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» Scramble for the Ball: The DVOA Schism

Mike and Tom try to figure out what kind of secret sauce Arizona is feeding the media to sit at the top of the power rankings and in the middle of our DVOA rankings.

19 Jan 2010

Divisional Round Quick Reads

Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Gomez is given the credit for coining a famous phrase: "I'd rather be lucky than good."

That doesn't fly in football. The idea that teams require or even benefit from luck is distasteful to many fans, despite the fact that every team requires luck if they want to make it to, and then go deep into, the postseason.

Of course, some luck is merely the absence of catastrophic events. The Patriots were unlucky when Tom Brady's knee exploded after a Bernard Pollard hit in 2008, but it's difficult to suggest that a team whose star quarterback makes it through all 16 games is "lucky." It would be fair, on the other hand, to say that the 2008 Dolphins were lucky to have Chad Pennington stay healthy for all 16 games, considering his health record over the rest of his career.

Luck can manifest itself in any number of ways. Take this year's Jets. Before we start explaining why they're lucky, let's provide a disclaimer: The Jets are a very good football team. They ranked tenth in our DVOA rankings this year, ahead of both the Chargers (11th) and the Bengals (20th), who they've beaten to advance to their rematch with the Colts.

Even though they're a good team, those Jets have been lucky to catch some breaks. Needing two wins to make it into the playoffs, they faced two teams that showed only a limited commitment to winning in their games against the Jets. Winning those games still required skill and talent, of course, but far less than they would have if both teams had been playing at 100 percent.

Even the Jets' march back to Indianapolis through back-to-back road playoff victories has been subject to some luck. Nate Kaeding's disastrous game on Sunday meant that kickers have missed all five of their field goal attempts against the Jets in the playoffs. The last time opposing kickers missed five consecutive field goals against a team was in 2001, when both the Ravens and the Steelers (six consecutive) had such streaks. This year, only the Bills and the Patriots had opposing kickers miss as many as three consecutive field goals.

Of course, if Kaeding hits even one of the field goals, the game situation for both teams ends up totally different, and the game could have bounced the Chargers' way. In that case, the Jets would've had their own wholly legitimate gripes about the bounces not going their way -- the Chargers recovered all three of the fumbles that hit the ground on Sunday, even though fumble recovery is mostly random.

Finally, there are micro-level events that have to go one team's way or another. Darrelle Revis's breakup of a pass to Vincent Jackson is skill; the ball bouncing off of Jackson twice and into Revis's lap without hitting the ground is mostly luck. There's no shame in the latter, even though the idea that teams require luck to win has a shameful tone. Grove was wrong: It's better to be lucky and good. All four of the teams advancing to the Conference Championship Games certainly are.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Drew Brees NO
23/32
247
3
0
194
194
0
Brees was devastating on first down, going 7-of-11 for 117 yads with three first downs and two touchdowns, including the 44-yard flea flicker to Devery Henderson in the second quarter. The knee-jerk reaction is to note that he got some help when both Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and safety Antrel Rolle went down with injuries, but Brees threw at Rodgers-Cromartie more frequently than reserve Greg Toler.
2.
Peyton Manning IND
30/44
246
2
1
168
168
0
Add 30 more yards in defensive pass interference penalties to Manning's day to get to a total of 276 yards. That only adds up to six yards per attempt, but Manning consistently moved his offense down the field, and picked up five first downs and a touchdown to Reggie Wayne on his 12 third down attempts. He was also sacked just one time; that's nothing new for Manning, but the Ravens needed to get more pressure on Manning if they had any hopes of winning this game.
3.
Philip Rivers SD
27/39
298
1
2
144
137
7
After Rivers ended his fourth drive with a touchdown pass to Kris Wilson, it looked like he had the Jets defense figured out. Including a 15-yard defensive pass interference penalty, he was 12-of-15 for 156 yards, with eight first downs and a touchdown. He had accrued 144 DYAR, mainly by identifying mismatches at the line of scrimmage and exploiting them.

After that, of course, Rivers was below replacement-level. Two interceptions and a fumble didn't help, but Rivers's next 16 dropbacks yielded a total of 43 yards. The Jets held him almost exclusively to short crossing patterns over the middle against their zones, with their linebackers swallowing up everything in front of them for minimal yards after the catch. The league's most devastating deep game didn't have the time or the opening to throw the ball downfield. Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates might have ended up with nice receiving totals on the day, but even if the Jets had lost on Sunday, it's hard to argue that the league's best pass defense didn't defeat the league's top pass offense.
4.
Brett Favre MIN
15/24
234
4
0
121
121
0
The whole argument about "running up the score" seems absurd. We're not in Pop Warner football here, right? Everyone can have ice cream after the game, regardless of whether they win or lose. And if anything, running the ball is a more damaging enterprise to players' health than throwing the pigskin around, and rushing the passer gave the Cowboys an opportunity to get out some aggression against a captive offensive line.

As long as one team has the playbook wide open, there's no reason why the other team shouldn't be doing the same thing. If the Cowboys decided that 27-3 was enough and chose to run the ball up the gut while taking 35 seconds off the play clock each time, the Vikings should've offered them the same courtesy. If Dallas thinks that the game is close enough to try and score a quick touchdown, the Vikings should be allowed to attempt to push the game into untouchable status.
5.
Matt Leinart ARI
7/9
61
0
0
47
47
0
Our stats adjust for game situation, but Leinart got nine dropbacks down 21 points (second quarter) and later 31 points (fourth quarter). If you're looking at those nine plays and trying to parse anything out of them about Leinart's future viability at the pro level, it's a mistake.
6.
Kurt Warner ARI
17/26
205
0
1
7
7
0
After Bobby McCray's terrifying hit on Warner during an interception return, we want him to retire. That being said, it wasn't the prettiest way for the object of our playoff affection to go out; he only converted one of the six third/fourth downs he faced, and Saints cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter shut down Larry Fitzgerald. After the game-opening touchdown run from Tim Hightower, he got little help from anyone else on the active roster, but it was disappointing all the same.
7.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
12/22
100
1
1
-27
-27
0
Low-risk, low-reward continues to work for the Jets, with Sanchez throwing only a tipped interception and taking a single sack on the day. Sanchez did turn his 13 dropbacks on third down into five first downs and a touchdown, which isn't shabby at all, considering those attempts came with an average of seven yards to go.
8.
Joe Flacco BAL
20/35
189
0
2
-53
-57
4
The Colts' success against Flacco was a triumph of scheme. Determined to not let Ray Rice beat them in the passing game, the Colts employed a variety of methods to limit Rice's effectiveness as a dumpoff option, including double coverage with their linebackers and even defensive tackle Raheem Brock dropping into coverage as a "shadow" for the star running back. Rice still had 12 targets, but they yielded a total of 60 yards, and 26 of those yards came on one catch. That's a successful day for the Colts' defense, and it forced Flacco to make throws downfield that just weren't there.
9.
Tony Romo DAL
22/35
198
0
1
-154
-154
0
Romo got no help from his offensive line. While the combination of tight end Jason Witten and reserve tackle Doug Free were no match for Jared Allen after Flozell Adams went down with an injury, Marc Colombo also struggled mightily against opposite end Ray Edwards. Romo was running for his life for most of the game, and while he's very effective as a scrambler and an improviser, the Vikings were good enough in coverage to shut Romo's options down. The offensive line was also of no help in the running game; on average, Romo dropped back on third down with more than nine yards needed for a new set of downs.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Reggie Bush NO
84
1
24
0
60
52
8
Bush's five carries yielded four first downs and a touchdown. It wasn't a huge role, or anything indicating that Bush's style has changed or that he's taken a huge step forward. Just a very good game in a very small sample size.
2.
Felix Jones DAL
69
0
22
0
28
27
0
Jones was the Cowboys' only real weapon on Sunday, as he put up a 71 percent success rate on his 14 carries. Exhibiting what happens when he doesn't turn the corner or get through the hole, Jones only had four carries that weren't successful runs, and they each went for negative yardage.
3.
Lynell Hamilton NO
23
1
0
0
14
19
-6
The fourth running back on the Saints' active roster, Hamilton's carved out a role as a short-yardage back. He was certainly successful in his role on Saturday, scoring on a one-yard plunge, converting on third-and-1, and picking up a first down with an 11-yard carry later on in the game. That doesn't seem like very much to finish third for backs in DYAR this week, but it wasn't a great week for backs.
4.
Pierre Thomas NO
52
0
18
0
12
16
-4
There were no big runs for Thomas, whose long carry on the day was nine yards, but he did have a 62 percent success rate on his carries and converted on two of his three short-yardage attempts.

5.
Tim Hightower ARI
87
1
27
0
11
6
5
Hightower's 70-yard touchdown to start the game was very valuable, sure. How did he finish with six DYAR, then? Well, the Saints' rush defense is pretty awful, so some of the air in that long touchdown run was taken out. After that, Hightower got five more carries, and only one of them was successful, a six-yard run on first-and-10 in the fourth quarter. More importantly, he also fumbled while coming up short on a third-and-3 inside the red zone, a move that could've cost the team six points.
For those wondering: Shonn Greene had only 7 DYAR for the Jets; only seven of his 23 runs were successful, he was 1-of-4 on third downs, and averaged just 2.7 yards per attempt on first down if we remove his long touchdown. A very boom-and-bust day.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
LaDainian Tomlinson SD
24
0
0
0
-26
-11
-15
Tomlinson got the first nine Chargers' carries of the game. They went for a total of 20 yards; exactly one of the carries was successful, a five-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. Darren Sproles got three carries at the end of the second half and turned them into 33 yards; they were his last carries of the game. Not to suggest that Norv Turner is anything but a genius, but maybe Sproles deserved at least one carry in the second half?


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Sidney Rice MIN
6
7
141
23.5
3
86
Rice's day would rank higher if he wasn't targeted on an incomplete fourth down pass and thrown a dumpoff on third-and-12. Of course, three of the other five passes to him went for touchdowns, accruing a combined 108 yards in the process.
2.
Vincent Jackson SD
7
9
111
15.9
0
60
Jackson wasn't getting open against Darrelle Revis, but instead against the Jets' other corners, thanks to pre-snap motion. Of course, when the Chargers did throw to Jackson against Revis, the result was a miraculous interception.
3.
Devery Henderson NO
4
5
80
20.0
1
47
In much the same way that Bush had a big game, Henderson saw five targets and turned them into three first downs and a touchdown. His one targeted incompletion was in the endzone.
4.
Marques Colston NO
6
9
83
13.8
1
39
Four of Colston's five first downs came in the first half, when the game was still a contest. In fact, his two-yard touchdown catch at the end of the first half gave the Saints a three-score lead and really started the blowout.
5.
Reggie Wayne IND
8
11
63
7.9
1
32
The Ravens didn't get a ton of pressure on Manning, but they got enough to keep the Colts' receivers from heading downfield for big plays. Wayne wasn't thrown a ball further than 16 yards downfield, and his three longest targets of the day (16, 14, and 13 yards) all fell incomplete. The 13-yard attempt did end up being a pass interference penalty, though, one of his four first downs on the day.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Todd Heap BAL
4
7
35
8.8
0
-24
Against the Colts over the course of his career, Heap has averaged two catches for 29 yards. He's at the bottom of the rankings this week because he fumbled, but if he'd held onto the ball on that play, it might actually be a good day for him considering the opposition.

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

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 19 Jan 2010

70 comments, Last at 22 Jan 2010, 2:42am by Big Johnson

Comments

1
by pm :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 12:46pm

This was Manning's 16th playoff game. Do you know what Manning's Career DYAR is in the playoffs? I want to see how much he drops off, if he does drop off.

2
by Joseph :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 12:52pm

Minor error in Reggie Wayne's comment--"The Bengals ..." I think you meant the Ravens.
I know that it's small sample size, but I had a question: Considering Bush only had FIVE rushing attempts, is that the most DYAR accrued on 5 or fewer attempts? And what is the fewest number of attempts that it took for ANY back to accrue 61+ DYAR? Also, how much DYAR would Bush accrue from his punt returns?

3
by carljm :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 12:53pm

Indeed, the Bengals did not get much pressure on Manning. Nor did the Ravens, for that matter. (re Reggie Wayne's paragraph).

4
by Dan :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 12:59pm

Combined with the regular season, Bush now has 155 rushing DYAR on 75 carries this year. It's a much smaller role than he's had before, but he's been much more effective.

29
by mm (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 3:52pm

Barnwell really doesn't trust FO's numbers with Bush. Bush has a solid rushing DVOA all year (finishing with a 30.6% final mark), but he has ignored it all year.

52
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 7:30pm

It depends on what your expectations are for Bush. He came into the league hailed as the next Gale Sayers. The fact that he's had very good very limited carries still means he's falling extremely short of that expectation. If you just expect him to be "Saints backup RB" he's exceeding those. Based on the announcers from Sunday, they still seem to think that he could be Gale Sayers, rather than a guy who had as much success as Kevin Faulk.

64
by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 11:30pm

Yeah, Bush has been so effective as a part time back he's almost reached the dizzying heights of M. Tolbert and G. Wolfe. What elite company.

5
by R O (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 12:59pm

It really sucks that the Jets/Chargers game is going to end up in "Any Given Sunday" since I'm not an "Insider".

I really want to know what the heck happened in the second half...you know besides the fact that Norv completely abandoned the running game when he didn't have to.

12
by Sean D (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:13pm

Don't worry, you didn't miss anything. The article barely talked about the game and focused on similarity scores for Sanchez and some most irrelevant talk about Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene. It was a pathetic attempt at analyzing an upset. The quality of AGS went down a lot after moving to Insider.

6
by Growler (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 12:59pm

I like this article! A most-excellent summary that is also fair! After reading the in-game comments, especially on the missed SD field goals, it just is not right to disregard the two fumbles on the Chargers' same possession that the Jets did not recover. Cromartie fumbled the kickoff at the Chargers 26. The 2nd fumble came several plays later on the strip-sack on Rivers by Rhodes -- where the ball ended up on the Chargers 33. The Jets had just gone up 17-7 before that kickoff... and a Jets recovery in either case would have greatly increased the chances that Nate Kaeding's misses would not have been talked about so much. So thank you for finally realizing that.

I do want to add one point about the Revis interception: I believe that was as much skill as luck, because how many players would have seen the ball and reacted to it that quickly? Revis is known for his amazing peripheral vision (just watch the video of his interception on the pass to OchoCinco in Cincinnati to see) -- and that obviously came into play there. And one more point about that play -- after the INT, the Jets were CLEARLY in Rivers' head! It was visible even on television! To me that was the true turning point in the game.

50
by MJK :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 7:15pm

The Revis interception drives home the point that you need to be lucky AND good. No CB who doe not have amazing ball skills and excellent vision manages to catch that ball, even after the two bounces. But no CB PERIOD manages to catch it unless it happens to bounce off first Jackson's thigh, and then his foot, in a freakish, unrepeatable manner.

70
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 2:42am

the revis interception wasnt even touched by revis. it was a complete drop by jackson. this play was not any more skill than a ball getting tipped at the line of scrimmage and a defensive lineman picking it off. Revis is just the cornerback of the year. Hes not the second coming of jesus. Hes as good as asomugha and champ were in their primes. When a good player gets lucky it should just be labeled as such, not justified that since hes good he is not prone to luck

7
by Paul R :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 1:20pm

For the record, the Seahawks also got no pressure on Manning. Nor did the Beatles.

26
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 3:31pm

And the Rolling Stones got no satisfaction.

31
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 4:00pm

But after the game, it's possible some of the Colts got some girlie action.

45
by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 6:07pm

or hopefully at least girl reaction...

46
by Paul R :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 6:19pm

'Cause in sleepy Indy town,
There's just no place for a street fighting Manning.

66
by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 01/20/2010 - 10:55am

He can't be a Manning 'cause he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me.

8
by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:03pm

Shonn Greene's contributions would be better measured by a WinEx stat than a PointEx one, since many of his later runs were clock burners.

I know that DVOA is unlikely to get a WEX-sibling any time soon, but it would better express his value in this particular case.

47
by E :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 6:21pm

First, it was Greene's DYAR, not DVOA, that were mentioned in the column.

Second, DVOA is not a PointEx stat - the most critical component appears to be Succes Rate, which looks at yards gained towards a 1st down. Making first downs improves win expectancy, even when (especially when) in run-out-the-clock mode.

Third, I don't see how we can credit Greene for clock-burning runs, or how you could expect him to have had a high WinEx on those runs.

"only seven of his 23 runs were successful, he was 1-of-4 on third downs, and averaged just 2.7 yards per attempt on first down if we remove his long touchdown. A very boom-and-bust day." 1 first down in 4 attempts did not help the Jets burn the clock. Putting them in second-and-long situations did not help them burn the clock. I think the 7 DYAR adequately describes Greene's day - he had 23 mostly forgettable carries and 1 big run.

54
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 7:50pm

Second, DVOA is not a PointEx stat

Yeah it is: it correlates with points scored. A win expectation-based stat would correlate with likelihood to win a game.

Third, I don't see how we can credit Greene for clock-burning runs, or how you could expect him to have had a high WinEx on those runs.

You figure out how often a team wins the game before the run, and how often a team wins the game after the run. That's the change per run. Compare it to the average, and you'd have a win-change over average.

Still, I'm not a huge fan of stats based on win expectation, since
1) win likelihood in a close game can change by crazy amounts, and it's not a player's fault he was chosen on a given play. A 4th and 1 on the goal line, with 1 second left, with a team down 5, will jump to either "1" or "0." That's going to be the single-biggest change in win likelihood in the entire game, all assigned to one player.

2) the "true" win likelihood really depends on the ability of the two teams to score against each other. The Chargers were moving the ball ... well, somewhat well ... against the Jets - that failed drive (run for 2, run for 3, run for 2) that Greene had might not have been a big deal against *most* teams, and so the win-expectation drop might not've seemed that big. But against the Chargers, it allowed the game to essentially come down to a single stop. If you even assume that the Chargers had a 50/50 shot if they recovered that onside kick, that drop might've been as much as 10% or so. Whereas based on all teams, it might've been only a few percent.

I'm not disagreeing with you, though - I think comparing situationally here is probably better. It's true that Greene's runs were in "run out the clock" mode, so you're best off comparing how well he did to other runners in "run out the clock" mode. The amount of time that came off the clock is completely (or nearly completely) out of Greene's hands, so the only thing that matters is how much he helped his team get to that first down. And he, uh, didn't.

9
by Thok :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:04pm

Rice's day would rank higher if he wasn't targeted on an incomplete fourth down pass and thrown a dumpoff on third-and-12.

So, this is a general DYAR question, but why does a WR get negative credit for a dump off on third down (which the comment seems to claim)?

I agree that he shouldn't get positive credit (or at most minimal positive credit), but that seems like a play that mostly isn't the WR's fault; the coach made the play call and the QB chose to throw it to him, and the negative performance on the play is their fault. It feels counterintuitive that a WR who catches a dump off on 3rd and 10, and breaks a couple of tackles to gain 8 yards gets credited with negative yardage. My feeling is that would be 1-2 DYAR for the wide receiver (with the QB getting credited with (-8)-(-10) DYAR), and it sounds like it's credited as roughly (-3)-(-4) DYAR for both the WR and QB instead.

(Note all of the above numbers are made up, so feel free to include what the correct numbers actually are. But my point is more "Are you sure you're assigning credit to the QB and WR in that sort of play correctly?" than the exact numbers. And I could be wrong about how DYAR is assigned on that sort of play.)

51
by Jerry :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 7:28pm

The team gets credit for an 8-yard gain on 3rd and 10, and the QB and WR both get that same credit. The play-by-play doesn't specify whether it was a great/horrible play by the passer, receiver, or defender, and making that determination subjectively opens up many cans of worms, so the final result is all that matters.

10
by GVF (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:05pm

I find it hard to believe that Favre's game was not as good as Rivers's. Can somebody help me understand what factors led to his lower rating?

15
by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:40pm

He didn't get a lower "rating", he just had less total (144-121) and passing (137-121)DYAR -- Defense-Adjusted Yards over Replacement (level), which is a counting stat in some way tied to regular stats (Rivers had about 13% more passing DYAR than Favre, and about 27% more passing yards). If you looked at DYAR per pass, Favre was about 43% better at about 5 to 3.5, so I am sure Favre's DVOA was higher than that of Rivers.

Probably the most signficant factor in the comparison is the "Defense-Adjusted" part. Dallas pass defense is here ranked as somewhat below average, while Jets pass defense is rated the best in the league/significantly above average. I would guess that despite throwing fewer times for fewer yards, Favre had a good bit more non-defense adjusted YAR than Rivers. I would also think that Favre's EYds (another metric here attempting to quantify the actual value of the standard stats) would be well in excess of his actual yards and more than that of Rivers.

57
by GVF (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 8:39pm

Thank you, that helped.

11
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:09pm

As a long time poker player, lucky doesn't have a negative ring to it - it's simply an essential part of winning in all non-chess games.

28
by Theo :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 3:41pm

Preparation * chance = luck

34
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 4:22pm

I think people here understand that FAR better than your generic fans of any sport. I always felt it but could not really explain it without sounding like a bitter, sore loser until I read the fumble recovery explanation and felt I could explain the role of randomness and luck to others (my father, for example).

I think people still have an innate resistance to it--even with poker, they are likely to say they are or their favorite player is just better. "I'm luckier than you are!" is pretty weak as a cheer or taunt. After all the effort and preparation that goes in to a football season, it's hard to concede that maybe we won because the ball bounced our way once or twice. Unless it's really obvious. Like the Kaeding kicks. Pretty hard for a Jets fan to wholly attribute that game to superiority. But I've known a lot of Jets fans and it would not surprise me.

39
by ChrisH :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 4:38pm

Well, I think you need to believe that skill puts you in the position for luck to matter. Going to the poker analogy, if all you ever do is bet everything on each hand and have to rely on getting lucky every time, you're going to lose in the end. However, if you have a lot of skill to let you remove luck from the equation as much as possible, then your odds go up dramatically.

You can say that the Jets got somewhat lucky (Kaeding missing those field goals, Revis getting that interception that could have very easily hit the ground), but they had a lot of skill that enabled them to be in position to take advantage of that luck, since if they weren't as skilled, the Chargers could be up by so much that it wouldn't matter. The Chargers might be more skilled, to the point that all of these lucky things had to go the Jets way for them to lose to them on Sunday, but just like the most skilled poker player doesn't always win, the best team doesn't always win either, and I just have to accept that.

13
by Solute (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:15pm

http://i435.photobucket.com/albums/qq79/mminor07/717b93d30a.jpg

They were in his head!

Phillip does not look happy at all

25
by Phil Osopher :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 3:30pm

I think he just has to poop.

Revis is great. Champ Bailey in his pirme great. Rex Ryan just wins games/ Norv just loses important games.

To Norv = to underacheive in the important games by making poor decisons on personnel, clock management, and play calls resulting in a befuddling lose to an inferior team. "Hey guys, did you see see the Chargers get Norv'd again last night?.....Fuck yeah, that shit was hilarious. Now we get to hear how Rex Ryan, just wins games. WTF, Norv'd again."

35
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 4:30pm

Norv just got a contract extension. Perhaps being a HC requires a whole array of skills and while his HC skills are above-average, it's his job maintaining skills that are top-notch.

For example, I work as a third-party evaluator of financial assets. Sometimes data comes in slowly and I have to get my deadlines extended. Sometimes I just F-up and start too late and have to get an extension--entirely my fault. I've always maintained in the office that my greatest skill is not valuation but in getting those extensions without our clients feeling screwed or docking our fee. Now I'm not remarkably proud of that skill, but it's damn good to have when you're in a pinch. Perhaps Norvall is in the same boat. After all, he can't try to improve unless he has an actual team to coach.

if my boss was a football fan I might someday walk in and say, "Good news/bad news: I Norv'd the last report, but the client signed us up for two more!"

14
by jmaron :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:36pm

Someone mentioned that they thought DVOA rewarded consistent first downs to heavily and big plays to lightly.

When I see Manning and Rivers as rated better than Favre put up on Sunday it makes me feel very strongly that there is too much wait to completing first downs versus big plays.

Favre's three plays on the first three touchdowns were worth way more than anything Phillip Rivers or Manning did. Those weren't 1 yard dumps for TD's they were game deciding great plays.

17
by Sophandros :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:45pm

Big plays are too random and thus less easily predicted, while the ability to accrue first downs is not.

Plus, the goals of the game are both to achieve and to prevent first downs and touchdowns. Big plays (offensively and defensively) are a very small subset of those goals.

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Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

24
by eLuz (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 3:25pm

Wrong. The goals of the game are to score points and prevent the other team from scoring points. By percentage big plays lead to points a lot more often than first downs do.

38
by tally :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 4:35pm

Yes, on that particular play, but big plays are simply not as reproducible and therefore less predictive of future performance. The goal of DVOA isn't to be descriptive but to be predictive.

For example, recovering a fumble will obviously lead to more points than simply forcing a fumble, but fumble recovery has been shown to be mostly random and therefore non-predictive and not factored into DVOA. Forcing fumbles, on the other hand, seems to be a repeatable, predictive skill that is factored into DVOA.

Big plays are more like fumble recoveries and less like forcing fumbles. They're not completely random, but there is a higher degree of randomness.

42
by Jovins :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 5:29pm

Fumble recoveries are not random.
They are non-predictive, as in previous fumble recoveries do not predict future fumble recoveries.
There is a large difference.

67
by Sophandros :: Wed, 01/20/2010 - 12:25pm

A little reading comprehension would be helpful for you. I said accumulating first downs AND touch downs. If you DON'T accumulate first downs, then your chances of scoring touchdowns go down drastically.

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Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

20
by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:58pm

Do you need 3-D glasses to see the DVOA ratings here? Because I haven't found any individual DVOA ratings for the playoff games so please tell me where they can be found. This article is all DYAR, a counting stat affected by the magnitude of the standard stats including yards and the defense you obtain them against). Rivers and Manning are not "rated better than Favre put up on Sunday", they just have more DYAR. I doubt the DVOA rating for either of them is more than the DVOA for Favre.

Manning threw it 44 times to generate his 168 passing DYAR, about 3.8 DYAR per pass. Favre threw it 24 times to generate his 121 passing DYAR, or about 5 DYAR per pass. Favre's DYAR/pass is about 31 percent higher than Manning's (and 40-plus percent higher than Rivers), so I am sure Favre's DVOA is higher than both (even factoring in the weaker pass defense faced by Favre).

DYAR is a D-adjusted stat, and the passing defense Favre faced (final regular season DVOA 4.4) was worse than that faced by Manning (-12.6) and Rivers (-34.6), so Favre's non-adjusted YAR probably higher than both.

22
by R. Johnston (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 3:19pm

One problem with how DVOA and DYAR handles big plays versus consistency in moving the chains is that the relative value of the two is highly context dependent. DVOA captures some, but not nearly all, of this context. Underdogs, whether underdogs because of game situation or because of relative talent, should almost always pursue a relatively high variance strategy that decreases average result while increasing the chances of a winning result; after all, winning is the goal of playing and it doesn't matter how much you lose by. In any winner-take-all competitive event, some variant of boom-or-bust is almost certainly the preferred strategy of a lesser or more weakly positioned competitor.

If the average final score of a Jets/Chargers game is 24-17 Chargers over the Jets, then consistency is the Jets enemy. If the standard deviation of each team's score is one point then the Jets will rarely win; if the standard deviation of each team's score is ten points then the game's essentially a tossup. More realistically, if the Jets, by high variance strategy, can make the average final score 25-16 rather than 24-17, while doubling the standard deviation of each team's score, then that's almost certainly an appropriate strategy for the Jets to pursue.

Of course any effort to reduce the quality of a player's game to a single number is going to suffer from the same problem of that number being more accurate and more applicable in some contexts than in others. The Football Outsiders stats are frontrunner stats, which makes a certain sense because frontrunners are the teams that tend to win and that tend to be able to most readily identify a single replaceable part that could lead to improvement of the team. The Outsiders stats are good tools if you're looking at building a team that can compete year in and year out; if you're looking, however, at how teams should strategize in any particular game and in how to evaluate performance in the context of individual games they're much less useful.

27
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 3:41pm

Unfortunately, given that the final score was 34-3, Favre didn't make any game deciding plays. Even with no touchdowns at all, the Vikings would have won with their two field goals.

Running up the score just isn't that valuable, whether you do it fast or slow. Not that I'm against running up the score (it's the defense's job to stop the offense) but it isn't particularly valuable to the team.

36
by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 4:31pm

I'd argue with that. The need to score points changed the Cowboys' play calling. If it's 6-3, I'll bet that the Cowboys' offensive line isn't manhandled so badly, since they can continue to work their running game.

Points are the single most valuable thing in the game, on more than one level.

16
by jmaron :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:41pm

Further to that same argument about DVOA not rewarding big plays enough. NO's Hamilton performance was worth more than Hightower?

Really - a 1 yd plunge that really has little to do with the back and 11 yard carry for a 1st down is worth more than a guy who knocked off a 70 yarder?

18
by Sophandros :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:46pm

Compare Arizona's run defense to the Saints run defense, as well...

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Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

21
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 3:16pm

Well, Hamilton had three very successful carries: the touchdown and the two first downs.

Hightower had one: the touchdown. Also, there are diminishing returns for long runs; if the Cardinals had started at the Saints' 40, instead of their own 30, Hightower would have lost 30 yards on that run, even though it wouldn't have been any less impressive.

63
by HostileGospel :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 10:37pm

Hightower fumbled as well. FO stats don't like fumbles.

--
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

68
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/20/2010 - 12:46pm

You say that as if it's special to FO (though I think you know that it's not).

Hightower fumbled. Fumbles are bad. Therefore, his yardage totals will overstate his value.

19
by muteant (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 2:46pm

Out of curiosity, do non-traditional statistics support that a field goal kicker is more likely to miss in the post-season than the regular season? It certainly seems that way, doesn't it? I know that the concept of "clutchness" is generally frowned up here but I still think that there are professional football players who get nervous when the pressure is on, and that "clutchness" isn't so much an ability to perform better in those situations so much as it is an imperviousness to the heat. Placekickers are like ants under a magnifying glass.

I imagine to accurately scrutinize this concept, you'd have to limit the analysis to field goal kickers who made the post-season and compare their field goal efficiency to their regular season counterpart. Hell, it might even be enlightening to look at their preseason numbers in this case. =)

23
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 3:22pm

It would probably be impossible to quantify, at least on a per-player basis, due to extremely small sample size.

It might be worth looking at all NFL kickers during the season vs. during the playoffs, but that would introduce selection bias, winter weather biases, etc.

30
by mrh :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 3:53pm

From the introduction of the k-ball (1999) to now, in the regular season, kickers have made 80% of their FG attempts. In the post-season, it is 78%. Not a huge difference and without controlling for weather, distance, turf, etc. probably not significant.

For comparison, from 1978 to 1998, kickers made 72.3% of their regular season FGs and 72.5% of their playoff FGs, essentially identical.

2009 has seen some very poor FG kicking, 15/26 or only 58%, which has pulled down the playoff average. Regualr season kickers had an 81% success rate, so they were slightly above the long-term numbers.

Of all kickers with more than 1 FGA in the playoffs from 1999 to now, 4 of the 5 lowest FGM % played this year: Rackers (60%), Kaeding (53%), Suisham (50%), and Graham (33%). All 4 have much better regular season numbers, of course.

edited to add - source, p-f-r game finder index

41
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 4:52pm

Thanks for putting this together.

37
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 4:34pm

I think Kaeding had dinner the night before the game with his Canadian kicking guru who fed him a few Vandy-burgers.

Vanderjagt loves golfing in SoCal but had nobody to golf with; he was hoping to change that last weekend.

62
by starzero :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 10:14pm

idiot kicker

32
by muteant :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 4:04pm

Thanks for looking into that, mrh. Doesn't look like a deeper analysis would yield anything of much interest.

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"We're the worst thing since sliced bread" - Steve Francis

40
by dmb :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 4:52pm

While you might be right that disregarding "clutchness" entirely could be a bit of an overreaction, I've always thought that kickers are the worst players to look at for such an effect.

Although their individual performance is probably the most easily separated out of any job in football, the issue is that their job security is probably significantly lower than pretty much anyone else's. At no other position can a regular starter expect that a player will be brought in to compete not just for their starting job, but for the roster spot. And I highly doubt any other position sees as many starters get released mid-season. As a result, a kicker's paycheck depends on pretty much every kick, including all those done in the offseason, when somebody is trying to take his job. When you think about it from the player's prospective, every kick is a clutch situation, so you probably shouldn't expect to find to find much evidence of "clutchness" by looking at different game situations.

Obviously, this "job security" argument applies to other positions as well, but usually its the backups who are fighting for a roster spot ... and people wouldn't really care if Billy Volek or Tyler Thigpen are clutch, even if there were a way to figure it out.

48
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 6:41pm

Very few kickers are kicking for their jobs with every kick.

33
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 4:09pm

Welcome to nit-picking theater. Tonight's presentation:

"Rice's day would rank higher..." Rice is ranked number 1. It's harder to be ranked higher than number 1. Perhaps you meant to say "Rice's day would rate higher..."

Tune in next week for more nit-picking theater.

43
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 5:34pm

Welcome back to an encore presentation of nit-picking theater. This instance comes from...our own previous post, no. 33! Yes, fans, we're nit-picking ourselves!

"It's harder to be ranked higher than number 1." Harder than what? Perhaps you meant to say "It's hard to be ranked..."

Remember, where there's a nit to be picked, someone in the internet will find it and pick at it until it bleeds. So, for more exciting action, tune in again soon.

44
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 5:50pm

No one "tunes in" on the internet.

So there.

61
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 9:45pm

True, although many seem to have gotten the "turn on" and "drop out" parts down pretty well.

49
by Paul R :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 6:47pm

You know there's an edit button, right?

55
by Tom Gower :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 7:54pm

Not if you're posting as a guest. Yet another reason to register for the site, in addition to (a) it's free, (b) it's easy, and (3) it eliminates the annoying CAPTCHA.

58
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 8:49pm

I believe the correct ordinal sequence there is (a), (2), and (d).

59
by jebmak :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 8:53pm

It was funnier this way.

53
by Jimmy Oz (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 7:40pm

says Manning was sacked twice on the PFR log

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201001160clt.htm

60
by Ben :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 9:26pm

Manning did get sacked twice. Once, he laid down before getting flattened by an unblocked Haloti Ngata, the second was on the "God Damn It Donald!" play.

65
by Lomn :: Wed, 01/20/2010 - 10:18am

Second one is the sort of thing you might remove as you would a kneel-down, however -- Manning was rolling way out toward the sideline, inside the red zone. Throwing the ball away would have been trivially easy. Instead, he elected to slide, presumably to keep the clock running. You might claim Manning took two sacks, but there's no reasonable way to say that Baltimore forced two.

56
by Packerpalooza (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 8:06pm

When Favre thinks a guy will help he sure does everything to make it happen. Rice is Javon Walker the Sequel in taking a guy who seemed to have all the tools and couldn't get it together. Once Javon committed to working at his game Favre was 'all in' taking him to the next level. That has clearly happened with Rice.

Speaks well for Favre.

69
by matt w (not verified) :: Wed, 01/20/2010 - 3:21pm

The first season of Heinz Field probably contributed to the Steelers/Ravens missed field goal streaks.

You might think that Heinz Field wouldn't have any effect on the Ravens' streak, because they only play one game a year in Heinz Field, but that was the game where Kris Brown missed four field goals.