By Jack Graham
Among other things, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been plagued by the kicking struggles of rookie Roberto Aguayo throughout the 2016 season. Through 9 games, Aguayo has made only 9 of 14 Field Goals, a rate of 64% that qualifies him as the least accurate kicker in the league. Of course, these lackluster numbers would not typically be grounds for an interesting story, except for the fact that Aguayo also happened to be the Buccaneers second round draft pick. While selecting a kicker so early in the draft is not unprecedented (the Oakland Raiders drafted Sebastian Janikowski in the first round in 2000), it is incredibly rare. It is not controversial to say that Aguayo has not met the lofty expectations imposed on him by his draft status, but it is also natural to wonder: how well would Aguayo have to perform in order to justify such a high draft pick? And then, based on his college performance, was it reasonable for the Bucs to expect him to meet this standard?
By Owen Tedford
How do you measure the best? Is it quantifiable at all or is it the intangibles that could never be measured that make a team better than another one? This question has been an issue for many years in college football and has been complicated in recent years with the creation of a four-team playoff. The problem is selecting which metric should be given the most weight, which has led to the creation of a number of new metrics for measuring the best.
One that I find most intriguing is the idea of strength of record, created by ESPN this year. It measures the probability of an average Top 25 team having the same record against the same schedule. To me, this seems like the best metric that is out there that I know of. But what I find interesting about ESPN’s use of this metric is why they don’t calculate it for the NFL, which leads me to my next question of why do we not question the NFL playoffs as much as the college football playoffs? We accept record as the metric of who is best without taking into account strength of schedule or all of the other factors that can lead to a better or worse record. With this in mind, I set out to create my own metric, inspired by strength of record, comparing strength of schedule and team’s records.
By Max Kaplan
[Late edit] I was featured in an on-air interview to defend this article on Earth Day.
Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and even the NFL can do its part to reduce its carbon footprint.
I mean, just look at the divisions. Why must the Patriots travel all the way down to Miami every year when there are over twenty teams closer? Talk about waste…
The Eagles, Giants, and Redskins are all cozy and close, but who decided to throw the Cowboys into the East?
Let’s look at the facts. Dallas isn’t in the east. Indianapolis isn’t in the south. This is not how Mother Nature intended. In the name of conservation, preservation, and environmentalism, I’ve come up with a solution!
Let’s realign the divisions. Not willy-nilly but with an eye towards protecting our environment. There’s no need for the Chiefs’ 1,500-mile annual commute to Oakland. Kansas City certainly isn’t in the west of the United States. This isn’t the age of American pioneers. We can do better.
By my calculation, the NFL could save over 165,000 gallons in jet fuel each season by realigning the divisions.
The current divisions are a legacy of the NFL-AFL merger of 1970 and while we have seen the NFL climate change over the last half-century, the warning signs have been evident and growing stronger. We cannot afford to let this problem get any worse. It is time to decommission the old and open the new clean divisions. Sustainability is all about leaving a better future for the next generation. We must act now!
Below are the geographically optimal divisions – in order to minimize overall divisional travel.
- Southwest Division – ARI, DAL, DEN, SD
- Pacific Division – LA, OAK, SF, SEA
- South Division – ATL, HOU, NO, TEN
- Heartland Division – CHI, GB, KC, MIN
- Southeast Division – CAR, JAX, MIA, TB
- Northeast Division – BUF, NYG, NYJ, NE
- Atlantic Division – BAL, PHI, PIT, WAS
- Midwest Division – CIN, CLE, DET, IND
By realigning the divisions geographically, we put teams back in their ecological niche with local rivalries. The Raiders have only played the 49ers five times since they moved to Oakland. The Jets have played the Giants only twice in the last ten years – and they share a stadium.
- Unfortunately, no recycling. None of the divisions stayed the same.
- But we do have hybrids. The Pacific, Northeast, and Heartland Divisions all run on three teams from the old, clunky divisions.
- Sometimes the planet is out of equilibrium despite our best efforts. Three of the Heartland Division teams had double-digit win totals in 2015.
- The Super Bowl is a renewable resource. The Northeast Division (Patriots, Giants) and Atlantic Division (Ravens, Steelers) account for ten of the last sixteen Super Bowl titles.
For anyone interested, I layout the NFL minimal travel problem below.
by: Dana Fesjian
And we are back. After six weeks of emotional ups and downs, the Bills have reached their first eight-win season in ten years, thanks to a Week 15 upset over the Packers. How long ago was that last eight-win season? Well, for starters, Sammy Watkins was 11 years old in 2004. Fred Jackson was earning $200 a week playing indoor football for the Sioux City (Iowa) Bandits. Usher and Outkast topped the Billboard Hot 100.
How did the Bills get here? That would be thanks to Dan Carpenter and the Bills defense. The Bills special teams and defense accounted for all 21 points last week, enough to overcome the hottest team in football. The Packers were working on a five-game winning streak. No other team in the league had even a four-game streak. Of course, KO’s ability to not mess up has helped too. Though KO has only thrown five TD passes over the last six games (since my last article), he has kept the Bills close in every game.
When I think of the Buffalo Bills, I think “field goals.” Unlike the quarterback position, the Bills never went wrong with the choices they made at kicker. It was bittersweet when they let Rian Lindell go two summers ago – after 10 seasons with the Bills – in favor of their sixth round draft pick Dustin Hopkins, who had set the all-time NCAA scoring record for kickers with 466 points at FSU. But a groin injury ended Hopkins’s rookie season before it even began.
In comes the “replacement” Dan Carpenter…Last year, Carpenter made 33 field goals, tied for the most in Bills history. His 91.7% accuracy was second only to Rian Lindell in 2006. This season, Carpenter leads the NFL with 32 field goals and is T-second in the league with 5 field goals of 50+ yards. Last week, he went 4/4 and led the charge against the Packers.
The Bills are also lucky to have such a strong defense. Over the past two weeks, they have held Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning to a combined zero touchdowns and four interceptions. They lead the NFL with 49 sacks and are second in the league with 30 turnovers. Go Bills. And they are ranked in the top 10 in just about every other defensive category as well.
In the midst of all of these defensive feats, Sammy‘s 850 receiving yards surpassed the previous Bills rookie mark held by Lee Evans. He’s looking to join only 12 other rookies since the merger to reach the 1,000-yard plateau. All in all, these things were good for the Bills and for my fantasy teams so thanks boys. I just hope that the momentum from this game can carry on into next week’s game against the Raiders. And that all of the teams that need to lose in order for the Bills to get into the playoffs are playing defenses just as good as theirs.
By Jeffrey Gleason
Nine weeks into the NFL season, no teams remain unbeaten. This could’ve actually been said after eight weeks, after seven weeks, and after six weeks as well. Week 5 was the last time an unbeaten team remained, when both the Cardinals and Bengals were sitting at 3-0.
However, after these same nine weeks, five teams remain unbeaten at home. The Patriots, Broncos, Eagles, Packers, and Cardinals have yet to lose on their own turf.
Home field advantage is a phenomenon that gets a lot of traction in sports. Experts often use it to justify their predictions and betting lines usually reflect the perceived advantage of the home side. However, people often generalize home field advantage with a “one size fits all” approach, acknowledging its presence, but assuming it displays a constant impact across different situations.
With five unbeaten NFL home teams and the recent impetus of a road team finally winning Game 7 of the World Series (the Giants topped the Royals on October 29th to capture their third championship in five years), I was interested in how home field advantage was quantitatively different in different situations. How does it vary across sports? Do both good teams and bad teams experience the same advantage? Is it magnified in the postseason? What about differences in earlier eras? These are the questions I set out to resolve.
By Dana Fesjian
I started writing this article after the Bills went 1-3 in the preseason. But after they won their first two regular season games I thought Buffalo’s quarterback quandary had been resolved. Unfortunately I was wrong.
Last November I also wrote an article about the uncertain future of Bills’ backup quarterbacks. Now that very same uncertainty has enveloped EJ Manuel. You’d think after a year the Bills would have solved their problem of having a solid quarterback and decent back up quarterbacks.
Unfortunately they haven’t moved on from the problem at hand. The Bills still don’t have the offense they need in order to win enough games to be in the running for the extremely weak AFC East, where 7 wins might be enough to make the playoffs. At least the Bills can look to make history in becoming the first NFL team to finish with the same record in 4 straight seasons.
After EJ Manuel’s multiple knee injuries last season, the Bills were left with Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis at quarterback. Fast-forward a full year and the question of “Who’s your quarterback?” is still valid. Although EJ was healthy during the preseason, one disappointing moment was August 23rd’s game against Tampa Bay. EJ should have stood out from his backups Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. He had 1 interception, 1 fumble, and got sacked 4 times. This didn’t bode well for Manuel’s starting job heading into this season.
Then the regular season started and hope skyrocketed (at least for me). EJ led the Bills to an undefeated 2-0 start. Being able to say the Bills were undefeated was a literal dream come true. However, it didn’t last long enough. Watching EJ Manuel and the offense try to score points the past two weeks has been brutal. As Ron Jaworski of ESPN said, EJ’s accuracy is just not at the level it should be to be the starter as evidenced by his 47.7% completion rate and 2 interceptions in last week’s game.
That leads us to the next decision made by Doug Marrone and Doug Whaley: to bench EJ and put in veteran Kyle Orton. I don’t know about you, but I’m having some major déjà vu! Let’s not forget how just over a month ago the Bills signed Jordan Palmer to replace Thad Lewis and then let him go. The Bills need to make a decision on whom they want at quarterback and stick with it!
They drafted EJ Manuel in the first round for a reason and although Kyle Orton has experience, I’m not sure I know how I feel about this decision yet. We will just have to wait until we see Orton start on Sunday. But one thing’s for sure, the question of “Who’s your quarterback?” is still the most relevant question within the Buffalo Bills organization.
By Max Kaplan
League-wide, the conversion rate on 4th down is 50% but it jumps to 65% on 4th and 1. Ever wonder how likely it is to convert in a given situation? I ventured to find out, armed with the entire season’s worth of data from 2012.
The goal of 1st down is to create a manageable 2nd down. The goal of 2nd down is to create a manageable 3rd down. But you have to convert, eventually. What are the percentages of converting on a given down and distance?
Note: Bigger rectangles are ranges of situations – used when
there weren’t enough plays in a given down and distance.
by Elliot Tan
It’s safe to say the Giants aren’t the giants of the NFL any more. Just two years removed from winning the Super Bowl, Big Blue is 0-4 and last in the NFC East. Unceremoniously off to their worst start of the season since 1987, hope is fading in the locker room, as Antrel Rolle’s bold claim for a 12-0 finish has been met with minimal support and considerable doubt.
The blame for this frankly horrible start has been placed everywhere on the team, from the porous defense to the injured offensive line, from the inconsistent Manning to the non-existent Pierre-Paul, and from the drop-happy Hakeem Nicks to the play-calling of Tom Coughlin. With all this considered, turnovers are the main culprit for this Giants team. Since these turnovers can be improved upon and reduced, its impact on the Giants’ losing streak should be examined closely.
Over the course of four games, 6 fumbles have been lost and 10 interceptions have been thrown for a total of 16 turnovers. To give you some perspective, Eli Manning only threw 15 interceptions all season in 2012-2013. He’s already thrown 2/3 of that total this year and they have only played ¼ of their games. Their turnovers stand in stark comparison to the meager 7 turnovers committed by Giants opponents. The Giants’ turnovers resulted in 328 total yards gained by opposing teams, as well as 46 points scored against the Giants off of turnovers.
The Giants have had a recovery rate of rushing fumbles lower than the 2012 league average of recovery rate (39.7%) in both 2012 (16.7%) and 2013 (0%). However, last year the Giants only fumbled a total of 6 times all season, while this season 3 fumbles have already occurred through 4 games. This sets the Giants on pace for 12 total fumbles in the 2013 season, or double 2012’s total fumbles. If the Giants’ low recovery rate persists, this does not bode well for the team’s chances of turning their season around. However, fumble recoveries are often “lucky” chance plays so hopefully this pace does not turn into reality, and Coughlin can convince his players to hold onto the football like its their 2012 Lombardi trophy.
Three out of six lost fumbles resulted in touchdowns, while 3 touchdowns and 2 touchbacks have resulted from the 10 interceptions. This puts the chance of opposing teams scoring points against the Giants on a turnover at an unfortunate 50%. But, since turnovers can be mitigated, it is comfortable to state that the yardage and points that the Giants gave their opponents can be deemed “preventable” or “flukey”.
The yardage gained from turnovers amounts to 25.19% of total yardage of opponents, and the points scored off turnovers amounts to 31.5% of total points scored against the Giants. While eliminating turnovers completely still would not have given the Giants wins against the Redskins, the Panthers and the Chiefs, this is still an absurdly high amount of preventable yards and points.
After being benched for his two lost fumbles in the opener against the Cowboys, running back David Wilson has done much better with ball security. Not to say he’s been very effective on the ground, with his 130 total yards on 38 attempts and a whopping 0 touchdowns. However, hope remains that after fixing his fumbling issues, Wilson can gain confidence and improve his running game behind a questionable O-line.
Meanwhile, the interceptions by Eli have largely been blamed on the offensive line, which is definitely warranted. At times it has looked as though Eli is not playing with an offensive line, with defenders swarming him at will. However, Eli has become one of four quarterbacks to throw at least 7 picks in two games since 1970. This rate is unnecessarily high, but is an issue which can be improved upon in future games. Coughlin absolutely needs to get Manning focused if the Giants want to win another game this season.
Come on Eli, your brother hasn’t even thrown a pick yet.
It’s Championship Week, and the picks are in! This week we have Sam Michaelson and Max Kaplan joining us for the first time. Last week, Jay Hashop was the only one to pick Atlanta, and therefore the only writer to get two games correct, bringing his record to 6-2 so far. This week he is sticking with them, while the other writers aren’t convinced.
If you’d like to see us justify a bunch of picks that were eventually wrong, here are last week’s picks.
Jay Hashop: Atlanta; Much of San Fransisco’s offensive success against the Packers followed as a result of their 8-for-13 mark on third down. That 62% rate seems anomalous given that the 49ers converted a subpar 36% on third down in Kaepernick’s regular season starts. Atlanta’s run game looked revitalized against Seattle, providing the necessary balance the Falcons will need to continue toward the Super Bowl.
Sam Michaelson: San Francisco; While everyone seems to be discussing Kaepernick’s record-breaking rushing performance, aside from his early interception, he was also nearly perfect through the air. Russell Wilson showed that the Falcons defense is susceptible to a scrambling/playmaking quarterback in the second half last week, and I fully expect Kaepernick to exploit these weaknesses as well. Matt Ryan will need a monster game against arguably the best defense in the league to keep up with the ‘9ers balanced attack.
Max Kaplan: San Francisco; The Falcons almost blew it last week. The 49ers, on the other hand, approached 600 yards. They already had a top defense (2nd to only Seattle in the regular season). The Falcons were the #1 seed and have home field advantage (7-1 in the regular season), but the 49ers just looked unstoppable against the Packers. Kaepernick runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, and the Niners will run their way into the Super Bowl.
Chad Horner: San Francisco; The 49ers are better than the Falcons in passing and rushing DVOA on both offense and defense. They’re simply the better team. If Atlanta is to win, it’ll have to be through the air – they’re 29th in rushing offense DVOA, while San Fran is 2nd in rushing defense. However, the Falcons are only 2-3 in games in which Matt Ryan throws over 40 passes. I think the Niners will run all over Atlanta and win big.
We’re back again this week to pick the Divisional games, with Jonathan Lack joining us this week, along with Jay Hashop, Danny Lei, and Chad Horner who gave their picks last week.
For the record, last week’s records were as follows:
- Hashop: 4-0
- Lei: 3-1
- Velloso: 3-1
- Horner: 2-2
Jay Hashop: Denver; Knowshon Moreno gashed the Ravens defense to the tune of 115 yards at a rate of 5.5 yards per carry when these two teams met in Week 15, and the Mile High Machine is still clicking on all cylinders. Meanwhile, the Flaccocoaster’s passer rating has alternated between being above 114 and below 77 over his last six games. You can probably guess which one’s due this Saturday.
Danny Lei: Denver; The Denver defense will be too much for Joe Flacco to handle, and Peyton Manning will continue his dominant play. In their only matchups against top-5 defenses this year, the Ravens lost by 30 and 17 points.
Jonathan Lack: Denver; These two teams met in Week 15 and the Broncos blew out the Ravens in Baltimore. While Baltimore has gotten some defensive starters back since then, I would hesitate to read too much into the Ravens’ win over the Colts. They put up some points against a poor defense, but moving the ball will be far more difficult against a Broncos defense rated top-5 in defensive efficiency. With a short week to travel to altitude against Peyton Manning and Co., I’m taking the home team on an 11-game win streak.
Chad Horner: Denver; To me, this game isn’t very difficult to pick. Baltimore beat the Colts rather easily last week, but Indianapolis was the worst team in the playoffs. I think Denver is going to win the Super Bowl, and I don’t see the Ravens, who the Broncos handled rather easily a few weeks ago – in Baltimore no less, stopping them.