Nashville: Predators or Prey in Extra Time?

With new rules potentially on the horizon for the NHL, I take a look at how this might help or hurt the Nashville Predators over on the hockey writers dot com.

Read the full post here.

Faceoffs, Home Ice, Goals, and the Predators

I put together a post comparing faceoff strength, goals, and game location for the Nashville Predators over at The Hockey Writers. The post, more my usual speed, shows that home ice at Bridgestone Arena seems to give a home-team advantage to scoring goals and an even bigger advantage to winning faceoffs.

Read the full post here.

Bench Pekka Rinne, for the Cup

My first post over at The Hockey Writers, a hockey commentary site, considers what might be in the Predators’ best interest going forward through the rest of the regular season. If the Predators value Lord Stanley over the President they might want to sit goalie Pekka Rinne for much of the final month of regular season hockey.

The full post is available here.

Better Defense: An NFL Proposal

Over the last 10 years or so total offense in the NFL has been on the rise. Most of this increase has come from passing attacks. With this stat firmly in hand, people have pointed to a number of causes. A common example is the NFL’s attempt to increase player safety by penalizing dangerous hits. As a backlash to this, people argue (complain?) that rules like these make it harder and harder to play defense and that the NFL is increasingly becoming a passing league with the offense and, in particular, the quarterback, becoming of increasing importance to a team’s success at the expense of the other half of the game – the defense.

I hereby propose a rule change to give the defense a slight edge in their eternal battle to shut down the likes of Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Manning, and Stafford. Make the end zones farther away. Stretch out those chains a bit. Considering the increases in yardage, and the likelihood of future rule changes limiting the actions of defense, I suggest a 10% increase in field length (total offense has increased by about 10% in yards/game in the last ten years). Let’s change 100 yards for a TD -> 110 yards and 10 yards for a first down -> 11 yards.

Or how about 100 yards -> 109.4 yards and 10 yards -> 10.94 yards?

That’s what would happen if we began to correct a mistake this country has been squatting on since Europeans landed here. Let’s make football fields 100 meters between the endzones and make it 10 meters for a first down.

The Lions could have the best rush defense in the NFL…

…ever.

The award for the fewest rushing yards allowed by a team in a regular season goes to the 2000 Ravens* anchored by linebacker Ray Lewis. The Ravens allowed a paltry 970 yards on the ground to pick up an impressive 12-4 regular season record. Oh, and this same defense went on to win Super Bowl XXXV as well.

The Lions are nearly on track to break this record.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. Through 13 games, the Lions have allowed 817 yards on the ground. The three remaining regular season games are against repeat foes; in fact, they are against all of the other teams in the NFC North.

The last time the Lions played the Vikings, Bears, and Packers, Detroit’s defense gave up a meager 69, 13, and 76 yards respectively. If we can expect a repeat performance then the Lions are set for 975 allowed rushing yards on the season – just five more than the NFL-best 2000 Ravens.

Of course, teams change throughout the season. Let’s look at some trends. The Lions do better at home than away: about 25% better than average when home and 25% worse than average when away. This isn’t too surprising. We can also look at how the Lions defense has done lately. In the last three games (Patriots, Bears, Bucs) the Lions have done better than their average, even when accounting for the fact that two of those games were in Detroit. On the other hand, all three of the latest teams rank in the bottom half of the NFL in rushing production this year, coming in 21st, 26th, and 31st, respectively, so perhaps a slight boost in recent statistics shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

On the other side, Minnesota has been doing worse than average rushing the ball lately (7% off their season average in their last three games), Chicago has been doing much worse (in part due to the Lions of course) (47% off their season average in their last three games), and the Packers have been up lately (35% over their season average in their last three games).

Could the Lions do it? Maybe. It looks like they will be about right on track. I would probably estimate a little bit more than 970 yards allowed on the ground.

And who knows, maybe Rodgers takes a knee on the last play of the Lions regular season (hopefully because the Lions are already up by 28) and that takes Detroit to 969 rushing yards allowed.

*Other teams have allowed fewer rushing yards in a season, but since the move to a standard 14 game season in 1961, no team has done better per game than the 2000 Ravens.

Football: America’s Sport

Everyone knows that football, even college football, is all about the money. The SEC finally figured it out with their own TV network. Heck, even the Northwestern football players themselves figured it out.

What makes any sport America’s sport? Football often requires the word “American” in front of it to differentiate it from the football that the rest of the world knows. What about an option for enterprise? In major league sports, players, coaches, and the media all make buckets of money, but not the players in college football. Until recently.

Let’s take a step back. Imagine needing a source of cash flow and having some experience with the collegiate football process, but not enough skills (or motivation) to necessarily get hired anywhere as a coach or athletic director. Where is there an open source of money to be made? Well, there are those games where one team plays another of a vastly inferior caliber and division and pays that team for the right to lay the smack down. The lower tier conferences and divisions don’t rake in the cash like the top tier leagues do, so they are happy to take a loss for the money before going back to playing teams their own size (North Dakota State aside). Who is to stop me from making my own football “team” made up of eleven dropouts and getting paid to get smashed to bits every single week? Everyone else is raking in the dough in this industry, why not me?

What sentiment could be more American than that?

Of course, no legitimate team would schedule such a disreputable opponent, and there must be rules against that sort of thing, right?

The frontline journalists at reddit‘s college football discussion group, /r/cfb, uncovered just such an enterprise. User Honestly_ posted his/her findings yesterday. The post and many of the top comments are worth reading, but I will summarize a few of the highlights here.   Continue reading

Football scores

Football has kind of weird scores. Even though it is common to most readers of this blog, a sport where scoring 3 or 7 is common while 2 is rare is kind of weird in the scheme of sports (most other sports are strictly one point at a time other than basketball where 1, 2, 3 are each fairly common).

I was always interested as a kid in figuring out what possible scores can happen in a football game. Certainly multiples of seven are common: 7, 14, 21, 28, etc. along with one or two field goals thrown in for good measure. I wanted to know exactly which scores are possible and which are absolutely forbidden.

Each team’s score is independent of the other: how many points I can score doesn’t depend on how many the other team scores, so we need only look at a single team’s possible scores. For numbers less than seven, zero is clearly possible. Next, a safety gives two and a field goal three. Four, five, and six are made up of combinations of safeties and field goals. Then anything seven or greater can be scored by following simples rules (along with many other possible combinations): keep subtracting seven point touchdowns as long as possible. If the remaining score is zero, you are done. If it is one, switch one of the extra points to a two point conversion. Otherwise, if it is two through six, add safeties and field goals as necessary. For example, if a team had its heart set on scoring 43 points in a game, we would see that six touchdowns takes us to 42, one point short, so five regular touchdowns plus one with a two point conversion gets us there. (For the adventurous reader, this sort of math is known as modular arithmetic.)

This leaves us with any score accessible except for one. This was always a bit disappointing because that is infinitely many possible inaccessible scores. But so it goes.

Except, not. Actually this is not true at all. Continue reading

NFL Draft Monkeys: What are the Odds?

The NFL draft is as popular of a sports topic as anything that actually involves sports. Spread out over three days it might seem like an endurance event, but really it seems more like a sprint placed cleverly in the middle of offseason with football fans of both the collegiate and the professional variety hungry for action of some kind.

I recently saw an interesting graphic shown below (click for full size).

The green boxes highlight totally correct picks and the yellow boxes highlight the correct player but the wrong team (when teams traded picks). The scores at the bottom are the number of totally correct picks plus half the number of partially correct picks. No analyst listed has more than one partially correct pick.

I wanted to know how much better than “random” this representative sample was.

I’m going to throw some numbers around, correct me if you think they should be corrected. Recalculating things isn’t too hard.

Suppose that we can come up with 50 players who might go in the first round (the top 50 players on the board), but completely unordered (that is, there is no reason to believe that, say, Clowney, will get picked near the top). Suppose I randomly order 32 of those players. How many would I get correct? We’ll ignore pick trading (making every “yellow” a “green” and rounding up all the .5’s).

I feel too lazy to do the math, so I’ll roll the dice a few (million) times instead. I created two shuffled lists of numbers from 1-50 and compared how many of the first 32 numbers of each were the same. I then repeated this 1,000,000 times just to be sure. Think of this as monkeys at a typewriter spitting out drafts (of either the NFL variety or the Shakespearean).

Results: I would expect to get about 0.64 picks correct with this (random out of top 50 players) random strategy. 34% of the time I got exactly one pick correct while 47% of the time I get at least one pick correct.

Certainly everyone on this list did better than this, as one would hope. That said, those near the bottom (those scoring one and two – Shaun King and Evan Silva respectively) didn’t do that well. 14% of the time I got more than one pick correct and 3% of the time I got more than two picks correct.

Of the one million monkeys (or the one million drafts of the draft from one monkey) the maximum score I got was an eight (a score that two of the reporters shared) one time, making their predictions about one in a million out of my technique. That is, I feel fairly confident that their techniques are better than randomly shuffling the top 50 players into place. Those at the bottom, I am not so sure.

Mashed Music

Bandwagoning on the wild success that our dear leader AD’s most recent music post created, I’m contributing a mashup I recently found between George Gershwin’s famous piano concerto “Rhapsody in Blue” and Freddie Mercury’s (for Queen) hit single “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I hope that most readers are familiar with one or both of these works and I hope that readers will comment on the connection to each piece and the new composition by itself (for example: “I’m really only familiar with Rhapsody in Blue and think that he nailed it” or “I don’t know either but the piano sounds nice”).

I’m rather familiar with each and think that in most parts he blended the two songs beautifully. I had a hard time determining if it would stand alone, as I was too busy collecting reference after reference (or, often, reference on top of reference: the melody from one piece with a baseline or voicing from the other).