Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

12 Feb 2008

Great Playoff Runs

by Vince Verhei

In the Super Bowl XLII Audibles discussion, I raised the question of whether the Giants had faced the most difficult schedule of any Super Bowl champion. To review, the Giants beat the following teams to win the Super Bowl: Tampa Bay, Dallas, Green Bay and New England. What are the odds that the Giants, or any other team, would have completed that four-game sweep?

To a degree, we can answer that question with two tools: The Pythagorean theorem and the log5 method. Like many other sports statistics, these were both originally developed by baseball statistician Bill James, then used by others to examine other sports. In a nutshell, the Pythagorean theorem uses each team's points scored and allowed to predict that team's winning percentage, while the log5 method predicts the odds of one team defeating another, taking the strength of both teams into account. More on the theorem can be found by reading this article on the pro-football-reference.com blog. (I should add that all numbers in this study were taken from PFR.) More on the log5 method can be found in this article at Diamond Mind Baseball.

There are two ways to determine the difficulty of the Giants' playoff slate. We can estimate the odds of of the Giants running the table, but that will skew the results; the Giants finished the regular season with a Pythagorean rating of just .536, the lowest of any Super Bowl champion. (The highest rating of any Super Bowl champion belongs to the 1985 Chicago Bears at .8784; the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers are right behind at .8783.)

Instead, we're going to measure each Super Bowl winner's playoff schedule in two ways: the odds of that particular team running the table, and the odds of a .750 team (about the average Pythagorean rating for a Super Bowl winner) pulling off the same feat. There are plenty of factors that could throw this number off -- injuries, home-field advantage, strength of schedule, overall league strength, etc. -- but it should be fairly accurate for most teams.

(I should also add that this is not the prediction method used elsewhere on this site, including the Playoff Odds Report, which uses Weighted DVOA and does account for home-field and other factors.)

The following table lists the Giants' four opponents, the Giants' odds of beating that team, and the "Typical" Super Bowl winner's odds of beating that team:


Team Pythag Giants' odds "Typical" odds
Tampa Bay .623 41.1% 64.5%
Dallas .689 34.2% 57.5%
Green Bay .722 30.8% 53.6%
New England .860 15.8% 32.8%

So the Giants had a 41.1 percent chance of beating Tampa Bay, a 34.2 percent chance of beating Dallas, a 30.8 percent chance of beating Green Bay, and merely a 15.8 percent chance of beating New England. (Note that these numbers were calculated using New York's final regular season Pythagorean rating. We could add the results of each progressive playoff game, but A) the numbers would change very little, and B) we're going to compare New York to other Super Bowl winners, whose ratings would also improve as the playoffs progressed.) Multiplying all those percentages leaves us with a very small number; we would predict that the Giants had only 0.7% chance of winning the Super Bowl against that schedule. (That is not a typo: 0.7%, as in, if they faced that schedule 1,000 times, they would win about seven Super Bowls.) This is the lowest expected rate for any Super Bowl winner going into the postseason. The fact that the real-life Giants actually did win the Super Bowl does not necessarily mean they were "lucky" to do so. It means that faced with a longer and more difficult road than any Super Bowl winner before them, they still emerged triumphant.

Our "typical" Super Bowl champion, facing that same schedule, would have about a 6.5 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl. That makes this a very difficult slate, but not the most difficult of all time. That honor goes to John Madden, Ken Stabler, and the rest of the 1976 Oakland Raiders, which is all the more remarkable given that the Raiders only played three playoff games.

First, the Raiders beat the Steve Grogan/Sam Cunningham Patriots (Pythagorean rating: .751) 24-21 in the divisional round, the famous "Sugar Bear Hamilton roughing the passer" game. Next, the Raiders squared off against the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose Steel Curtain defense was at its absolute peak. The defending champion Steelers had started 1976 very slowly, just 1-4. Then they won their final nine regular season games, and only once in those nine games did they allow seven or more points. They pitched five shutouts, including three in a row. They finished with a Pythagorean rating of .896 -- yes, even higher than the 2007 Patriots. They whipped the Baltimore Colts 40-14 in the opening round of the playoffs, but in the process lost both of their leading rushers, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, to injury. Without their ground game, they were no match for the Raiders, who won the AFC Championship 24-7. Oakland then finished off the Minnesota Vikings (Pythagorean rating: .786) to win the Super Bowl. In those three games, the Raiders beat two teams that were typically good enough to win Super Bowls, and in between they beat one of the greatest teams of all time. The "typical" champion, facing this schedule, would have just a 5.8 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.

Here are the numbers for each Super Bowl champion, ranked by the odds of that particular team winning the Super Bowl against that particular schedule:


Team Year Pythag Playoff
games
Odds of that team
winning Super Bowl*
Odds of "typical" champion
winning Super Bowl**
NYG 2007 .536 4 0.7% 6.5%
IND 2006 .600 4 1.3% 6.2%
OAK 1980 .601 4 3.5% 12.9%
OAK 1976 .716 3 4.2% 5.8%
PIT 2005 .726 4 5.5% 7.1%
GB 1967 .694 3 5.6% 8.2%
SF 1988 .631 3 5.9% 14.6%
NYJ 1968 .722 2 6.5% 8.0%
NE 2001 .676 3 7.2% 12.8%
BAL 2000 .766 4 9.0% 7.7%
Team Year Pythag Playoff
games
Odds of that team
winning Super Bowl*
Odds of "typical" champion
winning Super Bowl**
WAS 1982 .718 4 12.1% 15.5%
DEN 1997 .765 4 12.6% 11.1%
LARD 1983 .654 3 13.6% 24.3%
KC 1969 .842 3 14.8% 6.3%
DAL 1992 .775 3 16.8% 13.9%
NYG 1990 .749 3 16.9% 16.7%
DAL 1971 .807 3 17.4% 10.8%
SF 1981 .699 3 17.7% 24.1%
WAS 1987 .663 3 17.8% 28.9%
DEN 1998 .759 3 18.6% 17.5%
NE 2004 .774 3 18.8% 15.8%
Team Year Pythag Playoff
games
Odds of that team
winning Super Bowl*
Odds of "typical" champion
winning Super Bowl**
PIT 1974 .757 3 19.1% 18.3%
BAL 1970 .679 3 19.2% 28.6%
NE 2003 .711 3 20.7% 26.0%
DAL 1993 .764 3 21.2% 19.3%
NYG 1986 .745 3 22.4% 23.1%
TB 2002 .794 3 24.1% 17.9%
DAL 1977 .760 3 24.2% 22.8%
SF 1989 .790 3 25.9% 20.0%
PIT 1978 .806 3 26.2% 18.0%
DAL 1995 .722 3 26.8% 31.0%
SF 1994 .780 3 28.8% 24.2%
Team Year Pythag Playoff
games
Odds of that team
winning Super Bowl*
Odds of "typical" champion
winning Super Bowl**
PIT 1979 .749 3 31.2% 31.3%
GB 1996 .863 3 33.9% 14.5%
MIA 1972 .873 3 35.2% 14.0%
GB 1966 .846 2 35.5% 19.9%
MIA 1973 .877 3 35.7% 13.3%
SF 1984 .852 3 39.4% 20.9%
PIT 1975 .878 3 43.8% 18.4%
WAS 1991 .862 3 49.9% 27.5%
CHI 1985 .878 3 50.4% 23.7%
STL 1999 .863 3 52.9% 29.8%
* Odds of that team winning Super Bowl against that specific schedule.
** Odds of a "typical" champion winning Super Bowl against that specific schedule.

A few final notes:

  • The last three Super Bowl winners have each been among the five least likely champions of all time. This is largely because they each have had to win four games to pull it off; most Super Bowl winners have only had to win three. The Giants and Steelers each had to beat teams that flirted with perfection, while the Colts beat three teams -- the Ravens, Patriots, and Bears -- with Pythagorean ratings greater than .750.
  • The easiest schedule of all time, based on the odds of a typical Super Bowl winner, belongs to the 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers, whose first playoff opponent, the Miami Dolphins, was actually their most difficult, with a Pythagorean rating of .662. They then beat two completely mediocre teams -- the Houston Oilers (.553) and the Los Angeles Rams (.526) -- to win the Super Bowl. The next easiest playoff slates belong to the 1995 Cowboys and the 1999 Rams.
  • Winning the Super Bowl is really, really hard. Only two champions -- the 1985 Bears and 1999 Rams -- began the postseason with a 50 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl. One team had an historically great defense, the other an historically great offense. They both faced relatively poor competition. And yet each was basically an even-money bet to not win the Super Bowl. (This year's Patriots would have joined them. They had a 51.7 percent chance of beating the Jaguars, Chargers and Giants. Things didn't work out that way.)
  • New England fans can take some solace in the fact that two teams with even higher Pythagorean ratings than the 2007 Patriots have also lost Super Bowls: the 1969 Vikings (.923) and the 1968 Colts (.919) More evidence that public perception of the difference between the AFL and NFL before the merger was really off.
  • Going back to the days before the Super Bowl, this was not the first Giants team to pull off a big upset and spoil a perfect season. In 1934, the 8-5 Giants (Pythag: .680) beat the 13-0 Chicago Bears (.945) in the NFL Championship. This became known as the Sneaker Game. Freezing rain overnight left the playing surface at the Polo Grounds as slick as a hockey rink. Trailing 10-3 at halftime, Giants head coach Steve Owen frantically acquired sneakers for his team to wear instead of their football cleats. The extra traction proved to be a huge boost, and Chicago head coach George Halas was never able to adjust. The Giants scored four touchdowns in the second half, winning by a final score of 30-13. The log5 method predicts that the Giants had just an 11.0% chance of winning that game.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 12 Feb 2008

181 comments, Last at 19 Feb 2008, 10:08pm by Gerry

Comments

1
by Dean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 2:19pm

"the famous “Sugar Bear Hamilton roughing the passer” game"

Only in New England. For those of us who live in Flyover Country, please elaborate.

2
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 2:20pm

Interesting analysis.

Also supports those of us who pushed back against the FO-led madness declaring the Pats "the greatest team of all time" and suggested some other teams worthy of being included in that debate, including the '85 Bears and '91 Skins.

3
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 2:37pm

when they said "best team of all time" their actual statement is "best team of all DVOA time".

And Pythagrian analysis isnt as good for football because since it is time based, teams who are ahead will be willing to reduce their overall points scored (and increase the other team's overall points scored) in order to run the time out. And the patriots blowing teams like the dolphins out of the water raises their pythagrian stats without actually increasing their skill.

If the giants had the toughest schedule to win the superbowl its for one reason and one reason only. They beat the Patriots. If we look at the actual skill of the teams they faced, the best WR of the cowboys AND TB were injured (and Brady injured maybe?). TB isnt all that great, Packers are good, but most likely not above the average skill of a #2 team, and Cowboys are probably below the average #1 team with TO injured. This means the ONLY team they played that was above the average of their number is the patriots, who were way better than a normal #1 team. But of course you would need to be a #3-6 team to play 4 teams, so that narrows it down right there.

4
by Doug Farrar :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 2:48pm

"Fo-led madness"? Really? When were we leading that charge? Before or after we were talking in the 16-0 Audibles thread about how beatable the Patriots looked under various circumstances?

Maybe Aaron's stunt double was leading the charge while Aaron himself was giving this interview :

GM: The talk of the season so far has been the dominance of the New
England Patriots. How good is this team, in your opinion? The best
ever, or the beneficiaries of a weak schedule?

AS: They're the best team ever, as of now, but let's see what they do
in the playoffs before we officially give them the title. Many of us
believe the 1985 Bears are the greatest team ever, in part because of
how they dominated the playoffs. However, the idea that the Pats have
a weak schedule is nuts. It comes from only looking at their division.
Remember, they have to play all four NFC East teams, and all those
teams are better than average, even the ones with losing records. They
also have Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and San Diego. If they go perfect,
they will do it against a schedule much harder than the schedule
played by the 1972 Dolphins.

Madness. Yes, indeed. Sheer madness.

5
by Doug Farrar :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 2:50pm

As to the article itself, which should be the point ... well done, Vince.

6
by Lance (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 2:51pm

Odd that Dallas' weakest Super Bowl winner had the easiest ride.

It would be interesting to see the same chart drawn up for Super Bowl losers

7
by JV (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 2:51pm

#1
The 13-1 Raiders were hosting the 11-3 Patriots. The Raiders only loss that year came in NE, 48-17. Until this year, many people felt this was the best Patriots team ever. With under a minute left, the Raiders faced 3rd and, I believe, 18 from about the Patriots 28. On the play Stabler was pressured and threw wildly incomplete. It looked like 4th and ballgame, but Hamilton was flagged for roughing the passer. Given the times and the way the game had been called in general, it was an awful i.e., ticky tack, call. He was hit as he was releasing the ball. Needless to say, it was a game changer. Given a 1st down at the 13, the Raiders scored a TD with 10 seconds left and won the game. Bad feelings between the team, its fans and Ben Dreith the referee still persist. Dreith even weighed in after the tuck rule game saying he thought it was a fumble. It was rumored that the League kept Dreith away from the Patriots for five years. This game happened in the era before ESPN and message boards, so few people outside of New England and Oakland are aware of its controversy, though Raider fans seem to have selective memories. Raider fans seem convinced there is a League conspiracy against them. Not in '76.

8
by Kachunk (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 3:11pm

what's this business with "an historical?" I thought Stuart was the resident Brit?

9
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 3:16pm

#8

We are taking over our favourite site old boy. Spiffing, what?

10
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 3:33pm

Anybody else love a team labelled LARD above? Man, that is sweet. If not for Al Davis, Homer Simpson and I would be all over that LARD action. (Plus we know Homer is anti-Broncos and pro-lard already)

11
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 3:44pm

Okay, the USAToday take on this is that "nobody should ever win the SB" because the odds are against it. Except in 2 cases.

Clearly a mis-reading of the data. But does it strike anybody else as odd that the odds are so long for everyone? I mean... SOMEBODY HAS TO win the damn thing, every year, it's guaranteed and protected by Congress.

I guess the best way to explain it in layman's terms--and please let me know if this makes sense-- is that you might have 12 teams divvying up the odds, it's almost impossible for one to have 50% or greater, meaning the rest of the pack of 11 divides up the remaining 50%--rarely will you get a team that has an 11:1 advantage. If they were all exactly even it's 8.5% chance for each.

So then we have 12 teams and the team with the BEST shot has maybe a 20% chance, which is still huge, since the average of the other 11 teams is 7%, giving the favorite a 3:1 edge over the average opponent.... and in reality, it is more likely to be a 20% team, a 12% team, a couple at 10%, and then a bunch below 6%, and maybe a couple super-long-shots, right?

12
by Fred Bellemore (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 3:59pm

#1, #7
Drieth tacked on another half-the-distance-to-the-goal by flagging Hamilton for unsportmanlike conduct, which set the Raiders up inside the 7...

This was the first of three consecutive frustrating years of near-misses for the Patriots...1977 was even worse than 1976...In Week 13 (second to the last week) the Colts threw their game against the Lions on the game's final play by creating a botched punted their own end-zone with Detroit falling on it for the win...This because MINUTES earlier, the Patriots had beaten the Dolphins --- meaning (because of tie-breakers) that if the Colts beat the Lions, then the Patriots and Colts would play for the AFC East title, with the Dolphins eliminated...Instead, with the news of the Patriots win, the Colts threw the game...This meant that if the Dolphins beat the lowly Bills on Saturday of Week 14 (in which they were heavy favorites and in fact did), then the Patriots would be eliminated on the spot, meaning their Sunday game against the Colts was meaningless (if the Colts won, they got in, if not Miami, Oakland had already clinched the WC) --- talk about the need for ESPN!!!...I asked Greg Landry about this a few years ago --- he of the Lions then and later the Colts --- and his faced just dropped (like, "how the hell do you remember that?")...Well, Patriot fans remember it...

13
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 3:59pm

Minnesota Vikings Number 1 Pythagorean team of all time.

Any article that lists the Minnesota Vikings at being the number 1 team of all time in any stat is OK by my books.

14
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 4:15pm

> Well, Patriot fans remember it

As a Colts backer, I remember it too, and the circumstances were indeed somewhat fishy. What doesn't make complete sense though is that the Colts still needed to beat the Patriots in the final game of the season, and you'd think that the Patriots would have had every bit the incentive to beat the hell out of the Colts if they felt they'd just been cheated. They didn't. The 1977 Patriots team just wasn't that great, and never completely recovered from the early-season holdouts of John Hannah and Leon Gray. The 1976 and 1978 teams were better; the '76 team being undone by Dreith and the '78 squad ultimately by the philosophical and financial differences between Chuck Fairbanks and Billy Sullivan.

15
by Jordy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 4:23pm

4 - The open disdain for the readership continues to disappoint. There have been a lot of fingers pointed at "negative" commenters and so forth for inciting problems, but all I see here is #2 getting jumped with an undeserved sarcasm attack for making a comment. I don't get it. In my view, it's also a disingenuous attack, but that's beside the point.

16
by koko b ware (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 4:30pm

#4 - Ummmm...Did you really counteract #2's argument with a quote where 'FO' claims that they were the best team ever at the middle of a season? Isn't that what #2 is saying? I agree it's maybe somewhat reckless to label the 'best-ever' hype purely as an 'FO-led' phenomenon, but your argument is a bit revisionist, no?

17
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 4:33pm

This is Aaron's quote, in the Conference Championship Audibles thread, which caused me to dispute his view of this year's Pats.....

"Although the Patriots struggled in this game, the way they won demonstrated why they are the best offense of all-time and probably the best team of all time."

It was obvious to me by then that they simply weren't crushing opponents at the end of the season, and particularly in the playoffs, in the manner that some other previous Super Bowl champions had (the '85 Bears and and '89 49ers were the ones that stuck in my memory) so I found it very doubtful that they were the best team of all time, by the way I define it, which is the team which best eliminated bad luck or randomness as an impediment to winning the Super Bowl.
Mind you I did not predict the Giants to win, although I did say that taking the Giants and the points was the best wager available.

Looking at this chart, the '85 Bears and the '89 49ers did not have historically tough playoff opponents, although the '89 49ers' were more middling than on the historically weak end of things, so at this juncture I would give the nod to the 17-2 49ers of '89, who had all three of their playoff opponents totally blown out by halftime. I'd like to see these "typical" Super Bowl champ rankings for the wild card Super Bowl champs after their intial playoff opponent is eliminated from the calculations.

Kudos also to the '78 Steelers, who although they did not crush their Super Bowl opponent, they did soundly beat a recent Super Bowl champ which was loaded with Hall of Famers.

18
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 4:38pm

Of course, yes, this is a terrific article.

19
by Herm? (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 4:40pm

Not another one of those irrational Steve Grogan vs. Bert Jones threads...

I'm surprised that the 2006 Colts number is 2nd at 1.3%. I must have a short memory. Without the numbers above in front of me, I'd have figured them for better odds than that.

20
by Fred Bellemore (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 4:54pm

#14

1. Well, it eliminated the Patriots, which was frustrating...

2. The Colts opted to throw the game, so they must have thought it was in their own interest to play an eliminated-though-furious team (running out of the end zone for a safety would have preserved the win)...

3. Yes, the Patriots were furious and wanted to beat the hell out of Colts...And they actually built up what I believe was a 24-7 lead in the second half --- then that ill-advised safety blitz (Clayborn?) with the Colts backed up inside their own 3 and things just unraveled from there (all those PI penalties).

4. Brilliant move by Marchibroda though...What quick thinking...

21
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 4:55pm

Re #1:

Even though it happened (slightly) before I was born, that game was, in part, the root of my dislike of the Raiders. I grew up watching football with my dad (as I'm sure many people did), a lifelong Patriots fan. And he HATED the Raiders, and Ken Stabler, and Al Davis, and everything connected with the franchise, partly because of that game (and partly because, for years, both before I was watching football and throughout the '80s, the Raiders were easily the dirtiest team in football). It rubbed off on me, and the uncalled roughing the passer penalty that launched the "Snow Bowl" controversy and the tuck rule discussion, and all the Raiders' whining about conspiracies, and Al Davis's lawsuits, only fanned the flames. Now I live in the Oakland area, and my barber cuts the hair of the Raiders coaching staff. Funny how life works out...

22
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 4:59pm

Has a study ever been done comparing the actual playoff fortunes of great regular-season teams with the championship odds formulated by Pythagorean/log5 (or DVOA for that matter)? I ask because the odds calculated for this article as well as FO's normal DVOA-based playoff odds are well out of line with those posted in Vegas (even accounting for Vegas's typical shorting of prop odds), and perhaps reality.

In other words, is it possible that Pythagorean doesn't properly account for the best teams bringing their A-games to the table once they reach the playoffs, even further exceeding their performance over the long haul of the regular season? It just seems to me that most of the historically dominant regular-season teams (post-merger) have actually gone on to win the Super Bowl. Some of this is probably post facto perception, but I'm not sure completely so.

Obviously the Patriots-Giants result would represent a data point in favor of this analysis, relatively speaking (the Patriots were a ridiculous 2-5 to win the Super Bowl in Vegas before the playoffs started, but only about 50% here).

23
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:11pm

> Yes, the Patriots were furious and wanted to beat the hell out of Colts

This was also the game where the official incorrectly ruled Bert Jones as down by contact with the ground before he fumbled on a sack play, which wasn't even close to the case and effectively cost the Patriots that final game of the season, in addition to any previous indignity. Yeah, the Colts were lucky as hell to make the playoffs that season, before being undone by the "Ghost to the Post" in what is still one of the greatest games I've ever seen played.

As for the Colts-Lions game, maybe the Colts threw the game and maybe they just screwed up in punt blocking. They probably did lie down, but I remember being pissed just the same because I didn't see any logic in trying to finish 10-4 instead of 11-3, and having to do so against an irate Patriots' squad (which didn't lie down anyway, as you point out). It just didn't make any sense to me.

24
by Felden (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:13pm

Re: #19

You've gotta remember that the Colts defense was atrocious in the regular season--the chart, I believe, doesn't take into account "they got a lot better".

25
by steelberger1 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:20pm

Good article.

It seems to me, though, it should be ranked by the "typical" SB team odds of winning rather than that particular team if we are discussing which set of games was actually the most difficult overall.

It looks to me that the 1976 Raiders had the toughest road in the playoffs.

26
by M (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:26pm

"There are plenty of factors that could throw this number off — injuries, home-field advantage, strength of schedule, overall league strength, etc. — but it should be fairly accurate for most teams." Regarding Home Field Advantage, is this statement saying that HFA isn't included at all, or that team-by-team HFA differences aren't incorporated. My reason for asking is that some of the very dominant teams of the last 40+ years had HFA - my guess is that this would increase the odds of winning the SB by about 5%.

However, it would probably only bring the 75 Steelers and 91 Redskins up to the 50% threshold. Which ironicly only further proves Vince's point and illustrates how tough it is to win it all even when a team is "destined" to do it.

27
by steelberger1 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:27pm

Which of course was already mentioned in the article.

28
by Steve (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:30pm

#1

The Hamilton call was tough for Pats fans - so much so that even years later they accuse the Raiders' fans for "whining" while they themselves whine about being beaten - beaten - by the Raiders way back in '76. I remember the game and it was a tough break for the Pats. Was it a ticky tack call? Probably. Still, it happened and you lost.

As a Raiders fan I also remember a fair number of blown/questionable calls against the Raiders during that era which outnumber the touchy roughing call: The legality of the Immaculate Reception is debatable, the Rob Lytle fumble in Denver in '77 is not... The tuck rule debacle more than made up for Sugan Bear. The Pats have had plenty of good fortune in their current run - the mugging of the Colts receivers in the AFC playoffs a few years back stands out like a sore thumb. It happens to every team at some point when they are good for a while - luck goes for and against.

Implying that the Raiders' fans "whining" was unjustified while people here whine about Sugar Bear's blow to the head is patently hypocritical.

29
by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:30pm

25 (steelberger): I also prefer that the list be ordered by the odds for a typical winner.
However, that raises two points:
1. Instead of using .750 as the Pythagorean winning percentage, maybe use the mean or median (or a column for both) of all Super Bowl winners.
2. It also skews in favor of teams that had to play 4 games to win the Super Bowl, which could be problematic, seeing as the "typical" winner is a #1 or #2 seed and will only need 3 wins.
But overall, I loved this article. It's writing like this that makes FO my favorite site.

30
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:44pm

As a reference point, I count 12 Super Bowl champions with a Pythagorean rating over .800. How many playoff losers have been over the .800 number in the Super Bowl era? This article references the 1968 Colts, the 1969 Vikings (up against the .842 Chiefs-- one of the two teams had to lose; so that one is a wash), the 1976 Steelers and the 2007 Patriots, obviously. How many others?

Again, perhaps due to regular-season Pythagorean being somewhat understated for great teams and perhaps due to other factors, the championship odds seem quite a bit too low in many cases, certainly versus so-called conventional wisdom. Quite a bit of that might be due to the known imperfections such as not accounting for HFA, strength of schedule, etc. I just know that I'd love to have gotten down on some of these odds-- the aforementioned 75-1 on the 2006 Colts being one such glaring example (for some well-understood reasons; I'm not disputing that). But no, I still wouldn't have touched the 2007 Giants...

31
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:51pm

> The legality of the Immaculate Reception is debatable

Really only if you believe that the laws of physics are debatable-- that ball flew 10 yards backwards, and I don't believe that Frenchy Fuqua had that kind of spring in his fingertips. To this day I derive great enjoyment whenever I hear John Madden whine about this admittedly lucky play; he's an intelligent and sensible man on most other matters but on this one he still hasn't come to grips with physical reality.

32
by weaponx (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:55pm

I don't think the victory against Tampa is really supporting evidence for a great playoff run. The Bucs were ripe for the pickin'.

33
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:55pm

11: you incorrectly implied that each of the 12 teams would have an equal chance of winning if they were equally matched. This is incorrect.

essentially 3-6 are playing one play in game to get into an 8 team tournament, meaning the 1 and 2 teams have a 1 in 8 chance, and the 3-6 teams have a 1 in 16 chance. if a team has a 75% chance of winning each individual game, and they had a bye in the first round, their chance of going all the way would be about 42%. I think it would be relatively rare for a team to have a higher than 75% chance of beating the playoff teams they play against (maybe one, but then you would assume the opposing superbowl team and the divisional championship games would be against more formidable opponents).

34
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 6:15pm

Thanks, Tom, I forgot about the extra game/bye week thingy. 8 of the 12 teams, even if they are all evenly matched, have an extra game, an extra 50/50 shot further reducing their odds. (conversely, I could give all the bye teams a 100% chance to win their first week)

Glad I asked; glad you answered.

35
by Matt (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 6:34pm

I imagine the Colts' pythagorean numbers (last year and in the past) are dragged down by Dungy's unwillingness to unnecessarily run up scores...which also boosts the Patriots a good deal.

36
by Tom D (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 6:36pm

This is a cool article. I hope someday we have DVOA going back this far, so we a better measuring system. It blows me away that 2 were over 50% to win the Superbowl that means they had about an 80% chance to win each of their games.

37
by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 6:36pm

#22, I would also like to see a little study about the post season success of great regular season teams.

For instance, what would each of the Super Bowl matchups look like if the top Pythag team from each conference had made the game. Also, how about if the #1 seeds made the Super Bowl every year.

The NFL is littered with seemingly great teams that fell short (07 Patriots, 98 Vikings, 90 49ers, 76 Steelers, etc.)

What franchise "should" have the most Super Bowl appearances and titles?

38
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 6:42pm

37: The Arizona Cardinals. Every year they're picked as the "sleeper" Super Bowl team.

39
by Johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 6:44pm

Silly thought but should the analysis look at more than a 1 year snap shot of the teams in question. Case in point the 1984 49ners team took out the Bears and Giants to the tune of 44-10 on the way to the Super Bowl. These teams would win the next two Super Bowls. I like the ranking based on typical team rather than the actual team. Either way good stuff:)

40
by Johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 6:45pm

Stupid thought, but how bout the Superbowl losers too. Just to see who was the unluckiest?

41
by vanya (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 7:07pm

I remember the '76 game Pats-Raiders quite well. The fact that it is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Bucky Dent or Buckner just goes to show how little attention the media or most fans paid to the Patriots back then. To my mind that is still the most crushing loss the Patriots have ever endured - far worse than this year really, since the '76 Pats didn't lose, they were simply robbed. And the loss was especially heartbreaking because that Patriots team was really probably better than the '07 team at every position other than QB and WR. And that loss played havoc with the franchise for years afterward -everything bad, the Fairbanks departure, the Gray-Hannah hold out, even Stingley getting laid out by Tatum, all had their roots in that game.

42
by Frick (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 7:07pm

RE: 35 Matt

I'm a Colt's fan, but the low pythagorean score for the 07 Colts is not based on Dungy's lack of running up the score, but is based on the Colt's horrible run defense during the regular season. I want to say that one of their games set a record for fewest number of possessions. I'm guessing that the 03 Colts had a much better pythagorean score than the 07 Colts.

43
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 7:34pm

I assume you're talking about the 2006 Colts. No, they weren't a great team, but they were the #3 seed in the superior conference and had an off-year in large part due to injuries which had been mitigated somewhat by the end of the season. They'd also already beaten the Patriots in the regular season (in New England), and as such in the AFCCG they were only 3-point underdogs at home. There are so many factors involved with playoff football, but there's no way the 2006 Colts were a 75-1 shot entering the postseason; they were widely viewed as a contender, not a favorite and a bit of a sleeper, but certainly viable.

44
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 7:39pm

Re #21. "Funny how life works out"

Boy is that the truth. I came to dislike the Cowboys under somewhat similar circumstances (not being dirty, but winning a game they shouldn't have because of officiating). I was a Vikings fan, and they lost on the hail Mary play where an official with a perfect view of the play didn't call Preston Pearson for OPI, giving the Cowboys a last second win in a game they had no business winning. And I wound up living in Dallas during the 90's. (at least I didn't have a barber who cut the Cowboys' hair).

What's funny is that this isn't the fault of the Cowboys, of course. It would be more rational for me to hate the refs. But somehow the poor Cowboys become the victims of my ill feelings.

45
by Nathan (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 7:43pm

Agree about the open disdain for the readership. It used to be we are all equals here discussing. Now, if you're text is in colors, you are more equal than everyone else.

You're supposed to be above the fray if you really believe you are superior to us.

46
by Matt (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 8:28pm

Yes, the Indy run defense was awful, but it usually was. However, that was a team which routinely seemed to beat its pythagorean score in real wins and losses, if I recall correctly.

To Vince: Since the comparisons were thrown around a few times, can you do scores for the 2003 Panthers just to see where they would have ended up?

47
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 8:52pm

To be clear, I wasn't actually accusing Raiders fans of whining...I was accusing the Raiders organization itself of whining. It's weird...usually, an organization is above reproach and it's fans tend to be obnoxious. But in the case of the Raiders, it may be the opposite. I actually have never personally encountered truly obnoxious Raiders fans (although I have yet to watch a game from the Black Hole)--passionate, yes, but not especially whiny or obnoxious. But the Raiders organization itself, starting with Al Davis trying to sue the city of Oakland becauese he can't sell tickets, and continuing on with the stories of the Raiders sending the NFL a picture of the Tuck play every year to cover their complaints about officiating, has always irritated me.

48
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 9:13pm

#4 - well, others have beaten me to it. But color me unimpressed with a quote from "Gelf Magazine." And also with any response that starts with "Really?" Such rapier rhetorical wit! And such a great discussion starter to boot!

(Aside: what the heck is Gelf Magazine? According to wikipedia, here's what a GELF is: G.E.L.F. is a term designating any type of Genetically Engineered LifeForm in the science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf.).

First, I will concede that "FO-led charge" is both unfair and inflammatory. I apologize.

However, FO did nothing to stand in the way of the stampede of crappy, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, sports-radio-like conventional wisdom, and FO might not have led the charge but FO certainly jumped on the hyperbole bandwagon.

You want to see FO complicity? (and, yes, I hold FO to a higher standard than the rest of the sportswriting crap because FO is founded on Bill James-type skeptical empiricism. You want to be the Bill Jameses of Football? Then toughen up.)

MDS on 11/23/07: I believe the 2007 Patriots are the greatest football team ever assembled.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/2007/11/23/fo-goes-mainstream/5797/

Schatz in the conf champ audibles: probably the best team of all time

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/2008/01/21/ramblings/audibles/6044/

And just to kick you in the shorts, Bill James wouldn't be caught dead publishing unsubstantiated hyperbole such as Schatz's the 2007 Patriots have the greatest offense in NFL history.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/2008/01/21/ramblings/audibles/6044/

(Have you adjusted for rules changes that don't allow DBs to touch receivers?)

And while I appreciate some posters "defending me" and though I do not feel particularly "attacked," I do think some of your editorial choices will not age well. Chief among them to create a post called Irrational Spygate Argument Thread.

Let's dissect that for second. There's the lame attempt at a joke I see, playing on FO's history with Irrational Manning vs. Brady threads. Do you even remember why you named those threads Irrational? It's because rational folks see that both Manning and Brady are all-time greats.

What's "irrational" about wanting to discuss the confirmed and alleged rule breaking by the Pats?

BTW, back to the "greatest team ever" stuff, I would point to Sean McCormick as the one FO regular who bothered to voice his skepticism, and quite articulately at that.

49
by stravinsky (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 9:27pm

Wow, the 76 Pats-Raiders game. I remember watching it on TV as we put up the Christmas tree. Both teams were very good those years but had the bad luck to play at the sametime as those great Steelers teams. I still remember the man-crush Howard Cosell had on Russ Francis, the Patriots "All-World" tight-end.

I seem to recall an interview or something where Hamilton claims he tipped the pass and in that situation the QB was fair game and that's why he hit Stabler.

50
by vanya (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 9:42pm

What’s “irrational” about wanting to discuss the confirmed and alleged rule breaking by the Pats?

Because, Carlos, that discussion typically doesn't really have anything to do with football, it's usually (see Gregg Easterbrook) either whipped up hysteria used as an excuse to attack the Patriots, their coach, their owners, their fans, their fans' second cousins, etc. Or it's crazed Pats fans claiming that they weren't cheating, everyone does it, etc. It's really not that complicated - the Pats cheated, they got caught, they got penalized. If you think the penalty was too light/too harsh - write a letter to the Commmissioner. There's not much more you can add to the discussion at this point other than unfounded innuendo and accusations. If you show up with a signed affidavit from that Walsh guy maybe they'll open a rational thread for you.

51
by Doug (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 9:42pm

I think you guys (FO) would be remiss if you tried to create a complete analysis of the Giants' postseason foes if you didn't include the trends that they were following.

Let's start with Tampa Bay: the Bucs were highly inconsistent during the first nine weeks, then like any other inconsistent team they would peak and valley. They peaked in week 11, hit a valley in week 14. Then they peaked again in week 15 before....you got it! Bottoming out against the Giants in week 18. It was very unlikely that Tampa Bay would have won that game.

Next: Dallas. The Cowboys bottomed out in week 17 against Washington, a game in which they rested their starters. They were on a negative trend all year long and when they let themselves go in the final week of the regular season, it was no surprise that they couldn't beat the Giants.

Next: Green Bay. The Packers were consistent for the first nine weeks of the year. Then they went nuts. They went from blowout to being blown out and back and forth the whole rest of the year. After blowing out Seattle the week before, they were lucky to lose by 3 against New York.

The last game of the year is the one game that New York should have lost. Granted, the Patriots were falling behind and winning by smaller margins, but that was a game that the Patriots should have won. New York either won with an incredible effort or the game was rigged.

New York's path through the playoffs was not as difficult as FO would make it seem. Each NFC team they played was, as #32 said well, ripe for the picking. During all of this, as the media pointed out well, the Giants were gaining momentum. Momentum is a much bigger factor in NFL football than most people realize.

You'll all have to take my word for this because FO doesn't like it when I post my web site in these threads. Leave it to them to stifle the discussion.

52
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 9:43pm

Carlos, I imagine the Spygate thread is called "irrational" because some people (on both sides) just can't discuss it without completely losing their shit. Read it yourself if you don't believe me (better yet, for your own good, don't. Just trust me on this one).

As for the whole "it's hyperbolic to call the Patriots the best ever and FO should be above it" stuff, well I disagree to a point. I do think the Patriots are the greatest regular season team ever and are almost certainly the best team to not win the Super Bowl. Given how hard it is to win the Superbowl as this article points out, I don't hold it against them too much. Losing probably drops them behind a few teams, but I think they're still in the discussion.

As for the "greatest offense ever" stuff, well I don't see whats so wrong about that. Yeah, they're playing in an offense friendly era, but every other offense gets to play by the same rules and the Patriots were still streets ahead of any other offense this year. The only offense I can find even close to these Pats in the DVOA era is the 2004 Colts who played by the same rules and played most of their games indoors to boot.

53
by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 9:49pm

#51, I never knew that "win 2, lose 1" was a predictable trend.

54
by Doug (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 10:13pm

#52 - it's not just about wins and losses. I guess I should have clarified that. Look at a team's biggest lead, biggest deficit, and final margin of victory or loss and you'll see what I mean about momentum. Win two, lose one doesn't tell you much but a big win by 20, followed by a close win where you trail by 10, followed by a loss where you never lead does tell you something.

55
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 10:14pm

Carlos, as vanya points out the Spygate thread is called "irrational" because some people, on both sides, just can't talk about it without losing all sense of perspective. Read it yourself if you don't believe me. Or, for your own good, don't read it and just take my word for it.

As for the whole "it was ridiculous hyperbole to call the Patriots the best ever" stuff, well I don't agree with you. Their season DVOA was over 50%. The only two teams since 1996 even over 40% are the 96 Packers and 99 Rams. No, they didn't win the Superbowl, but this article does a pretty damn good job illustrating just how hard that is for even the greatest teams. I'd say the loss stops them from being the best ever but I think they're still in the discussion at least. The same is true for the "greatest offense ever" stuff. Only the 2004 Colts are even near them in the DVOA era. Yeah, they're playing in an offense friendly era, but every other team gets to play by the same rules and the Pats were miles ahead.

And finally as to your "Bill James wouldn't be caught dead saying that" throwaway line, Bill James never had a website he updated daily. I'm pretty sure that if he had, he'd have thrown in some outlandish comments every now and then in the heat of the moment.

56
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 10:16pm

ok, what's going on here? I made a comment, came back 15 minutes later and it was gone, so I redid my comment and now the original is back again.

57
by Jerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 10:17pm

Vince,

Nice piece. A couple of thoughts:

- Home field matters. You can find an approximate value by looking at the home team's record in games where each team's probability is 50%.

- If you want to do more work, you can use the probabilities from each game to generate each team's pre-playoffs probability of winning the Super Bowl in any given year.

58
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 10:37pm

As for the whole “it was ridiculous hyperbole to call the Patriots the best ever” stuff, well I don’t agree with you.

This is really the lowest form of argument. The quotation marks are there to make a reader believe I wrote what appears quoted.

I never wrote that.

If you care to take on what I actually wrote, then we can have an actual discussion.

If you prefer to use made-up quotes, well, then, I leave you to turn this into a foxsports.com website.

Because, Carlos, that discussion typically doesn’t really have anything to do with football,

Who cares about what's "typical?" Anyone who bothers to read this site and spend money buying the book is yearning for something better than typical! If you name a thread "Irrational," then you're inviting that kind of commentary.

59
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 10:48pm

> Yes, the Indy run defense was awful, but it usually was. However, that was a team which routinely seemed to beat its pythagorean score in real wins and losses, if I recall correctly.

Well, yeah, Pythagorean had the 2006 Colts winning 9.6 games (at the listed .600 Pythag WPct), when they actually won 12. Furthermore, going back to the FO archives, while the Colts were 9th in the league in Pythagorean wins, they were 7th in DVOA and 4th in weighted DVOA, with no truly dominant teams in the league. As such in their actual playoff games, the Colts were big favorites against KC, small underdogs against BAL and NE, and fairly sizable favorites against CHI, regardless of the fact that those last three opponents bettered them in regular-season Pythagorean. I'd say given that list of opponents (and not having to play the #1 seed SD, consistent with this analysis) the Colts' more realistic odds of winning the Super Bowl were 15-1 or less (closer to the straight-up one-sixteenth chance of winning four straight games against evenly matched opponents).

I think the 2006 Colts probably represent the worst-case error in a Pythagorean projection of the Super Bowl winner, and they're probably not even in the top 10 unlikeliest champions (but that's alright, Pythagorean projection is known to be a simple first-cut measure of team strength, again, without considering strength of schedule, HFA in the playoffs, variance in regular-season game scores, etc.).

60
by BDC (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 10:59pm

Can someone explain this colts throwing a game against the lions to me? I don't know too much about this (well, actually nothing but what has been posted here so far) as it occurred a bit before my time, but for those that believe the game was thrown, what exactly was the motivation? I can sort of see a team wanting to throw a game if their play off seeding is fairly well locked up, and they can influence what team the play (presumably, they would do this to play a team they feel they have a better chance of beating). But if I understand it correctly, the colts hadn't clinched a playoff spot yet. Obviously, I must be missing something here, but I don't know what that is.

61
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 11:07pm

Carlos #58, what exactly am I supposed to make of this?
"However, FO did nothing to stand in the way of the stampede of crappy, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, sports-radio-like conventional wisdom, and FO might not have led the charge but FO certainly jumped on the hyperbole bandwagon." followed by: "Bill James wouldn’t be caught dead publishing unsubstantiated hyperbole such as Schatz’s the 2007 Patriots have the greatest offense in NFL history." If you are not trying to say that Aaron and others here were guilty of engaging in unsubstantiated hype of the 2007 Patriots, please enlighten me as to the real meaning of these comments and I will apologise for misunderstanding you and taking your comments out of context. All I did was take a quick look at how the 2007 Patriots stack up against other teams in the DVOA era and conclude that they were indeed a historically great team.

"Who cares about what’s “typical?” Anyone who bothers to read this site and spend money buying the book is yearning for something better than typical! If you name a thread “Irrational,” then you’re inviting that kind of commentary." I have absolutely no idea how this refutes the points vanya or myself made as to why the Spygate thread is labelled "irrational". Oh well, back to foxsports.com for me.

62
by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 11:19pm

> But if I understand it correctly, the colts hadn’t clinched a playoff spot yet. Obviously, I must be missing something here, but I don’t know what that is.

The game was 100% meaningless to the Colts (by the end of the game)-- winning didn't clinch anything, affect seeding or HFA in the playoffs, nothing. The Colts had to win the following weekend against the Patriots regardless, and the theory on the motivation to lose their game with the Lions was that they'd rather play a Patriots team with nothing but pride at stake, rather than go head-to-head for the division title (which didn't make complete sense to me, but...)

I'll admit that allowing a jailbreak punt block while holding the lead with a minute to play is highly suspicious (then again, the 1993 Steelers pulled off the same feat in their playoff game in Kansas City, and I'm going to assume that was unintentional as much as I'd like to believe the game was fixed). I've linked to a good article on the 1977 AFC East battle in which the author states the Patriots had "seen the Colts purposely lose an easy winnable game at home to help them win the division and knock the Patriots out of the playoffs". That was the prevailing opinion in New England if not everywhere else.

63
by BDC (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 11:20pm

Carlos,

I am not sure why you are so concerned with them separating that thread from the rest of the discussions? I have been reading this site for a long time (though I only started actually posting somewhat recently), and one of the worst trends was how sometimes, discussion of the Pats and to a lesser extent the Colts could completely take over a thread, even when the thread had nothing to do with either of those teams. Personally, I was glad they separated it. I get enough of the Pats as it is without having to see thread after thread devolve into a discussion on the Pats here. As for calling it irrational, I am guessing that was probably a reference to the last time they had to do this, when they called it the irrational Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning discussion, or something like that.

64
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 11:30pm

I’d like to see these “typical” Super Bowl champ rankings for the wild card Super Bowl champs after their intial playoff opponent is eliminated from the calculations.

Wild card Super Bowl winners, ranked by odds of a Typical champion winning last three games:

06 Colts: 8.4%
07 Giants: 10.1%
05 Steelers: 10.7%
00 Ravens: 12.6 %
97 Broncos: 17.2%
80 Raiders: 19.2%
82 Redskins: 21.0%

I’m surprised that the 2006 Colts number is 2nd at 1.3%. I must have a short memory. Without the numbers above in front of me, I’d have figured them for better odds than that.

People forget how truly mediocre that Colts team was over the regular season. By Pythag, they should have won nine or 10 games, not the 12 they actually did. They were 8-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less, 5-2 in games decided by a field goal or less. And then, as noted, three of their four playoff opponents were championship caliber. The Ravens, Pats and Bears of 06 were all better than any team the Giants beat in 07, with the obvious exception of the Patriots.

Regarding Home Field Advantage, is this statement saying that HFA isn’t included at all, or that team-by-team HFA differences aren’t incorporated.

Homefield is not considered in these calculations at all, nor is the benefit of a bye week during the playoffs. So the odds of dominant teams are probably too low in this study, while the odds of lower seeded teams are probably too high. (Yes, this would mean that 0.7% estimate for this year’s Giants is inaccurately HIGH.)

Instead of using .750 as the Pythagorean winning percentage, maybe use the mean or median (or a column for both) of all Super Bowl winners.

The average Pythag rating for a Super Bowl champion was .757; the median was .759. I rounded down.

As a reference point, I count 12 Super Bowl champions with a Pythagorean rating over .800. How many playoff losers have been over the .800 number in the Super Bowl era?

I count 16:

69 Vikings (.923)
68 Colts (.919)
76 Steelers (.896)
07 Patriots (.860)
67 Rams (.843)
67 Raiders (.839)
72 Steelers (.831)
68 Raiders (.829)
66 Cowboys (.814)
06 Patriots (.813)
77 Broncos (.811)
78 Cowboys (.810)
01 Rams (.810)
92 49ers (.806)
00 Titans (.803)
71 Dolphins (.803)

Note that this only counts teams that were knocked out of the playoffs by teams that went on to win the Super Bowl. The 99 Jaguars, for example, had a rating of .806, but they lost the AFC Championship to the Titans, who then lost to the Rams. I didn’t look at every playoff team ever, only the Super Bowl winners and their opponents. The 98 Vikings team had a rating of .817, but they lost to the Falcons, who lost to the Broncos. There are probably others out there.

Case in point the 1984 49ners team took out the Bears and Giants to the tune of 44-10 on the way to the Super Bowl. These teams would win the next two Super Bowls

The 1984 Giants went 9-7 with a Pythag of .496. They allowed more points than they scored. People who thought that this year’s Super Bowl would be close argued that the Giants had changed since November, or even December. Now you want to judge the 49ers’ opponents by how they performed TWO YEARS later? For the record, the 84 Bears’ Pythag was .655, the Dolphins were .784. Both good, but not special, for playoff teams.

Since the comparisons were thrown around a few times, can you do scores for the 2003 Panthers just to see where they would have ended up?

The Typical champion would have won the Super Bowl against the 03 Panthers schedule 14.0% of the time. The Panthers themselves, so mediocre during the regular season, had an estimated 2.1% of winning the Super Bowl — still higher than this year’s Giants.

The Packers were consistent for the first nine weeks of the year. Then they went nuts. They went from blowout to being blown out and back and forth the whole rest of the year. After blowing out Seattle the week before, they were lucky to lose by 3 against New York ... Momentum is a much bigger factor in NFL football than most people realize.

If Green Bay had just blown out Seattle, shouldn’t they have had more momentum than New York, which had just squeaked by Dallas? Or does momentum only work for some teams?

What’s “irrational” about wanting to discuss the confirmed and alleged rule breaking by the Pats?

The discussion became irrational when the subject arose in threads that had nothing to do with the Patriots, Giants, Rams or Jets. Since readers had an IRRATIONAL tendency to raise the subject in unrelated threads, we just created their own little area where they could have at it and leave everyone else alone.

65
by BDC (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 11:30pm

62:

Thanks for the explanation and the link. That makes a little bit of sense, I guess. It still seems rather dubious to me though. I mean, the Colts threw the game against the Lions, so that the Pats would be eliminated and have no motivation to play. But the very act of throwing the game would, in and of itself, give them motivation to play!

It sounds to me like sour grapes; the Pats didn't get the job done in the regular season and were looking for someone to blame, other then themselves.

Though as I said, it was before my time, so what do I know. Anyways, thanks again for the information.

66
by vanya (not verified) :: Tue, 02/12/2008 - 11:51pm

This probably isn't the place, but seriously what more can be said about spygate that is not pure conjecture? Did filming really provide the Patriots a meaningful advantage? We don't have any evidence either way. Was significant evidenc destroyed? We don't know. So Carlos, what rational avenue of investigation do you feel has been left unexplored?

67
by GlennW (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 12:00am

Vince, thanks for the breakdown of playoff losers with .800+ Pythagorean winning percentages. Maybe .800 isn't a good cutoff standard for a "dominant team" because such teams are fairly commonplace (more than I had thought), and especially in the early Super Bowl seasons there were multiple .800+ teams per season (maybe in part due to the totally disparate NFL-AFL schedules). It might be more interesting to note that there have been 8 championship teams at .850+, but only 4 losers above that mark. I think you have it right with your conclusion of "the odds of dominant teams are probably too low in this study, while the odds of lower seeded teams are probably too high".

68
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 12:19am

re: 64

Vince, Green Bay's win over Seattle did NOT give them momentum. A sudden surge in one direction (blowout win or blowout loss) typically leads to a regression to the mean. That's exactly what we saw when Green Bay lost to New York by 3.

So no, momentum doesn't work for "some teams". Momentum is gained through gradual rising and falling, not through sudden surges.

I'm going to link the column I wrote through my name, and NO this isn't an advertisement, this is me giving readers the ability to actually see what I'm talking about.

69
by Carlos (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 12:40am

The discussion became irrational when the subject arose in threads that had nothing to do with the Patriots, Giants, Rams or Jets.

Fair enough.

70
by Quentin (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 12:45am

If Green Bay had just blown out Seattle, shouldn’t they have had more momentum than New York, which had just squeaked by Dallas? Or does momentum only work for some teams?

No, squeaking by Dallas proved to the Giants that they had guts, could win the tough ones, and gave them a scrappy mentality and the confidence that propelled them to victory against both the Packers and the Patriots.

Unfortunately for the Pats, their close wins were really signs of their impending doom (actually, that parts probably true). Likewise, winning 18 games in a row does not provide them momentum, but means that they're due for a loss. I <3 sports cliches.

71
by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 12:50am

Re: 51

Momentum is important? How important? Is it more important than swagger? What about heart? What happens when a team with better momentum runs into a team which wants it more?

Good thing for the Giants they were gaining momentum while the Patriots were spinning their wheels as they won 18 games in a row.

I didn't realize how important momentum is. Thank you. I only wish the FO fascists would let you link to your blog so I could read it.

(And before you get all huffy, please understand that my tongue is in my cheek.)

72
by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 1:03am

Re: 68

OK, seriously I have read your article and I have a question. Doesn't high variance go both ways? If the Giants' opponents are likely to play badly because of their recent wild swings, aren't they equally likely to play very well against the Giants?

Basically what I'm saying is that your argument should not be that the Giants did not face good opponents, but rather that the Giants faced opponents who might have played very well or very badly and the Giants luckily caught them during a bad phase. But don't tell me it was predictable.

73
by admin :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 2:37am

Regarding discussing Spygate: Yes, this isn't the place. Thanks for making our point that some people are unable to discuss the amazing playoff run of the New York Giants without obsessively bringing up a scandal revolving around a different team in a Super Bowl played six years ago.

Remember, the whole "Irrational Brady-Manning" thing began because a Brady-Manning argument broke out in a thread regarding the salary cap situation of the San Francisco 49ers. The "Irrational Spygate Thread" has nothing to do with your opinion of the issue, and everything to do with the ridiculous need to ruin discussions of everything else by bringing it up over and over and over again.

74
by Ahnold SchwarzenKegger (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 2:38am

Re: the 07 Pats as "Greatest of All Time" - It's funny that there's suddenly this major backlash against the idea (even directed at FO's writers -- who I believe were as fair and balanced as possible throughout the season)... because if Eli Manning and David Tyree don't combine for one of the most miraculous plays in NFL history, you'd have to dig pretty deep to make an effective argument against their GOAT-ship. They'd be assumed the GOAT until proven otherwise, and Pyth alone doesn't really hold a lot of weight in the court of NFL consensus.

I guess my convoluted point is that one really amazing, 1-in-a-million play separated the Patties from being almost universally accepted as the GOAT. Yet, since Manning-to-Tyree did happen and NE did lose the SB, people are acting like they doubted the Pats all along. Don't lie, though -- had they won, you'd probably be calling them the GOAT. (At 19-0, you kinda have to, right?)

75
by BDC (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 2:58am

74:

I'm not sure what you mean. I recall number of posters who maintained all along that they felt other teams would still be the GOAT (the 85 Bears come to mind).

I think where some of the "backlash" might come from is from people who didn't really think that the Pats were the GOAT, but were willing to "give it" to them if they went 19-0, sort of in the same way that the 72 Dolphins are often included in the discussion, for no other reason then their record. Now that the Pats didn't go undefeated, they no longer get that artificial boost, and so we can evaluate them a bit more objectively I think.

My position on this (and yes, I stated it prior to the SB), has been that while it can be fun to talk about, there really isn't an answer to the question of who is the greatest of all time. We obviously can't go back in time to play historic games; even if we could, we would need to play them quite a bit to to get a reasonable estimate (as you pointed out, one individual game isn't really a good indication). It is simply impossible to compare teams from separate eras as well. I mean, say you were to compare the 2007 Pats to the team that did go undefeated, it is easy to say the Pats are the better team, but then, what rules are we playing by? 2007 rules, or 1972 rules?

76
by Scott (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 2:59am

Found something else the 07 Patriots couldn't do that the 72 Dolphins did: score 14 pts and win the big game.

Teams that score 14 or less in the SB are 1-20. The only team that won were those 72 Dolphins, 14-7 over Washington. And any historian knows it was 14-7 instead of 17-0 (just like their record) because of that stupid botched FG play with Yepremian being returned for a late TD.

77
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 3:13am

Re #43/#59

2006 Indy was -3 over the Pats. Using offshore closing odds & historical win rates at those odds Indy should win the Superbowl 11% of the time. The 2007 Giants should win 0.33% of the time, the Pats 78.64% of the time. However, all the home lines & Superbowl favorites are inflated, thus the true odds of the Pats are likely much lower than 78% while the Giants odds are much higher. Using start of the playoffs offshore odds to determine who should win is worthless because the built-in vig is greater than 20% as books do not give you the option of playing the Titans will not win it all (as you briefly stated).

Going into the Superbowl a better prediction method uses playoff only statistics.

78
by mrh (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 3:49am

Re #76 - last week, one Wash Post writer (George Solomon) was blaming the WAS loss to MIA on Kilmer hitting the goal post (then located at the goalline) with a pass, implying a much closer game than a 17-0 or 14-0 (assuming Garo just fell on the ball rather than throwing the pass).

I'm glad to see the '69 Chiefs did in fact have one of the toughest roads to a SB championship as I argued in the thread that spawned this article - 6.3% chance for a typical champion w/o factoring in two road games.

Pyth doesn't account for teams resting their starters after clinching the playoffs. This in part contributed to the '67 Packers seemingly low Pyth numbers as they didn't have to win their last two games (and also got HFA in the playoffs). I'm sure this is true in several other cases, I just have been going on about that team lately and how W-L record and now Pyth underrates them. They may not have been the best of the Packer dynasty teams, but they were better than 9-4-1 and a .694 Pyth credits them.

Re the large Pyth numbers of the '68 Colts, '69 Vikings, and even '67 Rams (BTW the '67 Colts might have the highest Pyth rating of any team to not make the playoffs, at least post-66). This is probably due to the enormous amount of expansion in the 60s: the AFL, plus DAL, MIN, ATL, and NO. It also probably affected the Pyth of the top AFL teams like the '69 Chiefs.

79
by Scott (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 4:09am

Pyth is good because it's quick, easy to calculate, and stands up well over decades of football. But I really think something more detailed (like a regression model) should be used to calculate expected wins for teams in the modern era. Something that can take points and also account for net yards, turnover differential, efficiency stats, etc.

80
by t.d. (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 4:10am

The Patriots were clearly the worst team to ever start 18-0

81
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 5:01am

RE #78: I would love to see a study dealing with team performance after resting starters, particularly in the salary cap era. It might just be driven by confirmation bias but it seems there have been more than a few flameouts by home favorites such as Tampa Bay this year. Indy loses to PIT, DEN to JAX, while Bill Belichoke seems to put emphasis on the last three games, probably driven by research.

82
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 5:48am

80,

Clearly. And I do wish we could have some of the stuff made after the Pats choke put on the site. (The "Hitler video" used for the Cowboys loss has already been made for the Pats.) This is supposed to be unbiased right? But alas, I think that the loss still pains Aaron's heart too much to go into detail about it. Its better we just have one audibles article and then forget it. Think it would of been the same if the Pats won? ;)

83
by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 7:37am

Its better we just have one audibles article and then forget it.

No, it's better that we do Audibles, then do this piece breaking down Manning-to-Tyree, perhaps the greatest play in Super Bowl history.

And then we could do this piece, the one on this very page, which you have taken the time to comment in, which is in fact all about the Giants' postseason run.

84
by PW (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 8:54am

Vince is there going to be an Any Given Sunday on piece on this game.

85
by ArizonaCardinalsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 11:22am

Shouldn't this be retitled, "OK Playoff Runs That Look A Lot Better in Hindsight"?

86
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 12:32pm

re #72:

I see what you're saying, but I don't agree with it. Green Bay beat their week 17 opponent by 20+ points, and then beat Seattle by 20+ points. It was highly UN-likely that they would blow out New York as well. It's like when you hit a guitar string really hard. The Packers were in prime position to lose that game and I'm actually kind of surprised it wasn't a blowout in favor of the Giants.

So yeah, I think it's predictable.

#71...why you little.....

87
by newyorker (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 12:44pm

read:
-giants were lucky to reach the playoffs, let alone win the sb.
-new england is the bestest team in nfl.
-if the games dont get played on the field, the giants wouldn't have any championships.

i'm sure i left others points out but i think that was pretty much the gist, right?!

88
by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 1:22pm

Re 77- checking the traded futures on the super bowl before the playoffs started I think the Pats were 50-60% and Giants were somewhere around 2-3%. That's a fairly large, liquid market where you can take both sides of a bet with little vig, so it's probably the best indicator if you want to use money flow.

89
by Gerry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 1:26pm

Vince,

"The Ravens, Pats and Bears of 06 were all better than any team the Giants beat in 07, with the obvious exception of the Patriots."

Let's compare what DVOA said about the last three teams the Colts played compared to the last three teams the Giants played in the playoffs.

Bal 06 final DVOA: 31.9%. NE 07 51.8%. But you already threw out the Pats, so it is only fair to throw out the top team that the Colts played.

Bears 06 final DVOA 24.0%. Dal 07 23.9%. A completely insignificant difference.

NE 06 final DVOA 23.3%. GB 07 21.0%.

Given that if you exclude the 'best' team and throw out the wildcard round (because the Colts didn't play in it) then the 2006 Colts faced two teams with an average DVOA advantage of 1.2%. I do not think that DVOA, therefore, supports the contention that the 2006 Colts had a tougher road to the Super Bowl than the 2007 Giants, even if you exclude the top team each faced in the playoffs (and why that would be excluded seems very unclear to me).

The only viable argument I have heard to cut down the Giants' run is that their opponents had injuries. Given that the last few years they slumped at the end and then got eliminated early in the playoffs while being decimated by injuries concentrated at a few key positions, all I can say is that if we caught a break, then good.

90
by Johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 1:55pm

Now you want to judge the 49ers’ opponents by how they performed TWO YEARS later?

No I just want to see the data that includes more than 1 year snap shots of performance data. Case in point the 2006 Colts playoff run will probably look less like an upset if we look at their performance in 2005-2007. It may be a way to identify teams for which injuries or such made their in season performance look underwhelming. Probably the biggest benefit to this may be the 1976 Raiders for their Steelers opponent is going to look really good.

91
by Scott (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 2:09pm

Gerry, the 07 Bucs were better than the 06 Chiefs, 07 Cowboys were better than the 06 Ravens, 07 Packers were better than the 06 Patriots, 07 Patriots were far better than the 06 Bears. Add in the road element for each game, and there's no doubt the Giants had a tougher road than the Colts last year.

The real comparison is to the 2005 Steelers and their road. That's a much tougher argument.

92
by Fred Bellemore (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 2:23pm

#62, #65

The linked article got the timing all wrong, and it was the timing that made it all the more infuriating...

Week 13

Balt 9-3
Miami 9-3
NE 8-4

Games:
Sun 1pm EST Mia at NE (NBC)
Sun 2pm EST Det at Balt (CBS, and remember, Brent Musburger has been acting like the AFC doesn't exist for 3 years now)...Also, Blue Laws prevented Baltimore from starting Sunday games before 2pm....

And next week, the Dolphins-(lowly)Bills is one of those Saturday games the NFL would let us watch before the NFL Network took them away, and then the Pats-Colts would play on Sunday...Baltimore had the tiebreaker over Miami by better conference record (which the Detroit game wouldn't effect); Miami had the tiebreaker over NE by better division record (if NE beat them in Week 13, they'd split their two H2H games, NE, as was so typical, had lost a home game to the lowly Bills), NE would win the tiebreaker over Baltimore by having beaten them twice (if they didn't beat them twice, there would be no tie to worry about), a three-way tie would have gone to NE, because they were 3-1 against Miami (2-2) and Baltimore (3-1) (again the only way they could tie is if NE beat Baltimore in Week 14)

The Mia-NE was close right down to the end --- it went long and probably ended at around 4:10 EST. Baltimore could not afford to lose to Detroit if Miami won this game, because that would put the Dolphins a game up with one to play...But after NE won, Baltimore realized the Detroit game meant nothing to them -- they still had to win next week or they were out:

The standings at 4:15 were:
Balt 9-3
NE 9-4
Miami 9-4

Now if Baltimore beats Detroit:
Balt 10-3
NE 9-4
Miami 9-4
Miami is eliminated even with a win against Buffalo in Week 14 --- Ne and Baltimore play for the title: If NE beats Balt, all three are 10-4 and the Pats go; If Balt beats NE, they win outright...The AFC East champ is locked into the 2 seed (Pittsburgh had lost the day before -- yet another Saturday game we don't get anymore -- and was locked into 3, Denver was 1 and WC Oakland 4.

If Baltimore loses to Detroit, they are all 9-4 going into the last week; Miami plays Buffalo on Saturday, and if they win, then NE is eliminated...

Now, this whole scenario was a function of the Baltimore starting their game an hour later, because of Blue Laws...

The CBS DH game was Minnesota at Oakland --- CBS cuts into this game with one of their "updates" at about 4:40pm -- Cut to Memorial Stadium, with its typical mid-December sleet/snow/drizzle mix, and David Lee is in the end zone on the right side of the screen, that corner of the end zone just to the right of home plate that is always dark at this time of year...The snap comes back to Lee, he goes to punt it and just gets smothered, drops the ball, it rolls out to maybe just over the goal line, then Lions and only Lions pick it up and run it in...Musberger mentions the implications for about 3 seconds at half-time, before moving on to more important things -- namely, the NFC...No, I'm not bitter about this...

93
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 2:33pm

Re: 87

You forgot the part were everyone realized that you're a douche.

94
by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 2:41pm

IT's tough to argue that the Giants should have beaten the Cowboys- a team that beat them twice during the reg season (close, but convincingly, if that makes sense) and had more pro bowlers than any other team in football. Anyone making that argument is practicing serious revisionism.

95
by TomHat (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 2:46pm

44: WTF another tom! I thought i was the only person named tom. I shall henceforth go by the name "TomHat"...i dont know why...

96
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 3:16pm

re: 86

Doug, if you had written what you've written at the end December, you'd be a genius. Where were you with all this obviousness before the playoffs? Why aren't you a millionaire for laying all your money on the Giant's obvoius playoff run?

97
by GlennW (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 3:35pm

> Cut to Memorial Stadium, with its typical mid-December sleet/snow/drizzle mix, and David Lee is in the end zone on the right side of the screen, that corner of the end zone just to the right of home plate that is always dark at this time of year…The snap comes back to Lee, he goes to punt it and just gets smothered, drops the ball, it rolls out to maybe just over the goal line, then Lions and only Lions pick it up and run it in

Fred, I did some further research and your memory fails you a bit. The line of scrimmage was the 21 and the kick was blocked ahead of the 5-yard line and taken in from the 2, with the Lions' Leonard Thompson scoring with only 9 seconds remaining. So it wasn't quite the travesty you make it out to be-- still suspicious, but Lee was not already in the endzone where he could easily have kneeled down for the safety. Sure, he could have pretty easily run back into the endzone, but teams are not always fully prepared for such situations by quick-thinking coaches. Of course, Marchibroda defended the decision to punt and denied any impropriety.

Talk about a digression, huh? But at least it's football...

98
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 4:07pm

#96

Yeah, that would have been nice.

99
by GlennW (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 4:16pm

> 2006 Indy was -3 over the Pats.

Thanks for the clarification; this only further supports the position that the 2006 Colts weren't *that* unlikely a Super Bowl champion. Those Colts are just one example where Pythagorean and Weighted DVOA differed fairly significantly-- in a separate comparison the Bears were also highly inflated by Pythag (Bears .775, Colts .600), but much more accurately represented by WDVOA (Bears +12.3%, Colts +21.6). In some instances, Pythagorean winning percentage can be fairly deceiving.

Given that the Colts were also actually favored over the Patriots, I am reminded of FO's analysis of the 2006 AFCCG, "Why history points to a Bears-Patriots Super Bowl". That's not a knock; I just thought the arguments in that column were also overstated in not more accurately recognizing recent performance (primarily of the Colts' playoff defense), something that Vegas and/or the general public better accounted for. Actually my observation is even fairly consistent with FO's own Weighted DVOA numbers going into the 2006 AFCCG (Patriots +22.1%, Colts +32.4%), before even accounting for HFA. Given that we've seen this slanted playoff-based performance trend three straight years now, perhaps more emphasis should be given to playoff performance leading up to the Super Bowl.

100
by Quentin (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 4:27pm

Vince is there going to be an Any Given Sunday on piece on this game.

More than anything I'd like to see a Too Deep Zone diagramming some of those Giants blitzes, but I seem to remember Tanier saying something about taking a break during the offseason.

101
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 4:40pm

Re #95
I go by the name I do because there were consecutive comments in one of The Infamous Deion Branch Threads by "Tom" that came from two different people.

Other Pyth dominant (.800+) teams include:
1977 Rams
1976 Rams
1975 Rams
1975 Vikings
1973 Cowboys
1973 Rams
1971 Vikings
1971 Colts
All those Rams appearances? It's not just Seattle lately that's feasted on a terrible NFC West. And, yes, OAK may have the hardest stretch of only 3 games, but they didn't even play the NFC's best team by PythWins in the Super Bowl.

102
by Keas (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 4:57pm

The 2005 Steelers were also favoured to win the Superbowl (by 4 points I believe).

Ignoring the numbers, and knowing what we know, how unlikely a champ were they? Carson Palmer's broken leg certainly made a victory against Cinci more likely and the ridiculously one-sided officiating in the Superbowl made that victory much more likely. Now, they were the victims of a very bad call themselves (the Polomalu interception0 but overall the 2005 Steelers had alot of 'outside assistance' for their 'one for the thumb'.

103
by GlennW (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 5:06pm

> Ignoring the numbers, and knowing what we know, how unlikely a champ were they?

The 2005 Steelers (#6 seed) were still a hell of a lot unlikelier champion than the 2006 Colts (#3 seed), in spite of the rankings here. Beat the #3, #1 and #2 AFC seeds respectively all on the road, then the #1 NFC seed in the Super Bowl. Without overplaying the first and last victories over CIN and SEA (the Steelers were small favorites in each of those games), the Colts played twice at home as favorites as well as in the Super Bowl. And the Colts' win @ BAL wasn't nearly as unlikely as the Steelers' win @ IND.

104
by Scott (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 5:47pm

Knowing what we know now, neither the 05 Steelers or 06 Colts are that unlikely of a champion. Those teams were building towards that level for years and finally reached the top of the mountain. They were considered the favorites (or close to it) the year before they won it. Going under the radar really helped, just like it helped the Giants this year. Teams love that underdog role. They may have had teams with better talent and/or records/stats, but none of them played better in the postseason when they had to than those teams.

And usually when a team wins 14+ games in a season, that core group of guys go on to win a championship somewhere during that run (say a 4 year window).

I'll put the teams in italics that failed to ever get a ring in that window

72 Dolphins - Won SB
78 Steelers - Won SB
83 Redskins - Lost SB, but won it in 82
84 Dolphins - Lost SB, never won one
84 49ers - Won SB
85 Bears - Won SB
86 Bears - Lost NFC-D, won SB the year before
86 Giants - Won SB
89 49ers - Won SB
90 49ers - Lost NFC-C, won previous 2 SB's
91 Redskins - Won SB
92 49ers - Lost NFC-C, won SB's in 89 and 94
98 Broncos - Won SB
98 Falcons - Lost SB, never won one
98 Vikings - Lost NFC-C, never won one
99 Jaguars - Lost AFC-C, never won one
01 Rams - Lost SB, won it in 99
03 Patriots - Won SB
04 Patriots - Won SB
04 Steelers - Lost AFC-C, won it in 05
05 Colts - Lost AFC-D, won it in 06
06 Chargers - Lost AFC-D, lost AFC-C in 07
07 Patriots - Lost SB, won SB in 04

Only 5 of the 23 teams really failed to win one in that certain window. I think the Chargers are the next team to have a good chance of doing what Pittsburgh and Indy did (and to an extent, the Giants). To follow the pattern it should have been their year this year, but they just couldn't score TDs in the AFC-C. I think if they're healthy next year, they'll be a real threat in the AFC playoffs again.

105
by Quentin (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 5:49pm

Now, they were the victims of a very bad call themselves (the Polomalu interception0 but overall the 2005 Steelers had alot of ‘outside assistance’ for their ‘one for the thumb’.

From what I remember, it was more than just one bad call. Everyone was rooting for the Colts in '05, and it really seemed to me that the officials(or at least, an official) were pulling for them in that game. I can't remember any other specific examples, but I do remember watching that game (and I was rooting for the Colts) and thinking the Steeler's were getting cheated.

106
by fish shure (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 5:55pm

71:
Momentum is important? How important? Is it more important than swagger? What about heart? What happens when a team with better momentum runs into a team which wants it more?

It's really quite easy to calculate! I am shocked that FO, as a stats-based website, has not addressed this issue yet. There are only a few relevant variables to define:

M: Momentum (or p if you like)
S: Swagger
H: Heart
C: Clutchness (measured in clutch-units)
W: Wantingness
T: Talent

Clutchness is a binary value; you are either completely clutch or an unstoppable choke artist. Momentum, Swagger, and Heart are all empirically determined through the use of various steam-powered instruments, bulletin-board material, and puppies saved from burning buildings per hour. Wanting it more fluctuates from game to game. Use them all together to come up with the important metric "Cliche-Ability."
S + H + W = CA

Talent is multipled by momentum to get "Game-Talent."
GT = T * M

The actual formula to determine the winner of any game is simple, then. As any sportswriter or heckling fan knows, nothing matters like heart and momentum... except for being a clutch winner.
C * (GT + 2CA) = Winnability

Finally, as anyone who knows statistics is aware, winning percentage is as easy as subtracting their winnability from yours. So, if your team didn't win, they must not have had the right mixture of talent, heart, momentum, swagger, desire, or clutchness. Sorry, guys - make sure to throw the goat under the radar and take another crack at it next year.

P.S. All values are of course on a 16.7 point scale.

107
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 6:11pm

Here at Football Outsiders, we scoff at anything we can't assign a number to and ignore things we don't understand.

108
by Eddo (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 6:22pm

107 (Doug):
First, this is a statistics-based site, so if you can't "assign a number" to something, it won't have much use in FO's metrics.
Second, no one here "ignore[s] things we don't understand." It may be that these things are not used in metrics, but how could they be used if (a) they don't have a numeric value (see first point) and (b) aren't understood?
Third, in your linked article (and post #51), you are precisely trying to assign a number to things like momentum.
Fourth, things like momentum, desire, and clutchness are reflected in existing statistics. If a player wants it more, then his numbers should be better than a player who doesn't want it as much. Statistics are just a record of what happens on the field, not some magic number of what could have been.

109
by BDC (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 6:47pm

86:

"Green Bay beat their week 17 opponent by 20+ points, and then beat Seattle by 20+ points. It was highly UN-likely that they would blow out New York as well....
So yeah, I think it’s predictable."

Isn't this essentially just a gamblers fallacy?

Saying that the Packers blew out two opponents in a row so they were due for a loss themselves sounds an awful lot to me like well I flipped a coin twice and it came up heads so I must be due for a tails.

110
by Gerry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 6:53pm

#91-- Scott, I agree.

111
by fish shure (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 7:02pm

107: No offense intended, just having a little fun...

112
by Matt (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 7:36pm

106. You win the thread.

113
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 7:36pm

#108 - This site isn't just about stats, it's about challenging conventional wisdom. Have we reached the limit on how far we (and when I say we I mean everyone, from the staff to the readers) are willing to push the envelope? Five years ago, had somebody said "you run when you win, not win when you run", how many of us would have shrugged it off? I sure as hell wouldn't have given it much credence. Now we're at a point where (it seems to me) people are starting to get a little dogmatic about DVOA and the rest of the stats this site has to offer.

"If you can’t 'assign a number' to something, it won’t have much use in FO’s metrics"? The hell with that, let's come up with some numbers! What's stopping us? Is it too difficult to do a study on momentum and trying to figure out if it has an effect on the game?

#109 - about 50% of the population would agree with you that the term for "win two, predict a loss" is gambler's fallacy. The other 50% would call it regression to the mean.

#111 - Sorry if that came across as me being rude, but I hate to see ideas being quickly rejected on a site that's all about thinking "outside the hashmarks".

114
by BDC (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 7:45pm

113:
"about 50% of the population would agree with you that the term for “win two, predict a loss” is gambler’s fallacy. The other 50% would call it regression to the mean."

Well, they can call it what ever they want,never the less, if they think the previous two results in any way impact the result of the third, they would be wrong. What ever the probability is of getting a tails (obviously, in this case, 50%), doesn't change just because you got a couple of heads in the past. Likewise, whatever the probability of a Packers win in the game was, doesn't change because they won two games in a row previously.

115
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 7:51pm

#114 - you are making a really strange connection here. People are NOT quarters. NFL football games are NOT flips of a coin.

116
by BDC (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 8:30pm

115:

So what you are really saying is, had the Packers won those two previous games by a small margin instead of by blowout, they would have had a greater chance to win the Giants game? Or that if they had actually lost one of those two games (obviously, not the playoff one), they would have had a greater chance to beat the Giants?

Why would that be?

117
by BDC (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 8:37pm

Let me expand on that a little further. Isn't this just BS we use to retroactively explain upsets?

If Team A is steamrolling opponents, comes across team B, and crushes them too, it's, "yep, team A keeps winning because they have all this confidence and momentum".

If Team A is crushing opponents, comes across team B, and is beaten, it's, "yea, they were overconfident. Besides, they were due for a loss".

How is that in any way predictive?

118
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 9:00pm

#116, #117

To your first question, if Green Bay had won the two previous games by smaller margins...the problems started way before those two games. The problems, in my eyes, started back in week 10 when "something" happened. Maybe FO can tell us what that something was. The team went from consistent to ridiculously inconsistent. They blew out Minnesota by 34 points and then declined each week until their second loss in week 13. Then they finished the year by going 4-2, with 20 point wins and a 28 point loss.

To use a cliche, "wheels were set in motion" a little after halfway through the regular season.

To your second point...I'll try to use some html code here but if it doesn't work I apologize.

"If Team A is steamrolling opponents, comes across team B, and crushes them too, it’s, “yep, team A keeps winning because they have all this confidence and momentum”.

If Team A is crushing opponents, comes across team B, and is beaten, it’s, “yea, they were overconfident. Besides, they were due for a loss.”

A team can win all it wants, but if it's not improving the way it wins each week it has no momentum.

I don't like to use the word "due" because it implies that the loss was somehow fated to happen. That's not the case. No game is 100% decided before it's played. What I'm saying is that if team A is slipping already and runs into a team B that has been making strides recently, or in other words has been performing better each week, team B will have a higher probability of winning even though team A has a better record and a billion Pro Bowlers.

119
by BDC (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 9:29pm

Okay, that makes sense, and I understand your position on it. The way I was reading it was that you were implying that somehow, it was the act of winning those two straight by large margins that would result in them losing to the Giants. What you are actually saying is that the signs were there all along, and that the result of those two games had nothing to do with it. Got it now.

120
by BDC (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 9:30pm

Can't edit, so let me add. That last sentence should read "I got it now."

121
by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 9:59pm

Doug,

Are you saying that when the Packers won two games by large margins that they weren't making strides? The Giants had only played well in 3 straight games at that point (including the loss to NE), how is that any different?

How can you look at one team playing well for 2 games after some swings and say they are in trouble, while another team with 3 good games after some swings is building momentum? Why should the Packers regress and the Giants not regress?

The gambler's fallacy is not the same thing as regression to the mean. The fallacy is to assume that the regression is due to take place right now, rather than at some undefined point in the future. The outcome of any football game is a single event, and single events are not predictable using regression to the mean (unlike, say an entire season, which is 16 events).

122
by Doug (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 10:14pm

#121

This isn't just two or three games that we're talking about. Green Bay had been in trouble since week 10. New York had been improving since week 13. The two teams played each other in week 20. That was plenty of time for both teams to develop (or not) some momentum.

I disagree with your assertion that regression to the mean can't be used to predict a single event, i.e. a the result of a football game. I seem to have done pretty well doing just that.

123
by KenF (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 10:40pm

I love football and know my football history......but I never heard of this New England/Baltimore/MIami passion play in 1977 until reading the posts tonight. Just fascinating to read. Thanks to everyone for their input into an obscure but important part of Patriots history.
Oh yeah....my opinion on this is of course it was unethical, but it was brilliant what the Colts did. Playing a "fired up" team that is eliminated makes more sense than playing a team fighting for their playoff lives.

124
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2008 - 11:53pm

#99/#103 Glenn: Yes, until FO strongly weights playoff performance FO will be less accurate. With the longer season & salary cap compared to “the time before time…1993 BC” there are more spots to relax. One must face the facts, teams performance level will vary based on previous schedule & recent performance. A football team is not a machine. The significant edge playoff performances have over regular season performances is both teams should play HARD, thus the statistics are more true measures of team performance. Playing hard is not guaranteed in a random regular season game. FO folks will struggle with this one, the limited playoff sample size gives hints that playoff statistics that are predictive for winning a Superbowl do not always agree with the predictive statistics for winning a regular season game. BTW, 2005 PITT market states the steelmen as approximately 13% looking back at the odds.

Weighted DVOA has the edge over Pythagorean because YPP is strong, the “market” knows Manning >> Grossman, FO knows DVOA Passing Manning >> Grossman is vital to winning assuming a recent equal or better run defense performance. Pythagorean gets exposed by Joe Six Pack in this case, because this one is easy, Joe gets beat when it gets beyond quarterback measurement. Stick Joe in week 5 and he loses 56% of the time every time.

#114: BDC: Doug is correct, historical evidence shows teams “letdown” after 30 offensive points + back to back wins. I do not have the exact numbers is front of me but it might be worth 6% in straight up win rate. What causes this “regression to the mean” is anyone’s guess. Now factors such as this one can be measured. This differs from Doug’s scratch your bass & guess which way the candlesticks trend is going next week. I want to know what factor drive the next candlestick, not the warm fuzzy, it looks like a downward trend facing a sideways popsicle.

DVOA is not a predictive model, the best predictive models take into account factors such as this one. The worst predictive models assume all they need is the box score. A football game is not an independent event like a coin flip. Past performances impact future performances on a regular basis. Just because FO ignores them does not mean they do not exist. Events like Buffalo’s near upset of Dallas in week 5 are predictable & expected. Models that ignore this particular factor lose this one 56% of the time going forward. The 44% win rate plus 10% tax forces people to abandon their “accurate box score model” that does not account for esoteric factors. Buffalo’s situation differs from the “hot hand” basketball studies. The “hand” does not know. The “brain” knows after sitting around all week, finishing a worthless MTV Cribs interview.

125
by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 12:01am

Re: 122

You've done pretty well predicting single events based on regression to the mean?

I don't know if you predicted the Giants' win over Green Bay before it happened. Let's say you did. How many other games did you get right? What was your record?

I don't consider a single good call to be proof that your system is good.

126
by Doug (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 12:23am

#125

Just jump on my blog and take a gander...send me an email and I'll let you see every pick I've made for the past two years if you want. Hell, a couple times I almost nailed the final margin. It's all there for people to see.

Predicting using Regression to the Mean is just as effective as using any other statistical method.

127
by BDC (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 1:53am

124:

"BDC: Doug is correct, historical evidence shows teams “letdown” after 30 offensive points + back to back wins."

Okay, now I am once again not at all clear what you both are talking about. I interpreted Doug's original statement to mean that a team winning two consecutive blowouts would be more likely to lose next game. Doug then clarified and said no, that was not what he meant; what he meant was that GB was showing signs much earlier of having a meltdown, and that those two specific games are not what caused them to lose to the Giants. Now you are saying they are.

Can someone just come right out and say what it is they mean? I am not trying to be difficult, but when the story seems to keep changing, it is difficult to follow.

"DVOA is not a predictive model, the best predictive models take into account factors such as this one."

I am not at all interested in whether or not DVOA is a predictive model or not. I think I have made my position on DVOA's predictive abilities quite clear in the past.

128
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 2:06am

127: BDC, teams that score 30+ points in back-to-back wins on average have less chance of winning their next game, the next performance regresses to the mean more often than not. They are more likely to lose than a team with similar strength coming off average wins.

129
by BDC (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 2:30am

126:

Huh? Okay, I read your blog. You predicted that that the Giants would regress against TB and lose, which of course they didn't. You predicted that Dallas was in decline with streaks of improvement. Well that isn't exactly going out on a limb, is it? I mean, no matter what happens, Dallas wins or loses, you can say you called it. You predicted GB to beat NY, which of course they didn't. In both cases, you then go on to say that you should have seen it in the graphs and such. Maybe the reason you didn't see it is because the graphs are not predictive? I mean, it is easy to look at a graph in hindsight and say what should have happened based on the graph, when you already know what happened. I think it was Warren Buffet who said he realized stochastics was BS when he turned the graph upside down and it told him the same thing....

Then the SB, you again predicted the Giants to lose and when they didn't, you claimed they threw the game.

Did I about sum it up correctly?

130
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 3:21am

#129: The candlestick blog was disturbing. Professional teams do not throw games unless the playoff process is strange.

131
by Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 3:59am

"BDC, teams that score 30+ points in back-to-back wins on average have less chance of winning their next game, the next performance regresses to the mean more often than not. "

This trend that is supposedly so strong did nothing against the Pats. NE won their first 8 games of the year all while scoring over 30 points. This "trend" seems more like an old wives tale than anything

132
by FredFarmer (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 6:34am

RE # 79.You can regress the pre game dvoas of each team against the actual result to get a regression equation with statistically significant coefficients.

If you've kept New England and NYG's 2007 games out of the group you've used to derive that regression equation you can use it to see what dvoa thinks of the relative strenghts of the two Superbowl teams.

Do this and Dvoa had the Pats as a 0.812 side (13-3) and the Giants as a 0.505 one(8-8).This compares to Pythag that had them as 0.860 and 0.536 respectively.If you then go down the log5 route,Pythag/log5 gave the Giants a 15.8% chance of winning in Arizona,as per the article and dvoa/log5 made them a 19.1% shot.

However,having gone to the trouble of calculating a regression you may as well use it instead of log5 for the full dvoa approach.Now the Giants are a 23.5% chance to beat the Pats.

Given the actual result,either of the predictions that incorporate dvoa are closer to what happend on the day than the Pythag approach.And while one example doesn't prove anything,I think dvoa is a better bet than Pythag.

If you re do the Giants run to the trophy,but using dvoa regressions,then they had about a 0.6% chance of winning against that schedule and this should be compared to a 0.3%,venue corrected Pythag estimate and not the 0.7% venue neutral figure quoted in the article.Again dvoa seems a more accurate reflection of reality than Pythag.

Possibly a better way to look at the Superbowl from a statistical point of view is not "how did NYG win it",but "how did the Pats NOT win it".

Rewind to week one of the post season.Dvoa regressions for all the Pats possible routes to winning in Arizona give them around a 47% chance of achieving their aim.

That means that the most likely outcome after Superbowl 42 has been wound up is not that it will be won by the Pats,but that it will be won by somebody else......And that's just what happend :-).

133
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 11:09am

Jason: Nice single team mini-season regression to end the Old Wives tale!

134
by Doug (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 11:38am

#129

The reason I didn't think New York would actually win any of those games was because I thought they had "peaked", in other words, they had hit their highest lead/deficit/final margin numbers and would regress. What kills me is that they did, but they didn't regress to the point of losing a game. And just so it's clear, I never said that I thought the Giants would beat New England (Bill). Looking back now, you might say that I'm just "seeing" what I want to in those charts. I would say to you, don't fault the charts, fault me. I think I've made a few more good predictions than bad over the years, but it's always the bad ones that people will focus on, isn't it.

I made the same sort of predictions for Minnesota and San Diego this year too, and they both regressed, just not as soon as I thought they would. I get the direction right, not the timing. And that's something I'll work on.

135
by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 12:06pm

Vince V

That is a great contribution (ranking the best non SB winners).

I was surprised to see a few things.

The '78 COwboys were rated much lower than I expected, because according to ESPN and other 'football experts', they are the best SB losing team ever (@ least before the Pats '07 lost).

I was also surprised to see the '77 Broncos rated so high. They were rated above many teams thought of as the SB losing teams ever '01 Rams, '78 Cowboys).

What about the '98 Vikings? I thought for sure they would appear somewhere the the top on something like this.

136
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 12:38pm

> teams that score 30+ points in back-to-back wins on average have less chance of winning their next game, the next performance regresses to the mean more often than not.

Winning outright, or just covering the point spread? Not covering the spread I can understand, as the spread might indeed commonly be inflated after two consecutive impressive victories, with subsequent regression to the mean likely. I fail to see the logic though that a team is actually less likely to win their next game after playing very well in the previous two, as opposed to merely playing average football. What's the basis for this claim? Letdown? I especially have a hard time believing in this trend with playoff football, where there should be absolutely no reason for a letdown.

137
by nat (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 1:01pm

I've linked the wikipedia article for "Regresion Toward the Mean".

Short form: it's a statistical "artifact" that comes from a measurement having a mix of "skill" and "luck" factors.

Football is loaded with such measurements. DVOA, Win-Loss, Net Points, just about everything has "skill" (predictive) and "luck" (non-predictive) factors. DVOA is able to remove some of the "luck" factors, but can't remove all.

The regression toward the mean is not due to a team changing in its level of skill. It's just that high scores often include very good luck that is unlikely to be repeated. Low scores often include very bad luck that is unlikely to be repeated.

Also, the "good" luck in the first measurement does not increase the chance of "bad" luck in the second measurement. Very good luck by definition is luck that is unlikely to be repeated.

138
by FredFarmer (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 2:07pm

#137.Good link,nat.

Teams that were above average in the past tend to be above average in the future,but are better than average by a smaller amount.

Similarly bad teams are still bad,but they are worse than average by a smaller amount.
.....Unless there's been a major change in the team's talent level.

139
by nat (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 2:46pm

138:
…..Unless there’s been a major change in the team’s talent level.

Good point.

Regression towards the mean is about repeating the same measurement. If the team changes (ala 2001 Patriots before and after Bledoe's injury) then you can expect a change in the "skill" factor, which could outweigh any statistical regression.

It gets harder to evaluate when the hypothesis is that a player changed. (ala the Eli "maturation") Barring injury, we usually expect players to improve gradually. Still, anything is possible.

In any case, the Giants moved away from the mean rather than towards it. So we're stuck choosing between a rare in-season improvement in skill and a rare run of good luck.

The key word is rare. Whatever happened, it was something special.

140
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 3:48pm

The Giants were already very close to the league mean (if not their own theoretical mean) in both Pythagorean and DVOA of course, although the extent that they moved away from that mean was indeed dramatic and impressive.

I think the concept of "momentum" does have some validity not just due to any perceived psychological or other ephemeral factors but the more intangible yet real inputs already mentioned-- injuries, personnel changes, tactical changes etc.-- and thus shouldn't be completely ignored (inevitable follow-on question: with respect to momentum does Weighted DVOA look at too large a time window with respect to recent play?). It's more an issue in football than in baseball, which has a much larger game sample size, more player constancy over time and less tactical inputs, with baseball to the point where you can actually plug in the day's starting lineups and run a simulation with some level of reliability.

141
by Sean McCormick :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 6:02pm

Re 106:

Now that is one fantastic post.

142
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 6:05pm

I don't think most people who use "regression to the mean" know what it is. For football, they seem to think it means that teams regress to league average, when what it really means is that teams regress to their own true mean. If the season were still going on, the Patriots would likely "regress to the mean" by playing much better than they did in the Super Bowl, even though their performance in that game was above league average.

143
by Doug (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 6:55pm

#142

AMEN

144
by andy (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 8:09pm

I feel like a Druid preaching to a group of Southern Baptists but here it goes. This article sums up the flaw premise that is the downfall of attempts to apply Sabrermetric approaches to football. Sabremetrics work in baseball and, I suppose, pro basketball and hockey because of the sample size. Baseball statistics are based on 162 games which is a large enough sample size for the statistics to approach their true means.

This is simply impossible to duplicate in a 16 game season. For example, the standings after 16 games of the 2006 baseball season suggested my beloved Orioles were a 9-7 (.563) team destined for the playoffs. The truth is that their true ability was reflected in the final winning percentage: .432.

Let's assume that the Giants were an average team. Vince calculates that, over a baseball-comparable 162-game season against average competition, the Patriots would win 136 games which is clearly absurd. I understand that the nature of football discourages the kind of letdowns that even good teams have in, say, August, but that is not enough to account for this kind of disparity.

I'm not suggesting the any of these calculations are not totally objective but objectivity does not translate into accuracy.

145
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 8:20pm

...the Patriots would win 136 games which is clearly absurd.

Why is this clearly absurd?

136 wins might be absurd in baseball, but winning percentages differ vastly from sport to sport. For instance, there are many sports where a .563 winning percentage does not destin you for anything.

146
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 8:56pm

A single football game is also more statistically significant and therefore predictable than a single baseball game. Still, a single football game isn't the equivalent of 10 baseball games (in order to match up a 16-game season with 162 games), so there's still a sample-size limitation. I don't know where the break-even point is...

147
by The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 8:59pm

Re: Doug (134)

If I've read your post correctly, you basically said that while your regression to the mean method for prediction is good at identifying teams which are trending up or down, it is bad at predicting individual games because of timing issues. This is my precise criticism of your method, especially since you yourself picked the Packers over the Giants!

You think you can fine tune the method. I don't, but I wish you luck. I think you're doomed to failure because regression to the mean is not a precise enough phenomenon to allow prediction of individual games. You are free to attempt to prove me wrong.

148
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 10:46pm

Glenn: Back to back 30+ scoring performances will impact not only the beating the neutral market number but the outright win rate when using year to date number to judge a team. Take two teams with the same exact scores & schedule but one team got their 30+ point scoring performance in week 6 & week 8 and the other got back to back efforts in weeks 7 & 8. Whether it is luck or regression to the mean, the team with back to back performances will be less likely to win game 9 than a team without them. Past performance & expectation does impact the future. For instance, teams off losses have a measurable bounce back factor for the next game that decays as the season progresses.

The belief that last week’s market inflation creates the spread outcome is mistaken in the NFL. The oddsmaking process uses a form of Bayesian Estimation, meaning the team strengths do not change much based on recent performances because of limited sample sizes. The market prices last year performances as the majority of the price until week 8 or so unless the public detects a severe regime change: quarterback injury, Belichoke playing 60 minutes of Spurrier football over 4 games, etc. Back to back performances are not enough of a regime change to inflate the market drastically. To illustrate, look at the first year of the Greatest Show on Turf, the market never caught up. Sure DVOA was on top of things, but the market is slower to price near term results, the market is from the Show Me state. Once teams have established a majority in-season price after week 8, say New England or Dallas, the vast majority of elite teams cannot meet the prior performance levels but the market will much slower to price it as the elite teams regress to the mean due to luck, swagger, a lack of mojo, etc. Additionally all teams that start out 8-0 blowing teams out are overrated, their true strength is lower than what the numbers say.

One thing I have observed from offenses that put up crazy numbers using 3 or 4 wideout sets is their ability to win tough games later in the season facing quality defenses is overrated by year to date numbers. DVOA might state New England is far superior to the Giants, 1999 St Louis is far superior to Tampa Bay, but the actual game does not play out like 1999 St Louis versus Cincinnati (any they suck team) as DVOA, the market, or the fan expects. The Giants had 52 regular season sacks, any GM or coach dreams of having that type of production once every four years. Facing spread offenses facing good defenses, timing is disrupted, the passing paradox comes into play, even short yardage plays are no gimme. This game was a bad match up for New England.

This was a fine FO article about teams with four consecutive 40%+ DVOA performances with insightful comments from GlennW, nat, Tom, & Dan.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/2008/01/23/ramblings/dvoa-ratings/6057/

Eleven of the twelve teams that pulled it off were strong teams, seven made the Superbowl! If anything, it throws out the strong hint this could be a great football team, not a statistical anomaly. Anytime a team throws four consecutive 40%+ performances out there I will claim regime change no matter what the recent past says about the team, coach, player, etc. It might have been very late in the season but the 2007 Giants had morphed into a great football team. Next year they will be back in the dumps but that is another storyline.

NE 2007 SBOWL
STL 1999 SBOWL
TB 2002 SBOWL
IND 2007 DIVISION LOSS
KC 1997 DIVISION LOSS
PHI 2004 SBOWL
IND 2004 DIVISION LOSS
GB 2003 DIVISION LOSS
OAK 2002 SBOWL
GB 1997 SBOWL
NYG 2006 WILDCARD PLAYOFF LOSS
NYG 2007 SBOWL

In upcoming seasons I will be looking for two potential regime change criteria. 1) Four consecutive 40% DVOA performances. 2) Teams that enter the playoffs with low variance, high sack rate, and low defensive adjusted line yards. Anyway, I planned moving on from this thread but I have a question for Glenn #140: Where is (“with baseball to the point where you can actually plug in the day’s starting lineups and run a simulation with some level of reliability”) this being done it on the web? I do not follow baseball but it seems the batting/runs variance from game to game would have large variance and be unreliable. I would guess worthless in April.

149
by Paul (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 11:14pm

I cannot believe that the 83 Redskins were not one of the best teams ever to fail to win a SB. I recall them being very dominant that year with only 2 close losses...

150
by BDC (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2008 - 11:22pm

134:

"The reason I didn’t think New York would actually win any of those games was because I thought they had “peaked”, in other words, they had hit their highest lead/deficit/final margin numbers and would regress. What kills me is that they did, but they didn’t regress to the point of losing a game. And just so it’s clear, I never said that I thought the Giants would beat New England (Bill). Looking back now, you might say that I’m just “seeing” what I want to in those charts. I would say to you, don’t fault the charts, fault me. I think I’ve made a few more good predictions than bad over the years, but it’s always the bad ones that people will focus on, isn’t it.

I made the same sort of predictions for Minnesota and San Diego this year too, and they both regressed, just not as soon as I thought they would. I get the direction right, not the timing. And that’s something I’ll work on."

I do fault you, not the charts, but not because you misread them. But just because they aren't predictive in any meaningful way. You can read anything you want out of them. So sure, after the game, you can look and say "see, the chart said this would happen", but then, if the other team had won instead, you could still look and say "see, the chart said this would happen".

Case in point, the GB NY game. Originally, you read your chart and it said GB would win. Then when NY won, you look back at the exact same chart and say whoops, no the chart said they would lose. No matter what happens, the chart is vindicated.

I know you didn't say you thought the Giants would win. You said they would lose. Then when they didn't lose, and you weren't able to find anything in the chart to explain it, you said you suspected that NE threw the game.

No, you could say you have made more good predictions in the past then bad ones. But guess what, everyone does. If the average person was only 50\50 in predicting winners and losers, Vegas would have no need of a point spread. The fact is, the average person averages around 68% correct. This is pretty much right around what every statistical model out there averages. The thing is though, in order to be considered a success, the model has to be BETTER then normal, expected results. If it isn't, why waste the time creating one?

151
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 02/15/2008 - 12:11pm

> Where is (“with baseball to the point where you can actually plug in the day’s starting lineups and run a simulation with some level of reliability”) this being done it on the web? I do not follow baseball but it seems the batting/runs variance from game to game would have large variance and be unreliable. I would guess worthless in April.

To my knowledge it's not being done regularly anywhere publicly, although I know teams like the Red Sox use such lineup simulations. And I'm not saying that the method will have great significance with an individual game, because of the high variance you mention. Such analysis could just give you an edge, predicting/betting over many games, that's all. Yes, even in April, where pitching performance may be more unpredictable, but where offensive performance still holds up pretty well year to year (and as you know, the starting pitching matchups are paramount in setting game lines in baseball, the dominant factor actually).

152
by aih (not verified) :: Fri, 02/15/2008 - 3:47pm

Very nice article. I guess I am pretty late here, but I would just add a note on the question of how the best Steelers team in history failed to make the Super Bowl. The usual statement is the one made by Vince that the Steelers starting RBs (Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier) got injured. What people forget is that the backups, who were pretty good (Frenchy Fuqua and Preston Pearson) were also injured, leaving the Steelers with only their 5th string, special-teamer, Reggie Harrison. You couldn't adjust the rosters in those days, so the Steelers had to play with one RB, and Noll spent the week trying to install a new offense, as the Steelers didn't have a one RB offense. It didn't work so well.

Madden outcoached Noll in that game. It was apparent that the Steelers defense came in with the mindset that it needed to pitch a shutout, or close to it, and it was ferociously rushing the passer on every play, trying to make sure that Stabler did not hit anything. The Raiders were very much a passing team, and no one ran on the Steelers anyway, but Madden crossed them up by running the ball a lot. Because the Steelers were selling out on the pass rush, the Raiders' RB (Marv Hubbard?) had a big day and Oakland controlled the game. The Steelers probably should have given up on the idea of creating a new running offense in one week, and just let Bradshaw try to win the game on his own. He would have had three and outs, and probably some INTs, but he might have generated some points also and let the D feel that it could play the game more straight. But Noll didn't have that kind of faith in Bradshaw until later in his career.

One last thing. An indicator of how dominant the Steelers were viewed at the time is that they were 5-6 point favorites, on the road, against a team that went 13-1, despite all their RB injuries. (Though I think there was some doubt until game time whether Harris and/or Bleier might play.)

153
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 02/15/2008 - 6:51pm

> Madden outcoached Noll in that game.

I agree. I'm a Steelers fan, and I've always thought that the Harris/Bleier injury excuse has been somewhat overstated given the way the game actually played out-- as a near blowout. The Raiders' fine offensive performance won that game as much as the lack of a Steelers' offense lost it.

By the way, it was rookie Jack Deloplaine who was injured (he was almost entirely a special teamer), and Preston Pearson was on the Cowboys by 1976. Frenchy Fuqua also played some, and Reggie Harrison was 11-44 rushing, so he wasn't completely ineffective. Mostly as you suggest minus a true fullback it was the change to a multiple TE offense and Bradshaw's spotty performance (14-35, 176, 1 INT) that was the problem on offense.

154
by Jerry (not verified) :: Fri, 02/15/2008 - 7:39pm

Re '76 AFC Championship:

I've also wondered whether, in that age of QBs calling their own plays, Bradshaw could absorb a new offense in a week. But it's not like they lost to an awful Oakland team (when they met in the playoffs for the fifth straight year).

155
by FredFarmer (not verified) :: Sat, 02/16/2008 - 7:41am

To further understand how NYG won the Superbowl it may be worth comparing their road and home performances,especially as three of their playoff games were on the road and the fourth was on neutral turf.

Overall,based on home and away regular season performances,the Giants were an above average defense,with a very good running offense and a poor passing one.On the road they were still good at what they did well overall, but the passing game improved to become just better than average,mainly due to Eli's better accuracy.

If you matched the road Giants up against the home performances of their three initial playoff rivals,then NYG were around a 50% chance to beat Tampa,a 40% chance to beat Dallas and a 50% chance to defeat GB.

If you further decided that a neutral game is closer to a road game than a home one and match NYG(away) with New England(away),you can make a case for the Giants to be about a 60% chance to win the Superbowl game.

Overall a 6% chance for the road Giants to win against their actual playoff schedule.

Quite a bit of after the facting,I know and you'd need compelling reasons to take a teams away record in isolation instead of using the larger sample size contained in their 16 game regular season history........Maybe the home away dvoa splits and variances may shed more light.

156
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 02/16/2008 - 5:47pm

The main reason the Giants home record was worse was because their home games were against more difficult teams than were their road games. During the regular season basically against any good team they lost and basically against any bad team they won, they also did ok against the decent teams

157
by FredFarmer (not verified) :: Sat, 02/16/2008 - 8:20pm

Re 156.

When you allow for the different quality of home and away opponents faced the Giants were still much better on the road.

For example the home Giants gained only 5.2 yards per pass against defenses who allowed 6.1 yards per pass.A below average performance.

On the road they gained 6.5 ypp verses defenses who allowed 6.4 ypp.An above average performance.

158
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 02/16/2008 - 8:58pm

All that stat shows is that New York is harder to throw in than other places, which could be a function of the weather

159
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sat, 02/16/2008 - 9:55pm

"So we’re stuck choosing between a rare in-season improvement in skill and a rare run of good luck"

Another option-- the skill level was high, and their early season performance was a rare run of bad luck.

Think about it-- the last two years, the Giants were in the playoffs. Both years, they were absolutely decimated on defense during the course of the year (losing their entire linebacking corps and some of the backups two years ago, losing many linebackers and much of the defensive line (including the studs) as well as most of the defensive backs last year.

They did lose Tiki, but were well stocked at the position.

So my assertion is that the Giants were better than people thought (remember, last year they gave the Colts all they could handle week 1). Then they got better through the year as the excellent rookie crop integrated themselves into the play. They had some sloppy play, some bad luck, and it took them a while to learn Spagnuolo's scheme. But the talent was there and had been there for years, frustrating Giants fans who saw it and couldn't believe that we were so mediocre anyway, and lulling everyone else into thinking this was a bad team.

160
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 02/16/2008 - 10:21pm

One thing that people are failing to mention is that:

1) NYG had 1 turnover in 4 postseason games combined

2) They had extremely good fumble luck
in the playoffs

3) Many of their players had some of their better games of their season/career in the playoffs

** Despite all of this it took:

-A last second touchdown to win 1 game

-A last second interception in the endzone to win another game

-An overtime victory in a 3rd game

NYG are the champs but it took very good fortune for them to win their last 3 games. I see them as having a good chance of not even making the playoffs next year

161
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sat, 02/16/2008 - 11:26pm

Jason,

And a lot of people thought there was a good chance that they wouldn't make the playoffs this year.

So it is very unlikely to bother any Giant fan to hear a skeptic. They are world champs.

The G-men had good fumble luck in the Super Bowl, it is true. Only one of those fumble recoveries had any impact on the game (the one where Bradshaw managed to get underneath the pile). The Giants had very bad luck on the interception, and quite frankly the Patriots were VERY lucky to be in a position to win the game with the way the Giants defense was playing. They were lucky that Manning missed Burress with a wide open flip. They were lucky that Bradshaw had fumbled a handoff with no reason to, killing another drive. They were lucky for a few other drops.

So, yeah, the Giants had some luck. So did the Pats. Almost any SB winner will have had some. It's not the damning attribute you seem to think.

162
by Jason (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 4:04am

"Only one of those fumble recoveries had any impact on the game "

Every fumble has a huge impact. Heck take the Brady fumble that NYG revovered. If NE recovers they are at midifield and have a decent chance to score by halftime.

Manning missed that throw more due to his being an average qb than because of bad luck.

Their luck goes beyond the SB. Go to the GB game, if GB falls on the ball instead of trying to pick it up when Mcquarters fumbled GB has the ball at midfield and quite likely would have gone into position to kick the game ending fg.

163
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 12:39pm

"Heck, take the Brady fumble that NYG revovered. If NE recovers they are at midifield and have a decent chance to score by halftime."

The Giants recovered the ball with 7 seconds left in the half, in NE territory. Had NE recovered it, the clock would have been running. They would have had to call their last timeout and been 25 yards away from FG territory with the only chance of a score being a 25 yard sideline route taking less than 7 seconds followed by a very long FG on grass.

This word 'decent'. I don't think it means what you think it means.

164
by goathead (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 2:16pm

Having watched the game a 2nd time now, it is really clear to me that the luck in this game was pretty evenly distributed.

The pats lucky breaks included a blatant missed personal foul facemask on the opening kickoff, an astonishingly flukey int that should have been a completion, a highly questionable delay penalty.

The giants breaks included a dropped INT on their final drive, and recovery of the fumbles. Interestingly the fumble luck has been much discussed but really didn't impact the game.

At the end of the day, to say that luck really impacted the game more than the play by the 2 teams just doesn't align with what I saw.

165
by Jason (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 2:29pm

"The pats lucky breaks included a blatant missed personal foul facemask on the opening kickoff, an astonishingly flukey int that should have been a completion, a highly questionable delay penalty.

The giants breaks included a dropped INT on their final drive, and recovery of the fumbles"

You can't really be comparing penalties to turnovers. Turnovers are way more important.

166
by Jason (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 2:35pm

"The Giants recovered the ball with 7 seconds left in the half, in NE territory. Had NE recovered it, the clock would have been running. They would have had to call their last timeout and been 25 yards away from FG territory"

The Giants recovered at the NE 49 with 10 seconds left. I am not sure how you figure that they were 25 yards away from a fg. Last time I checked NFL kickers can kick fgs further than 41 yards

167
by goathead (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 3:41pm

Jason: I'm looking at all of the plays that are really pure luck favoring one team or the other. The pats were the recipient of one totally flukey int that SHOULD have been a giants 1st down in the red zone at best, or a short FG attempt at worst. They dropped an INT on the final drive, although it would have been a spectacular INT if it had been hauled in.

And yes, in some instances a penalty is as important as a turnover - when it stops a drive in the red zone. As an example, the turnover at the end of the 1st half likely cost the pats nothing, as has been pointed out. In the case of the bogus delay penalty, it negated a play in which it appeared Brandon Jacobs was going to have a lot of room to run.

But the real point, is that if you look at the game objectively, each team got a handful of lucky breaks, but the reality is that these taken together didn't dramatically favor either team. At the end of the day, one team outplayed the other, and they won. I think the fact that the team that lost was clearly the stronger team all year is causing people to try to explain it away, since it just seem so inconceivable that the Giants could have outplayed the pats.

FWIW, if the pats hadn't made some uncharacteristically bad decisions (4th and 13, and their playcalling in the last 30s) they'd have still had a shot to win.

168
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 3:59pm

"The Giants recovered at the NE 49 with 10 seconds left. I am not sure how you figure that they were 25 yards away from a fg. Last time I checked NFL kickers can kick fgs further than 41 yards"

1) The Giants did recover with 10 seconds left. I stand corrected by three seconds. Of course, the refs stop the clock immediately on a change of possession. If there was no change of possession, the clock would have kept running until the Pats called timeout. 7 seconds left is a good estimate for what would have been left.

2) I hate to break it to you, if the ball is on the NE 49 yard line, it is in NE territory and would NOT be a 41 yard FG. Even if it was on the NYG 49, it would NOT be a 41 yard FG.

Do you know how long the Giants' FG was? It was a 32 yarder. Do you remember what yard line was the line of scrimmage on the kick? The NE 14 yard line.

To give NE a chance at a 50 yarder, they would have had to get to the 32 yard line. That would have been 19 yards. To give them a chance at a 45 yarder it would have been 24 yards.

Gostkowski was, IIRC, 1 for 3 from 40 yards plus when kicking on grass in 2007. He did not attempt a 50 yarder on grass in 2007.

I stand by my statement. While a NE score was possible if they kept possession there, one was very unlikely.

169
by Jason (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 4:23pm

"2) I hate to break it to you, if the ball is on the NE 49 yard line, it is in NE territory and would NOT be a 41 yard FG. Even if it was on the NYG 49, it would NOT be a 41 yard FG"

-Gerry I hate to break it to you but I was referring to you saying they were "25 yards away from fg territory" If they recovered at the 49 then you were saying NE had to get to the 24 yard line to be in fg range, therefore a 41 yard fg.

-Almost any NFL kicker has the leg to attempt a 52 yard fg, especially on the last play of a half when field position from a miss is irrelevant. This means NE would have only needed a 12 yard pass to get into fg position, hardly an ovewhelming prospect

170
by FredFarmer (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 4:59pm

#158.It shows that for whatever reason passing the ball at NYG was a problem for Eli.

He completed 52% of his passes at home compared to 61% on the road.

The Giants eight visitors completed 63% of their passes when they played the Giants.When they went on the road to play anyone but the Giants they completed 64% of their passes.Virtually no difference.They didn't have anything like the struggles Eli had.

The Giants success is inextricably linked to why Eli was a QB capable of winning a Superbowl,but only on the road.

171
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 5:36pm

Jason, in order to kick a 45 yarder, they would have had to get to the 27 yard line. To kick a 41 yarder, they would have had to get to the 22 yard line.

To get to the 22, that would be just under 30 yards. I was saying to have much of a shot at all, they would need to get to the 27 (for a 45 yarder), which would have been 24 yards needed in one play.

Maybe you think the odds of getting 24 yards plus a really long (45 yard) FG on grass, or getting 29 yards plus a still pretty long (40 yard) FG on grass, are 'decent'.

I'd say they are pretty long. Quick, give some examples of where teams in the NFL with no timeouts went from their own territory into FG range and converting when having less than 10 seconds on the clock and no timeouts. If the chances are 'decent', there should be many, many examples.

172
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 6:00pm

I'll make my assertion even simpler.

I would say that if a team lines up to kick a 50 yarder on the last play of a half, they have a less-than-decent chance of scoring.

I would say that if a team lines up to kick a 45 yarder on the last play of a half, they have a decent chance of scoring.

I would say that if a team lines up to kick a 40 yarder on the last play of a half, they have a good chance of scoring.

I would say that if a team needs to go 20 yards to get to the first situation, 25 to get to the second, or 30 to get to the third, and they only have one play to do it and have no timeouts (meaning it has to go to the sidelines), the odds of them even getting in the position to kick are slim. Not decent-- slim.

The odds of the kick being missed, depending on where it was being kicked from in case they did get into position, just make the overall odds even slimmer.

173
by goathead (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 8:43pm

I think everyone can agree that the more important part of the play where Brady fumbled at the end of the 1st half was that he was sacked, the fumble was a bonus. Prior to the sack the pats had a shot at getting some points to end the half, once they got sacked the probability dropped dramatically, the sack took it close to zero.

And we shouldn't forget that clearly BB didn't think much of his kickers odds of hitting a mid to long FG.

174
by Gerry (not verified) :: Sun, 02/17/2008 - 9:37pm

"the sack took it close to zero."

Exactly my point-- the fumble mattered almost not at all. The difference with it was that the Giants got a shot or two at a hail mary versus the Patriots getting a single shot at one.

175
by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 02/18/2008 - 1:04am

Minnesota Vikings fans, I feel your pain. I did a statistical breakdown of NFL teams a few years ago, and the 1969, 1970 (who beat NFC champ Dallas 54-13 in the regular season), 1988 and 1998 versions of the Purple Gang were four of the strongest teams of the Super Bowl era. While the Patriots have suffered tough playoff losses the last two seasons, at least we Patriots fans have least 3 titles while you'all have none.

176
by Jason (not verified) :: Tue, 02/19/2008 - 1:16am

"Jason, in order to kick a 45 yarder, they would have had to get to the 27 yard line. To kick a 41 yarder, they would have had to get to the 22 yard line."

Wrong. FG distance is basically the line of scrimmage + 17 yards. A 41 yard fg for example would come from the 24 yard line, not the 22 like you suggest

"Maybe you think the odds of getting 24 yards plus a really long (45 yard) FG on grass, or getting 29 yards plus a still pretty long (40 yard) FG on grass, are ‘decent’."

As I stated before NE only needed roughly 12 yards for a realistic field goal opporutnty. Not sure why you keep thinking they needed 20+

"Quick, give some examples of where teams in the NFL with no timeouts went from their own territory into FG range and converting when having less than 10 seconds on the clock and no timeouts. If the chances are ‘decent’, there should be many, many examples."

That is just ridiculous. Yeah let me go days on end searching the game logs of every single game. It is quite common to see a team complete a 12 yard pass and get out of bounds during a 2 minute drill

177
by goathead (not verified) :: Tue, 02/19/2008 - 1:25pm

Jason - the fact is once Brady got sacked, the pats odds of getting points were small. Realistically they'd have had around 8 seconds on the clock, and no TOs even if they managed to recover the fumble. Not to say they'd have no chance at points, simply that it was very unlikely. With all the significant plays in the game, its silly to think this one was likely to have impacted the outcome.

178
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/19/2008 - 1:32pm

"It is quite common to see a team complete a 12 yard pass and get out of bounds during a 2 minute drill"

Which would put them in position to try a 57 yard field goal.

The odds of completing a 12 yard pass on one play times the odds of hitting a 57 yard FG on grass is not what should be considered 'decent.'

179
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/19/2008 - 1:53pm

"FG distance is basically the line of scrimmage + 17 yards. A 41 yard fg for example would come from the 24 yard line, not the 22 like you suggest"

+18 is what I use, but whatever. If we use 17 instead of 18, then in order to kick a 50 yarder, they have to get to the 33 yard line-- and they were 18 yards from there.

The basic argument between you and me is this-- you think a team has a decent chance of connecting on a long pass, getting out of bounds, and then kicking a long FG on grass. I don't, and I am pretty sure that most people (and most statistical analysis) would concur.

180
by goathead (not verified) :: Tue, 02/19/2008 - 5:33pm

+17 or +18 can be correct, it depends on where the ball is actually placed. +17 is typical. So the pats needed to gain 23 yards on one play to attempt a FG that would have matched Gostkowski's longest of the year. Plus they would have needed to stop the clock by getting out of bounds. Not impossible, but based on the way the game was going, unlikely.

181
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/19/2008 - 10:08pm

Again, goathead, exactly.

The only controversy here is if getting a gain of that sort of yardage, stopping the clock, and nailing a long FG on grass is something that one would say has a 'decent' chance of happening.

I think it is pretty clear that in general, it doesn't. And that's without getting into if it was even less likely given the way the game was being played.