I’ll likely stop updating this as life gets busy, but here’s a graph the week 1 adjusted yards-per-attempt for each of the NFL teams this week.
Adjusted yards per attempt is a good overall measure of team offensive efficiency, though there are a few ways to calculate it depending on your thoughts about how much to penalize interceptions and whether or not to reward touchdowns. As a reminder, the formula I use is:
[passing yards - sack yards - (60 * interceptions)]/(pass attempts + number of sacks)
Anyway, the graph:
Based on last night’s results, we know one thing for sure: the Saints are going 19–0 this year. At this point, that is a relatively uninteresting and uncontorversial statement. What we do not know, however, is the order in which they are going to go 19–0. Will they do it in classic, numerical-order fashion or will they take a more unexpected path?
Since we are in a golden age of advanced NFL stats, I thought I would use advanced simulation to answer this question. So, I made a simplifying assumption that each win is randomly distributed throughout the season and simulated 10,000 Saints’ perfect seasons to see, on average, in which week they won which game. In this graph, each blue line represents one simulated perfect season and each black dot represents the average win number for that week.
So, actually, on average, the Saints will win their 10.01th game tonight. That’s just science.
Here are the odds of winning the division after week 4, per Football Outsiders (click to enlarge):
The Saints won! Their odds of winning the division increased! If you extrapolate the current trend over 16 games…the Falcons would win the division. But the Saints would be second!
The Saints started 1–3 for the second consecutive year and the third time under Sean Payton. Per our favorite record chart, the average 1–3 team finishes with about 6.2 wins on the year. That seems about right given what we’ve seen so far. About 14% of 1–3 teams make the playoffs, which is slightly less than the chances of rolling a 6 on a six-sided die. If the Saints win their next game, the odds become about 1 in 5…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The farther a team is from the diagonal line, the more the two models disagree. The models still disagree over Houston and Carolina, with Football Outsiders being significantly more pessimistic. With the injury to JJ Watt (which ELO doens’t know about), I suspect Football Outsiders is more in line with reality.
For fun, here’s the last 3 weeks in gif form. Obviously, it needs work, but why not?
Here are the odds of winning the division after week 3, per Football Outsiders (click to enlarge):
The Saints started 0-3 for the second consecutive year and the third time under Sean Payton. According to Football Outsiders, the Saints have about a 10% chance of winning the division. Unfortunately, that might overstate the case…per FiveThirtyEight, only about 2% of teams that start the season 0–3 make the playoffs, and 0–3 teams finish with an average of about 4.9 wins. I don’t see any reason to believe the Saints will do much better.
The Falcons, on the other hand, ascend the Mountain of Probability thanks to their in-division win on Monday. Sigh.
The farther a team is from the diagonal line, the more the two models disagree. The models still disagree over Denver and have a pretty significant disagreement about Tennessee, as well: Football Outsiders has them at about 36% likely to make the playoffs vs. about 11% likely in the 538 model. This stuff will sort itself out over time, I suppose.
Here are the odds of winning the division after week 2, per Football Outsiders (click to enlarge):
The Saints started 0-2 for the third consecutive year and the fifth time under Sean Payton (well, one was under Aaron Kromer). They’ve yet to make the playoffs after starting 0–2. Needless to say, the game against Atlanta is important.
Here are the odds of winning the division after week 1, per Football Outsiders (click to enlarge):
This isn’t a great start, but I don’t think anyone reasonable expected the Saints to compete for the division. That said, losing the first game at home to an Oakland team that was highly beatable is a bit frustrating and significantly hinders the Saints’ chance of making the playoffs at all. The Saints’ last week 1 victory was in 2013…it’s hard when you’re starting in the hole each year.
The farther a team is from the diagonal line, the more the two models disagree. The strongest disagreement right now is over Denver, where 538 has them about 74% likely to make the playoffs and Football Outsiders has them about 37% likely. Although Football Outsiders’ methodology isn’t 100% clear, I think this might be the difference: 538’s ELO system doesn’t know that Peyton Manning has retired, whereas Football Outsiders’ DVOA takes this into account. The same is likely the case for Carolina and Josh Norman. Another likely factor: Football Outsiders’ model bakes in some regression for both the Carolina and Denver defenses, whereas ELO doesn’t attempt to make those sorts of predictions.