Friday, December 9, 2016

NFL Picks, Week 13

THIS WEEK'S NFL TV MAPS: 506SPORTS


The majority of the country (in terms of map coverage, not necessarily number of households) will see 
Pittsburgh at Buffalo / Denver at Tennessee (CBS, 1 PM)
Washington at Philadelphia  (FOX, 1:00 PM) 
Seattle at Green Bay (FOX, 4:25PM)

The entire country will see 
Dallas at New York Giants (NBC, 8:30)
Baltimore at New England (ESPN, 8:30 *Monday*)

Home teams in CAPS.


KANSAS CITY (-3.5) over Oakland







Denver (+1) over TENNESSEE

If Trevor Siemian plays, and indications are he will, I see Denver winning this game (Who could have anticipated me writing those words at the start of the season???) While I lean towards the Titans being the most talented team on paper in the AFC South, every time they've come up against a game they need for division/playoff positioning, they've turtled. Denver's defense will rise to the occasion, and the offense will be good enough.  

San Diego (+1.5) over CAROLINA
Carolina's effort in the Seattle game was sorry, they clearly want to be done with this season as quickly as possible. For all of San Diego's faults, their "give-a-crap" meter isn't one of them.

Houston (+6) over INDIANAPOLIS
I know, I know. I'm backing Brock Osweiler after 5-6 straight weeks of mocking him. I do think Indy wins this game to take control of the South (at least for this week), but these teams are separated by a razor's edge. They're both very flawed operations, just in different ways. This will come down to a late field goal.

CLEVELAND (+5.5) over Cincinnati
I'm still on the Browns not finishing 0-16 train. I believe they have enough talent to win a game, and I believe their coaching staff is good enough to help them steal one. And while I think some malaise has set in and we've seen it in their efforts over the last month, this game may be their best chance to avoid the 0-fer, which should perk them up.

Pittsburgh (-2) over BUFFALO
I trust the Steelers offense more than any other unit in this game.

Arizona (-1) over MIAMI
The Cardinals are finally (too late) making the playoff push we all expected to see from Day 1 this season. The Dolphins are starting their end of season sputter after a bad start followed by a strong mid-season push. You've been able to set your clock to the late season Dolphins fade for years, and it looks like Adam Gase needs more than one offseason to break that cycle.

DETROIT (-8) over Chicago
Look, it would be quintessentially Lions to drop this game to the Bears just as everyone is starting to hop onto the bandwagon, but the Bears are just not good enough a team to win this game.

MINNESOTA (-3) over Jacksonville
Minnesota's defense against Blake Bortles. Need I say more? Yes? Okay, how about Minnesota's defense against a quaterback who has more career pick-sixes (11) than wins (10)?

TAMPA BAY (-2.5) over New Orleans
Tampa is the stronger team, and the game isn't in the Superdome.

Washington (-2) over PHILADELPHIA
Carson Wentz is (predictably) faltering as teams get more tape on him, and the Eagles defense is collapsing under the weight of supporting the whole team. Add in a strong Washington offense and Philly's slide isn't stopping this week.

New York Jets (+2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
Yes, the Jets are just playing out the string, and yes they got clobbered by the Colts by 31 points on Monday. But the 49ers were blown out by the Bears, probably the 3rd-worst team in the league last week! This is a BAD team, and as long as the Jets haven't completely checked out, they should be able to win this one.

Seattle (-3) over GREEN BAY
Is Seattle as good as they showed last Sunday night? Absolutely not, as I said above, the Panthers gave up once things got hard. But I don't see Green Bay's defensive front being able to completely overwhelm Seattle's offensive line, and when that doesn't happen, Seattle's offense has been able to put up some pretty nice numbers. Add in a mostly healthy defense and a gimpy and human Aaron Rodgers, and I see Seattle handing Rodgers his first home December loss in 8 years.

Atlanta (-6) over LOS ANGELES
Good, quality offenses who can survive LA's fearsome front four tend to carve up the Rams. It helps that the Rams' offense isn't much of a threat to put up significant points. Atlanta should be one of those teams on Sunday. 

Dallas (-3) over NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants aren;t as good as their mid-season winning streak made them appear, and despite the fact that they're the only team to have beaten Dallas this year (in week 1), Dallas has gotten much better since then, and Eli is still as inconsistent as ever. 

Baltimore (+7) over NEW ENGLAND
Too many injuries for the Patriots, and we know the Ravens can come into Gillette and get a result.  

This week: 1-0 (Whoo-hoo!)
Last week: 8-7 (.533)
Season: 92-91-8 (.503)



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

NFL Power Poll, Week 13

Rank
Team
Record
Score
Last Score
Difference
Last Month Score
Month Difference
1
New England Patriots
10-2
20.62
19.53
1.09
23.26
-2.63
2
Dallas Cowboys
11-1
19.53
22.70
-3.17
24.45
-4.92
3
Tennessee Titans
6-6
12.16
12.16
0.00
9.00
3.16
4
Pittsburgh Steelers
7-5
11.00
9.15
1.85
4.50
6.49
5
New Orleans Saints
5-7
10.68
13.51
-2.83
13.35
-2.67
6
Denver Broncos
8-4
8.88
9.89
-1.01
5.98
2.90
7
Atlanta Falcons
7-5
8.52
7.71
0.81
9.20
-0.68
8
San Diego Chargers
5-7
8.20
8.53
-0.33
9.35
-1.15
9
Arizona Cardinals
5-6-1
7.66
5.61
2.05
11.78
-4.12
10
Baltimore Ravens
7-5
7.49
3.67
3.82
0.18
7.30
11
Buffalo Bills
6-6
5.50
5.94
-0.43
8.96
-3.45
12
Oakland Raiders
10-2
5.45
6.60
-1.16
6.60
-1.16
13
Green Bay Packers
6-6
5.26
4.38
0.88
14.91
-9.65
14
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7-5
4.46
4.89
-0.43
-8.95
13.42
15
Seattle Seahawks
8-3-1
3.06
-2.50
5.56
-1.22
4.28
16
Minnesota Vikings
6-6
2.93
1.94
0.99
5.61
-2.68
17
Washington Redskins
6-5-1
2.79
5.74
-2.96
-0.18
2.97
18
Detroit Lions
8-4
1.61
-0.33
1.94
-6.21
7.82
19
Miami Dolphins
7-5
0.92
5.66
-4.74
5.90
-4.98
20
Houston Texans
6-6
-2.53
-1.78
-0.75
-1.10
-1.44
21
New York Giants
8-4
-2.59
-0.49
-2.10
-8.82
6.23
22
Cincinnati Bengals
4-7-1
-2.86
-6.01
3.15
-5.63
2.76
23
Indianapolis Colts
6-6
-3.11
-9.54
6.43
-8.38
5.27
24
Carolina Panthers
4-8
-3.15
2.14
-5.29
0.72
-3.87
25
Philadelphia Eagles
5-7
-4.11
-1.54
-2.58
1.86
-5.98
26
Chicago Bears
3-9
-6.34
-10.92
4.58
-5.43
-0.91
27
Kansas City Chiefs
9-3
-8.97
-8.25
-0.72
-1.22
-7.74
28
New York Jets
3-9
-13.48
-8.89
-4.60
-10.83
-2.65
29
Jacksonville Jaguars
2-10
-14.49
-15.93
1.43
-20.39
5.90
30
Los Angeles Rams
4-8
-15.83
-13.96
-1.87
-10.18
-5.65
31
San Francisco 49ers
1-11
-24.74
-23.45
-1.29
-27.68
2.94
32
Cleveland Browns
0-12
-30.81
-30.81
0.00
-24.60
-6.21


Biggest 1 week risers: 
1. Indianapolis (+6.43)
2. Seattle (+5.56)
3. Chicago (+4.58)
Biggest 1 week fallers: 
1. Carolina (-5.29)
2. Miami (-4.74)
3. New York Jets (-4.60)
Biggest 4 week risers: 
1. Tampa Bay (+13.42)
2. Detroit (+7.82)
3. Baltimore (+7.30)
Biggest 4 week fallers: 
1. Green Bay (-9.65)
2. Kansas City (-7.74)
3. Cleveland (-6.21)

The Forumla: 
I have very slightly tweaked my formula from last season. It remains broken down into four parts: 

Part 1: Yards per play. 
Here I take each teams yards per carry (rushing) and yards per attempt (passing) numbers and subtract from them the YPC and YPA their defense allows.  The theory being that, if Team A's offense is better per play than what their opponent's offense can muster against Team A's defense, Team A should be consistently better than their opponents over a full game's worth of plays (60 to 70 per game approximately). 

This part of the formula is unchanged from last year's model. 

Part 2: Toxic Differential
A better yards per play differential is helpful to a team's chances of winning, but just how often is an NFL team able to consistently drive down the field taking 5-8 yards at a time? You're essentially asking an NFL offense to put together 10-12 plays without more than 1-2 negative plays, be they incompletions, sacks, no-gainers, or worse: turnovers. It's doable, but it's really hard to do with any sort of consistency in a single game.

This is why coaches harp on turnovers so much. A turnover a) takes away an opponent's possession which decreases their chances of scoring more points, and b) can give your team a shorter field so you don't have to put together an 80+ yard drive to get points of your own. The problem with turnovers is you can't count on them. So much of what goes into a turnover is dependent on a) the other team and b) luck that relying on turnovers is a dangerous proposition.

So yes, turnovers are important. But there's something else that can make getting points in a drive much easier: big plays. If my offense can get 20 or 30 yards in a single play, that cuts out 4-6 plays of grinding, or 4-6 plays where something could go wrong. Now my offense only has to put 5-6 plays together on a drive where they also get a chunk play.

Brian Billick is credited with coming up with the toxic differential statistic. This adds your takeaways and big plays generated by your offense and subtracts your giveaways and the big plays given up by your defense. Again, the theory goes that teams with a better toxic differential will be better at turning drives into points and games into wins. Pete Carroll also bases his offensive and defensive identity around turnovers and big plays being the most important indicators for both sides of the ball.

Note: For this formula, a big play is considered a rushing play of 10+ yards or a passing play of 25+ yards.

I have tweaked the weight of this portion of the model again. In Year 1, this part was weighed too heavily. Last year I went too far the other way. This year I hope I have found some middle ground. 

Part 3: 3rd Down Efficiency
While turnovers and chunk plays make moving the ball down the field much easier, it is possible to crawl your way to points with long, sustained drives. However, you can't have a long, sustained drive without converting 3rd downs. If you're not hitting for explosive plays, you had better convert some 3rd downs, otherwise your drive will end in a punt, instead of points. 

This part of the formula is unchanged from last year's model. 

Part 4: Points Per Drive
What's the most important job of an NFL team? Score more points than your opponent. Rather than look simple points per game differential, I wanted to dig a little deeper and normalize the data a little further. Game-to-game the number of possessions can vary based on team tempo, weather coniditons, etc. So instead I looked at points per drive data for each team's offense and defense, and multiplied the difference by 10. Why 10? A typical NFL game has 12 possessions, but 1-2 of those come at a point where a team isn't really interested in scoring (maybe they get the ball with 12 seconds to go before halftime, or they get it with 3 minutes to go in the game up 14+ points already. 10 seemed like a good number of possessions per game where the end goal is to score points.

This part of the formula is unchanged from last year's model.