Friday, October 10, 2008

Now This is a Sports Weekend!

3 things are on my sports mind.

1) Oklahoma vs. Texas
2) The Start of the Stars season gives us games on Friday and Saturday
3) Cowboys play again – this time in Arizona.

My pick for RRS. I think Oklahoma is too tough to pick against. I realize that Texas seniors have a chance to go 3-1 against the Sooners, but I still think OU has a pretty good Jedi Mind Trick going in this matchup. I think we could have a fine matchup on our hands, but in the end, it is too tough to pick against Stoops, Bradford, and the Sooners.

If the Longhorns can get a running game going on offense and/or a pass rush in Bradford’s face on defense, then they can win. But, I am tired of having Stoops make me look dumb in picking this game. Yes, I am the guy who thought Chris Simms would eventually have his day against Oklahoma.

Not any more…

Oklahoma 31, Texas 26

As for the Cowboys, the chaos of it all is enough to make you laugh and cry. How will this team respond in Arizona? If they lose, all heck might break loose. I think the Cowboys can’t wait to play against but who is covering those receivers?

Blind faith pick here:

Dallas 30, Arizona 24

Football Outsiders on the Cowboys from Tim MacMahon

If the NFC East standings went by the Football Outsider team efficiency rankings, the Cowboys would be in last place. They're seventh overall, and it's tough to argue that the No. 1 Giants and No. 5 Redskins have been more impressive through five games. How the heck are the 2-3 Eagles ranked third?

It's a tricky one, a combination of several factors. Some of the issue is luck -- the Eagles' opponents have gone nine-for-nine on field goals, including several 50+ yarders. The success rate of opposing field goals, of course, is totally random from year-to-year. They've also been subject to some long turnover returns, which is also random, while their turnover returns have been shorter.

The biggest thing, though, is how they've played in their games. Among the NFC East teams, who can say they've blown out a very good team? Washington's won four games by a total of 20 points. Dallas beat Philadelphia by four, Green Bay by 11 (in their most impressive performance of the year), and Cincinnati by nine. The Giants have blown out Seattle (the best performance of any team in the league so far by DVOA) and dominated the Redskins in a game they won by nine. They also had a close win against Cincinnati and a blowout against St. Louis.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, dominated Pittsburgh in a nine-point win the same way the Giants handled the Redskins, making their opposition look silly. They lost to Dallas by four on the road, lost to Chicago by four on the road, and lost to the Redskins by six points. They've looked very impressive in their two wins (the other a blowout of the Rams), and we give them credit for outplaying the Cowboys despite losing, perhaps owing to two 47+ yard field goals by Nick Folk.

Of course, shoulda coulda doesn't mean you can go back in time and change what happened. DVOA's pretty nifty at using these sort of things to predict future performance, though, so I'm pretty confident that the Eagles are still going to have a say in the playoff picture in the NFC.

Jason Witten ranks first by a large margin among tight ends in your Defense-adjusted Yard Above Replacement stat (DYAR) but only eighth in your Defense-adjusted Value Over Average stat (DVOA). Why such a big difference? Which formula do you consider more indicative of a player's performance?

The difference is volume. DVOA is like batting average -- if a guy gets one throw in his direction and he catches it and goes for 40 yards, his DVOA is going to be off the charts! His DYAR, on the other hand, will recognize that he had one great play, but that there's only so much damage you can do on a single play; in that sense, it's more like runs scored or RBI.

DYAR's a much better indicator of how a player is affecting a team on the whole; if a guy is consistently dropping passes or picking up solid chunks of yardage, DYAR will tell you so. Witten's so far above everyone else in DYAR because he's been thrown 48 passes; the only other tight end to be thrown more than 40 is Tony Gonzalez, who hasn't caught enough of the ones thrown to him to be valuable.

Felix Jones is off the charts in those metrics for running backs, although he doesn't have enough carries to qualify for the RB rankings. How do his numbers so far compare with the best change-of-pace backs since FO started tracking those statistical formulas?

He sure does look fantastic so far -- in light of the idea that he had a pretty middling Speed Score, it will be interesting to see if he can become an everydown back or at least a guy who picks up 150 carries a year. If he can do that at the rate he's performing at now, he'd be an incredibly valuable player.

Jones' rushing DVOA at the moment is an absurd 87.7%. That will drop some once we begin to adjust for opponent, but it would be the best performance by any back with ten or more carries since 1995, the beginning of the DVOA era.

The current holder of that title is Jerry Ellison, a halfback for the 1995 Tampa Bay Buccaneers who gained 218 yards on 26 carries, scoring five touchdowns. He only had 48 mediocre carries over the rest of his career, though.

Other guys in the top 10 include DeDe Dorsey and Ahmad Bradshaw last year, Stephen Davis in 1996, Moe Williams' impressive 2002 campaign where he scored 11 times in 84 carries, Brian Mitchell's 1995 season, and surprisingly, two years from a forgotten former Cowboy -- Michael Wiley.

After a very mediocre 2000, Wiley had huge numbers in 2001 and 2002, putting up a DVOA of 48.4% and 58.0%, respectively. He averaged over seven yards a carry in both seasons. He was out of the league by 2003, but obviously, the man still had at least something to offer.

The Cowboys have the league's best TD-to-drive ratio (.341). How does that compare to their ratio last season? What's the best ratio since FO has tracked that stat?

Last year, Dallas was 4th in the league, averaging .282 touchdowns per drive. The best that we've seen is the 2007 Patriots, who averaged .424 touchdowns per drive, as well as a league-leading 3.37 points per drive. Kinda scary. So far this year, the Giants lead the league with 3.08 points per drive. These stats take out drives like kneeldowns and Hail Mary's, so they're a good way of judging how well a team is playing when they're actually trying to score.

My Stars Prediction Column at ….

A small excerpt:

I think the Stars should be very good here. I am quite impressed at the makeover of the Stars roster in the last 24 months – starting with Doug Armstrong’s job of drafting and the Mike Ribiero trade, the Stars now have a team that hardly resembles the team that looked old and tired in the Spring of 2006 that was bounced by Colorado on Dallas Ice in just 5 games.

From that Game 5 boxscore, here are the names still in the Dallas line-up: Morrow, Modano, Lehtinen, and Ott up front. On Defense, Daley, Boucher, Robidas, and Zubov – although Zubov will not be in the lineup in October (I think). And Turco in goal. That is it. 8 names have survived.

Of the rest of the names, 15 of them, the 1 player with a birthday before the year 1980 is none other than Toby Peterson. He was born in October of 1978, so for the next 2 weeks, we can say that all 15 of the players who have arrived in the last 24 months are under the age of 30 years old. The core of this team went from Modano, Zubov, Lehtinen, Guerin and Arnott to a core of Morrow, Turco, Richards, Ribiero, and Avery. Not to suggest that #9, #26, and #56 aren’t still key to this team, but it is to say that they are not asked to be the top 3 players every night any more.
It is a young man’s league, and if your key players are in their mid-30’s, you may end up looking old and tired in the playoffs. The Stars realized that in the spring of 2006, and while it doesn’t happen overnight, Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Jackson, and Mr. Hull have over-hauled this franchise right into a team in the thick of it all.

Clint Malarchuk has another bout with bad luck …perhaps with stupidity mixed in…

Clint Malarchuk, the former N.H.L. goalie who had his jugular vein slashed by a skate in a game in 1989 while playing for the Buffalo Sabres, is recovering after accidentally shooting himself in the chin. His wife, Christy, told sheriff’s deputies in Minden, Nev., that a .22-caliber rifle discharged after her husband placed the butt on the ground between his legs. He had been shooting rabbits. Malarchuk, 47, a goalie coach for Columbus, was flown by helicopter to a Reno hospital.

Clint Malarchuk’s first bout with bad luck…

Al Michaels, Dan Patrick, and William Shatner – thanks AwfulAnnouncing


Michael said...

Please Bob, just one, tiny, HSO on Pacman. Thats all I ask...well for now.

Mike said...

Cards won last week by blow out. Cowboys won last week but it felt like a loss. Cowboys win big in St. Loooooops...Arizona. Mark it down.

Chris said...

Let's admit it - Cowboys SUCKED today, especially on special teams. But hey, we don't even have a chance with TONY CURTIS missing key blocks on the last punt of the game. TONY CURTIS SUCKS let's CUT HIS A$$.