The Weekly League: Notes and Ideas for Week Five

Titan quarterback Matt Hasselbeck invites you to talk to the hand

This week's edition of The Weekly League features

1. Bright and shining previews for this week's Tennessee-Pittsburgh, Green Bay-Atlanta, and Chicago-Detroit football games.

2. A table including each team's pythagorean record using Expected Points Added.


3. Reason.

Tennessee at Pittsburgh | Sunday, October 09 | 1:00pm ET
Four Factors

• The Titans currently have the third-ranked offense per GWP and yet it likely has absolutely nothing to do with running back Chris Johnson.
• To wit: Tennessee currently ranks last in run EPA (-18.1), run EPA/P (-0.19), and second to last in run success rate (31.2%).
• Matt Hasselbeck, meanwhile, is averaging 7.3 adjusted yards per pass -- third only to Aaron Rodgers (8.0) and Tom Brady (7.9).
• Unfortunately for the Titans, much of the passing success has been due to the presence of Kenny Britt (16.5 EPA, 0.63 EPA/P, 11.1 YPT), now on the IR.
• Still, Hasselbeck managed an 8.8 YPA last week, targeting four difference receivers at least four times.

Green Bay at Atlanta | Sunday, October 09 | 8:20pm ET
Four Factors

• The attentive reader will note that this is a rematch of an NFC Divisional playoff game from last year, one which the Packers won, at Atlanta, despite being seeded sixth (to the Falcons' first-overall seed).
• The attentive reader will, of course, remember that the advanced numbers indicated that Green Bay was the third-best team in the NFL; Atlanta, the 21st-best.
• Per this year's numbers so far, the Falcons actually appear to have declined since last season, ranking 31st among the league's 32 teams.
• Regarding the Packers, their offense continues to excel; the defense, not much.
• To wit: the 7.7 net yards per pass they're allowing is the fifth-worst mark in the NFL.

Chicago at Detroit | Monday, October 10 | 8:30pm ET
Four Factors

• Though not necessarily predictive, the Lions' EPA numbers for and against suggest that they've been the second-most dominant team in the NFL over the season's first four games -- something that their 4-0 record reflects.
• Some of that is likely due to strength of schedule, as the GWP model suggests that they're the eighth-best at the moment.
• One question that their early success might lead us to ask is, "How good is Calvin Johnson, really?"
• Because he's huge and athletic and has a cool nickname and eight touchdowns so far, is one consideration.
• But also, he's accrued just 15.0 EPA so far and a pretty average 0.34 EPA/P and an equally-pretty-average 7.8 YPT.

Table: Pythagorean Record by Expected Points Added
The table below represents an attempt to express each team's pythagorean record using Expected Points Added. To do so, I began by putting EPA (both for and against) on the same scale as points for and against. For each team, I've added their EPA to the product of league average points per team (per game) multiplied by a constant (in this case, 0.86). PTS/g and OPTS/g are points and opponents points per game. EPTS/g and OEPTS/g are EPA points and opponent EPA points per game. Luck is the difference between points and EPA points, where red represetns bad luck; green, good luck. EPW, EPL, and EWIN% are the team's pythagorean wins, losses, and win percentage (with 2.37 as the exponent) using EPTS and OEPTS. WLUCK is the difference between actual wins and EPW, where red represetns bad luck; green, good luck. The Vikings, for example, have likely been the greatest victims of randomness so far; the Packers, the greatest beneficiaries of it.

The Four Factors you see for each game represent each team's performance in four important categories (offensive pass efficiency and run success rate and also opponent pass efficiency and defensive run success rate) relative to league average (where 100 is league average and anything above is good).

Along with the Four Factors, you'll see two other headings: Generic Win Probability (GWP) and Game Probability (PROB). The GWP is the probability a team would beat the league average team at a neutral site. The current GWPs for all teams are available here. The PROB is each respective team's chance of winning this particular contest. Your host, Brian Burke, provides PROBs to the New York Times each week. Those numbers are available (along with methodology) can be found here.

The above games have been chosen as they'll be available to the greatest portion of the network-watching audience, per the NFL maps at

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

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6 Responses to “The Weekly League: Notes and Ideas for Week Five”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Personally although I love this site and am a huge stat geek I am never impressed by attempts to measure a receivers play with stats.

    They control far too little of the play for me to take things like yards per target or EPA/play seriously. A receiver can't control the play call, the audible at the line, the coverage, or the throw. If a guy is double covered on every play but the QB keeps feeding him the ball then of course he's going to have low efficiency numbers, but that doesn't mean he isn't a great receiver.

  2. Carson Cistulli says:

    Anon - You'll get no complaints from me re: any of those points. It's certainly POSSIBLE that Johnson's presence is creating better opportunities for the rest of the Lion receiving corps.

    Nate Silver wrote about a similar concept re: Carmelo Anthony's effect on his teammates' shooting efficiency. Though not particularly efficient himself, Anthony drew so much attention defensively, that his teammates were generally getting better looks.

    (Here's that piece:

  3. Martin says:

    Am I reading the table wrong, or is the Manning-lees Colts the 4th unluckiest team? (I would argue THE most unlucky, but thats's a different argument)

  4. Anonymous says:

    The Anthony article is interesting. Too bad it's problematic to do such analysis in football.

    Nate Burlesons SR and YPT are much higher this year than his career averages (especially his SR), but that's not particularly convincing by itself.

  5. Simon says:

    I'm a little confused by the numbers for the Tennessee - Pittsburgh game. How come Tennessee has a below average chance of winning the game if their GWP is higher than Pittsburgh's?

  6. Carson says:

    Simon -- That difference is attributable to home-field advantage. It doesn't show up in the WP graphs, but it DOES show up in the weekly probabilities.

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