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.

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

NFL Rankings, Week 16

This last week was not as kind to The Power Rank predictions of winners as previous weeks have been.  A divisional upset in Atlanta, a poor showing in Cincy, and a postponed gamed in Philly all threw off last week’s predictions from The Power Rank.

Some of these misses made little difference in who is and is not expected to continue to the postseason, but two major changes did take place.

In the AFC West, San Diego’s (#7) abysmal loss to Cincinnati (#19) and Kansas City’s (#15) triumph over Tennessee (#16) made these two swap places as division winners and playoff spectators.  Little else has changed in the playoff expectations in the AFC.  In fact, five of the six playoff spots have already been clinched.  The last spot open is for the AFC South winner, who we predict will be the Indianapolis Colts (#9).  The Colts control their destiny, and earn their division title with a win over Tennessee (#16) this Sunday.  If the Colts lose and the Jaguars (#25) beat Houston (#22), then Jacksonville may just sneak into the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

There has been a change in the NFC playoff projection as well.  The St. Louis loss to Kansas city two weeks ago put the Rams’ playoff hopes in jeopardy and kept those of the Seahawks (#30) alive.  These two teams face off in Seattle on Sunday night for a nationally televised game.  The home field advantage tips the scales in favor of the Seahawks, who The Power Rank now predicts will knock the Rams out of the playoffs.

The NFC playoff picture still has some uncertainty to it.  The Packers (#2) control their destiny and can take the last wildcard spot with a win at Green Bay against the Bears (#11).  If the Packers lose and the Giants (#17) defeat the Redskins (#24), then the Giants will be in the playoffs.  If both the Packers and Giants lose, Tampa Bay (#18) will have a chance to slide into the postseason with a miraculous road win against the Saints (#6).  If all three teams lose, the Packers will make the playoffs.

This week presents some interesting viewing options for NFL fans.  Since so many of the games have little to no impact on the playoffs, a few games can really be spotlighted as the most important to watch:

St. Louis (#27) at Seattle (#30) – The Rams travel to meet the Seahawks and fight for the NFC West division title.  Neither team is particularly impressive so the game may be sloppy, but with a playoff spot on the line it should also be emotionally charged.  Luckily, this is also the Sunday night game so everyone will have a chance to enjoy it.  Although the numbers predict a Seattle victory, the game is really too close to call.  Expect the team that makes the fewest mistakes to win.

Chicago (#11) at Green Bay (#2) – The Bears travel to the Frozen Tundra to battle the Packers who are no doubt looking for redemption after their last minute loss to the Bears earlier this year.  Even though the Bears have clinched homefield advantage is still on the table, so do not expect them to go quietly.  The Power Rank predicts a solid victory for the Packers.

Tennessee (#16) at Indianapolis (#9) – Even though the Titans are out, they have a chance to spoil against a hated division rival.  The Colts can seal their playoff hopes with a win, and are playing at home where they have been 5-2 this year.  The Power Rank predicts a win for the Colts.

1. New England, 13-2, 10.36
2. Green Bay, 9-6, 6.92
3. Baltimore, 11-4, 5.94
4. Pittsburgh, 11-4, 5.40
5. Atlanta, 12-3, 4.64
6. New Orleans, 11-4, 3.52
7. San Diego, 8-7, 3.46
8. Philadelphia, 10-5, 3.39
9. Indianapolis, 9-6, 3.13
10. New York Jets, 10-5, 3.04
11. Chicago, 11-4, 2.78
12. Cleveland, 5-10, 1.38
13. Miami, 7-8, 0.41
14. Detroit, 5-10, 0.21
15. Kansas City, 10-5, 0.17
16. Tennessee, 6-9, 0.15
17. New York Giants, 9-6, -0.25
18. Tampa Bay, 9-6, -1.25
19. Cincinnati, 4-11, -1.31
20. Oakland, 7-8, -1.38
21. Dallas, 5-10, -1.51
22. Houston, 5-10, -1.55
23. Minnesota, 6-9, -1.58
24. Washington, 6-9, -2.59
25. Jacksonville, 8-7, -2.72
26. Buffalo, 4-11, -3.05
27. St. Louis, 7-8, -3.48
28. San Francisco, 5-10, -4.89
29. Denver, 4-11, -5.16
30. Seattle, 6-9, -5.78
31. Arizona, 5-10, -7.03
32. Carolina, 2-13, -11.37