Podcast: Interim college football coaches, the Oakland Raiders and match ups in college football

This week’s episode of The Football Analytics Show dives into the first week of bowl season and a stand out game from week 15 of the NFL. I discuss the following:

  • Do interim coaches matter in predicting bowl games?
  • The NFL game that made me do a double take
  • The source that I double check my NFL prediction with
  • The match up that might allow Central Michigan to beat Tulsa

To listen on iTunes, click here.

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

Podcast: Market rankings for college football and NFL

With a bit of a break in college football, I devote this week’s episode of the Football Analytics Show to market rankings. These come from taking the closing point spreads in the markets and adjusting for schedule to rank teams.

These market rankings reveal some surprising opinions about college and pro teams:

  • The college football playoff team that is 8th in these market rankings.
  • The surprising top ranked college football team by the markets.
  • The ESPN pundits have Oakland as their top AFC team, but the markets beg to differ.
  • The college football team the markets didn’t give up on, even though media did.

To listen to the podcast on iTunes, click here.

To listen on the site, click on the play button.

NFL Rankings, Week 13

Week 13…  one month to go until the end of the season!

With five games left to play this season, things are certainly heating up but some teams are cooling down.

As mentioned last week, the Bears (#7, 4.24) struggled without Jay Cutler at the helm, and may be at the beginning of a skid with their offense in the very unsure looking hands of Caleb Hanie. Their defense and Matt Forte will keep them in games, but with Hanie looking like Rex Grossman minus the talent, turnovers may kill this team’s hopes of playing in January.

Lucky for the Bears the Lions (#10, 2.00) also lost a star player when Ndamukong Suh decided to curbstomp the Packers’ backup guard Evan Deitrich-Smith on Thursday.  After grabbing Deitrich-Smith’s head and smashing it into the turf a few times, Suh was pulled away from the guard by other players.  Suh was not quite finished and with clear intent stomped on Deitrich-Smith’s arm while the player was still on the ground.  Suh was immediately ejected in the loss, and for the brutality of the infraction as well as his apparent lack of remorse for the act (he later claimed to be trying to regain his balance, but has since admitted his mistake) he has been suspended for the next two games as well.

The Texans (#6, 5.48) are on a roll and with the Colts (#32, -12.10) finally out of their way the AFC South title seems to be in their grasp.  But two weeks ago Matt Schaub’s season ended with an injury, and last week his replacement Matt Leinart, who was playing well, also succumbed to a season ending injury.  Tyler Yates finished the game and is slated to start this week, but Yates is just not the guy to inspire confidence in a team as they come down the homestretch and into a playoff run.  Kellen Clemens has been brought in as a virtual 4th string quarterback in the event that Yates’ season also ends abruptly, but do not expect big things out of either player.  Even though the Texans have thrived on solid defense and a dynamic running game, Yates invites opponents to stack the box against the run and put Houston to the test.  With only a two game lead over Tennessee (#13, 0.86) the Texans might be headed for more heartbreak than glory.

Oakland (#14, 0.30) is playing well and looked good driving the ball against Chicago’s stout defense last weekend.  Unfortunately for them, the Tim Tebow tide is taking over.  The Broncos (#18, -1.25) are nipping at the heels of the Raiders in terms of The Power Rank, and after a four game win streak are only one game behind the division leader, and are only one game out of the second wild card spot as well.  The real secret to Tebow’s success, unless you believe in divine intervention, is a combination of an emerging defensive powerhouse led by this year’s second-overall draft pick, Von Miller, and Tebow’s excellent ball security.  Denver’s defense has allowed Tebow’s anemic offense to win games in spite of averaging less than 20 points per game.  It’s not so much that Oakland is hurting…  in fact, they are doing fairly well under veteran replacement Carson Palmer.  It’s more that Denver seems to be getting hot at the right time.  If they keep their momentum going Oakland may take a back seat in the division and miss a shot at the playoffs.

Finally, the Giants (#17, -0.70) are starting to match their record with their mediocre rank on The Power Rank.  Our numbers have shown them to be overachievers all season long, and they have finally allowed slow starting Dallas take control of the NFC East with their recent three game losing streak.  With a probably loss at home against Green Bay (#1, 12.54) this weekend, the Giants will fall to 6-6, a mediocre .500 record that matches their inconsistent play this year.

Expect these downward trends to continue as the season winds down.

NFL Rankings, Week 4

Upper middle class
The Eagles, Falcons, Steelers
Room for improvement

This week, we see the rankings compress a little bit more, a trend that should continue over the next few weeks as this year’s games stabilize.  The Patriots remain #1 with a 14.73 rating after losing in a shootout with red-hot Buffalo (#13, 1.20).  The Chiefs helped their fans get off the ledge by keeping the game with San Diego (#12, 2.02) to within a field goal, so despite their loss they climb out of the cellar to #30 with a rating of -8.26.  The Rams now occupy the not-so-coveted #32 spot with a rating of -10.96  after a humiliating loss to #3 Baltimore (7.75).

What this means is that last week the range of ratings between #1 New England and then #32 Kansas City was 35.63, whereas this week the difference between #1 New England and new #32 St. Louis is 25.69.  That’s not encouraging news for Rams fans, or for the entire state of Missouri.  What is does indicate is what the scoreboards have shown this year:  no team is utterly dominant (sorry, Mr. Brady) and no team is completely pathetic.  Bad, maybe…  but not insanely horrible as Kansas City’s -19.52 rating last week indicated.

The news is best for fans of the “upper-middle class” of the football teams.  Not the dominant upper crust teams like New England (#1, 14.73, Green Bay (#2, 11.37), and Baltimore (#3, 7.75) with giant stretches of blue glory next to their names.  No, this news is for the fans of teams between rank 4 and 16.  The fans of teams that were supposed to come out with guns blazing, but have somehow tripped over the starting line.  What happened to the free-agent force of the Eagles (#15, 0.82) that was so highly touted by the offseason hype machine?  Wasn’t the return of Matty-Ice with Julio “the missing piece” Jones supposed to take the Falcons (#16, 0.62) from a playoff team to a Super Bowl favorite?  Did the mighty Super Bowl runner-up Steelers really fall to #6 with a good but uninspiring rating of 3.97?

It is these teams who should take note of this week’s movement.  Success in climbing The Power Rank ladder isn’t going to be as much about raising their rating from the 0-4 range up to the heights of Patriots in the teens.  That just won’t happen.  Because the outliers like the Patriots and Packers have little to gain (mathematically speaking) by crushing teams that The Power Rank expects them to crush.  But they can lose a lot by falling to teams who are beneath them.  Even close wins to inferior teams will lower their prestige.  So Big Ben and the Steelers don’t have to worry about trying to hang 70 on the the Brown and the Bengals to catch up.  The Eagles don’t need DeSean Jackson to return 2 punts for touchdowns every game to become elite.  If they can just continue to win for a few more weeks, the over-inflated Patriots and Packers will fall to more reasonable and reachable positions.

*Interesting note:  Running numbers from this year alone, the Bills would be The Power Rank’s chosen team with a rating of 14.28, with the Raiders not far behind with a 13.97 rating.  St. Louis would still be in the cellar, but at an astounding -23.50 instead of their current rating of -10.96.  While the Bills are definitely the hottest team in the NFL and a quickly growing fan-favorite, their official position of #13 suits them quite a bit better.  The Bills have proven that they have the talent, but they still have yet to prove to the league and to the algorithm that they have the ability to be consistent.  Because after all, that is the mark of a true champion.  By considering last year’s data as well as this year’s, The Power Rank cuts through the knee-jerk reactions and keeps the Bills somewhat humble with objective mathematical analysis, while still allowing them room to continue climbing up the ladder if they continue their run of impressive wins.

NFL Rankings, Week 17

For the final week of the 2010 season, I’d like to review the playoff predictions made in week 14 and how things actually shook out in the last three weeks.

In the AFC, little changed.  Even though the predictions weren’t spot on, the only major change was that consistently underachieving San Diego (#8) slipped a game and lost the AFC West crown to the consistently overachieving Kansas City Chiefs (#22).  Other than that, things shook out as expected.  Some say consistency is the mark of excellence, and there’s no doubt that the AFC is the elite conference this year.

If consistency is the mark of excellence, then chaos must be the mark of…  the NFC.

The NFC has been consistently inconsistent this year, possibly led by The Power Rank favorite and NFL standings underachiever Green Bay (#2).  In week 14 Green Bay wasn’t even expected to make the cut, even though they enjoyed the highest rank in the NFC.  Instead they made the cut while the Giants (#15) lost out on tiebreakers.  Also, in a poorly officiated week 17 home game, Seattle (#29) edged out St. Louis (#26) for the NFC West title.

Of course, that Seattle team is now famous as being the first team to enter the playoffs with a losing record (in a non-strike year).  This has caused a little dissent among NFL fans who would rather see a team with a respectable record, like the 10-6 Giants or the 10-6 Buccaneers (#18) instead of the 7-9 Seahawks.

That’s not the only playoff conundrum.  In the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders (#17) are done for the season while the Chiefs go on to the playoffs.  Well, the Chiefs ended 10-6 while the Raiders only finished with an 8-8 record, so what’s the big deal?  The Chiefs went 2-4 in their division, while the Raiders swept the AFC West with a perfect 6-0 divison record.

Are the divisions too small?  Is this cheating NFL fans from the best football they can see?

Possibly.  I’m certainly among those wondering whether the Saints will score more or less than 50 points against the Seahawks this weekend.  I do, however, want to remind fans of one way in which the NFL’s organization has been wildly successful – parity.

In the last ten seasons, only three NFL teams have failed to make the playoffs:  Buffalo (#27), Houston (#20), and Detroit (#14).  All three teams have been consistently under-talented, and all three have lived in the shadows of consistently good teams in their divisions.  Buffalo and Houston are under two of the most successful teams since 2000, the Patriots (#1) and the Colts (#9).  While Detroit isn’t living under one dominant shadow, all of their three divisional companions have made the NFC Championship game in the last ten years.

So in today’s NFL it takes quite a bit to be kept out of the playoffs in the long term, which is good for fans, good for business, and ultimately good for the sport.

Just ask the Seahawks.

1. New England, 14-2, 10.87
2. Green Bay, 10-6, 7.07
3. Pittsburgh, 12-4, 6.25
4. Baltimore, 12-4, 5.90
5. Atlanta, 13-3, 4.72
6. New York Jets, 11-5, 3.48
7. New Orleans, 11-5, 3.48
8. San Diego, 9-7, 3.34
9. Indianapolis, 10-6, 3.10
10. Philadelphia, 10-6, 3.04
11. Chicago, 11-5, 2.74
12. Cleveland, 5-11, 0.60
13. Tennessee, 6-10, 0.44
14. Detroit, 6-10, 0.26
15. New York Giants, 10-6, 0.12
16. Miami, 7-9, -0.12
17. Oakland, 8-8, -0.37
18. Tampa Bay, 10-6, -0.83
19. Dallas, 6-10, -0.84
20. Houston, 6-10, -0.94
21. Cincinnati, 4-12, -1.02
22. Kansas City, 10-6, -1.30
23. Minnesota, 6-10, -1.65
24. Washington, 6-10, -2.80
25. Jacksonville, 8-8, -3.39
26. St. Louis, 7-9, -3.75
27. Buffalo, 4-12, -3.80
28. San Francisco, 6-10, -4.37
29. Seattle, 7-9, -5.49
30. Denver, 4-12, -5.50
31. Arizona, 5-11, -7.61
32. Carolina, 2-14, -11.64