Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Oct 2012

Week 5 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

With the best single-game performance by any team so far this year, the San Francisco 49ers this week leap ahead of the rest of the league and into the top spot of the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. The 49ers' rating for Weeks 1-5 is so strong that it overwhelms their (now clearly erroneous) mediocre preseason forecast so that they are also No. 1 in our DAVE ratings. The DVOA gap between the 49ers and the No. 2 Houston Texans is larger than the gap between the Texans and No. 10 Seattle. Surprisingly, the 49ers are dominating even though our prediction of regression towards the mean does seem to be coming true in one area: San Francisco is currently only 24th on special teams. If that unit comes around, they'll be even better.

The gap between San Francisco and the rest of the league is matched by a large gap that has now opened up between the top dozen teams and the rest of the league. In fact, only those top dozen teams have positive total DVOA ratings; No. 13 St. Louis is at -1.5%. I would love to say that this works out to a clear prediction of "deserving" playoff teams, but it doesn't, since our top dozen consists of seven NFC teams and only five AFC teams. In addition, our top 12 probably won't look much like the top 12 on other websites around the Internets because of the fact that DVOA is looking at individual play-by-play rather than win-loss records. This season has seen an awful lot of close games, and as a result the DVOA ratings don't particularly match the standings. Forty-four of 75 games so far this year have finished with scores within a touchdown (eight points). That's 59 percent; the only other year since 1994 that was over 55 percent was 1999 at 63 percent.

And so, we've got 4-1 Arizona down at No. 14, essentially tied with the 1-3 Detroit Lions. We've got 3-2 Cincinnati way down at No. 25. The last remaining winless team, Cleveland, is nowhere near last place; in 27th, the Browns are almost as close to average as they are to last-place Tennessee. And we've got two different 2-3 teams in the top ten: Green Bay and Denver. I went back and looked, and Green Bay and Denver are two of the best 2-3 teams we've ever encountered. Here's a list of the best 2-3 teams in DVOA history:

Top DVOA with 2-3 Record, 1991-2012
YEAR TEAM DVOA FINAL
W-L
FINAL
DVOA
2005 SD 40.1% 9-7 23.3%
2012 GB 26.0% -- --
1996 DAL 25.8% 10-6 24.0%
2008 PHI 25.7% 9-6-1 31.8%
2012 DEN 22.3% -- --
1994 GB 20.1% 9-7 21.9%
2010 SD 16.6% 9-7 15.4%
2008 SD 16.5% 8-8 15.3%
2000 DEN 16.3% 11-5 16.0%
1991 SF 13.1% 10-6 26.0%

Boy, the Chargers sure do have a habit of bad starts recently, don't they? Here's the P-F-R page for that 2005 Chargers team, which had two dominant wins and three close losses in their first five games. They ended up winning seven of the next nine, including a win over the previously unbeaten Colts, but lost their last two games and ended up 9-7 and out of the playoffs.

With five weeks gone by, I also wanted to take a look at the best and worst players by DYAR and DVOA. Here's a review, position by position:

QUARTERBACKS: Eli Manning is leading the league in both DYAR and DVOA after five games, and the Manning brothers are actually 1-2 in DYAR, although Matt Schaub and Tom Brady are both ahead of Peyton in DVOA. Unless he had a particularly awesome Week 1 game that I don't remember, I believe this is the first time the younger Manning has been on top of our quarterback table. For all the huffing and puffing about the struggles of last year's big three quarterbacks, DYAR suggests things aren't that bad: Brady is third in DYAR, Drew Brees is seventh, and Aaron Rodgers is ninth. Other advanced metrics, however, disagree with the "Brees and Rodgers are better than you think" idea, starting with ESPN's Total QBR. Now that we're posting Total QBR on FO along with DVOA, the big differences between where the two metrics rank players can be somewhat glaring. That's a subject for another article. I e-mailed Dean Oliver today so we could put a piece together on why DVOA and Total QBR disagree about certain players; look for that in a day or two.

One thing all advanced metrics can agree on: Blaine Gabbert has been awful.

RUNNING BACKS: C.J. Spiller started out the season lapping the field, and he still does according to DVOA, but injuries (and Buffalo losing) have limited him to 19 carries over the past three weeks, so he's no longer on top in DYAR. That spot now belongs to Stevan Ridley. Frank Gore and Ray Rice round out the top four (in both DYAR and DVOA). BenJarvus Green-Ellis used to have Ridley's spot in the New England lineup. Now he's in Cincinnati and he's near the bottom of the DYAR ratings with Shonn Greene, Ryan Williams, and Chris Johnson. There are some fairly notable gaps between DVOA and VOA among running backs, even with opponent adjustments only at 50 percent strength. DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and Steven Jackson have all seen their numbers depressed by tough schedules so far, while Alfred Morris and Willis McGahee have benefitted from easy schedules.

Joique Bell (!?!?!) leads all running backs in receiving DYAR. No, really. Also, the Cleveland running backs are surprisingly strong in receiving DYAR even though they are generally dumpoff options in a bad passing game.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Wasn't Julio Jones supposed to surpass Roddy White as the main man in Atlanta? It is true they've seen roughly the same number of pass targets, but White leads all wide receivers in DYAR while Jones is 45th. Calvin Johnson is second, Torrey Smith is third. Down at the bottom of the DYAR ratings you'll find a couple of rookies who are being held back by their quarterback situations, Justin Blackmon and Kendall Wright. Wright has -72 DYAR despite a 61 percent catch rate, which is pretty remarkable. Seven of his 27 catches have been "failed completes" by our standards because they've gained so few yards; an eighth catch was also a failure because he fumbled it away.

TIGHT ENDS: Tony Gonzalez will never die. He leads the league in DYAR, with a nice big gap between him and No. 2 Vernon Davis. Heath Miller is having a surprisingly good season, and Brandon Myers (surprise!) is first in DVOA among tight ends with at least 10 pass targets. Benjamin Watson is down at the bottom of our list, along with a couple of very surprising names, Jimmy Graham and Peyton Manning favorite Jacob Tamme.

All stats pages should now be updated. FO Premium stats will also be updated later this evening. Our snap counts page now features season snap totals to date, and within the next couple days we will be adding percentage of team snaps for those season totals.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through five weeks of 2012, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league average based on situation in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.)

OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season.

Because it is early in the season, opponent strength is at only 50 percent; it will increase 10 percent every week through Week 10. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason projection with current DVOA to get a more accurate forecast of how a team will play the rest of the season. Right now, the preseason projection makes up 27 percent of DAVE (40 percent for teams with only four games played).

To save people some time, please use the following format for all complaints:

<team> is clearly ranked <too high/too low> because <reason unrelated to DVOA>. <subjective ranking system> is way better than this. <unrelated team-supporting or -denigrating comment, preferably with poor spelling and/or chat-acceptable spelling>

TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
TOTAL
DAVE
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 SF 47.0% 2 34.2% 1 4-1 28.8% 3 -21.2% 4 -3.0% 24
2 HOU 33.8% 1 25.7% 5 5-0 19.5% 4 -26.7% 2 -12.3% 30
3 CHI 33.0% 8 27.9% 3 4-1 -5.6% 17 -32.4% 1 6.2% 5
4 ATL 29.1% 4 27.0% 4 5-0 14.9% 7 -9.9% 10 4.4% 8
5 NE 29.0% 3 31.2% 2 3-2 32.4% 1 1.6% 17 -1.9% 22
6 GB 26.0% 7 25.4% 6 2-3 18.0% 5 -5.9% 12 2.0% 11
7 MIN 23.5% 9 12.4% 10 4-1 4.6% 12 -11.2% 9 7.7% 3
8 NYG 23.1% 10 19.5% 7 3-2 29.5% 2 8.2% 21 1.8% 12
9 DEN 22.3% 5 17.6% 8 2-3 14.2% 8 -8.0% 11 0.1% 17
10 SEA 21.7% 11 11.9% 11 3-2 -11.5% 22 -24.9% 3 8.3% 2
11 BAL 16.2% 6 14.4% 9 4-1 11.4% 10 -3.2% 15 1.7% 13
12 MIA 12.5% 12 6.2% 12 2-3 -5.7% 19 -18.3% 5 -0.1% 18
13 STL -1.5% 18 -13.7% 26 3-2 -19.6% 28 -14.4% 8 3.7% 10
14 ARI -2.6% 14 -7.2% 19 4-1 -18.9% 27 -14.7% 7 1.6% 14
15 DET -3.8% 16 -4.3% 14 1-3 16.9% 6 6.6% 20 -14.1% 32
16 SD -5.4% 15 -5.0% 15 3-2 -6.1% 20 -0.1% 16 0.5% 15
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
TOTAL
DAVE
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
17 PHI -8.6% 13 -5.1% 16 3-2 -14.7% 24 -15.0% 6 -8.9% 28
18 IND -11.5% 20 -12.1% 23 2-2 3.0% 13 10.6% 25 -3.9% 26
19 DAL -12.0% 25 -6.1% 17 2-2 -12.5% 23 -4.9% 13 -4.4% 27
20 WAS -12.2% 22 -9.0% 21 2-3 11.5% 9 10.4% 24 -13.3% 31
21 PIT -13.8% 28 0.3% 13 2-2 2.3% 14 15.8% 26 -0.3% 19
22 CAR -14.4% 17 -8.2% 20 1-4 -5.6% 18 5.4% 19 -3.4% 25
23 TB -14.7% 26 -11.1% 22 1-3 -17.2% 26 -3.8% 14 -1.2% 21
24 NO -15.0% 21 -6.9% 18 1-4 6.3% 11 21.8% 31 0.5% 16
25 CIN -17.3% 19 -13.0% 25 3-2 -1.3% 16 20.5% 28 4.4% 7
26 NYJ -17.7% 27 -12.4% 24 2-3 -24.9% 31 2.5% 18 9.7% 1
27 CLE -22.4% 24 -22.4% 29 0-5 -16.7% 25 9.8% 22 4.1% 9
28 BUF -28.6% 23 -19.8% 27 2-3 -7.5% 21 26.8% 32 5.7% 6
29 OAK -31.3% 31 -21.6% 28 1-3 -0.1% 15 21.5% 30 -9.7% 29
30 KC -35.6% 32 -24.9% 30 1-4 -23.6% 30 9.8% 23 -2.1% 23
31 JAC -37.3% 29 -30.7% 32 1-4 -20.4% 29 16.4% 27 -0.5% 20
32 TEN -40.7% 30 -30.0% 31 1-4 -27.1% 32 20.7% 29 7.1% 4
  • NON-ADJUSTED TOTAL DVOA does not include the adjustments for opponent strength or the adjustments for weather and altitude in special teams, and only penalizes offenses for lost fumbles rather than all fumbles.
  • ESTIMATED WINS uses a statistic known as "Forest Index" that emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close. It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles. Teams that have had their bye week are projected as if they had played one game per week.
  • PAST SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • FUTURE SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents still left to play this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).



TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
1 SF 47.0% 4-1 52.0% 5.0 1 -0.1% 15 10.7% 6 9.7% 16
2 HOU 33.8% 5-0 41.4% 4.4 2 -12.2% 30 -0.5% 13 3.5% 5
3 CHI 33.0% 4-1 40.2% 4.2 5 -7.2% 23 10.0% 7 25.0% 31
4 ATL 29.1% 5-0 36.7% 4.1 6 -9.1% 27 -9.9% 27 10.6% 19
5 NE 29.0% 3-2 37.8% 3.8 7 -6.7% 21 1.2% 11 9.9% 18
6 GB 26.0% 2-3 18.0% 3.5 10 15.0% 3 4.3% 9 12.4% 20
7 MIN 23.5% 4-1 30.8% 4.2 4 -9.3% 28 12.6% 4 1.1% 2
8 NYG 23.1% 3-2 26.7% 3.6 9 -14.4% 31 2.5% 10 18.3% 29
9 DEN 22.3% 2-3 13.1% 4.2 3 9.4% 8 -16.4% 32 5.0% 9
10 SEA 21.7% 3-2 18.9% 3.7 8 -0.9% 17 12.5% 5 4.6% 7
11 BAL 16.2% 4-1 21.8% 3.0 12 -11.0% 29 -4.5% 18 15.0% 26
12 MIA 12.5% 2-3 14.2% 3.4 11 -7.0% 22 -3.6% 17 8.3% 14
13 STL -1.5% 3-2 -2.6% 2.3 13 7.2% 10 13.0% 3 3.1% 4
14 ARI -2.6% 4-1 -7.6% 2.2 15 10.6% 6 16.0% 1 5.0% 8
15 DET -3.8% 1-3 -7.4% 2.3 14 7.1% 11 13.8% 2 5.1% 10
16 SD -5.4% 3-2 4.6% 2.1 17 -18.7% 32 -9.7% 25 12.6% 21
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
17 PHI -8.6% 3-2 -9.0% 2.1 16 0.1% 13 -5.6% 22 6.1% 12
18 IND -11.5% 2-2 -15.9% 1.7 22 11.3% 5 -9.8% 26 3.6% 6
19 DAL -12.0% 2-2 -17.0% 1.9 19 15.7% 1 -4.7% 20 13.6% 23
20 WAS -12.2% 2-3 -1.1% 1.5 25 -3.9% 20 -0.5% 14 1.8% 3
21 PIT -13.8% 2-2 -2.8% 1.5 24 -8.8% 26 -10.8% 30 14.1% 25
22 CAR -14.4% 1-4 -14.8% 1.9 21 8.8% 9 -4.6% 19 16.0% 27
23 TB -14.7% 1-3 -9.5% 1.6 23 -3.9% 19 -1.9% 15 6.5% 13
24 NO -15.0% 1-4 -7.9% 1.3 27 -8.3% 24 5.0% 8 0.8% 1
25 CIN -17.3% 3-2 -8.8% 1.9 20 -8.6% 25 -7.4% 24 13.8% 24
26 NYJ -17.7% 2-3 -20.7% 2.0 18 10.2% 7 -3.2% 16 18.6% 30
27 CLE -22.4% 0-5 -15.6% 0.9 30 -3.0% 18 -10.4% 28 13.5% 22
28 BUF -28.6% 2-3 -30.3% 1.4 26 0.1% 14 -0.2% 12 40.5% 32
29 OAK -31.3% 1-3 -26.4% 0.9 29 3.9% 12 -10.8% 31 8.6% 15
30 KC -35.6% 1-4 -42.6% 1.1 28 -0.7% 16 -10.7% 29 16.0% 28
31 JAC -37.3% 1-4 -43.3% 0.8 31 12.3% 4 -6.6% 23 9.7% 17
32 TEN -40.7% 1-4 -51.5% 0.3 32 15.4% 2 -4.7% 21 5.8% 11

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 09 Oct 2012

222 comments, Last at 12 Oct 2012, 5:23am by BigCheese

Comments

1
by elroy1 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 5:53pm

thisll go down once buf and nyj continue to implode and sf gets beat by seattle

2
by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 5:56pm

I was hoping to be able to ask "when was the last time the Rams had positive DVOA?".

I'll settle for "when was the last time the Rams were in the top half of DVOA?"

21
by Vandal :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:36pm

When Mike Martz was the coach.

112
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:26am

Just been through and checked the end of year positions. The last year we finished in the top half or with positive DVOA was 2003, when our 12-4 finish was worth a 14th place finish with 1.3% DVOA. Our end-of-year DVOA since then has been so bad (best since then is -15.3% in 2006) that I can't imagine us being above average (either above 0% or 16th or better for much more than a random early season week.

3
by Alexander :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 5:57pm

Chicago offense: Still bad.

18
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:31pm

Although less bad than usual. In fact if they finished with the 17th ranked offense, it would be the highest in Lovie Smith's tenure.

They're best DVOA was -5% in 2006, which is slightly better than their current offense.

41
by dbt :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 8:01pm

Just mediocre! I'll take it.

4
by JIPanick :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:02pm

Total QBR is an "advanced metric"?

...

Want to buy a bridge in Brooklyn?

8
by An Anonymous Reader (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:12pm

Advanced doesn't have to mean 'good'

125
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 9:43am

I suspect that FO's relationship with ESPN comes into play here. This isn't a knock on FO at all, because it's a business.

And QBR likes Andrew Luck more than FO's stats, so I like it. If it stops liking him, then I'll hate it. I like my stats like I like my news coverage -- a totally biased echo chamber.

127
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 9:51am

They should really have ANY/A up there next to VOA if they're going to have QBR.

163
by not Verified (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:08pm

I remember when QBR first came out I was not impressed. But now the only reason I can remeber not liking it was the "clutch" adjustment. Are there any other major flaws?

166
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:20pm

It doesn't adjust for quality of opposing defense. They said they didn't want to do that because they wanted to evaluate the quarterbacks and not the defense they faced. As if the quarterback plays in a vacuum. That's number one among many reasons to me that it's a flawed advanced metric.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

186
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:10pm

VOA doesn't adjust for defenses either. It's just important to keep in mind what the stat is actually telling you. It's telling you what the guy actually did in the past, not what he MIGHT do against a theoretical average defense in the future. There's still value in that information, even if it's not as predictive.

168
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:23pm

A lot of it is based on subjective ratings from ESPN scouts.

176
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:05pm

Wow, is that really true? In that case I have less respect for it than I did before.

In additon to the "clutch" category, might as well add one called "moxy" (QB#4 who will not be named is the all-time leader), and another category called called "sulk" (Jay Cutler and Cam Newton would score poorly).

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

207
by dbostedo :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 8:44am

This ESPN article explains what goes into QBR. Some of it is based on game charting, for instance in order to credit drops and INT to receivers or the QB.

But I wouldn't call that relying on scouts, or anything quite that specious. It does make it a bit more subjective though. And I hate the clutch index. The lack of defensive adjustment is fine, but they should acknowledge that more when using it in their articles and shows, rather than seeming to say "we have this advanced stat now, so it's telling you exactly who's good and who's bad".

5
by kbukie :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:02pm

"This season has seen an awful lot of close games, and as a result the DVOA ratings don't particularly match the standings. Forty-four of 75 games so far this year have finished with scores within a touchdown (eight points). That's 59 percent; the only other year since 1994 that was over 55 percent was 1999 at 63 percent."

Oddly enough, none of that 59 percent includes Chicago, whose closest result has been 13 points (23-10 loss in GB).

6
by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:03pm

I think the W/L records for SF/Houston are swapped.

Also, while we are on the subject (we are actually not), do you think the Packers will be able to keep up their current production and have a good season? My eyes tell me I have seen some ugly play on both offense and defense, but these numbers are telling me I am not smart at all.

7
by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:05pm

Actually, maybe I am not smart. The W/L records are not swapped. Oops.

16
by ammek :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:28pm

They've played the defenses ranked 1, 3 and 4 so far. They face 2, 7 and 8 in the next month. Ain't going to be easy.

The D-bit in DVOA is really difficult to perceive when you watch one team on a regular basis. But it's how you end up with a 15-percentage point adjustment between Minnesota's and Green Bay's VOA and DVOA.

9
by kbukie :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:15pm

Another weird potential scenario:

There's a possibility that only two AFC teams would be above .500 after this week if New England, Pittsburgh, Indy, Cincinnati and San Diego all lose, and the least likely of those might just be Pittsburgh, which is in Tennessee this week Thursday.

10
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:17pm

With regards to the 49ers special teams DVOA, they seem to be missing Blake Costanzo who left for the Bears. We did keep hold of one of our other top special teams performers from last year, CJ Spillman, who has been bloody awful. He lost contain on McKelvin last week, running straight past him which allowed McKelvin to escape and nearly score. He has been responsible for penalties on at least four punts and kicks, including one where he managed to knock an Andy Lee punt into the endzone while simultaneously getting an illegal touching penalty for being the first to touch the ball after going out of bounds, that one boneheaded error cost 25 yards. He has turned from being one of our best special teamers into a liability.

48
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 8:45pm

Also they're missing Colin Jones, another special-teams ace, and they released Rock Cartwright, a guy brought in primarily for his special-teams ability.

In their place, the 9ers have a slew of skill-position players who make no contribution to special teams whatsoever.

In short, they seem to have redirected a lot of resources from special teams to offense. I'm wondering if they didn't make a conscious investment in special teams last year because it's a cheap and easy way to improve one of your units without needing an entire off season to install. Now that the team has a year of familiarity with their complex offense, and an entire off season, I'm thinking offense would be a more attractive investment.

So, "reversion" on special teams might be something they've consciously done to some extent. I'm wondering if some of the volatility of year-on-year special-teams performance is because it's rare for special teams units to remain constant. They are usually stocked with bottom-of-the-roster guys, after all.

At any rate, this site certainly was not the only advanced-statistics site predicting regression for the 9ers for all the same reasons.

62
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:22pm

I'm convinced that part of the reason that offense is more stable than defense is because so much of the production is dependent on the quarterback, if you approximate 30% of offensive production to the quarterback then offense would be less variable because one player is less variable than eleven. Another factor in offensive stability is probably that offensive coaches have more control over their product than defensive coaches as they set the formation and personnel use.

Defenses will be less stable year on year because pretty much every player on the starting eleven (and key reserves) counts. The key special teamers who don't kick or return punts will probably have the highest turnover of any group, which will increase their instability.

The 49ers brought back their best eleven on defense but didn't for special teams.

And you are quite right that I did miss Colin Jones.

84
by Little Bobby Tables (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:04pm

"In short, they seem to have redirected a lot of resources from special teams to offense. I'm wondering if they didn't make a conscious investment in special teams last year because it's a cheap and easy way to improve one of your units without needing an entire off season to install."

I think this is totally on point, and I'd add that its something that a lot of good coaches do. The most recent example I can thnk of is Pete Carroll in 2010, when he inherited a terrible roster from Holmgren. He used the last 4 or 5 spots for special teamers, including former 49er Michael Robinson, and saw his ST unit go from 15th in 2009 to 2nd overall in 2010. And just like the 49ers, the unit's success dropped off the following year as they started investing resources elsewhere.

131
by claude balls (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 9:59am

"I'd add that its something that a lot of good coaches do"

From your example, it's also something that Pete Carroll does.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

11
by Jerry :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:17pm

Heath Miller is having a surprisingly good season

He's actually been good throughout his career (blocking, too), but the Steelers prefer to throw to their outside receivers. When defenses take the wideouts away, Miller has always been dependable over the middle. Better numbers this year just means more targets.

34
by Rocco :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:34pm

It also helps that the tackles for Pittsburgh are good enough this year that Miller doesn't have to stay in and block to help them out. They aren't great or anything, but Starks/Gilbert are plausibly competent. The guard play is still a disaster.

219
by rk (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 1:13pm

Yeah, they're a huge upgrade over last year's tackles...Starks and Gilbert.

12
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:19pm

Last eight teams are from the AFC and only two of the top eight from that conference. Does the conference really suck that much or is this a statistical mirage?

20
by ammek :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:32pm

They're beautifully distributed as well. Two from each division, almost in order.

On a somewhat related note, is anyone else surprised by the non-terribleness of Carson Palmer on an offense with, let's say, underwhelming talent?

106
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:45am

Palmer has almost always been pretty good. He's just played on offenses with overrated talent, especially at the receiver position; it isn't an accident that T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson were out of the league practically the instant they stopped catching passes from him. He had some rough years with niggling injuries, but he's a real talent.

Playing in a vertical offense with a terrible offensive line and receivers drafted by Al Davis isn't going to do anything for his completion percentage, but Cincinnati made a mistake letting him go (although they did get quite a haul).

108
by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:54am

Cincinnati made a mistake letting him go

He wasn't going to play again for them anyway, so may as well take the draft picks and run away before the Raiders change their offer.

He was never the same after Kimo von Oelhoffen crashed into his knee. (Not that it was all because of that hit - didn't he end up having two shoulder surgeries too?)

138
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:35am

I think he had elbow problems, like Jake Delhomme. I always suspected those were related in some way to the knee injury too. Having your knee torn up is bound to alter your throwing motion, potentially in a way that increases your chances of injuring your arm.

123
by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 8:57am

Its not the receivers drafted by Al Davis that are the problem. Its the lack of healthy receivers drafted by Al Davis that is the problem. One of them (Ford) went straight on IR whilst Moore and Heyward-Bey have both missed games due to injury/cheapshots. As for the O-line - its taken a step back as there is little depth (Barnes and Wiz have missed time) and the new zone blocking scheme is taking some getting used to - I'm not convinced say Wiz and Valdheer have suddenly taken a step back talent-wise. And more importantly than anything, the amount of penalties has plummeted. The Denver game was horrible, but there are signs of life here.

The defense on the other hand has been terrible - but thats what happens when you let your reserve 2nd yr CBs go in the past week before the season starts and the two veteran starters get hurt, and you play Roethlisberger, Rivers and Manning. So 3/4 in the secondary aren't there (as Huff is playing CB). Curry at LB is also out and so a later-round rookie is starting - and they are really missing Wimbley in the passrush - Shaughnessy has been a big disappointment in his return from missing '11. And the less said about JaMarcus McClain the better....

The Miami game was disappointing but they bounced back well vs the Steelers. Denver was horrible but it was hardly the ideal matchup given the CB situation. And if it hadn't been for Condo's concussion in week 1, Oakland would probably be 2-2. Lots to improve here and they'll get killed by Atlanta, but its not as bad as it looks at first glance - the main problem is some horrible injuries exposing a complete lack of depth. Given that its only week 4, that will only get worse unfortunately. I'm thinking 5-11 masking at team that should bounce back well for a playoff run for Reggie Season 2.0.

63
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:22pm

The AFC is way down.

There appear to be at most three teams that could conceivably play in a Super Bowl (NE, Hou, and Bal). The Steelers' D is on the decline. The Jets have somehow collapsed completely over the past two years, and the injuries this season are not helping. Denver isn't quite elite. The Chargers are very unreliable. The bottom eight are just bad.

76
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:20pm

The AFC is way down.

There appear to be at most three teams that could conceivably play in a Super Bowl (NE, Hou, and Bal). The Steelers' D is on the decline. The Jets have somehow collapsed completely over the past two years, and the injuries this season are not helping. Denver isn't quite elite. The Chargers are very unreliable. The bottom eight are just bad.

(Sorry for the duplicate...a double click.)

71
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:51pm

I think by the end of the year, Denver will be in that top category. What hurts them is that the top three all have good ground games. Their schedule gets really easy, and they can run off a nice 8-1 type stretch.

Overall, the AFC is weak. The saddest part is some of those bottom eight have some sort of chance. Indy might make the playoffs, same with Miami. I really would want to be the #3 seed.

120
by BJR :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 7:55am

Indy has a really solid shot at getting a wildcard assuming they are non-terrible. 7 of their remaining 12 games are against teams currently ranked in the bottom 7 of DVOA. And in week 17 I would say there is a high likelihood they will be playing against Houston's scrubs.

158
by Noah of Arkadia :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:32pm

Miami is one of 12 teams with positive DVOA right now. They also barely missed the cut for top 10 2-3 teams in the last 10 years. They're schedule is not hard. And they underachieved in pythagorean wins last year.

Just last week I was skeptical, but right now I like their chances.

------
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

200
by Michael19531 :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 12:05am

I agree with Rick 100%. The Balt/Hou and Hou/NE games down the road will have huge implications for playoff seeding.

A caveat to that is of course injuries. Hou lost ILB Brian Cushing for the season so that could really hurt.

I wonder if the Outsider contributers could give us some sort of an estimate of how much Hou's defensive DVOA will decline w/o Cushing and how much it could impact their w/l record.

201
by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 12:10am

Considering they've been really wrong on Houston's defense with Cushing, I wouldn't trust them to give us a good estimation of what the defense would be without him.

I kid, I kid.

My guess is it hurts, but not too much. Their pass defense is their greatest asset, and I think there are more important pieces that they still have.

205
by Michael19531 :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 12:38am

If you look at Chicago's defensive statistics, both conventional and advanced, since 2004, they've been in the top 10 or so every year EXCEPT one.

That year would be 2009. The Bears lost MLB Brian Uhrlacher for the season after week 1 with a fractured wrist and their defense collapsed.

I remember Brian Billick and Mike Mayock breaking down the Bears/Bengals game later that season on the NFL Playbook show. In that game, Bengals rb Cedric Benson had a great game, rushing for something like 150 yards and helping Carson Palmer throwing 4 or 5 tds, mostly off of play action.

Anyway, Billick & Mayock used the coaches tape to illustrate that a big reason Benson did so well was that Uhrlacher's replacement (Hunter Hillemayer I believe) kept filling in the wrong gaps whenever the Bears went 8 in the box, giving Benson a clear choice on where to go.

I know that the Bears use a 4-3 Cover 2 D most of the time while Houston uses a 3-4, so in that regard that situation (Uhrlacher's season ending injury) may not be a good comparison for now (Cushing's injury). It may not be as dramactic as Uhrlacher's injury, but Cushing's injury has got to have SOME kind of impact.

13
by Paddy Pat :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:20pm

DVOA quietly hints at a possible NE-SEA upset in the making. That will be very interesting, should it come to pass.

19
by MJK :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:32pm

An upset because SEA wins? Or because NE wins?

I'm a huge NE fan, but with the Seattle defense playing as well as it is, and the game being in SEA (where the crowd noise may well negate the fast pace no-huddle the Pats like to run), I see this game as being almost purely a 50-50% proposition for the Pats... I'm not sure you could call either team winning an upset...

46
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 8:28pm

I agree. A 3-2 team beating another 3-2 team at home should not be considered an upset. The Vegas line is NE -3.5. I think the spread has to be a bit bigger than that (as it was against the Cardinals).

14
by Mood_Indigo (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:23pm

Unless the regression theorem accounts for front office competence (or incompetence), I doubt it will ever be a reliable predictor. 49er fans, especially those who had also followed Harbaugh during his Stanford years, were pretty confident that regression-to-the-mean (RTM) would fail abysmally for the Niners this season. Why? The primary reason is that the Niners are a very deep team. It's so deep that they can't find a place in their game day roster for their top two draft picks. Brandon Jacobs was a healthy scratch last week. Hence, injuries, the primary factor in RTM, is less of an issue with the Niners. Second, the Niners offense was only going to improve with talent infusion at receiver position and an off-season learning the new offensive scheme. Third, the Niners brought back all their top-rated defensive starters. OTOH, I was certain that the special teams would regress because they did not resign Blake Costanzo and traded Colin Jones to the Panthers. They were two of the three most important pieces of their coverage unit. I doubt the Niners. ST will improve much despite Brad Seely's coaching.

17
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:28pm

Does anyone know if the 49ers are deep on defense? They had so few injuries last year, the backups have not played much.

If Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, or Goldson go down, is there someone who can pick up the slack?

24
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:45pm

Patrick Willis isn't even the primary nickle or dime linebacker-they actually remove him and keep bowman. And last year they lost willis and grant filled in just fine. Their corner depth is pretty good too with brown and culliver. Goldson really isn't that good, hes a gambler and is often out of position. His corners have bailed him out repeatedly when teams have tested the 49ers deep.

The real stalwarts that cannot afford to be lost are the two Smiths imo. Losing either would be big but the defense has enough overall talent that it wouldn't sink them the way the jets are now sunk without revis.

28
by zenbitz :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:52pm

That's not true - Bowman and Willis alternate series in the dime. It just doesn't appear that way because in the GB game Bowmen ended up with the long serieses in dime.

The Niners are very thin at OLB and DE - they never rotate either. Larry Grant is capable ILB backup. I think they would be stretched by injuries in the secondary, but they are very dependent on any one player - they are all above average.

114
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:35am

The 49ers are just not deep at pass-rusher. They have other guys who are fairly decent that they can slot in at DE and OLB if either of the Smiths went down, but none of them offer particularly much of a pass rush.

142
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:47am

Are there any teams that are deep at pass rusher? Genuinely asking -- I'd think good ones were rare enough that it's hard to have two on a team, let alone three.

144
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 11:00am

Fair point.

Off the top of my head there's:
Giants
Cardinals (assuming Acho, Campbell and Dockett all count as good pass rushers)
Bengals (Atkins, Dunlap and Johnson)
Bears (Peppers, Melton, Idonije looked good against the Rams [who doesn't?] and McClellin looks good)
Bills (on paper)
Eagles (for some reason I think they have someone else on top of Babin and Cole, although I can't remember who)
Texans (Watt, Barwin, Reed)
Lions (everyone)

I think I'm stretching it a bit. I think my thought was generally that teams normally have a young guy or two who can be a situational pass rusher if one of their main guys go down, and the 49ers didn't appear to. Of course, the 49ers do actually have Ahmad Brooks who has done OK I think.

188
by canofcorn66 :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:15pm

The Eagles have rookies Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry, though I can't testify to whether they've been any good. Cullen Jenkins, also, and he's decent for a DT pass-rusher but not excellent, I'd say.

Then again, it depends if we define pass-rushing depth as "total number of players who are good at pressuring the quarterback" or "total players at traditional pass rushing positions (DE/OLB)." To me, the latter is more like depth, since really the question is "if Jared Allen goes down, is there someone to take his spot." But let's include DTs for now anyway. If the above is the baseline we're using, I think we could add:

Seahawks (Bryant, Clemons, Irvin)
Rams (Quinn & Long, Brockers and Langford have looked strong)
Vikings (Allen, Robison, KWilliams, Griffen)

220
by cjfarls :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:44pm

Denver looks significantly better after adding the rookies Wolfe and Jackson to the DE/DT rotations (added to Doom/Miller, et. al.). But yeah, if Doom/Miller go down the team takes a big hit.

I think the bigger change was adding Miller to Doom last year... when Doom went down in 2010, there literally no one left that could reliably beat one-on-one blocking and the whole DEF collapsed from mediocre to absolutely horrid. Now, even if one of the 2 elite guys goes down, there is still at least one elite passrusher on the team to compliment the rest if the D-line.

192
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 5:16pm

In addition for the Bears, Okoye is a solid pass rushing DT, and Corey Wooton has 3.5 sacks on the year. They currently have 5 players with 2 or more sacks

25
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:45pm

Ricky Jean Francois would be the first man off the bench on the defensive line, he's a pretty good run defender (replaced Sopoaga against the Jets) but the pass rush suffers when he is asked to step in for the ends, as happened when he replaced McDonald last year.

At linebacker, Larry Grant is a decent back up inside and it's Clark Haggans on the outside, which I think would be a huge step back, they really rely on Smith and Brooks.

They are pretty deep at corner but not at safety, though Culliver might drop back into that spot.

26
by Deelron :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:47pm

Patrick Willis was injured last year, Larry Grant filled in just fine.

Justin Smith or Goldson might be harder, but I'd say losing Aldon Smith or Ahmed Brooks for any extended period of time would be the hardest spot to replace for the 49ers defense, there's very little OLB depth.

29
by TJS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:57pm

Willis missed 4-5 games last year. Larry Grant looked pretty good in his spot. Considering he was a RFA this off-season with only a 7th round tender and didn't get a sniff, I think the league views his success as a function of playing next to Navarro Bowman and the rest of the Niners front 7

Rickey Jean-Francois is the top backup at all 3 DL positions and he has played pretty well in spot duty, including a start in place of Soapaga vs the Jets.

The 49ers have good CB depth which was on display vs Green Bay. Culliver is the "nickelback" but it's Rogers who plays the slot. Culliver is probably surpassed Rogers at this point. Cox played well enough vs. GB so the Niners could withstand the loss of one of the top 3. Tramaine Brock is the 5th corner. He's pretty meh and mostly plays special teams.

Safety depth is weak, however. Spillman has played some on goal line packages in the past as a "big"safety but hasn't shown much otherwise. Darcel McBath and Trenton Robinson are both unknowns at this point; they suit up but mostly play special teams.

36
by Danny Tuccitto :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:45pm

If we're talking the stars on D, I don't care how well Grant played last year, they can't afford to lose Willis or Bowman to a major injury, and the Smiths are basically irreplaceable. (In fact, neither of them have a backup listed on the depth chart.) If any of these guys miss a game or two, that's one thing. But a major injury (or two), and they're D-O-N-E done in terms of Super Bowl contention.

Now, if we're talking about the bit players in the starting lineup, then the answer is far and away safety. They have zero, and I mean absolutely zero, depth at safety. Spillman, who can't even play ST well anymore, and rookie-who-hasn't-seen-the-field-yet Trenton Robinson are the primary backups.

And lest we forget the idea that, unlike with offenses, defenses are usually only as good as their weakest link. Throw one of those replacement-level or to-be-named-later backups in at S or DE/OLB, and it won't take long for opponents to attack that guy mercilessly.

The only saving grace in such a scenario is that their coaches are damn good, so I could see them miracling baseline competence out of an inferior backup.

39
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:58pm

Danny- Just a quick reminder, the 04 pats lost both starting corners(ty law as an all pro the year before) and still won the sb on the back of a very powerful defense. I don't think injuries to a defense necessarily equate the death nail.

Teams lose great players, but they can still alter themselves schematically to mitigate the damage. Losing one of their ilb's might hurt, but they might switch to a dime heavy defense and be ok. I may be in the minority, but i really don't like the 49er safeties, but even then, teams have had poor safeties and won the sb too so I feel they can mitigate that as well.

The only positions that are manned by elite players without any real backups to buff the fall are the two Smiths. The corner depth is there, the ilb depth is there, safety play can be mitigated.

45
by Danny Tuccitto :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 8:19pm

I hear you. Hence, that last sentence I wrote. They're doomed unless something coaching-related happens, whether it be a yeoman's effort of preparing the new guy for his assigments or making a big schematic change.

Re poor safety play being mitigated, I know what you mean, but I just have Taylor Mays flashbacks, and neither of their backups have played a meaningful number of NFL snaps on defense. This isn't BAL replacing Tom Zbikowski with Bernard Pollard last year or the myriad of teams like NYG who play so much big nickel that they have a competent 3rd safety. In all seriousness, I wonder if there's another team in the league that has such a dropoff in experience/established-performance-level from 2nd safety to 3rd safety as SF.

49
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:01pm

I'd agree on S and OLB, but I think D-Line depth is good. There's a reason they're keeping 7 D-Linemen on a 3-4 team. Sure, losing Justin Smith would suck, because he's Justin Smith, but there's Francois as an immediate backup, and Tuakuafu and Dobbs and Williams, and all of them have seemed pretty good when they were playing.

But only 3 OLBs on the roster, one of whom is 35-year-old Clark Haggans, and 4 safeties, two of whom are Spillman and Darcel McBath, two JAGs if ever there were JAGs.

88
by Little Bobby Tables (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:14pm

I imagine the real backup in case of injury at OLB is DE/TE Demarcus Dobbs, or even DE/NT Will Tukuafu as "situational" pass rushers who are on the field for 60-70% of the snaps. The 49ers have been a stealth 4-2 team under harbaugh, given how much they play nickel -- an injury to either OLB may just push them to go nickel on all plays except obvious running situations.

102
by Anonymous guy (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:28am

Justin Smith has NEVER missed a game due to injury (1 game missed due to contract holdout as a rookie). He is the Ironman of the NFL.

155
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:16pm

So was Jerry Rice, until he blew out his knee and missed almost all of the 1997 season. Some players are more durable than others, but heavy people fly around in unpredictable ways during NFL games, and nobody's knee is strong enough to stay together if a 300-pound dude falls on it at the right angle.

159
by Noah of Arkadia :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:33pm

Dan Marino, as well, until his achilles tendon snapped.

------
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

177
by Italian Niner :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:08pm

I'm knocking on wood and doing other, non publishable, talismanic gestures...

15
by Myran (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:24pm

As much as the 49ers look strong, I don't think pulverizing the JETS and the BILLS counts towards that much. Jets lost 2 key players in back to back weeks and are starting to adjust. Bills have gotten killed by the Jets, Pats, and now the 49ers while beating junk teams like KC and CLE.

Regression also is never about just 5 games.

27
by Deelron :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:50pm

Pulverizing bad teams is typically a mark of the very good teams, the more mediocre ones are the ones that always squeak out the win against the weaker teams. Additionally it's not like the Jets and the Bills are the Jags.

66
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:29pm

The Jets minus Revis are not the same team as the Jets with Revis, but DVOA doesn't "know" that. And if there was any doubt about how the 49ers could run over the Bills, the Pats provided a blueprint the week before. I think the Bills are still rated a bit higher than their true level.

107
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:51am

The Jets minus Revis are arguably the worst team in the league. The Jets with Revis can probably beat two or three teams any given Sunday. The Bills, importantly. But the Jets are really, really bad apart from the cornerback position (where Cromartie is a very good 2nd corner).

143
by Nathan :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:52am

I feel like the Jets provided the blueprint Week 1. The blueprint to running over the Bills is "play the Bills."

23
by Independent George :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:43pm

The Giants have a very, very bad defense.

Why are Houston's, Detroit's, and Washington's special teams so horrible?

31
by Marko :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:06pm

As for Detroit, one significant reason according to former Lion Zack Follett is that the players don't want to play special teams. If your special teams players aren't hungry or motivated/think that special teams are not important/think that they are too good to be on special teams, then it's not surprising that they would be terrible at it.

I know the Bears, who always are good on special teams (and not just because of Devin Hester,) specifically target certain players to acquire for special teams. The players obviously take pride in it and hold themselves accountable, and of course they are extremely well coached by Dave Toub. If the Lions players don't take pride in it (pun intended), then that probably explains a large part of the problem.

32
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:15pm

There is also a theory posited in one of the Almanac/Prospecti (can't remember the year), that special teams is in part a measure of depth. Combine that with my theory that the Lions are top heavy with talent, but their rank and file players are not very good, and it's another possible reason.

72
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:54pm

Special teams have been bad in Detroit for years (other than kicker/punter), but the offense and defense were just as bad, so nobody noticed. The new management has been trying to slowly piece together a competent starting 22 for the past 4 years, so special teams have been a bit neglected (I doubt they ever dreamed that the ST would be so bad as to directly cause losses in two straight games).

It's like when you rebuild a decrepit old house, you focus on the 1st floor and 2nd floor first, and the basement kind of gets left for last.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

73
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:54pm

Double post, please ignore

191
by zlionsfan :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:27pm

The Lions are deep at DL, and that's about it. The secondary was bad even without injuries, and with Delmas out, Wendling's had to start, and that's bad for both safety and ST. As you infer, there are quite a few positions where Mayhew and Schwartz haven't had a chance to upgrade, and without reasonable depth, there's no one decent to call on for ST.

And on top of that, they've had injuries on ST. Harris wouldn't even be back if Graham hadn't been lost for the season in Week 3. Hanson's still pretty good at FGs, but that just means more opportunities to kick off, and neither Harris nor Hanson has the leg to produce regular touchbacks.

The return teams have been average, but that's hard to appreciate given how lousy the coverage teams have been.

93
by LionInAZ :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:07am

Zack Follett was a fan favorite because he went all out made big hits (playing himself into a career-ending neck injury), but he's also a flake who doesn't know when to shut up. I don't take what he says very seriously.

The Lions STs were actually pretty decent in 2010 but have been getting steadily worse. I think part of it is losing key personnel (e.g. Follett and ST captain Isaiah Ekejiuba), part is the declining performance of John Wendling, and part is the big turnover of the depth over the past 3 years. They also have not had a decent punter in years, and now they've gone backwards bringing back Nick Harris, who was a below-average punter for several years before he was released at the start of this season.

I couldn't tell you about how they're coached, but when opponents say they found holes to exploit in kick coverage, you have to wonder.

115
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:39am

Follett has been a studio analyst for Sky Sports a few times in the last couple of years. What you say in your first paragraph basically sums up my thoughts on him based on those appearances.

67
by usernaim250 :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:33pm

Redskins = 2 punt blocks (after five FGs blocked last year). That has to be coaching.

Also missed FGs of 31, 31, and 41 in last two weeks, some fumbled returns (Brandon Banks can't hold the ball).

116
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:48am

Is it bad form to post a link to an article you wrote yourself? Is it deemed to be shameless self-promotion? Because I wrote the article linked in my name, and it basically sums up why the Lions special teams may be badly rated.

Giving up 4 TDs in two weeks will generally lead to a bad rating, no matter what the general level of play apart from those 4 plays.

Specific reasons, I guess are general depth and specifically the injury to Louis Delmas. Delmas' injury moved John Wendling into the starting lineup, and while he's still been playing special teams, he's not been showing up on them much. In terms of depth, basically all the Lions depth in the secondary or at linebacker (which generally make up the best special teamers) or wide receiver (who are often decent) are rookies or sophomores. Because of the constant bad drafts and bad teams they don't have the sort of depth guys on the roster that a good special teams unit will have. They did sign Kassim Osgood to play special teams, but he's not particularly shown up much (apart from missing the first tackle on the Vikings PR TD).

164
by cjfarls :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:13pm

The Redskins kicker missed something like 5 out of 8 fieldgoal attempts, including an easy 31 yarder this week... which is why he's now unemployed. That can't help their ST stats.

22
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:42pm

My 49er friends are absolutely killing me right now for all my negative talk this offseason. As an statistician by profession(sorta), I've really had to scratch my head and rethink how I got the 49ers so wrong.

To recap my original thoughts- 1- their health on defense should have signaled regression. 2-Their turnovers on offense. 3-Their turnovers on defense. 4- their record in close games. 5-relying on breakout performances by unknowns(navorrow Bowman, Carlos Rogers, Donte Witner, Cris Culliver), 6-Its alex FREAKING SMITH for gods sakes.

Instead- both the offense and defense have progressed in shocking ways. The defense pass coverage units have clearly improved with brown and culiver really elevating their games. I still feel like alex smith is the same, but the offseason additions at receiver have paid off and the general quality of the team means he's now able to be more relaxed and efficient.

But I would say the single biggest factor in the progress of this team has to be the offensive line. It wasn't that long ago that this was challenging for one of the worst units in the game. Now its arguably the best, with Alex Boone and Iupati really leading the way from the inside and solid peformances from Davis. I still feel like Stayley is a weaklink, but otherwise, this is a stellar group.

30
by TJS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:02pm

Why is it automatic that the "unknowns" will regress, particularly if they are first or second year players? Is player development no longer allowed in statistics-based analysis?

33
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:17pm

It wasn't just that. I know this is unrealistic, but I like to think player development happens gradually- rather than going from an unknown to being elite overnight. Thats pretty much exactly what happened with Bowman and Aldon Smith. Carlos Rogers was decent but hardly a good corner and hes become that too. Part of me just assumed it away and said, its better to go with the average and say they end up good but not elite players. They still may not all be as its nearly impossible to separate individual play from the team, especially on defense. With that said, I think Bowman and Smith are definitely elite defenders.

37
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:46pm

It would be difficult for Bowman and Smith to develop gradually. It was Smith's first year and Bowman's second. Bowman didn't play much as a rookie because he was behind Willis and Takeo Spikes, who was still playing at a very high level.

42
by Mood_Indigo (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 8:03pm

Tarell Brown has been developing steadily and is now a reliable starter. Bowman showed enough improvement in his first year as a sub that Baalke let the starter, Takeo Spikes, walk after the season was over. Bowman broke out in his second year.

Carlos Rogers has indicated in several interviews how the Niner coaches have allowed the DBs freedom to make plays once they learn the schemes and communicate well among themselves. He contrasted the coaching philosophy with the negative atmosphere in his last two seasons with the Skins.

The key to the Niners success is a competent front office working closely with a group of competent coaches. Hardly a revelation, but all too rare. The 2011 draft was a smashing success. Baalke let Adam Snyder walk -- he was the weak link in the O line as you stated. Now he starts for the Cardinals and is the lowest-rated guard in the league by PFF's metrics.

44
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 8:09pm

49ers coaching looks great, but all that is coming afer the fact to be honest. One might have concluded after every great turnaround season that the front office and coaching staff maximized their players talent, but that didn't stop them from regressing and then the coaching argument looks silly. Again, before the 2010 season- bowman was nothing more than a competent reserve and rogers was a fringe starter at corner. You're right, brown was a gradual starter so that fit. Aldon smith was a rookie so its not exactly a given that he was going to be great within his first year(see derrick morgan, aaron maybin, robert ayers, and a slew of other first round de's that have failed to pan out).

My point was- yes, in hindsight it makes sense, but im trying to go with what information I had at the time when i made my predictions. No one can go in saying i expect bowman and smith to develop into elite players, harbaugh to join the ranks of bb(though i still think its premature to crown harbaugh imo), and all the other things that we know now but take for granted.

In short- i still feel like the 49er pessimism was justified. In the general history of the league, i still say the majority of teams that come out of nowhere tend to regress the next year. The 49ers were just the outlier in this. Can't 49er fans live with this characterization?

47
by Mood_Indigo (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 8:30pm

I cannot argue on the hindsight issue. However, any reasonable predictive model must include mechanistic/systemic factors as well as statistical events (the three factors you mention). What has amused me is how the regression-to-the-mean principle is used to predict next season's performance without considering any mechanistic factors that mitigates the RTM events (coaches training up subs, changing schemes to accommodate new personnel due to injuries, excellent drafting that produces competent starters). In the case of the Niners, the role of coaching skills of Harbaugh (as demonstrated at USD and Stanford) is discounted, as is Baalke's talent evaluation, and Marathe's cap management. All I am saying is that these mechanistic factors can overcome the probabilistic ones. Niners will likely end up with a much smaller turnover margin and will probably lose some close division games on the road. But improved offensive performance and continuing defensive excellence (maybe not as dominating as last year's) will very likely overcome these factors.

77
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:21pm

At the risk of this being slanderous, I actually new Parag. His parents and my parents hung around the same circles and I actually once had a summer job at his parents' round table pizzaria where Parag worked the cash register. Knowing him as I did then, its hard to imagine thats the same guy whos in charge of the 49ers finances now.

52
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:04pm

I just think it's hard for a statistical model to incorporate the difference between Singletary/Raye and Hargbaugy/Roman/Fangio. So no, I'd say a statistical outlier, but not one that was difficult to identify beforehand by the naked eye.

59
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:18pm

There is basically no way to tell the difference between Bill Belichick and Wade Philips if you only have one season of evidence, that's what this really comes down to.

109
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:55am

We're only five games in and the 49ers reputation is made on beating a Green Bay team that really has regressed, and thorough trouncings of the Bills and Jets. Let's not get carried away.

I think the thing nobody noticed last year, but should have, is that Alex Smith has quietly become a very solid NFL starting quarterback. That and finally getting some development from talented-but-mercurial offensive linemen has made the team.

126
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 9:49am

Let's not forget a dominating performance against the 1-4 Lions!

Yes, they're doubtless overrated by stats sites right now because of the two recent blowouts. What's the DVOA adjustment for "gives up?" Might be one case where the subjective ranking systems are closer to the truth.

128
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 9:54am

The 1-4 Lions DVOA thinks are about average.

132
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:08am

Not to nitpick irrelevant details, but the Lions are 1-3.

The whole point of stats site are that subjective rankings can fall victim to personal bias (and on most subjective rankings given the 49ers even more credit for their recent blowouts than DVOA does). I'll take "biased" stats that will eventually correct with a larger sample size over personal bias anyday.

Also, I don't think wins (that were not as close as the final score indicated) over the #6 (Packers) and #15 (Lions) teams are anything to dismiss lightly. Again, the whole point of DVOA is that W-L record can be really misleading in such a small sample of games.

Even if you want to keep some subjectivity in it, I've watched all or parts of every Niners game and come away extremely impressed with them (and no, I'm not a Niners fan).

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

136
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:22am

"What's the DVOA adjustment for gives up?"

I responded to a similar post (#94) below, so rather than rehashing it I'll cut and past my rebuttal:

The majority of the time, the losing side (when they are not the 2011 Buccaneers) will keep trying to score (either to try to come back or due to pride), while the winning side goes into a variation of "prevent", allowing the losing side to rack up lots of garbage time points and yardage.

So I would argue that if your defense is so good that it gives up nothing in garbage time even when it's barely trying, or your offense is so good it can continue to rack up first downs and points even when you stop throwing and start running, you deserve credit for that.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

35
by Anonymous Jones :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:44pm

The regression-to-the-mean discussion has gotten totally out of hand. It's as if no one understands it all. The idea of regression is not some dead-lock 100% certainty that every variable will regress to the mean at some particular point in time. Unusual and unsustainable trends sometimes go on longer than even the most optimistic predicted. The theory is basically that there is *likely* to be regression, based on historical trends (NB: past performance is no guaranty of future results).

The certainty on both sides is completely depressing. You don't know what you think you know. Let me put it that way. And for those who had so much "confidence" that the 49ers would buck the trend, I just predicted a coin flip was going to be heads, and you know what it was heads; so that means I knew what was going to happen. Oh, yeah, never mind, that doesn't make sense.

The idea that you could predict exactly what was going to happen with a team of fifty three players and how those players would be relatively valued as a team (on a DVOA or wins basis) against other squads of fifty three players (many of whom had never played as a unit before) is ridiculous. Yes, on the outliers, it seems pretty easy (NE at one end, CLE at the other). But you didn't (and don't) know what's going to happen with injuries or motivation or other myriad factors well beyond the sphere of your knowledge. Please, please, for the love of all that's holy, do a google search for "confirmation bias."

38
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:53pm

Who are you talking to? Apart from the odd troll who pops up nobody is making these ultra strong claims you are referring to, not the writers or the regular posters. However, congratulations on a really peachy straw man, that sucker went up like a storm.

50
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:02pm

I do wonder if 2011 was unique year, in terms of an outlier from which a regression is to be expected, in that the lockout curtailed several months worth of player development.

57
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:15pm

Well I've argued that point several times here, along with pretty much every other point concerning the niners regression prediction. There has been plenty of debate on these boards and the staff didn't seem to have a huge amount of confidence in the prediction either.

However, FO's predictions are what they are, they never pretended they were infallible and it would have been wrong for them to abandon their system without any evidence that they should. The lockout meant that last season has some divergent qualities, there was always a chance that it would prove to be problematic for any statistical, or conventional, analysis.

65
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:28pm

I think it likely works in both directions. 2011 is just a hard year to base predictions from, due to missing several months of player development.

82
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:03pm

Exactly, and look at the progression of Iupati and Davis on the offensive line, with a full year's inculcation they've progressed from near rookies to veterans and it has shown. There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not the 49ers can sustain their offensive production but it will probably come down to the health of what might be one of the better O-line units since that great Chiefs outfit. In the 'skill' positions there is quite a silly amount of depth, if he line is OK, the niners will probably be OK.

87
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:14pm

I'm convinced that the biggest reason (I strongly suspected the secondary would be better with Winfield off the IR,and Cook out of jail) I whiffed on the Vikings so badly was that I had no idea what a full offseason would mean to Ponder. I mean, I'm not shocked that he has improved so much, but I just had nothing to base my view of him on. Neither did DVOA, I suspect.

100
by Candace Bergen (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:48am

I had a dream the other day that I wouldn't have to read the terms 'regression', 'ad hominem' or 'straw man' in a thread for at least a week. It's like referring to 'paradigms', or calling a coincidence 'ironic.'
Sadly, that dream never came through.

103
by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:43am

Loved you in "The Wind and the Lion".

43
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 8:03pm

you're argument can really be answered on a deep statistical level. Regression to the mean goes under the assumption that certain things follow a stable distribution pattern and that anything that is highly skewed in one direction is unlikely to be repeated continuously. Of course, if i flip a coin 10 times and get all heads- its unlikely to repeat but that doesn't mean its physically impossible. This is a matter of probability distributions.

And btw, there were three things that the 49ers had that was abnormal and was likely to regress- the injuries, the turnovers(both offense and defense), and the wins in close games. Thats independent of the 53 manned roster- those are things that observably follow a predictable probability distribution and thus, extremes in these areas likely regress to the mean. The rest of what you are arguing is really just misguided.

55
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:10pm

I wouldn't go as far as to say his comment is misguided. There is a lot of abuse of the phrase "regression to the mean" at this website, especially regarding variables that either do not follow standard probability distributions, or to variables that are being sampled a low number of times.

I think it's clear that you're responding to a person who understands the concept.

Personally, I think "regression to the mean" is an easy, lazy statistical argument to make which absolves its user to analyze exactly why numbers have moved in a given way. For the most part, the success the 49ers had in 2011 was not due to statistical flukes, but was rather due to the arrival of a much better head coach who got a lot of players playing better. In particular, we saw dramatic improvement of a QB who had perennially been disappointing finally looked like he merited a first-round draft pick (though I doubt I'll ever be sold on the notion that he should have been #1 overall.)

60
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:19pm

Just look at Alex Smith, would you not predict regression towards the mean for him?

68
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:37pm

Going on stats alone, you should. But that shows a limit of statistics. It's also quite possible that Smith improved under Harbaugh's tutelage, in which case the old distribution for his statistics would no longer apply.

Actually, looking at his stats a bit, I think the better argument would be that Smith has been consistently improving over the past several years.

When applying a "regression to the mean" argument, we should be sure that we're looking at a variable that is actually random, such as fumble recovery, number of injuries, etc., and not just a measure of the quality of a player.

74
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:55pm

I think there are stats that could 'regress to the mean' for an individual player, like int%, y/a (possibly, though some players are generally high, like Philip Rivers), or picks for DBs, but they are still regressing to their mean. Players can control these things (Tom Brady, McNabb). Like BABIP in baseball, certain players just will have a better than expected BABIP, and whatever Smith has done, he has protected the ball incredibly well the past 1.4 seasons.

78
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:39pm

Yes, it is worth saying that just because a stat is an individual statistic does not, by itself, imply that it's a non-random one. BABIP is a good example of that. But I think most individual stats are largely non-random, at least in the sense that you wouldn't expect regression to any mean. I think completion % is very individualized for QB's, as is yards/carry for RBs.
Indeed, one way stats geeks decide that a given stat is random is whether is tends to show regression to the mean (as BABIP does).

79
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:45pm

Jay Cutler had 63 and 62% completion % in Denver, in Chicago he has yet to top 60.5%.

Brett Favre oscillated between 68.4% and 56% completion percentage in his career, and those two years were within 3 years of each other lest you think I'm compared vastly different environments.

81
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:52pm

I've always felt that Jay cutler and Matt Cassel serve as the best example against the QB=All you need argument. Its simply remarkable how much the players around you can skew your perspective. Jay Cutler is still thought of as a bum by the media, conjuring up the good jay bad jay as if this were a Rex Grossman legacy for Bears qbs. Isn't it equally amazing how Casell is now cheered for being injured when he looked like a rising all pro with NE?

The optimist side of me prefers to assume that the public at large is aware that we possess no statistical ways to isolate qb performance from the rest of the team. The pessimist(and likely truer) side of me feels that its just out of ignorance that we ignore this possibility.

80
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:47pm

To echo your statement above, i guess misguided wasn't the right word, it was just simply glossing over facts.

To address a few of your other points. All of the coaching/player improvement stuff is all a matter of hindsight. At the time, no one could be reasonably sure of it. As we've seen with every big plexiglass team- they regress and then we go back to saying maybe the players weren't as talented as we thought. Unless harbaugh was channeling some obvious vodoo that some of us just missed, I think it was fair to question how much of the harbaugh/49er kool aide was responsible for success. Then were there were big three statistical factors that were likely to regress and that seemed to explain things rather well.

Finally- Alex smith's performance was absolutely an outlier from a 2010 pt of view. I don't have to look very far to find another qb who a similar argument could be made had turned the corner with good coaching-Mike Vick. Of course, it didn't take long for the "new and improved" Mike Vick to go back to being the "old" Mike Vick. And that holds true for any number of players who have been statistically mediocre for the majority of their careers and then to suddenly explode.

The real point is- the 49ers will serve as an example of the "one that got away" from the plexiglass principle, but that shouldn't mean we toss away our skepticism for the next big come from nowhere team.

83
by greybeard :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:03pm

I think it was obvious to almost all 49ers fan that coaching improvement was significant and real. Not only because Harbaugh is good, but more than that Singletary was so bad. I believe 49ers would have won 11 or 12 games in 2010 had they had just an average coach instead of Singletary/Raye duo..

Also, Alex Smith was very good in the latter half on 2010. After the eagles game in 2010 Alex has been a pretty good quarterback with little talent around him in the second half of 2010 and 2011. This is the first year Alex plays with decent talent around him, decent receivers, finally an OL not only does not suck but is a strength. A running game that works, it did not last year. I am glad Harbaugh helped Alex Improve and put in him in situations where he can be successful. But Alex was on the way to become a better QB before Harbaugh arrived.

People did not follow 49ers closely before and made a lot of wrong assumptions about their talent level.. And now they are surprised and claim it was unexpected player development.

I had no doubt 49ers would be better football team this year than last and fairly certain that they would win fever games than last as well as I was expecting Arizona and Seattle would get better -though Rams totally surprised me-

85
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:09pm

You know what's weird? When you see a new comment and start to reply to it, but it's been edited between your reading and your reply. You'll see the edited message in the reply-to window, but if you hit the 'back' button, you'll see the original message.

And if you wanted to reply to something that was removed, it can be quite confusing!

I was going to make a comment about which variables are random: injuries should be one (though roster depth isn't). I'm less convinced about "record in close games," at least in football.

As for Alex Smith, some of his stats

Yr comp% Y/A
05 50.9 5.3
06 58.1 6.5
07 48.7 4.7
08 ---
09 60.5 6.3
10 59.6 6.9
11 61.3 7.1
12 68.6 7.9

From this perspective, 2007 looks like the outlier, not 2011. And Smith was dealing with an injury that was apparently mis-diagnosed and then mistreated. If we censor the data from 2007 as reflecting an injured product, it seems like Smith has been approximately a 60% passer for most of his career.

Now, the pattern with Y/A is different. Since returning from the repair job on his shoulder, Y/A has been increasing consistently. And that's also a function of his receivers.

I think a regression argument would be more aptly used for his 2012 numbers. Is he suddenly a 68.6% passer? That seems unlikely.

89
by Little Bobby Tables (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:23pm

48.7% completion rate in 2007! That's positively Sanchez-ian. It really is amazing that Smith has even been allowed to play this long in the league, let alone flourish like he has this season.

118
by Pex (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 5:00am

In 2007 he was playing with a dislocated shoulder and his coach Mike Nolan publicly questioned his manhood when he implied that his shoulder was hurt.

140
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:43am

You cannot look at the 2007 season without mentioning Jeff Hostler. Accidentally overpromoted and quite possibly the worst offensive coordinator I've ever seen.

209
by Tyler (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 9:56am

Expand upon the "overpromoted" line please. I didn't know about that.

215
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 10:53am

I imagine his wikipedia is accurate enough: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Hostler

His play-calling was just high-school level bad.

217
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 12:00pm

He was hired as a callow, inexperienced coach who was thought to have a bright future but the plan was for him to learn his trade under Norv Turner, who might not be the best head coach but possesses a very capable offensive mind. However, Turner left to take up the head coaching job in San Diego late in the coach hiring season. The 49ers contacted about five other franchises in an attempt to find a replacement for Turner but were denied the opportunity because it was too far into the offseason. They turned to Hostler as a last resort pretty much knowing at the time that he wasn't remotely ready to be an NFL offensive coordinator, they tried to implement game planning by committee and devolved as much responsibility to other coaches but it was in vain. He wasn't ready, he wasn't really qualified and the other coaches had their own jobs to do. If I remember they might have tried to bring in another coach to help him read the defenses from the booth (Tollner or Olsen I think), he was that green and his failure was really Nolan's fault.

218
by jimbohead :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 12:43pm

Yes, they did bring in Ted Tollner as an offensive consultant in mid-late 2007 (wikipedia ref link is dead, and therefore I don't have a date on that). It was just an awful experience that anyone who follows the niners has tried to forget, just like the Dennis Erickson years. As it's been said on this site before, AJ Smith killed two franchises when he hired Norv Turner as his HC. The timing of it was so late (Feb 19) that there was no real hope of getting a reasonable replacement, and it showed in both Smith and Gore's numbers.

90
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:32pm

I was referring to his int numbers and his low attempt numbers. I suspected both would have to rise sharply and he might suffer a slump because of it. Of course, I'm somewhat of the opinion that Alex hasn't really changed much, hes just surrounded with better talent. Its hard to really know though, you really have to follow someone over a long career to ascertain when its them or the ppl around them. Rarely do you get a cutler or manning type situation where you can see first hand the difference.

110
by Italian Niner :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 3:54am

But close wins depend on how good you are. If you improve significantly you are going to have bigger margins and, consequently, fewer close games. Furthermore, if you are very good, turnover ratio becomes less important since you can loose a few fumbles while leading by 3 tds, for instance. The only serious risk is connected to injuries to key players, but I still don't buy the fact that it has to regress to a mean with such an unpredictable "event" as football. We are talking about probability density here, we are not tossing a coin.

40
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:59pm

NFC North looks like the strongest division in that it has 3 of the top 7 and all 4 teams in the top 15. I wonder if the NFC North/formerly central has ever been the strongest division before?

70
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:45pm

1994 comes to mind, when the NFC Central sent 4 teams to the playoffs. Packers were #4, Vikings #11, Lions #12, and Bears #15. Of course Tampa Bay being #26 dragged down the division as a whole, but no other division had more than two teams in the top 15.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

113
by ammek :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:35am

In 1997, Green Bay was #1, Tampa #8 and Detroit #9. The Vikings were mediocre and the Bears bad. The AFC East was probably stronger though.

221
by BigCheese :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 5:08am

A case could be made that last year, before Cutler was hurt, the NFC North was, at worst, tied with the AFC East at the top.

Week 8 DVOA ratings:

1 GB.......2 BUF
9 DET......3 NYJ
15 CHI.....8 NE
20 MIN.....27 MIA
TOTAL: 45..TOTAL: 50

Week 9 DVOA ratings:

2 GB.......1 NYJ
8 DET......9 NE
13 CHI.....10 BUF
18 MIN.....23 MIA
TOTAL: 41..TOTAL: 43

Week 10 DVOA ratings:

2 GB.......3 NYJ
9 CHI......4 NE
14 DET.....17 BUF
20 MIN.....19 MIA
TOTAL: 45..TOTAL: 43

By comparisson, this week's NFC North is:

3 CHI
6 GB
7 MIN
15 DET
TOTAL: 31

So yeah, they might have been the strongest (or tied for strongest) last year, but not as dominantly as this year, due to MIN dragging them down. Of course, I forsee DET playing that role this year.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

51
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:03pm

As often happens, the system overreacts to a blowout win.

54
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:05pm

Yes, this also true. The "D" in DVOA is often not strong enough in these cases.

61
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:21pm

FO research has shown blowouts are the best indicator of good teams.

94
by RickD :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:20am

The "best indicator" of good teams? Maybe a decent indicator.

I still think that DVOA overrates stomps. I'm not saying they are unimportant, but I would not credit blowouts quite as much as DVOA does. Often what happens in a blowout is that the losing team rolls over and gives up. I don't think at that point the remainder of the game is all that meaningful statistically.

121
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 8:35am

I have to disagree with you there on two counts:

1)Going back through NFL history, most dominant, championship-caliber teams have multiple blowouts win on their resume for a particular season. A mediocre team can get a blowout win here and there, but it's not a recurrent event (which is why the 49ers get so much credit for winning 34-0 and 45-3 in consecutive weeks in an admittedly small sample size of 5 games).

2)Responding to your sentence: "Often what happens in a blowout is that the losing team rolls over and gives up. I don't think at that point the remainder of the game is all that meaningful statistically."

That may be true if you're talking about the 2011 Buccaneers, but the majority of the time, the losing side will keep trying to score (either to try to come back or due to pride), while the winning side goes into a variation of "prevent", allowing the losing side to rack up lots of garbage time points and yardage.

So I would argue that if your defense is so good that it gives up nothing in garbage time even when it's barely trying, or your offense is so good it can continue to rack up first downs and points even when you stop throwing and start running, you deserve credit for that.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

135
by MTR (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:19am

Well, what would you say is a better indicator? I hope you're not going to say "close wins."

The garbage time argument cuts both ways, I think. The winning team will take out players to avoid injuries and start using time eating strategies, rather than optimal scoring ones.

To keep this to one post on 49er topic, I don't think completion percentage is the best measure of QB progress, since the offensive coordinator can heavily influence it with the pass routes called (Tebow's college offense let him complete a high percentage, for instance). Yards per attempt is a better measure.

As for the regression, I think people are missing that the 49ers have sort of regressed in two of the three predicted areas. They've recovered fewer fumbles than their opponents (7 to 5). It's true that Smith has only thrown one pick, but that's more or less what you expect with fairly few attempts and 2/3rd of them completed. It's really only injuries where the 49ers continue to be outstandingly lucky this year. It just hasn't had the expected impact on their record.

150
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 11:54am

Well, what would you say is a better indicator? I hope you're not going to say "close wins."

Yards per Attempt is a very simple one. DVOA is not too shabby. Pythagorean Wins.

There's bunches.

It's true that Smith has only thrown one pick, but that's more or less what you expect with fairly few attempts and 2/3rd of them completed.

How is this different from last year? Few attempts, 2/3 of them completed? Unless you're just saying that the sample size is still very small for this year.

153
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:14pm

Pythagorean wins is basically the same as how much did a team blow out other teams, when talking about good teams.

Yards per down, and yards per down yielded ignore special teams.

98
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:42am

I thought it had only shown that "Guts" weren't as good a predictor as "Stomps."

53
by Kal :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:05pm

The other factor about regression to the mean and the 49ers is that much of it was predicated on injury luck - which is a discrete star, not a continuous or pseudo continuous stat. What this means is that regression is still quite possible as is a defensive collapse; it just hasn't happened yet.

111
by Italian Niner :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:00am

How can an injury be a discrete stat?

151
by Kal :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 11:55am

How can it not be a discrete event? Point is that it behaves a lot more like a truly discrete event than, say, yards. And one injury (the way that FO measures them) causes a lot of injury time, potentially.

173
by Italian Niner :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:00pm

There must be something I don't get. For me, a discrete event is something mechanical i.e. tails on a coin toss. Each toss is independent and therefore completely unaffected by the others. Injuries are events, if for you event means something that happens; in that case they are "more" an event than yards, I agree. But you cannot consider injuries as discrete events bound to regress to the mean in a long period. Drafting healthy players, training them competently, designing schemes which do not expose them to risky (in the context of football, of course) situations, are all factors to be considered, and they are not mechanic. I'd rather play QB for Greg Roman than for Mike Martz for instance.

178
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:10pm

This site keeps track of a stat called adjusted games lost (due to injury), and it's clearly random from year to year and outlier years tend to regress towards the mean the following year. (unless you're the St. Louis Rams).

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

196
by Kal :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 6:39pm

Sorry; I mean a discrete event is something that either exists or does not. When you're talking about something like 10 events a year and the average is something like 13 then regressing to the mean doesn't mean as much - especially when said events can happen at any point in the season.

Maybe this will help explain what I'm talking about. Let's say that there are an average of 16 injuries in a season. If injuries were continuous, that would mean that the average value of injuries for any given time would be equivalent to the number of games they've played. So by week 5, they would have had 5 injuries. That's not how it ends up working out, however. The amount of injuries a team has received over a season (and that overall set of games lost) does not correlate to the amount of injuries that a team has had by, say, week 4.

So we can say that SF is bucking the regression to the mean trend, but that's not accurate; what we can only say is that they've not done that so far. It's quite possible that they'll receive a couple catastrophic injuries and lose large amounts of games because of it. Same thing with their defensive performance; it's quite possible their defense will regress in the middle and end of the season for some reason. Both of these aren't really something you can look at right now and state with any degree of certainty they won't happen. They're less likely to, but that's not the same thing.

56
by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:12pm

The Vikings have an extremely odd, and, due to the strength of the NFC North, somewhat difficult schedule from here on out. Their five remaining division games, three at home, are crammed into the last seven weeks of the year.

My guess is that if they manage to defend their home field in those three games, which is no walk in the park, they will get to the playoffs as a Wild Card. That would make this the most surprising season for this Vikings fan, positive or negative, since I was a snot nosed kid who was shocked that they only went 7-7, and missed the playoffs, in 1972, which prompted the trade to reacquire Tarkenton.

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by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:48am

And speaking of schedule strength, notice how weak the slate has been for the top teams? There are the 49ers playing pretty much a league-average schedule, then a bunch in the 20s and 30s. Then the two 2-3 teams playing the 3rd hardest and 8th hardest schedules.

Minnesota's SoS looks like it climbs a cliff, while the Bronco's falls off one: easiest schedule for the rest of the season.

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 8:44am

What's really struck me about the Vikings as a division rival fan is how much better their safeties are compared to last year. That seems to have made a huge difference with their defense (correct me if I'm wrong).

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:14am

Oh, yes. If Harrison Smith doesn't make the All-Rookie team, I'll be shocked. Sanford, in his fourth year, who is back on the field due to injury, is playing much better. Raymond, in his second, was playing much better prior to injury. I suspect that the lockout last year, with a new coaching staff being unable to work with young players until August, made the Vikings look a lot worse than their talent level.

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by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 11:13am

I always found it funny that football people seem to posit that safety is a relatively low-impact position not worth investing a lot of free agent money or high draft picks in (outside of elite guys like Polomaulu and Reed). Yet having a competent player back there instead of an incompetent one seems to make such huge a difference for a defense. I see that as a Lions fan whenever Louis Delmas gets hurt, and saw it last year with the Bears after they finally replaced the Chris Harris and Brandon Merriwether combination/atrocity.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

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by Alternator :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 8:29pm

The difference between competent and incompetent is HUGE. The difference between competent and good is fairly minor. The difference between competent and elite is, once again, huge.

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by Jim D (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:35pm

Will,

I think the Vikings success this year boils down to a couple of key points, both noted by Herm Edwards today on ESPN.

1) "How are the Vikings 4-1"? "They just win games"

2) "Defensively speaking, they're playing very good defense"

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:21pm

That Herm is a regular savant!

202
by Michael19531 :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 12:12am

The Vikings reacquired Tarkenton BEFORE the 1972 season. They did finish 7-7 in '72 but won the NFC title 3 of the next 4 years. They missed out in '75 thanks to Roger Staubach's "Hail Mary" pass to Drew Pearson in the divisional round.

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by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 2:58am

Of course, you are right. and that is what help make that 7-7 record so surprising.

208
by Phanatic (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 8:55am

You should have written "thanks to an uncalled pass interference on a Hail Mary pass to Drew Pearson."

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by Dales :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:16pm

Amazing. 50 plus comments in, and not one comment about Eli being tops in DVOA and DYAR.

Pretty amazing how he's continued to develop, year after year.

64
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:25pm

He is a good example of how it's OK to look sulky if you win superbowls and play well.

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by LionInAZ :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:40pm

I don't think of Eli as sulky -- to me he looks more like he's expecting some big kid to come up behind and knock him down. Perpetually bullied.

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by armchair journe... :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:53am

I've kept much the same opinion.. Just replacing "big kid" with Peyton.

//AJMQB

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by Independent George :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:03pm

Eli is the opposite of sulky; his facial expression barely changes even on positive plays. In his early years, much was made in the NY sports media of his lack of emotion during games.

Or, maybe it's more accurate to say that he always looks like he's sulking, even after good plays.

154
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:15pm

I would describe him as dopey looking personally. Which is why I think it was so easy to make fun of him when he wasn't so good.

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by Independent George :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:04pm

This is also a microcosm of his career as a whole.

69
by RickD :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:39pm

I think we're past the point when we're surprised if Eli plays well.

75
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:58pm

I'm surprised. Not that he's playing well. I expected that. But that with 5 picks (not all his fault - something we say far too much for Eli) and a 65.0 cmp%, that he would be #1. I think overall QB numbers are down so far (at least in DYAR terms for the top guys).

I'm even less surprised that Peyton is #2, as beside from one dreadful quarter, he's been really, really good. If this is Manning throwing wobbly spirals, then either people should stop pushing the noodle arm meme (I'm looking at you Bill Simmons), or just put this as another piece of evidence on how arm strength isn't the #1 asset for a QB.

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by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:35pm

Anyone watching Manning throw deep after the Atlanta game would be hardpressed to question Manning's arm as being prohibitive. Hes made plenty of stick throws in all three games since and not been afraid to challenge people deep. IF there's one area Manning's not quite where he was once, its his ability to release the ball before the rush. I took it for granted then, but its freakish how low his sack total was, especially given his o line since 07.

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by RickD :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:22am

Both Mannings have always had amazing ability to avoid sacks.

Makes me wonder how Archie would slam them to the ground when growing up.

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by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:28am

The sack increase is strange, but I think that is mostly unfamiliarity on sight adjustments and hot reads with his new receivers. Guys just aren't open as quickly as they were in Indy when that machine was humming. Give it time.

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by The Hypno-Toad :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:45am

"people should stop pushing the noodle arm meme (I'm looking at you Bill Simmons)"

I actually had managed to avoid any Bill Simmons this year until his picks for this week, so this was my first exposure to him trotting that out. He printed a letter from a fan regarding the Manning noodle arm thing which said something like, "This is what I like about you, Sports Guy. You pick a side, set all you biases and never let the facts get in the way." I feel like I used to enjoy that too when I read him regularly... But for the life of me, I cannot figure out why I might have enjoyed that.
A parting thought: if you find yourself on the same side of a football argument/debate as Jason Whitlock... you're probably in the wrong.

137
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:29am

Bill Simmons is not an analyst. He is a humorist who writes about sports. You're not supposed to take anything he says seriously (even if he does).

I don't read him any more either, as he doesn't do anything Tainer does better, but complaining about him being wrong about something is kind of missing the point.

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by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:35am

You're right that Bill Simmons isn't an analyst. Howeverm Bill Simmons seems to think he is, though.

He knows basketball. I'll give him that. He doesn't know football. His go-to 'expert' seems to have a loose grasp of football himself (Lombardi) and is more of a Simmons yes-man. He truly feels that he knows football, knows Vegas, can game the system, and can tell which teams are good and bad. He always says that he watches all the games, has the muliple TV setup. He definitely thinks he knows a lot. Sure, I can just do what I would tell people to do when they hate a TV show and just not read/listen to him, but he does have interesting people on his podcast every now and then (Schatz, Barnwell, even Cousin Sal I like), but it is grating when he propagates this theory about my favorite player that is far from true, and asserts it as verified factual information.

146
by Independent George :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 11:26am

Simmons analyzing the NFL is the equivalent of Matt Millen managing a team.

I mean that as a serious analogy, and not just as an insult. His analysis basically amounts to an adherance to conventional wisdom, with a particular overemphasis on intangibles which are really statistical noise.

The difference between basketball and football is that basketball is mostly what-you-see is what-you-get. 90% of football is invisible to the viewer - the game planning, the footwork drills, the practice sessions. We can see the conservative play calls and questionable clock management, but not the hours spent on defending the seam route or which player to key on. Rather than acknowledging that limitation, he simply ignores it and bases his opinions on the 10% he can see. Thus, the emphasis on personalities and sideline demeanor, or dependance on anecdote.

Matt Millen loved drafting those football factory guys whose names showed up in the papers; he didn't devote much attention to evaluating lesser-known players at smaller programs. He loved to talk about 'toughness' and a 'football mentality'; he didn't talk much about schematic fit or player development. He focused on the 10% which is visible, but not the mundane stuff which really comprises the bulk of the work.

129
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 9:54am

I lump Simmons into the same boat as TMQ. Used to love them, read them every week. Problem is that they write the exact same stuff now that they did 10 years ago, and now I've read it all 100 times before. It's been years since I've thought "I wonder what Simmons/TMQ would think about this" about anything.

134
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:16am

Could not agree more. I still read Simmons just for humor on recent NFL events (I also agree with Tuluse that Tanier does it much better with more real analysis), but definitely not for analysis/gambling advice.

I used to love TMQ, but it seems 70% of the column talks about politics and science instead of football (not that I don't like science).

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

157
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:27pm

My problem with TMQ isn't that most of the column talks about non-football. It's that he doesn't even try for serious analysis or observations anymore in the part that's about football. Did a team blitz and give up a TD? Shouldn't have blitzed. Did a team blitz and get a sack? Great strategy. Did a player mess up his assignment? He must be a me-first glory boy.

169
by cjfarls :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:38pm

yep... I'll always appreciate TMQ for introducing me to this site... but it is just horrific these days.

141
by RickD :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 10:47am

I read Bill Simmons because he represents my point of view (Boston fan). Hard to imagine a non-Boston homer reading him for analysis. For humor, maybe.

Actually, I've been reading less of him since he started writing less and relying more on his podcasts. I don't have multiple hours per week to devote to podcasts.

162
by Purds :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:02pm

Agreed, Rick. It's like The Daily Show. If you're a liberal, you love it. If you're not a liberal, well ...

I'm a liberal so I love the Daily Show. I am Colts fan, so with Simmons, well ...

184
by theslothook :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 3:18pm

So if you are a conservative, then you must like Bill O'riley by the same logic? Well, I'm a conservative and I find Bill O'Riley and Peter schiff maddening morons.

185
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 3:53pm

That's a big leap to take based on what he wrote.

190
by theslothook :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:19pm

Thats true :p

86
by TomC :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:13pm

I do not mean to alarm you, but all NFC West teams are in the top half of the league in DVOA.

I repeat: all NFC West teams are in the top half of the league in DVOA.

Excuse me while I go build my Mayan-apocalypse killer planet shelter.

96
by RickD :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:25am

I think this correlates with the collapse of the AFC East. Even the Pats have lost their sole contest against the NFC West. The division vs. division record so far is NFC West 4, AFC East 0.

The Pats-Seahawks game could be very interesting.

117
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:55am

The NFC West is (by my count) 11-3 in inter-division play.

All three losses have come against the NFC North (SF to the Vikings, STL to the Bears and Vikings).

I'm not sure what that means, but it is quite interesting.

124
by peterplaysbass :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 9:39am

St Louis lost to the Bears and the Lions. The Rams host the Vikings in week 15.

101
by Ben :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:11am

Aaron was on a local Indy sports-talk radio show just before the season started. The hosts had been arguing whether or not the AFC South was the weakest division in the league. When Aaron came on, they asked him and he said that there was no way that the AFC South was going to be worse the the NFC West. I think it's time to serve up some crow on that one...

179
by John Cena II (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:12pm

What is it with Schatz and his hatred for the NFC West? I mean, everyone saw that the Cards and Seahwks played better to end last season, the Rams have a new coaching staff and Cortland Finnegan coming in as a huge upgrade in the secondary. And I know he has been hammered for the 49ers prediction, but how's he gonna say that Harbaugh may be the best coach in the NFL, but then base his 7.2 wins on a regression to the mean of the previous 5 years of SF records when Singletary and Nolan were the coaches?

I mean come on! Did you lose your brain there or what?

180
by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:21pm

Schatz clearly designed his statisitcal model around the fact, that when he was a child he failed a test on the capitols of states, when he blew it on Washington, California, Arizona, and Missouri. Decades later, after divisional realignment, he saw his chance to take revenge on those geographical areas.

Either that, or developing statistical models is not a task done with the expectation that a perfect facsimile of reality will result.

182
by Independent George :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:49pm

Wrong again, Will. Aaron is clearly an idealogue who hates the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Rams are just collateral damage.

187
by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:12pm

Damned anti-Kozinski-ite!

119
by CeeBee (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 7:20am

Time to re-look at Eli Manning similarity scores? Does he still match up to Steve Beuerlein?

194
by JIPanick :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 5:54pm

Steve wishes.

130
by dk240t :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 9:55am

The Texans Defense also says phooey to regression to the mean and the plexiglass principle.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions and Jax Jaguars embrace it.

147
by AnonymousKJR (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 11:45am

I'm appealing to the smartest football fans on the web for help: am I correct in assuming that the disparity between the AFC and NFC means that we can safely predict some of the mediocre AFC teams are playoff-bound? So, for example, 2-3 Denver would seem all but out of it in the NFC, yet being in the AFC (and being maybe one win better than their record indicates, along with facing an easier schedule down the stretch) leads many to conclude they have a surprisingly strong chance at a playoff spot despite their record. Thanks in advance for any help or insight you can offer. I'm always so impressed with the quality of discourse on this thread!

148
by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 11:50am

After an in depth-study, I have concluded that it is a statistical certainty that there will be a winner of the AFC West.

161
by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:00pm

Damn! My bookie game me 10 to 1 odds that nobody would make the playoffs from the AFC West and I thought it was just too good to pass up. Another $100 down the drain.

165
by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:19pm

Hmmpf! I'm far more sophisticated than you! I almost got pulled in as well, but my guy had to give me 100-1 to entice me!

Once I did my regression analysis, though, I saw through his trap!

222
by BigCheese :: Fri, 10/12/2012 - 5:23am

Well, the Playoff Odds Report is on your side.

Oakland gained 1.8% chance of making the play-offs to take them to a whopping 5.7%, while the other three teams all lost points, resulting in a 5.2% lesser chance that someone from that division will indeed reach the post-season.

Of course, it's still above 100%, but at this rate, by week 17, there'll be only a 77.5% chance left. So, I like the 10 to one odds :P

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

156
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 12:18pm

FO playoff odds report gives the 2-3 Packers a 50% shot at the playoffs and the 2-2 Cowboys a 20% chance. So down, but not out.

2-3 isn't a very good record, but it's important to remember it's only 3 losses. A good team can go 8-3 the rest of the way for a 10-6 finish and a likely chance at the playoffs.

170
by cjfarls :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:45pm

I've said from the beginning that if Denver could start out 4-4, they'd make the playoffs. The schedule was just so front-loaded, and the team likely needing a few games to gel given the new QB, DJ Williams out, etc...

So yeah, 2-3 after 5, with close losses vs. top-5 caliber teams... as a Denver fan I'm totally okay with that.

172
by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:59pm

I still believe in them even if they lose to SD (8-2 after the bye isn't a stretch), but if they can beat SD, then that would be an incredible lift. They've finished their tough stretch and entered the bye tied for 1st with a head-to-head win on the road against the other team.

175
by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:05pm

If they beat the Chargers in San Diego Monday night, I'd make them, barring injuries, the very, very, prohibitive favorite to win the division. Playoff odds already has them at about a 67% chance of winning the division. Even if the Norvs don't screw the pooch at home on Monday, I'd say the Broncos will be the favorite to win the division.

203
by Michael19531 :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 12:19am

My best guess is that Denver will finish 10-6, San Diego 9-7 and Pittsburgh 10-6. That being said, I don't think that those 3 teams are as good in quality as the NY Giants, Philly Eagles, Vikings or Packers.

I really can't give a statistical reason for my projection, it more of a gut feeling.

214
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 10:45am

Yeah, like Rick said upthread the NFC is just much better this year. Through 21 interconfernce games, the NFC is 15-6 this year.

149
by QCIC (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 11:51am

"And so, we've got 4-1 Arizona down at No. 14, essentially tied with the 1-3 Detroit Lions. We've got 3-2 Cincinnati way down at No. 25. The last remaining winless team, Cleveland, is nowhere near last place; in 27th, the Browns are almost as close to average as they are to last-place Tennessee. And we've got two different 2-3 teams in the top ten: Green Bay and Denver. I went back and looked, and Green Bay and Denver are two of the best 2-3 teams we've ever encountered."

Every single one of those things is a sign to me that you are doing things right. It is why I still come to this site despite its many warts. One of the only places where people actually understand that who wins a particular football game, especially if it is close, is really really random.

171
by Anonymoose. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 1:58pm

Has anyone considered that over the long term, great teams will regress to the mean, as bad teams will generally rise? Could the reason the Texans and 49ers have risen to the top and haven't regressed from last season be the simple fact that over the longer time scale, it was statistically likely that at some point they would regress from being perennial pushovers to being contenders for a while?

After all, if a team that overcomes the small scale time frame of being bad to have a good is statistically likely to regress soon after, wouldn't it also make sense that a team that is bad for a very long time eventually be statistically likely to shift into another tier for a while? The system is not static, after all, and in fact it is rigged to help the worst teams find success (parity). After a decade of high draft picks, why doesn't it make sense for a new team to rise to the top for a long while?

Think of it as the flow of a fluid.

181
by Jovins :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 2:47pm

I don't think regression means what you think it does.

183
by poster formerly known as GOD (not verified) :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 3:11pm

Eli Manning leading in DYAR? Ever compare his statistics with Sanchez after year 3? Eerily similar.
Then again, Sanchez and Smith's stats weren't too far off either, and "Alex Smith has quietly become a very solid NFL starting quarterback". These guys are about the same, but the general feeling is that Sanchez stinks (even with his JV receiving corp), and Smith is "becoming very solid". I think Sanchez's numbers were just as good as Schaub's during the last Jets/Texans game. But the perception is much different.
It was actually Romo and Peyton manning that combined for about 7 or 8 INTs in a day -not Sanchez. I am always entertained by the perception vs. the reality.
The perception is that Sanchez should be benched,and Romo is really good. Who has more post season wins? I'm not sure, but I wonder. I just wonder how effective Smith would be throwing to 5' 8" Jeremy Kerley as his #1 wideout, with his cornerback being the quickest receiver on the team.
If the QBs rotated to a new team every week... I wonder if a couple of them would rise to the top of the QB ratings toward the end of the year, or would all of them fall to some mid-level mediocrity? I'd love to see it!

189
by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 4:17pm

Clearly, Trent Dilfer was better than Rich Gannon; who won the Super Bowl ring?

193
by RickD :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 5:17pm

"Then again, Sanchez and Smith's stats weren't too far off either, and "Alex Smith has quietly become a very solid NFL starting quarterback"."

Alex Smith was dealing with a separated shoulder whose treatment included a wire that then broke a bone, necessitating further treatment.

What's Sanchez's excuse?

195
by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 6:02pm

He is being distracted by the hot 17 year old girls?

199
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 9:21pm

Or by Tim Tebow continually taking his shirt off in the rain?

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

204
by tuluse :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 12:34am

Hey, we've all been there.

216
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 10:55am

Man, I don't know if you're nerdy enough for this site.

197
by Dan :: Wed, 10/10/2012 - 7:34pm

Sanchez's numbers are relatively similar to what Eli Manning, Derek Anderson, Kyle Boller, Patrick Ramsey, Joey Harrington, or Quincy Carter had done at this stage of their career.

211
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 10:03am

That 14 player list is kind of terrifying, but Eli's presence in it means there's hope, even if only in a Jim Carrey Dumb and Dumber way.

I wonder what FO similarity scores are for Sanchez.

------
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

212
by Independent George :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 10:25am

Much like everything else about his game, Eli's career trajectory is just plain weird. Let's ignore his rookie season; rookies tend to stink, and Eli is no exception.

Since 2005, Eli's career can be broken down into 3-year chunks. There is no discernible improvement within those chunks, but there is huge improvement between them. He was below-average from 2005-2007, above average from 2008-2010, and then turned elite in 2011. It's like every 3 years, he jumps to the next quantum state.

213
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 10:38am

"It's like every 3 years, he jumps to the next quantum state."

Does that mean in the 2014 season he will morph into a demigod and move to the ethereal plane?

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

210
by Noah of Arkadia :: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 10:01am

I wonder how effective Sanchez was when throwing to Santonio Holmes as his #1 wideout these past few years. A whole lot better, right?
------
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!