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07 Jan 2014

Wild Card Quick Reads

by Vince Verhei

The opening weekend of the playoffs put the "wild" in Wild Card, and the victorious team in the wildest game of them all produced the brightest statistical stars. Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton looked unstoppable at times against Kansas City. Hilton in particular stood out, with a 102-DYAR day that doubled the value of any other receiver this week. It was the ninth 100-plus-DYAR game for any receiver this year, and Hilton is the only player to cross that threshold twice (he also pulled it off against Seattle in Week 5). Nobody else is likely to join him in the double-100 club; the only other receiver with a 100-DYAR game whose team is still alive in the playoff race is Denver's Eric Decker.

What's most impressive, though, is that Hilton was virtually a one-man show in Indianapolis' comeback. He had 102 receiving DYAR in 18 targets; the rest of the Colts combined for 68 DYAR in 27 targets. Can you win games with a dominant receiver like that, or will Indianapolis need to spread things around more to beat New England this weekend?

It's a little tough to answer that question with DYAR, because that stat can get into negative numbers for players and teams. Josh Gordon had 337 DYAR this season, while the rest of his Cleveland Browns teammates had -267. That means Gordon was responsible for 483 percent of his team's DYAR. For another weird example, Jordan Reed led Washington with 107 DYAR, while his teammates had -161. That's a team total of -53 DYAR, which means Reed, their best receiver, was responsible for -200 percent of their production. Hardly seems fair to him.

So let's take a different approach, graphing each team's leading receiver (by DYAR) against the production of his teammates. Each team's leading receiver gained at least 32 DYAR, including three running backs (Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew, Buffalo's Fred Jackson*, and Kansas City's Jamaal Charles) and two tight ends (Washington's Reed and Jeff Cumberland of the New York Jets). The following chart compares the DYAR of each team's top receiver (vertical axis) to the combined DYAR of his teammates (horizontal axis). This makes it abundantly clear which receivers were doing it by themselves this year, and which were a cog in a machine. I've labeled the six most prominent solo acts:

(* Quick side note: Fred Jackson didn't really lead the Bills in receiving DYAR, but another running back did, and it wasn't C.J. Spiller. Frank Summers caught seven passes in eight targets for 79 yards this season, with one touchdown and four other first downs. That's 56 DYAR, which was more than Jackson's 52. This is why we include minimum play numbers in our DYAR leaderboards.)

The labeled data points, from left to right, are Cleveland's Josh Gordon, San Francisco's Anquan Boldin, Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, Detroit's Calvin Johnson, Green Bay's Jordy Nelson, and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson. (The data points for Brown and Johnson are virtually on top of each other and may be hard to distinguish.) What can we learn from these six players, and their teams? Only one (Gordon) played for a truly bad offense. The Steelers, Lions, and Packers were all somewhere between mediocre and above-average, while the 49ers and Eagles were two of the most dangerous attacks in football.

It's hard to find too many players on the other side of the coin. If you've got a team full of productive targets, it only figures that one of them will manage to stand out from the pack. If you must pick out leading receivers who had plenty of help, your best options are probably Marques Colston of the Saints (274 DYAR by himself, compared to 944 DYAR for his teammates), Atlanta's Harry Douglas, (171, 481) and Carolina's Greg Olsen (85, 307). That's one elite offense, and two in the fair-to-middlin' range.

It's hard to draw any meaningful conclusions from any of this. The results are cloudy, it's just one season's worth of data, and there's a lot of hinky math involved, most notably the haphazard lumping of all positions' DYAR together without any thought as to whether that's reliable. There's little here to say, however, that Indy can't win with Hilton and Hilton alone.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Andrew Luck IND
29/45
443
4
3
179
160
19
Luck was barely above replacement level in the first half, but he was light's out in the second, going 17-of-24 for 314 yards with three touchdowns and 12 other first downs. Even with two interceptions, that's 150 DYAR. He finished game with four carries for 47 yards and two first downs, most notably a 21-yard gain on fourth-and-1.
2.
Alex Smith KC
31/46
378
4
0
121
98
23
Third- and fourth-down passing: 9-of-14 for 163 yards with three touchdowns and four other first downs. He also ran eight times for 57 yards and four first downs, including two more third-down conversions.
3.
Philip Rivers SD
12/16
128
1
0
98
103
-5
The most important number in that statline: 16 attempts (which does not include one sack). By DVOA, Rivers blew away the other quarterbacks who played this week, but most of them had two or three times as many plays as he did. Rivers threw short stuff almost exclusively against Cincinnati. He threw only one deep pass (a completion for 33 yards), and his average throw traveled only 6 yards past the line of scrimmage. That doesn't mean he had an empty completion percentage, though. Including his touchdown, he had nine first downs on the day, and only one of his completions failed to gain successful yardage (and that was a 3-yard gain on second-and-6). Also, after Nick Novak's field goal put San Diego ahead 17-10 late in the third quarter, the Chargers called 11 runs and one pass. Andy Reid, take note.
4.
Nick Foles PHI
24/33
195
2
0
62
63
-1
Throwing to his left, Foles went 10-of-12 for 82 yards with one touchdown and five other first downs. One of those completions went for a loss of 8 yards, but eight of the others gained successful yardage.
5.
Aaron Rodgers GB
17/26
177
1
0
48
44
3
Rodgers' first quarter consisted of two incompletions, two sacks, and one fumble. Following that disastrous start, he had the second-highest DYAR of the week in quarters 2, 3, and 4. With 7 yards or less to go for a first down, he went 7-of-8 for 104 yards and seven first downs, including a touchdown. He had 18 plays with at least 8 yards to go for a first down, and converted only one of them.
6.
Drew Brees NO
20/30
250
1
2
35
24
11
Brees moved the ball out of his own end zone all night, but struggled after crossing the 50. On the Eagles' half of the field, he went 11-of-19 for 101 yards with one touchdown, three other first downs, two interceptions, and two sacks.
7.
Colin Kaepernick SF
16/30
227
1
1
11
-13
24
You know that chart at the top of this page that says Anquan Boldin had way more DYAR that his teammates? Please remember, that is for the regular season only. Kaepernick's first five passes were all thrown to Michael Crabtree, resulting in four completions for 70 yards and three first downs. So they ain't a one-man show no more. Kaepernick tore things up between the 20s against Green Bay, but was futile on either end of the field. In the red zone, he went 0-for-4 with a sack; inside his own 20, what we call the Deep zone, he went 0-for-2 with a sack.
8.
Andy Dalton CIN
29/49
334
1
2
-64
-34
-30
Third downs: 3-of-8 for 23 yards with one first down (on third-and-1), one sack, and one interception. He also had three passes on fourth down, completing one of them for 7 yards on fourth-and-2. Seven of those failed third- and fourth-down plays came with 8 yards or less to go for a first down.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Mark Ingram NO
97
1
17
0
46
53
-8
Only one of Ingram's 18 carries failed to gain positive yardage, and he had one touchdown, six other first downs, and three 10-yard runs. He also had three receptions in four targets for 17 yards and another frist down.
2.
Donald Brown IND
55
1
47
1
38
5
32
Say hello to Indianapolis' second-most valuable receiver. Brown caught four passes in six targets for 47 yards with a touchdown and two other first downs. Brown also had 11 carries against Kansas City, nine of them on first-and-10. He was stuffed twice and fumbled once, but he had two ten-yard runs, a 10-yard touchdown and a 13-yard gain on second-and-10.
3.
Knile Davis KC
67
1
33
1
34
19
14
Davis caught each of the seven passes thrown his way for 33 yards, though his only successful catches were a 10-yard touchdown and a 13-yard gain on first-and-10. Three of his 18 carries failed to gain positive yards, and though he only had one 10-yard run, he had six first downs on the ground, including a 4-yard touchdown.
4.
Khiry Robinson NO
45
0
0
0
24
24
0
In Week 10, the Saints put three running backs in the Quick Reads tables, and none of those players were Khiry Robinson. So yes, they are deep at this position. Each of Robinson's eight runs against Philadelphia gained at least 2 yards, five gained 5 yards or more, and two gained first downs, including a 13-yard gain on second-and-11.
5.
Ryan Mathews SD
52
0
12
0
19
16
3
A model of consistency, each of Mathews' 13 carries gained 1 to 8 yards. Very rare for a runner to get that many carries without a stuff. Mathews actually had 24 carries without a stuff in the Week 17 win over Kansas City, most in a game this season, so he's on a hell of a roll. He also had two receptions in two targets: a 3-yard gain on second-and-6 and a 9-yard gain on first-and-10.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
LeSean McCoy PHI
77
1
15
0
-4
6
-9
In a pretty good week for running backs, somebody had to finish last. In 21 carries against New Orleans, McCoy had one touchdown and five other first downs, with one 10-yard run, while being stuffed for no gain or a loss twice. He's also penalized for going 0-for-3 on third downs, though he converted a pair of fourth-down runs (including his score). He had three catches for 15 yards in five targets, but no first downs, including three more failed third-down plays.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
T.Y. Hilton IND
13
18
224
17.2
2
102
11 of Hilton's receptions gained first downs; the other two went for gains of 5 and 8 yards on first-and-10. He had only one target on third down, resulting in a 16-yard catch on third-and-10. The Colts threw him four deep passes, resulting in three receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.
2.
Jermaine Gresham CIN
7
8
64
9.1
1
41
Perhaps Gresham read our Quick Reads Year in Review and got offended. All of Gresham's receptions against San Diego gained successful yardage, and five of them gained first downs, including a 4-yard touchdown. Between the 40s, he caught five passes in five targets for 52 yards and four first downs.
3.
Dwayne Bowe KC
8
13
150
18.8
1
40
Seven of Bowe's receptions gained first downs, including a 6-yard touchdown on third down. The eighth was a 4-yard gain on first-and-10. The Chiefs threw him three passes to the short middle of the field, resulting in three receptions for 82 yards and three first downs, including a touchdown.
4.
Jordy Nelson GB
7
8
62
8.9
1
39
Nelson only had three first downs, but each of his completions gained successful yardage, and his sole incompletion came on third-and-23.
5.
Ladarius Green SD
3
3
34
11.3
1
30
We pointed out in the Year in Review peace that Green had a lot of 20-yard catches in limited action this season. He added another in the playoffs, a 22-yard gain on second-and-8. His other catches went for 8 yards on third-and-5 and a 4-yard touchdown.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
A.J. Green CIN
3
9
34
11.3
0
-38
Green had two first downs on gains of 14 and 11 yards, and his other reception was a 9-yard gain on second-and-10. But six incompletions far outweigh those plays, including plays on third-and-3 and second-and-1.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 07 Jan 2014

26 comments, Last at 08 Jan 2014, 3:42pm by LegionofWhat?

Comments

1
by Otis Taylor89 :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 8:59am

Nice list, but I immediately went to the bottom of the QB list, didn't see comments on Geno Smith, Matt Schaub or Chad Henne and thought, "Wow, all three must have really improved this week!"

Then I remembered it's the playoffs and I guess Andy Dalton fits with that crew.

2
by wr (not verified) :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 11:03am

A little surprised to see Luck at #1. I thought the picks + mediocre
first half would have drug him down, but as you say he was lights out
after the second pick. Did the fumble recovery/TD give a nontrivial boost?

10
by shah8 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 2:10pm

This was one very wierd ranking, even for Quick Reads.

To me, it was pretty obvious, by tape, who did the most to help their team win.

Colin
Aaron
Philip
Andrew
--poor
Drew
Alex
Nick
Andy

26
by LegionofWhat? (not verified) :: Wed, 01/08/2014 - 3:42pm

Well of course the bottom three didn't help their teams win--they lost!

I think it's rough to pin the KC loss on Alex Smith. By the end of the day he'd lost several of the best offensive players on his team, and Bowe isn't know for his ability to get open. They also lost their top two running backs, gutting any possibility of running out the clock. Think of it this way--if Bowe's left foot had landed inbounds, you'd probably have him at the top of your list.

From what I saw, Luck's good numbers were actually more about T.Y. Hilton destroying KC's corners after Flowers went down. Luck showed some nifty moves in keeping plays alive, but he wasn't exactly picking KC apart with his passing

3
by nuk :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 11:06am

I'm guessing Trent Richardson wasn't bottom RB because of a minimum-carry rule?

13
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 4:11pm

You are clearly forgetting his high value play as a decoy on 4th and 1 when Luck ran for 21 but the D crashed to stop Richardson. That's gotta be worth... what, half of the first down conversion, right?

19
by bernie (not verified) :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 6:00pm

That's worth at least a first round pick.

22
by Bobman :: Wed, 01/08/2014 - 4:39am

Exactly what Grigson is telling people.

4
by nat :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 11:18am

Frank Summers caught seven passes in eight targets for 79 yards this season, with one touchdown and four other first downs. That's 56 DYAR, which was more than Jackson's 52. This is why we include minimum play numbers in our DYAR leaderboards.
That's just silly. The whole point of DYAR is to total a player's production, and to allow us to compare the total production of workhorses and specialist/situational players.

The exclusion of low-attempt players is much more about keeping the DVOA ranking meaningful. In fact, it would be better to add a DYAR rank column to the low-attempt tables. That way a highly productive situational or injured player would get the DYAR recognition he deserved.

5
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 12:17pm

I think there's still value in separating player who have near-zero DYAR because they are replacement level over many attempts from those who merely have a small number of attempts. Otherwise the middle of the DYAR charts would be crowded with players in very minor roles.

I agree that there needs to be a way to slot highly productive but small sample size players in DYAR.

9
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 1:09pm

I think I agree with this. This about a goal-line RB who leads the team with 10 touchdowns, but on only 25 carries. You wouldn't exclude him from a similar TD analysis, just because he had so few total carries, would you?

EDIT: And especially if you're still including his totals in the team DYAR figure. And I believe Summers's receiving DYAR is included in the Bills' team DYAR.

21
by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 10:49pm

"That's just silly. The whole point of DYAR is to total a player's production, and to allow us to compare the total production of workhorses and specialist/situational players."

I would agree if DYAR were purely additive (no negatives), rather than cumulative. But since you can have negative DYAR plays fairly easily, and since players given enough opportunities tend to have some ups and downs, it makes sense to exclude players who haven't had enough attempts to balance things out.

I don't know how the attempts limits are calculated, or even if they are done in any thoughtful way, but it seems right to me.

6
by JoRo :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 12:51pm

Who is the far right data point in the positive that isn't labeled?

8
by nuk :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 12:55pm

Gotta be the top Bronco, right? Too lazy to look up...

Edit: D. Thomas. Not so lazy after all.

12
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 3:23pm

Correct.

7
by pm :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 12:53pm

How is it possible that Trent Richardson wasn't the bottom RB? He had 1 carry for 0 yards and a lost fumble. That's like a -60 DYAR. Is FO trying to be nice to Richardson by not including him?

11
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 3:22pm

I think I agree with this. This about a goal-line RB who leads the team with 10 touchdowns, but on only 25 carries. You wouldn't exclude him from a similar TD analysis, just because he had so few total carries, would you?

EDIT: And especially if you're still including his totals in the team DYAR figure. And I believe Summers's receiving DYAR is included in the Bills' team DYAR.

That's a good point, although the margin between the two is so slight it doesn't really make a difference.

Richardson had 1 carry for -19 DYAR. If you remove limits for carries, he had the second-worst rushing DYAR of the week. (Andy Dalton fumbled twice in five carries.) Third-worst was John Kuhn, who had one 1-yard touchdown, and a 1-yard gain and fumble on third-and-2.

14
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 4:15pm

This just in: Ryan Grigson offered the Bengals his 1st born child, the team's top pick in the 2015 draft, and a fourth round pick in the 2014 draft for their running back Andrew Dalton. Bengals countered that they wanted TY Hilton instead of the picks (or his kid) and Grigson mulled it over for a while, before saying, "Throw in two FBs and you got a deal."

Upon hearing the news, Donald Brown turned into the hulk, strapped a Chevy Suburban onto his back, grabbed a dozen greased footballs, and ran a quarter mile in 13 seconds. While chewing glass.

16
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 4:22pm

Don't forget Kuhn's "Lambeau Lunge", either!

17
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 4:46pm

My God that was fantastic. It happened shortly after I explained the history/tradition of the Leap to my wife. I concluded with something like "If any Packer decided to buck tradition and not leap into the stands, he'd instantly be the most disliked man in Wisconsin."

Instead we get a good-faith attempt, failure, and laughter.

18
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 5:54pm

He jumped deceptively high on that Leap. It was a heady move and showed plenty of grit.

23
by Theo :: Wed, 01/08/2014 - 6:05am

the fans can sure appreciate a great attempt by a blue collar worker like Kuhn.
(and yes, at one point the announcers called him 'blue collar' followed by a short but noticable silence that marked the realisation of their own stupidity)

24
by The Hypno-Toad :: Wed, 01/08/2014 - 10:14am

Wow... That's just no good. I really wish that announcers would either stop with the euphemisms for "white guy" or just come out and say, "It's rare enough to see a white guy succeed at this position that I find it exciting." I'd much prefer the former, but at least if someone employed the latter it could get us out of this spiral of increasingly awful euphemisms.

20
by panthersnbraves :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 9:43pm

uh - dude slipped on the sub-zero ground, did he not?

25
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/08/2014 - 10:58am

That doesn't make it any less funny.

15
by sf homer (not verified) :: Tue, 01/07/2014 - 4:21pm

Is it easy to see what Kaep's numbers would look like if his RZ numbers were changed to 2-4, with a sack and 2 TD's? Just curious how those two non-called PI's affected his overall numbers.