Tempo in the NFL
McCoy’s old team, the Denver Broncos, ranked just 10th in tempo, which is what happens when you mix John Fox with Peyton Manning; it will be interesting to see whether the addition of Wes Welker will increase the Broncos’ offensive tempo in 2013.
For most of Peyton Manning's career, the Colts and their "slow no-huddle" moved at a more leisurely pace than the 2012 Broncos did, but were faster during his last three years in Indy (2009-2011).
Will the Broncos actually be faster in 2013? As you know, we're not big on believing what coaches say, especially in May - so let's wait until at least September or October to draw conclusions.
If you're surprised to learn the 2011 Broncos were actually 13th in tempo, keep in mind that there were zero audibles at the line from Week 5 on, and there was a freakishly high rate of incomplete passes. And no, the point isn't to make fun of You Know Who here - it's just an obvious explanation for a ranking that's odd at first blush.
Remaining Eight Playoff Teams' EPA
I noticed an interesting thing about the eight remaining teams in the playoffs. They are currently the eight and only eight teams that are in the upper-right quadrant of the Team EPA visualization (on the main page or full viz here.)
Here's the visualization to which Burke is referring. What does it say relative to Broncos/Ravens?
Well, Denver fields the most efficient team in football, as Burke's data has said since Week 6. As the most northeast team on that viz, that means the Broncos are the best combination of offense and defense among all teams, and as follows, the best of the playoff teams.
Of the eight remaining squads, none are less efficient than Baltimore, which is most southwest in that first quadrant. They have, by far, the least efficient offense, and along with the Packers, the least efficient defense.
Altitude and Field Goals
But what about altitude? How does the thin air of Denver’s Mile High Stadium affect field goal success?
Kicks in Denver do indeed have longer range, to the tune of about 5 yards.
Anyone who's been reading here as far back as July knows precisely where this is going. Thanks to Denver's altitude alone, the Broncos don't need to pay any kicker $4.25M (as they are with Matt Prater this season), or $3.25M/year over a contract (Prater's average salary from 2012 to 2015), even less one of the most inaccurate ones in the league.
This is only compounded by the presence of one Peyton Manning, a man from whom
John Fox we never want the ball taken away. All thirteen of Denver's wins this season have been by at least seven points, and none of them hinged upon a field goal attempt.
Franchise Visualization Updated with 2012 Data
The brainchild of Chase Stuart of Football Perspective, the franchise viz plots the offensive and defensive production, in terms of EPA, on an x-y plot for every team since the 2000 season.
Looking back to the 2000 season, the 2012 Broncos feature the best offense and best defense they've since had.
No surprise there, and also as expected, the 2008 squad had the worst defense, while the 2011 team was the worst offensively.
Remember how it was said that all the 2008 Broncos needed was an average defense and they'd have been contenders? That was true, but unfortunately for Shanny, getting to average was a long road to hoe.
According to this visualization, Josh McDaniels and Mike Nolan pulled that off, turning out the best Broncos defense of the 2000-'11 span, but of course, that came at the expense of the offense.
(Be sure to click through to see exactly what we're talking about.)
Blessed Are The Geeks ...
There was a time, not so long ago, when teams were smarter than everyone else. A time when Football Men had all the answers—theirs was a game with as vast a knowledge gap between the insiders and the outsiders as any other sport. But this was before the Moneyball revolution changed baseball and began to seep into other sports; before the rise of fans who began to rethink the conventional wisdom; before those fans began tracking every play with such high levels of precision that teams began asking them for data. This was before Burke sat down in front of his laptop four years ago, in a hotel room in Karachi, Pakistan, and attacked the fourth-down conundrum to create what would become a New Age blueprint for winning games.
On the surface Burke couldn’t have been a more unlikely creator of one of the biggest innovations in football statistics. A Navy pilot turned weapons and tactics expert for a military contractor, he’d only recently heard of the godfather of sports analytics, Bill James. But he was an obsessive football fan who knew the power of numbers; in combat in Iraq between the Gulf Wars he’d put his life in the hands of analytical techniques and probabilistic calculations and come out alive. Holed up in a hotel during a three-week work trip to Pakistan in September 2008 (“We could never leave the hotel [out of danger],” he says; “I had a lot of free time”), Burke hit on the idea of building a statistical model that would yield the odds of a team’s winning a game in every on-field situation—every down-and-distance from every position on the field, for every point margin. Win Probability would tell a team what it should do based on the numbers, a data set that has since grown to more than 3,000 actual games.
Nothing gets passions going more (outside of Tim Tebow) than the stats-geeks-vs-the-world debate. Raheem Morris famously quipped, "Stats are for losers," and then proceeded to get fired. Others like Bill Belichick have fully embraced them. You may even remember during Josh McDaniels's brief tenure, he gave a very statistically-based answer as to why he always deferred the opening kickoff--studies had shown that there was a slight edge to be gained in number of possessions. Of course, like Morris, he too was fired.
So who's right? No matter where you come down on the debate, you'll probably find this SI piece interesting. It reads part history, part statistics, and part biography of the guys who decided to make football statistics part of their very core.
Personally, and I know I'm not alone here at IAOFM, when given the chance to combine the tape with advanced metrics like Burke's, we try and take it (and believe me, I love running regressions as much as the next stat geek). This was really brought home to us last year after watching how often Haloti Ngata dominated his opponents with god-like swim moves in order to hammer a runner in the backfield. Since there's no-beaten-by-swim-move stat, the individual performance would be logged to the running back (and his average yards per carry).
One thing's for certain, though: the debate over advanced NFL statistics will continue to rage in an NFL city near you.
Broncos coach John Fox not concerned with what oddsmakers say
With his team preparing for the regular-season finale Sunday against Kansas City, Broncos coach John Fox discounted reports that Las Vegas oddsmakers have now made Denver (12-3) the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
“I grew up in San Diego,” Fox said. “And we went to the horse tracks a lot. There are a lot of favorites, and it doesn’t work out like that all the time. You have to earn this between the lines. (Being the favorite) won’t affect our attitude or mindset moving forward.”
Even if we knew for a fact that the Broncos were the best team in the NFL, that doesn't mean they'd actually win the Super Bowl. Why? Because the game is only played once, and the path to get there is a single-elimination tournament.
This is important to remember when looking at win probability data like that provided by Brian Burke. If his figures say the Broncos are an 87% favorite this week against the Chiefs, that doesn't necessarily predict a blowout, nor does it mean Denver will definitely emerge victorious. Rather, it means that, in theory, if these two teams were to face off 100 times (more if we are looking at the law of large numbers), the Broncos would figure to win 87 times.
So, if an upset occurs, it's not necessarily that Burke's math is wrong - it's just that one of those 13 unlikely outcomes (of 100) has arisen.
Five Ravens stats that stand out from Week 15
Launched by the powerful right arm of Flacco, the Ravens rocketed off to their best offensive start through four games in team history. The Ravens averaged 344.4 net passing yards in those games. But since then, they have averaged 187.2 net passing yards per game. The statistical decline is not just limited to the passing attack, though. They have averaged 23.3 points after averaging 30.3 in the first four weeks and averaged 309 net yards of offense after averaging 424 in their first four games. Now, even with that great start, the Ravens rank 18th in total offense and 16th in passing offense.
Since Week 5, Baltimore's Net Yards per Attempt has been a woeful 5.39, which is 21st in the NFL during that span. They're also 21st in yards per rush since then, which helps explain why Cam Cameron lost his job the other day.
Meanwhile, the Broncos have allowed the fifth-lowest Net Yards per Attempt in the league this season, and are tied for the second-lowest yards per rushing attempt allowed. The Ravens needed to make a change at OC, but this doesn't appear the week their offense gets going again.