out for even longer. Given that the team once again figures to have one of the weaker defenses in the NFL, Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes rest on the offense performing at a peak level. So how much worse should we expect the Steelers offense to be without Pouncey?

The Steelers were very successful on offense in 2014, ranking among the top eight teams by most metrics, including traditional categories such as points, yards and first downs, as well as advanced tools, including Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and Advanced Football Analytics’ EPA model. One hidden reason for the team’s success on offense last year was great health: According to Football Outsiders, no offense lost fewer games to injury last year than Pittsburgh.

You can read the full article here.

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Checkdowns: 538: NFC North Preview

Over at FiveThirtyEight, you can read my preview of the NFC North teams. Spoiler: the Bears are not very good at defense, the Lions are never very good at defense (except last year!), the Vikings are young but what does that mean?, and the Packers don’t acquire players from other teams.

Enjoy!

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At the start of the new season, every team has hope. Well, just about every team. And that made me wonder: how did Super Bowl champions look in the year before winning the Super Bowl?

The Jets were at -5.0 in the SRS last year: has any team ever been that bad (or worse) and won the Super Bowl the next season? Why yes, one — and only one — team has. The graph below shows the SRS ratings of each Super Bowl champion in the year before they won the Super Bowl. Note that I’m still using the Super Bowl year in the graph below, so if you go to 1972, you’ll see the 1971 Dolphins’ SRS. [click to continue…]

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Checkdowns: Top Receiving Seasons By Age

On Thursday, I spent some time looking at the underrated career of Joey Galloway. After playing with bad quarterbacks most of his career, Galloway finally broke out with some of the best seasons of his career with Jon Gruden and the Bucs. In fact, Galloway set his career high in receiving yards at age 34, which is pretty rare. [click to continue…]

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ESPN’s Total QBR: Updated For 2015

Earlier this week, ESPN announced three key changes to the way its Total QBR metric is calculated. Let’s review them:

1) Interception returns

The base statistic used throughout QBR is EPA, which stands for Expected Points Added per play. So if an interception was returned for a touchdown, that play would obviously have a large negative EPA. For example, when the Chargers had 3rd-and-8 at the St. Louis 8-yard line in the 2nd quarter of a game in week 12 of last season, PFR calculated the Expected Points for that situation as +3.58 for San Diego. When Rivers threw a pick-6 on that play, that situation turned into a -7, which is a swing of 10.58 points. Presumably ESPN’s formula came to a pretty similar result.  And that leaves Rivers with an enormous penalty.

So now, instead of penalizing the quarterback for the actual EPA swing, ESPN will penalize the quarterback for the expected swing based on the type and location of the interception.  This means much smaller penalties on pick sixes, and (one would assume) slightly larger ones on all other interceptions.

This makes sense to me, although it highlights the question of what is QBR actually supposed to measure.  This change, while eliminating some of the randomness involved in a play, moves away from the way QBR has been tied to EPA. On some (though not all) interceptions, whether a player returns it 90 yards or 10 yards is completely random, so penalizing a quarterback a fixed amount (that varies by type and location) is likely going to improve the predictability of the model. What I mean by that is that QBR will become “stickier” from time period to time period, which is a good thing (if you like predictive models). [click to continue…]

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On June 15, 2012, I launched Football Perspective. Since that day, Football Perspective has posted at least one new article every single day. This is the site’s 1,249th post, so I won’t blame you if you’ve missed an article here or there. At the top of every page is a link to the Historical Archive, a page that is updated after each post is published.

In what is becoming an annual tradition, I use this space every June 15th to thank the people who have helped make this site successful.  And, as it turns out, every year I feel indebted to even more people.   And this year, that starts with you.

“Never read the comments” is a meme that has near-universal support on the internet.  But that’s not true here, and that’s because Football Perspective’s regular commenters are not just some of the smartest football minds on the planet, but some of the nicest.  And that means the world to me.

Consider, for a minute, what Brad Oremland is doing.  Brad’s a senior writer at Sports-Central, and he planned on writing a series on the greatest quarterbacks of all time this off-season.  And while he’s running that series there, he’s co-running it here, too.  Why? Because of you. Because when smart people put out great work, they want to hear what other smart people have to say.  The fact that a great football mind like Brad is eager to post stuff here just to get feedback from this site’s commenters is a remarkable advertisement for this community.  I remain indebted to the many great folks who comment on this site, and your love, intelligence, and civility motivates me to keep this thing going. [click to continue…]

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Philadelphia Eagles and Offensive Turnover

The Eagles 2015 offense isn’t going to look very much like the team’s 2014 offense. The starting quarterback duties were split between Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles last year, but Sam Bradford is expected to be the team’s top quarterback this year.1 The top running back was LeSean McCoy, but he’s been replaced by DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. And the team’s top wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin, is also gone.

Already, this is pretty freakin’ rare. For purposes of this post, I am going to assume that Mark Sanchez isn’t on the 2015 Eagles roster, because that meet the spirit of the question.2 If that’s the case — or if Sanchez doesn’t take a single snap all year — Philadelphia would be the first team since 2008 to have turned over their top quarterback, top running back, and top receiver.

That team was the 2008 Bears. The prior year, the team went 7-9 with an ugly offense, led by Brian Griese, Cedric Benson, and Bernard Berrian. A year later, those three were in Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, and Minnesota.

The only other team since 2002 to meet these standards were the ’06 Saints. You might recall that the 2006 Saints were a very good team that reached the championship game with Drew Brees, Deuce McAllister, and Marques Colston. But Brees and Colston joined New Orleans in ’06, while McAlister missed most of ’05 with an injury; as a result, it was Aaron Brooks, Antowain Smith, and Donte’ Stallworth that were the statistical leaders on the Katrina Saints, a team that ranked 31st in points. [click to continue…]

  1. If he falters, Sanchez is still around, but then of course there’s also Tim Tebow. []
  2. Or, you could call Foles the team’s top quarterback if you like. But the way I’m defining top quarterback in this post — the player with the most passing yards — Sanchez would get marked down as the ’14 Eagles top passer. []
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