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THE ARCHIVES (2018-Part 2)

QC's Week 8 Thoughts

Hue Jackson certainly qualified for termination, given that Browns current play design differential (-3.53%) is well within the "firing zone." But his failure was hardly all his own fault. In his first draft, Cleveland's neophyte personnel department passed on Carson Wentz, Joey Bosa, Zeke Elliott and Jalen Ramsey and picked Corey Coleman, who is already out of the NFL. In 2017, they traded for Brock Osweiler rather than drafting Pat Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. And in 2018, new management brought in prickly Todd Haley, which hardly reduced Jackson's stress level. Jackson was a well-qualified candidate in 2016. Its doubtful he lost the football knowledge that made him so in the last 2 years. He hung in there and handled an uprecedented amount of failure with dignity. Given the abject 1-31 failure under prevous management, he was doomed the moment the Browns enountered the next patch of extended adversity. In hindsight, it probably would have been better if owner Jimmy Haslam had moved from Jackson before the start of 2018. Notwithstanding Cleveland's recent losing streak, the Browns are improved this year. They likely have hit rock bottom and are on the first rung of the ladder of ascent. Success growth in the NFL is never easy. But the next Cleveland HC will enter an environment more conducive to such growth than Jackson entered when he came aboard in 2016.


The two hottest teams in the NFL right now are Seattle and Houston. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has exceeded 10 QCYPA in his las3 games (all wins SU and ATS). The Texans have won 5 straight as their pass coverage has improved considerably and Deshaun Watson has regained his pre-kee injury rookie form. Seattle has 6 of its last 9 games at home and the Texans only face two positively designed teams the rest of the year, the Eagles and the sagging Jaguars. Both these teams should be in the playoffs at year end.


Kansas City beat Denver 30-23 to move to 7-1, but failed to cover the 10 points it was laying. That ended a streak of 11 straight regular season ATS covers. No NFL team is streakier than an Andy Reid team. With a visit to Cleveland to face the suddenly leaderless Browns, it would seem that the league's most efficient team should have no trouble starting a new ATS streak. But caution is advised as Reid is as capable of going an extended period without covering as he is covering.

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Week 8: Best Bets

If the Chargers could have kept the Titans out of the end zone on fourth down in the last seconds of their game in London and if the Bears' WR Kevin White could have fought his way 1 more yard after catching Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game against the Patriots, Week 7 would have been a stupendous success. Still, any time you win 2 out of the 3 from the bookmaker, it is a great week.

1. Buccaneers +4.5 over Bengals (MGM Mirage)
The Buccaneers are the 11th best designed team in the NFL, but -9 TO. When their pass protection has limited opposing pass rushers to 10 sack yards or less, Tampa Bay is infinitely productive (QCYPA > 10) as receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, and Chris Godwin are hard to contain. Cincinnati's pass rush has been anemic (-.244 sack yards lost per pass attempt). Without any QB disruption against Kansas City, the Bengals were shelled for 45 points. At Paul Brown Stadium, QB Andy Dalton has gone from good (against the Ravens) to average (against the Dolphins) to below average (against the Steelers). Cincinnati is at its best when RB Joe Mixon gets 20 or more touches. But teams rarely run on the Buccaneers becasue the Tampa pass defense is so bad (9.241 D-QCYPA). Like last week against Kansas City, it hard to see Dalton and his teammates keeping up in shootout, so OC Bill Lazor should feature Mixon and wait for Bucs QB Jameis Winston to self-destruct. But the hunch here is Lasor will not have the patience to do so. The bettors seem to agree as the number is on the move and down to +4 at most Las Vegas sports books, but MGM Mirage is still dealing +4.5 as this is being written.

2. Browns +8.5 over Steelers (Westgate Superbook, William Hill, Stations)
These teams battled for 5 quarters to a tie in Week 1. That Browns team, with Tyrod Taylor at QB, posted 3.3 QCYPA. With Baker Mayfield at QB, the Browns' QCYPA is 6.6. In other words, Cleveland on average is now twice as efficient on offense than the team that played toe-to-toe with Pittsburgh, and it is still catching 8.5 points. Why? Well, the media has created a lot of drama from HC Hue Jackson's post-game press conference after the Browns lost yet another OT heartbreaker last week to Tampa Bay. Pay no attention to that. It is true that at -3.32% play design differential and in the bottom 5 on the "Worst Coached List," Hue Jackson is well within the "firing zone" where NFL HC lose their jobs at the end of a season. But post-game press conferences are mandatory. The media asks questions. The HC answers the questions. It means nothing to what will happend this Sunday. What matters is what the coaches do in the design phase and how the players execute on the field. The Steelers D yields on average 23 first downs per game. That's pretty soft and QC thinks with Mayfield under center Cleveland will sustain offense in this game much better than it did in Week 1. In addition, the Browns lead the NFL with 20 takeaways. They have received at least 2 TO subsidies in every game but one (a blowout loss to the Chargers). There is no reason to think that Ben Roethlisberger, who can be counted on to make a few head-scratching throws per game, will be the QB to suddenly shut off the TO faucet. The Browns have some terrific young D-line talent in Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, and Emmanuel Ogbah. They should penetrate and cause troube for Big Ben. On defense, the Steelers live and die with their pass rush. When they generate less than 16 sack yards, they are 0-2 ATS. When they generate 16 or more sack yards, they are 3-1 ATS with the one being the Week 1 tie in Cleveland. Mayfield has lost at least 16 yards on sacks in every game he has started, albeit 3 of those 4 games have gone to full overtime. If he can minimize the losses and keep the Browns on schedule, Cleveland has a good chance to pull the SU upset. This game reminds QC of the way bookmakers approached Jacksonville against Pittsburgh in 2017. Last year, the Jaguars beat the Steelers in the regular season by forcing 5 Pittsburgh TOs. Still, when they returned in the playoffs to face the Steelers, bookmakers made Pittsburgh a 7 point favorite. Jacksonville received 2 turnovers and won SU. Cleveland is not yet at 2017 Jacksonville's level (and their special teams are a real concern), but the Browns now are better than the Browns of Week 1 and should be able to cover this number. Most books are dealing +8 as this is being written, but the Westgate Superbook and William Hill are offering +8.5.

3. Panthers +2.5 over Ravens
This game opened pick before Baltimore moved to the favorite. QC would make the line pick. The Ravens winning percentage is .250 when Joe Flacco throws 40 or more passes and Baltimore has been able to crack 100 yards rushing in just 2 of its last 6 games (and in one of those it took a full OT in Cleveland). Carolina has held 3 of its last 4 opponents under 100 yards rushing and the one that topped the century mark, Washington, runs the ball more frequently than any other team in the NFL. Baltimore's pass defense is the best in the NFL, but the unconventional Panthers running game led by QB Cam Newton and RB Christian McCaffrey leads the NFL in yards per carry at 5.2. Unless one team splurges TO subsidies, this should be super close game.

4. Packers +9.5 over Rams
After playing 7 games, there are three NFL teams who still sport infinitely productive play productivity: the Rams, Chiefs and Chargers (on bye). Since 2009, only one NFL team still was infinitely productive after playing 7 games: the 2016 Falcons. That team hosted ... wait for it... Green Bay, and won 33-32. QC thinks the Pack's meeting with the Rams in LA likewise will be a shootout. Green Bay QB Aaron Rogers should be able to keep up as WRs Davonte Adams and Geronimo Allison should be ready to go. The Packers defense has been a roller-coaster, stingy one weak and flimsy the next. The calendar is pointed to stingy this week and LA has only subsidized opponents with 6 giveaways this year, so QB Jared Goff and company may be due to produce some turnovers. Goff, Todd Gurley et al. have shown no chinks in their armor and it is unlikely they can be stopped. But Rogers' QCYPA exceeds 7.7, which actually is much higher than it has been the last few years. And nobody is deadlier in the red zone than Rogers. With all of that, the +9.5 point subsidy looks like a great value.

Last Week: 6-3
Season: 28-16-2 (.636)

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QC's Week 7 Thoughts

QC's 10th Commandment is "all statistics sometimes lie." The Carolina Panthers are a great example. When play design differential statistics are released later this week, HC Ron Rivera's team is sure to be listed amongst the 10 worst coached teams in the NFL (-2.37%) despite a 4-2 record and a rousing 21-17 comeback win over the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles. Carolina is unconventional. The Panthers win by winning the TO battle (+1 against Philadelphia), excellent kicking and special teams (Graham Gano made a 63-yard field goal to beat the Giants), explosive runs (a league leading 5.2 yards per carry, including Curtis Samuel's 14-yard TD run against the Eagles), and a unique QB, Cam Newton, who is a combination passer and 260-pound power back inside the 10-yards line. Without even one of these elements, winning in the NFL with a negative play design differential would be difficult. But, for Carolina, this approach works. When you see Ron Rivera on the "worst coached" list, you should think "unconventional," not "bad."


A big part of Carolina's success is its positive turnover ratio. The volatility in turners is well-known. In 2017, Cleveland was an NFL worst -28 TO. This year, the Browns are an NFL best +10 TO. On the other side of coin, Jacksonville was + 10 TO in 2017, but this year the Jaguars are -12 TO after subsidizing Houston with 3 more turnovers in a listless 20-7 loss to the Texans, which have won 4 in a row to take the lead in the AFC South after an 0-3 start that had many wondering if HC Bill O'Brien would be the first HC fired in 2018.


Dallas HC Jason Garrett was hearing plenty of criticism for the second time in three weeks after the Cowboys lost in Washington, 20-17, when K Brett Maher's potential game-winning field gold clanged off an upright. Critics thought Garrett was too timid on the final drive and should have attacked the Redskins defense more aggressively after Cowboys' QB Dak Prescott had led his team on frantic Q4 rally. Three weeks ago, Garrett was criticized by not only the public, but also by owner Jerry Jones, for punting late in a loss to Houston. Why does Garrett (and other coaches) seem to shrink when the moment appears to call for throwing caution to the wind?


Maybe Garrett's reluctance to embrace risk is in part physical. Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an intereting article called The Biology of Bravery--and Fear. According to the article, researchers have found that when confronted with life-threatening situations (like defusing a bomb or fighting off armed robbers), the brain's amygdala takes over. While making a decision in an NFL game does not literally present a clear-and-present threat to survival, the researchers also found brain cells called OLM neurons and, by manipulating those cells in laboratory mice, the researchers were able "to dial up a mouse's willingness to venture into unexplored areas and tamp down its indications of anxiety, even when smelling a cat." Of course, the 2 TO (including a fumble that the Redskins returned for a TD) and a perplexing last-second illegal procedure on the Cowboys' long-snapper contributed to Dallas' loss at least as much as anything Garrett did or did not do. And science, as yet, has not figured out how to manipulate turnovers and perplexing officials' decisions out of the professional football environment.

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Week 7: Best Bets

Things are going your way when Brock Osweiler steps in at the last minute and leads a second half comeback cover. If QC could have acted more quickly and grabbed Cardinals +10.5 (instead of the +10), the 5-2-1 week would have been even a little better. But that's not a complaint. We will take 5 out of 7 every week. Week 6 was QC's fifth profitable week this season. (Only the 0-5 Week 4 disaster has been out of hte money.)

1. Chargers -6.5 over Titans
This is another game in London where one team comes in surging and the other comes in wobbling. LA has thumped a pair of teams in the Bottom 10 in play design differential the last 2 weeks (Oakland and Cleveland). Tennessee has the 11th worst play design differential and was physically manhandled last week by Baltimore. Chargers QB Phil Rivers has tossed 15 TD passes already and LA ranks No. 5 in the NFL in play design differential and is +3 TO. LA also rank No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards on first down (582 yards) and ranks No. 1 in the NFL in explosive runs, as RBs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekkeler and company have broken off 34 runs of 10 yards or more. Special teams are always a concern with the Chargers and the Titans excel in that area. But if the bookmakers are not going to require more than a one score for LA to cash a ticket QC is going to take them up on it.

2. Bears +3 over Patriots
Chicago wilted in Florida heat and humidity yielding 118 of the 161 rushing yards it surrendered in the second half and overtime. Prior to meeting the Dolphins, no opponet had rushed for as much as 75 yards against the Bears. It is important for Chicago to get back to its old run-stuffing ways because New England's resurgence has coincided with the emergence of rookie RB Sony Michel (and 3 straight home games). On the other side of the ball, Chicago QB Mitch Trubisky did nothing in the first half in Miami and then led 4 TD drives in the second half. Don't expect the peaks and valleys to go away or become less severe with Trubisky, but QC does think he can have success against New England running HC Matt Nagy's designs. Nagy's former boss, KC's Andy Reid, seemed to have receivers running free throughout the Patriots' secondary and if Pat Mahomes's accuracy had not been a little off in the first half the Chiefs might have hung 60 points on the Patriots. Look for Nagy and Trubisky to have success against the New England D, which ranks 31st in the NFL in pass pressure (-2.30 sack yards lost per attempt).

3. Panthers +4.5 over Eagles
Philadelphia looked a lot more like its 2017 Super Bowl self in spanking the Giants. QB Carson Wentz was efficient (8.361 QCYPA), tossed 3 TD passes, and was TO-free. The defense stifled Eli Manning and everyone else on New York except rookie RB Saquon Barkley. With RB Christian McCaffrey, Carolina ranks No. 8 in the NFL in explosive runs of 10 yards or more. The Panthers have failed to cover this year when Cam Newton has thrown 40 or more passes, so Carolina needs to get the lead so it can try to run the ball and force Wentz and the Eagles to take risk in an effort to catch up. Philadelphia's defense has forced just 6 TO so it is reasonable to expect that Carolina (+2 TO) will bounce back from a -3 TO performance against Washington and at least keep this game close.

4. Texans +4.5 over Jaguars
In 5 of Houston's 6 games, the difference has been a field goal. In the other game, the Texans lost by 5 points to the Giants. So it seems unlikely that the punchless Jaguars are suddenly going to discover enough offense to blow Houston out. Since RB Leonard Fournette hurt his hamstring, Jacksonville's offense has fallen apart. The Jaguars have run the ball just 17.5 times per game in their last 2 games and committed 7 TO. To try to fix the problem, Jacksonville acquired RB Carlos Hyde from Pittsburgh today. Blake Bortles ranked 21st in the NFL in pass attempts last year (32.9 per game), but he currently ranks No. 8 (39.5 per game). That's too many passes for Bortles so Jacksonville needs Hyde to contribute immediately. Houton's offensive line has struggled all year, but QB Deshaun Watson is elusive and tough and 40.8% of his passes result in first downs, which moves the chains and ranks No. 4 in the NFL. The Texans also rank No. 7 in the NFL in explosive pass plays (passes of 25 yards or more). Put all this together and it looks like another close game that could go either way by a field goal.

5. UNDER 41.5: Redskins vs Cowboys
QC is 2-1 picking Washington to the under and with no Drew Brees in sight this looks like Redskins game made in under heaven. Washington is the stingiest team in the NFL committing just 4 TO while Dallas is tied for fifth (just 6 TO). The Cowboys rank No. 2 in the NFL in rushing frequency (47.5% of plays) while the Redskins rank No. 9. Washington ranks No. 3 in the NFL in time of possessiona and No. 31 in big plass plays (passes of 25 yards or more) and Dallas ranks No. 25 in big pass plays. If this game goes according to form, it should easily stay under hte 41.5 point total. QC is 7-2 to the under in 2018.

6. Rams OVER 30.5 and
7. OVER 52: 49ers vs Rams and
8. Rams -9.5 over 49ers

Jared Goff and LA are averaging better than 10 QCYPA and are infintely productive, simultaneously replacing every down they use to pass with a fresh first down (on average). Since 2009, four infintely productive teams have entered Week 7 of an NFL season. In all of those games, the infinitely productive team scored at least 30 points. In 3 of those games the total touched or exceeded 60 points. LA HC Sean McVay relied primarily on the running of Todd Gurley last week, but in the 4 pior games Goff exceeded 10 QCYPA. He should do so again against San Francisco's poor pass coverage, which has yielded 14 TD passes to lesser competition. LA is averaging 32.7 points per game and San Francisco is averaging 24.7 points per game. Given those figures, this total looks like a great bargain, particularly next to the 58 total that bookmakers have hung for the Kansas City vs. Cincinnati game. Under these circumstances, laying the 9.5 points is a good hedge against Kyle Shannhan's 49ers being out of gas after a 30-point effort last Monday in Green Bay.

9. Chiefs -6 over Bengals
Andy Dalton's 6-14 SU record in primetime is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Bengals problems. Cincinnati ranks No. 28 in the NFL in time of possession, which means Kansas City's explosive offense should be on the field more than usual. Against New England, the Chiefs had the ball for just 23:51 and still put up 40 points. If KC gets the ball for the 31:26 that Cincinnati opponents' average, it seems likely Pat Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, et al. will go for 40 points again. The Bengals also will be without LB Nick Vigil, who sprained his MCL against the Steelers. Vigil had improved this year to an above-average LB according to Pro Football Focus. He might be missed more than expected, particularly in defending the multi-dimensional Hunt. Mahomes has not been sacked in 3 of 6 games this year and the Bengals failed to record a sack last week against statuesque Big Ben Roethlisberger. For the year, Cincinnati ranks 30th in pass pressure (-.262 sack yards lost per pass attempt).

Last Week: 5-2-1
Season: 22-13-2 (.629)

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QC's Week 6 Thoughts

Watch out for Seattle when it comes back next week after its bye. The Seahawks are only 3-3, but they thumped Oakland convincingly, 27-3, in London before taking holiday. Moreover, HC Pete Carroll's team now ranks No. 4 in the NFL in play design differential (+3.76%). Many so-called experts expected Carroll's team to go over the cliff this year. But with 6 homes games and 2 of their 3 road games at San Francisco and Detroit, Seattle looks like it should be in good position to claim one of the NFC's Wild Card spots.


Kansas City RB Kareem Hunt is quickly becoming one Bill Belichick's least favorite players. Although the Patriots outlasted the Chiefs, 43-40, Hunt ran for 80 yards and caught passes for 105 yards and a TD. In Week 1 of 2017, Hunt torched Belichick's defense for 148 yards rushing and a TD and 98 yards receiving and 2 TDs. The Patriots LBs simply cannot match up with Hunt in the passing game and Hunt has too much power for nickel and dime defensive designs.


Here's an amazing stat: Tennessee runners averaged 3.93 yards per carry running forwards in the Titans 21-0 loss to Baltimore. Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota averaged 4.4 yards per carry running backwards from the Ravens defense, which sacked him 11 times. Overall, 12 NFL teams averaged fewer yards per rush than Mariot loss on average to Ravens' sacks.


Cleveland finally ran out of gas. Prior to facing the Chargers, the Browns had played 3 full OT periods in addition to 5 full games, including OT in their last 2 games against Baltimore and Oakland. Under these circumstances, it was not a surprise to see HC Hue Jackson's team gasping for air against a quality team like LA, which improved to 4-2 and No. 5 in the NFL in play design differential (+3.61%).

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Week 6: QC's Best Bets

QC rebounded from a dismal Week 4 (0-5) to post a profitable Week 5 (3-1). Hat tip to New Orleans HC Sean Payton for a masterful game plan in the Monday Night Football demolition of Washington (43-19). Saints QB Drew Brees set the NFL record for career passing yardage in the game. There is no way Brees sets that record without the innovation provided by Payton. We're on to Week 6.

1. Cardinals +10 over Vikings
It seems most everyone but QC thinks Minnesota will blow out Arizona, although a little Arizona money has knocked 1/2 point off the opening line. The Vikings beat Philadelphia on the road in Week 5 to stay in the race in the NFC North. But all there problems are far from cured. Most notably, Mike Zimmer's pass coverage has been uncharacteristically dreadful. And Minnesota still cannot run the ball a lick (although the expected return of RB Dalvin Cook may help in that area some). QB Kirk Cousins and WR Adam Thielen have been magnificent, but Arizona's pass rush and coverage has been quite good the last 3 weeks and don't count on it to just diappear suddenly. If rookie QB Josh Rosen can get a little time, he probably can have some success and gain some confidence against the Vikings' suspect coverage. Rookie WR Christian Kirk is a big-play ready to happen as he showed on a 75-yard TD catch last week. Minnesota probably will have to turn Rosen over 3 or 4 times to cover this number. So far Rosen has provided just 1 TO in 2 starts. QC thinks this will be a much closer game than many others are expecting.

2. Dolphins +3.5 over Bears
and 3. UNDER 41.5 (no parlay)

Except for going supernova in New England, Miami's defense has been stingy, allowing just 13, 12, 20 and 13 points. (The Dolphins' offense and special teams have given up 21 points.) LB Kiko Alonso, who intercepted Bengals' QB Andy Dalton last week, is the kind of cagey veteran who can give a young QB like Chicago's Mitch Trubisky fits in pass coverage by making himself scarce and then suddenly materializing. It is hard to find any impressive statistics that define Miami, but they (usually) scrap and hang around. The last time we saw him before the bye, Trubisky looked amazing against Tampa Bay, tossing 6 TD passes. But he only threw 2 scoring passes in the previous 3 games. And Chicago HC Matt Nagy seems to have forgotten that RB Jordan Howard is a heckuva power runner. On defense, the Bears stop the run (64 yards per game) and drop the passer (-.796 sack yards lost per pass attempt). So Dolphins' QB Ryan Tannehill has his hands full. QC expects Trubisky to be closer to his early season form than the form he flashed against the Buccaneers and for this to be low-scoring game that Miami stays in with gadget play designs from HC Adam Gase and OC Dowell Loggins and good special teams play (return man Jakeem Grant has returned a kickoff and a punt for TDs already).

4. Seahawks -3 over Raiders
The Seahawks have found a RB in Chris Carson. HC Pete Carroll's team pouned the Rams last week for 190 yards on 32 carries in a game Seattle just barely did not win. With Carson and the ground game in high gear, QB Russell Wilson and his teammates have played TO-free football for 3 straight games. Seattle's record is only 2-3, but the Seahawks are overachieving and should be in thick of the NFC Wild-Card race until the end of the year. The same cannot be said for HC Jon Gruden's underachieving Raiders. The Chargers' Phil Rivers shredded Oakland's miserable pass coverge (9.294 D-QCYPA and 10 TD passes allowed). QB Derek Carr and the offense have played only one TO-free game all year and have subsidized opponents with a pair of turnovers in each of the last 3 games. This is a neutral site game and QC likes betting games in Old England only a little bit less than betting visiting teams in New England. But the struggles of teams like Oakland usually are amplified by a trip to London. QC will lay the points and will be surprised if the solid Seahawks do not cruise over the fragile Raiders.

5. Cowboys +3 over Jaguars
and 6. UNDER 40.5 (no parlay)

Dallas QB Dak Prescott has been catching flak for his passing, but Prescott had been adequate in 3 of the last 4 games and he rarely turns the ball over, especially at home where the Cowboys are 2-0 SU (1-1 ATS) this year. The Giants and Lions averaged only 18.5 rushes per game in games at Jerry World and Jacksonville may stuggle to exceed that figure with all the injuries it has sustained at RB. Jaguars' QB Blake Bortles has regressed without a thumping run game to lean on. Bortles can be patient and let the game come to him, but when he is not bad things--TOs-- happen. After a dreadful performance last week in Kansas City, QC expects Bortles to be on his buttoned down best against the Cowboys' nasty front 7. That means he will minimize risk-taking and settle into a battle of punting attrition and hope that the Jaguars D creates a big play that can be exploited. Don't expect many turnovers under these conditions, which makes the under attractive even at a the low number of 40.5 (it opened at 42). The game probably will be decided by which teams makes a big play or two on offense and QC thinkgs that team will be Dallas and the Cowboys will up their home record to 3-0.

7. Ravens -2.5 over Titans
and UNDER 41 (no parlay)

When these teams met in Week 9 of 2017, Tennessee was a 5-point favorite and came away with a 23-20 win. Now the Ravens are a little less than a field goal favorite. Money on the home dog has driven the number down to -2.5 from -3. Last year the teams slugged it out until mid-way through Q4 when Titans' QB Marcus Mariota drove Tennessee 75 yards in 9 plays for the clinching TD. This game probably will look a lot like the last one with precious little offense and equisite field goal kicking by Baltimore's Justin Tucker and Tennessee's Ryan Succop. The Titans have tossed just 4 TD passes and posted 6.440 QCYPA. That is unlikly to improve against the Ravens' best in the NFL pass coverage (5.714 D-QCYPA). Baltimore QB Joe Flacco threw 52 times last year in the loss and after the loss last week to the Browns his winning percentage when attempting 40 or more passes is now .250 since 2013. So it behooves Baltimore HC John Harbaugh to get his running game going or turn over Mariota so that he can limit Flacco's pass attempts. This game is unlikely to be a masterpiece, but Flacco is a consistent performer who usually bounces back with an above-average game after a below-average performance like the one last week in Cleveland. Thus, QC likes the Ravens to win a low-scoring game by a field goal.

Last Week: 3-1
Season: 17-11-1 (.607)

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QC's Week 5 Thoughts

It is pleasing to see Paul Romer win the Nobel Prize for Economics today. As most people who read this site or follow the @QuantCoach twitter account know, coaching statistics are based on Professor Romer's seminal paper, Endogenous Technological Change. Here is a link to QC's original paper based on Professor Romer's theory: Quantifying NFL Coaching: A Proof of New Growth Theory. Here is a detailed summary of Professor Romer's accomplishments. As the summary states, Professor Romer won the prize for his work on the "non-rival nature of ideas." In layman's terms, this means ideas can be copied and reused. The book that is referenced in the summary, David Warsh's Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations, mentioned that Professor Romer said he never "traced a specific piece of knowledge" to see if his theory held up in the real world. So QC took up the challenge to if a NFL plays--specific pieces of knowledge that can be copied--would hold hold up. As QC tracks his 10th NFL season using Professor Romer's Nobel Prize winning theory, his conclusion is: The theory holds up in the real world.


You can find evidence of Professor Romer's theory in the work of others too, although he has never cited. For instance, @footballperspective has started tracking "passing first down percentage." Remember, when a team makes a first down, it is making a copy (the first down) of the resource it is consuming (the down used to make the first down). Whether he knows it or not, this resarch has its roots in Professor Romer's Nobel Prize winning theory. Thus, it is not surprising that the initial research indicates that teams who excel at passing first down percentage tend to be successful even when they are below average in standard completion percentage and vice versa. Teams that excel at first down completion percentage are copying resources inexpensively. Teams that excel in standard completion percentage also may be doing so (if they are also exceling at passing first down percentage), but it is not a given.


Professor Romer's theory also has made an appearance in at last one other sport. In 2010, Professor Brian Skinner's The Price of Anarchy in Basketball won the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference paper competition. Professor Skinner's paper saw basketball as a network problem similar to the network problem that Professor Romer saw in the line for a chair lift at a ski slope. As the detailed summary mentions, economists Tyler Cowen and Amihai Glazer wrote a comment about Professor Romer's paper about the chair lift, which sparked Professor Romer to rethink non-rival ideas and led to his theory for which he received the Nobel Prize.

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Week 5: QC's Best Bets

0-5. Bill Parcells said, "You are what your record says you are." That stings. QC screwed up in just about every way imaginable in Week 4. Bet against the Patriots at home off a loss? Check. Math error? Check (Sorry, Buccaneers fans, infinite productivity minus your defense allowing infinte productivity is zero, not infinity productivity. Obviously, there are no math majors from Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater Beach following QC.) Missed field goals? Check (The Seahawks and Cardinals combined to miss 4 field goals in game in which the over missed by 1.5 points). Fail to get the best of the number? Check (QC advised jumping on the Chiefs at -4.5 because he thought the number would go to -6. It went to -3.5.) Neglect the infalliable X-ray vision of NFL central command? Check (Al Riveron needs to hook QC up with his optometrist.) There is nowhere to go up but in Week 5.

1. Browns +3 over Ravens
A lot of folks seem to be in love with Baltimore, which has won back-to-back games over respectable opponents (Denver, Pittsburgh). Joe Flacco has looked good in both games. But here is the thing: It is the first time Flacco has ever won two consecutive games in which he has attempted 40 or more passes. Moreover, since 2013, Flacco is 8-23 SU (.258) in games in which he has attempted 40 or more passes. He is averaging 43.75 passes per game this year because the Ravens' ground game is pretty anemic (averaging less than 80 yards rushing per game in the last 3 games). On the other side of ball, Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield's play in his first start at Oakland was uneven. But since taking control of the offense, Mayfield has generated 6 scoring drives that consumed at least 6 plays and at least 39 yards. That might not sound like much, but what it means is that the Browns can SUSTAIN offense. Sprinkle some sustained offense on the home field advantage, some turnovers Myles Garrett and the Cleveland defense have been creating, and a solid kicking game and you have a recipe for an upset against an opponent coming off a huge divisional road win (Pittsburgh) and looking ahead to another road game at a divisional leader (Tennessee).

2. UNDER 39: Bills vs Titans
This game should be positively Neanderthalic. Tennessee has rushed the ball on 47.8% of its plays, No. 2 in the NFL. Despite all that effort, the Titans rank just No. 26 in explosive runs (>10 yards). Tennessee also ranks No. 26 in explosive passes (>25 yards). Buffalo ranks No. 25 in explosive runs and No. 24 in explosive passes. Moreover, Bills QBs, primarily Josh Allen, lose -1.322 sack yards per pass attempt. It is nearly impossible to sustain offense while going backward at that rate. Buffalo's pass defense has played better the last 2 weeks, yielding just 1 TD pass apiece to Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rogers. Disregad the Bills' stunning upset of Minnesota, which was aided by +3 TO, and Buffalo is averaging just 7.7 points per game. Disregard special teams and overtime TDs and Tennessee is averaging just 13.75 point per game. 13-7 sounds about right here.

3. OVER 41: 49ers vs Cardinals
QC is going to be stubborn about this one. Arizona is 4-0 to the under this year, but they should have gone over the total last week when Phil Dawson and Seattle's bike-shorts wearing K Sebastian Janikowski combined to miss 4 field goals. This total is just 2.5 points higher than last week. And San Francisco's defense is simply awful when it is not DeForest(ing) [Buckner] QBs. Cardinals RB David Johnson should enjoy his best game of the year and that should open throwing lanes for rookie QB Josh Rosen and receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, and Ricky Seals-Jones. Most of the reviews of Rosen's first start were positive and he does not lack for confidence. That should lead to increased production ... and maybe some turnovers. Nobody designs offensive plays better than San Francisco HC Kyle Shannahan. He can make QB C.J. Beathard effective against most defenses. Thanks to Shannahan's design, TE George Kittle averages 17.6 yards per catch, FB Kyle Juszczk averages 15.3 yards per catch and RB Matt Breida averages 7.6 yards per rush. A few big plays and a few more turnovers (the 49ers had 2 last week in a loss to the Chargers) should be plenty of fuel to generate at least 42 total points.

4. UNDER 52.5: Saints vs Redskins
Is this total heaven? No, but it is under heaven. Washington runs the ball more frequently (49.3%) than any other team in the NFL and throws the third shortest passes (footballs originating in QB Alex Smith's hand travel on average just 6.3 yards in the air). For good measure, the Reskins rank No. 28 in explosive pass plays. New Orleans is not much more electric in many areas. Drew Brees, who failed to throw a TD pass last week against the Giants, has thrown the 6th shortest passes in the NFL (6.7 air yards per attempt). Meanwhile, the Saints rank No. 6 in first downs from rushing and No. 8 in rushing yards on first down. Now, HC Sean Payton welcomes RB Mark Ingram back from a 4-game suspension. Washington has given up the least rushinig yards in the NFL on first down, but opponents average 4.5 yards per try on first down. So QC expects Payton to try to run on Washington in order to keep his highly suspect pass defense off the field. Six of New Orleans' last 8 games in the Super Dome have finished under 52.5 total points.

Last Week: 0-5
Season: 14-10-1 (.583)

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QC's Week 4 Thoughts

Tampa Bay and Miami were exposed as impostors in 45-10 and 38-7 losses to Chicago and New England, respectively. The Buccaneers' play design differential decreased by -6.98% and the Dolphins' differential decreased by 4.15%. The season is just at the quarter pole, but those still are huge single week moves for teams that had already played 3 games.


Cleveland suffered some questionable (to say the least) calls in a 45-42 OT loss at Oakland. But the Raiders were better designed and +2 TO. A couple of missed field goals by Oakland's new K, Matt McGrane, helped the Browns considerably. Notwithstanding the result, it is hard to see Cleveland's future as anything but bright. There will still be some growing pains, but it is nearly certain that days of hoping the team can compete are in the past. From here forward, expect the Browns to be a tough out for every other NFL team.


Speaking of missed field goals, hope you were not on the OVER 38.5 in Seattle's 20-17 win over Arizona. That game featured 4 missed field goals, the bane of favorite and OVER bettors everywhere.


The "4DN Pharisees" were at it early in Jacksonville when Jaguars HC Doug Marrone was furthering his reliance interest and getting what his team put into it by kicking field goals to end drives. Ultimately, Jax pounded the Jets, 31-12, and Marroune rubbed it in a little with a 2-point PAT late in the game. However, by that time the 4DN Pharisees as moved on.


After the Falcons lost 37-36 to the Bengals, HC Dan Quinn said, "We're a good team and our record does't show it at this point." Coaching stats mostly agree with Quinn's assessment. Atlanta's +6.36% play design differential ranks No. 6 in the NFL and its +2 TO is just fine. But Quinn forfeited a win Week 1 by failing on 4DN and not payhing his team for what they put into it and the Falcons suffered a momentum turning blocked punt two weeks ago against the Saints. Atlanta could easily be 3-1 instead of 1-3.

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Week 4: QC's Best Bets

QC's straight bets were a perfect 4-0 last week, but the exotic plays on the Jaguars (parlay) and Chargers +7 did not come through. We won't chase anything fancy in Week 4 or, as QC calls it, "Belief Revision Sunday." After 3 games, there are 4 NFL teams that are infintely productive: LA Rams, Buccaneers, Dolphins and Chiefs. Since 2004, there have never been more than two infinitely productive teams after Week 3. The Rams are looking like it at halftime against the Vikings. QC will be looking to the other 3 to carry his card in Week 4.

1. Buccaneers +3 over Bears
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick morphed back into Ryan FitzPICKtrick for a quarter last Monday night (3 interceptions), but he still almost rallied Tampa Bay to a victory, falling just short against Pittsburgh, 30-27. A team that is efficient as Dirk Koetter’s Buccaneers are at the moment is never out of a game. TE O.J. Howard has developed into a monster, particularly when he is in the slot (according to Pro Football Focus). Tampa cannot run the ball, so they don’t even try. But that might good against the Bears. Chicago has yet to give up more than 74 yards rushing in a game, but their pass coverage has been vulnerable to shock plays. On offense, the Bears’ passing game is prehistoric. Under QB Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago’s player productivity (2.18) is barely above the JaMarcus Cable. On the other hand, Tampa’s player productivity is as infinite as its 11.820 QCYPA suggests. Since 2009, 10 teams have come into Week 4 infinitely productive. 8 won in Week 4. The two that lost had big trouble with pass protection. In 2010, the Giants sacked Chicago's Jay Cutler 9 times and knocked him out of the game. In 2015, the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger did not even make it to kickoff. A knee injury kept him out againt winless Baltimore. The Ravens sacked backup Mike Vick 5 times and won 23-20 in OT. Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd (-.899 sack yards lost per game) can get after QBs. If they can do that here, the Bears’ have a chance. If not, the Bucs should have no trouble winning SU and ATS.

2. Dolphins +7 over Patriots
Of all the problems New England has, its biggest are up front on defense. Opposing teams are averaging over 30 rushes per game against the Patriots. Teams that run the ball 30 or more times in a game usually win. Miami HC Adam Gase is a guy who likes to run the ball. The Dolphins did not do that much last week against Oakland because they fell behind. But if they can get to the lead or stay even with New England, Gase will try to sock it to Bill Belichick with Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore running behind his big tackles, Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James. On offense, Tom Brady’s QCYPA is a replacement level 6.670 and that includes a game against Houston’s soft coverage. The Dolphins pass coverage in the field has not been anything to celebrate (7.5 D-QCYPA), but the Dolphins have yielded just 2 TD passes in 3 games. This game looks a lot like 2014 when New England limped into a home game off an embarrassing prime time loss (41-14 to the Chiefs) and met a surging undefeated opponent (the Bengals). But at that time, the bookmakers made the line pick 'em. QC won’t be surprised if the Patriots win this game and get back into the race in the AFC East. But there are too many deficiencies in New England to lay a full 7 points against a team that has played as well Miami has for most of the year.

3. Browns +2.5 over Raiders
Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield could not ask for a softer defense to face in his first NFL start. The Raiders pass coverage (9.076 D-QCYPA) collapsed at Miami and the pass rush (-.239 sack yards lost per pass attempt) has been even more anemic than the numbers indicate. Mayfield looked great in rallying the Browns to victory against the Jets. He did everything but throw a TD pass. QC thinks he will throw a few this week because he has all the skills that should make him effective in the red zone and Cleveland is averaging over 30 rushes per game. Such a strong commitment to the run should create throwing lanes for Mayfield. QC will get Browns TE David Njoku back in his fantasy line up and look for him to grab a scoring pass. On the other side of the ball, Oakland QB Derek Carr seems to have forgotten how to throw TD passes. He has only 2 so far in 2018. Red zone effectiveness was Carr's strength early in his career, but it just has not been there this year. The Browns defense has created 11 TOs and allows just 6.701 D-QCYPA. As long as Cleveland consumes the turnovers and their Baker does not serve up turnovers, Hue Jackson should get a win in his return to Oakland where he was HC in 2011.

4. OVER 38.5: Cardinals vs. Seahawks
Arizona turns to rookie QB Josh Rosen. It will not be easy. Seattle has two of best safeties (Earl Thomas and Bradley McDougal) in the NFL (per Pro Football Focus) and a tremendous MLB (Bobby Wagner). Last week HC Pete Carroll's pass rush sacked Dallas QB Dak Prescott 5 times. Yikes. Seattle's defense has forced 3 TOs twice and 2 TOs in its other game. TOs lead to points and QC will be surprised if Rosen does not subsidize Seattle with at least 2 TO. On offense, the Seahawks blocking looked much better last week against Dallas' nasty front. RB Chris Carson and friends piled up 39 carries. They will average better than 2.9 per try versus the Arizona front. With a lead and commitment to the run, QB Russell Wilson was solid (7.769 QCYPA and a TD pass). The Cardinals can generate some pressure but nothing like Seattle saw the first 3 weeks versus Denver, Chicago, and Dallas. And the Arizona pass coverage has been leaky (8.381 D-QCYPA). Look for the Seahawks to enjoy their first 30 point game of the season and Rosen to generate a first half score and a score or two in garbage time.

5. Chiefs -4.5 over Broncos
Nobody likes to play a road favorite. Home underdogs are 10-3 so far in 2018. And in the second half of Week 3, you could see the Chiefs blisteringly efficienct offense coming back to reality a little bit. QB Patrick Mahomes has yet to encounter any significant adversity in 2018 and "Whatever Stadium at Mile High" is a less than ideal place for any QB to break in coping skills for the first time. So many bettors will be looking to the Broncos in this matchup. But one who will not is QC who will respect the Andy Reid Streak for at least one more game. The Chiefs' offensive design has been so precise that Mahomes usually only has the ball for a few seconds. The result is a measley one TO and miniscule -.118 sack yards lost per pass attempt. If Denver is going to keep up with KC, Von Miller and company are going to have to increase those figures significantly. The Broncos' got to Russell Wilson in Week 1, but it has not done much since then and the pass coverage has been below average (7.981 D-QCYPA). When Denver has the ball, QB Case Keenum will have to be better to keep Chiefs' DC Bob Sutton from focusing on rookie RB Royce Freeman. Keenum hasn't thrown a TD pass in his last 2 games. If Keenum can mix effective passing and Freeman running to control the clock and Miller can bring the heat on Mahomes, Denver will have a chance to win SU. QC just doesn't think all of that can come together at once and Kansas City will win SU and cover its fourth in a row.

Last Week: 5-2
Season: 14-5-1 (.737)

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