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The league's northern divisions pose a number of meaty questions, such as: "Is the Bears' offense due for a repeat performance?" "Why do the Lions have such pronounced splits?" and "Has Johnny Manziel made the Cleveland brass even crazier?"

26 Jan 2010

Conference Championship Quick Reads

by Bill Barnwell

We handed this Quick Reads intro off to Adrian Peterson, but then he dropped it.

Maybe you saw that one coming. After the Saints and Vikings played a game that was more reminiscent of Pop Warner football on Sunday night, though, fumbles are on our mind.

Measuring the impact of turnovers on an offense can be an inexact science. While fans rue a turnover in the moment, all we see at the end of a season in a player's stat line is an integer. We know Pierre Thomas fumbled two times in the regular season, but there's no context for where the fumbles occurred on the field or how important they were. Most statistical lines also only include fumbles lost, which is nonsense; Football Outsiders' research has shown that fumble recoveries are a wholly random event, and that no player or team consistently recovers more than 50 percent of the fumbles they put on the ground year after year. (For anecdotal evidence of how fumble recoveries aren't skillful plays, watch some of the Keystone Kops work from the Superdome.)

Just as we give players credit for touchdowns, they also deserve criticism for turning the ball over. Applying the old adage of "a penny saved is a penny earned" to football, the points you lose by turning the ball over are just as valuable as the ones you gain by scoring.

We can do that in a pretty simple manner by evaluating the yard line at which a fumble takes place, and then noting the point expectation for both the offense and the defense from that yard line. For example, say a team has a ball on the "70th" yard line, their opposition's 30-yard line, 70 yards away from their own end zone. On average, a team with the ball at this point will score 2.83 points per possession, so losing the ball 30 yards away from the end zone will cost that team 2.83 points.

Furthermore, the defense now gets the ball on their own 30-yard line, 70 yards away from the opposing end zone. A team at that 30-yard line will score an average of 0.4 points on that subsequent possession. Adding those two figures up, a fumble by a running back on the 30-yard line costs his team a total of 3.23 expected points. At Football Outsiders, we adjust these figures for the down and distance, as well as the game situation, but we'll keep things quick and simple for the purposes of this article.

If we include fumbles both kept and lost, and blame Brett Favre for the fumble on the botched handoff as opposed to Peterson, the Vikings' star back fumbled nine times this year. Using the methodology above, those fumbles cost his team a whopping 28.9 points. That's the most of any running back in football this season, ahead of Steve Slaton (22.7 points), Matt Forte (22.6 points), Beanie Wells (20.5 points), and Tim Hightower (19.1 points).

That's one of the reasons why Peterson's DVOA consistently ranks far lower than his reputation, and why he's not the best running back in football. He might be the most talented back in the league, and our advanced stats still don't consider the number of defenders in the box against him. But his inability to hold onto the football costs the Vikings pretty significantly over the course of a season. Usually, they're able to overcome Peterson's fumble issues; on Sunday, the botched handoff from Favre to Peterson might very well have cost them their season.


Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Peyton Manning IND
26/39
373
3
0
305
317
-11
Manning finishes with the fourth-highest single-game total of the year after picking apart the league's best pass defense. He got off to a slow start, taking two sacks on back-to-back passes after taking all of three sacks against Rex Ryan-authored defenses in five years, but Manning got into a rhythm in the second half. Consistently picking on weak links Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery, Manning jetskiied right by Revis Island and completed 16 of his 21 attempts in the second half, gaining 155 yards while throwing for nine first downs and two touchdowns. That half accounted for 178 of his 317 passing DYAR on the day.
2.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
17/29
257
2
1
97
99
-3
Sanchez didn't exactly lead the Jets to the playoffs -- the closest metaphor we could come up with was the cute girl in your study group who doesn't contribute anything at your meetings, but still earns the A for your work anyway -- but he sure was good when they got there. He finishes the postseason with a 40.9% DVOA, after a regular season where he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league.While he threw a meaningless late interception, he also made big-time throws on his touchdown passes to Braylon Edwards and Dustin Keller. (Give credit to the NFL Matchup guys, who noted that the Jets went for a big play on the third series of games; the 80-yard touchdown pass to Edwards was the first play of the third series.)
3.
Brett Favre MIN
28/46
310
1
2
86
103
-17
Favre is credited with the fumble inside the Saints 5-yard line, which cost his team an estimated 3.67 points. His second interception was obviously egregious; while the Vikings needed to move the ball forwards after their 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty (after which Favre tried to call a timeout, which would have been consecutive timeouts by the offense), even a slim chance at a 56-yard field goal is better than a dangerous pass over the middle. Those mistakes spoiled an otherwise great game by Favre, who abused Randall Gay and Tracy Porter while staying away from the dangerous Jabari Greer. He was very effective on third down, going 7-of-12 for 115 yards, yielding six first downs and a touchdown pass to Sidney Rice.
4.
Drew Brees NO
17/31
197
3
0
39
53
-14
Brees is given -14 DYAR for the aborted snap on third-and-1 from his own 14-yard line; being stuffed in that situation isn't particularly bad, especially against the Vikings' defense, but nearly turning the ball over is disastrous. He was the master of coming up just short on third down, completing two different passes for nine yards on third-and-10, and picking up 16 yards on third-and-18. On first down, he was awful, as 13 dropbacks yielded a strip sack, a very questionable 12-yard defensive pass interference penalty, four completions totaling 44 yards, and seven incomplete passes. He has to play a lot better than this to beat Indianapolis.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Pierre Thomas NO
61
1
38
1
63
42
21
Thomas nearly fumbled on his fourth down conversion in overtime, with Chad Greenway's helmet knocking the ball out of Thomas's hands, but also affixing it to his stomach in the process. Thomas had a 50 percent success rate against the league's best run defense, and he did great work dancing along the sideline en route to his 38-yard receiving touchdown in the first quarter.
2.
Joseph Addai IND
80
0
13
0
15
4
10
From 63 DYAR to 15! That's quite the dropoff. Addai probably doesn't deserve all the blame for his second quarter fumble, when Calvin Pace came free and nearly hit Addai before he was handed the ball. Take away the fumble, and he's way closer to Thomas's figure. Addai didn't have a run longer than 17 yards, but he had seven carries of five yards or more.
3.
Shonn Greene NYJ
41
0
0
0
10
10
0
While Jets fans might have rued the absence of Leon Washington on Sunday, Washington's injury has allowed Greene to emerge as the team's best pure running back. He's still got a ways to go as a receiver, but Greene's got more than a bit of Marion Barber in him with regards to hitting the hole. He started off the second half with two consecutive seven-yard runs before leaving with an injury; the Jets had 25 rushing yards the rest of the way.
4.
Reggie Bush NO
8
0
33
1
5
-20
25
That DYAR figure does not include his muffed punt, which was disastrous. It also doesn't account for his miraculous effort in turning a reverse from a huge loss into no gain, running about 25 yards in the process. For all the talk of his new rushing style and how he's matured, though, the results weren't there this week: Seven carries yielded eight yards, and a success rate of 14 percent.
5.
Adrian Peterson MIN
115
3
14
0
1
-6
6
Yes, he had three touchdowns and 115 rushing yards; in addition to the two fumbles, though, he only had a success rate of 40 percent and averaged 2.1 yards per carry on 13 first down carries against the league's fourth-worst run defense. Wonder how the Saints spent the whole game teeing off on Brett Favre? It was because he was stuck in third-and-8 all day.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Thomas Jones NYJ
42
0
28
0
-8
-26
18
Even cliffs are disavowing any knowledge of Thomas Jones falling off them at this point. 16 carries against the Colts resulted in a 19 percent success rate and exactly one first down. The two first downs he picked up on passes while down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter gave his numbers some boost, but what happened to this guy?


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Pierre Garcon IND
11
15
151
13.7
1
81
If Dwight Lowery was a video game, Garcon would have the high score; he started off with 27- and 36-yard receptions, and settled into a steady string of big plays as the game went along. Six of his 11 completions resulted in first downs, and a seventh was a great catch on a fade for a touchdown. His 23-yard catch in the fourth quarter on third-and-9 from the Jets' 35-yard line probably sealed the game.
2.
Austin Collie IND
7
9
123
17.6
1
78
When Garcon missed the first Jets-Colts game, Collie had a dominant first half against Sheppard; with Garcon back, Collie shifted into the slot, and he made whichever Jets' safety was matched up against him look foolish. A string of six consecutive catches yielded 112 yards, four first downs, and a touchdown. Oh, and when Anthony Gonzalez returns next year, Collie will be the Colts' fifth receiver on offense (behind Gonzalez, Garcon, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark). Scary.
3.
Jerricho Cotchery NYJ
5
7
102
20.4
0
37
The bomb from Smith shows how tricky it can be to assign measures of value to individual players in football. Cotchery caught a 35-yard pass and ran for 10 yards after the catch. Those are the facts. We know that the ball was underthrown, though, so Cotchery probably deserves more credit than Smith does for the play. On the other hand, Cotchery was wide open because of the play call and the Jets' tendencies over the course of the year, not his speed or route-running, so really, Brian Schottenheimer deserves a lot of the credit, too. All five of Cotchery's completions resulted in first downs, and three of those plays were on third down.
4.
Dustin Keller NYJ
6
7
63
10.5
1
32
There aren't many plays in the playbook for second-and-17, but the Jets pulled out one of theirs on a pass to Keller that picked up 19 yards and a first down in the third quarter. Keller also had a nice catch on the Jets' second touchdown, but as the game wore on, they needed better blocking, so that meant more Ben Hartsock.
5.
Visanthe Shiancoe MIN
4
6
83
20.8
0
30
Someone who's not a Jet or Colt! Shiancoe's four completions each went for between 16 and 26 yards, including a sublime catch on the sidelines. He wasn't in friendly situations, either; he converted two third downs, a second-and-9, and even a second-and-20.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Percy Harvin MIN
15
0
38
0
-30
-17
-13
Harvin ran for two first downs, but he also fumbled; in the passing game, outside of one 20-yard completion, he had seven other targets for 18 yards. After talk all week of whether he and Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey would play, neither had much of an impact on Sunday.


Special "The Pistol is not the Wildcat" Section
Rk
Player
Team
Pass
Rec
TD
Pass
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Total
DYAR
1.
Brad Smith NYJ
1/1, 45 yds
2/3, 7 yds
1
28
-15
13
The Jets spent all season setting up Smith's pass from an option play, but when Smith got Jerricho Cotchery wide open, he showed why he's no longer a quarterback; his 35-yard duck was complete, but had Smith led Cotchery, it would have resulted in an easy touchdown instead of just 10 yards after catch. It was a throw closer to LaDainian Tomlinson or Antwaan Randle El than even, say, a Seneca Wallace.

(Ed. Note: This article originally appeared Monday on ESPN Insider.)

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 26 Jan 2010

114 comments, Last at 27 Jan 2010, 7:48pm by HostileGospel

Comments

1
by John (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:09am

I've seen the comment that Manning figured things out in the 2nd half, or even at the end of the 1st half, but I commented online with ~2 minutes left in the first quarter that he had sorted out the issues and was driving well. I'd have to check the game book to see where that particular drive ended.

Per the comment above, the second half accounted for "178 of his 317 passing DYAR". Wow, the 2nd half accounted for just over half of his DYAR. I mean, seriously, 56% of a small sample size is hardly a dramatic preponderance.

Sounds like he had a pretty good 1st half too.

3
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:20am

The Colts failed to score TD's on the first 2 drives... That left them with 6 points. If they played the same, but had a little bit different red zone play, they have 14 points "and it all figured out".

Maybe part of the reason why they had it "all figured out" was because they were scoring TD's instead of kicking field goals.

2
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:16am

I'm not saying you are Sanchez bashing, but the guy came out as a Junior and is in the AFC Championship game. If you were expecting him to pull off a Matt Ryan like season then you were in fantasy land, but the comparisons to Jamarcu Russell and the constant remindings of his shortcomings seems unfair. The guy had a pretty decent game ( better than Favre and Brees according to your own statistics). He didn't "lose" the game for his team...

The Jets know that the Colts were looking to stop the run on 1st downs, guys keyed in for that "predictable" first down run, maybe the safties would come charging in maybe not... Not only did they call the play action deep ball on 1st down, it was the first play of the drive, 3 drives into the game where the Colts could have felt like they "figured out" the Jets game plan.

So rather than running some out and up or other move, Braylon executed it well, where he came out like he was going to run off the corner, or block etc ( not running a route), gets close to the corner and then turns on the Jets.... and beats the corner, Sanchez has a good pump fake and throw... Bullet or Bethea was keyed in on the run... bite, and was already too far away, and the Jets pulled it off.

The Brad Smith throw was executed well, as they fooled me ( I thought it was a run, I'll admit it)... That play was also on 1st or 2nd down ( not 3rd down which is for passing). They didn't previously run wild cat, then go into it on 1st or 2nd down and had you thinking it was a run...

Rex Ryan Martyball Jr. and the staff called a good game. They called trick plays at the "right" time etc.

Sanchez didn't make a whole lot of plays, but he did make some 3rd down conversions and didn't do a bad job. I just don't understand why you guys are going out of your way to tell everybody he's not that good. He's a rookie, and nobody thinks he's that great at this point... It's not week 3 of the NFL season anymore.

5
by Jmagik (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:40am

Why are they spending so much time on him? Let's see... read this in chronological order: http://deadspin.com/tag/poise/.

6
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:51am

Jason Campbell has a bad game, and it's the lines fault, the receivers fault, the running games fault, the coaches fault, last coaches fault, fans fault, ball boys fault.

Mark Sanchez plays alright, but screw him, he's like the hot girl in the stat geeks study group who gets a good grade ( no hard feelings here). He's really Jamarcuss Russell 2.0 in disguise! Fraud, Fraud, FRAUD!

9
by Ben :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:45am

Umm, all they said is he had a similar season to Russel's rookie year. No more, no less. He didn't have a spectacular year. In this game, he had several dumb heaves when he was under pressure, but he also made some nice 3rd down passes, which should give Jets fans some hope.

10
by Pied :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:51am

Yeah, dude, they're basically saying he's not (yet) as great a quarterback as people seem to think based on his team's record, but he sure has been clutch in the playoffs.

Why should that anger you?

31
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:19am

Pied
Who said Mark Sanchez is a great quarterback?
The fans? NO
The ESPN talking heads? NO
The pregame shows? NO
I haven't seen anybody say Sanchez is great... Maybe that he had a good game against the Bengals, but nobody says he's great. The general feeling people have is that he's more of a liability, and you wanted to keep it simple for him because you didn't want say an ugly 3 pick game by a rookie...

People were comparing him to Dilfer... that's not exactly praise.

*Umm, all they said is he had a similar season to Russel's rookie year. No more, no less*

Really, it was as simple as that? No smugness, no jokes, no making fun of him, no comparing him to a blond bimbo that cheats off the nerds?

90
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:51pm

Sanchez isn't awful. But he's exactly what everyone says he is: an inexperienced, flawed quarterback on a team that made the playoffs in spite of him, not because of him. The Jets would have made the playoffs with Kellen Clemens at quarterback. Maybe even with Brad Smith.

In the playoffs, he's been better protected by the exceptionally conservative game plans of the team, and has performed better. And there is no reason, apart from a slightly noodley arm, to believe he won't be really good in a few years. He had basically the same statistical season Matt Stafford did, after all.

But the study-group analogy was accurate, because Sanchez got to the AFC Championship based on other people's work this year, not his own.

98
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 4:07pm

I like how you put it better and I agree with you 100%. You communicate beautifully and intelligently and did it without the ususual smugness/negative spin.

64
by Temo :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:23pm

- Sanchez has a much better supporting cast than Campbell, I don't see how this debateable at all.

- No one said Sanchez is Russel 2.0

- Even considering he's a rookie QB, and that he came out of college early, Sanchez had a terrible season.

- I was a fan of Sanchez coming out of the draft and was happy the Jets got him

- I think Pete Carroll was right and that Sanchez came out before he was ready, and I expect good things out of him going forward.

- He had a good postseason.

- But really, he sucked during the regular season and cost the Jets games.

77
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:24pm

I never said that the Redskins has a better offense than the Jets, I pointed out how when Campbell has a bad game you get excuses, and when Sanchez plays alright he's slighted.

Sanchez's rookie season was compared to JR's 2nd season, some have suggested to sensatationalize and draw attention for ESPN.

Sanchez didn't have a good year, but he had a "rookie" year.

I agree he should have stayed, and I said from day 1 they shouldn't start him, let him sit and learn. I think Kellen Clemons could have done just the same maybe better...

I don't see anybody talking about how good Sanchez is, really, maybe in week 1,2,3 of the regular season, but that all died down real fast. The FO fired shots and compared him to JR, and then couldn't say anything nice after he had as you put " a good post season". There was a comment about having one of the worst playoff games last week blah blah blah, when even DVOA didn't suggest it.

78
by Temo :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:37pm

I don't see anybody talking about how good Sanchez is, really, maybe in week 1,2,3 of the regular season, but that all died down real fast.

Haven't been in NY recently, I guess.

Anytime someone gets a nickname like "Sanchize", I think it's fair to say they've been lauded.

70
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:49pm

Jason Campbell? Jason Campbell didn't play on Sunday.

Dude, you need to watch the games a little more closely.

8
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:37am

but the comparisons to Jamarcu Russell

Read the Audibles comment about this. They didn't compare Sanchez to Russell. They compared Sanchez's rookie season to Russell's. And they're very similar. The guy didn't have a good year during the regular season. This isn't debatable.

The guy had a pretty decent game

Did you miss the part where they said "during the playoffs, he had a 40% DVOA"? Sanchez has looked positively great the past few weeks. It's too bad he didn't play like that during the season, or else the Jets might've been hosting the Colts.

12
by t.d. :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 3:53am

Pretty sure they're comparing Sanchez's rookie season to Russell's second season, since Russell held out into the regular season and first started in week 15 or so. That, theoretically, could make a huge difference. Young players, especially at complicated positions, improve as much during the off season as they do during the games

23
by Led :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 9:20am

Right on. The whole "first year starter" thing was a weaselly way to get a headline grabbing lede -- Sanchez is just like Russell! Cheesey for FO's high standards. (That said, nobody's claiming that Sanchez was not absolutely brutal for much of this year, just that he showed improvement late in the year and had a very good performance, relatively speaking, in the playoffs.)

39
by WD (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:34am

Comment: Read the Audibles comment about this. They didn't compare Sanchez to Russell. They compared Sanchez's rookie season to Russell's. And they're very similar.

- - - - - -

No, they didn't.

They compared Sanchez's rookie year to Russell's second year in the league. You know, the year in which he sat on the bench the entire time, learning the playbook.

Or maybe I'm wrong, and in some weird world 15 starts = 0 starts.

It was a bad comparison, as were most of the other comps, none of whom were "rookies" at the time.

As my stats professor used to love to say ... garbage in = garbage out. And that analysis was garbage, done largely to promote the site on ESPN. Very poor work.

83
by Temo :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:59pm

Actually, the comparison for the same-age QB thing, something that is done quite frequently in other sports (such as Basketball and baseball). But no, I would agree with you that comparing a QB who has had a year to sit and learn the previous year in the NFL vs. a QB who was starting for USC is not precise, even if they are the same age.

The only thing is, even among rookie starting QBs, Sanchez doesn't look good. Matthew Stafford and Josh Freeman had similar production while playing with far less talented supporting casts.

In 2008, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were the only qualifying rookie starters, and they vastly outperformed this year's cast.

Trent Edwards was the only qualifier in 2007, and he did better than Sanchez.

In 2006, it was Matt Leinart, Vince Young, and Bruce Gradkowski, and they all did better than Sanchez.

Kyle Orton in 2005 was worse, granted.

Roethlisberger '04 was fantastic, of course.

Leftwich was better than Sanchez in '03, while Boller was similar.

Patrick Ramsey and Chad Hutchinson were better than Sanchez in '02, while Carr was similar and Joey Harrington was a bit worse.

Chris Weinke was similar to Sanchez in '01.

No rookie starters in '00.

Tim Couch and Cade McNown were both better in '99.

Charlie Batch and Peyton Manning were both better in '98, while Ryan Leaf was worse.

And that's as far back as I'll go. So the question is: would you rather compare Sanchez to Kyle Boller, David Carr, and Chris Weinke, or would you prefer JaMarcus Russel?

Either way, he looks bad statistically. It seems irrelevant exactly how bad he looks.

84
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:01pm

Of course, that doesn't mean that Sanchez will not end up like Russell. There is evidence pointing in both directions here. After all, the comparisons don't even consider how good the Jet running game and defense both were.

27
by MCS :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 9:46am

"The Brad Smith throw was executed well, as they fooled me" It must have been well executed if it fooled you.

Your arrogance is astounding. Perhaps if you came across as less arrogant, people would be more apt to pay attention to what you have to say.

30
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:14am

I couldn't care less if you paid attention to what I say or not, I call them as I see them. But you commenting on my comments tells me that you DO pay attention to what I have to say.

I'd bet you a dollar that when Brad Smith started rolling out to his right with that skilled position player at options length you weren't saying " PASS!!, PASS!! It's a trick! You, me and everybody else thought it was a wildcat play.

34
by MCS :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:27am

I thought it was an option play. I used to run the same thing many, MANY years ago.

59
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:02pm

Yeah, you thought it, I thought it, everybody else thought it, and the important thing was the Colt defenders thought it as well...

It's funny how Vick and a lot of these wild cat, and non traditional QB types in the Shotgun were run predictably run heavy during the regular season, but they were much more likely to mix it up and throw now.

I wonder if that was the strategy Reid had for Vick. Make him run almost exclusively, and then ( in a big maybe MNF game he threw) and in the playoffs he threw as well.

55
by tgt2 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 11:39am

1) Clearly not the wildcat formation, so not a wildcat play.
2) Wildcat plays include passes.

4
by Paul R :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:37am

So now I'm picturing Mark Sanchez in the tight pink sweater that Heather, the girl in my study group, used to wear. It's not working for me.

What color are his eyes?

36
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:28am

The same color as his facial hair.

7
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:35am

I suspect Harvin's lack of preparation this week played a role in his lack of productivity. Rookie receivers need all the practice they can get. One of the reasons I hope you know who plays another year is because I think Harvin would benefit immensely from another year with a qb who knows what the hell he is doing.

Gregg Williams likely deserves a lot of credit for Favre's last int. Favre certainly looked like a guy who gotten the snot knocked out of him for three hours, as he bootlegged in the clear, and rushed a throw instead of taking another moment to survey the field. If he does come back, the Vikings need to become an efficient running team again, to lessen the pounding he might be exposed to.

28
by MCS :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 9:48am

How much of there offensive philosophy change is due to the Old Man's input into the playcalling? The Chilly I remember is a run-run-run guy. Why all the passing all of a sudden?

42
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:42am

Because: Favre < Frerotte < Tarvaris

47
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:56am

Yeah, you tend to run, run, run, when you have a qb who can only use half the field. If they go back to that, the receivers are going to take a big step backward.

48
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:57am

I can't tell if that's an awesome joke, or if you just got your greater thans and less thans mixed up.

11
by whitakk (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 3:50am

Hey, I'm relatively new to reading FO, so apologies if I'm missing something obvious here or if this has been covered somewhere else. But regarding your example for how you calculate the cost of a fumble...is it really necessary to add the entire expected points from the defensive team after a fumble? If Peterson doesn't fumble and the Vikings score, the Saints still get the ball back - it's not like Peterson gives them an extra possession. So while I'm currently interpreting your formula as

Cost of fumble = (Vikings expected pts from 70) + (Saints expected pts from 30)

a more intuitive formula to me would be

Cost of fumble = (Vikings expected pts from 70) + (Saints expected pts from 30 - Saints expected pts from avg field position after kickoff)

or something like that (maybe you'd have to adjust for the fact that not all drives that reach the opposing 30 end in scores, but I think you get the idea).

Also: do you divide these by 2, to account for the fact that the offensive team recovers 50% of fumbles?

19
by ammek :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 7:32am

is it really necessary to add the entire expected points from the defensive team after a fumble?

DVOA doesn't. The explanation just came out a bit garbled, I think.

Furthermore, the defense now gets the ball on their own 30-yard line, 70 yards away from the opposing end zone. A team at that 30-yard line will score an average of 0.4 points on that subsequent possession

There's no way that teams starting from their own 30 score only 0.4 points on average. What I think it should have said is that teams score 0.4 points above average when they start from the 30. (This year's median starting position for drives was at about 29.3 yards.) In that instance, subtracting the expected points difference between the actual starting point and the average starting point of the following drive is quite reasonable (and necessary).

38
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:32am

" What I think it should have said is that teams score 0.4 points above average when they start from the 30. (This year's median starting position for drives was at about 29.3 yards.)"

I don't think that's right either. That would mean that .7 yards of field position is worth .4 points. At that rate, a first down would be worth almost as much as a touchdown.

87
by ammek :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:24pm

You're assuming a perfectly straight line (or smooth curve). That's not the case. The graph is here.

I still can't get Bill's numbers to fit though.

95
by Temo :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 3:32pm

The graph you linked to is about as perfectly straight of a line as you're going to get in most statistical studies.

108
by White Rose Duelist :: Wed, 01/27/2010 - 10:29am

What this actually means is that, when you have the ball on your 30 yard line, the next score in the game (not necessarily on that drive) is an average of 0.4 points in your favor. This includes all the +3 and +7s, as well as the situations where the opponent scores next and nets you -3 or -7 (or the rare -2, if you manage to run that far backward). You're more likely to score next in that situation, but not by much.

13
by lena :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 4:03am

An important but less-recognised discipline is the practice of keeping top referees fit. They are moving in the right direction and are gradually achieving their targets. A lot of people have surely thought about how the AFC Championship game is basically Super Bowl III all over again. The New York Jets, versus an established Colts team (albeit the Indianapolis Colts, if you want to nitpick) with a legendary quarterback. This ought to be good – I'd even get payday loans to get to the game. Even Joe Namath is acknowledging the connection – so this should be an epic game. The Vikings –Saints game ought to be pretty great too.

15
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 5:38am

Am I missing something, or is your time machine broken?

24
by Led :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 9:21am

For god sakes, don't spoil it for him(her?)!

80
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:47pm

lol And what does the fitness of referees have to do with anything?

40
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:38am

Now I'm really curious what prompted this post, and what the connection is to keeping top referees fit. Was this post floating in cyber-limbo for a few days before it suddenly landed here?

In any case, I would strongly advise against taking out payday loans under any circumstances. Even moreso when it's to see a football game that happened two days ago.

60
by zempf (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:03pm

I'm pretty sure it was a spam post for "payday loans" that has some meaningless football talk to get past the spam filter.

67
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:29pm

I briefly thought that it almost sounded like a post from a bot, but if it is, it's the least effective bot I've ever seen. It contains no overt advertisement, and no links.

114
by HostileGospel :: Wed, 01/27/2010 - 7:48pm

I've never seen a bot register an account in order to post spam, either.

--
Overall, I'd be kind of embarrassed to critique something when I didn't know what the hell I was talking about, but then, oh yeah, my NAME is on what I write, isn't it?

-Les Bowen

14
by Theo :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 5:16am

Eh. Harvins statsline is runningback, not receiver stats.

There are no New Orleans receivers in the top 5. Is that because of the pass distribution, or because they just weren't that good?
And wow Revis did it again, taking away reggie wayne. You'd wonder what happened if they doubled Wayne with 2 lesser defenders and put Revis on Collie.

45
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:52am

I don't know if it's as simple as saying that Revis "took away" Wayne. As I watched the game, it struck me that the Jets' gameplan almost took away Revis in a way. Manning was seeing single coverage (true single coverage) on either Collie or Garcon a lot, and he was just more inclined to throw at those matchups. The Jets seemed content to let Revis cancel out Wayne, but they needed to do something more creative with him once it became apparent that the Colts #3 and #4 WRs were able to consistently beat the Jets #3 and #4 DBs. They never adapted to the mismatches, so Manning just kept going that way.

58
by candy bar (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 11:52am

I don't think it's fair to say what Revis did or did not do in this game. Wayne was targeted 5 times, how many times Revis was covering him on those 5 targets I don't know. Wayne caught 3 for 55 yds, but the Colts didn't need him for more than that given the production from Garçon and Collie. In other words, avoiding Revis did nothing to hurt the Colts.

What if Manning had targeted Wayne more? Did he have the opportunity or was Revis' coverage too good? I'd have to have someone look at the film and make the case.

The one lasting impression of the Revis-Wayne matchup: the juke. Add that to the couple times during the first meeting that Wayne got open but was missed by Manning, and, while Revis has proven to be a great cover, he has yet to prove it against Wayne.

66
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:27pm

It seemed like Wayne was productive when he was thrown the ball, he just wasn't thrown it a lot. I honestly think Peyton could have gone there more if Garcon/Collie weren't working out so well.

72
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:58pm

And the above three statements are all another way of saying "Revis took away Wayne". If you're one of the top 5 WRs in the game, and your quarterback is not making much of an effort to get you the ball in the AFC Championship Game, you are in fact being extremely well-covered.

91
by Spoon :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:58pm

Not necessarily. It could simply mean that you're not being covered as poorly as the other guy.

This discussion reminds me of the Colts' romps over Denver a few years back. Peyton would have huge games without throwing much in the direction of Champ Bailey. Now Champ was considered a top CB at the time, but seeing as how Peyton was tossing for multiple touchdowns against the rest of the Broncos secondary it didn't much matter what was happening on Bailey Island. Keep in mind, this was when Marvin Harrison was in his prime. Champ's coverage could have been excellent or it could have been average; all we know for sure is that Peyton found a weakness elsewhere and that's what he exploited.

79
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:46pm

I was fairly unimpressed with Revis in this game. Manning didn't go after him too often (naturally), but when he did the Colts were very effective.

I counted two throws to Wayne and one to Collie with Revis defending. All complete, all for first downs, I'd guess about an average of 15 yards per completion, much of it coming after the catch, because for as great of a cover corner Revis appears to be, he looked like an absolutely miserable tackler. He barely even seemed to try to tackle Wayne or Collie on these catches. At best, he may have had an assist on the Collie catch, because he sort of brushed him and knocked him off balance before a linebacker actually brought him down a few yards later.

It's not like the Colts WRs are that hard to bring down. I'm pretty sure the Colts are one of the lowest YAC teams in the NFL.

88
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:28pm

I wish I could tell if you were serious or not.

Assuming you are, your position is that since the Colts successfully completed 3 passes against Revis during the course of the game, Revis isn't really impressive. Really, he's the among the best CBs in the game. That doesn't = nobody ever catches a ball against him. Manning's a pretty good player. Wayne too.

I was fairly unimpressed with Revis in this game. Manning didn't go after him too often (naturally), but when he did the Colts were very effective
Or to say it another way, the receiver he was covering was hardly ever open, but we he was open, he caught a pass.

I do know what you mean though. One year playing baseball I threw a one-hitter with 21 strikeouts against what was generally regarded as the best team in the state. The hit I gave up was a long home run. It really wasn't impressive on my part though. The other team didn't hit the ball too often, but when they did, they were very effective.

97
by dankchill (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 3:41pm

Perfect analogy, I know exactly what you mean. That one-hitter you threw with 21 strikeouts against what was generally regarded as the best team in the state was AWESOME! Revis DOMINATES! Discussion OVER!

99
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 5:18pm

I was being serious.

I'm willing to give Revis credit for his generally great cover skills, I was predicting before the game that Manning would spend most of his time throwing to a receiver on the opposite side from Revis.

However, Revis led all DBs by a pretty wide margin in passes defended, from what I remember, and this was the one traditional statistic he really stood out in. On Sunday he simply looked bad when thrown at. He not only didn't defense a pass that I can remember (not too unusual, since even he only averaged 2 PDs per game), but he didn't even look close to having a break up. Compared with the week before when Manning was squeezing passes into extremely tight coverage against Baltimore defenders, Revis simply looked like he was playing soft coverage.

After the catches, his tackle attempts were simply embarrassing, even for a CB. Tackling is the must fundamental skill every defender should be capable of, and against Wayne and Collie it's not like Revis was giving away a lot of size.

89
by mrh :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:32pm

Based on yahoo stats for yac, wrs only

league average is 4.3 yac for all wrs
Colts were 10th at 4.7, with a relatively big drop to #11, CHI, 4.4 (NYG and MIN also at 4.4 but fractionally below the Bears)
#1 was DAL at 6.8, a huge margin over #2 GB at 5.9, followed by another big drop to 5.2 (PHI, then NE).
Last was OAK, 2.4.

There are a few flaws in the numbers as the yahoo table only credits players who played on two teams (like Edwards or Chambers) with their stats on one team, but I don't think that affected the Colts standing as a somewaht above-average YAC team for its WRs.

Garcon was the major reason for that, with a 6.3 yac. Wayne and Collie were about average with 4.3. Baskett had a 0.6 on only 5 rec.

Clark had a yac of 4.6, above average for a te (league = 4.4) or a wr.

92
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 3:02pm

Colts YAC numbers are always a bit odd. It used to be (circa 2005-2006) that Wayne and Harrison would just catch and drop to the ground or duck out of bounds to avoid getting hit. The idea was that being tackled was actually more damaging to the Colts prospects than getting extra yards. You can always just throw the ball again.

The younger receivers (and Clark) don't seem to have the same theory, and Wayne has gotten more physical as well in the past couple of years. I think the issue is that with the decline of the offensive line, the Colts can't quite as reliably pick up first downs as the Edgerrin James Colts did, so the receivers have been told to fight a bit.

The other point is that YAC numbers include not only Antonio Gates/Wes Welker YAC (dodging and fighting for yards) but Marvin Harrison YAC (I'm a yard in front of you when I catch, and I'm just going to keep running now). The Colts at least used to get a lot of the latter and virtually none of the former. Probably not as extreme as it was, as discussed above.

106
by Dave :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:12pm

If we're thinking about the same Collie catch and missed tackle afterwards, Revis was actually playing zone. Which was a really curious decision. I don't know why you'd ever put a guy like him in zone coverage. But they did for that play, and the Colts recognized it immediately, and Collie got an easy first down.

I watched Revis/Wayne closely in the first game and was less impressed with his coverage than I was Bailey's two weeks earlier. But I expected Revis to play better the 2nd time around. I didn't end up watching him much at all, but it seemed like he spent more time covering other people than last time, and that he did just fine with it. No, he wasn't perfect, and if coverage had been super tight elsewhere more balls may have been thrown his way, but I'm guessing it wouldn't have been some huge success rate if there were 10+ attempts to Wayne.

16
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 5:41am

Is there any way to credit Addai's fumble to the OL... because when the DL arrives at full speed at the same time as the ball, it's not the RB's or QB's fault. It's like blaming a hit and run victim for bleeding all over the nice clean street.

17
by Vet_Nick :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 6:59am

I was amused by the LT (LG?)completely whiffing on him to get to his other, much more important blocking assignment! I suppose he probably would have had to hold him to stop it though but I guess 10yds is better than a fumble!

26
by Purds :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 9:44am

Yes, the LT whiffed. I got rid of the DVR so I can't be certain, but I am almost certain that the RG was trying to come across center and block Pace, but was too slow. The LT was supposed to find the LB. Not sure you can expect the LT to change assignments that quickly. Just a really good move by the Jet DL. (Or a bad play design by the Colts)

32
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:22am

I believe it was the LT's assignment to scrape and go look for the LB... Hardly is that a whiff.

96
by Purds :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 3:35pm

I should have been more clear. I wasn't trying to emphasize the word "whiff," but to emphasize "LT" as the poster in #17 seemed unclear if it was the LG or LT that was nearest Pace.

35
by DoubleB :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:27am

I thought it was a blatant mental error (by somebody). Nobody on the line looked like they thought they made a mistake (nobody turned around upon realizing their guy was by them). The LT didn't whiff so much as just move on to the 2nd level.

75
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:13pm

Right, sometimes guys block down, or pull, or don't block the guy in front of him. The LT clearly wasn't trying to block the guy in front of him.

Sometimes you "trap" inside defenders, or let guys run free if you are running the other way etc. It was most likely a run RIGHT, where they let the outside LEFT defender run free... The hope is that you are blocking more guys where you are running TO with a trade off to leave a guy free where you are running away FROM.

Rex Ryan runs more 1 gap systems that allow his defenders to press and penetrate and that's what (Pace?) did. Not every play is going to be a success, and (Pace?) was fast enough to turn a -4 yard loss into a big fumble. It he wasn't so quick and the gamble paid off, the Colt running back could have had the play blocked nicely.

Not every defender is to be blocked in every play by design.

50
by Independent George :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 11:07am

Obviously, you've never adopted a highway. You just don't understand how frustrating it is to watch those selfish meatbags mess up your nice, shiny asphalt.

18
by Brent Hutto (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 7:30am

RE:

"Oh, and when Anthony Gonzalez returns next year, Collie will be the Colts' fifth receiver on offense (behind Gonzalez, Garcon, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark). Scary."

Really? Are we entirely sure about that? It would seem to me Gonzalez and Collie will be competing in training camp for that honor. It would be interesting to see a stat comparison of their "career" numbers so far.

44
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:48am

I'm hardly a Colts fanatic, but I'd take Gonzalez over both Collie AND Garcon.

74
by Keith (1) (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:06pm

You are kidding, right?

54
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 11:39am

I'm very curious to see what happens when Gonzalez comes back. I hate the idea of Garcon or Collie being sent to the bench, because they've proven that they're good enough to start and meaningfully contribute. But it would also be a shame to throw Gonzalez to the side just because he got injured once. The thing is, I have no idea which of the three would get benched in an open competition. Looking at the production of the players involved, it's not nearly so cut and dry that Gonzalez is the best of the three.

In any case, I think it's important to acknowledge who the real loser is going to be in this debate -- Hank Baskett.

57
by Phil Osopher :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 11:49am

IMHO, AG is overrated

He is decent (note: average) NFL possession WR. Garcon and Collie are at least as good w/o the wear and tear that he has gone through.

20
by nat :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 7:49am

What Manning mostly figured out was how to get two key defenders injured. If you get credit for playing against the best pass defense in the league, but actually play against their backups, it's not a wonder that you get huge DYAR.

Drew Coleman doesn't even have a place on the Jets depth chart on nfl.com - he's a backup-backup.

DYAR is usually a good measure of skill. In situations like this, it's probably better to look at YAR. Which was still good.

25
by Purds :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 9:24am

Classic! (I wonder what team you root for, nat?)

29
by nat :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 9:55am

I root for good football analysis. Which is why I understand that the D in DYAR means defense (or opponent) adjusted - and assumes that the defense that is on the field is the defense that earned its DVOA over the season. Over the course of a season, that's about as good as you can do, but in a single game, you can actually see which players are injured, which get targeted, etc.

Manning's DYAR was vastly inflated by getting credit for playing against a defense that was not actually on the field. He had a great game, once the key injuries happened. But he did it largely by targeting a backup-backup CB. How much skill did Manning show by arranging injuries for the Jets defense?

Don't get me wrong. Targeting a backup-backup is exactly what he's supposed to do, and why he earned a good YAR. But in this game, DYAR is misleading, while YAR is more informative.

I'm not suggesting that FO should adjust Manning's DYAR. But I do suggest that football fans who want to understand the game should really learn what stats like DYAR mean and don't mean, and what their limitations are.

33
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:25am

So do you feel there should be an adjustment for playing the Kerry Collins Titans at the start of the year and the Vince Young Titans late in the year?

There are tons of injuries to guys, and hundreds of variables, that's why you look at DVOA but take it with a grain of salt.

37
by MCS :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:30am

Statistics are just another tool in the toolbox. Use them in conjunction with your own observational skills and knowledge. They are not intended as a replacement.

46
by nat :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:55am

That's a good question.

No, I don't advocate adjusting DYAR or DVOA for injuries. And I certainly don't advocate adjusting it for a team starting what they believe to be their best QB - even if they have picked the wrong starting QB. The fact remains that the team is trying to play its best players.

What you can and should do is look at a high DYAR and ask "what happened"? Did the Jets defensive personnel suddenly get worse that usual? Did Manning really play 305 yards above replacement level?

The answers are (a) yes, the Jets defensive personnel suddenly got a lot worse on defense - for reasons that have nothing to do with Manning. And therefore (b) no, Manning did not play 305 yards above replacement level.

43
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:45am

He's absolutely correct.

To flip it (and greatly magnify it), if Manning got hurt on the first play of the game, and the Jets go on to beat the Curtis Painter-led Colts 38-7, DVOA would credit them with a huge game, largely based on the opponent adjustment from holding down the Colts.

As a Patriots fan, I really didn't care which team won. My dream scenario was for the Jets to beat the Colts, and then lose the Super Bowl 89 to -3. But I wasn't going to be too upset if it didn't happen that way.

101
by Led :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 6:51pm

As a Jet fan, I wonder whether I would take that scenario. Your team gets to the SB (yeah!) but gets embarrassed worse than any SB team in history (boo!). I think I'd rather lose respectfully in AFCCG.

109
by Paul R :: Wed, 01/27/2010 - 10:37am

Curtis Painter is eternally grateful to you for assuming that an offense led by him could score a touchdown. A framed copy of this post is hanging in his locker right now.

21
by andrew :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 7:58am

In this year's Almanac it was written that Peterson's fumbling troubles were likely to not continue, noting past running backs who followed up fumbling years with returns to the norm.

However, in this case Peterson got worse than the already bad previous year.

I was wondering if we could get a list of top 10 or so drops in DVOA or DYAR due to fumbling, on both a game and season basis... would be an interesting list...

22
by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 8:45am

andrew:

Folks used to say the same thing about Ahman Green. And then he would fumble 5-7 times just like he always did.

If it's any consolation Peterson isn't someone on the level of a Wendell Tyler who I believe dropped the soap both to and from the shower each day. That guy was a train wreck.

Interestingly, the last study I saw had most of the guys who fumbled most frequently based on times carrying the ball played in the 50's/early 60s. I wonder if there was any common element there?

49
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 11:04am

Pro-football-reference had a study on fumble rates over time a few years back, after the 2007 season, I believe.

Basically, fumble rates today are less than half what they were in the late 70's. There are several likely contributing factors for this: instant replay changing more fumble calls to down by contact, coaches and scouts weeding out fumblers, etc.

That FO article suggesting that Peterson's rate would regress to the mean was using absolute rates to get comparable players, which I think was wrong; they should have used fumble rate above average, which produces extremely few players comparable to Peterson.

For example, Walter Payton was notorious for being a fumble earlier in his career. He fumbled 30 times over his first three seasons, while Peterson has fumbled 20 times over his. However, going by the league average rates and using fumbles-per-carry, Payton fumbled 33% more than an average back, while Peterson fumbles 97%(!) more.

Can the fumbles be corrected? I'm sure they can, much like with Tiki Barber. However, just assuming he'll fumble less because that's what an average back does is a bit off, as very few backs in history have fumbled as often as Peterson.

At the end of last season, there were two big factors keeping Peterson from being the best back in football; his lack of contribution in the passing game and his fumble issues. He's corrected the first, mostly, but not the second.

51
by andrew :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 11:17am

Well by the end of this season it was also poor run-blocking by his offensive line. He'd benefited tremendously from fantastic run blocking early on.

You'd have expected him to go up in DVOA (and down in DYAR) with the addition of a good quarterback, but this did not happen.

62
by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:14pm

I could be wrong, but didn't the rules change regarding the ground causing a fumble contribute a lot to current lower rates? Prior to that change if you hit the ground hard and the ball came out it could be ruled a fumble. Of course, replay takes that even a step further.

71
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:55pm

Yes, the ground-causing-fumbles rule and the implementation of instant replay are probably the two biggest factors in the giant fumble rate decrease. I'd guess that not fumbling has become a much bigger point of emphasis among scouts and coaching staffs, especially considering the passing game has become much more important; one of the biggest assets of the modern running game is that, play-to-play, it is much less variant than the passing game, and more fumbles would take away from its consistency.

82
by Noah of Arkadia :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:56pm

Of course, instant replay can also reverse a non-fumble and turn it into a fumble.

85
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:10pm

Starting this past season, yes. Up until then, fumbles could only be taken away via instant replay, not the other way around.

41
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 10:40am

Using the methodology above, those fumbles cost his team a whopping 28.9 points. That's the most of any running back in football this season, ahead of Steve Slaton (22.7 points), Matt Forte (22.6 points), Beanie Wells (20.5 points), and Tim Hightower (19.1 points).

And with Laurence Maroney fumbling 3 times on the way into the end zone, he's not that high on the list? I guess he didn't fumble enough to keep pace, but Lord were they costly ones.

52
by Ryan D. (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 11:27am

Is it possible that fumbling on the 1 actually puts the other team into a situation where their expected points turn negative on their next possession?

53
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 11:32am

That makes sense. It's like a well-executed punt. Would it be enough to offset the 5.8 or so points that it costs the offense?

56
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 11:41am

Yes, it makes the other team's next expected score negative. But no, it's not -6. IIFC, it's more like -2.

63
by carljm :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:18pm

I'm sure it does; can't recall exactly, but the break-even point is several yards out. On the other hand, it nullifies your own team's 5+ expected points at that point, so in net terms it's still more costly than fumbling elsewhere, I think.

86
by ammek :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 2:19pm

It's at about the 15-yard line.

61
by rageon :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:11pm

I have a question of the Brad Smith play. Whenever you teams run various "Wildcat" formations, I seem to always see the QB lined up as a WR. I guess I assumed that a team must have to have a player listed as QB on the field. But I don't believe Smith is officially a QB, nor do believe I saw Sanchez on the field for the play.

If I'm wrong about having to have a QB on the field (and I only believe that because they always are in those formations), then what's the point of leaving the QB in the game a a "WR" who isn't going to throw, block, or run a route?

65
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:24pm

There is no such requirement. A qb is kept on the field to avoid signaling to the defensive coordinator that there is not a good passer on the field, and thus adjusting his personnel package accordingly. Even if the qb doesn't have good speed, when he is split out wide, the defense has to account for him; any player split out wide cannot go uncovered, which means there is one less defender close in to offer run support.

68
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:35pm

cannot go uncovered? Is this actually a rule? Or were you just saying that it's a terrible idea to not cover someone? I know I've seen a couple games where a brain fart or something caused no one at all to cover an outside receiver so I guess I was just curious about that statement.

73
by DGL :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:00pm

He meant it as a matter of strategy, not rules. Leave the QB uncovered -> toss the ball to the QB who picks up an easy 15-20 yards then ducks out of bounds before the safety can get there to nail him.

What I always wondered is why, in these formations, the defense doesn't cover the QB with a very physical DB who "jams" the QB at the LOS -- with a hard, legal jam that separates the QB from his cleats. If you're going to stick the QB out there, and make me waste a DB on him, I'm going to make him pay.

100
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 5:46pm

The obvious answer is that there's no rule that says the QB has to go out for the pass - he can just run out of bounds if the CB looks like he's prepping for the reverse-suplex body slam.

113
by DGL :: Wed, 01/27/2010 - 5:47pm

True. That would make for some amusing visuals -- the QB at the LOS making a beeline for the sideline with the CB in hot pursuit...

69
by mrh :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 12:49pm

There is no requirement to have a QB - although only a limited number of players can wear a helmet that receives the play-calls, so that's one advantage to leaving a qb in the huddle.

Probably the main advantage to having a qb on the field when you intend to run a wildcat play is to avoid tipping your hand too early and allow the defense to make a situational subsitution. If you have 5 OL, 1 QB, and 5 skill players on the field the defense cannot count on you running a wildcat play and must honor the chance that your QB takes the snap. If you have 5 OL and 6 non-QB skill plays (or 6 OL and 5), a competent defensive coordinator has a package to counter that mix. The OC has to decide whether the match-up advantage gained is worth having a QB out there who won't do much to contribute to the success of most plays.

81
by Brendan Scolari :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:55pm

The Dolphins actually run the Wildcat with Henne on the sidelines quite a bit, or at least they did in the games I saw.

And as stated by others below, there is absolutely no requirement that a player of any particular position has to be on the field, but leaving your QB in keeps the defense from being able to sub in an extremely run-heavy package, because they cannot be certain that you are going to run the Wildcat.

76
by MJK :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:15pm

Not sure I agree with the methodology of adding the expected points lost by fumbling to the expected points the other team gets by getting your fumble.

If I fumble on the "70 yard line", it makes sense that I just cost my team 2.83 points. But whether I scored points or not, the other team would then get the ball, probably around their 30. The only thing my fumble would have given the team was the time on the clock that I failed to consume. And I think you guys are a long way away from correlating time on the clock at different points in the game to effective value of points.

What you ought to do is charge the fumbling team the expected points lost at the point of the fumble, as you do, but credit the other team only with the point value of the swing in field position that they gain from the recovery. I mean, look at the difference between where the get the ball and where we expect they would have most likely gotten the ball on their next possession after the drive in question. Calculating that expected field position could be tricky...maybe you say "from a certain yard line, teams score either a TD or a FG x% of the time, and punt y% of the time, and if they kick off the expected starting field position is v, and if they punt the expected starting position is w, so if they hadn't fumbled the other team probably would have started at the z = x*v + y*w yard line". Or maybe something simpler.

So, for example, if I fumble on the "70 yard line", I cost my team 2.83 points. But had I not fumbled, the other team likely would have started their next possession on, say, their 25 yard line (suppose they have decent but not awesome special teams), so the only benefit they get from the fumble (beyond our lost 2.83 points) is five yards of field position. Which probably has a much lower value than even the 0.4 points you cite.

In the reverse example, if I fumble on my own 30, I'm only costing my team a possession that, at that point, was worth 0.4 points. But the other team would have gotten another possession anyway, so they don't get the full 2.83 points from starting on my 30--they get whatever the difference between 2.83 points and the expected points from starting whereever they normally start drives, which is probably somewhere around 0.3-0.4. So a fumble on my own 30 would cost us a net of probably 0.4 + (2.83 - 0.35) ~ 2.88 or so.

This will actually slightly mitigate the penalty for fumbling on the goal line. Yes, I'm costing my team probably 6-7 points, but the other team has to start with the ball on their 1 yard line, and at least giving them that lousy field position has some value.

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by D :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 3:25pm

If we include fumbles both kept and lost, and blame Brett Favre for the fumble on the botched handoff as opposed to Peterson, the Vikings' star back fumbled nine times this year. Using the methodology above, those fumbles cost his team a whopping 28.9 points. That's the most of any running back in football this season, ahead of Steve Slaton (22.7 points), Matt Forte (22.6 points), Beanie Wells (20.5 points), and Tim Hightower (19.1 points).

This just makes me miss DPAR even more. Points are just more intuitive than "adjusted yards" when it comes to evaluating player performance (at least to me). Which is why a surely to be ignored request for a return to DPAR will be in the suggestions box of my FO Awards ballot.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 9:04pm

Really, points are more intuitive than yards to you?

How many points does a league average running back generate? A pro bowl receiver? A replacement level QB?

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by D :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 9:47pm

Well a replacement level QB would generate 0 points which is the same as his DYAR would be.

But to the larger point keep in mind two things:

1. You don't win with yards. Teams win games all the time when they get outgained in terms of yardage, but they never win when they are outscored. It just seems to me that if you going to peg a stat's value to another more common stat you should choose the one that correlates with winning. This the reason baseball guys use adjusted runs instead of something like adjusted hits.

2. DYAR isn't even measuring "yards" in the way you seem to be. Unless you are already familiar with the methodology 2000 adjusted yards just doesn't sound impressive for a pro bowler.

To put it another way it just makes more sense to me to read that Drew Brees was worth 127 points last year than it does to say he was worth 1846 adjusted yards. After all the first means Brees was worth about 18 more TDs to his team than a scrub QB (which sounds about right to me) but I simply can't conceptualize the second.

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by tuluse :: Wed, 01/27/2010 - 2:22am

1) A replacement QB is worth more than 0 points. Unless you think an all replacement level team would score 0 points a game.

2) FO doesn't have a stat called adjusted yards. They have Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, which if you told me Brees was worth 1800 more yards than a replacement player that does sound impressive.

3) Teams don't win with yards, and FO's team stats aren't measured in yards. However, players generate yards. A running back could average 5 yards per carry, get 150 yards, and help his team score a lot of points an win the game. If he didn't cross the goalline, he didn't score any points though. A receiver could catch every pass thrown his way and get 12 catches for 200 yards, but watch the running back fumble away every scoring opportunity. In that case he wasn't really worth any points, but he was still good. In another situation, lots of points would have been scored.

4) In your Brees example, I find it a lot easier to conceptualize the Saints gaining an extra 115 passing yards per game, than scoring 18 extra TDs. First, because those extra yards don't always lead to TDs. Second, because yards are a lot more common than TDs.

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by Temo :: Wed, 01/27/2010 - 10:57am

The real problem here is that individual player DVOA is near worthless as it is, and expressing it terms of DPAR or DYAR isn't going to make anything better.

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by D :: Wed, 01/27/2010 - 2:09pm

A. Actually if you want to get technical a "replacement level" player in and of its self wouldn't be worth anything sense "replacement level" is a rate stat not a counting stat. That said, an exactly "replacement level" QB (which I believe is defined as having a passing DVOA of roughly -13.5%) should be worth exactly zero more points (or yards) than a scrub QB regardless of the number of attempts since "replacement" is meant to define the level of performance at which a player starts to cost his team points/yards compared to Joe Scrub. (Admittedly I phrased this somewhat unclearly in my original response.)

B. I know players generate yards but they do so with the goal of scoring points (setting aside quirky situations like running the clock out at the end of the game) which is why it makes more sense in my mind to use points as the standard instead yards which are basically an intermediate step in the process. Moreover the 12 catch 200 yard no TD receiver is actually worth quite a few points since even if the RB fumbled the ball away on every drive the WR has given the team's defense excellent field position.

C. As I said in my original post this is just my opinion and I understand others may have different views which is why I actually think the best solution would be to just post both numbers on the site.

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by Nathan :: Wed, 01/27/2010 - 2:15pm

Moreover the 12 catch 200 yard no TD receiver is actually worth quite a few points since even if the RB fumbled the ball away on every drive the WR has given the team's defense excellent field position.

Wait, doesn't that make the case for valuing yards over points?

93
by lester bangs (not verified) :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 3:22pm

Given that Greene has one career reception, yeah, "he's got a ways to go as a receiver."

102
by Nathan :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 7:38pm

Was that Brad Smith play from the Pistol? I thought it was based on option from under center.

EDIT: rewatched, indeed it was the Pistol. Look at that. Makes me miss Pigpen Thigpen and the KC Wolf Pack from last year.

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by njjetfan12 :: Tue, 01/26/2010 - 7:42pm

Why does it say Brad Smith had a touchdown?