Tuesday, July 28, 2015

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No long writeup like usual (and I did miss a week or two here, so no surprise either), but I’d like to keep my power rankings up to date and delve further in to which teams are most likely to win what games and by how much.  One interesting note: the Bills are almost universally ranked by the media to be the 18th-ranked team in the NFL, which is odd.

Subjective Media Rankings
Team ESPN NFL.com B/R CBS Yahoo Fox NBC AP SBN Avg
New England Patriots 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.00
Green Bay Packers 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2.00
Denver Broncos 3 3 3 5 4 4 6 3 4 3.89
Arizona Cardinals 4 4 4 3 3 5 3 4 5 3.89
Dallas Cowboys 5 5 6 4 7 3 4 5 6 5.00
Philadelphia Eagles 6 6 7 6 5 7 5 6 3 5.67
Indianapolis Colts 8 7 5 10 6 8 9 8 7 7.56
Seattle Seahawks 7 9 9 8 8 6 10 7 9 8.11
Kansas City Chiefs 12 8 13 11 9 10 13 10 8 10.44
Cincinnati Bengals 10 10 12 7 16 15 7 10 10 10.78
Baltimore Ravens 11 14 10 14 10 9 11 12 11 11.33
San Francisco 49ers 9 13 11 9 12 14 14 9 13 11.56
Detroit Lions 13 11 8 13 13 13 12 14 14 12.33
Pittsburgh Steelers 14 12 15 12 17 17 8 12 12 13.22
Miami Dolphins 17 15 17 17 11 8 16 15 16 14.67
Cleveland Browns 16 16 14 16 14 16 15 16 17 15.56
San Diego Chargers 15 17 16 15 15 18 17 17 15 16.11
Buffalo Bills 18 18 18 18 18 15 18 18 18 17.67
Houston Texans 20 19 19 20 19 21 19 19 20 19.56
Chicago Bears 19 20 22 19 21 20 20 20 24 20.56
St. Louis Rams 23 21 21 25 20 19 23 20 19 21.22
New Orleans Saints 21 23 20 22 23 23 21 22 23 22.00
Atlanta Falcons 22 22 23 21 27 26 24 23 24 23.56
Minnesota Vikings 24 24 26 26 22 22 22 24 22 23.56
New York Giants 26 25 24 23 26 24 25 25 27 25.00
Carolina Panthers 25 26 25 25 25 27 26 26 26 25.67
Washington Redskins 27 28 27 30 27 28 30 29 25 27.89
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29 27 30 29 29 29 27 27 29 28.44
Tennessee Titans 28 30 31 28 28 25 29 28 30 28.56
New York Jets 30 31 29 27 30 30 28 30 28 29.22
Oakland Raiders 31 29 28 31 31 31 31 31 31 30.44
Jacksonville Jaguars 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32.00

Those are from various media outlets. Biggest disagreements are Bengals, Steelers and Dolphins. Biggest agreements are the Jaguars, Packers and Patriots. The tie between the Broncos and Cardinals is interesting, but mostly irrelevant, given that more media outlets have the Broncos ranked higher; there are simply some odd ducks that have the Broncos ranked 5th or 6th. Compare that to opponent-adjusted point differential:

Opponent-Adjusted Point Differential
PD Rank PD Team
1 13.1 New England Patriots
2 9.4 Denver Broncos
3 8.9 Miami Dolphins
4 8.6 Green Bay Packers
5 7.8 Kansas City Chiefs
6 6.3 Seattle Seahawks
7 5.0 Baltimore Ravens
8 4.6 Buffalo Bills
9 4.6 Arizona Cardinals
10 4.4 Indianapolis Colts
11 3.9 Philadelphia Eagles
12 3.6 San Diego Chargers
13 2.1 Dallas Cowboys
14 1.3 Detroit Lions
15 0.3 Cincinnati Bengals
16 0.3 Houston Texans
17 -0.5 Pittsburgh Steelers
18 -1.1 New Orleans Saints
19 -1.3 Cleveland Browns
20 -1.9 San Francisco 49ers
21 -2.4 St. Louis Rams
22 -3.5 Minnesota Vikings
23 -4.8 New York Giants
24 -5.5 Oakland Raiders
25 -5.6 Chicago Bears
26 -7.0 Washington Redskins
27 -7.6 Carolina Panthers
28 -7.7 New York Jets
29 -7.7 Atlanta Falcons
30 -8.7 Tennessee Titans
31 -9.3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
32 -9.7 Jacksonville Jaguars

Teams that point differential likes more than the media: Miami and Buffalo. Teams that point differential likes less than the media does: San Francisco and Dallas. The Miami trend will continue once we get into the systems. The losses Miami took are all good: Buffalo (who has a good point differential), Kansas City, Green Bay, Detroit and Denver. Playing Denver within three, Lions within four and Packers within three are all good signs. Their wins (including big ones over Buffalo, New England and the Chargers) tend to have a big margin of victory, too. 37 points over San Diego and 13 over New England and Buffalo are worth noticing.

Which is to say the Dolphins may not be going to the playoffs, but they’re better than teams that will be and are cursed with one of the most difficult strengths of schedule in the NFL (the highest of any team with a winning record, per Pro-Football-Reference and Football Outsiders—third-toughest by both systems).

Now for the different statistical outlooks. Again, these are from Advanced Football Analytics, Football Outsiders and my own efficiency system. Their systems do not express in terms of point differential, but I converted their scores into point differential. As a reminder, my own efficiency system takes into account the offensive and defensive opponent adjusted version of these variables: pass success rate, net yards per attempt, yards per carry, run success rate, touchdown rate, interception rate and fumble rate.

Statistical Systems Power Rankings
Effective Rank Effective PD AFA Rank Effective AFA PD FO Rank Effective FO PD Home Eff Rank Effective Home Eff PD Team
1 10.3 1 9.9 1 9.7 1 11.2 Denver Broncos
2 7.6 2 8.5 5 5.3 2 9.2 Miami Dolphins
3 6.7 3 6.6 3 6.7 4 6.9 Green Bay Packers
4 6.1 6 3.8 2 7.0 3 7.4 New England Patriots
5 3.9 8 3.3 7 3.9 8 4.3 Kansas City Chiefs
6 3.8 4 4.2 6 5.1 13 2.1 Seattle Seahawks
7 3.6 9 2.8 10 2.4 5 5.5 Dallas Cowboys
8 3.5 4 4.2 12 2.0 9 4.2 Indianapolis Colts
9 3.2 11 2.4 9 2.6 6 4.7 Buffalo Bills
10 3.0 12 1.9 4 6.1 14 0.9 Baltimore Ravens
11 2.7 6 3.8 11 2.1 12 2.3 San Francisco 49ers
12 1.8 15 1.4 15 1.0 10 3.1 Cincinnati Bengals
13 1.6 12 1.9 18 0.3 11 2.7 New Orleans Saints
14 1.0 22 -1.9 16 0.4 7 4.5 San Diego Chargers
15 0.6 16 0.9 8 3.4 23 -2.6 Philadelphia Eagles
16 0.5 17 0.5 13 1.9 19 -1.0 Pittsburgh Steelers
17 0.3 12 1.9 14 1.3 22 -2.2 Detroit Lions
18 -0.2 18 -0.5 17 0.4 17 -0.7 Arizona Cardinals
19 -0.7 9 2.8 19 -0.9 25 -3.9 Cleveland Browns
20 -1.5 21 -1.4 21 -2.5 16 -0.5 Houston Texans
21 -1.7 22 -1.9 22 -2.6 15 -0.5 Chicago Bears
22 -2.8 20 -0.9 30 -5.8 20 -1.5 Tennessee Titans
23 -3.0 25 -4.2 25 -4.2 18 -0.7 New York Giants
24 -3.3 18 -0.5 27 -4.8 27 -4.7 Washington Redskins
25 -3.7 30 -7.5 20 -1.7 21 -1.8 Atlanta Falcons
26 -4.3 29 -6.1 24 -4.0 24 -2.8 St. Louis Rams
27 -4.9 24 -2.4 29 -5.3 29 -7.1 Carolina Panthers
28 -5.4 26 -5.7 23 -3.7 28 -6.8 Minnesota Vikings
29 -6.0 26 -5.7 31 -8.1 26 -4.2 Jacksonville Jaguars
30 -6.9 31 -8.0 26 -4.8 30 -7.9 Oakland Raiders
31 -7.5 26 -5.7 28 -5.1 32 -11.7 New York Jets
32 -8.4 32 -8.5 32 -8.4 31 -8.4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As much as we look to immediate record and most recent results to inform our decisions, it turns out that the Denver Broncos are still performing better than any other team. Of course, we can be surprised by Miami’s ranking here, but maybe we shouldn’t be: they played bad teams out of the water (beating Oakland, Chicago and Jacksonville by 17 points on average), beat some good teams by a good amount and only had close losses to good teams.

For other teams who are undervalued by power rankings (or perhaps other teams whose performances and win totals don’t align yet): Washington and New Orleans are both performing better than the power rankings would suggest. On the other end of the spectrum: Arizona and Philadelphia are both overperforming relative to their national expectation.

Finally, the picks—each system has its record against the spread since Week 7 in parenthesis:

System Picks
AFA (.488) FO (.424) Eff (.500) PD (.505) Vegas
Detroit Lions by 6.8 Detroit Lions by 6.9 Detroit Lions by 1.9 Detroit Lions by 5 Detroit Lions by 7
San Francisco 49ers by 2.5 San Francisco 49ers by 0 San Francisco 49ers by 3.1 Seattle Seahawks by 2.6 San Francisco 49ers by 1
Dallas Cowboys by 4.9 Dallas Cowboys by 1.9 Dallas Cowboys by 8.4 Dallas Cowboys by 0.6 Dallas Cowboys by 3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 1.6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 1.3 Cincinnati Bengals by 3.5
Miami Dolphins by 11.1 Miami Dolphins by 7.4 Miami Dolphins by 11 Miami Dolphins by 6.8 Miami Dolphins by 7
Jacksonville Jaguars by 1.6 New York Giants by 1 Jacksonville Jaguars by 0.6 New York Giants by 1 New York Giants by 2.5
Pittsburgh Steelers by 1.6 Pittsburgh Steelers by 4.6 Pittsburgh Steelers by 0.5 Pittsburgh Steelers by 1.8 Pittsburgh Steelers by 4.5
Houston Texans by 2.5 Houston Texans by 6.3 Houston Texans by 3.7 Houston Texans by 6 Houston Texans by 6.5
Baltimore Ravens by 6.8 Baltimore Ravens by 8.7 Baltimore Ravens by 0.6 Baltimore Ravens by 2.2 Baltimore Ravens by 6.5
Indianapolis Colts by 7.7 Indianapolis Colts by 9.7 Indianapolis Colts by 8.9 Indianapolis Colts by 7.2 Indianapolis Colts by 10
Arizona Cardinals by 4.1 Atlanta Falcons by 0.9 Atlanta Falcons by 2.3 Arizona Cardinals by 4.6 Arizona Cardinals by 2.5
Carolina Panthers by 0.3 Minnesota Vikings by 4.6 Minnesota Vikings by 3.2 Minnesota Vikings by 3.5 Minnesota Vikings by 3
Buffalo Bills by 2.5 Buffalo Bills by 6.5 Buffalo Bills by 8.7 Buffalo Bills by 4.4 Buffalo Bills by 7
St. Louis Rams by 4.9 St. Louis Rams by 3.8 St. Louis Rams by 6.4 St. Louis Rams by 3 St. Louis Rams by 7
Green Bay Packers by 5.8 Green Bay Packers by 2.7 Green Bay Packers by 2.7 New England Patriots by 0.8 Green Bay Packers by 3
Denver Broncos by 3.6 Denver Broncos by 2.8 Denver Broncos by 1.6 Kansas City Chiefs by 0.7 Denver Broncos by 2

Go Vikings!

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Head coach Mike Zimmer, who usually doesn’t say a lot about injuries, indicated to the media earlier today that Jerick McKinnon wouldn’t be playing against the Carolina Panthers, according to Brian Hall.

Per Ben Goessling at ESPN, McKinnon said he had injured himself lifting weights.

What this means in terms of the Minnesota running back timeshare is unclear; now that Matt Asiata has been cleared for play after returning from his concussion and is the nominal number two. But with the addition of Ben Tate to the backfield, along with Joe Banyard’s excellent performance from last Sunday, nothing is guaranteed.

It may be best to assume a split between Banyard and Asiata, if only to have  a back known to get consistent yards (though that aspect of Asiata’s play is overstated) along with a running back that the Vikings may want to put on the field more if only to get a true evaluation of his ability as they figure out the running back position for next year.

Adjust your fantasy rosters accordingly.

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I am obsessed with fantasy football.

Seriously, it’s almost unhealthy. And the amount to which this game consumes my life seems to grow year after year after year: with each season I seem to listen to the fantasy podcasts a little sooner, generate my cheat sheets earlier, purchase increasing amounts of printed publications, and subscribe to more fantasy websites. Seriously, it’s bad. But I’m not the only one. It’s estimated that approximately 41.5 million people play fantasy sports. That’s roughly 30 million more than a decade ago. And fantasy sports continue to explode.

In recent years, daily fantasy sports have become more popular. If you’re not familiar with daily fantasy sports, it’s essentially the same thing as regular fantasy, but you are not tied to a team of players for an entire season. Every week, or every day if you’re playing multiple sports, you can assemble a new team and enter contests. This has been my new thing this year. Of course, this is in addition to regular fantasy – that’s not going anywhere.

Okay, so why the history / back story on Fantasy Sports? Fantasy Hub, a daily fantasy football start-up that uses their games as charitable fundraisers, has teamed up with our very own Greg Jennings to offer everyone a chance to play against the Vikings veteran wide receiver in fantasy football. Not only are there prizes at stake, but all proceeds are charitable and will go to The Greg Jennings Foundation which provides academic resources for our youth.

So here’s the deal: entering the contest is absolutely free, no strings attached (I just did it myself!). $2.00 is donated by Fantasy Hub to The Greg Jennings Foundation for each free entry submitted. Additional entries can be purchased (for which money will also be donated) allowing you to make more teams and increase your chances at winning.

Once you sign up, you create a team by purchasing players to add to your roster. You have a $50k “salary cap” which you can allocate to different players as you see fit. Once you fill your lineup, you’ll wait until Sunday (December 14th, to be exact) and yell at the television because Tom Brady can most certainly hear you, and will definitely consider your strongly worded recommendation to pass the ball more frequently to Rob Gronkowski.

You seriously have nothing to lose other than the couple of minutes it will take to sign up and assemble your team. What do you have to gain other than helping out a great cause, you ask? Prizes! Prizes like autographed footballs, jerseys, two tickets to the Vikings / Bears game on December 28th and a personal phone call from Greg Jennings himself.  (Being 100% realistic though, you don’t have a shot at the tickets… Those will be mine.)

So head on over to Fantasy Hub and sign up for this awesome event to let Greg Jennings and Fantasy Hub know we support their cause and that our readers are no slouches when it comes to fantasy football.

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Greg Jennings partnered with WCCO anchor Amelia Santaniello to put together a counterterrorism informational video.

As a result, he won a Minneapolis Police Department Community Service Award. A personal favorite of mine on the roster, this only adds to his appeal. Jennings evidently is easy to work with on camera, as the Vikings’ official press release notes. Their story below:

J’Marcus Webb announced through his Twitter today that he’d been signed by the Vikings.

This isn’t a huge surprise. Though there were rumors the Vikings were considering Eric Winston, he was in New York this morning attempting to hammer out an agreement with Roger Goodell as the NFLPA president regarding the process for player discipline. Workouts typically happen on Tuesdays, so that would have been tough.

Webb was on the team last year as a backup tackle and did well in spot duty. Though his career in Chicago was bad, he was an above-average backup. He allowed one sack, one hit and two hurries in 55 pass-blocking snaps, which is not great, but good in the universe of backup offensive linemen and was a punishing run blocker. The Vikings let him go before free agency last year, but still see enough in him to bring him back over other options.

He should be familiar with the blocking scheme, as that hasn’t changed even with a new offensive coordinator.

With Phil Loadholt injured and out for the rest of the season, the Vikings sorely needed help on the offensive line, especially as they suffered an injury to Brandon Fusco earlier in the year and are unhappy with Vlad Ducasse (who can also play tackle). For now, the presumed starter at right tackle is Mike Harris, who worked with Norv Turner in San Diego.

Presumably, Loadholt will be put on IR to make room. The Vikings have yet to make an announcement.

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