Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘ESPN’

Point differential a telling statistic in the NFL

Posted by silentarchimedes on December 16, 2008

On November 3, I wrote a blog comment on ESPN‘s Matt Mosley’s NFC East blog article Rapid Reaction: Steelers 23 Redskins 6 :

“What this game has shown is that the Redskins have actually been very lucky with their six wins. Simply look at the point differential. They have scored 171 points but have given up 168! That 3 point differential usually means a .500 record. The Eagles even have a +76 pt diff. The division leading Giants have a +97. The Cowboys have a -3. Seems like the Redskins are closer to the Cowboys. I’d have to say the Eagles are 2nd best in East now. Both Eagles and Giants beat the Steelers, while Skins got destroyed.”

The Redskins were 6-2 before losing to the Steelers. Redskins fans attempted to deride my analysis as simply a Giants fan hating on the resurgent Skins. One fan even said “I think you’re crazy man.” However, ever since my comments, the Redskins proceeded to lose four of their next five games and now sit in last place in the NFC East with a 7-7 record. Their point differential is now a horrible -35. Let’s look quickly at the rest of the NFC East:

NFC EAST W L T PCT PF PA PT DIFF since Nov 3
z- NY Giants 11 3 0 .786 374 246 +128 +31
Dallas 9 5 0 .643 332 288 +44 +47
Philadelphia 8 5 1 .607 369 273 +96 +20
Washington 7 7 0 .500 231 266 -35 -32

Point differential is a very telling statistic of how good a football team is. Although the saying “A win is a win is a win” is true, how well you win or how bad you lose a game provide clues into the momentum of a team. Point differential captures the spread between the strength of the offense’s ability to score points and the defense’s ability to limit points. It also captures the ability of the special teams to do both as well. When a good team consistently maximizes this ratio, the point differential steadily increases and builds over the course of the season.

How telling is the statistic? In 6 of the 8 divisions in the NFL, the division leader has the best point differential. The AFC North, where the Ravens (+112) have a tiny edge on the division leading Steelers (+110) is basically a tie. The only division where this is  not true is the AFC West, where the Broncos -40 leads the Chargers +44. In 7 of 8 divisions, the cellar team has the worst point differential. Once again, in the AFC West, the Raiders -143 is worse than the cellar Chiefs at -132. It is the teams in the middle, where their inconsistency in winning give true meaning to “Any Given Sunday.” Division leaders and bottom feeders do not strongly abide by that saying because they consistently win or lose.

I am surprised that ESPN does not have point differential as a column statistic. The NFL website does. Since point differential is a derived statistic, (Points for – Points Against), ESPN’s thinking is that there does not need to be a column for it.

Patriots flying high

Patriots flying high

So, what team had the greatest point differential in a season since the16-game season was instituted in 1978? Yup, you guessed it. The 2007 16-0 New England Patriots, whose +315 was 127 more than that year’s second place Indianapolis Colts’ (+188) and 413 more than the AFC East’s second place Buffalo Bills (-102). The next team with the best point differential since 1978 were the 1999 St. Louis Rams, whose +284 led to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl. Which team had the worst -274 point differential since 1978? The 1981 2-14 Baltimore Colts. The 1990 1-15 Patriots had the second worst point differential with -265.

Point differential is now used extensively in the NBA because of how telling it is. The amount of games in a season and points in a game in the NBA coupled with the consistency of the players and plays provides a more predictable environment. However, good teams and bad teams in the NFL also prove year in and year out that point differential is also a good indicator of the strength of a team.

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Why NFL diva wide receivers and Olympic sprinters are the same breed

Posted by silentarchimedes on October 30, 2008

Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens

There has been all this talk about talented NFL receivers that are headcases for their team or the NFL. This year it has been about Chad Johnson and his Ocho Cinco name change, or Terrell Owens and his tears for Romo and complaints about playing time, or Plaxico Burress and his lack of time management and suspensions. In previous years, it has been about Randy Moss and his “I play when I want” or Joe Horn and his cell phone celebration or Michael Irvin and his complaints. The list goes on and on. Many people don’t understand this “me above the team” mentality. However, I think many times their outward confidence and look at me mentality is closely intertwined with their ability to succeed and make remarkable plays. To understand why, simply look at the  brethren of wide receivers, Olympic sprinters.

Both professions require an inner and outer confidence in order to succeed. Both require an almost cocky persona that transcends team sports. Sprinters are divas at a much greater scale than NFL receivers because they are the epitome of individual sport, the divaness can quickly reach an uncontrollable level. There are no constraints from team members or coaches to control their “me first” attitude. Look at Michael Johnson and his golden shoes. Look at Usain Bolt and his “staring at the cameras too early” or dancing. Look at Maurice Green or Donovan Bailey.

Usain Bolt - 100m world record holder

Usain Bolt - 100m world record holder

There is something about speed that is exhilarating, from car racing to supersonic jets to horse racing. But when the speed is the natural speed of humans, this brings a completely different feeling of freedom and power that person feels. The runner feels invincible and for that particular moment feels free from all that drags him down in the world. When he consistently runs faster than everyone he competes against, this invincibility and confidence increases in strength. When he breaks the world record, he is on a stratosphere that no other human has ever been on. He IS invincible. He is Superman.

Similarly with wide receivers, once they realize that they are playing among boys, the cockiness increases. Once they see themselves week after week being lauded on ESPN for their highlight catches or game changing plays, they start feeling that same invincibility. They feel that they are above the team; that the team needs them more than he needs the team. For most receivers, this invincibility has  been forming since the days of high school and college football. However, most of them also are greatly tested and humbled in their early NFL years. But to a few, like Moss, Chad Johnson and T.O., their natural talents quickly carried over to the NFL. The invincibility continued to grow without a hitch.

Faster than a speeding bullet

Faster than a speeding bullet

What one will notice is that the divaness in football and sprinting only exists at the cream of the crop. It is only at this level where the public and especially the team’s fans are willing to look the other way. This is especially true in sprinting, because it’s an individual sport. Although there is public pressure against divas at the mid-level talent of receivers and sprinters, the main reason that divas don’t exist at lower levels is more of a natural reason. The biggest fear of receivers and sprinters is failure.  Tyson Gay in the 2008 Olympics is a good example. His fear of failing in the 100m and 200m due to recovering from a  quad injury left him lacking in confidence and staring at defeat. He looked like a beaten man, even though the entire world still saw him as one of the elite sprinters. He had no confidence and no invincibility and therefore, the look at me attitude became a “don’t look at me” attitude. It is also this fear of failure that leads many sprinters to seek questionable methods to maintain or achieve that invincibility. The prevalence of performance enhancing drugs in sprinting was confirmed by the numerous convictions and suspensions of high profile sprinters, such as Tim Montgomery, Justin Gatlin, Ben Johnson, and Marion Jones. Similarly with receivers, if they have no confidence in beating a cornerback or making a catch, they prefer to stay quiet until they make some big plays.

Receivers and sprinters without the invincibility

Receivers and sprinters without the invincibility

Since we do not expect Olympic sprinters to change their “me, me, me” attitudes, it is somewhat unreasonable to think that just because that breed of athlete plays in a team sport, that the divaness will not exist. Many of the receivers were track stars in high school or even college and they have already tasted the feeling of invincibility from God-given speed. From a team first mentality, this attitude is obviously a distraction and curse. However, there will always be a breed of them. The fall from invincibility of wide receivers can be a very  humbling experience. Many successful diva college wide receivers become quiet support pieces in the NFL, if they even make it in the NFL. Even one time NFL divas can become humbled. Randy Moss without Tom Brady is a skeleton of his old self. He has lost his invincibility and desire to attract public attention. This is the key to controlling the divaness. The receivers need to know that unlike sprinters, their invincibility is highly contingent on someone else, their QB. If they do not recognize that, and they still cause a problem, then it’s time for the team to move on without them. One perfect example of this was T.O. and Donovan McNabb of the Eagles. The Eagles did the right thing by trading T.O. after his public disdain of his QB brewed over. Now that T.O. is in understanding that Tony Romo makes or breaks him, then his divaness and crying is at least acceptable, although a distraction, to his own team and Cowboys fans. As long as wide receivers and sprinters perform, the divaness can be somewhat acceptable. The difference is when they falter. When a sprinter falters, he solely takes the agony of defeat. However, when a wide receiver falls from grace, his teammates, his coaches, and the fans also feel strongly the agony of defeat.

On a quick note, just look back to the days of playground football when you were a kid. What were the two positions you always wanted to play? Either quarterback or receiver. If you have the speed, being a receiver and making amazing catches was a sense of invincibility, freedom and flying.

Update – December 01, 2008

It’s amazing what has happened in the few short weeks since I wrote this article. Chad Johnson was suspended by the Bengals for a game due to team policy (unspecified). T.O. finally complained to the media that in order for the Cowboys to be successful, they have to be more like the team of 2007. In other words, give him the ball more. And, how can we forget Burress “accidentally” shooting himself in the thigh at a nightclub and facing possible felony weapons charge. Unbelievable.

Update – December 12, 2008

Finally, T.O. and QB tension. I was wondering how long that honeymoon between Owens and Romo was going to last. Today, reports are surfacing that Owens is “jealous” of Romo’s close friendship with TE Jason Witten and that Romo passes to Witten even when Owens is open because of their friendship. Then Owens  proceeds to say that Romo and Witten secretly meet to plan extra plays! Hahaha! Make it 3 for 3 on Owens and his QBs.

High school background information:

Randy Moss – Won the West Virginia high school state championships for the 100m and 200m as a sophomore.

Plaxico Burress – Was a national semifinalist in the 400 intermediate hurdles at 52.6. Won the state 300 intermediate hurdles title at 37.6 as a senior.

Terrell Owens – Lettered four times in track in high school. Anchored the 4×100 sprint team his senior year at University of Tennessee – Chattanooga.

Related Link:

What’s going on with the NFL wide receivers brat group?

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