Sunday, January 25, 2015

NFL Wrapup: APR's Biggest Upsets

Dishonorable Mention: games that just missed the top 10

  • Week 13: the Cardinals go to Atlanta, perhaps expecting an easy win over the 4-7 Falcons, only to discover that the Falcons are still pretty good on offense, and had enough of a defense to keep the Drew Stanton-led Cardinals in check.

  • Week 1: the Patriots go to Miami, and get shut out in the second half, thanks to a Dolphins' defense that (at times) looked pretty good.

  • Week 2: thanks in part to a terrible field goal kicker, the Lions' sputtering offense can only put 7 points on the board, and their defense, which was mostly pretty good, allowed the Panthers three long scoring drives.

  • Week 13: the Giants go to Jacksonville, and let a 21-3 halftime lead slip away. This looks like more of an upset thanks to the Giants finishing the season 3-1, and the Jaguars having (yet another) a really bad season.

  • Week 8: the Packers travel to New Orleans, but their defense can't stop the run, and their offense can't keep up with the Saints after Aaron Rodgers tweaks his hamstring. Probably the best game for the Saints all season.

APR's Top 10 Upsets of the 2014 Season

  1. Week 10: Steelers 13, Jets 20 (ρ=1.1766)
    The Steelers had a pretty bad defense this year, they were 2-5 (including the Wildcard playoff loss) when they didn't score at least 27 points. That meant when their offense had a bad game (as it did in this game, with 4 turnovers, a missed field goal, and a turnover on downs) even a pretty bad team could steal a win.
  1. Week 17: Jets 37, Dolphins 24 (ρ=1.1785)
    Both of these teams were out of the playoffs and thus playing out the final game of the season. I suppose the difference was, the Jets had been out of the playoff race much longer, and so were much more in the mood to inflict some pain on their divisional rival.

    It should also be noted that while the Dolphins' defense at times looked good in 2014, the Dolphins were also 2-7 when they didn't score at least 27 points, which (at best) doesn't say much for that defense's consistency.
  1. Week 16: Bills 24, Raiders 26 (ρ=1.1796)
    The Bills needed this game to stay alive for the playoffs. But their defense and running game stayed home, and as I remarked in the week 16 pick results, Kyle Orton wasn't the kind of quarterback that could carry a team in a situation like that, even against the likes of the Raiders.
  1. Week 7: Seahawks 26, Rams 28 (ρ=1.2046)
    Another case where the Seahawks offense spent a big chunk of a game doing a whole lot of not much. They managed to get going late in the game, but the Rams managed one more late touchdown and (unlike the Packers) got a key late assist from their special teams to close out the win.
  1. Week 16: Eagles 24, Washington 27 (ρ=1.2052)
    The Eagles didn't have a good defense this year, as their record of 1-6 when their offense didn't score at least 30 points attests. Washington only scored more than 27 points in two other games (and one of them was in their other game against the Eagles).
  1. Week 12: Chiefs 20, Raiders 24 (ρ=1.2072)
    Looking back on their season, I wonder if the Chiefs suffered an injury to some key offensive player(s) sometime around this game. A big part of the Chiefs problem this season was they mostly lost when they didn't score at least 21 points. For their last 6 games, starting with this one, the Chiefs only made it to 21 points in one game, finishing the season 2-4.
  1. Week 11: Broncos 7, Rams 22 (ρ=1.2230)
    Peyton Manning's injury supposedly happened during the Broncos' week 16 game against the Chargers. But looking back I wonder if there wasn't an earlier injury. In the first 9 games of the season, Manning averaged 3.2 touchdowns a game. From this game to the end of the regular season, Manning averaged 1.4 touchdowns a game, less than half his earlier average. Certainly the Rams' defense deserves a lot of credit for their performance in this game, but I really wonder if Manning was hurt a lot earlier than has been reported.
  1. Week 4: Buccaneers 27, Steelers 24 (ρ=1.2306)
    As mentioned above, the Steelers had a pretty bad defense (here allowing the Buccaneers their second highest point total of the season). The Steelers' offense didn't have as bad a game as against the Jets in week 10, but they were only able to score once in the second half, which opened the door for the Bucs to chip away at the lead, and ultimately take the lead with just a few seconds left on the game clock.
  1. Week 8: Washington 20, Cowboys 17 (OT) (ρ=1.2349)
    Part of this was Tony Romo getting hurt in the 3rd quarter. But even to that point, the Cowboys offense struggled, scoring 7 points on a Washington defense that gave up more points than all but 3 other teams in the league. Brandon Weeden (somewhat miraculously) managed to put 10 points on the board to force overtime, but it just wasn't enough.
  1. Week 1: Titans 26, Chiefs 10 (ρ=1.3249)
    The Titans had what was easily their best game of the year, with Jake Locker throwing a couple touchdowns and no interceptions, and the Titans posting 162 rushing yards. What makes this the biggest upset of the year was the fact that the Titans were easily one of the worst teams in the league in their remaining 15 games, with their only other win coming against the also-very-bad Jaguars.

As a measure of how big an upset the Titans @ Chiefs game was, it would qualify for a spot in APR's top 25 regular season upsets, coming in between #5 (2004 Patriots @ Dolphins) and #6 (2011 Packers @ Chiefs).

As usual, I reserve the right to remove any game I feel was affected by teams resting their starters. Thanks to most teams having something to play for in week 17, no games were disqualified from this list.

Biggest Upsets According to the Line

Winning teams in bold.

Week 9Rams 13, 49ers 1049ers -10
Week 8Washington 20, Cowboys 17 (OT)Cowboys -9½
Week 6Cowboys 30, Seahawks 23Seahawks -8½
Week 2Bears 28, 49ers 2049ers -7
Week 2Saints 24, Browns 26Saints -7
Week 4Buccaneers 27, Steelers 24Steelers -7
Week 5Bills 17, Lions 14Lions -7