- Amazing Sunday
By Brian Burke
Here are my quick hit observations on week 17 of the 2013 season.
-Tony Gonzalez played his final game. Automatic Hall of Famer. Gonzalez had 8 of the top 30 seasons worth of EPA for any TEs in the database, which goes back to 1999. In his final year, he led all TEs in both WPA and EPA.
-Cam Newton led his team to a 1st round bye. He is a very good QB, but gets far too much credit for a team with one of the best defenses and a solid running game. He squeaked by a beat-up Falcon team by a point with just 4.0 EPA and 0.09 WPA for the game, but I keep seeing him lauded by pundits all over tv.
-CAR's win means NO won't be in the dome but will be on the road in PHI for their first playoff game. Should be a fun one.
-CIN's defense is very strong, even without its best player. When Geno Atkins went down injured, I thought they'd lost their lynchpin. Apparently not. The efficiency model has been very high on CIN all year, much higher than the pundits. In my book, the second best team in the AFC behind DEN.
-IND doesn't seem to scare anyone without Reggie Wayne.
-How about a little consideration for Gus Bradley for Coach of the Year? He took that roster to 4-3 after the Jag's bye.
-The DET-MIN game was the only one that didn't either involve the playoffs or the 1st overall pick. Both teams sat their best player.
-HOU was up early against TEN, and WAS had no chance against NYG. It looked like HOU may be on their way to blowing the 1st pick, but salvaged the loss. It goes to show that losing a single game is too painful in the NFL to take a dive.
-By the end of the game, ARI and SF had little to fight for, but kept going hard. Anquan Boldin may have made the difference for BAL this year. He led the league in both WPA and EPA both by a large margin among all WRs this season. Amazing football player and heavily underrated.
-Aaron Rodgers totaled +1.20 WPA in his return game. That's a lot, in case you're wondering. It basically means he won the game single-handedly, two and half times over. Rogers averaged +0.15 WPA per game over the past 8 games, and he didn't play in 7 of them. +0.15 WPA/G alone would put him 12th in the league.
-The big question in the GB game was McCarthy's decision to kick the XP down by 2 with about 11 min to play. The WP model says it was right at the break-even point, needing a 47% chance of success to be worth it. That's right at the league average. But with the CHI run defense and Eddie Lacy running well, the decision probably breaks toward going for the 2-point conversion. My own instincts tell me the model may not have the precision needed for the decision. The distinction between being down by 1 and down by 2 at that point in the game requires CHI to score 2 FGs and then GB scoring a TD to make the difference. It's such an improbable scenario, I can't believe it's worth that possibility to pass up the opportunity to tie the game.
-Even at 8-8 I think BAL over-performed their talent. I have to give the coaches and team a lot of credit. But BAL's offense is just plain awful. They're historically bad in the running game and their deep passing game didn't pay off like it has in years' past. The efficiency model (and a lot of other metrics) were very down on BAL all year. Even when they held position for the wildcard, the model thought it was MIA's to lose.
-And it was MIA's to lose, and sure enough, they did lose it. An hour into their game today, they had an 80% chance of getting a playoff berth. Then the bottom fell out. A half our later, it was at just above 30%. And it just dropped from there. Heartbreaking day for MIA fans.
-SD's game was truly epic. The big decision was the 4th and 2 from SD's own 28. The fake punt was a questionable call. I would have punted. Here's how it breaks down. A success keeps the game in the '1st possession' state and gives SD a 0.56 WP. A failure gives the ball to KC in sudden death with a .83 WP (which is 0.17 for SD). Punting gives KC the ball at their own 32 in sudden death, worth 0.42 WP for SD. The math works out so that the break even success probability is 64% for the fake. That's pretty risky. The league average conversion for 2 yards to go for conventional scrimmage plays is under 60%. Risky call, but it worked out for the Chargers.
-PIT fans were on quite a roller coaster all day. They've got plenty to gripe about. If they had pulled of the playoff berth, it would have been just short of a miracle.
-DEN and SEA took care of business as expected. With Peyton Manning breaking records left and right this year, I get pelted with questions about things like, who was the last QB to score so and so many TDs in such and such a season...? This isn't Advanced NFL Trivia. That's not what I do.
-The playoff probability widget worked great all day. Thanks to everyone for passing the word. It made for an especially fun companion for watching Red Zone. I was worried MIA would run away with the win and nobody would care. Turns out that wasn't an issue. Unfortunately, the data feed froze with 2 min to play in the SD-KC game, but oh well. At that point, we didn't need numbers to tell us what was going on.
Here's the graph of the day:
published on 12/29/2013