2014 NFL Pythagorean Strength of Schedule

Even before the 2013 NFL Season came to its anti-climactic close, we were already set for the 2014 Season. We still don’t know dates or times of any matchup, but we know every team’s opponents  for the 2014 Season.

From that data, some have already used 2013 win/loss records to determine each team’s strength of schedule for the 2014 Season. According to the results, the Oakland Raiders have the toughest schedule and the Indianapolis Colts have the easiest.

However, winning percentage isn’t a great predictor for how good a team will be the next year. A better one is a team’s “Pythagorean Projection.” The basic idea is that a team’s points scored and points allowed are better indicators of how that team will do the next year than the team’s winning percentage.

Maybe a team had a great (or terrible) record in close games. Maybe a team recovered a very high (or low) percentage of their fumbles. Maybe a quarterback recorded a crazily high (or low) interception rate thanks to the sure hands (or butterfingers) of opposing defensive backs. These stats tend to regress towards the mean the next year, implying that luck plays a bigger role in the outcome of football games than we might think. (Bill Barnwell explains with evidence here. Go to “Football’s Pythagorean Theorem” further down the page.)

So, here’s the 2014 NFL strength of schedule using Pythagorean “Expected Wins” instead of Games Won. Continue reading

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The Least Self-Aware Place on Earth

Welcome to the NFL, the least self-aware place on Earth.

Where billionaires can secure hundreds of millions of dollars from the general public, despite emerging evidence  that the economic benefit of new stadiums to the community has been grossly over-exaggerated. Enjoy the $10 beers, Minneapolis.

Where there’s somehow still a team named after a racial epithet in fucking 2013. Tradition!

Where the NFL’s glacial approach to concussion research is defended or minimized. As long as it happens to other people, “they knew the risks.” Except when they don’t.

Where apparently enough people haven’t shot themselves in the head yet to take mental illness, concussions, or the costs of macho culture seriously.

Where a 3.2 year average career does nothing to change a culture so thoroughly infused with testosterone that thoughtfulness, reflection, and safety are perceived as weaknesses.

Where we regularly castigate players for stupidity and criminality while ignoring Art Rooney’s potential tax evasion, Jimmy Haslam’s fraud allegations, and Zigi Wilf’s racketeering. Here, Zigi, have my tax money! It’s in good hands.

Where society’s rules and norms simply don’t apply. Getting involved in the death of another human being might lead to the Hall of Fame, a broadcasting gig or maybe just another team. Drunk driving? Maybe a month suspension. Don’t sweat anything else.

Where announcers praise our military service-members, gravely reminding us that football is “just a game,” yet can’t make it ten minutes without talking about players “going to war,” “the battle in the trenches,” or “gridiron warriors.” And do it without the slightest trace of irony.

Of course, cherry-picking a bunch of individual stories isn’t especially indicative of anything. Taken together, it’s pretty clear that my title is incorrect. Maybe the NFL is the most self-aware place on Earth, and we’re all being played for suckers.

I guess I’ll keep throwing money at the NFL and hope I find out.

Prodigal Son

This was almost a triumphant story. 37.2 seconds away. Then 23.9 seconds. Then 19.4. 7.9. Then it was gone.

This was almost a story of a young man abandoning a place where he grew up. Going off to the greener pastures on the other side of the fence. Then, having a change of heart, returning to great fanfare and celebration.

Almost.

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90’s basketball was the best. The Admiral swatting shots away. Shaq destroying backboards. Hakeem Olajuwon’s “Dream Shake.” The Glove to the Reign Man. Mt. Mutombo’s wagging finger. Stockton and the Mailman. And of course, Air Jordan, Pip, and the Chicago Bulls.

Has any sport been as loaded with awesome nicknames?

Has any sport been as loaded with all-time greats during a decade?

Has any sport ever been so compelling? Continue reading

Causation

The Sandy Hook Shooting made me think about guns, children, mental illness, the Bill of Rights, violent video games, and an assortment of related topics. I’ve also been thinking about collective guilt and the NFL. Concussions, suicide, premature deaths, and my role as an avid football fan have been weighing heavily on my mind since the death of Junior Seau, the first casualty whom I can remember watching play. I also play video games with violence and explosions. (Yay!)

While these topics might not seem connected, all three have led me to the same place. Our society’s glorification of violence doesn’t cause violence. It’s an effect. We glorify violence because, at heart, we are a violent people in a society that values violence. Continue reading