After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?
08 Mar 2010
by Bill Barnwell
Before the 2009 season, I went on our then-new Twitter account to ask about 2,500 or so followers how they thought a variety of NFL players would perform in the upcoming season. We got somewhere between 20 and 50 predictions for each player in question, yielding a "Wisdom of Crowds" prediction.
Now that the 2009 season is over, it's time to review. I'll be looking back at what the crowd said about each of the players in question, what actually happened, and what both they and I should have seen to help improve each of our thoughts on the player. (For those of you who are on Team Potato, I'll also note where I foolishly disagreed with the crowd.)
Remember that the respondents were asked to give a stat line for the player in question assuming that said player participated in all 16 games and did not suffer any major injuries. You can find the original articles here and here.
First, the quarterbacks.
Predicted: 3,289 passing yards, 19 TD, 15 INT
Actual: 2,924 passing yards, 16 TD, 16 INT
Cassel was always going to be overrated heading into 2009; he was going from an elite offense to a terrible one, and from a really easy schedule to what ended up being just about an average one. Most people really underestimate how huge changes in context can be for players, and while Cassel's numbers don't look that far off (and the prediction would have been within 170 passing yards if Cassel had played 16 games at the same average YPG) from the predicted totals, the touchdown-to-interception ratio is off. I actually gave a predicted line of 3,400 yards with 18 TD and 20 INT here, which was too much volume.
Predicted: 3,589 passing yards, 22 TD, 14 INT
Actual: 2,916 passing yards, 22 TD, 14 INT
Not a bad job by our respondents, getting those touchdown and interception totals spot-on, but Ryan also missed what amounts to three games with an injury. If you extend his average per-game performance to 16 games, he had 27 TD and 17 INT, but strangely, he hits... 3,589 passing yards. So our panel had it square on the nose one way or another. I said his totals would be lower than the predicted figures, but I can't claim that as a success because that only happened thanks to injury.
Predicted: 4,013 passing yards, 31 TD, 12 INT
Actual: 4,398 passing yards, 23 TD, 13 INT
Neither I nor our readers expected Brady's schedule to be so tough. I pegged his TD total at closer to 35, which just didn't happen. The interception figure is right on.
Predicted: 3,067 passing yards, 19 TD, 22 INT
Actual: 4,202 passing yards, 33 TD, 7 INT
No one saw that coming. Certainly, I didn't; I agreed with the readers, noting Favre's ridiculously easy schedule from the year before, while questioning his health. He was fine, and while he had a fluky INT rate for most of the year, he blew away anyone's expectations.
Predicted: 3,754 passing yards, 26 TD, 16 INT
Actual: 4,483 passing yards, 26 TD, 9 INT
I pointed out that Romo's historical yards per game rates simply did not jibe with his predicted totals; thanks to the emergence of Miles Austin, Romo had his best seasonal YPG as a pro. He cut his historical interception rate in half, which should regress to the mean next year.
Predicted: 3,220 passing yards, 20 TD, 12 INT
Actual: 3,618 passing yards, 20 TD, 15 INT
Sadly, no one went out and just predicted "pain". I suggested he'd go 3,450/18/12, but there's not much of a difference between that and the predicted total. When I do this next year, whoever just types "average" in reply gets a pizza trophy.
Predicted: 3,418 passing yards, 22 TD, 15 INT
Actual: 4,021 passing yards, 27 TD, 14 INT
Eli seemed like an obvious candidate for regression, but thanks to the emergence of Steve Smith and the decay of the Giants' running game, he took his game to the next level and had his best season as a pro.
Predicted: 3,766 passing yards, 24 TD, 16 INT
Actual: 3,666 passing yards, 27 TD, 26 INT
I wondered how on Earth Jay Cutler was going to get to 3,766 yards with that corps of receivers. The answer, apparently, was "The offensive line falls apart and Matt Forte falls down." (More on him next time.) A crowd will never be able to predict an interception rate as high as Cutler's; too many people will regress his numbers to the mean to make that possible.
Predicted: 3,463 passing yards, 23 TD, 15 INT
Actual: 4,328 passing yards, 26 TD, 12 INT
I figured that Roethlisberger's yardage total was too high and that he'd struggle to get that many touchdowns, but he hit his TD peak from 2007 and his YPA went back towards his rookie and sophomore levels, blowing away even the predicted totals that I thought were high. KUBIAK is a long ways away from generation, but I'd imagine it will regress Roethlisberger a bunch heading into 2010, regardless of what happens to him off the field.
I'll be back later this week with running backs, including the one thing the crowd saw coming in 2009 that no one else did.
73 comments, Last at 02 Apr 2010, 11:02pm by Tim Wilson