Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘NFC East’

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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NFL Week 7: What an interesting two weeks for the NFC East

Posted by silentarchimedes on October 19, 2008

The NFC East Teams

The NFC East Teams

When the New York Giants jumped out to a 4-0 record and was proclaimed the best team in the NFL, many Dallas, Redskins and even Eagles fans quickly screamed, “Woah, Nellie, hold the horses!”. After all, the only team they beat that was remotely any good was the Redskins. The defeats of the Rams, Bengals and Seahawks were expected and thus the Giants deserved no credit for the wins. The ‘Skins were 4-1 and hadn’t lost since the opening mess against the Giants. They were a different team now. They beat the Cowboys and Eagles. And the Cowboys, also 4-1,  claimed that they at least had beaten the Eagles. Even the  2-3 Eagles fans said they hung tough with the Cowboys to barely lose 41-37 and beat the Steelers 15-6. To the rest of the NFC East, they sounded as if the Giants, at 4-0, is the worst team in the division or at the very least hadn’t proven anything.

Rams beat two NFC East teams

The Rams beat two NFC East teams the last two weeks

Look what has happened in just the last two weeks. The Cowboys lost to both the Cardinals  (30-24, OT) and Rams (34-14). Teams they were expected to beat. The same Rams that had already been destroyed by both the Giants (44-6) and Eagles (38-3). What happened to giving the Giants no respect for beating them? The Rams game was most disappointing considering they were down 21-7 by the end of the first quarter and never really put up a fight. Although some fans might pin the loss on backup QB Brad Johnson and his 3 INTs, the truth of the matter is the rest of the team simply didn’t help him or put up a fight at all. With the Cowboys at 4-3 instead of a possible 6-1, there’s now rumblings of missing the playoffs! The same team that almost everyone picked to be in the Super Bowl this year!

The Redskins also didn’t fare much better the past two weeks. They also lost to the supposed horrible team, the Rams, 19-17 and then eked out a 14-11 win against the Browns. A last second 54 yard field goal  attempt by the Browns barely went wide or the game would have gone into overtime. This was the same 1-3 Browns team that exposed the Giants on Monday Night last week.

The Eagles were off this weekend, but they also almost lost to a bad team last weekend. They were down 26-17 at the end of the third quarter to the lowly 2-3 49ers, before piling on 23 points in the fourth quarter to win 40-26. The problem was it wasn’t really the Eagles that won it in the fourth, but the mistakes of 49ers’ QB JT O’Sullivan, who had two INTs and a lost fumble in the fourth quarter alone.

Not to be outdone by their NFC East counterparts, the Giants also have had a rough two weeks. After having a chance to go up two games on the loss column to their nearest competitor in the division if they’d only beat the 1-3 Browns on Monday night, they came out listless and confused in front of a national audience. They were exposed on both sides of the football and lost 35-14. After that loss, many division rival fans proclaimed victory that they were right, the Giants ARE horrible. What they failed to acknowledge was that the Browns are not the 1-3 team coming into Monday night. There were high expectations for them before the season began. Could it be that they were finally playing up to par? The fact that they also played the Redskins tough this weekend shows they are at least a decent team. However, the Giants also played a mistake-filled game against the 49ers today. Once again it was the 49ers penalties and mistakes by O’Sullivan that greatly helped the Giants win the game.

NFC East Standings (courtesy of ESPN)

NFC East standings after week 7 (courtesy of ESPN)

So what to make of the NFC East after seven weeks? After five weeks, the division was easily the best in the NFL. However, the division collectively went 3-4 the past two weeks, where the three wins were of the lucky and ugly varieties. This also proves something that I’ve been defending with the Giants all season to the other rival fans. The ease of a schedule makes no difference if you can’t beat the easy teams. The fact that the Giants did beat easy teams should not be held against them. A win is a win. In essence they were already giving the easy wins to their own teams even though those games hadn’t been played yet. Once some of them were played, we saw the Cowboys lose to the Rams, the Skins lose to the Rams, and the Eagles almost lose to the 49ers. Additionally, a team’s record after 5 weeks is not always indicative of how good a team really is. A 1-3 team can also mean the team is playing under its potential and could play to its ability on any given Sunday, a la the Browns. Another example is the 0-2 Giants last year who ended up winning the Super Bowl.

There is plenty of football left in the season. Any of the NFC East teams have the ability to go on a run to claim the division title. All we know at this point is that the Giants are in first at 5-1, the Skins in second at 5-2, the Cowboys at 4-3, and the Eagles bringing up the rear at 3-3. One game at a time.

By virtue of their records and points differential (+69 to +12), I give the edge to the Giants as the best team in the NFC East right now. However, with the Giants at tough Pittsburgh and the Redskins at Detroit the NFC East leaderboard could change after next weekend.

1. Giants (Steelers, 5-1, away)

2. Redskins (Lions, 0-6, away)

3. Eagles (Falcons, 4-2, home)

4. Dallas (Bucs, 4-2, home)

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Who is a better quarterback? Eli Manning or Tony Romo? Three words… Jeter versus A-Rod.

Posted by silentarchimedes on October 13, 2008

Tony Romo

Tony Romo

This whole debate about who is a better quarterback, Eli Manning or Tony Romo, can be summed up with three words, Jeter versus A-Rod. One is quieter, more professional, goes about business, and wins when it counts. The other is flashy, puts up big numbers, all over the gossip news for questionable reasons, and has issues with winning the big games. In the end, who do you want on your team? The former, the one that wins when it counts. All the other stuff is irrelevant if he cannot carry the team when it counts. That’s why Jeter will always be revered by Yankee fans, and A-Rod seen as an outsider. That’s why Eli will be loved by coaches more than Romo.

In essence, just like A-Rod, until he carries the Yankees to a World Series championship and he is named the MVP or he makes an amazing play that is the catalyst for a championship, he cannot be compared to Jeter. Similarly, until Romo can carry the Cowboys to a championship, something that the team historically is good at, then he cannot be compared to Eli. Who cares how good he is in the regular season. It is a wasted season for the Cowboys anytime they make the playoffs and cannot win. Look at John Elway and Michael Strahan. Their legacies were completely solidified when they finally won championships for their teams. They were both integral parts of those teams.

Eli Manning

Eli Manning

A championship win does tremendous things to the public perspective of the athlete and to the athlete himself. Before the Giants amazing playoff run last year, Eli was seen as a mediocre QB compared to Romo, and many others in the league. He was seen as someone who belonged in the NFL but would not be able to lay a finger on his much better QB brother, Peyton Manning. After Eli’s leadership and performance throughout the playoffs, and his 4-0 start to lead the Giants this season, many people now argue that Eli is a better QB than Peyton. What has changed so quickly? Well, for one thing that championship. For another, Eli is a much more confident player. Athletes need confidence. When they start doubting their ability to do well, it will show up on the field. The elephant will simply grow bigger and bigger.

One last thing. To say that the Giants easy schedule makes them undeserving of a 4-0 record and number 1 ranking is absurd. To say that Eli is doing well because he has played against horrible teams is absurd. Simple reasons. If it was that easy, then the Patriots should have gone undefeated last year at 19-0. If it was that easy, then the Cowboys should not have lost yesterday to the Cardinals. If it was that easy, the Redskins should not have lost to the Rams yesterday. The same team that Redskins and other NFC East fans ripped on the Giants for beating. If it was that easy, the Eagles should not have been so close against the 49ers until the end of the game. In the NFL, you have to beat the teams that you should be beat. Simple as that. Otherwise, you are making excuses.

Note: The poll below has been “compromised” by Tony Romo fans trying to justify that he is a better quarterback than Eli Manning. The count before the “compromise” was 9-1 in favor of Manning. After the compromise, the count was 1005-9, in favor of Romo. So simply subtract 1004 from the Romo number (until another compromise occurs). I think most of us agree that Romo is a better quarterback, but until he wins some playoff games, he won’t be in the same class as Roethlisberger and Manning. I don’t even think Romo was drafted in any of the first few rounds, unlike the other two who were drafted in the first round.

Note: Well, well, well, the Eli Manning fans strike back. His count was hacked on June 1, 2009. Please subtract 50 from his count. Eli has taken the lead though after Romo tied it up for a while.

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