Podcast: Michael Lombardi, former NFL GM, on winning in the NFL

The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, Michael Lombardi, former GM of the Cleveland Brown and assistant coach in New England, joins me to discuss his new book Gridiron Genius.

Among other topics, we discuss:

  • The lessons he learned from Bill Walsh and Bill Belichick on building a culture (2:43)
  • Jim Harbaugh’s overwhelming personality trait, and how he’s doing with the culture at Michigan (5:53)
  • How information and analytics get used for decision making in the NFL (8:50)
  • The overlooked traits in evaluating offensive linemen and cornerbacks (15:54)
  • How bettors can use his book to find an edge (17:22)

I highly recommend reading Gridiron Genius, a well written book from an NFL insider.

To listen here, click on the right pointing triangle.

To listen on iTunes, click here.

Big Ten Division Win Probabilities after week 10, 2018

Based on 10,000 simulations of the remainder of the season, here are my odds to win the divisions of the Big Ten.

Big Ten East

1. Michigan 77.8%
2. Ohio State 21.3%
3. Michigan State 0.7%

Ohio State has struggled this season, especially on defense.  They are a 3.5 point favorite at Michigan State.  If Ohio State loses, it all but clinches the division for Michigan.

Big Ten West

1. Northwestern 77.0%
2. Wisconsin 10.1%
3. Purdue 9.8%
4. Iowa 3.1%

Purdue’s win over Iowa this past weekend essentially ended the chance that Iowa wins the West.

Northwestern’s odds jumped from 58.3% last week to the current 77.0% because of Iowa’s loss to Purdue.  Northwestern is a 10 point underdog at Iowa, but they are also 2 games ahead of Iowa.

Northwestern already has wins over Wisconsin and Purdue, which gives them a head to head tie breaker over both of these teams.

Early season NBA rankings for 2018-19

I like to look at NBA rankings about this time of the season as we reach a crossover point with football.  NBA, college football and NFL have all played about 10 games.

Here are my NBA team rankings through games on Monday, November 5th, 2018.  The rating gives an expected margin of victory against an average NBA team.

1. Milwaukee, (7-1), 11.57
2. Golden State, (9-1), 9.21
3. Toronto, (9-1), 8.39
4. Denver, (9-1), 7.26
5. Boston, (6-4), 5.45
6. Portland, (7-3), 5.39
7. Charlotte, (4-5), 2.52
8. Indiana, (7-4), 2.30
9. Oklahoma City, (5-4), 1.94
10. Utah, (4-6), 1.25
11. Memphis, (5-4), 1.14
12. New Orleans, (3-6), 1.12
13. Los Angeles Clippers, (5-4), 0.90
14. Los Angeles Lakers, (4-6), 0.63
15. Sacramento, (5-4), -0.09
16. Miami, (4-5), -0.11
17. San Antonio, (6-3), -1.15
18. Minnesota, (4-6), -1.38
19. Houston, (4-4), -1.43
20. Philadelphia, (6-5), -1.52
21. New York, (3-7), -1.64
22. Washington, (2-6), -3.23
23. Orlando, (4-6), -3.48
24. Chicago, (3-7), -4.24
25. Brooklyn, (4-5), -4.58
26. Detroit, (4-5), -5.12
27. Dallas, (2-6), -6.50
28. Phoenix, (2-7), -7.75
29. Cleveland, (1-9), -9.28
30. Atlanta, (3-6), -9.66

From only early season results, we would conclude that top ranked Milwaukee is better than Golden State, the dynasty that has won 3 of the last 4 NBA titles.

We might give up on LeBron, as the Lakers aren’t even the best team in Los Angeles.  The Lakers are ranked 14th, right behind the Clippers.

Of course, these results reflect small sample size.  Remember this when you look only at football numbers from this season. 

Follow along with my NBA rankings, which get updated daily, to see how the season plays out.

Podcast: 3 predictions from the first college football playoff rankings

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, I look at the odds for teams to make the college football playoff based on the first committee rankings.

Alabama and Clemson were at the top of the committee rankings, and they have the best odds to make the playoff.

LSU and Notre Dame came next, but the numbers don’t favor these teams compared to one loss teams ranked lower.

In this episode, I dive into Michigan (3:56) and Oklahoma (7:12) and explain why they have better playoff probabilities than teams above them. In addition, I identify the top 10 team with almost no chance to make it (9:50).

To listen here, click on the right pointing triangle.

NFL success rate rankings after week 7, 2018

Let’s define success for a football play based on the following necessary yardage.

  • 50% of yards on 1st down
  • 70% of yards on 2nd down
  • all yards on 3rd and 4th down

This definition has been used by Football Outsiders and Bill Connelly, and it puts some context on plays.  2 yards means something different on 3rd and 1 than 1st and 10.

Success rate is the percentage of successful plays.

In addition, Bill Connelly has shown that success rate tends to persist from early to late season in college football.  I suspect the same holds in the NFL, and the hope is that success rate gets to the truth about teams even faster than yards per play.

The following gives success rate for offense and defense in the NFL.  Schedule adjustments are made by a least squares algorithm, which some refer to as the Simple Rating System.

The number after each team gives an expected success rate against an average opposing unit.

Offense

1. Los Angeles Rams, 0.54
2. New Orleans, 0.51
3. Kansas City, 0.50
4. Oakland, 0.49
5. Los Angeles Chargers, 0.48
6. Chicago, 0.48
7. Detroit, 0.48
8. New England, 0.47
9. Indianapolis, 0.46
10. Carolina, 0.46
11. Denver, 0.45
12. Cincinnati, 0.45
13. Tampa Bay, 0.44
14. Pittsburgh, 0.43
15. Atlanta, 0.43
16. Baltimore, 0.43
17. Minnesota, 0.43
18. San Francisco, 0.43
19. Green Bay, 0.42
20. Jacksonville, 0.42
21. Miami, 0.42
22. Houston, 0.42
23. Philadelphia, 0.41
24. Tennessee, 0.41
25. Washington, 0.41
26. Seattle, 0.40
27. Dallas, 0.40
28. New York Giants, 0.40
29. New York Jets, 0.35
30. Arizona, 0.35
31. Cleveland, 0.34
32. Buffalo, 0.32

Yes, Oakland’s tanking offense is 4th in the NFL.  Maybe this is small sample size issue.

Defense

1. Baltimore, 0.38
2. Jacksonville, 0.38
3. Houston, 0.40
4. New England, 0.40
5. Los Angeles Rams, 0.41
6. Dallas, 0.41
7. San Francisco, 0.41
8. Green Bay, 0.42
9. Miami, 0.42
10. Philadelphia, 0.42
11. Seattle, 0.42
12. Pittsburgh, 0.42
13. New York Giants, 0.42
14. Cleveland, 0.42
15. Denver, 0.42
16. Buffalo, 0.42
17. Oakland, 0.42
18. New York Jets, 0.43
19. Arizona, 0.43
20. Tennessee, 0.43
21. Chicago, 0.43
22. Carolina, 0.44
23. Washington, 0.45
24. Cincinnati, 0.45
25. Los Angeles Chargers, 0.45
26. Minnesota, 0.45
27. Atlanta, 0.47
28. Kansas City, 0.47
29. New Orleans, 0.48
30. Detroit, 0.48
31. Indianapolis, 0.48
32. Tampa Bay, 0.49

Minnesota’s defense has struggle this season, ranking 26th by this adjusted success rate.

Thoughts?  Please leave a comment below.  I’m new to this metric, and I need to learn all that I can.