Super Bowl win probabilities for 2016-17

It’s not surprising that New England has the highest Super Bowl win probability.

No Rob Gronkowski, no problem. The offense has been fine so far without the elite TE, and Belichick machine marches on.

However, it might be a surprise that Atlanta has the second highest Super Bowl probability over Dallas.

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta has the top ranked pass offense by my adjusted yards per attempt. The pass defense has been respectable at 8th.

Dallas has had a fantastic season, but Dak Prescott is still a rookie quarterback. Will he hold up now that defensive coordinators have a season’s worth of tape to study?

Still, the Cowboys have a 16.8% chance to win the Super Bowl, not far behind the Falcons at 19.1%.

Get a sample of my best NFL predictions

At The Power Rank, I combine predictions based on a number of different data sources to make the best possible football predictions.

It started with team rankings that take the margin of victory and adjust for strength of schedule. Back in 2008, I developed an algorithm that makes these adjustments, and you can see these points based predictions here.

The ensemble of predictions now contains calculations based on other data sources. For example, I use yards per play, a powerful efficiency metric, to evaluate teams.

I save these predictions for members of The Power Rank, as the NFL predictions went 53.1% against the closing spread during the regular season. You can get a sample of the NFL predictions by signing up for the free email newsletter.

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Methods for Super Bowl win probabilities

These win probabilities start with my member predictions that combine data from a number of different sources.

The predictions imply a win probability for each team in each game, and these numbers provide the parameters to simulate the playoffs.

Each simulation accounts for the shifting match ups based on seed (e.g. New England will play the lowest seed after this Wild Card Weekend) and neutral site of the Super Bowl.

Podcast: College football championship week, Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins

thefootballanalyticsshow_cover_landscapeCollege football is getting real, folks. In this week’s podcast, I discuss the scenarios for all the top teams.

Ohio State isn’t a lock. There just aren’t any locks in sports, although it is highly likely the Buckeyes make the playoff.

Michigan isn’t dead. But they do need help, and maybe more than you think.

Then I transition to the NFL to discuss the Atlanta Falcons, the surprising top team in my member NFL rankings. We shall see how long they last there.

Last but not least, I look at the Washington Redskins and their potent offense. They have an interesting game at Arizona this week.

To listen to the podcast, click on the play button.

To listen on iTunes, click here.

Predictions for week 17 of the NFL, 2014

nfl2014Week 17 of the NFL is one of, if not the hardest, week to predict outcomes of football games. You must consider which teams will play full out and which will sit starters or play cautiously. To avoid these situations, let’s focus on important games to both teams.

The analysis below is based on calculations available to members of The Power Rank. The offense and defense rankings for passing consider yards per attempt and adjusts for strength of schedule, since the NFC South is just that bad.

The team rankings shown in the visual aggregate these offense and defense rankings with calculations based on margin of victory. The predictions come from these ensemble rankings and add a constant factor for home field.

Panthers @ Falcons

Sadly, either the 22nd or 28th best team by The Power Rank will win the NFC South and host a playoff game.

When evaluating football games, a large portion of the analysis and focus should depend upon the offensive and defensive match ups for each team. I believe the Panthers have a decent advantage on Sunday.

The Falcons have the worst pass defense in the NFL. They also don’t pressure the quarterback, ranking 31st in sack rate.

On the other side of the ball, the Panthers don’t throw the ball particularly well but I don’t foresee much of an issue against this defense.

The Panthers offensive weakness is pass protection, as they rank 22nd in sack rate allowed despite having an extremely athletic, mobile quarterback in Cam Newton. However, the Falcons front can’t get to anyone, so Newton will have success running and throwing the ball.

Contrary to popular belief, the Falcons have been just slightly above average on offense. They rank just one half of a yard ahead of league average in adjusted yards per pass attempt.

Similarly, the Panthers pass defense has been just slightly above average this season. As they’ve gotten healthier and as the season has worn on, they’ve gotten better, allowing more than 20 points in one of the last five games.

The ensemble predictions suggests a one point win for the Falcons. The public has backed the Falcons at a three to one rate early, moving the line from Falcons by three to Falcons by four already.

I’d gladly take the Panthers north of three points with the money line having some value as well.

Cowboys @ Redskins

Now that the Cowboys have clinched a home playoff game, this game will be a matter of seeding in the upcoming weeks.

Like I wrote last week, the Cowboys are the most hot and cold team in the eyes of the public. If they are winning, they’re highly respected. If they are struggling, they get no public backing.

Looking back on it, it’s somewhat comical that the Cowboys were four to five point underdogs at Tennessee in Week 2.

I also wrote last week about the one fatal flaw in Robert Griffin’s struggles and how he could exploit the Eagles poor secondary with a little bit of time in the backfield. As the Cowboys have generated very little sacks on defense (4.6% sack rate), Griffin should be able to find similar success against a bottom five secondary.

There’s also a chance the Cowboys play it a little safe in this game. Sure, seeding is important in the playoffs, but keeping everyone healthy could be equally important for an offense that relies heavily on their offensive line and just a few skill position players.

There’s little chance the Redskins have given up at this point. Robert Griffin is playing for a starting job next year, whether it’s with the Redskins or another team, and DeSean Jackson definitely hasn’t taken a play off.

This match up is much closer than one would expect as both teams do not play defense. The six and a half point line is too many points to lay for the slightly better defense at home. If you move this game to Dallas, this line would suggest the Cowboys to be nearly two touchdown favorites.

That’s too many points to lay for a cautious team with a horrendous secondary. The Skins have another chance to win this week. The numbers agree, giving the Cowboys an edge of only 1.4 points.

Bengals @ Steelers

The game of the week is Cincinnati traveling into Pittsburgh for the AFC North Championship and the opportunity to host a playoff game. Considering how well both of these teams have played in recent years at home, this game should be of high importance to each team.

Most of the public, and the books, will more than likely remember the 21-point win by Pittsburgh in Cincinnati just a few weeks ago. However, the full season statistics suggest the Bengals have better match up with the Steelers this week.

The Steelers have the 4th best pass offense while the Bengals feature the 7th ranked pass defense, which is surprising. It’s safe to expect the Bengals to hold the Steelers offense under 42 points this time around.

The mismatch comes on the other side of the ball. The Bengals passing game hasn’t performed as well as one might expect from their talent. But the Steelers pass defense is bad (30th) and has been exploited over the top.

The Steelers have won games with big plays on offense. It’ll be a little harder this week against a good, underrated Bengals defense.

A standard three points to the home team gives the Steelers a slight edge. The Power Rank says Steelers by a point. Flip a coin, the last possession determines the outcome in the game of the week.

Thanks for reading. We’ll cover all of the games next week as the playoffs get underway.

Additonal Leans:

Jaguars +10, Bills +10.5, Rams +13

Frank Brank founded cheapseatanalytics.com, a site devoted to analytical sports information and betting systems. He majors in baseball but also covers the NFL and NHL. You can follow him on Twitter @realFrankBrank.

Atlanta coach Mike Smith made the correct, aggressive call

On 4th and inches
Smart coach makes aggressive call
Life spits in his face

In overtime against the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta Falcons faced a 4th and inches from their own 29 yard line. Atlanta coach Mike Smith decided to go for it, which backfired when running back Michael Turner gets stuffed for no gain. (See 3:25 of these highlights from the game.) New Orleans promptly drove down the field and kicked a game winning field goal. The media has showered Smith with the acidic criticism. It’s almost like ESPN’s Trey Wingo has coached in the NFL and won more than two of every three games. From an analytic perspective, Brian Burke at Advanced NFL Stats explained that going for it was the right call. Mike Smith probably doesn’t read those types of blogs or know that going for it gave him a 47% chance to win the game while punting left the Falcons a 42% chance. But Smith may have known that the New Orleans defense ranks last in the NFL in rush yards per attempt. And he certainly knows that our football obsessed culture loves the aggressive, down hill running game that characterizes many successful NFL offenses. So why don’t people appreciate the same aggression in play calling? No matter what the numbers say, if a team can’t make a 4th and inches against the worst rush defense in the league, it doesn’t deserve to win the game.

NFL Rankings, Week 5

Okay New England, we get it.  You’re good at football.  And St. Louis, it is likely that you’re already thinking more about the race to acquire Andrew Luck than the race to make the playoffs.  But today I’m not interested in the highs and lows of The Power Rank, I’m taking a shot at it’s sweet, juicy center.

To get a look at what truly constitutes the center of the Power Rank grouping, I used a mathematical formula for Standard Deviation, something that defines the variation from the mean (or average) in a data set.  If you’re enough of a nerd to not stick your tongue out at that definition and want to know more, you can look at Wikipedia’s explanation.

If you’re like me and most math classes made you go crossed-eyed and start drooling on yourself, all you really have to understand is that the bulk of a group (about 68%) falls within 1 standard deviation of the mean on either side, and that the bulk of the remainder (about 27%, for a total of 95% of the whole) falls within 2 standard deviations of the mean.

In other words, teams whose rating falls within 1 standard deviation of the mean (always 0.0 for the Power Rank) are all horribly mediocre.  Ok, that’s my inner pessimist coming out.  A more optimistic view for Eagles and Falcons fans might be to say that they are “on the bubble” when it comes to elite NFL teams (or horrible NFL teams, but we won’t dwell on that).  On the other hand, teams that exceed 2 standard deviations of distance from the mean are truly in a class of their own, either high class or low class depending on which side of the curve they are on.

That’s about as much explaining as I can do, although further questions about the mechanics of this process can be emailed to Ed, who will no doubt be able to give you a thorough explanation of the math that goes into this process.  For my part, I just plug numbers into a free online calculation program and analyze the output.  Ah… sweet, sweet technology.

On to football.

The standard deviation in this week’s power rank is 5.49.  That means that the bulk of teams will fall between 5.49 and -5.49, almost all teams will fall between 10.98 and -10.98, and teams beyond those ratings are truly special.

Congratulations to the Patriots (#1, 15.79) and the Packers (#2, 11.31) for pushing the limits and existing beyond the norm.  Perhaps even more congratulations are deserved by St. Louis (#32, -9.89) for not exceeding the norm…

Very few teams fall between the first and second standard deviations.  On the high side only Baltimore, Detroit, and New Orleans (by a hair) make the grade as especially good teams, whereas on the low end Denver, Arizona, Cleveland, Kansas City, Seattle, and St. Louis all currently qualify as truly not very good teams.

That leaves the other 21 teams in the true statistical middle of the road.  Being in the middle isn’t all that bad, as you are supposedly as close to the top as you are to the bottom.  This is great news for 2010’s weekly bottom dweller Carolina, who finds themselves just within the boundaries of that first standard deviation, but not great news for teams hoping to return strong and make another playoff run like Pittsburgh, Atlanta, or Philadelphia.  Most importantly for these middling teams, their current ratings are not a death warrant for the season, they have no cause for alarm and no need whatsoever to join in the chase for the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.

A few things to consider for these middle teams:

1.  The current standard deviation is almost 1 point bigger than it was at the end of last year when it ended up at 4.59.

2.  At the end of last season The Power Rank was a little more balanced with one team above 2 standard deviations (New England) and one team below (Carolina).  Currently the two teams exceeding 2 standard deviations from the mean are both on the high side. Most likely, either New England or Green Bay will fall back into the sweet center during the season.

3.  When one (or both) of the juggernauts fall they will bring that standard deviation down with them.  This will cut some teams out of of the running for average status (look out Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and Carolina!) but on the upside a few teams may be thrust into greatness without needing to earn it (it may finally be the year for Houston or San Diego to go all the way).

4.  When the standard deviation shrinks a couple struggling teams may also become hopeless.  But come on, we are only one quarter of the way through the season!  Now is the time for Vikings fans to Ponder over whether or not they can finish out 12-4, Miami fans to Marshall their courage, and Colts fans to…  oh, who am I kidding?  Without Manning they have lost their identity…  they should focus on battling St. Louis and Kansas City in the race for the #1 draft pick in 2012.