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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2017 NFL Preview: Looking at Improvement vs. Regression

***NERD ALERT***

So I was starting my research for the 2017 NFL Over/Under Challenge - Get in on this - only $30! - when somebody on some podcast who's probably smarter than me (proof: I already forgot who) was talking about regression - they said there were two statistics that most often vary from season to season (meaning: hardest to repeat from year to year): Turnover differential and records in close games. I was intrigued.

As American hero, Dr. Steve Brule would say ... Lets check it out!

2015 Turnover Differential:

I went back to 2015's numbers to see if those teams with the best turnover differential did, in fact, regress in 2016. Here are the top 5 teams, with their win differential from 2015 to 2016:

  1. Carolina Panthers: -9 wins
  2. Kansas City Chiefs: +1 win
  3. Cincinnati Bengals: -6 wins
  4. Arizona Cardinals: -6 wins
  5. Tie: Seahawks (Even), Patriots (+2 wins), Giants (+5 wins)
Analysis: Obviously, this set of data is not full proof. However, I see teams like New England and Seattle as the gold standard of the league - the exceptions to the rule - and wouldn't necessarily apply regression theories to either.

Meanwhile, Kansas City ranked 2nd in TO differential in 2015 and T-1st in 2016, which makes sense given their risk averse QB and playmakers like Marcus Peters and Eric Berry on defense. Again, only studying the numbers isn't full proof. Logic still applies.

However, I also see the three most disappointing teams of 2016 on this list - Carolina, Cincinnati and Arizona. Noted. Lets move on...

Here are the bottom 6 teams in 2015, starting with the worst, along with their win differential from 2015 to 2016:
  1. Dallas Cowboys: +9 wins
  2. Baltimore Ravens: +3 wins
  3. Tennessee Titans: +6 wins
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars: -2 wins
  5. Cleveland Browns: -2 wins
  6. Atlanta Falcons: +3 wins
Analysis: Obviously, I included a 6th team because Atlanta took a giant leap in 2016 - along with Dallas, Tennessee and even Baltimore, I guess. Again, not full proof - sometimes teams stay on top or bottom for a reason (BLAKE BORTLES FLASHING NEON SIGN).

2015 Record in Close Games:

Back to the 2015 numbers to see if teams who won a lot of close games in 2015 regressed the next year. The Top 5 teams in terms of Win % in one score games in 2015, along with their win differential from 2015 to 2016:
  1. Carolina Panthers: -9 wins
  2. Arizona Cardinals: -6 wins
  3. Denver Broncos: -3 wins
  4. San Francisco 49ers: -3 wins
  5. Minnesota Vikings: -3 wins
Analysis: This data comes off more conclusively. Many of the disappointing teams from 2016 are on this list - most notably, Carolina and Arizona, who landed on both lists. 

Here are the bottom 5 teams in terms of Win % in one score games in 2015, starting with the worst, along with their win differential from 2015 to 2016:
  1. Cleveland Browns: -2 wins
  2. Tennessee Titans: +6 wins
  3. Dallas Cowboys: +9 wins
  4. New York Giants: +5 wins
  5. San Diego Chargers: +1 win
Analysis: Wow. So the regression theory, as it relates to close wins, was correct in 9/10 cases. Once again, the teams you see show up on both lists were the most extreme cases - Dallas and Tennessee here. You also get the Giants somewhat cancelling out their 2015 TO differential numbers with their record in close games.

So now we've studied the numbers, as they applied from 2015 into 2016. All bubble gum and candy beans. Lets now apply it to the 2016 numbers, heading into the 2017 season.

2016 Turnover Differential:

Top 5 teams...
  1. Oakland Raiders
  2. Kansas City Chiefs
  3. New England Patriots
  4. Atlanta Falcons
  5. Minnesota Vikings
Bottom 5, starting with the worst...
  1. Chicago Bears
  2. New York Jets
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Cleveland Browns
  5. LA Rams
2016 Record in Close Games:

Maybe you looked at the 2015 numbers and don't trust TO differential, but are intrigued by the record in close games regression theory. Here are the top 5 teams in Win % in close games in 2016:
  1. Oakland Raiders
  2. Houston Texans
  3. Miami Dolphins
  4. New England Patriots
  5. Dallas Cowboys
And the bottom 5, starting with the worst...
  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Chicago Bears
  3. San Francisco 49ers
  4. Cleveland Browns
  5. Cincinnati Bengals
Analysis: Teams that show up on both lists: Oakland and New England, in terms of regression, and Chicago and Cleveland, in terms of improvement. Now, logic is screaming at me not to bet against New England nor on Cleveland, which means Oakland and Chicago are the prime candidates here to regress and improve, respectively.

2017 Improvement vs. Regression Rankings

I've gone through and assigned numeric values to each team's ranking in both TO differential and record in close games. In theory, the higher the score - the more likely the team improves in 2017, the lower the score - the more likely the team regresses in 2017.
  1. Chicago - 63 - MOST LIKELY TO IMPROVE
  2. Cleveland - 58
  3. Jacksonville - 56
  4. San Francisco - 55
  5. LA Chargers - 54
  6. NY Jets - 51
  7. Carolina - 46
  8. LA Rams - 46
  9. New Orleans - 43
  10.  Arizona - 42
  11.  Indianapolis - 40
  12.  Cincinnati - 40
  13.  Philadelphia - 40
  14.  Denver - 36
  15.  Buffalo - 33
  16.  Detroit - 33
  17.  Washington - 31
  18.  Houston - 29
  19.  Tampa Bay - 29
  20.  NY Giants - 28
  21.  Tennessee - 28
  22.  Minnesota - 27
  23.  Baltimore - 27
  24.  Seattle - 27
  25.  Atlanta - 22
  26.  Pittsburgh - 19
  27.  Miami - 18
  28.  Green Bay - 16
  29.  Dallas - 16
  30.  Kansas City - 9
  31.  New England - 7
  32.  Oakland - 2 - MOST LIKELY TO REGRESS
Analysis: There's a lot of trash up top and a lot of gold at the bottom, which I guess is what you'd expect when looking at teams most likely to improve vs. regress.

Again, I reiterate, I wouldn't necessarily apply this analysis to the stalwarts (the exceptions to the rule) such as New England, Seattle, and Green Bay and on the other end: Cleveland, Jacksonville and the NY Jets. Although, deciding which teams qualify for this can be tricky: Is Chicago a doormat now? San Francisco? Is Pittsburgh officially a powerhouse? Green Bay? etc.

Once you get past those teams, you see the strong candidates emerge. Granted, we've mentioned Oakland and Chicago as the prime candidates for each category.

***The teams who are primed for improvement in 2017: Chicago, LA Chargers, Carolina, LA Rams, New Orleans and Arizona (I'd also throw in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, personally).

***And the teams who look apt to regress in 2017: Oakland, Kansas City, Dallas, Miami and Atlanta (with nods to Houston and the NY Giants).

We'll see.

CONCLUSION

I'm a nerd. I thoroughly enjoyed gathering all this data. And you should put this article to some damn use and take part in the 2017 NFL Over/Under Challenge - A contest with nearly $1,500 in the pot in its inaugural season and a great way to follow all 32 teams all season long.

His Dorkness

Thursday, September 8, 2016

2016 NFL Predictions

AFC East
1. New England Patriots 10-6
2. Miami Dolphins 8-8
3. Buffalo Bills 6-10
4. New York Jets 4-12

AFC North
1. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4
2. Cincinnati Bengals 8-8
3. Baltimore Ravens 6-10
4. Cleveland Browns 5-11

AFC South
1. Houston Texans 11-5
2. Jacksonville Jaguars 10-6
3. Indianapolis Colts 10-6
4. Tennessee Titans 6-10

AFC West
1. Oakland Raiders 12-4
2. Kansas City Chiefs 9-7
3. San Diego Chargers 7-9
4. Denver Broncos 6-10

NFC East
1. Dallas Cowboys 10-6
2. Washington Redskins 9-7
3. New York Giants 6-10
4. Philadelphia Eagles 5-11

NFC North
1. Green Bay Packers 10-6
2. Minnesota Vikings 8-8
3. Detroit Lions 7-9
4. Chicago Bears 4-12

NFC South
1. Atlanta Falcons 10-6
2. Carolina Panthers 8-8
3. New Orleans Saints 7-9
4. Tampa Bay Bucs 7-9

NFC West
1. Arizona Cardinals 13-3
2. Seattle Seahawks 11-5
3. San Francisco 49ers 6-10
4. Los Angeles Rams 5-11

PLAYOFFS

Wildcard Round
AFC: Patriots over Jaguars, Texans over Colts
NFC: Seahawks over Falcons, Redskins over Cowboys

Divisional Round
AFC: Steelers over Texans, Raiders over Patriots
NFC: Seahawks over Packers, Cardinals over Redskins

Championship Round
AFC: Raiders over Steelers
NFC: Cardinals over Seahawks

Super Bowl
Arizona Cardinals over Oakland Raiders

NFL MVP: Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
Offensive POY: Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Defensive POY: Kahlil Mack, Oakland Raiders
Offensive ROY: Sterling Shephard, NY Giants
Defensive ROY: Su’a Cravens, Washington Redskins

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Historical Look at KU and One-and-Done Players

The ball is tipped. And here we are.

The calendar has flipped from the consequence-free National holiday of Leap Day over to March 1st, marking the unofficially official start to the College Basketball season.

To celebrate, I wanted to do a historical study consisting of the few debatable topics surrounding Bill Self's tenure at the University of Kansas: NCAA Tournament success and one-and-done players.

The premise of this statistical look is simple: Was there a one-and-done player on the roster vs. how did KU fare in the NCAA Tournament? For shits and giggles, as well as a bit of a control group, I threw in another factor pundits often point to when it comes to success in The Big Dance -- senior leadership.

Lets start with Bill Self's first year at KU, the 2003-04 season, which will be referred to as 2004 in this article, for clarity's sake. I've also simplified the following chart to read "Senior" for what I'd consider sufficient senior leadership, and "Freshman" for the presence of a one-and-done player on the roster. If neither are present, I simply put "None." The final number in the chart is how many games KU won in the NCAA Tournament that season.

  • 2004 - None - 3
  • 2005 - Senior - 0
  • 2006 - None - 0
  • 2007 - None - 3
  • 2008 - Senior - 6
  • 2009 - None - 2
  • 2010 - Senior - Freshman - 1
  • 2011 - Senior - Freshman - 3
  • 2012 - Senior - 5
  • 2013 - Senior - Freshman - 2
  • 2014 - Freshman - 1
  • 2015 - Freshman - 1

Another look:
  • NCAA Tournament wins under Bill Self: 27 = 2.25 average wins
  • NCAAT wins with a One-and-done player: 1, 3, 2, 1, 1 = 1.6 average wins
  • NCAAT wins without a One-and-done: 3, 0, 0, 3, 6, 2, 5 = 2.71 average wins
  • NCAAT wins with Senior leadership: 0, 6, 1, 3, 5, 2 = 2.83 average wins
  • NCAAT wins without Senior leadership: 3, 0, 3, 2, 1, 1 = 1.67 average wins

Notes:
  • I declared no senior leadership for a few teams that people might disagree with: 2004 (Jeff Graves), 2006 (Jeff Hawkins + Christian Moody) and 2014 (Tarik Black). I didn't consider any of these players among the top on the team. Also it helped balance out the study.
  • I gave Ben McLemore the one-and-done label for 2013, even though he was technically a second year player, having redshirted the season before.

Statistical Analysis:

Self's most accomplished teams have come equipped with senior leadership and no one-and-done players, reaching the National Championship Game twice out of four such instances, while losing in the Elite 8 and first round in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

Over the last six years, the only time KU's season didn't end in (what I would consider) disappointment was 2012, the one year without a one-and-done. Furthermore, every Bill Self team with a one-and-done player at KU has bowed out to a lower seeded team in the NCAA Tournament.

In fact, throughout his time at KU, Self has only lost to a higher seeded team three times - Georgia Tech in 2004, Michigan St. in 2009 and Kentucky in the 2012 National Championship Game. This serves as both a testament to KU's shortcomings in the NCAA Tournament, as well as how good KU has been in the regular season, earning top seeds year after year (KU's seedings under Self: 4, 3, 4, 1, 1, 3, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 2).

Arguments:

I think it's obvious to say every coach would love to have senior leadership up and down their squad, but that's not really a task that is easily controllable, so case closed on that one.

But what about the recruitment of potential one-and-dones? You may look at this data and already be convinced it's for the worse. Or you may dismiss this data due to sample size and happenstance.

However, at what point do these results become an undeniable trend? Or will it never reach that point, given that a championship team with a one-and-done and no senior leadership would more than likely balance the scales?

For transparency's sake, I've never been in favor of having one-and-done type players, a personaly philosophy dating back to before the beginning of this case study. I had an irrefutable argument up until Carmelo Anthony (or maybe, Gerry McNamara, to be more accurate), a pretty strong case before Anthony Davis, and finally, something resembling a case until Jahlil Okafor last year.

My stance has since lessened slightly, but I still argue those are generational type players, and for whatever reason, they haven't panned out at KU, even including a #1 draft pick like Andrew Wiggins.

But why would that be?

My arguments, outside of the first 1,500 words of this article: 1. It's easier to sustain greatness and build team chemistry with three and four year players. And 2. I don't trust the motives of one-and-done players, who I believe are generally more focused on their draft stock than winning games in March (don't hate the player for this, hate the game).

The initial counter-argument is clear and simple: You never turn down talent. You want the best basketball players you can find and you figure out the rest later. Additionally, the players reaching the NBA are reaping dividends for the program throughout their careers.

Conclusion:

The goal of this article wasn't to sway you one way or the other, but rather to supply the data and the arguments for both sides of what I consider a great debate that is getting more and more interesting over the years.

I wouldn't consider this highly scientific study to be anything conclusive. We're still talking about a small sample size, given the single elimination nature of the NCAA Tournament.

Obviously, the much better barometer of Self's career at KU would be the 11 straight conference titles, one of the more impressive achievements in the history of sports. However, nobody debates the greatness of Self or KU as a regular season titan. The questions begin to surface when it comes to late March.

So the only question that remains now is how the 2016 Kansas Jayhawks, armed with senior leadership and a potential one-and-done player, will affect this debate?

His Dirkness
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