Monday, January 31, 2011

NFL: Super Bowl Pick

It's a little earlier than I usually post game pick(s), but why not...

Packers @


  • This is one of the lowest matchup ratios (ρ) for the 2010 playoffs. Ravens @ Steelers, Jets @ Steelers, and Packers @ Falcons were the only ones lower.

  • If the Packers win the Super Bowl, it will be the first time since Super Bowls XXX (Cowboys) and XXXI (Packers) that NFC teams have won in consecutive years.

  • APR has not picked against the Packers since their Week 15 game at the Patriots. Before this pick, APR has not picked against the Steelers since their Week 13 game at the Ravens.

  • According to this site (caution: distracting animated advertisements), there hasn't been a Super Bowl with a point spread under 3 points since XVII (Redskins vs Dolphins, '82 season). Interestingly, two recent Super Bowls with relatively narrow point spreads (Giants vs. Ravens and Buccaneers vs. Raiders) finished as blow-out wins.

  • The Packers will be, by far, the strongest passing offense the Steelers have faced in the postseason. According to, in the regular season the Jets passed for 3,242 yards (#22), the Ravens passed for 3,335 yards (#20), and the Packers passed for 4,124 yards (#5).

  • This year, including the playoffs, the packers are 10-0 when Aaron Rodgers throws at least two touchdown passes. (Note the careful wording—Matt Flynn threw for three touchdowns in the loss to the Patriots).

  • Last year, the Packers played the Steelers win week 15. But instead of being a defensive struggle, the two teams combined for 937 yards and 73 points. It was a classic "last team with the ball wins" type game, and the Steelers were the last one with the ball, and they won.

  • A high-scoring game may benefit the Steelers again. Including the playoffs, they are 12-1 this season when scoring 19 or more points (the one loss coming to the Patriots in week 10).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NFL Wrapup: Significance of the first two games

This is a breakdown of how teams did, grouped by their standings after the week 2 games. I originally did this for the 1993-2008 seasons, which showed some interestign results.

WW Steelers+12- 4
TeamsBears+ 11- 5
(8) Saints 11- 5
Chiefs 10- 6
Packers+ 10- 6
Buccaneers 10- 6
Dolphins 7- 9
Texans 6-10Average wins: 9.6
WL Patriots 14- 2
TeamsRavens+ 12- 4
(8) Giants 10- 6
Jaguars 8- 8
Seahawks+ 7- 9
Titans 6-10
Redskins 6-10
Cardinals 5-11Average wins: 8.5
LW Falcons 13- 3
TeamsJets+ 11- 5
(8) Colts 10- 6
Eagles 10- 6
Chargers 9- 7
Raiders 8- 8
Broncos 4-12
Bengals 4-12Average wins: 8.6
LL Rams 7- 9
TeamsCowboys 6-10
(8) Vikings 6-10
Lions 6-10
49ers 6-10
Browns 5-11
Bills 4-12
Panthers 2-14Average wins: 5.3


  • Playoff teams are listed in bold. Teams with a + are teams that won at least one playoff game.

  • Starting off 2-0 or 0-2 continues to be an excellent indicator of how a team will finish. Only two of the 2-0 teams didn't finish with a winning record, while all eight of the 0-2 teams finished with a losing record.

  • Unlike the historical data, but like last year, the winning percentage of the WL teams look at least a little better than the LW teams. The 1993-2008 historical data is not the biggest data set in the world, so perhaps that was just a fluke. It could also be that whatever was causing the LW bias has disappeared, perhaps because of the 2002 division realignments.

  • On the other hand, the LW group is fielded four playoff teams, compared with the three for the WL group (including the Seahawks). Also note that the WL group has four teams below 0.500, while the LW group only has only two.

Monday, January 24, 2011

NFL: Championship Pick Results

[Be sure to stay tuned. FSPI's Super Bowl pick will be coming up the Wednesday before the game. In the mean time, I will have at least a couple more season wrap up posts (yeah, yeah, "and the crowd goes wild")]

Winning teams in bold.

Packers (APR, SRS, Line) @ Bears
When the Packers have been beat this season, it's (mostly) happened when the offense has struggled to score, and facing teams that could run the ball (and keep the offense off the field).
The Bears mostly managed to do that—the Packers only had two drives longer than 44 yards, one of which ended in an interception. But a long touchdown drive, and a short field for another touchdown left the Bears in a 14-0 hole at halftime. Still, that might have been enough, except the Bears' offense struggled until 3rd-string QB Caleb Hanie was brought in late in the 3rd quarter. And on Hanie's 3rd drive, he threw a pick-6 to B.J. Raji, which was enough to give the Packers the win.
Jets @ Steelers (APR, SRS, Line)
The Steelers continued the theme of first half success, a crucial defensive score, and a weak second half. Roethlisberger's numbers (10/19, 133 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT) look like they belong on the losing end of this game. But both interceptions came on the Jets side of the field (and one on a 4th down try).
And like the Patriots a week ago, the Jets had a long, time-consuming drive (80 yards that took 8:08 off the clock), that resulted in zero points (or two, if you credit the Steelers' subsequent safety to that drive). Their next drive was faster (4:32) and more productive (resulting in a touchdown), but by then there was just 3:06 left in the game, and the Jets' defense was unable to keep the Steelers from running out the rest of the game.

Both of these games will tempt the losing teams (and their fans) with "what if we had played well the whole game" scenarios. But this sort of thing works both ways—if the winning teams had played well for the whole of their respective games, they still would've won, and it wouldn't have been close at all.


APR 2-08-275.0%
APR VH1-16-462.5%
SRS 2-08-275.0%
SRS VH1-14-637.5%
Line 2-05-537.5%

Sunday, January 23, 2011

NFL: Championship Power Rankings

W-LThis Week
1 (-)Patriots1.1606
(LW × 1.0062)
2 (-)Packers1.1577
(LW × 1.0230)
13-6Won by 7
@ Bears
3 (-)Steelers1.0782
(LW × 1.0176)
14-4Won by 5
vs Jets
4 (-)Jets1.0557
(LW × 1.0110)
13-6Lost by 5
@ Steelers
5 (↑1)Ravens1.0200
(LW × 1.0061)
6 (↓1)Bears1.0089
(LW × 0.9921)
12-6Lost by 7
vs Packers
7 (-)Falcons1.0000
(LW × 1.0068)
8 (-)Saints0.9585
(LW × 1.0038)
9 (-)Eagles0.9544
(LW × 1.0035)
10 (-)Buccaneers0.9542
(LW × 1.0033)
11 (-)Lions0.9477
(LW × 1.0043)
12 (-)Giants0.9339
(LW × 1.0040)
13 (-)Cowboys0.9068
(LW × 1.0035)
14 (-)Chargers0.8971
(LW × 1.0024)
15 (-)Colts0.8939
(LW × 1.0032)
16 (-)Bills0.8883
(LW × 1.0050)
17 (↑1)Dolphins0.8832
(LW × 1.0039)
18 (↓1)Raiders0.8831
(LW × 1.0030)
19 (-)Browns0.8670
(LW × 1.0061)
20 (-)Vikings0.8618
(LW × 1.0029)
21 (↑1)Bengals0.8555
(LW × 1.0064)
22 (↓1)Jaguars0.8539
(LW × 1.0023)
23 (-)Texans0.8298
(LW × 1.0028)
24 (-)Redskins0.8262
(LW × 1.0021)
25 (↑1)49ers0.8140
(LW × 1.0039)
26 (↓1)Chiefs0.8134
(LW × 1.0020)
27 (-)Titans0.7825
(LW × 1.0019)
28 (-)Seahawks0.7758
(LW × 1.0015)
29 (-)Rams0.7726
(LW × 1.0024)
30 (-)Broncos0.7256
(LW × 1.0020)
31 (-)Panthers0.7220
(LW × 1.0048)
32 (-)Cardinals0.6885
(LW × 1.0022)


  • The Bears are the only team this week that decreased in power.

  • Again, not a lot of motion in the rankings. But not too surprising, with only 4 teams active, and two close games.

  • The Jets have been a very good team the last two seasons, but it's really hard to get to the Super Bowl without winning your division (the Packers (and Steelers, for that matter) not withstanding).

  • I'm not sure how you make the case that Cutler isn't tough. This is a guy who started 15 games in the regular season, in spite of getting sacked a league-leading 52 times. If you look at his numbers for the Championship Game (6/14 for 80 yards, 1 interception for 2+ quarters of play), it's hard not to come to the conclusion that he just got benched for ineffectiveness.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NFL: Championship Picks

Packers @
Jets @


  • The Line favors the Packers to win a playoff game for the first time since the 2007 NFC Championship Game.

  • The Jets have not had a home playoff game since January 4, 2003. This will be their 10th playoff game since then, and their second trip to the AFC Championship in as many years.

  • The Jets are coming off a couple of emotional wins, beating the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year, followed by the team that strapped an embarrassing 45-3 loss on them in the regular season. I think it's going to be tough for them to avoid a let-down.

  • The Steelers also have an advantage that they've already overcome one strong defense in the playoffs, while the Jets are facing their first real defensive test of the postseason.

  • The Packers offense can't expect the Bears' defense to fall apart like the Falcons' defense did. Both regular season meetings between these two were low-scoring, defense-dominated affairs. This game may come down to which team can be the most patient on offense.

  • It was mostly overshadowed by the Seahawks terrible defense, but last Sunday, the Bears had a sloppy game on offense. Cutler was barely over a 50% completion rate, Matt Forté fell well short of 4 yards per carry, and the only reason Cutler got anywhere near 300 yards passing was because of the Seahawks' terrible tackling. The Bears will have to do better against the Packers' much better defense to have a chance.

Monday, January 17, 2011

NFL: Divisional Pick Results

Winning teams in bold.

Ravens @ Steelers (APR, SRS, Line)
The Ravens really could have won this. They had a 14-point lead at halftime, with more points than either team scored in their first two meetings. All the Ravens had to do in the second half was run the ball, grind the clock, maybe put up a field goal or two, and play good defense. Except for one field goal, none of those things happened.
The Ravens' longest second-half drive was just 23 yards. Their offense had two fumbles, an interception, and turned the ball over on downs. And their defense, with the game on the line, gave up an 11-play, 65 yard touchdown drive that sealed the win for the Steelers.
Packers (APR, SRS) @ Falcons (Line)
The last couple games for the Packers have been all about defense. This week, the offense finally got rolling: the Packers offense put up 442 yards, scored on 5 consecutive drives, and fell just short of a 2:1 advantage in time of possession. The defense did pretty good too, with a Tramon Williams interception ending a Falcons drive while the game was still close, and a second going back for a touchdown that really started the rout.
The Falcons, on the other hand—very little went right for them in this game. A fumble recovery gave them a short field for their first touchdown, a kickoff coverage breakdown gave them their second touchdown, and after that... it was very ugly for the home team. Their offensive numbers (apart from the two interceptions) are not bad, but the Falcons really needed this to be another low-scoring defense-dominated game to have a chance, and that just didn't happen.
Seahawks @ Bears (APR, SRS, Line)
The Seahawks are who everybody thought they were, if a week too late for the Saints. The Seahawks got the ball first, went 3-and-out, and that's as close as it ever got. Until well into the fourth quarter, the Seahawks longest drive was 36 yards.
The Bears made some mistakes too (a pass that should've been intercepted, and a disastrous option pass that was), but the Seahawks were mostly not able to take advantage. This was an easy win for the Bears, and it was only some laxness at the end of the game that made the score as close as it was.
Jets @ Patriots (APR, SRS, Line)
The Patriots first touchdown drive came late in the 3rd quarter. Prior to that, they had 7 drives produce 159 yards and 3 points. And, in spite of 3 quarters of (mostly) offensive futility, they went into the 4th quarter down just 3 points.
But the Jets were able to respond with relative ease, driving 75 yards in 5 plays for an answering touchdown. The next drive, as much as anything, lost the game for the Patriots. Down 10 points, and with less than 15 minutes to play, they used an astonishing 7:45 in 14 plays on a drive that produced zero points.
By the next time the Patriots got the ball, there was just 3:29 left in the game, and they didn't have enough offensive firepower to overcome a 10-point deficit.


APR 3-16-275.0%
APR VH2-25-362.5%
SRS 3-16-275.0%
SRS VH2-23-537.5%
Line 2-23-537.5%

Sunday, January 16, 2011

NFL: Divisional Power Rankings

W-LThis Week
1 (-)Patriots1.1535
(LW × 0.9900)
14-3Lost by 7
vs Jets
2 (-)Packers1.1317
(LW × 1.0370)
12-6Won by 27
@ Falcons
3 (-)Steelers1.0596
(LW × 1.0301)
13-4Won by 7
vs Ravens
4 (↑3)Jets1.0442
(LW × 1.0598)
13-5Won by 7
@ Patriots
5 (↑1)Bears1.0169
(LW × 1.0127)
12-5Won by 11
vs Seahawks
6 (↓1)Ravens1.0138
(LW × 0.9896)
13-5Lost by 7
@ Steelers
7 (↓3)Falcons0.9932
(LW × 0.9690)
13-4Lost by 27
vs Packers
8 (-)Saints0.9549
(LW × 0.9991)
9 (↑1)Eagles0.9511
(LW × 1.0109)
10 (↓1)Buccaneers0.9510
(LW × 0.9959)
11 (-)Lions0.9436
(LW × 1.0119)
12 (-)Giants0.9302
(LW × 1.0113)
13 (-)Cowboys0.9036
(LW × 1.0086)
14 (-)Chargers0.8950
(LW × 1.0041)
15 (-)Colts0.8911
(LW × 1.0102)
16 (↑1)Bills0.8839
(LW × 1.0140)
17 (↓1)Raiders0.8804
(LW × 1.0071)
18 (-)Dolphins0.8798
(LW × 1.0116)
19 (-)Browns0.8618
(LW × 1.0095)
20 (-)Vikings0.8594
(LW × 1.0121)
21 (-)Jaguars0.8520
(LW × 1.0070)
22 (-)Bengals0.8500
(LW × 1.0117)
23 (-)Texans0.8276
(LW × 1.0085)
24 (-)Redskins0.8244
(LW × 1.0075)
25 (-)Chiefs0.8118
(LW × 1.0023)
26 (-)49ers0.8109
(LW × 1.0045)
27 (-)Titans0.7810
(LW × 1.0066)
28 (↑1)Seahawks0.7746
(LW × 1.0136)
8-10Lost by 11
@ Bears
29 (↓1)Rams0.7707
(LW × 0.9987)
30 (-)Broncos0.7241
(LW × 1.0040)
31 (-)Panthers0.7185
(LW × 0.9964)
32 (-)Cardinals0.6870
(LW × 1.0026)


  • Aaron Rodgers had one of the best playoff appearances for a quarterback, at least since 2000. In terms of completion percentages, that game ranks as one of the all-time best.

  • Even after this weeks' action, the Packers are still ranked below the Patriots. But the Packers did manage to close much of the gap, and they're a long ways above the #3 Steelers.

  • I'm a little surprised APR moved the Bears up after beating the Seahawks. Usually, even on a win, playing such a low-ranked team pulls the power index down. They did move up the least amount of any winning team this weekend.

  • There's not much else to say about the rankings this week; they seem pretty reasonable to me (compare with last year, which had the 8-8 Panthers at the #2 spot.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NFL: Divisional Picks

Seahawks @
Jets @
Packers @
Ravens @


  • Yeah, it looks like it will be a much happier week for the home teams this time around.

  • Seahawks @ Bears has APR's biggest matchup ratio (ρ) value of any playoff game at least since the 1970 merger. The previous record-holder was this Cardinals at Vikings game from the 1998 season (ρ=1.2795).

  • The Seahawks might have a chance, though. The Bears' passing defense is not real strong, and Hasselbeck has had a couple of games this season (including last week) where he really was on fire. On the other hand, the Seahawks defense is bad enough they will likely need another score of 40+ to win.

  • The Jets might need to score 40+ to win too. The Patriots have scored 31 or more points since week 10 (they lost to the Browns in week 9).

  • The Packers have actually done well (sometimes) running the ball this season. In the regular season, they were 7-2 when rushing the ball for 90+ yards, and 5-3 when rushing at least 26 times. In their their week 12 game at the Falcons, the Packers rushed 23 times for 77 yards, mostly with Rodgers.

  • The Falcon's best strategy is probably similar to the first time around: run Michael Turner, use a lot of play-action, and keep the Packers offense off the field, and take advantage of mistakes. Especially after the way Turner gashed the Packers' defense in week 12, it will be interesting to see how well Dom Capers can scheme to stop him this time.

  • The Steelers will have a lot going for them this week. Coming off a bye, playing at home, and (unlike their first meeting with the Ravens), they have Ben Roethisberger ready to play. Still, this looks to be another close game, and I think Troy Polamalu will need another big game for the Steelers to come away with a win.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

NFL Wrapup: APR vs. ESPN

Starting with week 4, I posted a constrast of APR's power rankings with ESPN's weekly power rankings. This is the 2010 season wrapup for that series of posts.

For each week, a team is counted if it has a ±8 differential listed.

Teams that ESPN liked more than APR, 2010:

Buccaneers (6 weeks)
Their 10-win record looks good, until you realize the Buccaneers did not beat a team with a winning record until week 17. And that was a Saints team that likely wasn't trying very hard after the Falcons opened up a 21-0 halftime lead over the Panthers.
Seahawks (5 weeks)
Yeah, they won a playoff game, but they were just awful in the regular season. All 9 of their losses were by 15 points or more, including a 38-15 pasting by the Buccaneers.
Rams (4 weeks)
The Rams were pretty awful too, though (arguably) better than the Seahawks. The Rams defense held their opponent to 20 points or less in 10 games this season. The trouble was, the offense only scored more than 20 points in three games.
Texans (2 weeks), Dolphins (2 weeks), Vikings (1 week)

Teams that APR liked more than ESPN, 2010:

Browns (12 weeks)
The Browns were a very frustrating team to evaluate. They had 10 games decided by a touchdown or less, and lost 7 of them (and nearly 8, only beating the Panthers because a last-second field goal try doinked the upright).
Lions (8 weeks)
The Lions had similar season to the Browns (4-6 in games decided by 7 or less). That four game winning streak at the end of the season makes APR look at least a little better (and possibly saved HC Jim Schwartz's job).
Bills (4 weeks)
The Bills were 3-5 in games decided by 7 or less. APR probably gives too much weight to close losses. On the other hand, I suspect it could be a very close balance between giving too much and too little weight in these situations.
Bengals (3 weeks), Titans, Broncos (2 weeks), Packers, Chargers, Cowboys, Vikings, Buccaneers (1 week)

Monday, January 10, 2011

NFL: Wildcard Pick Results

A nice round of results for APR and SRS!

Winning teams in bold.

Saints (APR, SRS, Line) @ Seahawks
Scoring 36 points on the Seahawks should've been enough for the Saints to win by a factor of 2 or 3. But their defense gave up 41 points, including 3 early touchdown drives of 70+ yards each. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 272 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Saints defense gave up a lot of big plays—three different Seahawk receivers had long receptions of 38 yards or more, and Marshawn Lynch had a good day running, even before that 67 yard touchdown run that sealed the win for the Seahawks.
Jets (APR, SRS) @ Colts (Line)
The Colts seemed to turtle up and try to get by on a very low scoring game. At the end of the first half, only up by 7, they had the ball with a time out and 0:45 left on the clock. Instead of trying to get another score, they elected to run the clock out.
Late in the second half, down by 1, they seemed content to play for a field goal, which gave them a very slim 2-point lead. That might have been enough, except the Jets got a big runback on the ensuing kickoff, and with 0:45 and a timeout left, they were able to drive for the game-winning score.
Ravens (APR, SRS, Line) @ Chiefs
The Chiefs really got kicked to the curb in this game. They only had 3 drives longer than 31 yards. Matt Cassel completed just 9 passes for 70 yards. The Chiefs defense did well, holding the Ravens to just 10 points into the 3rd quarter. But 3 interceptions, 2 lost fumbles, and the Chiefs general inability to move the ball gave the Ravens too many opportunities to score.
Packers (APR, SRS) @ Eagles (Line)
The Packers defense played up to their reputation for this game, allowing the Eagles only two drives longer than 39 yards, limiting Michael Vick to 33 yards rushing, Desean Jackson to 2 catches, and coming up with the game-sealing interception. The Packers offense played well (in spite of some miscues), and featured a 100 yard rushing performance for the first time since their week 5 loss to the Redskins.


Weird. APR and APR VH were in total agreement, SRS and SRS VH disagreed on every pick.

APR 3-13-175.0%
APR VH3-13-175.0%
SRS 3-13-175.0%
SRS VH1-31-325.0%
Line 1-31-325.0%

Sunday, January 9, 2011

NFL: Wildcard Power Rankings

W-LThis Week
1 (-)Patriots1.1651
(LW × 1.0011)
2 (-)Packers1.0913
(LW × 1.0088)
11-6Won by 5
@ Eagles
3 (-)Steelers1.0286
(LW × 1.0008)
4 (-)Falcons1.0250
(LW × 1.0032)
5 (-)Ravens1.0244
(LW × 1.0114)
13-4Won by 23
@ Chiefs
6 (-)Bears1.0042
(LW × 1.0025)
7 (↑1)Jets0.9853
(LW × 1.0084)
12-5Won by 1
@ Colts
8 (↓1)Saints0.9557
(LW × 0.9748)
11-6Lost by 5
@ Seahawks
9 (-)Buccaneers0.9550
(LW × 1.0023)
10 (-)Eagles0.9408
(LW × 0.9934)
10-7Lost by 5
vs Packers
11 (-)Lions0.9325
(LW × 1.0016)
12 (-)Giants0.9198
(LW × 0.9991)
13 (-)Cowboys0.8959
(LW × 0.9939)
14 (-)Chargers0.8913
(LW × 0.9918)
15 (-)Colts0.8821
(LW × 0.9839)
10-7Lost by 1
vs Jets
16 (-)Raiders0.8741
(LW × 0.9923)
17 (-)Bills0.8717
(LW × 1.0007)
18 (-)Dolphins0.8697
(LW × 1.0009)
19 (-)Browns0.8537
(LW × 1.0008)
20 (↑1)Vikings0.8491
(LW × 1.0006)
21 (↓1)Jaguars0.8461
(LW × 0.9927)
22 (-)Bengals0.8402
(LW × 0.9979)
23 (↑1)Texans0.8206
(LW × 0.9946)
24 (↑1)Redskins0.8183
(LW × 0.9968)
25 (↓2)Chiefs0.8099
(LW × 0.9748)
10-7Lost by 23
vs Ravens
26 (-)49ers0.8072
(LW × 1.0023)
27 (-)Titans0.7759
(LW × 0.9901)
28 (-)Rams0.7717
(LW × 0.9980)
29 (-)Seahawks0.7642
(LW × 1.0310)
8-9Won by 5
vs Saints
30 (-)Broncos0.7212
(LW × 0.9918)
31 (-)Panthers0.7212
(LW × 1.0037)
32 (-)Cardinals0.6852
(LW × 0.9996)


  • Not a lot of big wins this week, so not a lot of movement in the rankings. The Seahawks probably had the biggest win, but they were so far below the rams, their increase in power wasn't enough to move them up a spot.

  • Three years in a row, the NFC West division winner has been APR's lowest ranked team in the playoffs. And now, three years in a row, the NFC West division winner has won a playoff game.

  • Every winning team except the Packers trailed at some point during their game.

  • Unlike last year, where only one Wildcard game finished with a close score, this year only one game finished as a blow-out.

  • The Packers have won their first road playoff game since the 1997 NFC Championship game.

  • The Chiefs still haven't won a playoff game since the 1993 season. The longest streak without a playoff win(*) belongs to the Bengals, who haven't won a playoff game since the 1990 season. (* Not counting the Texans, who have never been to the playoffs, and thus have never won a playoff game.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

NFL Wrapup: Pythagorean Projection vs. Reality

This is the follow-up to last summer's Pythagorean Projection 2009>2010 post.

Team Acutal Proj. Diff Comment
Redskins 6 5.8 0.2 New HC, QB
Dolphins 7 7.2 -0.2
Eagles 10 10.2 -0.2 New QB
Jets 11 11.4 -0.4
Ravens 12 11.6 0.4
Saints 11 11.6 -0.6
Browns 5 4.3 0.7 QB issues
Titans 6 6.8 -0.8 QB issues, Britt injured
Colts 10 10.8 -0.8 Injuries
Bills 4 5.8 -1.8
Packers 10 11.8 -1.8 Injuries
Seahawks 7 5.0 2.0 Weak division
Chargers 9 11.1 -2.1 Special teams, Gates injured
Patriots 14 11.6 2.4
Jaguars 8 5.5 2.5
Giants 10 7.4 2.6 Eli Manning healthy
Steelers 12 9.2 2.8 Troy Polamalu healthy
Lions 6 2.9 3.1 Ndamukong Suh
Texans 6 9.4 -3.4 Bad defense
49ers 6 9.5 -3.5 Bad offense
Falcons 13 9.0 4.0 Michael Turner healthy
Broncos 4 8.1 -4.1 Injuries
Cardinals 5 9.3 -4.3 No more Kurt Warner
Bears 11 6.7 4.3 Cutler doing much better
Bengals 4 8.4 -4.4 Too much WR drama?
Raiders 8 2.8 5.2 No more JaMarcus Russell
Cowboys 6 11.3 -5.3 Romo hurt, bad defense
Chiefs 10 4.7 5.3
Rams 7 1.6 5.4 Weak division, new QB
Vikings 6 11.6 -5.6 QB, HC issues
Panthers 2 8.2 -6.2 QB issues
Buccaneers 10 3.8 6.2


  • The "Projected Wins" value is used as a baseline, so a positive difference means the team exceeded their projected win value, a negative difference means they fell short.

  • Teams are sorted by the magnatude (absolute value) of the difference; teams that came close to their projected wins are near the top, teams farthest away from their projection are at the bottom.

  • Unlike last year, but like 2008, there are a lot of teams past the ±4 game difference level, which is over the average level for the 1994-2008 seasons.

  • In spite of all the quarterback drama surrounding the Redskins, Eagles, Browns, and Titans, they all finished remarkably close to their projected win totals.

  • And in spite of all the issues with turnovers and lost games with the Giants, they actually did significantly better than their projected win total. You may remember last year Eli Manning had a foot injury; I suspect that was a big reason the Giants struggled last year.

  • The good news for the Bears is Jay Cutler 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions this year (compared with 27 touchdowns and 26 interceptions last year). The bad news is that hew was sacked 52 times (35 times last year), so the Bears' window of opportunity before Cutler is too hurt to play a full season is likely to be pretty short.

  • The Chiefs and Buccaneers both benefited from relatively weak schedules (although the Buccaneers played in a much tougher division). Both are in the second year of tenure for their respective head coaches and quarterbacks.

  • Matt Ryan (and head coach Mike Smith) get a lot of credit for the Falcons resurgence for the last three seasons. But running back Michael Turner (who was also signed three seasons ago) has also been a big factor, especially when he's healty.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

NFL: Wildcard Picks

Saints @
Ravens @
Packers @
Jets @


  • Seahawks may be the biggest home underdog in playoff history. The Saints were 5½ point home underdogs in this game back in 2000, but that's the biggest home underdog I found in my quick scan of the (somewhat limited) data I have on hand.

  • The Chiefs went 7-1 at home this season, but against some pretty weak opponents. The Chargers (9-7) and Jaguars (8-8) were the only teams they beat that didn't finish with losing records.

  • The Chiefs's schedule consisted of teams from three of the weakest divisions in the NFL this year (AFC West, AFC South, and NFC West) along with two of the weaker teams from the other AFC Divisions (Browns from the AFC North and Bills from the AFC East).

  • The Packers are 0-2 against the Eagles in the Playoffs. Once in the 2003 season (the "4th and 26" game) and once in 1960. Both games were played at Philadelphia.

  • The Eagles will have to hope that the Packers' offensive struggles continue. They gave up 377 points in the regular season, more than any other playoff team except the Colts and Seahawks.

  • There's been some rumors that Michael Vick could be benched this week. But given the way Kevin Kolb played in week 17, I think as long as the game is in reach and Vick is physically able to run plays, he has to be in at quarterback.

  • Jets @ Colts is an interesting rematch of last year's game. I think the Colts can use mostly the same strategy—stack up against the run, and force Mark Sanchez to throw the ball. The big difference this time is, if the Colts fall behind again, I don't think they have nearly as much ability to come back as they did last year.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NFL Wrapup: Top 10 Upsets of the Regular Season

How Upsets Were Determined

First, the power rankings for each team was determined, using the first 16 weeks of play (the final week of games is left out to avoid skewing the data with the results of games where teams are resting their starters, or otherwise not trying).

However, unlike the weekly power rankings, which give more weight to recent games than ones earlier in the season, the power rankings for the season upsets are unweighted—all game results count equally. This means that the matchup ratio values (ρ) below will not correspond to the matchup ratios given in the respective game pick posts.

Once the power rankings are computed, every game of the season is picked using those rankings. The wrong picks are then sorted by matchup ratio, with the games featuring the largest ratios featured below.

Any game that is not a "real" upset (because a team is resting its starters, or is indirectly affected by such) is removed from the list.

Dishonorable Mention: some games that missed the top-10 cut

  • Week 14: The Jets defense held the Dolphins to just 10 points, but that wasn't enough for their offense that only managed 6.

  • Week 3: Janikowski misses 3 field goals, and the resurgent Raiders can't get past the struggling Cardinals.

  • Week 16: The Cowboys spot the Cardinals 21 points, and can't recover.

  • Week 4: Chris Johnson has a bad day, and Titans' turnovers give the Broncos enough for a win.

  • Week 4: The Redskins knock Michael Vick out of the game, and Kevin Kolb can't produce enough offense for the Eagles to pull out a win.

The Top 10 Upsets of the 2010 Season

  1. Week 7: Redskins 17, Bears 14 (ρ=1.1471)
    The Bears' offense had probably their worst game of the season, generating 7 punts, 6 turnovers, and 4 sacks. This game was only close because McNabb threw a couple interceptions.
  1. Week 6: Dolphins 23, Packers 20 (OT) (ρ=1.1475)
    The The Packers have had one of the best defenses in the league this year, giving up the fewest points of any team except the Steelers. But in this game, the Packers' run defense struggled, which let the Dolphins control the ball and keep it away from the Packers' struggling offense.

  1. Week 14: Packers 3, Lions 7 (ρ=1.1595)
    Easily the most egregious example of the Packers' struggling offense. This game cost them a chance to win their division, and isn't ranked higher on this list only because the Lions finished the season on a 4-game winning streak.
  1. Week 3: Chargers 20, Seahawks 27 (ρ=1.1717)
    How do you generate more than 500 yards of offense and yet only have 20 points on the scoreboard? Three lost fumbles, two interceptions, and a failed 4th-down conversion are a good start. The Chargers' special teams took a big chunk of the blame for this loss, but that's a whole lot of offensive futility for a team that was supposed to win their division.
  1. Week 10: Chiefs 29, Broncos 49 (ρ=1.1973)
    Part of the Chiefs resurgence this year has been a good, or at least adequate defense. They are 9-1 when they hold their opponent to 20 or fewer points. But the Chiefs also had a couple of defensive breakdowns this season, and this was the biggest, giving up 7 touchdowns to the Broncos offense that only made it past 28 points three times all season.
  1. Week 2: Ravens 10, Bengals 15 (ρ=1.2160)
    Back in week 2, this didn't seem like that much of an upset—the Bengals were the defending AFC North champions, they were supposed to win games like this. But in hindsight, it should've been a red flag that the Bengals could only score 15 points in spite of intercepting Joe Flacco 4 times.
  1. Week 5: Packers 13, Redskins 16 (OT) (ρ=1.2170)
    More offensive struggles for the Packers, and again the Redskins manage to catch their opponent having one of their worst games of the season.
  1. Week 9: Patriots 14, Browns 34 (ρ=1.2349)
    Perhaps the Patriots were looking ahead to the game at the Steelers that followed this one. But somehow the Browns (and particularly Peyton Hillis) were the only team this season that was really able to expose the Patriots unimpressive defense this season.
  1. Week 6: Seahawks 23, Bears 20 (ρ=1.2566)
    Unlike Week 7's Redskins @ Bears game, the Bears didn't have any turnovers in this game. But Cutler was sacked 6 times (including once for a safety), and the offense could only sustain four drives, and going 3-4 on field goal tries. The Seahawks only had three sustained drives, but they all finished with a touchdown, and that was enough to put them by the struggling Bears.
  1. Week 5: Saints 20, Cardinals 30 (ρ=1.2708)
    The Saints had three turnovers in this game, and the Cardinals turned them all into touchdowns. As the Cowboys found out on Christmas, even the Cardinals can get a win when you spot them 21 easy points.

Eliminated Games

This season, the only eliminated game was the Cowboys week 17 defeat of the Eagles, which would have otherwise appeared in the "Dishonorable Mention" section.

Biggest Upsets According to the Line

10 Cowboys 33, Giants 20Giants -14
16 Vikings 24, Eagles 14Eagles -14
7 Browns 30, Saints 17Saints -13½
13 Raiders 28, Chargers 13 Chargers -13
17 Buccaneers 23, Saints 13Saints -9
2 Bears 27, Cowboys 20Cowboys -8½
4 Colts 28, Jaguars 31Colts -8½
6 Chargers 17, Rams 20Chargers -8½
16 Chargers 20, Bengals 34Chargers -7½

NFL: Week 17 APR vs. ESPN

What this is

A comparison of APR's Week 16 power rankings with ESPN's rankings for the same week of games. This acts as a sanity check (both ways) to see what teams are over- or underrated.

Only teams that are at least 9 positions apart are listed. The number in parentheses is the difference between APR's rank and ESPN's rank.

Teams ESPN likes more than APR:

Chiefs (+12)
The Chiefs went 2-4 in division games, worse than the Raiders (6-0) and the Chargers (3-3). They've also won just 3 games away from Arrowhead Stadium (Browns, Seahawks, and Rams). They are just not a good team.
Rams (+11), Seahawks (+10)
ESPN inexplicably raises the Seahawks 7 spots on their unimpressive win over the Rams, while dropping the Rams only 1. Both of these teams belong in the bottom 10.
On the bubble:
Titans (+7)

Teams APR likes more than ESPN:

Bills, Lions (-13)
Do these teams really belong in the bottom 10? Both are in very competitive divsions, and both showed signs of turning things around.
Bengals (-9), Browns (-8)
The Bengals are clearly awful, so I'm willing to stipulate that APR has them overrated even at a relatively modest #22. While the Browns... well, they probably did the right thing getting rid of Mangini. The real question here is, how does Marvin Lewis still have his job?
On the bubble:
Packers (-7)

Stay tuned!

Game picks and power rankings will continue on through the playoffs, along with some season wrapup posts.

Monday, January 3, 2011

NFL: Week 17 Pick Results

Winning teams in bold.

Unanimous Picks (11-4)


Chargers @ Broncos
Steelers @ Browns
Giants @ Redskins
Panthers @ Falcons
Dolphins @ Patriots
Bengals @ Ravens
Titans @ Colts
Cardinals @ 49ers
Bills @ Jets
Bears @ Packers
Vikings @ Lions


Cowboys @ Eages
As promised, the battle of the backups. The Eagles might have won anyway, except Kevin Kolb had a wretched game, throwing three interceptions, and losing a fumble the Cowboys turned into a touchdown.
Buccaneers @ Saints
The Saints played their starters in this game, but you have to wonder how hard they tried once they saw the Falcons open up a dominating lead on the Panthers.

Raiders @ Chiefs
The Chiefs played their starters too, but didn't seem to be trying at all. On Michael Bush's touchdown run, the Chief's defense just parted like the Red Sea, leaving him a nice wide lane to walk into the endzone virtually untouched.
Rams @ Seahawks
If Sam Bradford had some receivers who could catch his long passes, this might have gone differently. But even now, the Seahawks can be a tough team to play at home. And the Rams, in spite of their resurgence, only have 2 road wins this year.

Split (APR: 0-1 SRS: 1-0 Line: 0-1)

Jaguars (APR, Line) @ Texans (SRS)
David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew are the biggest keys to the Jaguars offense, and they were both out.


APR 11-5135-105-056.2%
APR VH 9-7128-112-053.3%
SRS 12-4142- 98-059.2%
SRS VH10-6129-110-154.0%
Line 11-5156- 84-065.0%

Sunday, January 2, 2011

NFL: Week 17 Power Rankings

Update: the table originally posted was based on incorrect data (which gave the Broncos a win they didn't actually have), and so the data was not correct. The table below is based on the corrected score.

W-LThis Week
1 (-)Patriots1.1638
(LW × 1.0182)
14-2Won by 31
vs Dolphins
2 (-)Packers1.0818
(LW × 1.0297)
10-6Won by 7
vs Bears
3 (↑3)Steelers1.0278
(LW × 1.0319)
12-4Won by 32
@ Browns
4 (-)Falcons1.0218
(LW × 1.0016)
13-3Won by 21
vs Panthers
5 (↓2)Ravens1.0129
(LW × 0.9889)
12-4Won by 6
vs Bengals
6 (↑1)Bears1.0016
(LW × 1.0066)
11-5Lost by 7
@ Packers
7 (↓2)Saints0.9804
(LW × 0.9772)
11-5Lost by 10
vs Buccaneers
8 (↑1)Jets0.9771
(LW × 1.0283)
11-5Won by 31
vs Bills
9 (↑2)Buccaneers0.9528
(LW × 1.0459)
10-6Won by 10
@ Saints
10 (↓2)Eagles0.9470
(LW × 0.9788)
10-6Lost by 1
vs Cowboys
11 (↑2)Lions0.9310
(LW × 1.0285)
6-10Won by 7
vs Vikings
12 (↓2)Giants0.9206
(LW × 0.9978)
10-6Won by 3
@ Redskins
13 (↑5)Cowboys0.9015
(LW × 1.0277)
6-10Won by 1
@ Eagles
14 (-)Chargers0.8987
(LW × 0.9975)
9-7Won by 5
@ Broncos
15 (↓3)Colts0.8966
(LW × 0.9889)
10-6Won by 3
vs Titans
16 (↑6)Raiders0.8810
(LW × 1.0311)
8-8Won by 21
@ Chiefs
17 (↓1)Bills0.8711
(LW × 0.9814)
4-12Lost by 31
@ Jets
18 (↑2)Dolphins0.8688
(LW × 0.9971)
7-9Lost by 31
@ Patriots
19 (↓4)Browns0.8530
(LW × 0.9594)
5-11Lost by 32
vs Steelers
20 (↓3)Jaguars0.8523
(LW × 0.9619)
8-8Lost by 17
@ Texans
21 (-)Vikings0.8486
(LW × 0.9886)
6-10Lost by 7
@ Lions
22 (↑2)Bengals0.8421
(LW × 1.0212)
4-12Lost by 6
@ Ravens
23 (↓4)Chiefs0.8308
(LW × 0.9515)
10-6Lost by 21
vs Raiders
24 (↑1)Texans0.8250
(LW × 1.0250)
6-10Won by 17
vs Jaguars
25 (↓2)Redskins0.8209
(LW × 0.9891)
6-10Lost by 3
vs Giants
26 (↑2)49ers0.8054
(LW × 1.0110)
6-10Won by 31
vs Cardinals
27 (-)Titans0.7837
(LW × 0.9819)
6-10Lost by 3
@ Colts
28 (↓2)Rams0.7733
(LW × 0.9652)
7-9Lost by 10
@ Seahawks
29 (↑1)Seahawks0.7412
(LW × 1.0185)
7-9Won by 10
vs Rams
30 (↓1)Broncos0.7272
(LW × 0.9968)
4-12Lost by 5
vs Chargers
31 (-)Panthers0.7185
(LW × 1.0054)
2-14Lost by 21
@ Falcons
32 (-)Cardinals0.6854
(LW × 0.9771)
5-11Lost by 31
@ 49ers


  • Yup, the 7-9 Seahawks have won the NFC West, and will now host a playoff game. They are, easily, the lowest-ranked team to make the playoffs, probably ever (althought the Chiefs aren't that far above them).

  • Along with the Seahawks and Chiefs, the Colts are the only other playoff team to finish out of the top 12.

  • The Buccaneers finish the regular season in the top 10, and are the highest-ranked team out of the playoffs. Thanks to their 4-game winning streak to end the season, the Lions finish just one spot out of the top 10.

  • Not much to say about this week's games—just a lot of teams (Dolphins, Bills, Browns, Cardinals) that seemed to just give up.

  • Watch for the pick results tomorrow night, APR vs ESPN Tuesday afternoon, and the Wildcard Weekend picks sometime Wednesday. Happy Playoffs!