Brief 2014 Preview


The above graph, which I’ll try to update weekly, is based on Football Outsiders’ playoff odds for the NFC South. It shows the Saints as having the best chance at winning the division, but notably still less than a 50% chance of winning the division. Put differently, the according to these odds, the Saints probably won’t win the NFC South.

What might go wrong? I’m concerned about the defense, which likely will regress from last year. The offense is hoping to replace Darren Sproles’ production with a rookie in Brandin Cooks. It should work, but rookies are rookies for a reason. Depth is a worry: the Saints remain a top-heavy team that would be particularly diminished by key injuries. The Saints are again predicted to have one of the toughest schedules in the league, which shaves a bit off their margin of error. Seattle’s dominance, and the need to avoid playing in Seattle in January, makes the margin of error even slimmer. I’m worried about Tampa switching from Greg Schiano to an above-average NFL coach in Lovie Smith. Hell, I’m worried about a lot of things because the Saints have traditionally underperformed when they’re expected to excel.

But the Payton-Brees era Saints are different. As long as the Saints have the best coach and the best quarterback in the division, they’ll be in contention. Odds aside, I think the Saints will do it again this season. Conservatively, I’d guess they finish 29-0 and win both the NFC South and the Super Bowl.

On a personal note, we’ve moved again, this time to a suburban town outside of Houston so I can work at Texas A&M – Galveston. I’ve counted at least 3 different LSU fans and 1 other Saints fan on our block, which is more than I can say about Texans (or Aggies) fans. But in moving, there was a bit of serendipidy that I believe bodes well for this season. Check out our street name, pictured below:



Let’s do this.


Posted in Analysis | Leave a comment

Receptions by position, Payton-Brees era

Here’s a breakdown of the % of receptions made by players at each position, 2006-2013. Interesting to see how Payton & Brees started using tight ends a LOT more once they signed Jeremy Shockey in 2008 (Billy Miller was big in 2008, too). Also interesting how quickly they stopped forcing the ball to Reggie Bush thanks (presumably) to injury and ineffectiveness.

I had fun making this one.


Posted in Analysis | Comments Off

Saints receivers: touchdown machines and fumble monsters part 1

Following up on yesterday’s post, I thought it’d be interesting to look at touchdown and fumble rates for Saints receivers. So here’s a graph plotting the two for receivers with at least 100 receptions as a Saint. Note that I didn’t include RBs because Pro Football Reference doesn’t specify whether a running back’s fumbles come from a reception or a carry (which was really bad news for Chuck Muncie). The red area in the graph are the “Fumble Monsters”, or the top 25% of fumblers. The green area are the “Touchdown Machines”, or the top 25% of touchdown catchers.

A few takeaways from the above:

  • Jeremy Shockey really underperformed compared to other tight ends, with the lowest touchdown rate and a middling fumble rate. What a disappointing signing.
  • Eric Martin: Fumble Monster!?
  • Meachem will come back to earth if he keeps playing (and these stats don’t include his disappointing stint in San Diego). In the mean time: Meach!
Posted in Analysis | Comments Off

Greatest saints receivers: receptions and yards/catch

Here’s a quick graph of the greatest Saints receivers in terms of receptions (minimum 100) and yards per catch. I feel like Joe Horn somehow gets overlooked these days, but this plot shows why he shouldn’t be. Same with Eric Martin, especially given the era he played in. Data from Pro Football Reference.


Posted in Analysis | Comments Off

Win values for the NFL

Brian Burke at Advanced NFL Analytics:

Jimmy Graham’s contract values him at about 0.9 wins per season. Here’s how I came to that estimate.

Interesting back-of-the-envelope calculation. Football analytics should pay more attention to salaries.

Posted in Links | Comments Off

Average points scored and allowed by team, 1978-2012

Here’s each team’s average points scored and allowed including all years from 1978-2012. Data from and cleaned up by me.

Administrative notes: I marked the team by their current location, so STL includes the Rams games when they were in LA. CLE includes all of the Browns data, BAL is just the Ravens stuff. Also: I had forgotten about the Tennessee Oilers.

Other notes: Pittsburgh’s defense is hurt by the fact that the data starts well into the Steel Curtain era. Tampa and Cleveland have been historically bad on offense and kind of average on defense. Arizona has just been historically bad.


Posted in Analysis | Comments Off

2014 wins and spending

Here’s another plot using DVOA data from Football Outsiders and salary data from The Guardian. This time, I plotted offensive and defensive spending and wins.

Note that The Guardian’s salary data is only approximate, and other sites have different measures of how much teams spent. Oakland’s spending, for example, had to have been a bit higher than this, right? So take this as roughly right, which is good enough for our purposes.

2 interesting things:

(1) five of the seven teams that fired their coach (represented in the graph with a *) spent above league average on offense.

(2) Of course Bill Belichick can take a team with league average salaries and coach them to the AFC Championship game. Of course.

total spend and wins

Posted in Analysis | Comments Off

Updated 2014 cost-efficiency graphs

I updated the 2014 offensive and defensive cost-efficiency graphs to include a third variable: number of wins. To do this, I had to switch from Stata to R, which is good, because the whole purpose of this is to help me improve my skills with these programs. Anyway, number of wins is represented by the color of the marker for each team, with darker blues meaning more wins. I also added an asterisk next to teams that fired their coach. (UPDATE: I forgot to put an asterisk by Tennessee, who did fire their coach. Whoops.)

Here’s the offensive graph. Again, DVOA from Football Outsiders and salary data from The Guardian.


Next, defensive. Remember with defense, the LOWER the DVOA, the better, so teams in the lower left quadrant were the most cost efficient.

updated def

Interesting that bad, expensive offense seems more likely to get a coach fired than bad, expensive defense. If I can get historical salary data and more free time, that might be worth exploring.

Posted in Analysis | Comments Off

2014 defensive cost-efficiency

Here’s a scatterplot comparing 2014 defensive expenditures to defensive DVOA. Remember that a lower defensive DVOA is better, so the lower-left quadrant is the most cost-efficient part of this graph. I (somewhat arbitrarily) highlighted the most efficient and least efficient teams.

Looking at this graph, Carolina’s defense was probably the most efficient in the league in terms of production per dollar, probably thanks to young, cheap talent like Luke Kuechly. As for the Saints, they spent a bit above average and were a bit above average, about like you’d expect.

Also notable: how much better Seattle was than the rest of the league, presumably because they are a bunch of cheating cheaters.

DVOA data from Football Outsiders and salary data from The Guardian.


Posted in Analysis | Comments Off

2014 Offensive DVOA by Salary

For grins, I plotted offensive DVOA (Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted measure of offensive efficiency) vs salary spent on offense. As expected, the teams that spent more money generally tended to have higher offensive DVOAs, though there were plenty of exceptions. The upper-left corner is the “super efficient” quadrant: teams that got above average offenses despite spending below average money. The lower right corner is the “pack your bags, coach” quadrant, where teams spent above average $$$ and got below average output. Note that 4 of the 6 teams in that quadrant fired their coaches, and the Giants likely would have if Coughlin wasn’t a multiple Super Bowl winner.

The Saints weren’t particularly cost-effective, but they were good on offense. They spent a lot and got a lot, which helped them reach the second round of the playoffs. Not bad.

DVOA data from Football Outsiders, salary data from The Guardian, of all places.


Posted in Analysis | Comments Off