The Weekly League: Notes and Ideas for Week Eleven

This week's edition of The Weekly League features:

1. Previews of the Green Bay-Minnesota, Oakland-Pittsburgh, Indianapolis-New England, and Denver-San Diego games.

2. Responses to three readers on matters sundry.


3. Tons of whimsy.

The Four Factors represent each team's raw performance in four important categories (pass and rush efficiency, pass and rush efficiency against) relative to league average (where 100 is league average and anything above is good).

Generic Win Probability (GWP) is the probability a team would beat the league-average team at a neutral site. It can be found for all teams here. Game Probability (PROB) is each respective team's chance of winning this particular contest. Those numbers (along with methodology) can be found here.

Finally, a glossary of all unfamiliar terms can be found here.

Notes to Three Readers
To the Reader Who Asked for Fewer NFC East Games
Your wish is my command. Or, at least, this wish is my command. Other wishes, probably not so much.

To the Reader Who Asked Why the Unlucky Teams on the GWP Table Are Green
I'm drawn towards -- and, I'm guessing, many readers here are drawn towards -- teams that are better than public perception might suggest. The green -- as opposed to the red -- reflects bad luck as a "virtue."

To the Reader Who Asked About My Impressive Jawline, Whether It's Natural
Yes. It is. Cento per cento.

Green Bay at Minnesota | Sunday, November 21 | 1:00pm ET
Four Factors

• This is what you might call "a clash of NFC North foes."
• So that's one thing.
• But another thing is: have you ever frigging seen Clay Matthews play?
• He's 24th among linebackers in +WPA and sixth in EPA/G.
• But he's more like first or second overall in the category of "being scary."

Oakland at Pittsburgh | Sunday, November 21 | 1:00pm ET
Four Factors

• This game became infinity-times more interesting on Wednesday when I traded for Rashard Mendenhall in a fantasy league.
• The full trade was Aaron Rodgers, Vernon Davis, and Pierre Thomas for Rashard Mendenhall, Zach Miller (Oakland), and Ryan Torain.
• I picked Troy Smith up, is why I felt comfortable giving away Rodgers.
• Feel free to comment upon this trade.
• I'll hang up and listen.

Indianapolis at New England | Sunday, November 21 | 4:15pm ET
Four Factors

• An unexpected thing is how the Colts have the 24th-ranked offense by GWP.
• It's even more surprising on account of they rank in the top half of the league in pass efficiency, offensive EPA -- all that junk.
• So I says to our host Brian Burke, I says: "What gives, compadre?"
• He says back to me, he says: "Their ORANK is really hurt because of their average opponent defensive strength. HOU x 2, JAC, WAS, DEN. 24th probably means they're at the bottom end of a pack of roughly equally average offenses."
• And he adds: "Please don't call me compadre."

Denver at San Diego | Monday, November 22 | 8:30pm ET
Four Factors

• You're never gonna guess who leads the NFL in pass efficiency.
• Actually, you probably will.
• It's San Diego.
• But you're never gonna guess who's second.
• Denver! At 7.2 yards per pass!

GWP Wins and Luck
Here's the table, through Week Ten and sans comment, of GWP wins and losses as compared to actual wins and losses.

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15 Responses to “The Weekly League: Notes and Ideas for Week Eleven”

  1. Anonymous says:

    does this table mean san diego is the most unlucky and atlanta is the luckiest? or visa versa?

  2. Carson Cistulli says:

    Unluckiest. They "should" have 7.2 wins.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Somehow I think "unluckiest" means "has the worst special teams play".

  4. Brian Burke says:

    Here unlucky means a lot of things, including has had poor special teams play in the past. For example, if a FG kicker is typically 85% from the 25, but misses a game-winner in OT, that team would be considered unlucky.

    It also means a team has been unfortunate to have an easy schedule to date.

    But it primarily means that because of how the chips of fallen, and in what order they've fallen, a team has not converted into wins their ability to move the ball and stop other teams from moving the ball. This can be caused by random bunching or clustering effects or by sample error effects in high-leverage situations.

  5. Unknown says:

    I remember a while back you made a post explaining how the Patriots, year after year, finished well above their expected win total, and that there was no way any team could have that level of sustained "luckiness" over such a long period of time. Thus you attributed New England's success to cheating, but in recent years (2007-2010) they have continued to out perform expectations based on your stats. Do you think there is something that contributes the the Pat's success that is not accounted for in your stats, is BB still somehow cheating and getting away with it, or are the Patriots just really lucky?

  6. Brian Burke says:

    I think there is evidence that Belichick broke the rules repeatedly, at fair risk, and at considerable expense. He saw value in it, and continued the practice despite being warned by the league. I believe that he believed it gave him an advantage.

    Usually, when there is a freakish outlier like that, there is a combination of factors all working in the same direction. My best guess is that the Pats were good, and were cheating, and were lucky, and were probably good at the things the model does not detect.

  7. Chris says:

    Have you looked at success rate over the years? If the Pats were consistently good at this in these same years, it may be necessary to back off just how much the cheating may or may not have helped them and focus more on just how much bb was making his team better by focusing on a stat that your model didn't incorporate.

  8. Anonymous says:

    terrible trade

  9. Jonathan says:

    "Here unlucky means a lot of things."

    You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  10. Anonymous says:

    What do you think it means, Jonathan?

  11. Anonymous says:

    To understand what's meant by teams being "unlucky" or "lucky" you first need to let go of the results-driven approach of assessing the quality of a football team. The quality of a team should be measured by the process rather than the end result - i.e., a team's stats (particularly those that are reproducible and correlate strongest with winning) is a better indicator of how good they are, rather than W-L record. One untimely interception, missed field goal, or something or other can skew a W-L record.

    As Brian said, if a team is 85% to make a field goal and win the game, but misses and ends up losing, that's an extremely unfortunate event. While the game goes as a total loss in the W-L column, it really should be considered as something like .85 of a win (slightly more, considering they still could have won after missing the field goal).

  12. Jonathan says:

    To me, "unlucky" is simply a word to describe anyone who doesn't know what wonderful movie I referenced.

  13. Brian Burke says:

    I'm stumped.

  14. James says:

    It's inconceivable anyone wouldn't recognize that reference, or my hint.

  15. Jim Glass says:

    Princess Bride?

    As to what the word means, I prefer to think of football team performance that is not predictible from past performance simply as being "not repeatable" or "not predictible" rather than the result of chance, luck, randomness. Because it can result from foresight, skill, good coaching.

    E.g., when the Giants showed up at the NFL championship game against the Bears with sneakers to switch into if the field was icy, then did and blew 'em out, that wasn't chance or randomness like a bouncing ball or play results not coming in a happy sequence. It was superior coaching in a big game. But it was not repeatable because you don't expect that situation to happen again, and if it does you'd expect the other side to have learned from the first time. (Though the Giants did that to the Bears in the NFL Championship twice, 1934 and 1956 -- some franchises learn more slowly than others.)

    One could cite other examples of coaching innovations that turned games but weren't repeatably successful because later opponents with notice of them could adjust. OK, maybe I should apologize for being pedantic since 99% of what we're talking about really is random chance, but it doesn't seem that all of it is.

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