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Something Is Wrong With Cam Newton

It doesn’t take an expert to realize that something is wrong with Cam Newton. Whether the cumulative effects of the various injuries he has suffered throughout his career have taken a toll on him, or there’s a specific injury causing a problem, it’s now clear that Newton is a shell of his former self.  In Newton’s last 16 games, he’s thrown just 16 touchdown passes… while throwing 16 interceptions.  In Newton’s MVP season of 2015, he averaged more than two passing touchdowns per game, and just over half an interception per game.  The Panthers scored just 9 points against the Bills last week, but the bottom fell out yesterday.

Facing what had been a historically bad Saints defense, Newton produced the single-worst game of his career:  He threw 26 passes but gained just 167 yards, while taking four sacks and losing 28 yards.  That’s an ugly 4.6 NY/A, but it gets much worse when you realize he had no touchdowns and three interceptions.  That translates to a 0.13 ANY/A average, the worst statistical performance of Newton’s career. Again: this came against the Saints.

This game also dropped Newton’s ANY/A over his last 16 games to below 5.00.  That’s right: over Newton’s last 16 games, he has the following stat line: 279/520 (54%), 3,528 yards (6.8 Y/A), 16 TDs, 16 INTs, 42 sacks for 337 yards, and 4.97 ANY/A. The graph below shows Newton’s single game ANY/A (in blue) and trailing 16 game ANY/A (in black) for each game of his career (playoffs excluded): [click to continue…]

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The AFC West may be the most competitive division in the NFL. The Broncos and Chargers both have realistic playoff aspirations in 2017, but most observers would still rank the Raiders and Chiefs as the top two teams in the division. But if Oakland is going to win the division, it’s likely going to have to do it by getting an early lead; for the Chiefs, they just need to not fall out of the race before Thanksgiving, because Kansas City should be able to make up ground late. Why? Because while Kansas City and Oakland have similar schedules (the Chiefs draw Houston and Pittsburgh in the two variable games, while the Raiders get the Titans and Ravens), the Chiefs schedule is frontloaded (in terms of difficult games) while Oakland’s schedule is backloaded.

In the first six weeks, the Raiders get the Jets, Ravens, and Chargers at home, along with road games against the Titans, Redskins, and Broncos. Oakland should be able to get off to a 4-2 or 5-1 start against that schedule. The Patriots game comes in week 11 (and it’s a “home” game in Mexico City), but it’s the final four weeks that are scary: Oakland goes to Kansas City and hosts Dallas (on SNF) in weeks 14 and 15, before finishing with road games in Philadelphia (on Monday Night Football) and against the Chargers. A 2-2 mark would be more than holding serve.

Kansas City opens in New England on Thursday night, as tough a game as there is on any schedule. And nearly all the “easy” games for Kansas City come in the final six weeks. The Chiefs host Buffalo at the end of November and face the Jets the following week. The last four games are three home games — the Raiders, Chargers (on Saturday night), and Dolphins — and the final game is in Denver. Kansas City can realistic hope for a 5-1 finish to streak into the playoffs, so the Chiefs just need to get to 5-5 through ten games.

A similar disparity exists in the AFC South: all of those teams have easy schedules (more on this below). But one team with a very favorable early season schedule is the Colts, who… just might need it given the uncertain health status of Andrew Luck. The Colts open up with a road game against the Rams, followed by home games against Arizona and Cleveland. Indianapolis also hosts the 49ers and Jaguars in the team’s first seven games. The Titans have the second easiest schedule in the league, but it’s also really easy late. Tennessee’s December slate? Home for Houston, at Arizona, at San Francisco, home for the Rams, and home for the Jaguars. The Titans are in position to ride a late-season winning streak into the playoffs.

I went ahead and created my own team ratings. You may disagree with them slightly, but the only reason I generated them was to generate SOS ratings. So even if you disagree with some of the ratings, it shouldn’t impact each team’s SOS that much. The ratings below represent how many points each team would beat an average NFL team by on a neutral field. [click to continue…]

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Ladies and gentleman, the Jets 2017 record

The 2017 season will be the 58th season in Jets franchise history. It is also the least anticipated season by Jets fans in that 58-year history. New York went 5-11 last year, and probably wasn’t even that good (the Jets had an SRS of -8.5, 4th worst in the NFL). In the NFL, the way to give a fan base hope is to be good or to make some exciting changes in the offseason. The Jets retained the same general manager (Mike Maccagnan) and head coach (Todd Bowles) from last year’s uninspiring squad, and while New York switched quarterbacks, the addition of 38-year-old Josh McCown somehow feels like a downgrade on Ryan Fitzpatrick.

How bad is it? The USA Today had the Jets going 0-16. Multiple other outlets have spent time discussing that possibility, too. It’s only a question of degree, at this point: everyone assumes that the Jets are going to be horrible.  McCown is a 38-year-old quarterback who has won 8 games since 2006.  The offense is almost certainly the least talented in the NFL ignoring the quarterback position.  And if you were wondering how they got here, well, since the end of 2016, the Jets also said goodbye to:

And again: this team was terrible last year with those players.  So is this really the least optimistic season in Jets history?  Let’s run through things in reverse order, and explain why Jets fans were feeling better on September 1 of every other season than on September 1, 2017.  For brevity’s sake, I’m going to skip seasons where the Jets went at least .500 in the prior year, because, those seasons obviously had more hope than this one. [click to continue…]

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Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is in about as good a situation as it gets. Here’s what he has in his favor:

  • The Saints pass the ball a ton. The last three years, New Orleans ranked 2nd each season in pass attempts, finishing 2 attempts behind the Colts in 2014, 9 attempts behind the Ravens in 2015, and 5 attempts behind the Ravens last year. The Saints have an even 2,000 attempts over the last three seasons, the Ravens are 2nd with 1,909, and the Colts are 3rd with 1,864. It’s true that New Orleans did just add Adrian Peterson, but the Saints are well-established as the league’s preeminent pass-heavy team.
  • Thomas, unlike players on the Ravens, gets to play with a superstar quarterback in Drew Brees. Because more important than the 2,000 attempts is that New Orleans has thrown for 14,808 gross passing yards the last 3 years, more than 1,000 yards more than anyone else. Only the Falcons, Steelers, and Patriots have even 13,000 passing yards.
  • As a rookie, Thomas and Brandin Cooks were essentially WR1A and WR1B in New Orleans. Cooks had 117 targets, 1,173 receiving yards, and 8 TDs in 16 games, while Thomas had 121 targets, 1,137 yards, and 9 TDs despite missing one game. But here’s where it gets exciting for Thomas: Cooks was traded in the offseason, and will be replaced with 32-year-old Ted Ginn.

Is there a more favorable situation for a WR to produce massive stats? Unless you just think Thomas will be harmed by all the attention — and that’s where Peterson should help — this is basically as good as it gets. He’s on the league’s most pass-happy offense, with a top-3 quarterback, and he is likely going to get fed a significant amount of targets. As a rookie, Thomas was targeted on 18.2% of passes. That number is almost certainly going to rise this year. The most targets any Saint has had with Brees is 149, set by Jimmy Graham in 2011.

But there is one other thing that helped Thomas last year. The Saints threw 59% of their passes to wide receivers last year, a new high in the Brees era. That coincided with just 17% — a record low since 2008 — of passes going to tight ends. In 2006 and 2007, Reggie Bush was a target monster while Mark Campbell and Eric Johnson were the top tight ends. But beginning in ’08, the Saints had Jeremy Shockey and then Jimmy Graham and a breakout season from Ben Watson in 2015. Last year, Coby Fleener was the tight end, and he was underwhelming. Fleener had a lower catch rate than any Saints wide receiver last year, and that’s not exactly how its supposed to work.

In 2014, Siants receivers had 47% of targets, then 54% in 2015 and 59% last year. Meanwhile, TE targets dropped from 27% with Graham to 24% with Watson and then 17% with Fleener. Take a look: the graph below shows the percentage of targets in New Orleans by position since 2006: [click to continue…]

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The normal way to measure a franchise’s winning percentage is the simplest. All you need to do is take the team’s total number of wins, add to that number the total number of ties divided by two, and then take that sum and divide it by the team’s total number of games.

That’s simplest and makes sense and is perfectly correct. However, it also means games in 1960 are given the same weight as games in 2016. And depending on what you want to measure, that may not be what you want to do. If you want to measure something like the amount of pleasure a fanbase receives from its team1, you want to put more weight on recent seasons. [click to continue…]

  1. Why would you want to do this? I have no idea. []
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The 2017 NFL Schedule

The color-coded schedule is back!

Download the Excel file here

Best version for an iPhone 6s

Who Plays On What Days?

There are 17 games on Thursdays this year, which matches the number of weeks of the season. There is one game each week of the season most weeks, but there are no Thursday games in weeks 16 and 17, and three on Thanksgiving (week 12). The three Thanksgiving games: Vikings at Lions, Chargers at Cowboys, and Giants at Redskins. The Browns and Jaguars do not get one, but the other 30 teams get at least one Thursday game. That means four teams play twice on Thursday: the Chiefs (week 1 at New England, week 7 at Oakland) and Patriots (week 5 at Tampa Bay) play in both the NFL Kickoff Game and during the regular Thursday night schedule. And Washington and Dallas — who play different opponents on Thanksgiving — play against each other on Thursday the following week.

Once the college regular season ends, the NFL does take over two Saturdays: December 15th and December 23rd. Those games are all rivalry games: Bears/Lions and Chiefs/Chargers in week 15, and the Colts going back to Baltimore and the Vikings and Packers the following week.

There are 17 games on Monday night football, and 18 games on Monday: one each week for 16 weeks, with no week 17 game, but two in weeks 1 and 16. The Saints travel to Minnesota in the early MNF game in week 1, while the Chargers visit Denver in the last game. At the end of the year, the Steelers head to Houston on Christmas Day, which falls on a Monday, to play in the 4:30 time slot. That night, the traditional MNF game is Raiders/Eagles, which is sure to feature a pair of merry fanbases.

Neutral Site Games

There are five special site games: the Patriots play “at” Oakland at 4:25 on the east coast in week 11 in a game in Mexico City, to go along with the four London games. The Jaguars, Dolphins, Rams, and Browns all lose home games, too, to face the Ravens, Saints, Cardinals, and Vikings respectively. Those London games take place in weeks 3, 4, 7 and 8: all but the Rams-Cardinals game in week 7 kick off at 9:30 on the east coast, while the NFL thankfully isn’t making west coast fans wake up at 6:30 to see the Rams/Cardinals, which kicks off at 1:00 on the east coast.

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I’m very short on time, so Bryan Frye agreed to help keep the streak alive here by asking me to reproduce his All-Time 53 Man NFL Roster. What follows is a reproduction of his work here on his all-time 53 man roster. Given that I am short on time, maybe you are long on time (is that how time works?), in which case — get ready for a great read.

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Sometimes when I am bored, I make football lists or rosters in my head (what is the all-time Steelers team, what is the current all-NFC South team, what is the all-time Hispanic team, etc.). Of all the whimsical thought experiments in which I have engaged, the one with the most decisions and revisions has been my all time 53 man NFL roster (with coaching staff).

The purpose of building an all time 53 man NFL roster is not to simply pluck the best 53 players out of history. If I did that, I’d end up with an unbalanced roster, with as many as seven quarterbacks. Having seven Hall of Fame passers would be nice, but it’s completely unnecessary. The important thing to me is depth, which means I value versatility from the players on the roster. Yes, Jan Stenerud was a great kicker, but why put him on the team when I can have Gino Cappelletti kick, return kickoffs and punts, take handoffs, and catch passes? You get the idea. I will make exceptions for most starters, but I want most of my backups to contribute in more than one area.

Having read the comments sections in some popular sports sites, I feel that it is necessary to make the following disclaimer: Players will be picked, in large part, based on how they performed in their respective eras. Danny Fortmann was one of the great interior offensive linemen of his generation, but it would be insane to posit that he could be plucked out of 1941 and be a star guard today at 6’0” and 210 pounds. That’s smaller than RG3. [click to continue…]

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Through 10 weeks, the Packers were 4-6 with a -29 points differential, 8th-worst in the NFL. If Green Bay wins today, the Packers will become the 5th team to make the Super Bowl after being 2 games below .500 at any point during the season.

  • In 1993, Emmitt Smith famously held out during the first two weeks of the season; Dallas lost both of those games (and a third game in November in which Smith left due to injury after just one carry), beginning the season 0-2.  The Cowboys went on to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
  • In 1996, the Patriots began the season with road losses to Buffalo and Miami.  New England wasn’t a great team that year, but finished 11-5, and a Jaguars upset in Mile High cleared the path for the Patriots to make it to the Super Bowl.
  • Five years later, the Patriots again began the season 0-2, with Drew Bledsoe of course being injured in the second game of the season.  Enter Tom Brady, who won his first game but lost his second, meaning the Patriots were against two games under .500 at 1-3 after four games.  New England, of course, won the franchise’s first Super Bowl that season.
  • In ’07, the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to a Giants team that started the year 0-2 with two losses.  New York allowed 80 points in those games, but it turned out to be a bit of a scheduling issue: those games came against the 13-3 Cowboys and 13-3 Packers, teams the Giants later beat in the playoffs.

The Packers would be a bit of a different case, of course, as 4-6 is different than 0-2 (although I’m not sure which is more “impressive” to come back from).  The latest in a season a Super Bowl team was under .500?  The 1979 Rams were 5-6 after 11 games, which means the Packers would “tie” this record if Green Bay wins today.  What about Super Bowl champions? Well, that would be the ’01 Patriots, at 3-4 after 7 games; so if the Packers win two more games, they would set that record. [click to continue…]

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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.

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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:

nyt_us_620px_president_map

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

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

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

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

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538: Chiefs, Texans, Try to Join AFC’s Upper Crust

Today at 538: a look at the Chiefs and Texans game this weekend, with both teams trying to vault into the top tier in the AFC.

The AFC has an established hierarchy. The New England Patriots have appeared in the title game in five consecutive seasons, and teams only become legitimate AFC contenders after proving they can defeat the Pats. Denver has beaten New England three of the last four times the teams have played — including in last year’s title game — and won the AFC West in five straight seasons. And whichever team emerges from the top-heavy AFC North can’t be ignored, either: Baltimore won the Super Bowl four seasons ago, the Bengals have won 44 games since 2012, and the Steelers look like the second-best team in the AFC.

Two other teams are threatening to break into the AFC’s upper crust, and they happen to face off in Week 2. Kansas City has won 11 consecutive regular-season games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Houston finished 2015 on a hot streak of its own, winning seven of its final nine games; after an opening-day win in Chicago, the Texans join the Chiefs as the only AFC teams to win at least eight of their last 10 regular-season games. Yet despite those results, neither of these teams are viewed as part of the AFC’s top tier. And that’s because both teams are viewed as having relatively low ceilings. So the question for this season is, can either team raise its ceiling?

You can read the full article here.

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538: Carolina, Denver and Super Bowl Rematches

Today at 538, a look at the history of the Thursday Night Opener and how teams fare in Super Bowl rematches.  Also, in researching for this piece, I found one of my new favorite pieces of trivia:

On January 31, 1993, the Cowboys obliterated the Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII.  364 days later, Dallas beat Buffalo in the Super Bowl again, 30-13, the only time the same teams have ever met in consecutive Super Bowls.  But in between those historic games, the teams also met in Dallas during Week 2 of the 1993 regular season. The Cowboys, missing Emmitt Smith because of a contract dispute, lost 13-10 on a late field goal. It was a result symbolic of that entire Bills era: in games started by Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly from 1990 to 1993, Buffalo went 14-0 in the regular season against the NFC, including a 4-0 mark against Dallas, New York, and Washington. Against those same teams in the Super Bowl, of course, the Bills went 0-4.

You can read the full article here.

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NFL Survivor Pool Thoughts (2016)

I’m entering a Survivor Pool this year, so I plan on posting about my picks for exactly as long as I stay alive. Given the uncertainty involved in projecting an NFL season, I don’t think the payoff is there to project every week in the preseason and produce a model telling you which team to will use in each week. By week 5, a lot of our assumptions will have changed, injuries will make some teams an easy one-week play, and so. Flexibility is just as important as foresight, and there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future.

As a result, rather than getting too technical, I am simply going to place an early focus on trying to stay alive, with some emphasis on saving good teams for later. And to always look one week ahead.

Those two masters are in conflict right away, as one of the league’s most dependable teams is also the clear best choice in survivor leagues for week 1. Take a look at the current spreads: [click to continue…]

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Foster prays for good health in Miami

Foster prays for good health in Miami

Arian Foster‘s emergence as a star was almost as sudden as his (likely) exit. An undrafted free agent in 2009, Foster rushed for 100 yards in his first start — in week 17 of the ’09 season. Then, in 2010, he led the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, beginning a five-year stretch of dominance.  A ruptured Achilles tendon ruined Foster’s season in 2015, and he signed with Miami yesterday; at 29, it’s fair to wonder if Foster has much left in the tank.  A one-year, $1.5M contract is a sign that the NFL isn’t too optimistic about his future.  But that doesn’t make his past any less incredible.

From 2010 to 2014, Foster played in 70 games. But in two of those games in 2013, injuries limited him to just 9 combined snaps. And in the season finale in 2014, a hamstring injury caused him to exit after 10 snaps. In those three games, Foster had a total of 9 carries for 34 yards. [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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Happy Independence Day, folks. July 4th, 1776 was the day our forefathers declared independence in a remarkable document that’s worth your full read. We at Football Perspective wish you a very happy, and very safe, Fourth of July.

153 years after America declared its independence, Al Davis was born. On January 30th, 1960, the AFL awarded Oakland the last franchise for the new league. Then, in early April, the team was named:

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.27.30 AM [click to continue…]

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2017 Super Bowl Odds

With free agency and the NFL Draft behind us, it’s a good time to take stock of the NFL landscape. Over at ESPN, Bill Barnwell is recapping each division, starting today with the AFC East. I thought I’d post the latest Super Bowl odds, courtesy of Bovada, along with the odds from the end of season (February 8th) and after the first rush of free agency (March 14th).

All odds have a vig associated with them; for example, the Patriots, at 7/1, would have a 12.5% chance (1 divided by 7 + 1) to win the Super Bowl if there was no vig; but if you take the odds of all 32 teams, they sum to 124.8%, not 100%. As a result, every team’s implied odds are divided by 1.248 to get their vig-adjusted Super Bowl odds, shown in the last column. [click to continue…]

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In 2003, Larry Fitzgerald caught 16 touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s first 8 games, making him one of only three players to reach those marks since 2000. The second was Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree, who had 17 as a freshman in ’07 through eight games. That was eclipsed — by three whole touchdowns — last year, when Baylor’s Corey Coleman caught 20 touchdowns through 8 games. At the time, Coleman had 58 receptions for 1,178 yards and 20 touchdowns. Unfortunately, his numbers tanked after that, thanks (i) to injuries to first starting quarterback Seth Russell and then backup Jarrett Stidham and (ii) the schedule getting significantly harder.

As good as Coleman’s numbers were, though, he didn’t even lead the country in receiving yards at that time. TCU’s Josh Doctson had 71 receptions for 1,250 yards and 14 touchdowns through eight games. In game 9, Doctson had six catches for 64 yards against Oklahoma State before suffering a wrist injury in the second quarter that effectively ended his season.

Now, neither player is being projected to go in the top half of the first round. That maybe isn’t too weird, given the inflated offensive numbers for Big 12 offenses. In a mock draft on November 2nd (which is right before the seasons went downhill for Coleman and Doctson), Matt Miller had Doctson going to Dallas at 12 while Coleman wasn’t even in Miller’s mock (I don’t know if it was because Coleman was a junior or if Miller had him going in another round). A November 16th mock by Dane Brugler had Coleman getting drafted at 29, with Doctson not being selected in the first round. A November 19th draft at the San Diego Union Tribune had the duo going in the back third (23/31) of the first round, although the same author had them going 15th and 23rd a week earlier. [click to continue…]

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The 2016 NFL Schedule

The color-coded schedule is back!

Download the Excel file here

That Excel file contains full page and wallet-sized copies of the schedule, in both color and black and white. On the wallet-sized copies, the line between weeks 8 and 9 has been enlarged — that is where you want to fold the paper in half to put in your wallet.

iPhone 6s page: http://www.footballperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/nfl-2016-iphone-6s.png

Go to that page on your phone, then hit your power and home button at the same time to take a photo (or hit the button on the middle of the Safari browser and click ‘save image.’) The schedule has been formatted to fit an iPhone 6s screen, so you can always carry the schedule with you.

Go to that page on your phone, then hit your power and home button at the same time to take a photo (or hit the button on the middle of the Safari browser and click ‘save image.’) The schedule has been formatted to fit an iPhone screen, so you can always carry the schedule with you.

2016 nfl schedule_final

Commentary to follow, but for now, enjoy! And, of course, please report any bugs you see.

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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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Yesterday, the NFL approved a one-year rule to kickoffs to change the spot of the snap after a touchback to the 25-yard line. Last year, 56% of all kickoffs were not returned, and the average starting field position following kickoffs was heavily impacted by the 2011 rule change that moved kickoffs from the 30 to the 35 yard line:

kickoff fp

This change goes in the other direction, albeit with competing interests. On one hand, this provides a significant incentive for kickoff returners to take a knee. Many kickoffs are boomed several yards into the end zone; at this point, the odds are pretty low that an average return five yards deep will make it out ahead of the 25-yard line. [click to continue…]

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The Jets Sign Matt Forte

The Jets lost Chris Ivory to Jacksonville, but may have improved the offense by going in the other direction and adding Matt Forte. Ivory is one of the most one-dimensional running backs in recent memory: he has the 4th most rushing yards of any runner since 1990 who has 10x as many rushing yards as receiving yards. Forte, meanwhile, is one of just 12 players in history in the 4,000/8,000 club, and there’s a good chance he joins Tiki Barber, Marshall Faulk, and Marcus Allen as the only members of the 10,000/5,000 club before he retires.

The move makes a lot of sense for a Jets team that had the most two-dimensional passing attack in the NFL last year. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker were outstanding and historically great at scoring touchdowns, but they combined for 61% of all Jets receiving yards last year. That was the most in the NFL in 2015, and the 8th highest rate since 2002 among teams with at least 4,000 receiving yards. [click to continue…]

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

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

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

You can read the full article here.

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Courtesy of Bryan Frye, let’s look at some graphs of the four quarterbacks in the conference championship games. The stat we will be using today is Total Adjusted Yards per Play, which is like ANY/A on steroids.

First, let’s start with Cam Newton. His Total Adjusted Yards per Play is in blue; the average TAY/P allowed by his opponent each week is in black. As you can see, in 6 of 17 games, he was below-expectation, but he’s been above-expectation in five of his last six games. (Note that for each quarterback, the bye week is included, and the division round matchup is plotted below as Week 18.) [click to continue…]

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The Rams Return to Los Angeles: How Will They Do?

It’s now official: the Rams are heading back to Los Angeles, home of the team from 1946 to 1994. The Rams played in Cleveland during the team’s first decade of existence before heading the league’s westward expansion after World Warr II. The Rams played in Memorial Coliseum from ’46 to ’79, before moving to Anaheim Stadium from 1980 to 1994. It is still unclear where the team will play in the short term, although a return to the Coliseum seems likely. But beginning in 2019, the team will play in Inglewood, California.

A three-year period at an interim stadium is an interesting phenomenom to analyze, and will probably be worthwhile to examine in say, three years. In general, teams have only a minimal home field advantage during year one in a new home, so a three-year window at the Coliseum could hurt the Rams on-field product a little bit (and the same goes for the 2019 season at the new stadium). But for now, let’s look at the bigger move across the country. [click to continue…]

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Pre-Week 17 WP: Awards Banquet

This week at the Washington Post, I hand out my 2015 awards, including my thoughts on the Carson Palmer/Cam Newton debate.

Most Valuable Player: Tie (Cam NewtonCarson Palmer)

Choosing between Newton and Palmer is an exercise in pickin’ nits. The two have drastically different styles and playing in very different offenses, making it difficult to compare the two players. Arizona would be worse with Cam Newton, and Carolina would be worse with Carson Palmer, so both teams should be happy that they have the co-most valuable players of the 2015 season.

You can read the full article here.

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments. One point to open up the discussion. Is declaring the MVP vote a tie akin to fence-sitting and worthy of criticism? Or does it make sense to acknowledge that football is a far too complicated game to try to derive meaningful bits of information out of minute differences?

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As I wrote on Sunday, the college football playoff looks pretty clear, absent any big upsets on Saturday.

One spot will go to Oklahoma, the 11-1 champions of the Big 12.  The Sooners have been an early favorite of the SRS: OU ranked 2nd in the first edition, produced after five weeks, and regained that #2 spot three weeks later, despite the loss to Texas in the interim.  The Sooners finished the regular season as the #1 team in the SRS.

Alabama, at 11-1, is the 2nd-ranked team in the SRS.  The Crimson Tide represent the establishment in college football, and that title is well-earned.  Alabama is great every year, and this season is no different.   A win against Florida in the SEC Championship Game seems predestined: the SRS makes ‘Bama a 13-point favorite, while the Vegas line is up to 17.5 points (likely because Florida is playing worse now than it was in the beginning of the year, with an eligible Will Grier). [click to continue…]

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This week at the Washington Post, a look at the most indispensable non-quarterbacks in the NFL.

 

Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams

Since entering the starting lineup in week four, the Rams rookie has averaged 22 carries a game for 131 yards, producing an exceptional 5.85 yards per carry average. No team has thrown fewer passes in the league this year or gained fewer passing yards than St. Louis. Incredibly, Nick Foles has failed to hit the 200-passing yards mark in any of his last seven games, despite throwing at least 20 passes in each contest; that makes him the first quarterback to meet those marks since Matt Hasselbeck in 2008. Gurley is the Rams offense, making him the most indispensable running back in football.

 

You can read the full article here.

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WP: Pre-Week 9 – Midseason Awards

This week at the Washington Post, a look at some unusual midseason awards.

Unsung Rookie of the Year: Offense – Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings

With the types of seasons being had by a pair of SEC stars in Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Alabama’s Amari Cooper, there is little hope for Diggs — a fifth round pick out of Maryland — to bring home any hardware at the end of the season. But after being inactive during the first three games of the season, the Vikings wide receiver has been the model of consistency since then, catching six or seven passes each week for at least 87 yards. Over the last five weeks, Diggs ranks fifth among all players in receiving yards despite the Vikings bye week taking place during that stretch.

You can read the full article here.

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