Vince Lombardi

QuantCoach.com

No Monday Morning Quarterbacks

Follow QuantCoach on Twitter

WELCOME to QuantCoach.com, the only site on the world-wide web that provides meaningful professional football coaching statistics. QuantCoach.com's revolutionary coaching statistics are derived from a peer-reviewed and generally accepted theory of competition known as Growth Theory. Veteran coach Bill Parcells once said, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." But Growth Theory teaches us that success "springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking." In professional football, those "recipes" are the plays that coaches design. Simply, QuantCoach.com's coaching statistics separate the contribution of plays to pro football success from the contribution of players.

THE ARCHIVES (2018-Part 4)

SUPER BOWL 53 Preview

New England (-2.5) vs. LA Rams

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: New England 4th; LA Rams 6th
PLAYER PRODUCTIVITY DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: New England 6th; LA Rams 3rd
TURNOVER MARGIN: New England 5th (+10); LA Rams 4th (+11)

0-4

That's QC's record picking Super Bowls involving the Patriots since 2008. As Bill Parcells said, "You are what your record says you are."

Super Bowl 53 does not offer any angle that inspires confidence on either side. The difference in regular season play design differential is a miscroscopic 0.57% (in favor of the Patriots). The difference in regular season turnover differential is a tiny 1 (in favor of the Rams).

At one time, winning the design battle meant winning the Super Bowl. In the first 35 Super Bowls, the team that won the design battle was 33-2. Only the Cincinnat Bengals, who subsidized the San Francisco 49ers with -3 TO in their loss in Super Bowl 16, and the Green Bay Packers, who subsidized the Denver Broncos with -1 TO in Super Bowl 32, won the design battle but still lost the game.

Those days are gone. The Super Bowl has become wildly unstable (and fantastically entertaining).

Since Bill Belichick's Patriots upset the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36, the team that wins the Super Bowl design battle is just 9-8. And the better designed team has lost 4 straight. For the past 17 games, the teams usually have been so evenly matched that the winner is determined by unpredictable, "emergent events" that pop up without first being drawn up on the chalk board--e.g., the holding penalty on Atlanta tackle Jake Matthews that took the Falcons out of K Matt Bryant's field goal range late in Super Bowl 51 or Jacoby Jones' kickoff return for a TD in Baltimore's win over San Francisco in Super Bowl 47.

In other words, expect the unexpected.

For decades, Belichick has been the master of these types of games. Most NFL designers are strictly hunters and usually only succeed when they out-design their opponent. But Belchick is the greatest scavenger in NFL history. The Patriots rarely need to do more than the necessary minimum to win and thus frequently win by giving their opponents enough opportunity to beat themselves.

But in his two years as the HC in LA, the Rams' Sean McVay also has proved adept at scavening victories. In the 11 games in which McVay has been in LA and the better designed team has lost the game, the Rams are 9-2 and have won 8 straight games. That's very impressive in that is shows McVay has wisdom and, more importantly, patience, beyond his years.

With such a muddled picture, QC can do no more than guess. Belichick has won at least 2/3 of his games as measured by just about every metric and he needs this game to achieve that percentage in his 9 Super Bowls. But, buyer beware, there is no conviction backing this pick.

However, the knowledge that one should expect the unexpected in the Super Bowl and the incredible closeness of this matchup does make a few proposition bets attractive:

1) Game Decided By Exactly 3 Points (+375): With such a close matchup and the Patriots Super Bowl history (50% decided by exactly 3 points), this a reasonable approach to hedging whichever side you back.

2) "YES" on Overtime (+700): Again, this is a reasonable way to hedge your side because the teams a perfectly evenly matched. The only overtime in Super Bowl history was a fluke. Extra time was necessary in Super Bowl 51 because New England K Stephen Gostkowski missed a PAT and the Patriots converted a pair of 2-point PATs to equalize before regulation time expired. That is an unconventional path to OT to say the least. The Super Bowl is long overdue for a "normal" OT between two evenly matched teams. According to the Action Newtwork, the OT price is fair compared to NFL regular season games (12% go to OT) and a bargain compared to non-Super Bowl post-season NFL games (18% go to OT). Remember, it took 37 years for horse racing to produce American Pharoah's triple crown. But Justify duplicated it just 2 years later.

3) More Points in Second Half and OT (-145): The Super Bowl is the longest game of the year and a physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting experience. By Q4, defenses are usually gassed. That is even more likely when the game is played indoors.

4) Will any of the halftime performers where a Colin Kaepernick jersey? (-300): NO. QC is not one to back the nonsense props, but this seems like an ATM. After the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" in Super Bowl 38, the NFL undoubtedly includes wardrobe restrictions in the contract for the Super Bowl halftime show. While Maroon 5 will not get paid for the show, that does not mean the contract is free of monetary penalties if any of its provisions are violated. A year ago Variety reported there were rumors that Maroon 5 was having difficulty finding guests to perform because of the way the NFL has treated Kaepernick, which suggests such a contractual penalty might exist.

QC's Pick: New England Patriots ATS and SU

(Archives Home)

 

QC's Conference Championship Thoughts

It is impossible to handicap officiating because penalties or the failure to call penalties are both emergent (i.e., undesigned) and frequently subjective (somebody is telling us what he or she thinks, which may or may not be supported by evidence). The best one can do is recognize that emotion and disruption tend to influence subjective view, particularly when those views emerge in a split-second, and, as a result expect in general that officiating will favor the home team more often than it favors the visiting team. Such was not the case in the 2019 Conference Championships.

In the NFC Championship Game, what looked like clear pass interference on the Rams deep in Q4 was not flagged by officials. Had the call been made, Saints HC Sean Payton could have drained the remaining time leftin regulation and sent K Will Lutz on to attempt short, game-winning field goal. Lutz did boot a field goal to give New Orleans a 23-20 lead, but LA still had enough time for QB Jared Goff put his team in position for K Greg Zeurlein to boot a last-second field goal that sent the game into overtime, where the Rams won, 26-23, on Zeurlein's 57-yard field goal. The "no call" overshadowed the fact that LA did what it had to do the game, most particularly, stop the Saints' running game enough to force Payton to abandon it and control WR Michael Thomas. If LA had not accomplished those objectives, New Orleans' early 13-0 would have ballooned and nobody would be talking about officiating tonight.

The AFC Championship Game featured an officials' call that lacked as much controversy as the no-call in New Orleans contained. Again, deep in Q4, Kansas City appeared to clinch a 28-24 win and a berth in the Super Bowl when Patriots QB Tom Brady threw what looked like his second interception of the game. But Chiefs' LB Dee Ford lined up in the neutral zone, nullifying the turnover and giving new life to a New England drive that ended with a Rex Burkhead TD run to give the Patriots a 31-28 lead. Kansas City QB Pat Mahomes was able to move the Chiefs to an equalizing field goald before time expired, but in OT Brady led another drive that ended in a Burkhead TD run as Mahomes watched helplessly from the sideline. Again, Ford's boner overshadowed the fact that Bill Belchick's team accomlished the objectives it had to accomplish to win. The Patriots jumped to an early lead and controlled the game with their running attack (47 carries) and pressured and sacked Mahomes when he had the ball.

(Archives Home)

 

Championship Round Playoff Preview

AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

Kansas City (-3) vs. New England

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Kansas City 1st; New England 4th
PLAYER PRODUCTIVITY DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Kansas City 1st; New England 6th
TURNOVER MARGIN: Kansas City 6th (+9); New England 5th (+10)

Better designed teams like Kansas City playing at home in the conference championship are 9-0 SU and 7-0-2 ATS since 2008. But there are three wild cards here. First, Bill Belichick in a big game does not need to win the design battle. Indeed, in 4 of the Patriots 5 Super Bowl wins, Belichick lost the design battle. But Chiefs' QB Pat Mahomes turns the ball over a lot less in Arrowhead then on the road so Belichick probably is going to have to come up with something on defense to slow down Mahomes, WR Tyreek Hill, and TE Travic Kelce. Perhaps the second wild card will help: the weather. Originally, meterologists were calling for an arctic blast. But now it looks like temperatures will be in the high 20s with winds below 15 mph. Finally, perhaps most importantly, HC Andy Reid will be without RB Kareem Hunt who averaged 114 yards rushing, 101.5 yards receiving, and 2 TDs per game in his two enounters with New England. Hunt will be missed, but Mahomes still has Hill, Kelce and Sammie Watkins. Belichick will want to get the lead so expect the Patriots to opt to receive if they win the coin toss. If OC Josh McDaniels can get the lead, he will give KC DC Bob Sutton a heavy helping of RB Sony Michel. But no NFL teams starts quicker than the Chiefs at home. If KC gets out of the gate with its usual brilliant burst of speed, Patriots QB Tom Brady will have his work cut out for him. Brady's weapons like Julian Edelman are quarter-milers, not sprinters like Mahomes weapons. Moreover, playing typically from in front, the Kansas City pass rush led by DT Chris Jones and LBs Justin Houston and "Tenacious" Dee Ford have sacked opposing QBs for at least -13 yards in losses in all 9 home games and for -20 yards or more in 8 of 9 home games. Brady and his teammates are 1-4 SU and ATS when the GOAT is sacked for at least -13 yards.

QC's Pick: Kansas City Chiefs SU and ATS

New England (-4) vs. LA Chargers

NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

New Orleans (-3) vs. LA Rams

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: New Orleans 12th; LA Rams 6th
PLAYER PRODUCITIVITY DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: New Orleans 5th; LA Rams 3rd
TURNOVER MARGIN: New Orleans 7th (+8); LA Rams 4th (+11)

New Orleans running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram took a little time to get traction in the Saints 20-14 Divisional Round win over Philadelphia, but in the end proved too much for the Eagles. HC Sean Payton (and OC Pete Carmichael) relies on the ground game and defense now more than he ever has in his tenure in the Big Easy. He will again on Sunday. LA stoned Dallas' Zeke Elliott last week, but gave up more than 100 yards rushing in 9 of its last 10 regular season games. The Saints are 10-3 ATS when their runners top the century mark. Payton will challenge Wade Phillips with Kamara, Ingram and versatile backup QB Taysom Hill and see if Aaron Donald and company can hold up. If they cannot, QB Drew Brees should again be able to work over the LA secondary with Michael Thomas and the rest of Payton's fungible receiving parts. There will be a lot of pressure on Rams' QB Jared Goff to keep up. Goff should have a few moments, but DC Dennis Allen's pass coverage has gotten much better since the last time HC Sean McVay and Goff were in town. Goff had fearless Cooper Kupp in that game, but he is out for the year with a knee injury and it doesn't look like McVay has anyone else who can give him the fearlessness and 5 catches for 89 yards and a TD that Kupp provided in the last meeting. Finally, New Orleans' D started forcing turnovers at a healthy pace late in the season as well playing better pass coverae. The Saints are +5 TO at home and LA has committed 8 TO in its last 4 road games. The Rams are the better designed team, but put it all together and it looks like LA will be hard-pressed to break the 0-6 conference championship game skid that better designed road teams are on. And those losses have been by 6, 38, 34, 2, 31, and 4 points.

QC's Pick: New Orleans Saints ATS and SU.

(Archives Home)

 

QC's (Belated) Divisional Round Thoughts

Better late than never. Was anyone else scratching your head wondering how the Dallas defense could stifle the powerful Seattle ground game in the Wild Card Round and then get shredded for 273 rushing yards by the Rams Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson? After the game, it was reported that LA claimed the Cowboys' D-line was tipping their designs and that the tips were accurate on 90% of the time. Decoding tips is the ultimate in play design. Here is a hat tip from QC to the Rams' coaching staff or whoever cracked the code.


****

New Orleans WR Michael Thomas has been a one-person receiving wrecking crew for HC Sean Payton in many games this year. In the Saints come-from-behind 20-14 win over Philadelphia, Thomas caught 12 passes for 171 yards and a TD. The rest of Drew Brees' receivers caught 16 passes for 130 yards and a TD. In New Orleans' regular season meeting with the Rams, Thomas caught 12 passes for 211 yards and a TD. The rest of Brees' receivers caught 13 passes for 135 yards, albeit 3 of those catches went for TDs. If QC had LA DC Wade Phillips' job, he would have a member of the Rams' secondary greet Thomas as he arrives at the Super Dome and 2 more accompany him to the dressing room and shadow him until he gets back in his car to go home. Phillips and HC Sean McVay simply must make someone other than Thomas beat them.

****

What happened to Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck in Kansas City? Luck came into the game as the best QB in the NFL on the money down, 3DN, converting nearly half of the Colts' 3DN chances. But against KC, Luck was 0-9 on 3DN. Ten penalties on Indianapolis did not help, but Luck's performance still shows that 3DN efficiency is a very volatile state.

****

Phil Rivers gonna Phil Rivers.

(Archives Home)

 

Divisional Round Playoff Preview

No totals picks this week as QC is still recovering from a brutal 0-4 Wild Card Round on totals. The Chargers and Ravens each missed a field goal in a game that went under by 1.5 points. Ouch. But what really stung was Dallas QB Dak Prescott reprising "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" to pick up 16 yards on 3rd down and 14 deep in Q4 in a 24-22 win over Seattle. Without Prescott's (magnificent) effort, the Cowboys would have settled for field goal and it is unlikely the total would not have topped 43.5. It's called gambling for a reason.

AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

Kansas City (-5.5) vs. Indianapolis

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Kansas City 1st; Indianapolis 18th
PLAYER PRODUCTIVITY DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Kansas City 1st; Indianapolis 18th
TURNOVER MARGIN: Kansas City 6th (+9); Indianapolis 13th (+3)

Since 2009, better designed NFL teams playing at home are 18-6 in the Divisional Round (and 3-9 on the road). The Chiefs recipe is simple: Get QB Pat Mahomes, who ranks No. 2 in the NFL in first half passer rating (115), going early and jump to the lead. Over the past 10 years, Mahomes' 9.355 QCYPA has been bettered only by Green Bay's Aaron Rogers in 2011 (Packers were upset 37-20 in Divisional Round by NY Giants) and Atlanta's Matt Ryan (Falcons spanked Seahawks in Divisional Round by near identical score, 36-20). Colts' QB Andrew Luck ranks only No. 24 in first half passer rating (88.7). Getting ahead will take a lot of pressure off DC Bob Sutton's run defense, which has yielded 162 yards rushing per game over the last 5 games. Indianapolis is 5-0 ATS when it runs for greater than 158 yards. Moreover, the Colts average 5.1 yards per carry on rush Nos. 11-20 (No. 4), but only 4 yards per carry on attempts 1-10 (4.0). If Indianapolis falls behind and rushes fewer than 20 times, the advantage will swing to Andy Reid's team as Luck's passer rating is just 64.5 when he is pressured (per ESPN NFL Matchup) and the Chiefs have sacked opposing QBs for at least -13 yards in losses in 14 of 16 games. No HC in the playoffs is getting better O-line play than Frank Reich, so it is likely that Kansas City's only chance to stop Indy is to make Reich and Luck one-dimensional. Even if this happens, expect the Colts to mount a furious Q4 charge. Luck rarely goes away (as Reid knows from seeing a 28 point playoff lead evaporate the last time these two teams met in the playoffs). Compounding that problem is Mahomes is now Reid's leading rusher as a result of the release of RB Kareem Hunt for off-the-field behavior. Hunt provided the four-minute hammer that Reid and Mahomes needed to put teams away. Without Hunt, the Chiefs are 1-4 ATS. For all of those reasons, expect a wild game (unless the weather gets in the way). The result could go in any direction, but QC's best guess is Kansas City hangs on by forcing a late turnover and escapes with field goal win.

QC's Pick: Indianapolis Colts ATS; Kansas City Chiefs SU

New England (-4) vs. LA Chargers

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: New England 4th; LA Chargers 2nd
PLAYER PRODUCITIVITY DIFFERENTIAL: New England 6th; LA Chargers 2nd
TURNOVER MARGIN: New England 5th (+10); LA Chargers 15th (+1)

LA DC Gus Bradley stunned QC last week by coming up with a brilliant defensive design that deployed 7 DBs to stop the run. QC did not see that coming. Neither did Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson or his play designers. As a result, the Chargers moved on with a 23-17 win despite QB Phil Rivers' below average performance. HC Anthony Lynn will need more from Rivers this week, but that might be a problem as Bill Belichick has almost always been able to get the best of Rivers. The LA QB has thrown 1 TD pass in 4 of his last 5 games after throwing at least 2 TD passes in his first 12 games. The Chargers also have committed 10 TO in their last 4 games and no passer except KC's Pat Mahomes has exceeded 6.6 QCYPA at Gillette Stadium this year. Yikes! New England has been a ground machine at home, running for at least 122 yards in 7 of 8 home games (8-0 SU; 6-2 ATS). LA is 1-4 ATS when an opponent runs for 122 yards or more. Yikes! The Chargers have been road warriors this year, winning all 9 of their travel games (they lost a "road" game to the Rams in LA and won a "home" game over the Titans in London). But this is only the second time they have played back-to-back road games and the first time both games were in the Pacific Time Zone (at Seattle, at Oakland). LA played at Denver in the thin air, then at Baltimore and now at New England, the toughest venue of all. It has been a great year for the Chargers, but lighting really will have to strike for Rivers to best Tom Brady for the first time in his career against a team that has won 7 straight Divisional Round games by margins of 35, 13, 21, 4, 7, 18 and 21 points.

QC's Pick: New England Patriots ATS and SU

NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

LA Rams (-7) vs. Dallas

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: LA Rams 6th; Dallas 19th
PLAYER PRODUCITIVITY DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: LA Rams 3rd; Dallas 19th
TURNOVER MARGIN: LA Rams 4th (+11); Dallas 12th (+3)

LA Rams' HC Sean McVay has done everything an HC can do in the NFL except win a playoff game. The Rams bombed in this spot last year against Atlanta. This looks like a great spot for LA to reverse that outcome. LA led the NFL in first downs (400) and committed just 1 TO per game at home. Its defense led by monster DT Aaron Donald forced 30 TO during the regular season. Against negatively designed teams like the Cowboys, the Rams were 6-0 SU and 4-2 ATS with wins by 20, 34, 3, 2 14 and 22 points. The Cowboys' will need QB Dak Prescott to both move the chains and avoid TO. But Prescott has been sacked for -21.7 yards per game and that will make achieving either objective difficult. If Zeke Elliott can have a big game on the ground, Dallas' chances will increase dramatically as LA is 0-5 ATS when its opponent runs the ball 30 or more times. While Elliott and friends have run the ball 30 or more times in 5 games and are 4-1 ATS in those games, all of those efforts came at home under the big video board in the Jones Mahal. The Rams led the NFL in first half scoring (about 20 points per game) while Dallas comes in near the rear (about 5 points a game). If LA hits these averages and holds a 14-point halft-time lead, the second half could be ugly as Donald, et al. will not have to concern themselves with Elliott runs and will be able to pin their ears back and turn the ferocity of their pusuit of Dak up to full blast.

QC's Pick: LA Rams ATS and SU

New Orleans (-8.5) vs. Philadelphia

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: New Orleans 12th; Philadelphia 14th
PLAYER PRODUCITIVITY DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: New Orleans 5th; Philadelphia 15th
TURNOVER MARGIN: New Orleans 7th (+8); Philadelphia 25th (-6)

Philadelphia lost in New Orleans during the regular season 48-7 and will be trying to pull off what Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and the rest of the NY Jets pulled off in 2010: Beat a No. 1 seed (Patriots) on the road who had handed them a 40+ point defeat during the regular season. That New England team was both better designed than the Saints and posted an incredible +28 TO margin. Sean Payton's team is solid, but it is not nearly as scary as the 2010 New England team. Like Sanchez in 2010, Eagles QB Nick Foles will have to play TO-free and efficiently for Philadelphia to win. He has a good chance to do so because Jason Peters and his O-line mates have been playing great of late. Foles has plenty of weapons with which to work. While the Eagles run game is meh, Foles has the best duo of TEs in the NFL in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goeddert. Expect to see a lot of multiple TE formations and Foles target his TEs perhaps as many as 20 times to keep the chains moving. If he can do that, he can keep the ball out of Drew Brees' hands. Sentimalists are pointing out that the last time Payton's team was a No. 1 seed in 2009, it also finished 13-3 with losses to Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Carolina. That team (like this one) was just 4-4 ATS at home. The Saints are a running team. Brees did not throw more than 1 TD pass in any of his last 4 starts. New Orleans is 10-2 ATS this year when it runs for more than 100 yards. But the Saints are 0-3 ATS when they run the ball less than 20 times (including a late meeting at home with Pittsburgh). DT Fletcher Cox and company have seen less than 20 rushes in 6 of their last 7 games. If that happens again in the Super Dome, then Philadelphia is likely to not only cover the spread, but also win SU.

QC's Pick: Philadelphia Eagles ATS and SU

(Archives Home)

 
QC's Wild Card Round Thoughts

NFL QBs make their money in the red zone. In Indianapolis' 21-7 win overHouston, Colts' QB Andrew Luck tossed a pair of red zone TD passes. Hiscounterpart, Texans' QB Deshaun Watson twice came up empt on 4DN in the redzone. Indianapolis outplayed in Houston from the jump its offensive line wasparticularly dominant. The Colts OLs allowed just one sack and paved the wayfor a career high rushing day by RB Marlon Mack. Watson is a gamer and battledto rally the Texans, but he missed too many opportunities.

****

Chargers DC Gus Bradley may not be the COY, but he is the "Coach of theWild Card Round" based on LA's 23-17 win over Baltimore. Bradley used 7DBs on virtually every play to completely fluster Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson.Until Q4, Jackson and the Ravens offenes was non-existent and gave the ballaway twice on turnovers. After Jackson came to life late and got the ball backwith one more chance to try to conjure a miracle win, another Chargers' sackand Jackson TO ended the matter. Over 41.5 bettors were sabotaged by missedfield goals by LA's Michael Badgely and Baltimore's Justin Tucker.

****

Seattle OC Brian Schottenheimer has come under intense unwarranted criticismfor not calling enough pass plays for Russell Wilson in the Seahawks 24-22 lossto Dallas. Seattle not only covered the spread, but also won both the designbattle and the turnover battle and was solid in the kicking game (thanks to apenalty that nullified a punt return TD by the Cowboys' Tavon Austin). An NFLteam wins 95% of all such games. Dallas won because it executed, and PeteCarroll's team did not, on four high-leverage plays that went the Cowboys' way.Seattle abandoned contain on Dallas' last drive of the first half and RB ZekeElliott may them pay by dashing 41 yards to set up a Dak Pescott TD pass. Onthe Cowboys' final scoring drive, a pair of 3DN pass interference penalties anda marvelous 16-yard run by Prescott on 3rd and 14 set up Dallas' final TD. ThePrescott run was particularly devastating to under 43.5 bettors as HC JasonGarrett clearly was playing for a field goal when he called Prescott's QB drawand a field goal would have all but clinced an under as it would have put theCowboys up by 6 points. If the Seahawks had stopped Prescott and held Dallas toa field goal and then scored, it would have tied the game at 20-20 and set up adramatic two-point PAT to decide the game because Seattle K SebastianJanikowski was injured in the first half and could not play in the secondhalf.

*****

The teams whose year-over-year play design improved the most from 2017 met inWeek 17 when Baltimore held off Cleveland, 26-24, and captured the AFC North.With rookie QB Baker Mayfield setting a rookie record for TD passes, the Brownsfinished with a +1.37% play design differential, an improvement of 5.96% over2017. The Ravens, finished No. 8 in play design differential (+1.55%), animprovement of 3.98% over 2017. Pittsburgh missed the playoffs despite toppingCincinnati, 16-13, but still finished in the Top 10 in play design differential(+2.57%). The Steelers are the only team in the NFL to finish in the Top 10every year since QC began tracking coaching statistics 10 years ago in 2009.Pittsburgh just could not overcome its -11 TO differential.

****

Chicago's 16-15 loss to Philadelphia is going to sting for some time. The Bearsand Eagles essentially battled to a standstill. Chicago was 0.14% betterdesigned than Philadelphia and 0.20 points more productive. Matt Nagy's teamalso was +2 T) and usually such a turnover edge is enough for an NFL team towin. Provided said NFL team is solid in the kicking game. But the Bears werenot as K Cody Parkey hit an upright and the crossbar on a last-second fieldgoal attempt that would have given Matt Nagy's team the win. It was fitting(though painful to Chicago rooters) end to the first playoff round in which 3out of 4 teams that statistically won the play design battle lost the game.It's called "Wild Card" Weekend for a reason.

(Archives Home)

 

Wild-Card Round Playoff Preview

AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

Houston (-1) vs. Indianapolis (Total 48.5)

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Houston 9th; Indianapolis 18th
PLAYER PRODUCTIVITY DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Houston 9th; Indianapolis 18th
TURNOVER MARGIN: Houston 2nd (+13); Indianapolis 13th (+3)

This game will be decided by the Indianapolis O-line. The Colts are just 1-7 ATS when QB Andrew Luck throws 40 or more passes, albeit the one was Indy's 24-21 victory over the Texans. If Houston QB Deshaun Watson--the rare QB who can match Luck's playmaking and does not commit TOs--can get the Texans out the gate quickly and Colts' RB Marlon Mack is non-factor, Luck alone will have to do all the heavy lifting and the balance will tip slightly in the favor of Bill O'Brien's team. It will tip even further in favor of Houston if Jadaveon Clowney and J.J. Watt can get home 2 or 3 times as Indy is 0-4 ATS when Luck is sacked for -14 yards are more. The Colts' pass protection has been outstanding and Luck has lost only -.208 yards per pass attempt. Romeo Crennell's pass coverage has more holes than a slice of swiss cheese. If Luck is protected, he may torch the Texans. All of these considerations suggest the game will go over the 48.5 total. Houston has averaged 26.7 points per game since its bye (7 games) and Indy has gone over 48.5 in 5 of the 8 games in which Luck has attempted more than 40 passes.

QC's Pick: Houston Texans SU & ATS and OVER 48.5

Baltimore (-2.5) vs. LA Chargers (Total 41.5)

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Baltimore 8th; LA Chargers 2nd
PLAYER PRODUCITIVITY DIFFERENTIAL: Baltimore 16th; LA Chargers 2nd
TURNOVER MARGIN: Baltimore 22nd (-3); LA Chargers 15th (+1)

It will cost you extra juice to get Baltimore at just -2.5 but it's a sound investment. The Ravens are bad matchup for LA. Baltimore is running the ball with record frequency, which shortens the game. In response, Chargers' OC Ken Whisenhunt should try to lengthen the game as measure by number of plays. To do so, QB Phil Rivers should come out running no huddle and firing away to try to grab an early lead and get the Ravens out of their ground game. Baltimore is just 2-4 ATS when opponents attempt 40 or more passes. But Whisenhunt and Rivers don't like to fast break and Rivers has attempted more than 40 passes just twice in 16 games (home losses to the Chiefs and Broncos). LA plays at the slowest pace in the NFL. Compounding the Chargers' purposeful sluggish pace is the environmental fact that Pacific Time Zone teams usually take at least a quarter to wake up in early games in the Eastern Time Zone. When the Ravens have the ball, QB Lamar Jackson and RB Gus Edwards should run successfully. Morover, Jackson enjoyed his best passing game as a pro in the first meeting in LA (208 yards and a TD). Baltimore has rushed the ball at least 35 times in every game since Jackson took over as the starting QB and the Chargers are 1-4 ATS when their opponent runs 30 or more times, escaping in Seattle with the aid of a pick-6. The over also is attractive. The Ravens have gone over 41.5 in 5 of the 7 games Jackson has started and LA is 3-2 to the over when its opponents runs the ball 30 or more times.

QC's Pick: Baltimore Ravens SU & ATS and OVER 41.5

NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

Dallas (-2) vs. Seattle (Total 43.5)

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Dallas 19th; Seattle 10th
PLAYER PRODUCITIVITY DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Dallas 19th; Seattle 11th
TURNOVER MARGIN: Dallas 12th (+3); Seattle 1st (+15)

Pete Carroll's team turned its season around when it blasted the Cowboys 24-3 in Seattle in Week 3. If the Seahawks are +3 TO again the result will be the same. Led by NFC Player of the Month RB Chris Carson, Seattle has rushed the ball at least 28 times in 14 straight games. Dallas is 0-6 SU and 1-5 ATS when its opponent runs the ball 28 or more times. Carson and QB Russell Wilson also have taken equisite care of the ball. Seattle has just 6 giveways in its last 14 games and have had more than 1 giveway in any of those games. On the other side of the ball, Dallas QB Dak Prescott and teammates have committed 10 of their 18 giveways in their last 5 games and played just 1 TO-free game. Prescott has been sacked for at least -15 yards in 7 of his last 8 games and Seattle is 5-1 ATS when it dumps the opposing QB for -15 sack yards or more. Finally, like just about every other aspect of this matchup, the ATS records of the coaches are completely one-sided. Carroll is 14-6 ATS vs. the NFC East as Seattle's HC. Cowboy's HC Jason Garrett is 16-32-1 as a home favorite. The total has grown from the 41 open to 43.5, which makes the under ultra-attractive as Dallas games have not exceeded 42 points in 6 of 6 games when the Cowboys' opponent has rushed the ball 30 or more times.

QC's Pick: Seattle Seahawks SU and ATS and UNDER 43.5

Chicago (-6.5) vs. Philadelphia (Total 41.5)

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Chicago 3rd; Philadelphia 14th
PLAYER PRODUCITIVITY DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Chicago 7th; Philadelphia 15th
TURNOVER MARGIN: Chicago 3rd (+12); Philadelphia 25th (-6)

It is easy to see why so many handicappers like Chicago. The Bears have covered 9 of their last 10 games, are 7-1 ATS at home and 6-1 ATS versus positively designed teams. DC Vic Fangio's defense has given up just 3 TD passes in its last 6 games. Concededly, there is a lot to love about Chicago. But the Bears live on TOs. Chicago's pass pressure (-.357 sack yards per pass attempt) is below average and its pass coverage (7.508 D-QCYPA) can be exploited. These stats suggest the game is in the hands of streaky Philadelphia QB Nick Foles, who comes in hot. Foles will not be able to afford more than a single giveway and the Eagles are -6 TO on the season. But Philadelphia is +3 TO in its last 5 games so it might be peaking in this area at the right time too. It is not unprecedented for a team that struggled during almost all of the regular season with TO generosity to suddenly reverse its TO fortunes in the playoffs (see, e.g., 2007 NY Giants) and become miserly. Defensively, DC Jim Schwartz's front seven is again throttling opposing running backs. Eagles opponents have attempted less than 20 rushes in 5 of their last 6 games and Philadelphia is 4-2 ATS in those games. In addition, Fletcher Cox and company has sacked opposing QBs for -20 or more yards in 12 of 16 games, so it might be a physical day for mercurial Bears' QB Mitch Trubisky, and that could lead to TOs as it did when Chicago hosted the Rams. On paper, this looks like it should be a defensive struggle, but Chicago has scored at least 24 points in 7 of 8 home games and Foles and company have averaged 27 points per game over their last 6 games. The total is relatively small and QC likes the over. It will only be a mild surprise to QC if Doug Pederson's team wins this game SU, but the more likely outcome is a pitched battle won by a late Cody Parkey field goal and Chicago advances, but does not cover.

QC's Pick: Philadelphia Eagles ATS, Chicago Bears SU and OVER 41.5

(Archives Home)

 

QC's Week 17 Thoughts

Better designed teams won only 72.4% of their games, the fifth straight year that coaches who have won the design battle have seen their results decrease, albeit the decline from 2017 to 2018 is almost imperceptible. Since 2009, better designed teams have won 76.1% (1942-611-7) of all NFL games. There is no easily identifiable explanation for why successful play designers have won less frequently the last 2 years than they did the prior 8 years. Increasing the PAT distance before the 2015 season did not seem to have any impact in 2015-2016 relative to the 6 prior years (2009-14). During the last 2 NFL season, instant replay review has been handled off-site at NFL HQ and controversies realting to on-site subjective officiating of catches and roughing the passer have seemed to occur more freuquently in the past. But QC does not have a scientific reason to explain why successful play designers have been losing a few more games the last 2 years.

2018: .724 (184-70-2)
2017: .727 (186-70)
2016: .768 (195-59-2)
2015: .778 (199-56-1)
2014: .784 (200-55-1)
2013: .773 (198-58)
2012: .749 (191-64-1)
2011: .746 (191-65)
2010: .766 (196-60)
2009: .789 (202-52)

****

Late scores by Dallas and New Orleans caused QC's Best Bets (3-4) to suffer its 5th losing week of the year in Week 17. Best Bets limped home below the 11/10 break even 52.4% threshold in back-to-back weeks and 3 of the last 4 weeks. That's frustrating. Still, Best Bests finished the year at 57.5% (65-48-4), which translates to a 9.8% profit if you laid 11 to win 10 on every Best Bet. This figure was just a little off 2017 Best Bets, which cashed at a 58% rate (47-34-4) and returned 10.8% on 11-to-10 bets.

****

Do not be surprised if NFL teams come calling for Andy Reid's OC Eric Bienemy. The "Kansas City School of Play Design" was the play design story of 2018. Chief's QB Pat Mahomes throw 50 TD passes and for more than 5,000 yards in his first year as a full-time starter. Moreover, Reid's teams finished No. 1 in the AFC and NFL in play design differential (+5.83%) and his former OC's team (Matt Nagy's Bears) finished No. 1 in the NFC in play design differential (+4.15%). Both teams also finished in the top 6 in the NFL in turnover differential.

*****

The teams whose year-over-year play design improved the most from 2017 met in Week 17 when Baltimore held off Cleveland, 26-24, and captured the AFC North. With rookie QB Baker Mayfield setting a rookie record for TD passes, the Browns finished with a +1.37% play design differential, an improvement of 5.96% over 2017. The Ravens, finished No. 8 in play design differential (+1.55%), an improvement of 3.98% over 2017. Pittsburgh missed the playoffs despite topping Cincinnati, 16-13, but still finished in the Top 10 in play design differential (+2.57%). The Steelers are the only team in the NFL to finish in the Top 10 every year since QC began tracking coaching statistics 10 years ago in 2009. Pittsburgh just could not overcome its -11 TO differential.

****

Philadelphia enters the playoffs as the team on the hottest play design run. The Eagles play design stood at -1.39% after they were crushed 48-7 by the Sainst and left for dead in New Orleans. But after HC Doug Pederson's team mashed Washington, 24-0, and former Redskins QB Kirk Cousins disappeared in the Vikings 24-10 loss to the Bears, Philadelphia's play design differential reached a season high +1.1%. It was the second time in 3 years that Cousins' team entered Week 17 needing a win to qualify for the playffs and came up short and finished 8-7-1. Washington fell to the NY Giants in 2016, 19-10.

(Archives Home)