Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NFL Wrapup: APR vs. ESPN, 2011

Starting with week 4, I posted a contrast of APR's power rankings with ESPN's weekly power rankings. This is the 2011 season wrap-up for that series of posts.

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

Teams ESPN liked more than APR:

Giants (5 weeks, 3 weeks on the bubble)
ESPN had them ranked as high as #6 (after their win over the Patriots), while APR had them ranked as low as #27 (after their loss to the Seahawks). It would be easy to make a post-hoc justification of EPSN's ranking based on the Giants' Super Bowl appearance, but the fact is, the Giants had, for the most part, a very unremarkable regular season.
Steelers (3 weeks)
The Steelers had a rocky start to the season, including an embarrassing week 1 loss to the Ravens, and a 3-point win over the hapless Colts that came on a last-second field goal. As a result, they spent 3 weeks right on the edge of this category.
Raiders (2 weeks, 2 weeks on the bubble)
When Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden were both healthy, the Raiders probably were the class of the AFC West. After they went down, their various replacements simply never preformed at that same level.
Chargers (2 weeks, 1 week on the bubble)
The Chargers have had a reputation of slow starts and strong finishes in the regular season. As a result, ESPN has developed a habit of overlooking those slow starts. The trouble is, the other AFC West teams are no longer as weak as they once were, and so those strong finishes are not so easy to come by.
Chiefs (1 week, 3 weeks on the bubble), Lions (1 week, 1 week on the bubble), Buccaneers (1 week)

Teams APR liked more than ESPN:

Cowboys (3 weeks, 2 weeks on the bubble)
The Cowboys played a lot of good (or, at least contending) teams close, which APR likes. The problem was, too many times they came out on the losing end of "close".
Dolphins (3 weeks, 2 weeks on the bubble)
The Dolphins had a late-season surge, which raised them up in APR's rankings. Unfortunately, it was too late to contend for a playoff spot, which got them ignored by ESPN.
Seahawks (2 weeks, 2 weeks on the bubble)
The Seahawks are another team that had a combination of close losses and a late season surge. But they were an also-ran team in what has been one of the weakest divisions, and were never really in contention for a playoff spot.
Bengals (2 weeks, 2 weeks on the bubble)
The Bengals only had one win against a team with a winning record, but they did manage to go 6-2 the first half of the season, which impressed APR more than ESPN.
Eagles (2 weeks)
Another team with a too-little, to-late late season surge. They could be a real contender for the NFC East next year.
Broncos (2 weeks)
APR liked the Broncos early, when they had some close losses to teams that were doing well.
Jaguars (1 week, 2 weeks on the bubble)

Friday, January 27, 2012

NFL Wrapup: Pythagorean Projection vs. Reality

As usual, 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.

This is a follow-up to a post from last summer. See this post for background details.

TeamActual Proj. Diff. Note
Steelers 12 12.1 -0.1
Dolphins  6  6.2 -0.2
Giants  9  9.2 -0.2
Titans  9  8.5  0.5
Patriots 13 12.3  0.7
Redskins  5  5.9 -0.9
Raiders  8  8.9 -0.9
Cowboys  8  7.0  1.0 Romo healthy all season
Falcons 10 11.2 -1.2
Jaguars  5  6.4 -1.4 David Garrard cut at the end of preseason
Eagles  8  9.4 -1.4
Ravens 12 10.6  1.4
Seahawks  7  5.5  1.5
Bears  8  9.5 -1.5 Injuries
Bills  6  4.4  1.6 Better defense, at least for a few games
Jets  8  9.8 -1.8 Sanchez had 18 interceptions
Browns  4  6.1 -2.1
Chiefs  7  9.1 -2.1 Injuries, coaching
Lions 10  7.8  2.2 Matt Stafford healthy the whole season
Broncos  8  5.2  2.8 Tim Tebow
Chargers  8 10.9 -2.9
Bengals  9  6.1  2.9 Andy Dalton and A.J. Green
Texans 10  7.1  2.9 Much better defense
Saints 13 10.1  2.9 Drew Brees' record-breaking season
Packers 15 12.1  2.9 Aaron Rodgers' MVP season
Vikings  3  6.0 -3.0 No more Favre
Panthers  6  2.4  3.6 Cam Newton
Cardinals  8  4.4  3.6 Better defense and Patrick Peterson
Buccaneers  4  8.7 -4.7 Much tougher schedule
Rams  2  6.8 -4.8 Was 2010 a fluke year for the Rams?
49ers 13  6.8  6.2 Jim Harbaugh, coach of the year?
Colts  2  9.1 -7.1 No Peyton Manning


  • With the exception of a few extreme cases, most teams came fairly close to their projected win mark this year.

  • In hindsight, the Colts' 9.1 projected wins, along with the fact that they barely made it to 10 wins last year were some warning signs of serious problems in Indianapolis.

  • I'm not really sure what happened with the 49ers this year. There defense has been pretty solid for a few years now. Maybe they just needed someone who could make the best use of the offensive players they had? Frank Gore and Alex Smith both did very well this season.

  • Last year, the Rams' defense had a stand-out season, holding their opponents to 20 points or less in 10 games. This year, they only held their opponents to 20 points or less in 4 games. That's the difference between 2010 and 2011 right there.

  • Last summer, I speculated that the truncated off-season would hurt teams with new coaches and in need of free agent help. But with the exception of the Eagles and their many free agents, I'm not sure there are any teams that can blame their troubles on the short off-season.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

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. Click here to see all the posts on this topic.

WW Packers 15- 1
TeamsPatriots+13- 3
(7) Texans+ 10- 6
Lions 10- 6
Jets 8- 8
Bills 6-10
Redskins 5-11Avg wins: 9.6
WL Ravens+ 12- 4
Teams49ers+ 11- 3
(9) Bengals 9- 7
Cardinals 8- 8
Chargers 8- 8
Raiders 8- 8
Bears 8- 8
Eagles 8- 8
Jaguars 5-11Avg wins: 8.6
LW Steelers12- 4
TeamsSaints+ 11- 3
(9) Falcons 10- 6
Giants+ 9- 7
Titans 9- 7
Broncos+ 8- 8
Cowboys 8- 8
Browns 4-12
Buccaneers 4-12Avg wins: 8.3
LL Seahawks 7- 9
TeamsChiefs 7- 9
(7) Dolphins 6-10
Panthers 6-10
Vikings 3-13
Rams 2-14
Colts 2-14Avg wins: 4.7


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

  • This year's WL and LW grouping looks a little more like the results for the historical data set. In both cases, the data is centered around 8 wins or so, but with the LW set noticably more spread out. (Note that only 3 of the WL teams more than a game away from 8 wins.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

2011 Championship Week Pick Results

Winning team in bold.

Ravens @ Patriots (APR, SRS, Line)
I suppose the most surprising thing about this game is that the Ravens offense performed as well as they did. They had 4 drives of 65 yards or longer, all ending with a score except for that final missed field goal. And the missed field goal at the end of regulation has to be particularly painful—the Ravens went toe-to-toe with the Patriots the whole game, and would've had a decent shot at winning if they had forced overtime.
I have to say, I wasn't overly impressed with Tom Brady's performance in this game. 14 incompletions, no touchdowns and two interceptions gave him easily his lowest passer ratining (57.5) of the season. Yeah, one of those picks was pretty flukey, but the fact that they even tried such a high-risk throw against the Ravens' defense suggests to me a pretty high level of frustration. I suspect the Patriots offense will have to be more patient to succeed against the Giants defense.
Giants @ 49ers (APR, SRS, Line)
As predicted, this game was decided on turnovers: one muffed punt gave the Giants field position for the tying score, and a second fumble gave them field position for the winning field goal.
The Giants had an astonishing 17 drives in this game (including 3 in overtime). Only 3 of them longer than 31 yards. The 49ers defense gave them a real chance to win this game, but lack of production on offense, and those two critical turnovers, tipped the game to the Giants' favor.


APR 1-15-550.0%
SRS 1-15-550.0%

Stay Tuned!

I'll have some more season wrap-up posts this week, and the Super Bowl pick next week.

NFL Conference Championship Power Rankings

W-LThis Week
1 (-)Saints1.0810
(LW × 1.0044)
2 (-)Patriots1.0748
(LW × 1.0068)
15-3Won by 3
vs Ravens
3 (↑1)Giants1.0332
(LW × 1.0424)
12-7Won by 3
@ 49ers
4 (↓1)49ers1.0277
(LW × 0.9830)
14-4Lost by 3
vs Giants
5 (-)Eagles0.9885
(LW × 1.0093)
6 (-)Ravens0.9780
(LW × 1.0010)
13-5Lost by 3
@ Patriots
7 (-)Packers0.9710
(LW × 1.0118)
8 (-)Steelers0.9515
(LW × 0.9975)
9 (-)Seahawks0.9425
(LW × 0.9999)
10 (-)Dolphins0.9366
(LW × 1.0087)
11 (-)Falcons0.9098
(LW × 1.0070)
12 (↑1)Cowboys0.9045
(LW × 1.0124)
13 (↓1)Cardinals0.9007
(LW × 0.9971)
14 (-)Lions0.8904
(LW × 1.0050)
15 (-)Jets0.8838
(LW × 1.0101)
16 (-)Texans0.8732
(LW × 1.0012)
17 (-)Chargers0.8690
(LW × 1.0042)
18 (-)Titans0.8402
(LW × 1.0026)
19 (↑1)Broncos0.8364
(LW × 1.0043)
20 (↓1)Bengals0.8360
(LW × 0.9985)
21 (-)Panthers0.8341
(LW × 1.0036)
22 (-)Bears0.8335
(LW × 1.0046)
23 (-)Chiefs0.8254
(LW × 1.0049)
24 (-)Redskins0.8033
(LW × 1.0087)
25 (↑1)Raiders0.7960
(LW × 1.0049)
26 (↓1)Browns0.7942
(LW × 0.9978)
27 (-)Vikings0.7906
(LW × 1.0053)
28 (↑1)Bills0.7799
(LW × 1.0075)
29 (↓1)Jaguars0.7793
(LW × 1.0018)
30 (-)Rams0.7590
(LW × 0.9953)
31 (-)Colts0.7543
(LW × 1.0024)
32 (-)Buccaneers0.6851
(LW × 1.0043)


  • The Giants move up more than 4% on their road win over the highly ranked 49ers. They're still a long ways back of the Patriots, though.

  • The 2011 Giants join the 1979 Rams and the 2008 Cardinals as the only 7-loss teams to advance to the Super Bowl. The Rams and Cardinals both lost.

  • A number of teams with negative regular season point differentials (points scored - points allowed) have won in the playoffs (including the Broncos this year). The 2011 Giants are the only such team to advance to the Super Bowl.

  • The 49ers have now gone 1-5 in their last 6 NFC Championship games, including 4 home losses.

  • Tom Brady and Eli Manning are the first quarterbacks to have a Super Bowl rematch since Troy Aikman and Jim Kelly had their rematch in Super Bowl XXVIII

Friday, January 20, 2012

NFL: Home games in the Championship round

I did the records of all home teams in the divisional round of the playoffs since 1970, so here is the corresponding table for the Conference Championship round:

YearsHome WinsHome Losses%
  • It may look like there's a lot of 6-4 and 5-5 records in the list, but the overall total is 54-26 (67.5%), which is only a few points lower than for the Divisional round.

  • There's only been two seasons (1992 and 1997) where both home teams lost in the Championship round.

  • Both home teams have won in the Championship round 16 times; the last time was 2009 (that was also the last time both #1 seeds advanced to the Super Bowl).

  • The 9 year period from 1997 to 2005 (inclusive) is the longest stretch (so far) where at least one home team lost in the Championship round.

  • Super Bowls are played (for the most part) on neutral fields. And while one team is designated the "home team" for various rule purposes (the coin flip, choice of jerseys, etc.), you can see from the "home teams" record (20-25) that this designation confers no special benefit.

  • The closest occurrence to a true "home team" in the Super Bowl came in Super Bowl XIV, when the (then) Los Angeles Rams faced the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game was in the Rose Bowl, just 15 miles from the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Rams' home stadium at the time. The Rams lost, 19-31.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

NFL Conference Championship Picks

Ravens @
Giants @


  • The latest reports are the Ravens should have Ed Reed for their game against the Patriots. They're probably going to need their defense at full strength to come away with a win, especially the way the Ravens' offense played against the Texans.

  • The Patriots are coming off their first playoff win in four years, and if their defense can play as well against the Ravens as they did against the Broncos, they should have a relatively easy time advancing to the Super Bowl.

  • Last Sunday, the Giants seemed to have the upper hand over the Packers for virtually the whole game. In spite of that, they were only leading by 7 points at the start of the 4th quarter (and that margin provided by what was basically a fluke touchdown).

    The Giants will likely need a lot better production from their offense to have a chance to beat the 49ers.

  • For the first 56 minutes, the 49ers offense had a very unimpressive performance against the Saints. Just two drives longer than 32 yards, and only 10 points off all those turnovers.

    But in the final 4 minutes of the game, Alex Smith managed to produce, by a good margin, the 49ers two best drives of the game. Both 80+ yards in length, and both ending in touchdowns. It will make it a lot easier for he 49ers to come away with a win if their offense can play more like those last 4 minutes, and less like the first 56.

  • Given the way the Giants and 49ers offenses both played last Sunday, it seems very likely that the winner of their matchup will be determined by which defense can win the turnover battle.

Monday, January 16, 2012

NFL Division Pick Results

It's been a football cliché for a long time that, especially in the playoffs, you have to win the turnover battle. The reality behind the cliché was hammered home with a vengeance in three of the four games this weekend.

Winning team in bold.

Broncos @ Patriots (APR, SRS, Line)
Like last year's Seahawks, the Broncos were easily the weakest division winner, but managed to pull out a home upset win in the Wild Card round. And like last year, they looked a lot more like their record in the Divisional round.
It may have been the competition (or the lack thereof), but the Patriots defense looked as good in this game as they have all season. The Broncos only had two drives longer than 35 yards, both of them well into garbage time. Meanwhile, the Patriots offense did what they've done most of the season—scored early and often. They put this game away early, and should be well rested for next week.
Saints (APR, SRS, Line) @ 49ers
The 49ers have made a living this season playing very good defense, including producing more turnovers (38) than any other team in the league.
As I observed in the power rankings, losing the turnover battle is a recipe for losing in the playoffs. It's remarkable the Saints were able to come back with a late lead, and only lost because the 49ers were able to drive for an answering score. If the Saints had held on, it would have been just the second time in the playoffs a team had a -4 turnover margin, and still won.
Texans @ Ravens (APR, SRS, Line)
The Texans, as much as any team this weekend, have to be wondering what might have been. They played the Ravens close for the whole game, and had a chance for a tying touchdown in the final minute of the game. If T.J. Yates hadn't been intercepted 3 times, they would've had a real chance to win the game.
As for the Ravens, their defense did what it needed to do—produce turnovers and keep the Texans out of the end zone. But it's not a good sign that their offense was only able to score 20 points, even with 4 extra chances at the ball.
Giants @ Packers (APR, SRS, Line)
This was a shocking display of offensive ineptitude on the part of the Packers. The last time they lost 3 fumbles in a game was more than four years ago (The last time they lost 3 fumbles and won was more than 14 years ago).
The Packers' defense was its usual self: they gave up a lot of yards and some big plays. But in spite of all the dropped passes, lost fumbles, and the Hail Mary touchdown, this was just a 7-point game going into the 4th quarter. By no means out of reach for one of the highest-scoring offenses this season.
But that offense was never able to break out of its doldrums. A failed 4th-down conversion, followed by a third lost fumble was the back-breaker.
To be fair to the Giants, they played well, overcome some adversity of their own (including getting denied on a challenge they really should've won), and took full advantage of the opportunities that came their way. In spite of their unimpressive regular season record, they certainly looked like a force to be reckoned with on Sunday.


APR 2-24-450.0%
SRS 2-24-450.0%

Sunday, January 15, 2012

NFL Division Power Rankings

W-LThis Week
1 (-)Saints1.0762
(LW × 1.0059)
14-4Lost by 4
@ 49ers
2 (-)Patriots1.0675
(LW × 1.0125)
14-3Won by 35
vs Broncos
3 (-)49ers1.0455
(LW × 1.0209)
14-3Won by 4
vs Saints
4 (↑4)Giants0.9911
(LW × 1.0495)
11-7Won by 17
@ Packers
5 (↑1)Eagles0.9794
(LW × 1.0113)
6 (↓1)Ravens0.9770
(LW × 1.0043)
13-4Won by 7
vs Texans
7 (↓3)Packers0.9596
(LW × 0.9453)
15-2Lost by 17
vs Giants
8 (↓1)Steelers0.9539
(LW × 0.9992)
9 (-)Seahawks0.9426
(LW × 1.0070)
10 (-)Dolphins0.9286
(LW × 1.0042)
11 (-)Falcons0.9034
(LW × 0.9984)
12 (↑1)Cardinals0.9033
(LW × 1.0087)
13 (↑2)Cowboys0.8934
(LW × 1.0146)
14 (↓2)Lions0.8860
(LW × 0.9819)
15 (↑2)Jets0.8750
(LW × 1.0049)
16 (↓2)Texans0.8721
(LW × 0.9794)
11-7Lost by 7
@ Ravens
17 (↓1)Chargers0.8654
(LW × 0.9855)
18 (↑2)Titans0.8380
(LW × 0.9943)
19 (↑2)Bengals0.8373
(LW × 0.9976)
20 (↓2)Broncos0.8328
(LW × 0.9749)
9-9Lost by 35
@ Patriots
21 (↑1)Panthers0.8311
(LW × 0.9928)
22 (↓3)Bears0.8297
(LW × 0.9832)
23 (-)Chiefs0.8214
(LW × 0.9855)
24 (↑3)Redskins0.7964
(LW × 1.0107)
25 (↑1)Browns0.7960
(LW × 1.0006)
26 (↓2)Raiders0.7921
(LW × 0.9822)
27 (↓2)Vikings0.7865
(LW × 0.9851)
28 (-)Jaguars0.7779
(LW × 0.9925)
29 (-)Bills0.7741
(LW × 1.0012)
30 (-)Rams0.7626
(LW × 1.0069)
31 (-)Colts0.7526
(LW × 0.9958)
32 (-)Buccaneers0.6822
(LW × 0.9913)


Friday, January 13, 2012

NFL: 7, 8, and 9 loss teams in the playoffs

Since we've got a 7-loss team and an 8-loss team advancing to the Divisional round this year, I thought I'd take a look at how high-loss teams have historically (since 1970) done in the playoffs.

9-Loss Teams

Of course, there's been just one: the 2010 Seahawks, with an upset win in the Wildcard round, and then a loss in the Divisional round.

8-Loss Teams

There's been 10 8-loss teams:

1985Browns 0-1
1990Saints 0-1
1991Jets 0-1
1999Cowboys 0-1
1999Lions 0-1
2004Vikings 1-1
2004Rams 1-1
2006Giants 0-1
2011Broncos tbd

The Broncos are just the 4th 8-loss team to win a playoff game. If they win on Sunday Saturday, they will be the first 8-loss team to win in the Divisional round.

9-Loss Teams

There's been 58 7-loss teams that have advanced to the playoffs. The Giants results are pending. Of the rest, 27 lost in the Wildcard round, 22 lost in the Division round. That leaves 8 that won in the divisional round:

1979Rams Cowboys
1983Seahawks DolphinsMarino's rookie season
1984Steelers Broncos Elway's 2nd season
1987Vikings 49ers Strike season
1995Colts Chiefs Marty Schottenheimer
1996Jaguars Broncos
2008CardinalsPanthersJake Delhomme
2009Jets Chargers

A number of these games feature what I would regard as extenuating circumstances:

  • Two games were lost by teams with quarterbacks in their first or second year.

  • In 1987 with "replacement players", the Vikings went 0-3, the 49ers went 3-0. If you throw out those 3 weeks, the Vikings and 49ers records are much closer.

  • Marty Schottenheimer is the poster boy for strong regular seasons, followed by 1-and-done playoff appearances.

  • Jake Delhomme's performance in the Cardinals @ Panthers playoff game is one of the biggest quarterback meltdowns I've ever seen in the playoffs.

Of these 8 teams, only 2 (the 1979 Rams and the 2008 Cardinals) advanced to the Super Bowl. Both lost, coincidentally both to the Steelers.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

NFL Division Round Picks

Broncos @
Texans @
Giants @
Saints @


  • Unanimous agreement of all four games. Note that Saints @ 49ers is the only game this week not a rematch of a regular season meeting. For the rematches, the team favored here also won in the regular season.

  • The Texans are the only team of the 8 remaining that hasn't won at least one Super Bowl.

  • The Broncos haven't won two playoff games in the same season since their 1998 Super Bowl run (in fact, last week was just the Broncos' second playoff win since Super Bowl XXXII).

  • Monday, I heard an argument that since the Broncos have a better defense, running game, and special teams, they have a chance against the Patriots on Saturday. The problem with that logic is the Broncos presumably had the same advantages in week 15 when they played the Patriots in Denver. You may remember the Broncos made it a game for a quarter, but the Patriots pulled away in the second, ultimately winning by 18.

  • I can't seem to get a solid read on any of these games. The Tebow-lead Broncos have made a living coming out of games with wins where it didn't seem like they had a chance. The Texans defense could easily shut down the Ravens—I suspect that game will be decided by scores on defense and special teams.

  • On the NFC side, the Saints have looked much weaker on the road, and haven't faced many defenses as strong as the 49ers. And it's always an adventure every time the Packers defense takes the field—the Giants managed to score 35 points on them, and tie the game late in the 4th quarter.

  • At any rate, it should be a good slate of games this weekend.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

NFL: Home games in the divisional round

Over on profootballtalk.nbcsports.com, Florio posted this article about how home field in the divisional round is no longer a lock for a win. He points out that, since 2005, home teams in the divisional round of the playoffs are 12-12.

But he picked 2005 advisedly—the trend prior to that year is very much the home teams winning. In fact, if you look at the win-loss totals by 5 year periods, they are (with the exception of the early 1990s and late 2000s) fairly consistent:

YearsHome WinsHome Losses%
1970-197415 575%
1975-197912 860%
1980-198413 765%
1985-198915 575%
1990-199418 290%
1995-199915 575%
2000-200416 480%

You can see there's been a fair amount of variation—the late 70s came very close to a 50% win rate for the home team as well, and in the early 90s, the home team had a virtual lock in the divisional round.

The WL totals for all home teams in the divisional rounds since 1970 (and including the 2010 games) is 116-48 (70.7%).

NFL Wildcard Pick Results

Winning team in bold.

Steelers (APR, SRS, Line) @ Broncos
The Steelers offense had their troubles in this game (5 sacks, 4 punts and a bad interception), but with their defense, 23 points should've been enough to beat the Broncos. But the Steelers defense suffered some critical injuries, and the rest looked (in the words of Warren Sapp), old and slow. The result was Tim Tebow having a career day passing (316 yards and 2 touchdowns). And now, for the Steelers, it is over.
Lions @ Saints (APR, SRS, Line)
The Lions made more of a game of this than I was expecting—leading at halftime, and only down 4 at the start of the 4th quarter. But their defense just couldn't stop the Saints. Other than two fumbles, every Saints drive (until the very end of the game) ended in a score, all touchdowns, except for one field goal.
Falcons (APR, SRS) @ Giants (Line)
Last spring, the Falcons decided they needed a big upgrade in their offense, so they traded up to get wide receiver Julio Jones. The results of this game are a strong indication that 1) the Falcons were right in concluding they needed to improve their offense, and 2) one wide recever was not enough. The Falcons only had 4 drives longer than 25 yards, and they all ended with a failed 4th-down conversion attempt.
Bengals @ Texans (APR, SRS, Line)
The Texans played perfectly to their strengths—ran a lot (35 carries for 188 yard), played outstanding defense (Dalton was sacked 4 times, intercepted 3 times, and the Bengals were held to just 10 points), and kept as much pressure off of T.J. Yates as possible. Yates only completed 11 passes for 159 yards, but that was more than enough.


APR 2-22-250.0%
SRS 2-22-250.0%

Sunday, January 8, 2012

NFL Wildcard Power Rankings

W-LThis Week
1 (↑1)Saints1.0699
(LW × 1.0204)
14-3Won by 17
vs Lions
2 (↓1)Patriots1.0543
(LW × 1.0026)
3 (-)49ers1.0241
(LW × 0.9841)
4 (-)Packers1.0151
(LW × 0.9984)
5 (↑1)Ravens0.9728
(LW × 0.9731)
6 (↑1)Eagles0.9685
(LW × 1.0036)
7 (↓2)Steelers0.9547
(LW × 0.9516)
12-5Lost by 6
@ Broncos
8 (↑3)Giants0.9444
(LW × 1.0324)
10-7Won by 22
vs Falcons
9 (↓1)Seahawks0.9361
(LW × 0.9878)
10 (-)Dolphins0.9247
(LW × 1.0049)
11 (↓2)Falcons0.9049
(LW × 0.9610)
10-7Lost by 22
@ Giants
12 (↑1)Lions0.9024
(LW × 0.9891)
10-7Lost by 17
@ Saints
13 (↓1)Cardinals0.8955
(LW × 0.9814)
14 (-)Texans0.8905
(LW × 0.9928)
11-6Won by 21
vs Bengals
15 (↑2)Cowboys0.8805
(LW × 1.0052)
16 (-)Chargers0.8782
(LW × 0.9959)
17 (↑1)Jets0.8707
(LW × 1.0068)
18 (↑3)Broncos0.8543
(LW × 1.0120)
9-8Won by 6
vs Steelers
19 (↑1)Bears0.8439
(LW × 0.9979)
20 (↓1)Titans0.8428
(LW × 0.9882)
21 (↓6)Bengals0.8393
(LW × 0.9397)
9-8Lost by 21
@ Texans
22 (-)Panthers0.8372
(LW × 0.9919)
23 (-)Chiefs0.8334
(LW × 0.9979)
24 (↑1)Raiders0.8065
(LW × 0.9979)
25 (↑1)Vikings0.7984
(LW × 0.9975)
26 (↓2)Browns0.7955
(LW × 0.9713)
27 (↑1)Redskins0.7879
(LW × 1.0037)
28 (↓1)Jaguars0.7838
(LW × 0.9840)
29 (↑1)Bills0.7732
(LW × 1.0036)
30 (↓1)Rams0.7574
(LW × 0.9786)
31 (-)Colts0.7557
(LW × 0.9867)
32 (-)Buccaneers0.6882
(LW × 0.9926)


  • This is the first time all four home teams won in the wildcard round since 2006.

  • The Falcons @ Giants game is the first time since 1993 a team has scored exactly 2 points in a game, and the first time ever in the playoffs.

  • The Broncos winning continues the streak of APR's lowest-ranked playoff team winning at least once in the playoffs (although this is the first time that it hasn't been the NFC West division winner).

  • We also had the first playoff overtime game under the new rules designed to allow both teams at least one possession. Somewhat ironically featuring a game-winning touchdown on the first OT play from scrimmage, one of the few exceptions to the "at least one possession" rule.

  • The Steelers loss also means the Super Bowl "losers curse" continues—going back to 1997, the Cardinals and Seahawks remain the only Super Bowl losers to win a playoff game the following season.

Friday, January 6, 2012

NFL Wrapup: APR's Biggest Upsets of 2011

How Upsets Were Determined

Using all game scores through week 16, the power index values for all teams were computed, using a non-weighted version of the APR ranking algorithm. (The final week of games is left out to avoid skewing the rankings with the results of games where teams are resting their starters, or otherwise not trying).

For the weekly power rankings, APR uses method that gives less weight to older games, emphasising each teams more recent perormances. This means that the matchup ratios (ρ) listed below will not correspond to the matchup ratios listed in the weekly game pick posts.

Once the power indexes are computed for each team, every game of the season (including week 17) is picked using the unweighted rankings. The wrong picks are sorted by matchup ratio, with the games having the largest ratios featured below.

Any game that I regard as not a "real" upset (because a team is resting its starters, or is indirectly affected by such) is not included in this list.

Dishonorable Mention: games that just missed the top 10

  • Week 15: The Ravens have one of the top-ranked defenses this season, but when they traveled to San Diego, the Chargers moved the ball up and down the field all game long and made the Ravens look like they were a long ways from deserving the AFC's #2 seed.

  • Week 7: The Seahawks traveled to Cleveland, but couldn't leave with a win because they couldn't score 7 points on the Browns.

  • Week 2: The Cowboys come back from a 10-point 4th-quarter deficit and steal an overtime win from the 49ers.

  • Week 15: The Texans defense didn't show up, T.J. Yates looked like an inexperienced rookie, and the Panthers left Houston with a convincing win over the AFC South division champions.

  • Week 2: Early signs of the Ravens road troubles when they travel to Nashville and give up two touchdowns and 4 field goals to the Titans (who only scored 26+ points four times all season).

APR's Top 10 Upsets of the 2011 Season

  1. Week 9: Giants 24, Patriots 20 (ρ=1.1663)
    Two sacks and 21 incompletions (including a couple interceptions) add up to probably Tom Brady's worst game of the season. Factor in 2 lost fumbles, and the Patriots just gave the Giants too many chances to win this game.
  1. Week 15: Titans 13, Colts 27 (ρ=1.1742)
    An injured Matt Hasselbeck, an ineffective Jake Locker, and a Colts defense that finally put a whole game together finally got the Colts a win, and cost the Titans a playoff spot.
  1. Week 14: 49ers 19, Cardinals 21 (ρ=1.1930)
    The 49ers have had trouble scoring points, especially on the road. Which means that (as with this game) it may only take a handful of big plays to beat them. Losing this game meant the 49ers had to win out to clinch the #2 seed over the Saints.
  1. Week 3: Falcons 13, Buccaneers 16 (ρ=1.2068)
    The Buccaneers were actually a unanimous pick to win this game, but in hindsight, it has to be counted as a pretty embarrassing loss for the Falcons. This is the only game of the season the Buccaneers' opponent didn't score at least 17 points.
  1. Week 7: Ravens 7, Jaguars 12 (ρ=1.2167)
    Unlike the Ravens' other road losses this season, their defense did a fine job in this game. But their offense didn't even generate 150 yards and couldn't put up enough points to out-score the Jaguars four field goals.
  1. Week 2: Patriots 31, Bills 34 (ρ=1.2179)
    The Patriots established an early 21-0 lead in this game, but Tom Brady threw 4 interceptions, and that let the Bills back in the game, and gave them a chance to win on a last-second field goal.
  1. Week 16: Texans 16, Colts 19 (ρ=1.2831)
    The Texans had too many sacks, too many penalties, and not enough touchdowns in this game. That left the door open for the Colts to take the lead on a late touchdown, and clinch their second win of the season.
  1. Week 6: Saints 20, Buccaneers 26 (ρ=1.3163)
    Sean Payton got his knee busted up, Drew Brees threw 3 interceptions, and the Saints gave the Buccaneers their last win of the season.
  1. Week 15: Packers 14, Chiefs 19 (ρ=1.3215)
    It's tempting to blame the Packers' defense for this loss, but their play here is comparable to the way they've played all season—they gave up a lot of yards, but not many points. The real problem was on the other side of the ball. The Packers' patchwork offensive line gave up 4 sacks, and their receivers dropped too many passes. The result was Aaron Rodgers posting a comletion ratio under 50% for just the 3rd start of his career, and the only game this season the Packers didn't score at least 24 points.
  1. Week 8: Saints 21, Rams 31 (ρ=1.3721)
    Drew Brees got sacked a season-record 6 times in this game, threw 2 interceptions, and generally made the Rams' defense look like world-beaters. This makes 3 seasons in a row (2010, 2009) that the Saints are on the losing end of the season's biggest upset.

Eliminated Games

Most teams had something to play for right down to the end of the season, so no games were eliminated from the rankings this year.

Biggest Upsets According to the Line

Winning teams in bold. Teams favored by 10 or more points were 34-3-0 this year.

8 Saints 21, Rams 31 Saints -15½
10 Cardinals 21, Eagles 17 Eagles -14
15 Packers 14, Chiefs 19 Packers -14
5 Seahawks 36, Giants 25 Giants -9½
3 Patriots 31, Bills 34 Patriots -9
9 Giants 24, Patriots 20 Patriots -8½
13 Chiefs 10, Bears 3 Bears -8
7 Ravens 7, Jaguars 12 Ravens -8
9 Bears 30, Eagles 24 Eagles -8
4 49ers 24, Eagles 23 Eagles -7½
9 Broncos 38, Raiders 24 Raiders -7½

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

NFL Wildcard Picks

Steelers @
Lions @
Falcons @
Bengals @


  • The Steelers and Broncos have (by a pretty good margin) the two lowest-scoring offenses of any of the playoff teams. This could easily be another 7-3 or 13-9 game. That also means, unless the Steelers get a shut-out, 8 points seems like a lot to give.

  • The Lions playoff game will be 20 years, almost to the day, since their last playoff win. The Bengals are the only team with a longer time since their last playoff win, 21 years ago

  • That means the result of the Bengals @ Texans game will be notable no matter what—either the Bengals will end the NFL's longest active streak without a playoff win, or the Texans will get their first playoff win in franchise history.

  • In the regular season meeting between the Lions and Saints, Matt Stafford was able to pass for more than 400 yards against the Saints defense, so the Lions aren't completely doomed. This time, though, they have to get touchdowns. Given the way the Saints score points, especially in the Super Dome, the Lions will get in trouble very quickly settling for field goals.

  • The Giants are just 3-5 in their last 8 games, with two of those wins coming in games against the Cowboys. The Falcons haven't been much of a juggernaut either, but at least they've beaten more than two teams since the first week of November.

  • I've made this point before, but it bears repeating: the Texans are 10-1 when they hold their opponent under 20 points. The performance of the Texans' defense is made even more critical by the fact that the Texans haven't scored more than 22 points since Matt Schaub got hurt.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

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 with the widest differential are listed. The number in parentheses is the difference between APR's rank and ESPN's rank.

Teams ESPN likes more than APR:

On the Bubble:
ESPN drops the Raiders (+8) 3 spots now that they are no longer playoff contenders.
ESPN gives the Titans (+7) a 3-spot bump for a 1-point victory over the nothing-to-play-for, Jake Delhomme-lead Titans.
However you feel about Tim Tebow, it's not a good sign that the Broncos (+7) have backed into the playoffs on a 3-game losing streak. They've only beaten one team (the Bengals in week 2) with a winning record.

Teams APR likes more than ESPN:

Dolphins (-14)
No question that APR has the Fins ranked too high at #10. But (as noted by ESPN), they finished the season 6-3. They don't belong in the bottom 10, either.
Seahawks (-13)
Another over-rank by APR (#8). But they finished 5-3, including close losses to the 49ers (13-3 and the NFC's #2 seed), and the Cardinals (8-8).
On the bubble
A tough season for the Eagles (-8). Their early 4-game losing streak included last-second losses to the Falcons and 49ers, and left them one win and the right tie-breakers away from winning the division. They're probably the most dangerous team out of the playoffs.

Monday, January 2, 2012

NFL Week 17 Pick Results

Winning team in bold.

Unanimous Picks (8-1)

49ers @ Rams
Steelers @ Browns
Ravens @ Bengals
Bills @ Patriots
Falcons @ Buccaneers
Panthers @ Saints
Redskins @ Eagles
Colts @ Jaguars


Chiefs @ Broncos
This was a game of (mostly) offensive futility. The Broncos only had one drive longer than 36 yards, which ended with a field goal. The Chiefs only had one drive go more than 35 yards. But it ended in a touchdown, which was good enough to win this game.

Split Picks: (APR: 4-3, SRS 3-4, Line 4-3)

Lions (Line) @ Packers (APR, SRS)
In spite of some bad calls by the referees, the Lions had an extraordinary day offensively, including a 5-touchdown performance by Matt Stafford. But their defense just couldn't stop backup Matt Flynn. In spite of missing key starters Greg Jennings, James Starks, Randal Cobb, and Brian Bulaga, the Packers offense put up a franchise record 480 yards passing and 6 touchdowns.
Jets (SRS) @ Dolphins (APR, Line)
This one's pretty simple: Mark Sanchez threw 3 interceptions, which was just more than this team could overcome. The Jets were 0-5 this season when they had 3 or more turnovers.
Chargers (APR, SRS) @ Raiders (Line)
The Raiders had 6 scoring drives in this game, but 4 of them were for field goals. That turned out to be a problem, as their defense allowed the Chargers 4 touchdown drives, and thier special teams gave up another.
Bears (APR, SRS) @ Vikings
As advertised, the "Battle of the backups" was a close game. Neither team lit things up, but the Vikings managed to be worst of a bad lot: 9 drives that ended with a punt or turnover meant that the Bears' 17 points was enough to win the game.
Titans (Line) @ Texans (APR, SRS)
The Texans are 10-1 when they hold their opponent under 20 points. Their offense (whether lead by Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, or Jake Delhomme) mostly hasn't put up a lot of points. This leads to a pretty simple formula for the Texans: when the defense struggles, they lose.
Seahawks (APR, SRS) @ Cardinals (Line)
Another close game, as expected. Perhaps the biggest factor in this game was Larry Fitzgerald (9 catches for 149 yards) who pretty much put this team on his back and carried them to the win.
Cowboys (APR, SRS) @ Giants (Line)
Tony Romo didn't appear to be slowed down by his bruised hand, putting up 289 yards and 2 touchdowns passing, with a 78% completion rate. But 6 sacks, 7 penalties, and 2 turnovers meant that most of those yards did not culminate in scoring drives. And Eli Manning had a very good game (346 yards, 3 touchdowns passing, 73% completion rate), which allowed the Giants to build an early lead that the Cowboys never were able to overcome.


A good week all around, and (for APR and SRS) much better season season tallies than last year.

APR 12-4153-86-164.0%
SRS 11-5157-82-165.6%

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Week 17 Power Rankings

W-LThis Week
1 (-)Patriots1.0515
(LW × 1.0084)
13-3Won by 28
vs Bills
2 (↑2)Saints1.0485
(LW × 1.0248)
13-3Won by 28
vs Panthers
3 (↓1)49ers1.0407
(LW × 1.0062)
13-3Won by 7
@ Rams
4 (↓1)Packers1.0167
(LW × 0.9917)
15-1Won by 4
vs Lions
5 (-)Steelers1.0033
(LW × 0.9942)
12-4Won by 4
@ Browns
6 (-)Ravens0.9997
(LW × 1.0204)
12-4Won by 8
@ Bengals
7 (↑1)Eagles0.9650
(LW × 1.0186)
8-8Won by 24
vs Redskins
8 (↑1)Seahawks0.9476
(LW × 1.0056)
7-9Lost by 3
@ Cardinals
9 (↓2)Falcons0.9416
(LW × 0.9913)
10-6Won by 21
vs Buccaneers
10 (↑2)Dolphins0.9202
(LW × 1.0070)
6-10Won by 2
vs Jets
11 (↑5)Giants0.9148
(LW × 1.0257)
9-7Won by 17
vs Cowboys
12 (↑3)Cardinals0.9125
(LW × 1.0191)
8-8Won by 3
vs Seahawks
13 (-)Lions0.9123
(LW × 1.0069)
10-6Lost by 4
@ Packers
14 (↓4)Texans0.8969
(LW × 0.9665)
10-6Lost by 1
vs Titans
15 (↓4)Bengals0.8932
(LW × 0.9741)
9-7Lost by 8
vs Ravens
16 (↑3)Chargers0.8818
(LW × 1.0263)
8-8Won by 12
@ Raiders
17 (↓3)Cowboys0.8760
(LW × 0.9731)
8-8Lost by 17
@ Giants
18 (↓1)Jets0.8648
(LW × 1.0010)
8-8Lost by 2
@ Dolphins
19 (↑3)Titans0.8528
(LW × 1.0219)
9-7Won by 1
@ Texans
20 (↑1)Bears0.8457
(LW × 0.9997)
8-8Won by 4
@ Vikings
21 (↓3)Broncos0.8442
(LW × 0.9792)
8-8Lost by 4
vs Chiefs
22 (↓2)Panthers0.8440
(LW × 0.9946)
6-10Lost by 28
@ Saints
23 (↑1)Chiefs0.8352
(LW × 1.0168)
7-9Won by 4
@ Broncos
24 (↑2)Browns0.8190
(LW × 1.0091)
4-12Lost by 4
vs Steelers
25 (↓2)Raiders0.8081
(LW × 0.9820)
8-8Lost by 12
vs Chargers
26 (↓1)Vikings0.8004
(LW × 0.9827)
3-13Lost by 4
vs Bears
27 (-)Jaguars0.7965
(LW × 0.9929)
5-11Won by 6
vs Colts
28 (-)Redskins0.7850
(LW × 0.9955)
5-11Lost by 24
@ Eagles
29 (-)Rams0.7739
(LW × 0.9990)
2-14Lost by 7
vs 49ers
30 (-)Bills0.7704
(LW × 0.9965)
6-10Lost by 28
@ Patriots
31 (-)Colts0.7659
(LW × 1.0139)
2-14Lost by 6
@ Jaguars
32 (-)Buccaneers0.6933
(LW × 0.9804)
4-12Lost by 21
@ Falcons


  • The Patriots, Saints, and 49ers are all pretty close together, with a pretty significant gap down to the Packers. APR doesn't take into account resting starters, and so the Packers slip down a bit more on their 3-point home victory.

  • The Patriots get a blow-out win over the Bills, but it can't be a good sign they fell behind 21-0 before they got started scoring. Even early in the game, 21-point deficit is not easy to overcome in the playoffs, even playing at home.

  • The Eagles are the highest-ranked non-playoff team, followed up closely by the Seahawks as the highest ranked team with a losing record.

  • The Broncos are the lowest-ranked playoff team, a position that had been held by the NFC West champion the previous 3 seasons.

  • The Raiders are the lowest-ranked 8-8 team, and the Titans are the lowest-ranked team with a winning record. But with the seasons those teams had, their ranking seems pretty reasonable.