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