Posts tagged ‘Football Outsiders’

NFL is Back, and the Cardinals Still Suck

I enjoy many professional sports casually, attending an event or two every year, but the NFL is by far my favorite.  In the pre-season, there was a lot of hype that maybe the long-time hapless Cardinals would be decent this year.  I knew better, even from the pre-season.   Heck, my 8-year-old daughter knew better.

We went to see the last pre-season game against Denver.  In that game, the Arizona starters played for quite a while against the Denver 2nd team, and got beaten up.  Specifically, they could not run the ball and in turn their defense could not stop the run.  So it was no surprise to see them get blasted in their first regular season game against the Giants. 

The problem with the Cards is this:  They have spent the last several years drafting high-profile position players, including spending a jillion 1st round picks on receivers.  Great teams got that way because they invested in their lines - both O and D, even when such picks might be less popular with the fans on draft day.  The Cards have instead focused on drafting "names" who might help sell season tickets in the new stadium.  This neglect is very apparent today.  It doesn't matter how good your position players are if there are no holes for the backs and the QB is getting plowed to the turf on every play.  This is a 5-11 team that is fortunately playing in the NFL's worst division, so they may eek out 7 wins.  You heard it here first.

By the way, if you are an avid football fan, I recommend two sites to you.  The first is Football Outsiders, who have taken a Bill-James-like approach to football stats, rethinking metrics to provide a better insight into what teams really are good.  Make sure to check out their DVOA rankings - basically they compare every teams performance on every play against other teams in the same situation (e.g. 3rd and 8 on their own 45).  The other site is Greg Easterbrook's always entertaining Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, providing large doses of football clear thinking and haiku.

Final Regular Season Football Outsiders Rankings

Find this week's rankings here.  Incredibly, Buffalo ended the year at number 5, and just a hair from #4, and are on the outside looking in at the playoffs.  I think the Colts are breathing a huge sigh of relief to be facing Denver rather than the Bills in the first round - a fate which they interestingly controlled by tanking the last game of the season, despite their coaches assurances to the contrary.

For the Super Bowl, I am sticking with the Patriots in the AFC.  Its tough not to pick Pittsburgh, who were impressive with even their scrubs beating a surging Buffalo team in the last week.  However, I will go with experience. The NFC is a total mess.  No one has ever lost much money betting against the Eagles to reach the Super Bowl, but everyone else really, really sucks.  Everyone else is an 8-8 team, even the Falcons who should be 8-8 but got away with a few.  I'll go with NE and Philly in the Superbowl, with the AFC winner, whoever they are, taking the title.

By the way, the Cards finished 27th in the rankings, which is actually (pathetically enough) one of their best finishes.  However, don't get cocky.  You can see from this post that the Cardinals are still the standard for mediocrity against which all teams are compared.

Week 16 Football Outsiders Rankings

Football Outsiders has their week 16 football rankings up here.  Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here.

The amazing thing to me is just how bad Atlanta looks in these rankings, at number 19.  In fact, much of the NFC playoff mix looks bad, with ATL, SEA, and GB sitting at 19,20,and 21.  On the flip side, Buffalo and 5 and Baltimore at 7 could be the best teams to miss the playoffs.  Buffalo in particular has really been playing lights out, but they still need some help this week to make the playoffs given their really bad start and the strength of the AFC.

Interestingly, Buffalo gets in if they win and the Colts beat the Broncos.  The Colts are likely to play one of these teams in the first round.  If I were the Colts, I would much much much rather face the Broncos in the first round than the surging Bills.  Bledsoe may be a playoff question mark, but Plummer is even more so.  Therefore, the Colts, despite what Dungee is saying lately, have zero incentive to win this weekend and every reason to take a dive.

Week 14 Football Outsider Rankings

Football Outsiders has their week 14 football rankings up here.  Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here.

The top 4 or 5 teams stay the same, though NE moves to the top, where they belong.  The amount the Philly ranking depends on special teams is still a concern, but no other team in the NFC even cracks the top 10, so Philly's route to the Superbowl looks pretty greased.  Note that while Rothlesberger gets the press, its the Pittsburgh defense that is doing the heavy lifting, moving to #1 in the league, ahead of even Baltimore. 

The underachiever award definitely goes to KC, which is apparently doing well on a play by play basis but can't win games.  Conversely, the overachieving goes to Atlanta, which falls in the middle of the rankings but is 10-3.

Week 13 Football Outsider Rankings

Football Outsiders has their week 13 football rankings up here.  Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here.

Arizona is almost there, in its traditional spot!  It is second from the bottom, but unfortunately San Francisco has the bottom spot nailed down pretty solidly.  I find the Outsiders rankings particularly useful when they diverge from a team's record.  One case in point is the Rams, or Les Mouflons as the Tuesday Morning Quarterback calls them.  Their 6-6 record seems to hide the fact that they are a pretty bad team.  This makes sense, as they have won a couple, like the game with Seattle, that they should have lost.

On the other ends of the scale, its still Philly-NE-IND-PITT at the top.  I like the NE and PIT stats the best, as they have both nice defense and nice offense.  Philly's #1 ranking still worries me - its defense is a bit soft and a lot of their ranking comes from special teams, which are notoriously fickle.  People have jumped off the NE bandwagon a bit, but I still think they are the team to beat.

Week 12 Football Outsiders

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 12 statistical rankings of teams is here.

If you really want to dig into NFL stats, this is a great site.  Also, they just ran their model restrospectively on the year 2000.  And, what do you know, our beloved Arizona Cardinals again came in dead last, with the worst full-season score in the history of the rankings.

Week 10 Football Outsiders Rankings are Up!

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 10 statistical rankings of teams is here.

Despite the win last week, our Arizona Cardinals have finally returned to their usual stomping grounds -- in the bottom 5 teams, along with Miami, Oakland and San Francisco.  Hard to argue about these teams being the worst.  Perhaps the biggest surprise is the team fifth from the bottom - Dallas.  Cowboy haters rejoice.  Parcel's record of second year improvement seems to be in serious trouble.  If the season ended today, San Francisco would set the record for the worst statistical performance since these guys started keeping the stats, beating the second worst team, the 2002 Cardinals and the third worst team, the 2003 Cardinals, but just shy of the 2002 performance of the expansion Texans.  (Gotta love our Cards).

The top three, unsurprisingly, are New England, Philly and Pittsburgh.  New England has taken the top spot, which is where I think they belong.  For a while, Philly's special teams rank was carrying them, but history in these rankings has shown that special teams ranks are very volatile and tend to regress to the mean.  Philly's soft defense may well spell another playoff disappointment for the Eagles.

Week 9 Football Outsiders is Up

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 9 statistical rankings of teams is here.

Miami still can't nail down that bottom spot. San Francisco and the Raiders both have fallen below the Fish (so much for Bay Area football). Miami has the worst offense in the league by a HUGE margin, but its defense keeps it off the bottom, as it probably should:  A good defense will win you a few games, no matter how bad the offense is.  My Arizona Cardinals continue to fall, down to their rightful place in the bottom quartile, despite having a pretty good defense. At the top, Pittsburgh, New England and Philly are threatening to run away and hide, which just goes to show that every once in a while, BCS notwithstanding, computers and common sense can converge.

Week 8 Football Outsiders is Up

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 8 statistical rankings of teams is here.

Miami assumes its rightful position back at the bottom of the list. The surprise, at least based on pre-season expectations, is to see the Titans in the bottom 5. My Cardinals continue to regress back to mediocrity, though their defense remains among the 10 best -- last week against Buffalo was more of an Offense and Special Teams failure than a defensive lapse.

I don't think anyone can disagree with the Outsiders' top 3. KC at number four doesn't seem right to me; however, for some reason, both this season and last, their statistical system seems to over-rank KC.

Week 7 Football Outsiders is Up

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 7 statistical rankings of teams is here.

A couple of observations. For the first time in recent memory, our hapless Arizona Cardinals crack the top half of the rankings. Woohoo. Arizona is ranked 5th in total defense, and first in rush defense. Good thing, since we can't score to save our lives. Also of note, Miami pulls out of last place, ceding the spot to cap-hangover suffering San Francisco. I can't believe the Cards lost to those guys in the fourth quarter. Yeah, I know what you are thinking - you can't believe anyone really cares about the Cards.

Also, this weeks Tuesday Morning Quarterback is up. Always entertaining.

New Football Outsiders Rankings Up

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their new weekly statistical rankings are up.

Unsurprisingly, Philadelphia is number 1 (by a huge margin) and New England is number 2. The real surprise is that Miami is NOT last - storied Green Bay is.

Also, this week's Tuesday Morning Quarterback is up.

Rethinking Football Metrics

I find that most experienced managers have become experts at identifying and gaming flaws in measurement systems. The in and outs of measurement systems have always interested me, both in business and in sports (how about that segue-way?)

Those of you who are baseball fans may be familiar with Bill James. Bill James came to the conclusion that baseball stats really didn't say very much about what went on in a game, and were misleading in evaluating individual performance. He and people like him have asked questions like "is RBI production really a fair measure of individual performance (since it depends on teammates getting on base)" and "why are walks left out of traditional hitting stats". My post is really on football, but if these baseball questions interest you, check out the book Moneyball.

Much like these baseball stat pioneers, there are a number of people trying to rethink football statistics. For example, is total yardage given up a good measure of defensive productivity? Won't a mediocre defense on a team with a great offense that grinds out 8 minute drives sometimes look better on this stat than a good defense on a team with an offense that is always 3 and out? A site called Football Outsiders is one example of the search for better football understanding. If you are numerically inclined, and are tired of the "its all about execution, about taking it one game at a time" football analysis, check these guys out.