The thing about ‘advanced’ stats in hockey is that they’re not really intended to be all that advanced…but compared to the crappy normal stats like +/- they are miles ahead. A lot of stats that look at usage–zone starts and quality of competition–are designed to illustrate a player’s deployment to provide context to his goal production. And the granddaddy of all fancy stats, Corsi, is not really that complicated once you wrap your head around it. The object of the game is to score goals and prevent them from being scored against your team, and since goals come from shots, the Corsi stats are intended to be simply a richer tool for analysis. So, when you think of a “good” hockey player, the tools and skills he owns should lead him to be a good possession player. Things like skating ability, hand-eye coordination, vision, anticipation, etc., these are the building blocks that make up a quality hockey player. Of course, those things don’t always come through in Corsi stats, and today I wanted to do sort of a case study on a Minnesota Wild player who is still very young, and seems to be developing nicely but is still a “bad possession player” by the numbers: Mikael Granlund. Read on…
Archive for the ‘Damned Lies and Statistics’ Category
Tags: advanced stats, damned lies and statistics, jason pominville, mikael granlund, minnesota wild, nhl, nino niederreiter
Damned Lies & Statistics: Who are the Wild’s biggets puck hogs? Who are most defensively responsible?Posted: November 14, 2013 in Damned Lies and Statistics, State of Hockey
Tags: damned lies and statistics, dany heatley, jared spurgeon, justin fontaine, mikko koivu, minnesota wild, nhl, puck hog, state of hockey, stephane veilleux, zach parise
I’ve been meaning to dust off a couple of stats I toyed around with recently–neither was developed by me but I think they’re interesting and informative. And as is the case with most statistical studies, the results may surprise you.
The first stat is a “Puck Hog” metric that was introduced last year by Ben Wendorf on the NHL Numbers website (folow Ben on Twitter, he’s a good Wisconsin boy!) The stat is very straightforward, and is simply the proportion of Fenwick events for which a player is responsible out of the total number of Fenwick events that occur when he is on the ice. The simple equation is this:
I previously checked out how the Wild players stacked up almost a year ago to the day (freaky.) The first thing I notice about that list when I look at it today is that most of the names are no longer with the team. I included a fair bit more information in my previous post but today I’ll just get right to it. Here are the top 5 Wild forwards in terms of their “Puck Hog” tendencies. For a variety of reasons, defensemen have very low ratios so we’ll just focus on forwards. All stats 5v5, data from extraskater.com Read on…
Ohai! Remember me? I’m preparing to hit the ground running as the NHL season kicks off next week. Just trying to shake the rust off and get some posting done again. The purpose of today’s article is just to sort of show snapshots of the last two Minnesota Wild seasons’ worth of fancy stats. We can always go back and dig up old seasons of data, but I thought it would be convenient to just put some thoughts together in one place. Shall we get started?
If you don’t know about Fenwick, where have you been living the last two years? Check out my stats glossary for a primer. We start with the dreadful 2011-12 season. If you have small children in the room, tell them to look away. You have been warned. (Data courtesy of (http://behindthenet.ca/fenwick_2012.php?sort=6§ion=close)
The less said about this chart, the better. It’s hideous and I hate it. The Wild were DEAD STINKING LAST in FenClose two seasons ago, and it wasn’t close. Even down 2 goals, they could barely drive possession. And when they got any kind of a lead at all, they turtled faster than George Costanza after a dip in the pool. No, don’t look away. Force yourself to absorb the fail. It will put hair on your chest. Okay that’s enough. Let’s see what the numbers looked like after the Prodigal Sons returned.
Alright, a little better. The club improved to a respectable 18th in the league in close situations, but they were still outshot. Baby steps. They didn’t take their foot off the gas as much with a one-goal lead, which provides at least a little hope. Something interesting shows up when we look into the numbers a little closer. In 2012-13, the Wild posted a 51.2% FenClose at home, and a 45.9% clip on the road. Most teams performed better on home ice in this metric, but Minnesota’s differential is the fifth-largest gap in the league. I think this says that they were lousy on the road more than they were better at home. But still. Baby steps. Also of note is that with the sizable roster turnover (anyone remember Darrol Powe? Carson MacMillan?) these numbers are perhaps less predictive and more archival. But they are moving in the right direction.
Next, let’s check out Coach Yeo’s deployment (courtesy of Rob Vollman and Hockey Abstract, http://www.hockeyabstract.com/playerusagecharts)
PLAYER USAGE CHARTS
Kind of a mess, if you ask me. Shout out to my man Kyle Brodziak for playing the toughest minutes on the club. PMB’s CorsiRel of 20.5 is less impressive when we recall that he played just 37 games, and the only other player to post a positive CorsiOn was Jarod Palmer, in six games. Again, not much more to say here, the above chart is mostly for reference. Let’s look at the deployment from last year.
Apologies for not posting a cleaner image, but…the site is saying downloading is disabled due to high bandwidth, and Parks and Rec is starting soon so I’m taking the easy way out. When I get a little more time I will flesh out the chart and try to put a full usage table in. 2012-13 provides a much clearer deployment strategy: send out the top line in the Offensive Zone, throw the fourth line out in the Defensive Zone. The high OZ start% and the high QoC numbers are reminiscent of the Canucks’ Sedin strategy, which bodes well for the Koivu/Parise/Pominville line this upcoming year. Mikael Granlund had extremely high QoC numbers over the first month or so of the season, so for him to finish at -0.69 says a lot about the sheltered minutes Yeo started to give him as the season went on. Jonas Brodin’s bubble is quite impressive, and while he benefited greatly from playing next to Ryan Suter, he still had to pull his own weight. Charlie Coyle will almost certainly not get to spend much time with Koivu and Parise this year, so his posession output will be quite telling. I do worry about him regressing a bit this year, and I hope he doesn’t start to tailspin. Check out Jared Spurgeon: slightly sheltered (53% OZ starts,) middling comp (0.34 CorsiRel QoC) but drove possession decently with a 3.0 CorsiRel (2.0 CorsiOn.) If Mike Yeo can continue to selectively deploy Spurgeon, he could really benefit the team and provide some secondary scoring.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Rebuilding is a process, not an event. Signing the two biggest free agents in years sure helps, but they’re not wizards. The team still has a ways to go to really compete with the upper echelon of teams in the NHL, but things are moving in the right direction. Shipping off all the veterans to make way for the youngsters is a prudent move in my opinion, but there might be some bumps along the way as the kids continue to get their feet wet and build chemistry.
The narrative for the Minnesota Wild is quite clearly, “Who will step up this year?” The nice thing about having as many high-level prospects as the Wild is that it really could be anyone. GM Chuck Fletcher, in my opinion, is taking a good approach by not putting pressure on specific young players. In a great piece by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Fletcher said, “The bottom line is, we don’t need all of them to excel and be perfect right away…We need a couple of them to step up and be productive. We’re not asking these kids to be saviors, we just want them to contribute.”
Reports out of Wild training camp so far have mentioned how Granlund looks great so far and Zucker might not start the season in the Bigs, but let’s not forget that both players (plus Niederreiter, plus Coyle, plus Zack Phillips, plus several more) are 21 or less so there’s ample time for them to grow.
The key to this season (as with every season, really) is managed expectations. With the Wild, I’m not really sure what to expect. They’ve turned over their roster so much and are giving so many new players opportunities that it will be exciting/terrifying to see who continues to step up, who regresses, and who gets thrown under the bus. Puck drops next week, you’d better be ready!
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The Minnesota Wild are not built to win right now. When they have their collective heads out of their rear ends, they are perhaps (perhaps) a playoff bubble team, able to beat teams like Phoenix, Edmonton, and Calgary (as they have recently,) but unable to outplay the Chicago/Anaheim/Vancouver level teams.
Unless your name is Barry Melrose, you probably don’t expect the Wild to contend for the Stanley Cup this season. But certainly the same level of horrendous play as last year from January on isn’t acceptable either. And with two massive contracts doled out and a bunch of highly-touted rookies making their debut, the Wild should be showing some improvement over last year. I wrote about managing expectations going into this season, and while it’s unreasonable to expect a top-four playoff seed, we should hope to see at least some movement in the right direction. Today, I’ll dive into the team-level stats (all collected from behindthenet.ca) to break down whether this year’s team is actually an improvement from last year’s. **Side note: it’s tricky to use overall numbers from the 2011-12 Wild because I think they were better than how they played in Jan-Mar because of all the injuries, but not as good as the best-in-the-NHL team they were for the first few weeks of the season. So grains of salt, and all that.
The go-to team-level stat is Fenwick Close, which shows team’s possession in 5v5 close situations—a one-goal game in the first or second period, and a tie game in the third. This stat has proven itself to be one of the best and most reliable indicators of a team’s play. I also really like it because it’s easily interpretable, a simple percentage that everyone can quickly and easily wrap their head around.
The club is playing at least somewhat better in most every category this year compared to last, which is good to see. However, they’re still not cracking 50% at any time except down two goals, which tells me opposing coaches feel fine taking their foot off the gas when they get a comfortable lead against one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league. The “normal” range in Fenwick between the best and worst teams tends to run just about 55% for the best to 45% for the worst. With the Wild sitting just above 45% for all game situations except up two goals, they are still at the basement of the NHL. While the club was dead last in FenClose last year, they are 24th this year. So, hooray I guess? This article isn’t meant to be a comparison of the Wild to the rest of the league, but last year’s team to this year’s team…but a bit of context to keep in mind.
Minnesota has had some fine goaltending from Nicklas Backstrom at times this year, so that’s why they have been able to stick around in a lot of games, but at 46% Fenwick when tied or close, the ice is just tilted against the team. The zone entry/dump-and-chase discussion has blown up recently, and I’m not going to spill many pixels talking about it here but suffice it to say I do think the team is not built for the “Canadian style” of digging pucks out of the corners. Here is a great article I read this week that details why the team personnel isn’t suited for a dump-in game.
It’s generally known that home-ice advantage is less of a factor in hockey than in other sports, but the Wild’s home/road splits are disconcerting:
Their record reflects this disparity, with an 8-2-1 record at the Xcel Energy Center and a 3-7-1 record away. I looked deeper into the matchups at home and away, and I don’t think there’s much to be found…the Wild played Anaheim and Phoenix twice on the road, Colorado and Nashville twice at home, and one-and-one for Chicago, Detroit, Vancouver, and Edmonton. With a number of rookies on the roster, the youth factor may play into it as well…but ultimately I think that all we can really say is the team stinks out loud on the road. Less than 19 shots on goal per 60 minutes close? Something something Gretzky, something something miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Damn. I do like to see that the team is allowing less shots than last year though, so there’s that.
|Season||5v5 GF/60||5v5 SF/60||5v5 Sh%||5v5 GA/60||5v5 SA/60||5v5 Sv%|
|Season||5v4 GF/60||5v4 SF/60||5v4 Sh%|
|Season||4v5 GA/60||4v5 SA/60||4v5 Sv%|
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but when a team’s 5v4 shooting percent is less than its 5v5 shooting percent, that’s not a great sign. The club is 21st in the league with a 15.4% PP conversion rate, but their per-minute shot generation is actually lower than last year. I know that on the man advantage it’s not necessarily about sheer quantity of shots, and I’m not going to start down the shot quality rabbit hole, but adding Suter and Parise have not made any discernible difference on the power play as of yet. No es bueno.
On the flip side, the Wild’s PK is a relative strength–that is, at 82.1% and 15th in the league, when you’re at the bottom of the league in most categories, to be in the middle of the pack is seen as an upgrade. The team is allowing noticeably less shots and goals per 60 minutes of time on the PK compared to last year, even without Darroll Powe, so there’s that. But you can’t win games with a strong PK, you can only avoid losing them, so while we see improvement in this area, they’re going to have to start netting more goals if they want to go anywhere.
I’m going to take off my statboy hat for a second. While I am absolutely a believer in the statistical and advanced metrics value of studying hockey, I am also a big believer in individual psychology and team chemistry. Stats folk get unfairly hit with a false dichotomy because we all know that the human element comes into play. But I digress. What I feel like I’m seeing is a team that is learning to play together and gelling (like Magellan) just a bit. With all the new faces on the roster, it’s taken some time to adjust but I think I’m starting to see some progress. Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin are playing quite well together, Jason Zucker has been a breath of fresh air, and Mikael Granlund seems to be finally finding his way out of the wilderness. He looks like he’s getting a little more comfortable and is showing some of the moves that made him a well-known prospect.
Like I said at the top of this article, I don’t think the Wild are built for a deep playoff run. And of course I don’t want them to be a bottom-dweller in the conference, but for the last few years they have sort of been treading water where they haven’t made the playoffs but haven’t bottomed out to get a lottery pick. The club is set up pretty well to be a mover in the Western Conference, but I’m a bit wary of getting caught up in that cycle again. The shortened schedule may make it more difficult to know who’s going to be a buyer and seller around the trade deadline, but if teams come a-calling looking for maybe a Devin Setoguchi or a Matt Cullen, I hope the organization will listen.
What do you think, will the Wild be buyers or seller at the trade deadline? Leave a comment and let me know! And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey
Snap Shots: Western Conference Standings vs Fenwick Ratios: Who has the biggest home ice advantage this year?Posted: February 21, 2013 in Damned Lies and Statistics, Snap Shots, State of Hockey
Tags: anaheim ducks, chicago blackhawks, Fenwick, nashville predators, nhl, nhl playoffs, vancouver canucks
I’m working on a cool feature looking at the Wild using some new “puck hog” metrics, but in the mean time I wanted to look at some team-level stats and broaden it to the Western Conference. It’s still early in the season…but with the compressed schedule the timeframes get out of whack. With around a quarter of the schedule in the books, some teams that might be outperforming their true talent might be accumulating enough points in the bank that if they do regress, they could still get a bit of home-ice advantage come playoff time. And on the other hand, with a smaller sample size than usual, the “laws” of regression may not even take effect!
Anyway, what I wanted to do tonight is look at the Western Conference standings (current as of Wednesday, 2/20) and compare them to some team-level rate stats: shots for and against at even strength, and particularly Fenwick ratio. Fenwick has been shown to be a great indicator of a team’s level of play, and accurately predicted the Wild’s demise and the Kings’ surge last season alone.
It is generally accepted that the effects of home ice are less in hockey than other sports. But I still like to look at the numbers (why do people climb mountains? because they’re there…why do I analyze home/road splits? because they’re there!) On the other hand, it’s a little dicey to take a small sample and split it into even smaller samples…I heard on #MvsW the other day that the Kings have played just like 4 home games and 9 road games so far, so appropriate grains of salt necessary here. Having said that, on with the chlorophyl!
(Friendly reminder, if you need a refresher on what Fenwick is, head to my stats glossary.)
Table 1. Western Conference Fenwick Close with Home/Road Split
Table 2. Western Conference 5v5 Shots For and Shots Against per 60 minutes
The Blackhawks and the Canucks are prettay…prettay…prettay good. Expert analysis there, good night everybody! It’s no surprise to me to see that Chicago and Vancouver have almost identical home and road Fenwick rates–great teams play just as well on the road as at home. The Anaheim Ducks are the darlings of the conference so far, and why not? Everyone likes a feel-good story, and the Ducks are loaded with them, from the Boudreau redemption story to the timelessness of Teemu Selanne to the Viktor-Fasth-as-Randy-Quaid-in-that-movie-about-the-old-rookie, there’s narratives flying all over the place. But notice that Anaheim is getting outshot at even strength, and their Fenwick rates are below 50%, and not just barely either. They’re the only team that has a better road Fen close than home…an anomaly most likely but still interesting and worth monitoring. The Nashville Predators are another team that’s rife with storylines, and they are at the league cellar for shots, but dang it all if they aren’t right there in fourth place. Shea Weber seems to be snapping out of his funk, and Pekka Rinne is doing Pekka Rinne things so we’ll see how long he can carry that team. San Jose is in that classic spot where they’re not really as good as they looked for the first two weeks of the season (hi Patty) but not as bad as they have looked for the most recent two weeks, so to be honest I’m just going to set them aside and see what they look like in a couple more weeks. For now, they’re still on top of the Pacific division and their Fenwick rates don’t show anything to panic over. I’m not a Niemi believer, though, so we’ll see where this team winds up.
“The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry when both your goalies get injured.” –Steinbeck. The Blues are putting up eye-popping Fenwick rates, particularly at home, but if the netminder can’t stop pucks, none of that matters. I learned last year not to dismiss the Coyotes, but they aren’t looking like a team that can get to the conference finals again. Kari Lehtonen is a great goalie…when he’s not injured. When healthy, he covers up a lot of their deficiencies, but when he’s out, the cracks in the armor start to show up real quick. Detroit still has as much firepower as any team out there but they’re not getting any younger, and if Jimmy Howard misses time, the Wings will have to work that much harder at winning those 5-4 games. What to say about the Wild…you can only watch so many games where you hear the commentator say, “Parise fires the team’s first shot on net here, twelve minutes into the period” before you start to wonder what it will take to get this thing turned around. I didn’t delude myself into thinking that the additions of two All-Stars would erase all the team’s problems but I had sort of hoped they would figure out a way to get a couple more shots per game.
I know we’d all rather just continue to repress all our lockout memories, but I distinctly recall a team down in Oklahoma City that was ripping the AHL a new one. Ah, those were the days. The Oilers have got some great puzzle pieces, but it’s hard to score goals when you’re skating backwards. Devan Dubnyk has been inconsistent, but when he’s on his game, he has looked great. I keep saying the Kings will be fine, buy low on the Kings. But they keep losing, and sooner or later they have to string together some wins if they want to get back in this thing. They are showing great possession numbers, and their shots allowed are lowest in the league, but Quick needs to start stopping some pucks like he did last year. I’m still confident that they will be fine, but if they’re not careful they might run out of time. The Avalanche are just a mess. They had a really good thing going last year with Landeskog and the rest, and this year they’ve managed to piss it all away. Side note: have you seen some of Ryan O’Reily’s dad’s tweets? The dude is on this big crusade about how psychiatric medications are an evil plot by scientists, and schizophrenia isn’t a real thing and on and on and on. We’re talking Tom-Cruise-on-Oprah-level here. Calgary needs to admit they’re in a rebuilding phase–I’d do it like a band-aid and get it over with, but that’s just me. I think I’m actually buying into the Blue Jackets right now…they’ve got something like three first round picks next year, they’ve got a new GM and they didn’t get as much in return for Rick Nash as a lot of people thought they should have, but I think this franchise is starting to find its way out of the woods. It’s unfortunate when a team is playing for next year so early in the season, but rebuilding is a process, not an event.
To sum it all up, I think the Hawks and Nucks are for real, the Ducks are surprising everyone and while I’m not rooting for them to regress, their underlying stats might catch up with them. Nashville is in the same boat with their low number of shots, and the fifth seed through about the eleventh seed are just a few points apart, so I’ll want to see what the bubble teams do in the next month or so before guessing which of them are playoff contenders.
Thanks for reading, make sure to check out my fantasy hockey podcast, and shoot me an e-mail at hashtaghockey [at] gee mail [dot com and follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey
Tags: 30 rock, conan o'brien, jared spurgeon, liz lemon, mike yeo, minnesota wild, nhl, ryan suter, shea weber
Did you watch the 30 Rock finale? Do you remember the scene where Liz Lemon gets onto an elevator with Conan O’Brien and she shoots him down, prompting him to wonder when he will ever lose his virginity? I bring this up only because the shot had a weird green-screeny look to it, like they weren’t actually in an elevator but on a stage. My theory on this is that because he’s 6’4″ and she’s 5’5″ they couldn’t actually frame the two of them standing shoulder to shoulder, so they had them do it in front of a screen (these are the things that I think about sometimes…) And the only reason I bring this up at all is because, like a lot of people, I’ve seen Ryan Suter’s lousy Corsi stats and have started to wonder about that huge contract and whether he will be the same player as he was in Nashville…we’ll come back to this later.
After watching the Minnesota Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this week, I’m staying cautiously optimistic about the team’s potential this year, but I’m not deluding myself either–they still look like a team that’s developing a number of young players and building team chemistry. Between the injuries last year, the new faces this year, and the lockout-shortened training camp/lack of preseason, I’m sticking by my it’s-too-early-to-really-know-anything stance. They hung with the Blues and Blackhawks, undoubtedly two of the conference’s better teams, but they also let the Blue Jackets hang around with them, so I’m not too sure what to make of them yet.
Back to Suter. Imagine you start your NHL career paired up with a guy who’s 6’4″ (without skates) and 230 or so pounds. He’s like Leroy Brown–baddest man in the whole damn town. He clears out the crease with the greatest of ease, lays bone-crushing hits, sometimes goes a little too far, and will go toe-to-toe with any opponent. You play your first seven years in the League with this man, your playstyle literally develops alongside his. Then, you get your opportunity to get capital-p Paid so you go to Minnesota, where they pair you up with this guy. Jared Spurgeon is listed at 5’9″ and 185 pounds. If you believe that, I’d love to talk to you about a fantastic real estate opportunity in beautiful northern Minnesota.
Don’t misunderstand me–I like Spurgeon fine. He’s a great skater, he sees the ice well, knows how to make a good pass, and he’s got a knack for getting out from behind his own net and over the attacking blue line in just a few seconds. Plus he’s played for Mike Yeo for a year so he has more familiarity with the system than Suter. I’ve got a special place for Spurgeon in my heart because he’s about the same size as me, and us little guys gots to stick together. But he’s not a top-line NHL defenseman. His game is too one-dimensional to be getting top-pair minutes, and I think it’s clear that Suter and Spurgeon just don’t have the chemistry–probably because if you cloned Spurgeon and duct-taped the two together then doused the double-Spurgeon with water, it would still weigh less than Shea Weber after he’s eaten a double quarter-pounder. Seriously, if you gave him a two-handed axe, Weber would fit right in fighting alongside Qhorin Halfhand and the Watchers on the Wall. But I digress…let’s get to the numbers.
I’ve wanted to do some Wild usage charts for a little while now, and they’re fairly informative but it’s still too early and because Yeo has had the same 12 skaters all year there is a lot of overlap. Check out Rob Vollman’s page describing usage charts if you need a refresher. In short, the X axis here is percent of offensive-zone starts (excluding NZ,) the Y axis is CorsiRel QoC (quality of competition,) and the bubble is CorsiRel, with solid bubbles representing players who see more shots at the opponent while on the ice, and white bubbles representing players who are getting rubber thrown at them. Numbers are current as of 1-31-13, I whipped up these charts before last night’s Anaheim game:
I wrote earlier this week that I’m happy with the way Mike Yeo is switching up the lines, and that extends to the recent shake-up on the blue line. Suter’s CorsiRel bubble actually overlaps Clayton Stoner’s completely, though it sort of looks like a little Death Star right there on the chart (30 Rock, Game of Thrones, Star Wars–NERD TRIFECTA!) Enter: Jonas Brodin. In a Wild system that’s loaded with prospects, Brodin has earned himself a spot with the big boys, and in just four games, he has impressed the coaching staff enough that it looks like he’ll stick around–plus he and Suter seem to have good chemistry so far. I am going to dig more into the Suter-Spurgeon vs. Suter-Brodin pairings in another article this weekend, though with a podcast still to record and the Super Bowl coming up, I’ll have to find the time somehow.
The top line of Parise-Koivu-Heatley is driving possession for the team and getting an almost exact 50-50 split offensive zone/defensive zone. Koivu and Parise are fantastic 200-ft players, while Heatley is as disinterested in backchecking as I have ever seen in a player. Granlund and Setoguchi are still seeing the toughest competition of anyone on the team, and it’s becoming clear that Granlund just can’t handle it. His numbers are downright lousy so far, and I wonder if Yeo will continue his throw-him-into-the-deep-end approach or if we’ll see a shake-up. I’m just saying, Kyle Brodziak did a fine job centering the second line last year through all the injuries, and Matt Cullen still has a heartbeat. Pierre-Marc Bouchard is getting the sheltered treatment, which is fine by me. He’s been making plays and getting game winners, so just let him do his thing. When Granlund and Bouchard get caught together in the defensive zone, though, it’s just brutal.
I will not overreact to Marco Scandella…I will not overreact to Marco Scandella…I will not overreact to Marco Scandella. But look at that big red bubble! It’s way too small a sample, only three games included here, but that’s an OZ St% of 28.6, a CorsiRel QoC of 1.28, and a CorsiRel of 18.6. Plus his on-ice Sv% was .813, so no favors there. Ok, I got that out of my system. I really think this guy can be a solid top-four defenseman for the Wild, so now that he’s back with the team I’ll continue to eagerly watch his progression.
Alright that’s all for now. Thanks for reading, make sure to follow me on Twitter @Hashtag_Hockey, and check back later today probably for my per-game analysis of Suter-Spurgeon vs Suter-Brodin. Until then, LIVE EVERY WEEK LIKE IT’S SHARK WEEK!
Damned Lies & Statistics: Minnesota Wild early individual Corsi–Mikko Koivu should be nicknamed AtlasPosted: January 25, 2013 in Damned Lies and Statistics, State of Hockey
Tags: cal clutterbuck, corsi, dany heatley, devin setoguchi, fantasy hockey, kyle brodziak, matt cullen, mikael granlund, mikko koivu, minnesota wild, nhl, pierre marc bouchard, zach parise
It’s a rainy day in Southern California–a perfect time to stay inside and look at some early returns from the Minnesota Wild’s first three games. I’m having trouble navigating the behindthenet.ca site, so for now I’ll have to settle with just a basic look at Corsi-related stats. Once I figure out what I’m doing wrong over there I’ll be able to dig deeper and get into some more thorough analysis. All numbers posted below are even-strength.
Top Line: Parise-Koivu-Heatley
The first thing I see is that Mike Yeo has been capitalizing on the club’s three straight home games and using the top line in an opportune way. All three skaters have been started heavily in the offensive zone (65.2% for Parise and Heatley, 62.5% for Koivu) and all have faced soft competition (CorsiRel QoC of around -2.0 to -2.1 for Parise and Heatley and -1.9 for Koivu.) The skaters have jumped on the opportunity and directed pucks on net–Corsi On right around 7 for the wingers and an astounding 19.05 for Koivu. Obviously the sample is small that that’s impressive. The line has looked very good to my eyes, but I see that they haven’t had great puck luck, the three have on ice Sh% just over 4. This line is absolutely driving the Wild offense right now with CorsiRel of 14.5-14.7 for Heatley and Parise, and 31.4 (!!) for Koivu. We’ll see how the coach continues to use the top line on the road, but if the team wants to make the playoffs, they’ll need to get some offense out of the rest of the roster, which brings us to…
Second Line: Cullen-Granlund-Setoguchi
I wrote earlier this week about how I don’t particularly like Cullen on this line, but I see why Yeo has him paired with Granlund. I hope Yeo mixes up the pairings as the season goes on so for now I’ll hold my tongue. This line has been getting the tough competition–CorsiRel QoC of 2.8 for Cullen, 3.0 for Seto, and 3.3 for Granlund! Their possession numbers are paying the price for it, Granlund has a CorsiOn of -4.5 but Cullen (-10.8) and Setoguchi (-13.9) are seeing the ice tilted against them quite severely. Mike Yeo seems to be sheltering Granlund (OZ Start 60%) for sure and Setoguchi a bit (54.5%) with Cullen getting the nod defensively (45.5%). Granlund and Setoguchi have had a bit better luck, but their on ice Sh% are still pretty low (5.88 Setoguchi, 6.667 Granlund, and a big fat goose egg for Cullen.) I’m sure these usage numbers will change as the sample gets larger but I’m surprised to see this line get the brunt of the tough minutes when I thought they would go to better-established two-way players like
Third Line: Bouchard-Brodziak-Clutterbuck
Brodziak and Clutterbuck have a rep for playing solid 200-ft games, so I’m a little surprised to see their middling competition numbers–Bouchard has 0.5 CorsiRelQoC and the others actually negative, though just barely. Bouchard and Clutterbuck have a CorsiOn just over 5 right now while Brodziak is seeing a lot of rubber flying his way, with a -13.3. All three have OZ Start% north of 50 (56.5 Brodziak, 59.1 Clutterbuck, and 61.9 Bouchard) but they are winding up at the other end of the ice–OZ finsih% approaching 40. No es bueno. I like the composition of this line with the three bringing different playstyles to the table, so perhaps they need some more time to gel, but I’ll be keeping an eye on this line because these early numbers point to them being somewhat of a liability.
I don’t really want to get into the fourth line of Powe-Mitchell-Konopka, but the only number I’ll point out is their on ice Sv% of .909 (TM, ZK) and .917 (DP). Ouch.
The Wild blue line is hurting right now, but Jonas Brodin is slated to get the start tonight against Detroit. Scandella is down in Houston but I liked what I saw from him last year so I hope they bring him up soon. Dumba has been practicing with the team but hasn’t seen game action yet–I’d bet the money in my wallet that they don’t burn a year of his ELC but I sure want to see him get a couple games.
Spurgeon and Suter have seen the toughest competition of the defensemen, though their CorsiRelQoC are only about 0.7 to 0.8. Their CorsiOn is not great though, -9.5 for Spurgeon and -16 for Suter. The goalies haven’t helped either, as Suter has an on ice Sv% at .900 and Spurgeon .889. It looks like Spurgeon has drawn a couple penalties, which is good to see, but until the blue line gets a little clearer I don’t think there’s too much to squeeze out of these numbers.
I’m gearing up for continuing my podcast this weekend, should have it ready by Monday–if you have fantasy hockey questions, send them to hashtaghockey [at] gee mail dot com or tweet me @Hashtag_Hockey. Thanks for reading!
Tags: aaron hernandez, anquan boldin, baltimore ravens, colin kaepernick, ed reed, frank gore, gronkowski, joe flacco, julio jones, matt ryan, michael crabtree, michael turner, new england patriots, nfl, nfl playoffs, randy moss, ray lewis, ray rice, roddy white, san francisco 49ers, stevan ridley, tom brady, tony gonzalez, torrey smith
The reason the NFL Playoffs are so fun is that they are completely and totally unpredictable. So why do people like me try to predict them, whether through stats, intuition or otherwise? Because if we’re right, we look smart–and who doesn’t want to look smart. Of course, the converse is that if we’re wrong, we look dumb, and nobody wants that. I felt pretty confident about my picks for last week’s Divisional Weekend, and while the games certainly did not disappoint in terms of their excitement to watch, the outcomes were definitely not what I forecasted. I went 1-3 last week against the spread, and though I’m now even at 4-4 for the playoffs, I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth from last week. We always talk about how anything can happen in the span of one game, but a lot of the action last week really went against the stats.
Recap: Baltimore Ray-vens vs Denver Broncos
Speaking of going against the stats, the Ravens and their best-ranked special teams unit allowed Trindon Holliday to return the first punt of the game for a touchdown, and then the opening kickoff of the second half for another. In fact, the first quarter of the game was packed with as much game-changing plays as I’d seen in probably the entire Wild Card weekend. The Broncos came out of the gates really hot, but in the span of 41 seconds of game time, everything changed. Joe Flacco hit Torrey Smith for a 59-yard bomb, and on the first play of the Broncos next possession, Manning throws a pick-six off the hands of Eric Decker! I really liked how Denver looked at the start of the game, but by the end of the game, Peyton just looked old to me. He wasn’t getting nearly as much zip on his passes, and just didn’t look like the Manning of old. Of course, we wouldn’t be talking about that if the Broncos hadn’t completely shit the bed on that 70-yard TD pass with like 40 seconds left. The Denver safety totally misjudged the throw, and the kept showing the replay of him just feebly jumping up in the air like three yards in front of the ball. It’s never fair to pin a loss on just one guy or one play, but the game was locked up–or at least it should have been. Flacco threw for 331 and 3 TDs with no picks, although he was 18 for 34 passing (52.9% comp) while Ray Rice carried the ball 30 times for 131 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos just liked like the superior team all around going into this game, but the Ravens hung around and eventually won. They sure are giving Ray Lewis a memorable end to his career.
Recap: Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers
They started this game before the Ravens-Broncos matchup ended, so those of us who wanted to see the overtime get played out missed the early pick six by Sam Shields. While the Packers led after the first quarter, it was the Colin Kaepernick show from there out. Dude threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns AND had 181 rushing yards, including a 20- and 56-yard TD run. Unbelievable. The Niners defense held down the potent Packer offense, limiting them to just 352 yards and a 5-for-12 conversion rate on third down. Despite Green Bay racking up 31 points, this game never felt close after the first quarter, as the 49ers dominated the time of possession 38 minutes to 22.
Recap: Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons
This game was just crazypants. The Falcons got out to a 20-zip halftime lead, then almost choked it away, then won on a last-second field goal that the Seahawks probably shouldn’t have given up. Russell Wilson showed what a dual-threat he can be, throwing for 385 yards and rushing for 60 more for a total of three TDs and just one turnover, while Matt Ryan picked apart the great Seattle pass defense and effectively spread the ball around–Roddy White had five catches while Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez each had six. Michael Turner continues to be the engine that won’t quit, rushing just 14 times but gaining 98 yards (a nifty 7 YPR.) If the Seahawks hadn’t been so completely confused in the first half the game probably would have ended differently, or if they just would have stopped the Falcons’ last drive they would be playing in the NFC Championship game. Give credit to Matt Ryan for hanging on and making the clutch throws at the end of the game.
Prediction/Player Prop Bets: San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons (+5)
The line for this game has been moving toward the Falcons all week, and if it had stayed at 3 or even 3.5 I would certainly be betting on San Francisco. But the way Atlanta beat up on Seattle for the first half of last week’s game and the way they came back to win when it all seemed lost…I’m going to go against the public here and take the points, though I do think the 49ers are the better team and I believe they’ll win the game. No one seems to have any idea how to stop Colin Kaepernick right now, and the way they just dismantled the Packers plus the fact that the Falcons defense has just looked lousy at times makes me think we’re in for another show this weekend. I was going down Bovada’s player prop lines on Kaepernick, thinking…I’d bet the over on most of them but not all:
Colin Kaepernick Props
Pass Attempts: 28.5 (under, barely)
Pass Completions: 17.5 (over, barely)
Pass Yards: 237.5 (over)
Pass TD: 1.5 (over)
Rush Attempts: 7.5 (over)
Rush Yards: 62.5 (over)
Longest Rush: 18.5 (over)
I think he’s going to shred them with his rushing ability, much like he’s done down the stretch and against the Packers. The passing lines are tricky, as I don’t really see him throwing 30+ times because they will feed the ball to Gore and Kaepernick will run quite a bit…but I think he could go like 18-26 or something like, and because he is an accurate downfield passer, I could see one going for 40 or 50, making it easier to get over 240 yards passing.
Frank Gore Props
Rush Yards: 77.5 (over)
Score TD? (Yes-even money)
Matt Ryan Props
Pass Attempts: 37.5 (over)
Pass Completions: 24.5 (over)
Pass Yards: 280.5 (over)
Longest Completion: 39.5 (under)
I think with Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez, Ryan will be able to get a good number completions and yards, but I don’t see the Niners allowing a long bomb to get through. Ryan will have to be pinpoint in his midrange throwing to be able to move the ball against a great San Francisco defense–plus with the formidable pass rush the 49ers will bring, I don’t think he will have a lot of time to let long plays develop downfield.
Prediction: I like San Francisco to win the game because I think they are the all-around better team, plus like the rest of the country, I’m in awe of the things Kaepernick can do. But with the line moving to 5 and the way the Falcons played against another good defense last week, I’ll take the points. San Francisco 31, Atlanta 27
Prediction/Player Prop Bets: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (-10)
In recent years there has been that one team that plays better than they did during the regular season and has a great run to the Super Bowl. The Packers and Giants are recent examples…and the Ravens are poised to be that team in 2013. Of course, if they don’t make the Big Game, not many people outside of Maryland will remember their run. The Patriots, on the other hand, just keep doing their thing despite being under the spotlight. They’re not a perfect team and they had a couple of disappointing games, but with the personnel and the talent and the Brady-Belichek, they’re almost never the underdog. The point spread here is pretty steep considering how well the Ravens have played, particularly last week against the Broncos (the recency effect is a very real thing and humans can’t help but to put more emphasis on what they’ve observed more recently.) If I was picking straight up I’d definitely roll with the Patriots but that’s a hefty number of points to give to a team that’s playing the part of the Team of Destiny.
Joe Flacco Props
Passing Attempts: 34.5 (over)
Passing Completions: 21.5 (over)
Passing Yards: 275.5 (over)
Passing TD: 1.5 (over)
Longest Completion: 40.5 (under)
Ray Rice Props
Rushing Yards: 77.5 (over)
Receptions: 4 (over)
Receiving Yards: 39.5 (under)
Ray Lewis Props
Tackles + Assists: 10 (over)
Tom Brady Props
Passing Attempts: 38.5 (under)
Passing Completions: 24.5 (under)
Passing Yards: 305.5 (under)
Passing TD: 2.5 (over)
Rushing Yards: 1.5 (over)
Longest Completion: 40.5 (under)
Stevan Ridley Props
Rushing Yards: 77.5 (over)
Score TD? Yes (-115)
Joe Flacco Passing Yards (+25) vs Tom Brady Passing Yards: Flacco
Prediction: The Patriots are masters of game planning, and the Ravens are not a youthful team–and they just played a 75-minute game in like 9 degree weather a week ago. I think the Pats’ game plan will be to wear down the Baltimore defense, they won’t be looking for too many explosive plays, which is why I like the unders for Brady’s passing stats. They will look to run the ball with Ridley and possibly Woodhead, and Brady’s pinpoint passing will help in the intermediate game. The Ravens will be able to move the ball on the Patirots and Joe Flacco has looked great the last two weeks, but I think New England will play a bend-but-don’t-break game and wear down the Ravens. I don’t think we’ll see a repeat of last week’s four-TD in the first quarter bonanza, as Baltimore will be tired out of the gates and the Patriots will be methodical in assessing the Ravens’ weak spots. Like a title fight where both fighters circle each other and don’t throw much of anything except jabs, I think this game will be close going into halftime, but New England’s advantage will be their rest and their preparation, and they will win a close game down the stretch. I’ll take the Patriots to win but give me the ten points. New England 37, Baltimore 30
Thanks for reading, and remember to follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey
Tags: aaron hernandez, aaron rodgers, arian foster, atlanta falcons, baltimore ravens, colin kaepernick, denver broncos, frank gore, green bay packers, gronkowski, houston texans, jj watt, julio jones, marshawn lynch, matt ryan, matt schaub, michael turner, new england patriots, roddy white, russell wilson, san francisco 49ers, seattle seahawks, tom brady, wes welker
I have been thinking a lot about the NHL season that was recently brought back from the dead (zombie Crosby?) and fantasy hockey in particular, but the NFL playoffs are rolling along too with no less drama and intrigue than we’re used to seeing.
There were no upsets last week, and teams like Houston in particular showing that momentum doesn’t really mean that much in pro sports. I went 3-1 with my picks last week, though I was 1-3 against the spread. At the time, taking the points seemed like a good idea, but that’s why sports betting is such a tricky thing. Without further ado, let’s look back at last week and look ahead to the most exciting weekend of the NFL season.
DVOA statistics come from the number one site for advanced football stats, Football Outsiders.
Recap: Houston Texans 19, Cincinnati Bengals 13
My only upset pick was not an upset at all, as the Texans played a lot more like their early-season selves than the team that limped into the tournament. Houston’s defense in particular looked much better than it did down the stretch, as they held the Bengals to under 200 yards of total offense. I think the single most telling stat from this game is that Cincinnati was zero for nine on third down. You don’t need John Madden to tell you that a team that doesn’t get a lot of first downs isn’t going to score a lot of points. Arian Foster played the role of the workhorse, getting 40 touches (32 carries plus 8 receptions) and the Bengals seemed to forget all about Owen Daniels (9 receptions on 11 targets). Shayne Graham did not miss a kick and JJ Watt did JJ Watt things with five tackles and a sack. The Texans looked like quite the complete team, as they posted a 37% offensive DVOA and a -26% defensive DVOA. Their special teams was pretty mediocre, just 1% ST DVOA, though because they were dead last in that area in the regular season, playing simply average is actually quite the upgrade. Cincinnati’s defense was not bad (3% D-DVOA) but compared to their regular season they didn’t play up to their ability. The Bengals offense, as already discussed, was the real stinker, finishing the game with a -21% O-DVOA. Texans fans are no doubt happy their team righted the ship and the stage is set for a great matchup with the Patriots, but ultimately I don’t think they can keep up with the New England Tom Bradys (more on this later.)
Recap: Green Bay Packers 24, Minnesota Vikings 10
When the news broke late that Christian Ponder would be unavailable for this game, I–along with the NBC talking heads–talked myself into the idea that Joe Webb might actually be able to give the Packers a different and surprising look. After all, Webb looked pretty good in that one game three years ago…and hey, Ponder has looked dreadful at times, so maybe this could be an upgrade. That lasted for all of about five minutes, as Webb led the Vikings down the field for an opening drive field goal. After that, he started doing things that no fan ever wants to see his quarterback do in a preseason game, let alone in the playoffs, such as trying to avoid a sack by throwing the ball straight up into the air. I didn’t think the Vikings would win the game, but I did think they would cover the spread. Football Outsiders wrote that according to DVOA, the game was perhaps closer than the score indicated…but to my eyeballs and everyone else’s the game was just a shellacking. Not much else to say here, so let’s move on you say? Agreed.
Recap: Baltimore Ravens 24, Indianapolis Colts 9
This was destined to be a game where whatever the outcome, the pre-established narrative would take over, whether it be for Chuck Pagano or Ray Lewis. By the numbers, the Colts lived up to their billing as an abysmal defense, posting a 30% D-DVOA (recall that on defense, negative is better.) 30%!! Easily the worst defense played by any team last weekend. The next lowest was the Bengals at 3%, while all other defenses actually played above average. Andrew Luck is great, but don’t forget how bad the team played last year to secure their first-overall pick. For their part, the Ravens played a solid all-around game, with a 24% O-DVOA -11% D-DVOA, and 9% ST-DVOA, the best of any team. They’ll need to keep up that level of play to have any hopes of keeping up with New England…
Recap: Seattle Seahawks 24, Washington Redskins 14
For my money (which was none, the games are all on network,) this game was the most compelling. You had the rookie quarterbacks, the Redskins outplaying the Seahawks at home in the first half, the last game of the week…but it ended up going about exactly as I predicted, with Seattle beating down Washington by the end of the game. Robert Griffin III played his heart out and it was a terrible shame to see him hurt his knee so I won’t belabor the point too much, but the Redskins were just outclassed and outplayed in the second half. The numbers are remarkably similar (SEA: -1% O-DVOA, -18% DVOA; WAS: 0% O-DVOA, -19 D-DVOA) with the only noticeable difference coming on special teams, SEA 7%, WAS -1%. The Seahawks did look very flat in the first half, though, and they will have to play two more road games to get to the Big One, so perhaps they will have a similar situation this weekend vs Atlanta (though I wouldn’t bet on it…)
Preview: Houston at New England (-10)
I don’t know if you know this but the Patriots are pretty good. Pretty…pretty good. They have the second-ranked weighted Offensive DVOA (28.6%) as well as the second-ranked Special Teams DVOA (8.7%). Their defense is mediocre (-0.9%, 16th ranked) but with the firepower on offense and one Bill Belichek they don’t have to worry about giving up 30 points because they will find a way to score at least 31. Houston looked good last week but their numbers are the opposite of New England–the Texans have a great defense (-12.3% weighted D-DVOA, 5th) but terrible special teams (-5.3% ST-DVOA, 31st) and their offense has a number of playmakers but they aren’t performing, -4.6% weighted O-DVOA, 17th. The Texans showed last week that they are capable of playing a solid game, but they also showed that predicting football games is like picking stocks…past performance is not predictive of future results. Arian Foster said after the game that he doesn’t believe in momentum, but that applies here as well. I don’t trust the Texans to put together two good games when they weren’t able to do that over the second half of the season.
The betting line is a different story. The Patriots see a lot of large lines because they keep their foot on the gas and are known to rack up the score. There is a case to be made that the Texans could cover the spread if their defense keeps them in the game or if Matt Schaub can exploit the Pats’ D and try to turn the game into a horse race. But I got burned last week by predicting a couple of non-covers, so if I’m picking New England this week, I’ll go all out. I learned a long time ago not to bet against Tom Brady and Bill Belichek.
Prediction: New England win big over the Texans, 34 – 21
Preview: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-3)
The Packers and Niners have some pretty similar numbers on offense (GB 16.6% weighted O-DVOA, SF 15.3%) and special teams (GB -1.1% weighted ST-DVOA, SF -0.2%) while San Francisco has a modest advantage on defense (SF -13.5% weighted D-DVOA, GB -7.2%). As the playoffs progress and the matchups get better and better, it becomes more difficult to find significant differences in the stats, and the analysis shifts to specific matchups or players. In this case, it’s all about Aaron Rodgers. The guy is an unbelievable quarterback and has shown that he can play against the toughest of opponents. Green Bay has almost no running game to speak of, though DuJuan Harris has played sneaky good over their last two games. The Niners relied on a heavy rushing attack all season, and despite being gashed by Adrian Peterson, the Packers have a decent run defense (118.5 Rush YPG against, 16th.) I don’t really love the quarterback-vs-quarterback breakdown because they’re never on the field at the same time, and Colin Kaepernick certainly has the makings of a good NFL quarterback, but you’re telling me I can get Aaron Rodgers AND three points? Yes please.
Prediction: Close game but Green Bay wins it in the fourth quarter, 27-21
Preview: Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos (-10)
CUT THAT MEAT! CUT THAT MEAT! Going into the season, everyone was concerned about Peyton Manning’s six neck surgeries and his nerve damage. But he came back as the Peyton we all watched in Indianapolis for all those years. Denver has the third-best weighted O-DVOA (23.0%) and the second-best weighted D-DVOA (-15.9%) though their special teams is right about average (0.6%, 16th). The Broncos lost Willis McGahee late in the season but Knowshon Moreno stepped right in and didn’t miss a beat. Eric Decker (Minnesota kid) and DeMaryius Thomas have been great this year and their defense is solid, led by Von “Hipster Glasses” Miller.
The Ravens, on the other hand, are still putting up numbers that do not impress. Except for their best-ranked special teams (10.4%), they have been pedestrian on offense and defense. They looked good last week, but remember that if not for the Saints, we would have been talking about how the Colts had the worst defense in the league. Check out the Ravens weighted numbers, which give more precedence to Week 11 and later: 0.6% O-DVOA (14th), -0.3% D-DVOA (18th). Now compare those numbers to just their performance against the colts, 24% O-DVOA, -11 D-DVOA. Think they’ll be able to sustain that against the Broncos and their top-three ranked squads? I surely don’t. The following is pretty obligatory for stats guys: the numbers can’t predict a single game, and on any-given-day, any team can beat any other team. But come on. This is just a mismatch. The Broncos are laying 10 points at home, and I’m sticking with my plan of avoiding non-covers.
Prediction: Broncos outplay the Ravens for four quarters, win 34-17. The Onion kills it here: Joe Flacco Already Preparing Apology to Ray Lewis for Disappointing End to Career
Preview: Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (-3)
I know Vegas looks at a lot of statistics and advanced numbers, but how are the Seahawks not favored in this game? Seattle has the best overall weighted DVOA (43.9%) as well as the best weighted O-DVOA (29.5%)…better than the Patriots and Broncos. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown, and Russell Wilson (Badger) tacked on 67 more yards against a good Redskins run defense. Their defense is great, and their special teams are top-five as well.
The Falcons won 13 games this year, they won their division by six games, and their point differential was +120 this year. They are a good team (obviously) or they wouldn’t have secured the first-round bye. But the advanced stats show the Falcons as an above-average but not fantastic team. Their overall weighted DVOA 6.1% (13th), weighted O-DVOA (4.4%, 12th), D-DVOA (-2.7%, 14th), and special teams (-1.0%, 19th) all point to them as a team that is going to be undermatched against the Seahawks who are on top of the league in all phases of the game. The Falcons have a bunch of great players on offense, this year was definitely Matt Ryan and Julio Jones’ coming-out party, and Roddy White is an amazing wideout who I think we’ll be considering for the HOF one day. Michael Turner is the engine that won’t quit and Tony Gonzalez is like sixty years old but still putting up crazy numbers. The Falcons are at home and will be eager to get a win after getting destroyed by the Giants last year (24-2) and the Packers at home the year before that (48-21). Seattle came out a little flat last week and is certainly missing their incredible home field advantage. But I just think Seattle is the better team all around here, so like the Packers, if you’re telling me I can get the Seahawks and the points, I’ll take that deal faster than you can say “Kimye’s baby.”
Prediction: Seahawks don’t stumble out of the gate this, knock the Falcons around and pull away late in the game, 31-21
Wrap-up: I like the favorites a lot, Patriots and Broncos–Brady v Manning just like the good ol’ days. Aaron Rodgers is too good and the Seahawks are the compleat team. Swallowing the points in the AFC, surprised I can get the Packers, Seahawks with the points.
Tags: aaron rodgers, adrian peterson, andrew luck, baltimore ravens, chuck pagano, cincinnati bengals, green bay packers, houston texans, indianapolis colts, marshawn lynch, minnesota vikings, nfl, nfl playoffs, ray lewis, rg3, robert griffin iii, russell wilson, seattle seahawks, washington redskins
There is really nothing like the NFL playoffs–each game during the regular season is an event in itself, and the playoffs build up to the Super Bowl, the biggest sporting event in the world. The better team usually wins in the NFL playoffs, yet the games still have the “any given Sunday” feel to them.
Today I’ll take a look at the Wild Card weekend matchups and utilize a variety of stats, both simple and advanced, to make my prediction. I’ll also look at the Las Vegas betting lines and make my picks both straight up and against the spread.
The advanced stats I will be presenting are from Footballoutsiders.com and their proprietary DVOA system. DVOA takes every play and compares it to similar situations–down and distance, game situation, etc., and then adjusts based on opponent. The result is a percentage representing how much better or worse the team did relative to the average of all teams. For offense and special teams, positive results are good, meaning the team did better than average, and for defense, negative numbers are better, meaning the opponent did worse than average. For a full explanation, click here.
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (-4.5)
|Overall DVOA (rank)||Weighted DVOA||Offensive DVOA||Defensive DVOA||Spec Teams DVOA|
|Cincinnati||5.5% (12)||18.0% (7)||-1.8% (17)||-3.8% (10)||4.1% (7)|
|Houston||6.6% (11)||-3.0% (19)||0.1% (16)||-14.2% (3)||-7.7% (32)|
The Bengals have been getting a bit of recognition over the last couple of years, particularly because of their defense, but I think unless you live in Ohio or have some of their players on your fantasy team *coughAJ Green* you probably don’t know just how good of a year they put together. The Bengals have a rather well-rounded team and finished out the season on a 7-1 clip, thanks in part to their matchup vs the AFC West, but they did knock the Steelers out of the playoffs in week 16 and then beat the Ravens in week 17. AJ Green has made a name for himself as one of the elite receivers in the league, and Andy Dalton is developing nicely, and while he doesn’t have the gaudy stats like Brees or Brady, I like his decision-making. The Bengals have not had much success running the ball this year, and while BenJarvus Green-Ellis doesn’t really scare anyone when healthy, he is nursing a hamstring injury this week.
The Texans have been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons lately, and after they lit the league on fire to start the season, they have played some really subpar football lately. They have a great defense led by the pride of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, JJ Watt, but their linebacking corps has been decimated by injury. Houston has a number of playmakers on offense–I think Matt Schaub is still a bit underrated and they do have Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, but as a team they just haven’t been putting it together over the last month or so. Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders took a deep dive inside Houston’s numbers (for ESPN insiders,) and he makes the point that when you have as many things going wrong at the same time like the Texans, it’s hard to turn the ship around.
This is the game that has the most potential for upset this weekend. I am not super confident that the Bengals have the experience to make a playoff run, but the Texans are a very vulnerable team. I’m not willing to lay more than a field goal for a team that has played as badly as the Texans have over the last two weeks.
Prediction: Bengals with the upset
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-9)
|Overall DVOA (rank)||Weighted DVOA||Offensive DVOA||Defensive DVOA||Spec Teams DVOA|
|Minnesota||2.0% (14)||-1.5% (17)||0.3% (15)||3.1% (21)||4.7% (5)|
|Green Bay||26.6% (5)% (14)||24.2% (4)||19.5% (3)||-7.3% (8)||-0.2% (18)|
This rematch of a very exciting week 17 game is getting some pretty lopsided action in Vegas–the line opened at 7.5 points and moved to 9 by press time, meaning almost no one thinks the Vikings can replicate their victory last week. Indeed, the game will be played at Lambeau Field and the Packers will not be resting any of their players as they did at the end of the regular season.
The Vikings had a surprising start to the season, including a major upset of the San Francisco 49ers. In that game, much like in the week 17 game vs Green Bay, Minnesota got out to an early lead and leaned heavily on probable league-MVP Adrian Peterson to take the pressure off Christian Ponder. The Vikings are underdogs by more than a touchdown, but they do have a road map to victory. With Percy Harvin out, I think Minnesota should get back to its West Coast style and exploit the Kyle Rudolph mismatch more than they did to close out the season. The Vikings should be better able to run the play-action than any other team, and while Ponder’s downfield accuracy problems have been well-documented, if they can keep doing what they have been doing and perhaps get a lucky turnover or a special teams swing, they just might be able to catch lightning in a bottle a second time.
The Packers stumbled out of the gate this year but came roaring down the stretch to finish in the top ten in the league in offensive and defensive DVOA, as well as fourth in weighted DVOA. Aaron Rodgers is a fantastic quarterback who doesn’t make mistakes in the red zone (I couldn’t find the stat but his red zone TD/INT ratio is just ungodly,) and while the Packers have had trouble running the ball all year, the Vikings pass defense has been downright lousy.
The stats support Green Bay as a heavy favorite, but Minnesota does have an edge in special teams, ranked fifth in ST DVOA while Green Bay ranks 18th. The teams played two pretty close games this year, and Blair Walsh has not missed a field goal from beyond fifty years, so if it’s another close game, the Vikings could have the advantage.
I think this game will come down to which team can make the other team more one-dimensional than they already are. Adrian Peterson rushed for 409 yards against the Pack this year, while Aaron Rodgers totaled 651 yards and five touchdowns through the air. The Vikings had more to play for last week plus the Packers were resting some of their players, so I’m taking Green Bay to win this game, but getting nine points in a matchup like this is just too good to pass up.
Prediction: Packers win but do not cover.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (-6.5)
|Overall DVOA (rank)||Weighted DVOA||Offensive DVOA||Defensive DVOA||Spec Teams DVOA|
|Indianapolis||-16.0% (25)||-14.0% (25)||-2.9% (18)||14.0% (31)||0.9% (12)|
|Baltimore||9.8% (8)||8.3% (11)||3.0% (13)||2.2% (19)||9.0% (1)|
The Football Outsiders guys have DVOA data going back to 1991, and according to their most recent write-up, the Colts are the worst team to ever finish with double-digit wins. Andrew Luck has been dynamic, especially late in games where in his rookie season–he posted four fourth-quarter comebacks and seven game-winning drives. However, the abysmal Colts defense helped put him in position to lead those game-winning drives, as they had the 31st-ranked defense in DVOA, beating only the historically bad New Orleans Saints. By the numbers, the Colts have a mediocre offense, a horrendous defense, and slightly above-average special teams. Plus, their 25th-ranked weighted DVOA suggests they didn’t play their best football down the stretch. Colts fans should hope their good Luck doesn’t run out on them (three cheers for lazy jokes!)
Having said that, the Ravens have not looked that impressive this year. Their offense posted a 3.0% DVOA, good for 13th in the league, and their defense is getting really old, mostly just getting by on name recognition. They played just barely above-average with a 2.2%DVOA and ended the year ranked 19th in the league. Ray Rice has been underutilized this year, and Joe Flacco has posted some good numbers against bad teams, but has not been consistent enough to convince the fans that he is a long-term solution.
There are incredible storylines surrounding both teams, with Chuck Pagano’s incredible battle with Leukemia and Ray Lewis’s retirement announcement coming earlier this week. Indy might be able to sneak past Baltimore this week, but that defense is too much of a liability. The Ravens are playing at home and will be looking to avenge the Billy Cundiff (LACES OUT!!!) fiasco from last year so I will take Baltimore even though they are statistically mediocre. However, I don’t trust them enough to lay 6.5 points.
Prediction: Ravens win but do not cover.
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins (+3)
|Overall DVOA (rank)||Weighted DVOA||Offensive DVOA||Defensive DVOA||Spec Teams DVOA|
|Seattle||38.3% (1)||46.6% (1)||18.5% (4)||-14.1% (4)||5.7% (3)|
|Washington||9.6% (9)||18.1% (6)||15.3% (6)||1.8% (17)||-4.0% (27)|
In what is probably the most anticipated game of this Wild Card weekend, two dynamic rookie quarterbacks face off as the best team by the numbers has to go on the road. Seattle posted the sixth-highest recorded DVOA since 1991 this year, after a 4-4 start that should have been 3-5 if not for the whole replacement referee fiasco. The Seahawks finished the year first in weighted DVOA, and top four in offense, defense, and special teams. They are led by Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, and although they don’t have a ton of household names on either side of the ball, they bring a balanced attack and excellent defense.
The Washington Redskins have one of the most exciting and dynamic rookies in recent memory in Robert Griffin III. Along with fellow rookie Alfred Morris, the Redskins have the league’s leading rushing attack with almost 170 yards per game. Their defense is solid against the run, but they allow over 280 yards per game through the air, and overall they are right in the middle of the pack with a 1.8% defensive DVOA, good for 17th in the league. Plus, their 27th-ranked special teams will not do them any favors.
In a single-elimination game, anything can happen (see: Seahawks over Saints in 2011) which is why they NFL playoffs are such an event. RG3 has the ability to break off a 70-yard run to break a game open, but Seattle is such a balanced team and have been so impressive over the last month (170 points scored, 43 allowed from week 14 through week 17) that I feel very confident laying only three points as Seattle is my lock of the week.
Prediction: Seahawks win big
To sum it all up, the Bengals have the best shot at an upset so getting 4.5 points is a fine bet but I think the game is a coin flip. It pains me to pick against my home team, but the Packers should mop the floor with the Vikings…but since it’s a divisional matchup and the teams have played each other close, I’ll take the points. I don’t trust Baltimore that much so I’d take the points there but it’s easy to pick against the second-worst defense in the league. And Washington is just outclassed in every phase of the game by the Seachickens…if Seattle didn’t have to go on the road three times to get to the Super Bowl, I think they would be getting a bit more love. For now that’s the only game I feel confident enough to lay the points.