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